Quirks, Queries and Commentary—Genesis 30-33
Esau was raging mad because Jacob not only bought his birthright but stole his blessing as the eldest son. Fearing for his life, Jacob fled to Paddan Aram where Rebekah’s brother, Laban, welcomed him. After Jacob had been there, working for his uncle, Laban, for a month, Laban wanted to know what he could pay Jacob for all his labour. “Jacob was in love with Rachel and said, ‘I’ll work for you seven years in return for your younger daughter Rachel.’” (29:18)
When the seven years were over, there was a wedding feast for Jacob and his new bride but, to his horror, when he woke up the first morning, he discovered he had been given Rachel’s older sister Leah instead. Laban gave the lame excuse that the younger daughter couldn’t marry before the older one (a custom still held in some countries today) and promised to give him Rachel as well at the end of the week-long feast if he will work another seven years. Jacob starts having a whole pile of kids, not only with his two wives but with their servant girls as well (why would a wife give her husband another woman to have sex with? It makes no sense to me).
After Jacob has worked another seven years and both wives are paid for, he is ready to go back home. Joseph has just been born. (30:25, 26)
Think of the math here. Joseph has ten older brothers. When we read the story of Joseph, we get the idea that they are men and he is only a boy but Reuben, the eldest, would have been only six and a half years older than him (we have to allow some time for the first pregnancy) and all the other children, except for Benjamin, would have been born in that six and a half year period.
Laban convinces Jacob to stay longer for a share of the flocks and livestock. Finally Jacob is fed up and leaves without any farewell. At this point, he has worked for Laban for twenty years. (31:38) If he spent the first 14 years working for his wives, and if Joseph was born to him at the end of that fourteen year period, then Joseph is now six years old and Reuben, is twelve and a half. Benjamin has not yet been born. (33:2)
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