Genesis 29-30 — Using people? Loving people?

This is by far one of the more bizarre stories in the Bible.  And sad.  Jacob falls in love with Rachel, and her father Laban says, “If you work for me for 7 years, I’ll let you have her.”  That’s not really the bizarre part.  Jacob had nothing, and it was a custom in those days to pay a dowry to a bride’s father.

But then the bizarreness begins.  Jacob works the 7 years, and he takes his newly-wed, but veiled wife into his darkened tent, and when he wakes up the next morning, he finds out that it isn’t Rachel; it’s Rachel’s sister Leah.  Laban tells Jacob, “Well, it’s our custom to let the older sister get married first, but if you work 7 more years, I’ll let you have Rachel too.”  Jacob agrees and then marries Rachel.

But for obvious reasons, Jacob didn’t really love Leah, and the Lord saw that.  And so he allowed her to get pregnant, and she had three sons.  Leah’s words at their births are very poignant.  She named her first son Reuben which meant, “He’s seen my misery.”  And she said, “The Lord has seen my misery.  Surely my husband will love me now.”  She named her next son Simeon which meant, “Heard.”  And she said, “The Lord has heard I’m not loved, and so he gave me another son.”  The third son she named Levi which meant “Attached.”  And she said, “Now at last my husband will become attached to me because I’ve born him three sons.”

Rachel then got really upset because she had no children, so she gave her maidservant to Jacob to be another wife and to have children for her.  Then Leah got jealous when she was no longer having children, so she gave her maidservant to Jacob to be yet another wife and have children for her.  And this situation went on and on and on.

Why did all this happen?  Because Laban forgot one key thing.  People are to be loved, not used.  He used Jacob in order to both marry off his older daughter and to gain a profit from Jacob’s work.  He didn’t care that Jacob was a man with feelings.  And he didn’t care about the consequences to his own daughters.

You can see throughout these passages that he passed this way of thinking on to both his daughters who started seeing both Jacob and their own maidservants as tools in their own battle with one another.  Jacob wasn’t a whole lot better.  As the Bible says in Proverbs, “Under [this] the earth trembles…[and] cannot bear up…an unloved woman who is married.” Proverbs 30:21,23 (NIV)

How do we see the people in our lives?  Do we see them as people that God loves and we should love?  Or do we simply see them as tools to get what we want?  So much pain comes into the world when people become tools instead of someone to love.

You see this in relationships sometimes with men claiming to love a woman simply in order to sleep with her.  You see this in marriage sometimes with people getting married simply because their partner happens to be rich.  You see this in the workplace sometimes with people using others as something to step on in order to advance in their career.

But when we see people that way, we not only degrade them, we degrade ourselves.  We were made to love and to be loved.  And by using people instead of loving them, we make ourselves something less than what God intended.  And that leads to misery, not only for the people we used, but for ourselves as well.

There’s an old song I love.  It says:

Using things and loving people
That’s the way it’s got to be
Using things and loving people
Look around and you can see
That loving things and using people
Only leads to misery
Using things and loving people
That’s the way it’s got to be

Using things and loving people
Brings you happiness I’ve found
Using things and loving people
Not the other way around
‘Cause loving things and using people
Only leads to misery
Using things and loving people
That’s the way it’s got to be
For you and me

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About bkshiroma

I'm from Hawaii, but have been in Japan as a missionary/English teacher since 1995. I'm currently going to a church called Crossroad Nishinomiya, an international church in Nishinomiya, a city right between Kobe and Osaka. Check out their website: crossroad-web.com 私がハワイから来ましたけど1995年に宣教師と英会話の教師として日本に引っ越しました。 今西宮にあるクロスロード西宮という国際の教会に行っています。どうぞ、そのホムページを見てください: crossroad-web.com
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2 Responses to Genesis 29-30 — Using people? Loving people?

  1. Josiah says:

    Great post Bruce. Really enjoyed what you had to say.
    It can sometimes come more natural to use someone to further our own gain than to love them as they are. Laban was a selfish guy, but we all have some Laban in us to a certain degree, so we need more grace to be more like Jesus.

  2. Pingback: Genesis 38 — Unwanted and unloved | Through the Bible in who knows how many days

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