Jacob set out again on his way to the people of the east.
He noticed a well out in an open field with three flocks of sheep bedded down around it. This was the common well from which the flocks were watered. The stone over the mouth of the well was huge.
When all the flocks were gathered, the shepherds would roll the stone from the well and water the sheep; then they would return the stone, covering the well.
Jacob said, "Hello friends. Where are you from?" They said, "We're from Haran."
Jacob asked, "Do you know Laban son of Nahor?" "We do."
"Are things well with him?" Jacob continued. "Very well," they said. "And here is his daughter Rachel coming with the flock."
Jacob said, "There's a lot of daylight still left; it isn't time to round up the sheep yet, is it? So why not water the flocks and go back to grazing?"
"We can't," they said. "Not until all the shepherds get here. It takes all of us to roll the stone from the well. Not until then can we water the flocks."
While Jacob was in conversation with them, Rachel came up with her father's sheep. She was the shepherd.
The moment Jacob spotted Rachel, daughter of Laban his mother's brother, saw her arriving with his uncle Laban's sheep, he went and single-handedly rolled the stone from the mouth of the well and watered the sheep of his uncle Laban.
Then he kissed Rachel and broke into tears.
He told Rachel that he was related to her father, that he was Rebekah's son. She ran and told her father.
When Laban heard the news - Jacob, his sister's son! - he ran out to meet him, embraced and kissed him and brought him home. Jacob told Laban the story of everything that had happened.
Laban said, "You're family! My flesh and blood!"
Laban said, "Just because you're my nephew, you shouldn't work for me for nothing. Tell me what you want to be paid. What's a fair wage?"
Now Laban had two daughters; Leah was the older and Rachel the younger.
Leah had nice eyes, but Rachel was stunningly beautiful.
And it was Rachel that Jacob loved. So Jacob answered, "I will work for you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel."
"It is far better," said Laban, "that I give her to you than marry her to some outsider. Yes. Stay here with me."
So Jacob worked seven years for Rachel. But it only seemed like a few days, he loved her so much.
Then Jacob said to Laban, "Give me my wife; I've completed what we agreed I'd do. I'm ready to consummate my marriage."
Laban invited everyone around and threw a big feast.
At evening, though, he got his daughter Leah and brought her to the marriage bed, and Jacob slept with her.
(Laban gave his maid Zilpah to his daughter Leah as her maid.)
Morning came: There was Leah in the marriage bed! Jacob confronted Laban, "What have you done to me? Didn't I work all this time for the hand of Rachel? Why did you cheat me?"
"We don't do it that way in our country," said Laban. "We don't marry off the younger daughter before the older.
Enjoy your week of honeymoon, and then we'll give you the other one also. But it will cost you another seven years of work."
Jacob agreed. When he'd completed the honeymoon week, Laban gave him his daughter Rachel to be his wife.
(Laban gave his maid Bilhah to his daughter Rachel as her maid.)
Jacob then slept with her. And he loved Rachel more than Leah. He worked for Laban another seven years.
When God realized that Leah was unloved, he opened her womb. But Rachel was barren.
Leah became pregnant and had a son. She named him Reuben (Look-It's-a-Boy!). "This is a sign," she said, "that God has seen my misery; and a sign that now my husband will love me."
She became pregnant again and had another son. "God heard," she said, "that I was unloved and so he gave me this son also." She named this one Simeon (God-Heard).
She became pregnant yet again - another son. She said, "Now maybe my husband will connect with me - I've given him three sons!" That's why she named him Levi (Connect).
She became pregnant a final time and had a fourth son. She said, "This time I'll praise God." So she named him Judah (Praise-God). Then she stopped having children.
Published by permission. Originally published by NavPress in English as THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language copyright 2002 by Eugene Peterson. All rights reserved. (The Message Bible Online)