Jacob hurried on, finally arriving in the land of the east.
He saw in the distance three flocks of sheep lying in an open field beside a well, waiting to be watered. But a heavy stone covered the mouth of the well.
It was the custom there to wait for all the flocks to arrive before removing the stone. After watering them, the stone would be rolled back over the mouth of the well.
Jacob went over to the shepherds and asked them, "Where do you live?" "At Haran," they said.
"Do you know a man there named Laban, the grandson of Nahor?" "Yes, we do," they replied.
"How is he?" Jacob asked. "He's well and prosperous. Look, here comes his daughter Rachel with the sheep."
"Why don't you water the flocks so they can get back to grazing?" Jacob asked. "They'll be hungry if you stop so early in the day."
"We don't roll away the stone and begin the watering until all the flocks and shepherds are here," they replied.
As this conversation was going on, Rachel arrived with her father's sheep, for she was a shepherd.
And because she was his cousin, the daughter of his mother's brother, and because the sheep were his uncle's, Jacob went over to the well and rolled away the stone and watered his uncle's flock.
Then Jacob kissed Rachel, and tears came to his eyes.
He explained that he was her cousin on her father's side, her aunt Rebekah's son. So Rachel quickly ran and told her father, Laban.
As soon as Laban heard about Jacob's arrival, he rushed out to meet him and greeted him warmly. Laban then brought him home, and Jacob told him his story.
"Just think, my very own flesh and blood!" Laban exclaimed. After Jacob had been there about a month,
Laban said to him, "You shouldn't work for me without pay just because we are relatives. How much do you want?"
Now Laban had two daughters: Leah, who was the oldest, and her younger sister, Rachel.
Leah had pretty eyes, a but Rachel was beautiful in every way, with a lovely face and shapely figure.
Since Jacob was in love with Rachel, he told her father, "I'll work for you seven years if you'll give me Rachel, your younger daughter, as my wife."
"Agreed!" Laban replied. "I'd rather give her to you than to someone outside the family."
So Jacob spent the next seven years working to pay for Rachel. But his love for her was so strong that it seemed to him but a few days.
Finally, the time came for him to marry her. "I have fulfilled my contract," Jacob said to Laban. "Now give me my wife so we can be married."
So Laban invited everyone in the neighborhood to celebrate with Jacob at a wedding feast.
That night, when it was dark, Laban took Leah to Jacob, and he slept with her.
And Laban gave Leah a servant, Zilpah, to be her maid.
But when Jacob woke up in the morning -- it was Leah! "What sort of trick is this?" Jacob raged at Laban. "I worked seven years for Rachel. What do you mean by this trickery?"
"It's not our custom to marry off a younger daughter ahead of the firstborn," Laban replied.
"Wait until the bridal week is over, and you can have Rachel, too -- that is, if you promise to work another seven years for me."
So Jacob agreed to work seven more years. A week after Jacob had married Leah, Laban gave him Rachel, too.
And Laban gave Rachel a servant, Bilhah, to be her maid.
So Jacob slept with Rachel, too, and he loved her more than Leah. He then stayed and worked the additional seven years.
But because Leah was unloved, the LORD let her have a child, while Rachel was childless.
So Leah became pregnant and had a son. She named him Reuben, b for she said, "The LORD has noticed my misery, and now my husband will love me."
She soon became pregnant again and had another son. She named him Simeon, c for she said, "The LORD heard that I was unloved and has given me another son."
Again she became pregnant and had a son. She named him Levi, d for she said, "Surely now my husband will feel affection for me, since I have given him three sons!"
Once again she became pregnant and had a son. She named him Judah, e for she said, "Now I will praise the LORD!" And then she stopped having children.
Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright 1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved. (New Living Translation - The Bible Online)