Marriage and relationships between people mentioned in the Bible are often interesting. Sometimes, unions are built upon great love, while other bonds are formed out of necessity. In the case of Jacob, he married several different women, who would produce the twelve sons that became known as the Tribes of Israel. In this article, you will learn about the love, deception, and pacts between family that helped shape Jacob’s relationships.
Upon arriving in Haran, Jacob spied a well where the shepherds were taking their flocks to water. It was there that he met the younger daughter of Laban, Rachel, who was also Jacob’s first cousin. At the time, she was working as a shepherdess. However, he immediately fell in love with her. After spending time with his relatives, he asked for her hand in marriage in return for working seven years for Laban, who did not oppose the agreement.
The seven years did not seem long to Jacob because of the love he felt for Rachel. However, when the seven years were complete and he asked for his wife, her father had a different plan for Jacob. When Jacob was presented with a veiled bride, it was not Rachel that he greeted, but was her older sister Leah instead.
The next morning brought the truth and Laban told Jacob that in his country, it was not a tradition to give the younger daughter to a man before the older. He proposed to give Rachel in marriage to Jacob if he would agree to work another seven years. Jacob celebrated his wedding to Leah for a week. Afterwards, he married the love of his life, and continued to work for their father for another seven years.
Because Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah, the younger sister felt hated. God opened Leah’s womb and she quickly gave birth to four sons, who were named Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah. However, Rachel was unable to have children and remained barren.
Following a similar path as Sarah, who gave her handmaid to Abraham when she suffered years of infertility, Rachel gave her handmaid, Bilhah to Jacob in marriage. This allowed Rachel to raise children through her handmaid. As a result, Bilhah gave birth to Dan and Naphtali. Leah took notice to this and decided to give her handmaid Zilpah to Jacob in marriage so that Leah could raise more children. Gad and Asher were born through this union.
In later years, Leah became fertile again and gave Jacob two more sons (Issachar and Zebulun) and a daughter, Dinah. At this point, the only woman in Jacob’s life that did not give him a child was Rachel. Yet God did not forget her and she eventually gave birth to Joseph , who would later become Jacob’s favorite son. It is said that all the pregnancies linked to all his marriages produced twelve children within a time span of seven years.