Richard Agee

Genesis 28-29: Ya’akov dreams of a ladder to Heaven, works for Rachel but gets Leah; Leah has sons but Rachel is barren

Richard AgeeThe vision of “Ya’akov’s ladder” and his being hoodwinked on his wedding night with Leah instead of Rachel make for entertaining reading, but why does the message of Yeshua the Messiah touch on these accounts? Genesis 28–29 also shows us how involved God is in this world throughout time.

Yitskhak (Isaac) instructed Ya’akov (Jacob) to go to his uncle Laban to find a wife not of the people of the land, as Esau had done. 

On the way, Ya’akov takes a rest near Bethel and God shows him a dream of a ladder from Heaven to Earth with messengers ascending and descending on it. Most of us have dreams but when we wake up, the details are vague or non-existent but when God reveals a dream to a person, they remember ever detail. When God gives a dream, it has a specific purpose. God caused this dream, it was not a creation of Ya’akov’s mind or an accident.

This “ladder” that Ya’akov saw was not a literal ladder, like one would use to climb on a roof of a house. The word sullam (Strong’s H5551) means “staircase” and comes from the root word salal (Strong’s H5549) which means to lift up, build up, exalt. The dream was God’s way of telling Ya’akov that although Ya’akov was fleeing for this life in haste but he would return to the promise land restored.

When Ya’akov woke up from the dream, he made a vow to a Lord in Gen. 28:20-22, saying, “If God will be with me and will keep me on this journey that I 1take, and will give me food to eat and garments to wear, and I return to my father’s house in safety, then the LORD will be my God. This stone, which I have set up as a pillar, will be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You.” There’s a difference between a vow and an oath. A vow (neder, Strong’s H5088) is basically a synonym for a promise but an oath is a vow or a promise that is made in God’s name.

We were created for God’s pleasure not our pleasure. That is why He is the creator, and we are the creation. He wants to be with man and man really wants to be with God but God has strong stipulations on that. Something special did happen to Ya’akov here that changed his way of thinking.

In Gen. 29 we meet the two matriarchs of Israel: Raquel and Leah. Leah was the elder and Raquel was the younger.

Ya’akov is about 40 years old when he meets a shepherdess named Rachel. Her Hebrew name, רָחֵל rakhel (Strong’s lexicon No. H7354), comes from a root word that means ewe.

Ya’akov and Laban strike a deal that the former would work for the latter for seven years to win Rachel’s hand. Laban pulled a wedding-night switcheroo and gives him the eldest daughter, Leah, then Ya’akov agrees to work seven more years to “pay off” Raquel’s dowry.

We also meet Raquel and Leah’s handmaidens in this chapter, first we meet Leah’s handmaiden, Zilpah (Strong’s H2153), which means a trickle, like a small quiet stream. 

When Ya’akov discovered the wedding-night switcheroo, he confronts Laban and says to him, “Why then have you deceived me?” The word deceived underestimates the strength of Ya’akov’s distress. He is not accusing Laban of a fib or a white lie. That word would more accurately be translated as beguiled, dealt with treacherously or betrayed. The language echoes Esau’s language when Ya’akov took the blessing from Yitzak.

Ya’akov loves Raquel and “hated” Leah, whose Hebrew name, לֵאָה Le’ah (H3812), comes from לָאָה la’ah (H3811), which means to be weary, tired, easily offended or impatient. This means that Ya’akov gave all his blessing and consideration to Raquel and gave Leah little notice.

When God saw that Ya’akov loved Raquel and hated Leah, “closed the womb” of Raquel and opened Leah’s. Just in the same way that God closed Sarah’s and Rivkah’s wombs to fulfill His plan and His purpose. God is the potter and human beings are the clay.

We also meet Raquel’s handmaiden Bilhah here. Her name means alarmed, frightened or terrified.

Leah gave birth to a son she named Reuben. His name means “behold a son!” It’s important in relation to the Messiah. Then she had a second son named Simeon, whose name comes from the word shema, which means listen and respond. She is saying that God has heard and responded to her suffering. Her third son’s name is Levi, which means “to join” or “to be attached.” She long to be joined to her husband. She was joined to Ya’akov in the grave. She was also joined to God in a special way through her son Levi, whose descendants did not own land in the Promised Land so they were scattered throughout the tribes and mingled with all of them and in a sense, they were the glue that bound all the tribes together.

Leah has one more son, named Yehudah, or Judah before God closes her womb for a time. His name means celebration (Strong’s H3063). We commonly say that it means “praise” because Leah says, “This time I will praise the LORD” when he was born but the word for praise in Hebrew is hallel.

Yeshua gave a testimony about His disciple Nathanael — his Hebrew name נְתַנְאֵל Natani’el (H5417), means gift of God — by drawing on Ya’akov’s vision of the ladder (John 1:43–51). Rather being a Ya’akov — his name means deceiver; God changed it to Israel — Yeshua calls Natani’el a “true Israelite” and said the vision he would “see the heavens opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man” (John 1:51).

Raquel plays a prominent role in Yemeriyahu’s prophecy about her descendants, that she would be weeping for them, that was fulfilled at the time of the exile of the Northern Tribes and that would also be fulfilled during Yeshua’s time on Earth in the first century (Jer. 31:15; quoted in Matt. 2:18).


Speaker: Richard Agee. Summary: Tammy.

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