Why Marrying for Love is Not All It’s Cracked Up to Be

This post is part of a year-long experiment wherein, week-by-week, we write the Bible better than it was in the original.


Genesis 28:10-32:3

Jacob goes off journeying and God shows up.

God: I’ll always protect you. Promise. And your descendants will be like stars in the sky.
Jacob: Mhhmm.
God: That is not the reaction I was going for.
Jacob: I’ve heard the stories. You apparently have a thing for telling people that their descendants will be like stars in the sky.
God: Who said that?
Jacob: I’m not gonna say.
God: Hagar? Abraham?
Jacob: See, you tell everybody.
God: It couldn’t have been Moses. You don’t know about him yet.

Jacob runs into his cousin, Rachel, which isn’t surprising because there were like 80 people around back then. In what must have been a confused emotional state, Jacob suddenly kisses her and starts crying. The two go back to Laban, Rachel’s father, and Jacob starts working for him.

Laban: You shouldn’t just work for free, my nephew. You should get something in exchange. Otherwise, this is just slavery.
Jacob: Wait, I’m not getting money?
Jacob: Okay, how about Rachel? Can I marry her? I just kissed her and now I’m in love. Plus, we’re cousins, so none of us will won’t have to learn a bunch of new names at the wedding.
Laban: Yeah, sure. Just be my slave for seven years first.

Seven years later …

Jacob: It’s cool if I hit up Rachel now, right?

Laban sends Rachel’s sister, Leah, to marry Jacob instead. Jacob apparently doesn’t notice that Leah is not Rachel because Leah wears a heavy wedding veil. The newlyweds go home and sleep together (in the Biblical sense, obviously). In the morning, Jacob notices that the woman with whom he spent the night is not Rachel, and he storms over to Laban.

Jacob: It took me all night to figure it out, but I’m now 80 percent sure that the woman I spent the night with was not Rachel.
Laban: Sorry, kid. We marry off our older daughters first around here. Family tradition.
Jacob: We’re in the same family.
Laban: Tell ya what, if you work another seven years, you can marry Rachel too.

Laban keeps his word this time for some reason and Jacob marries Rachel seven years later. He always liked Rachel more, but Leah had a fun time as a consolation prize wife.



Illustration by Dana Lo

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About The Author

Ilana Strauss

Ilana E. Strauss is a human-shaped collection of atoms that have written for The Atlantic, Reader's Digest, the Washington Post, Tablet, and the Toast.

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