Lesson 31

Genesis 28–30

“Lesson 31: Genesis 28–30,” Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual (2014)


Introduction

Jacob departed the land of Canaan and journeyed to Padan-aram to find a suitable companion to marry in the covenant. While on this journey, Jacob saw a vision of the Lord, who promised him the same eternal blessings his grandfather Abraham had been promised (the Abrahamic covenant). In Padan-aram, Jacob worked for Laban and married Leah, Rachel, Bilhah, and Zilpah, who eventually bore him twelve sons and one daughter.

Suggestions for Teaching

Genesis 28:1–22

Jacob is promised the blessings of Abraham

Panama City Panama Temple

Show students a picture of a temple, and ask why it is important to be married in the temple.

  • What blessings do we lose if we choose not to be married in the temple?

Invite a student to read Genesis 28:1–2 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for instructions Isaac gave to his son Jacob. Ask students to report what they find.

Explain that the Canaanites worshipped idols and engaged in other practices that were offensive to God. A daughter of Canaan would not be worthy to join Jacob in entering into a marriage covenant with the Lord. Marrying a daughter of Canaan would mean marrying out of the covenant.

Invite students to read Genesis 28:3–4 silently, looking for what Jacob was promised if he married in the covenant.

  • According to verse 4, what was Jacob promised if he married in the covenant? (“The blessing of Abraham.” Point out that in order to receive the blessings of Abraham, Jacob would need to not only marry in the covenant but also remain faithful to that covenant.)

  • What can we learn from Genesis 28:1–4 about what we must do to receive the blessings of Abraham? (Students may use different words, but they should identify the following principle: If we marry in the covenant and remain faithful, then we will receive the blessings of Abraham. [See D&C 132:30–33.])

  • What does it mean to receive the blessings of Abraham? (It means receiving the blessings of the Abrahamic covenant: numerous posterity [see Genesis 17:5–6; Abraham 2:9; 3:14]; receiving the gospel and bearing the priesthood to bless all the families of the earth; and an inheritance of land.)

Summarize Genesis 28:5–9 by explaining that Jacob obeyed his father by leaving the land of Canaan to find a suitable companion to marry in the covenant. By leaving Canaan, Jacob was also obeying his mother, who had warned Jacob of Esau’s plan to kill him. After Esau saw the blessings promised to Jacob for marrying in the covenant and realized that his marriages to Hittite women displeased his father, Esau married one of Ishmael’s daughters anyway.

Invite a few students to take turns reading aloud from Genesis 28:10–13. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what happened while Jacob traveled from Canaan to Haran. Ask students to report what they find.

  • What did Jacob see in his dream?

ladder

Show a picture of a ladder (or draw one on the board), and ask students how far the ladder extended. After students respond, label the bottom of the ladder earth and the top of the ladder heaven or the presence of the Lord.

  • What do you think Jacob might have learned from the image of a ladder extending from earth to the Lord’s presence?

Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by President Marion G. Romney of the First Presidency. Ask the class to listen for what President Romney taught about what rungs of the ladder represent.

President Marion G. Romney

“Jacob realized that the covenants he made with the Lord there were the rungs on the ladder that he himself would have to climb in order to obtain the promised blessings—blessings that would entitle him to enter heaven and associate with the Lord” (“Temples—The Gates to Heaven,” Ensign, Mar. 1971, 16).

  • Based on what Jacob saw in his vision, why is it important to receive the saving ordinances of the gospel and keep their associated covenants? (Students may use different words, but they should identify the following principle: We must receive the saving ordinances of the gospel and keep their associated covenants in order to return to the presence of the Lord.)

Invite a student to read Genesis 28:13–15 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Lord promised to give Jacob. Ask students to report what they find.

  • Considering that Jacob was traveling alone and escaping the threat of violence from Esau, how might the Lord’s promise, “I am with thee,” in verse 15 have helped him?

Ask a few students to take turns reading aloud from Genesis 28:16–19, 22. Invite the class to follow along, looking for how Jacob described the place where he had the dream. (You may need to explain that the phrases “he was afraid” and “how dreadful is this place” in verse 17 refer to feelings of reverence and awe. These phrases indicate that Jacob understood the seriousness of entering the presence of God.)

  • According to verse 17, what did Jacob call the place where he had his dream? (The “house of God” and the “gate of heaven.” Explain that the phrase “gate of heaven” refers to a gateway to God’s presence where we can receive the promise of eternal life.)

  • Where can we go to be in the house of God and prepare for eternal life? (After students respond, consider writing the following truth on the board: The temple is the house of God and the gate to eternal life.)

Point to the picture of the temple you showed at the beginning of class. Ask students to imagine that someone has asked them why temples are so important to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Invite a few students to explain how they would respond.

Consider sharing your testimony of temples and the ordinances and covenants we can receive there. Invite students to write in their class notebooks or scripture study journals a goal for what they will do to better keep the covenants they have already made so they can be prepared to enter the temple and receive additional ordinances and covenants.

Summarize Genesis 28:20–22 by explaining that Jacob vowed that if the Lord would be with him, he would serve Him as his God. As part of this vow, Jacob committed to pay “the tenth” (tithing) to the Lord. (You may want to remind students that the Lord sets the conditions of the covenants we make with Him.)

Genesis 29:1–29

Jacob works for Laban for 14 years so he can marry Rachel

Ask students to name some examples of things that require hard work and patience. After students respond, explain that Jacob had to work hard and be patient to receive the blessings the Lord had promised him.

Summarize Genesis 29:1–14 by explaining that when Jacob arrived in Haran he met Rachel, one of Laban’s daughters, at a well. Laban welcomed Jacob to stay at his house. Explain that when Jacob said that he was Laban’s brother (see verse 12), this was another way of saying, “We are all family.” More specifically, Laban was Jacob’s uncle.

Invite a few students to take turns reading aloud from Genesis 29:15–20. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Jacob was willing to do so he could marry Rachel.

  • What was Jacob willing to do so he could marry Rachel?

Point out that Jacob’s years of labor not only demonstrated his love for Rachel, but also demonstrated his commitment to marry in the covenant as his father, Isaac, had instructed him (see Genesis 28:1–4).

Summarize Genesis 29:21–29 by explaining that after Jacob worked seven years to marry Rachel, Laban tricked him into marrying his older daughter, Leah, instead. Laban justified his actions by claiming that the oldest daughter should be married first. Laban told Jacob he could still marry Rachel after the weeklong wedding feast for Leah, but Jacob would have to agree to work for him another seven years. Jacob agreed to these conditions. Remind students that the Lord approved of Jacob’s plural marriages (see D&C 132:37).

  • What can we learn from Jacob’s example about obtaining the blessings the Lord has promised us? (Students may use different words, but they might identify a principle similar to the following: We must work diligently and be patient as we seek to obtain the blessings the Lord has promised us.)

Genesis 29:30–30:43

Children are born to Jacob, and the Lord prospers him

Ask students to think about a challenge their family has experienced and what made it difficult. Explain that Jacob’s family went through difficulties as well.

Invite a student to read Genesis 29:30–35 aloud and another student to read Genesis 30:1–2 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for the challenges Leah and Rachel experienced.

  • What difficulty did Leah have in her life? (Explain that the word hated as used in verse 31 was translated from the Hebrew word sahnay, which means “loved less.”)

  • How did the Lord help Leah cope with her challenge?

  • What challenge did Rachel have in her life?

  • What feelings did Rachel struggle with during this difficult time?

Explain that in their time and culture, it was considered a great honor for a wife to bear a male child. Because of this, a competitive spirit developed between Leah and Rachel as well as disappointment and frustration. Summarize Genesis 30:3–21 by explaining that because Rachel could not have children, she gave Jacob her servant Bilhah to marry. Leah, afraid that she would no longer have children, likewise gave Jacob her servant Zilpah to marry.

Eventually Jacob and his wives had twelve sons and one daughter. The twelve sons’ posterity became known as the twelve tribes of Israel. (You may want to explain that the Lord later changed Jacob’s name to Israel. This will be discussed in a future lesson.)

Point out that Rachel was the last of the wives to bear children. Invite students to read Genesis 30:22 silently, looking for how Rachel was finally able to bear a child.

  • We know that God does not forget us, so what do you think it means that “God remembered Rachel”?

  • What does the phrase “God hearkened to her” tell us about what Rachel had been doing during her struggles?

  • What can we learn from verse 22 that could help us when we experience challenges? (Students may identify a variety of principles, including the following: When we experience challenges, we should realize that God does not forget us.)

Summarize Genesis 30:25–43 by explaining that because Jacob was faithful to his covenants, the Lord blessed him by increasing his wealth in preparation for his return to his homeland.

Commentary and Background Information

Genesis 29:21–29. Jacob’s marriage to Leah and Rachel

The following information might be helpful to students who have questions about Jacob’s marriage to Leah and Rachel (this information does not need to be part of the lesson):

“After promising Rachel to Jacob for seven years of service, Laban sent Leah to Jacob’s tent to consummate the marriage. The modern reader may find it hard to believe that Jacob did not discover the switch until it was morning; however, the following possibilities could explain the success of Laban’s ruse. As sisters, Rachel and Leah may have been quite similar in height, weight, and general appearance. Second, the women of Haran sometimes veiled themselves (see Genesis 24:65). Third, Laban was a shepherd. If he was a typical shepherd of ancient times, he dwelt in tents instead of in permanent dwellings. The inside of a tent at night can be very dark. And finally, knowing what the reaction of Jacob would be if he discovered the substitution early, Laban may have told Leah to speak as little as possible so as not to give the deception away before it was too late to change it.

“Though Laban demanded another seven years for Rachel’s hand, he allowed Jacob to marry her once the seven days of wedding feasts for Leah were finished and to fulfill his indebtedness after the marriage. The gift of the handmaidens to each daughter made the servants the direct property of each wife, not of Jacob. Thus, later, when the handmaids had children, the children were viewed legally as the children of Rachel and Leah” (Old Testament Student Manual: Genesis–2 Samuel, 3rd ed. [Church Educational System manual, 2003], 87).

Genesis 30:14–22. What are mandrakes, and why did Rachel want them?

“Although Bible scholars are not sure exactly what plant is meant by the word mandrake, the significance of this plant to Rachel and Leah is clear. ‘The Hebrew name denotes love fruit. The fruit had a pleasant taste and odor, and was supposed to ensure conception.’ (Bible Dictionary, s.v. ‘mandrakes.’) In other words, the mandrakes were thought to enhance a woman’s fertility and ability to have children. Knowledge of this belief helps explain the interchange between Rachel and Leah. Rachel desired the mandrakes so that she could at last bear children of her own. As has already been seen, there was a fierce competition between the sisters in this regard. Leah’s response was, therefore, equally natural. She indicated that Rachel had already taken her husband, which probably meant only that Rachel had the first place in his affections. (Some scholars, however, believe that this passage means that Jacob actually lived in Rachel’s tent rather than in Leah’s tent.) The one advantage Leah had was her ability to bear children, while Rachel could not. In essence she told Rachel that it would be foolish for her to give Rachel her mandrakes and help her have children, for this would only lessen Leah’s one advantage (v. 15). So Rachel made a counter offer. She promised that she would encourage Jacob to go to Leah that night if she, Rachel, could have the mandrakes (v. 15). Leah agreed and told Jacob. Out of the agreement Leah conceived and bore Jacob a fifth son (vv. 17–18). She later bore another son and Jacob’s daughter Dinah (vv. 19–21).

“Although not stated specifically, the record implies that the mandrakes did nothing for Rachel. Finally, Rachel did conceive, but it was not because of mandrakes. Rather, ‘God hearkened to her, and opened her womb’ (v. 22)” (Old Testament Student Manual: Genesis–2 Samuel, 3rd ed. [Church Educational System manual, 2003], 88).

Genesis 30:37–43. Did the peeled rods influence the conception of the flocks of Jacob?

“Jacob’s peeling of branches and placing them before the animals so that when they conceived they would bear multicolored offspring seems to be a reflection of a common superstition that the conception of offspring is influenced by what the mother experiences or sees at the time of conception. Nothing is known by modern science to explain any relationship between what Jacob did and what happened in the hereditary patterns of the animals. Perhaps something is missing from the text. Perhaps the Lord was just taking advantage of the virility of crossbred animals. Divine intervention certainly played a part. In any event, Jacob’s herds grew and the Lord blessed him. Also, Jacob’s separation of the flocks (v. 40) follows principles of good animal husbandry and would have increased the likelihood of having multi-colored animals” (Old Testament Student Manual: Genesis–2 Samuel, 3rd ed. [Church Educational System manual, 2003], 88).