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and he said, Surely the Lord is in this place, and I knew it not. 17. And he was afraid, and said, How awful is this place! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven. 18. And Jacob rose carly in the morning, and took the stone which he had put under his head, and set it up for a monument, and poured oil upon its top. 19. And he called the name of that place Beth-el: but the name of the town was originally Luz. 20. And Jacob offered a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will guard me on this way which I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, 21. And I return again to my father's house in peace, and the Lord is my
emotion; and everything connected with the dream assumed, in his eyes, a character of holiness. The place, especially, where he had reposed was regarded by him as “the gate of heaven,” since it had manifested to him the presence of the Deity; it was the “ house of God," since here He had appeared to him, promising assistance when his oppressed heart needed it most, and attended by His heavenly messengers, who represent the visible acts of His omnipotence (see pp. 259, 260). This was, most probably, the place later nguished by the presence of the holy Tabernacle, where sacrifices were offered and vows were fulfilled (see p. 213). It cannot, therefore, surprise us, that this spot was considered as pre-eminently holy. For although the glory of God pervades the universe, so that not even the heaven of heavens can hold it, some localities were deemed as His special abodes, where men assemble, pour out their hearts, and obtain peace; and as long as religion is connected with a visible worship it will be impossible for the human mind to divest itself of the notion that there are certain places more properly hallowed by the Divine presence. But although Canaan was the holy land, and Moriah the holy mountain, appointed by God for His dwelling-place (Exod. xv. 17); it was distinctly promised, in accordancs with the doctrine of Divine omnipresence, that God appears and blesses man at whatever place He is invoked (Exod. xx. 21). Jacob, made aware by the dream, that he had slept on one of those favoured spots, singled out for a future sanctuary, and fearful
that he had sinned by employing it for a profane purpose, exclaimed, in mingled surprise and apprehension: “How awful is this place! This is nothing else but the house of God!"
But he regarded the stone, also, on which he had rested his head, as holy; he consecrated it as an altar, by a rite which was usual, not only throughout the East, but also among some northern nations. Pouring oil, the emblem of holiness and dignity, over the stone, and adding, perhaps, a libation of wine, he endowed it with a higher significance, and marked the spot where the Tabernacle, with its double altar, of incense and of burntofferings, was later erected. Such sacred stones bore the name of Buetylia; and as Jacob called the place Bethel, it is not extravagant to suppose that both words are identical, and that the patriarch simply designated the stone as a Baetylion, and that later the town assumed the Hebraized name of Bethel. It is reported that even now it is customary in the East for travellers to erect stones in different parts of the road, and there to offer up supplications for their safe return.
In order to exhibit still more impressively the character of this event, Jacob is stated to have uttered a solemn vow, in which the providence of God is again not only the chief feature, but forms the very centre.
As a lonely and powerless pilgrim, he trusts himself entirely to the guidance and protection of God; he asks His aid and love; he prays for the necessities of subsistence, for bread and garments: he entreats Him to bring him back to his parental roof; he demands, in
God: 22. Then this stone, which I have set for a monument, shall be a house of God: and of all that Thou wilt give me, I shall surely give the tenth part to Thee.
a word, that the God of his ancestors may prove Himself as his God also; and he promises, on his part, faithful and devoted piety, manifesting itself both in the adoration of God and in acts of charity towards men; for he pledged himself to regard the place of the vision as the house of God, and, imitating the example of Abraham, to devote, in the name
of the Deity, the tenth part of his property to his fellow-men. All this obtains a greater force, if it is remembered that the worship of Bethel degenerated later into a detested idolatry; that “the house of God” was degraded into house of wickedness”; and that the piety of the patriarch was a warning and an exhortation for the future generations.
SUMMARY.- Jacob, arriving at a well in the neighbourhood of Haran, was, on his
inquiry, informed by the shepherds, who there assembled to water their flocks, of the approach of Rachel, the daughter of Laban, Rebekah's brother. After an affectionate salutation, Rachel announced the relative to her father, who hastened to introduce him into his house, and pressed him to stay. Jacob, loving Rachel, agreed with Laban to serve for her seven years; but after the lapse of this period, he was, by a fraud of Laban, who excused himself by the custom of the country, married to Leah, her elder and less beautiful sister. He consented, therefore, to serve seven years more for Rachel. Ile became, by Leah, the father of Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah: but Rachel was barren.
1. Then Jacob lifted up his feet, and came into the land of the children of the east. 2. And he looked, and
J. Rich in distant hopes, but cheerless type: we see in it, indeed, the eternal in his immediate prospects, Jacob left the image of man's protracted contests, both land of promise. He was a true pilgrim; against the foe in his heart and with his and his whole life was a wearisome and destinies, till at last the internal enemy is changeful pilgrimage. The gold of his either wearied out by his resistance, or ex. capacious and lofty mind was to be pelled by his energy,or reconciled by his sufpurified from its strong alloy of disho- ferings, see on xxxiv.1-4. Among the earnesty and cunning in the furnace of liest seeds sown by Jacob were deceit and misery and toil; his moral education craft: and flight and exile were the firstfruits commenced at his departure from the of his harvest. While his grandfather's serparental house, and after many tribula- vant had undertaken the journey to the tions only, resulted in that peace of mind town of Nahor with ten camels laden with which is at once the surest symptom and all the most precious treasures (xxiv. 10); the choicest reward of true virtue. Ja- the offspring of the alliance concluded in cob's life has always been considered as a consequence of that journey, left his
behold, there was a well in the field, and, behold, there were three flocks of sheep lying by it; for out of that well they watered the flocks: and the stone upon the mouth of the well was great. 3. And thither all the flocks were gathered: and they rolled the stone from the mouth of the well, and watered the sheep, and put the stone again upon the mouth of the well to its place.-4. And Jacob said to them, My brethren, whence are you? And they said, From Haran are we. 5. And he said to them, Do you know Laban, the son of Nahor ? And they said, We know him. 6. And he said, Is he well? And they said, He is well; and, behold, Rachel his daughter cometh with the sheep. 7. And
7. And he said, Behold, the day is still long; it is
father's roof as a poor wanderer, without a friend or an attendant, and without an animal to lighten the fatigues of the way.
2, 3. Approaching the goal of his journey, he halted at a well, like Abraham's servant. But though it was not precisely the same well, a certain analogy between both episodes is obviously intended. The author wishing to impress with the utmost possible distinctness that the God of Abraham and Isaac was also the God of Jacob, and that He was as gracious to the latter as He had been to the former; repeated in the life of the one some features from the life of the other; just as the history of Isaac is, in many respects, perfectly parallel to that of Abraham (see p. 310). The three patriarchs form one whole; one is the heir and successor of the other with regard to their historical vocation; Abraham might already have become the father of the founders of the twelve tribes; his faith and his virtue would have entitled him to this privilege; but the time was not yet fulfilled; and his history lingers, therefore, and is re-echoed in the career of his son and of his grandson.—The well was covered lest the sand, when agitated by the wind,should be driven into the water; but the stone which covered it was designedly large and heavy, that a part of the shepherds might not deprive the others of their due share, or, perhaps, as has been observed, to prevent the well
being opened too frequently, by which the dust would enter more copiously.
4–12. Jacob, though arriving as a helpless stranger, was strengthened by the consciousness of his brilliant mission; he, therefore, addressed the unknown shepherds not only with cordiality, but with self-assurance and authority, and ventured even a gentle reproof of indolence. The shepherds might have been astonished at this tone, and might have regarded it as an assumption; but they answered him dispassionately. The men of the town of Nahor, of Rebekah, Rachel, and Leah, are, no doubt, intentionally represented as peaceful and moral; for it was only under the influence of a virtuous community that the future mothers of the tribes of Israel could be reared; and it was neither caprice nor pride which induced Abraham, as well as Isaac, to insist upon alliances with the daughters of Terah; but this wish was prompted by the internal and moral affinity between all the members of his family (see p. 299).— The surprise of the shepherds at the boldness of the stranger was soon succeeded by a very different sentiment. He achieved before their eyes a feat which compelled their admiration and reverence; he rolled away from the mouth of the well the heavy stone which the shepherds of three flocks had been unable to move (ver. 2); and he thus proved that he was supported by the preternatural assistance
not yet time that the cattle should be gathered: water the sheep, and go and pasture them. 8. And they said, We cannot, until all the flocks are gathered; then they roll the stone from the mouth of the well, and we water the sheep. 9. While he yet spoke with them, Rachel came with her father's sheep, for she was a shepherdess. 10. And when Jacob saw Rachel, the daughter of Laban, his mother's brother, and the sheep of Laban, his mother's brother, Jacob approached, and rolled the stone from the mouth of the well, and watered the flock of Laban, his mother's brother. 11. And Jacob kissed Rachel, and lifted
up his voice, and wept. 12. And Jacob told Rachel that he was her father's kinsman, and that he was
of the Deity; that his spirits were un- the corresponding meeting between Redaunted, and his strength unwearied. bekah and Abraham's steward; but it must Such is power of a mind earnestly yearn- be borne in mind, that this resemblance is ing after some great aim.—The shepherds designed and significant. Laban's quaacquainted Jacob that Laban, the brother lities are here delineated with no less of Rebekah, was in prosperous circum- favourable colours than on the previous stances, and that his daughter would occasion; he is cordial and hospitable, soon come to the well with his flocks; and ready to serve and to be useful; he loses whilst they were still conversing, the no time in offering his hearty welcome to beautiful Rachel approached. At her sight Jacob, and with true affection at once all the fond feelings of home were at once leads the poor pilgrim into his house. Is roused; he beheld before him “the there in all this any ground for depreciating daughter of his mother's brother”; de- Laban's character? - Jacob returned the light and sorrow mingled in his heart; kindness of his bost by free communicaand overwhelmed by his feelings, he paid tions; for “he told Laban all these things." his tribute to nature by a spontaneous
What did he relate to him? Evidently, flood of tears. He had been driven from how he, the son of a wealthy father, ca
came the circle of his family, and now saw that alone, a destitute stranger, into the distant being who he felt was destined to become land; how little prospects he had of a to him the centre of a new and dearer speedy return; and how justly he had to home. But Rachel also was carried away fear his brother's passion and anger. But by the remarkable deed of the stranger; Laban, far from feeling less warmly for his she looked upon hini as upon some fa- nephew on account of his poverty and vourite of God; she believed his words; exile, exclaimed with incrcased fervour: and when he kissed her, she considered it " thou art yet my bone and my flesh"! no insult, no undue liberty. Then only cheered him, and urged him to stay in his he told her that he was Jacob, and she house. entertained no doubt; her heart at once Jacob was of too active a disposition to opened towards him; for she felt as if a cat the brcad of idleness; he took part in miracle had been performed before her eyes. all the occupations of the house and the
13—20. Following her first impulse, field; and worked unremittingly, like a she hastened home, and informed her bondsman. But Laban, too generous todefather of their relative's arrival. This and mand such services, and certainly too just some of the following traits vividly recall to accept them without compensation, re
Rebekah's son: and she ran and told it her father.--13. And when Laban heard the tidings of Jacob, his sister's son, he ran to meet him, and embraced him, and kissed him, and brought him to his house. And he told Laban all these things. 14. And Laban said to him, Surely thou art my bone and my flesh. And he abode with him a month's time. 15. And Laban said to Jacob, Art thou indeed my kinsman, and shouldst thou serve me for nought ? tell me what thy wages shall be. 16. And Laban had two daughters : the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. 17. And the eyes of Leah were tender; but Rachel was beautiful in form and beautiful in appearance. 18. And Jacob loved Rachel,
quested Jacob to fix his wages. The latter, examine it. As Jacob possessed no promindful of the paternal injunctions and perty, and could not, therefore, buy his wife, of the ostensible purpose of his journey, he paid for her by seven years of service. well aware that he had passed the meridian But was this indeed so degrading as it has, of his life, and that he, almost an octoge- by almost general consent, been denounced narian, could, even according to patriarchal to be? It is alleged, that, as the wife is, in notions, no longer be considered a young the East, regarded only as a kind of slave, man; unhesitatingly demanded in matri- first subordinate to the father, and then to mony Laban's second daughter, Rachel, the husband, she was, like the slave, acquirwhom he loved, and for whom he offered ed by purchase, and for almost exactly the to serve seven years. Orientals prefer al- same price. Such certainly was and is the liances within the circle of their own rela- case among many uncivilised tribes. But tives; marriages between cousins are in does the purchase not admit of another especial favour; Laban consented, there- construction? Among some nations, the fore, readily to Jacob's proposal, saying: marriage-price is distinctly regarded as a “it is better that I should give her to thee compensation due to the parents for the than to another man”; and he invited him trouble and expense incurred by the edu
enter forth with upon his duties. And cation of the daughter. From this view, the text adds in beautiful simplicity: there is but one step to the notion, that the “And Jacob served seven years for Rachel; parents deserve the gratitude of the man and they seemed to him but a few days, for to whom they give their child; and the the love he bore to her”: words breathing Hebrews, who assigned to the women a the purest tenderness, and expressing more position eminently high and honourable, emphatically than the flowery hyperboles who regarded the wife as an integral part of of romantic phraseology, the deep at- the husband, and as the indispensable contachment of an affectionate heart. Love dition of his happiness, and among whom capableof shortening seven laborious years it was a proverbial adage, that“ an excel. into a term of insignificant brevity, is a lent wife is far more precious than riches": flame animating and purifying the soul; a the Hebrews bought their wives as a treasacred longing, forming its own delight sure and the most valuable possession. It and happiness. It would, therefore, be may be seriously asked, whether such a truly surprising, were we to find in our purchase was, in principle, not more dignarrative features coinciding with the rude nified than the custom according to which and undeveloped eastern practices. Let us the wife buys, as it were, a husband by her