by JACK WELLMAN
The greatest love letter ever written was the one from God to humans. It is called the Bible. Sadly, it is one of the greatest love letters that people do not read. The Bible contains some of the most wonderful love stories ever told. One that is an inspiring story of love between a husband and wife is that of Jacob and Rachel. In fact, it is one of the greatest love stories of all time.
Jacob is the father of the twelve tribes of Israel and is a significant figure in biblical history. God latter changes his name to Israel from which the nation finds its name. Jacob’s name means “supplanter” or “one who grabs.” In the case of Jacob, he grabbed his brothers heal when we was being born. His brother’s name was Esau and he was born first but Jacob grabbed onto his brothers heel when we was being born. Esau was the first born of Isaac but he lost his birthright to Jacob. Esau is the father of the Arabic speaking peoples today. There was a natural, bitter rivalry between Jacob and Esau and today there is a natural animosity between Israel and the Arab nations surrounding her.
Love at First Sight
Jacob was sent by his father Isaac to find a wife from a relative‘s family. He met Rachel at the well and for him, it was love at first sight. He went to the well and when he single-handily moved the great stone cover off of the well, perhaps trying to impress Rachel. You can tell that Jacob didn’t take long before he knew that he loved Rachel as recorded in Genesis 29:10-11: “When Jacob saw Rachel, daughter of his uncle Laban, and Laban’s sheep, he went over and rolled the stone away from the mouth of the well and watered his uncle’s sheep. Then Jacob kissed Rachel and began to weep aloud.” Interestingly, it wasn’t Rachel that cried but Jacob. He seemed to know with certainty that Rachel would be his bride. Rachel ran to her father and told him about the young traveler. Rachel’s father, Laban, ran out to meet Jacob and invited him to stay with him.
Jacob stayed with Laban’s family and within a month, he had fallen deeply in love with Rachel and determined to marry her. In order to marry her, Rachel’s father convinced Jacob to work for him for seven years and he could marry Rachel. Jacob agreed. Jacob loved Rachel so much that he labored for her for seven years, “but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her” (Gen 29:20). Love sometimes makes things in life more bearable as it did for Jacob.
After the seven years of labor, Laban agreed to allow Jacob to marry Rachel. In Jewish wedding ceremonies, the bride usually have their entire face covered with only a small opening for the eyes. After Jacob married the woman and spent the night with his new bride he woke up in horror to discover that he had been tricked. Jacob thought that he had married Rachel but he had instead married Leah. Jacob was outraged and when he confronted Rachel’s father Laban, the father told Jacob that it was customary to have the eldest daughter marry first. Laban said that Jacob could also marry Rachel if he agreed to work another seven years for him. Jacob, smitten by Rachel, quickly agreed and worked another seven years for Laban. Another seven years wouldn’t stop Jacob because “his love for Rachel was greater than his love for Leah…and he worked for Laban another seven years” to secure Rachel for his wife (Gen 29:30). Jacob had once deceived his brother Esau and had tricked him out of his rightful birthright. Now it was Jacob turn to be tricked.
Jacob’s other wife, Leah, had several children but Rachel remained barren. Rachel once said that if she didn’t have children that she’d die (Gen. 30:1) but ironically, she died after having her second child, Benjamin. Rachel’s first son, Joseph, would end up being critically important for the people of Israel to survive after he would bring his entire family into Egypt to survive a devastating famine. This is relevant because by this time God had changed Jacob’s name to Israel, which means “prince of God“.
When Jacob and Rachel’s family moved on from Bethel, “Rachel began to give birth and had great difficulty….and as she was having great difficulty in childbirth, the midwife said to her, “Don’t despair, for you have another son.” As she breathed her last—for she was dying—she named her son Ben-Oni. But his father named him Benjamin” (Gen 35:16-18). Ben-Oni means “son of my trouble” but Jacob, now called Israel, named him Benjamin, which means “son of my right hand.” This may have been due to Rachel’s being Jacob‘s favorite wife or his “right hand“ to him and so Rachel‘s son was given the name of Benjamin, which means “son of my right hand.”
“So Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem). Over her tomb Jacob set up a pillar, and to this day that pillar marks Rachel’s tomb” (Gen 35:19-20). Rachel had died but Jacob’s love for her never did. Death does not end a person’s love for another, in fact love is said to survive even death. Jacob loved Rachel at first sight and at last sight. So much so that he erected a pillar to mark the place of Rachel’s tomb. A pillar that may have been a memorial for him to remember her…and a place for him to return to visit much like a gravestone today in a cemetery. Today, they are together again – in Paradise; together forever and to never die again.