Community Group Study “Genesis: God’s Love for the Unloved”
Read Genesis 29:1-35
We’ve been looking at how Jacob is in a journey to learn humility and dependence on God. We see his natural desire to fight and deceive to achieve his purpose and worth. Jacob desires to make a name for himself and find blessing. This was accomplished by taking advantage of a moment of weakness for Esau and buying the birthright from him and then years later Jacob deceived his father to have the family blessing passed on to him and not Esau. Jacob dressed up in Esau’s clothing, claimed his name and tricked his blind dad! Ambition and drive are second nature to Jacob. This leaves Jacob on the run for his life to escape the wrath of Esau who desires to kill him. Rebekah and Isaac send Jacob to the land of Haran for safety and to find a wife among Rebekah’s family line. So in the gaining of the blessing, Jacob also loses his safety and his family.
Jacob goes on a 400+ mile journey to Haran; and during this flight he finds himself in “a certain place” exhausted and alone. This “certain place” was outside a city called Luz, later renamed Bethel (the “house of God”). God shows up in this unnamed desert place with his grace and mercy towards Jacob. In the midst of his self inflicted suffering, God reaches out to Jacob in a dream to pass on the Abrahamic promise and to pledge to Jacob to be with him, keep him and bring him back to the Promised Land. Jacob can go forth knowing that God has promised to give him a future. It is nothing short of an act of grace from God to Jacob.
Genesis 29:1 summarizes a month of traveling for Jacob; he finally reaches Haran. Jacob ends up at a well (possibly the same well from Genesis 24) with a group of shepherds who are waiting around and providentially sees Rachel approaching the well with her sheep. The Bible gives us a sort of love at first sight moment between Jacob and Rachel. The moment Jacob sees Rachel he moves to help her in the dramatic fashion of moving this really large stone cover from the mouth of the well. This stone cover would typically take 3 adult men to move. We can also know that he is head over heels for her because the scripture focuses on how beautiful Rachel was and Jacob’s desire to marry her. We see this infatuation and “love” for Rachel in the bride price Jacob paid, how the 7 years felt like “only a few days” and the crass language Jacob uses to demand Rachel when the 7 years were up (see Genesis 29:21). This shows us less of a loving relationship and more of an obsession. Laban uses this obsession to trick and deceive Jacob. While clinging to cultural norms of the older daughter being married first and how he “technically” did not promise Rachel’s hand in marriage (See Genesis 29:19); Laban tricked Jacob into marrying Leah, who is far from what would be considered attractive in that culture (Genesis 29:17). This enables Laban to get another 7 years of service out of Jacob to marry Rachel. You can imagine the anger and let down Jacob experienced. The deceiver was deceived.
Jacob finally marries Rachel and he shows her preferential love and treatment over Leah. We’re told in the scripture that he actually “hated” Leah (Genesis 29:30-31). God responds to Leah being unloved by giving her children and moving her through a process of realizing where her true hope and her life is found. We see this process unfold in how she names her children. Her first child is named after the Hebrew word “to look” and she says that God has looked upon her affliction and given her a son, maybe now my husband will love me. Her second child is named after the Hebrew word “to hear” and she says that God has heard that she is hated. Leah’s third child is named after the Hebrew word “attached” and she looks to this child for the hopes that maybe now her husband will be attached to her. We see an unloved woman who is seeking affirmation from her husband who hates her. This is a sad and desperate situation that is all too familiar for many of us. It is only after all of this that she realizes where her true hope and life are found. Leah names her fourth child after the Hebrew word for “praise” saying “this time I will praise the LORD”. Each of us at some point in our lives are brought to a place where the idols we look to in this world let us down and we realize we can only be satisfied in the Lord. “This time I will praise the LORD.”
God sees the unloved and purposes to love her. God chooses to use the weak and forgotten in the world for his plan. It is through Leah’s children that God brings forth people like Moses, Aaron, David, Solomon and Jesus. Gos uses Leah’s family line to bring the Abrahamic blessing to the world. It is clear in our passage that God wanted Jacob to marry one of Laban’s daughters, just not the one that Jacob picked. This study guide will help us interact with the danger of making people into idols, treating them as objects and how we can look to our Lord who loves the unloved.
At your community group:
Take 15-20 minutes to share about how God has been at work in your life, prayer concerns and pray for one another.
How did God speak to you through the scripture and the sermon this week?
How does this passage show us the danger of pushing forward our plans and our way without attention to God and his word? Compare the opening of Genesis 29 with a passage like Genesis 24:10-14. Genesis 24 is to meant to give us a formula, but it shows us a different heart attitude during a search for a wife at what could have been the same well.
How do Jacob and Laban discuss the daughters? Notice things like: does Laban ever use their names? What does Jacob demand? Etc. What do you think this observation is teaching us?
Do you think Jacob overly focused on Rachel’s looks? How does this mirror our current culture and what kinds of problems are created when we put someone value into how they look or our own value in how we look?
How does this passage practically warn us against putting our hopes and desires in another person? Look again at how Jacob interacts with Rachel and Leah’s response to being hated (Genesis 29:31-35).
How does God demonstrate his love for the unloved? Why is this such an important part of God’s character for followers of Jesus to realize?