Laban’s Bait-and-Switch

Today we read about the integrity of Laban, who is an uncle of Jacob and the father of Leah and Rachel.  As Jacob goes to seek a wife, and falls in love with Rachel, Laban has other things in mind and tricks Jacob with an incredible bait-and-switch scheme…

1 Then Jacob continued on his journey and came to the land of the eastern peoples.

4 Jacob asked the shepherds, “My brothers, where are you from?”

“We’re from Harran,” they replied.

5 He said to them, “Do you know Laban, Nahor’s grandson?”

“Yes, we know him,” they answered.

6 Then Jacob asked them, “Is he well?”

“Yes, he is,” they said, “and here comes his daughter Rachel with the sheep.”

After Jacob had stayed with him for a whole month, 15 Laban said to him, “Just because you are a relative of mine, should you work for me for nothing? Tell me what your wages should be.”

16 Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. 17 Leah had weak eyes, but Rachel had a lovely figure and was beautiful. 18 Jacob was in love with Rachel and said, “I’ll work for you seven years in return for your younger daughter Rachel.”

19 Laban said, “It’s better that I give her to you than to some other man. Stay here with me.” 20 So Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her.

21 Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife. My time is completed, and I want to make love to her.”

22 So Laban brought together all the people of the place and gave a feast. 23 But when evening came, he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob, and Jacob made love to her. 24 And Laban gave his servant Zilpah to his daughter as her attendant.

25 When morning came, there was Leah! So Jacob said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? I served you for Rachel, didn’t I? Why have you deceived me?”
Genesis 29:1-25

The first lesson here is that the groom ought to say sober at his own wedding.  No kidding.  After seven years of engagement and labour for her father, Jacob finally gets to marry Rachel.  Except Rachel isn’t whom he wakes up next to.  It’s Leah.

I simply cannot believe the depths of deception in the stories of Genesis...  Everyone is working an angle.  For Laban, he is concerned about his daughter Leah not finding a man, and so he tricks Jacob into marrying her.  And this is relative-to-relative.

If you treat your family like this, how would you treat a stranger?  And where is the integrity?  Ahhh… Integrity: the consistency between your principles and morals and your behaviour.  Laban isn’t looking like a moral star.  Which brings me back to me…

Do I live up to my own moral code?  Do I have consistency between my own values and my behaviour. Of course I hope so, and of course I try to.  The test of moral integrity, however, is in these moments in which I must do something I don’t really want to do, yet have agreed to do it.  Do I fulfill my agreement or do I spin it so I can get what I want like Laban?

Jesus taught that our ‘yes’ should be ‘yes’ and our ‘no’ should be ‘no’ (Matthew 5:37).  Do we live that or do we spin it?  Laban’s yes was at best a half-yes and Jacob lived with it for the rest of his life.  Our integrity impacts other people…

Lord God, speak to our hearts…


Marc Kinna


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