After Jacob steals Esau’s blessing, he flees Esau to journey to the land of his maternal uncle Laban. At a well, Jacob sees and falls in love with Rachel, Laban’s daughter. He asks Laban for Rachel as a wife, offering to work for Laban for seven years in order to earn Rachel. After the seven years are up, he has a wedding, and only discovers after the consummation that he had been tricked into marrying Leah, the older (and less attractive) sister of Rachel. Laban points out that Leah is the older, and should be married first, so Jacob offers to work for another seven years for Rachel. After his marriage to Rachel, Jacob fathers several sons by Leah, a couple by Leah’s servant woman, and a copule by Rachel’s servant woman. Finally Rachel bears Joseph (Jacob’s favorite son) and Ben.
In the meantime, Jacob makes a fortune in livestock by offering to work for Laban for several years, taking only the spotted and striped goats as payment. God was kind to Jacob and gave him many goats (however, Jacob did encourage the goats to give birth to spotted and striped by breeding them among sticks – I’m not sure how that works, but ok).
After a while, Laban’s sons became angry at Jacob for “stealing” their father’s fortune and Jacob decides to flee Laban with his family and fortune. Rachel steals her father’s household gods before the flight. Laban pursues Jacob, and searches for the household gods, but finds nothing because Rachel sits upon them and lies to Laban, saying she is bleeding.
Laban finally allows Jacob to leave, and he travels to his homeland. When he gets near, he fears that his brother Esau is still angry and will kill him. So he splits his group into two encampments, and sends many gifts ahead for Esau to receive before meeting with Jacob. Despite Jacob’s fears, Esau embraces Jacob and welcomes him back home.
Why did Rachel steal the household gods? Did she worship them instead of Jacob’s God? Or was she trying to anger her father? What does this show about how the ancient Hebrews viewed the worship of other gods? Did they accept that there were more gods than one, but that their God alone should be worshiped by themselves?
Why was Esau so willing to welcome Jacob and forgive him? Was this a sign that Esau had changed into a more honorable man? Or was he just pleased by the gifts provided by Jacob? It seems that the first is the more reasonable option since Esau tells Jacob to keep his gifts, for he himself had more than enough.