And Jacob loved Rachel; and said, I will serve thee seven years for Rachel thy younger daughter. And Laban said, It is better that I give her to thee, than that I should give her to another man: abide with me. And Jacob served seven years for Rachel; and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her. And Jacob said unto Laban, Give me my wife, for my days are fulfilled, that I may go in unto her. Genesis 29:18-21
Today I want to take a break from the order of things so that I can bring you a love story. In fact, it is one of the few instances of love at first sight recorded in the Bible. The above verses detail how Jacob the son of Isaac, grandson of Abraham came to be married to his wife Rachel. Jacob, as we know it, had to leave his home in Canaan because his brother Esau wanted to kill him. Rebekah sent him to Haran to the home of her brother Laban. When Jacob arrives he finds Rachel there tending her father’s sheep and he kisses her out of joy.
Shortly after, we are told that Jacob loves Rachel and asks Laban to give her to him to wife. We do know that Rachel is beautiful. However, the language of this passage, even in the Hebrew suggests that his love for her was more than just sexual passion. Several things rule against this. The word for love used in this passage is ahav, which can define many things, just as our word love does. Let me say that love in the Bible is not what we think of as romantic love. Romantic love idealizes the couple, whereas Biblical love is more real, more intense, and more soulful.
The things in this passage that rule for a heartfelt rather than an erotic love are:
- Use of the word love, which for the most part in the Bible does not indicate simply erotic sexual pleasure (I will go into that more)
- It says the time he served for her seemed like just a few days for the love that he held for her. Not only does he have to work for her for seven years, but when we go to later verses, it indicates that he had to work an additional seven years in order to get her for his wife. Fourteen years for one woman, whose looks I’m sure changed during that time.
Other things in the account of Jacob-Rachel that rule for a heartfelt love rather than pure sexual desire:
- He favored her children above Leah’s
- When he thought Esau was coming for them, he set her and her children in the hindmost position (the safest)
In several articles I have read on the Jewish concept of marital love, it indicates the importance of the aspect of giving of one’s self, of loving the whole person, of loving from the heart, and I will include the links for these at the end. Though not romantic love, it was important that a husband show his wife tenderness and affection. To treat her simply as an object of physical pleasure was to strip her of her humanity. Also, in Judaism, giving of oneself to one’s spouse is considered a mitzvot, a good deed. For the Jew, unlike other peoples, everything was about the divine, so that even the pleasures of life were gifts from God. In Judaism, human intimacy involves the heart and soul and mind, thus the commandment to love God in this manner. Giving of one’s whole self.
The Red Pill “Christian” blogger Dalrock feels that Genesis 29 is an erotic story of love as he reduces love to sexuality in general, much contrary to the Christian concept of love expressed throughout the New Testament, and in for the most part in the old. In this article, Dalrock admits he knows very little about the original Hebrew or the Jewish context of love, and so he has a very convoluted way of looking at texts about love (probably from aligning himself too much with the amoral Mr. Tomassi).
Dalrock uses a different version of the Bible and implies that because his version says Jacob slept with Leah and Rachel that that means there was no emotion involved. Erroneous logic. First, to assume that sleeping with Leah all night meant he had no emotional attachment to Rachel. If he didn’t know it was Leah, this must have meant it was either too dark, or she was in some way disguised. He had no way of knowing what Rachel’s body looked like or felt like, so it would have been easy to “beguile” him. Second, sleeping with your wife is expected! Are you not going to go in to your wife? Does that mean you don’t have feelings for her because you sleep with her? Juvenile reasoning, for sure.
He also compares the passage to that of Michal and David where it indicates Michal had feelings for David. Let me just say here, that just because it doesn’t mention Rachel’s feelings in the matter doesn’t mean she didn’t care. We simply have no way of knowing. She doesn’t protest the marriage, that is certain. However, we do know that the Hebrew text indicates Jacob’s great love for Rachel in the use of the word “ahavah”. Ahavah means a deeper love and in some cases can mean “lovesick”. It is the love Jonathan had for David, and David for Jonathan in 1 Samuel 18 and 1 Kings 1. So we do know that Jacob had more than physical love for Rachel.
Lastly, I want to point out that in the Septuagint, the translation of the Old Testament from the Hebrew to the Greek, the word for love is “agape” which is the highest form of love there is and involves affection and high esteem. It is the word used for divine love in the New Testament. If the passage in Genesis 29 was simply a tale of physical pleasure, they would have used the word “eros”. While the translation of ahav to agape can seem controversial, it is less so if one goes back to the meaning of marital intimacy in the Jewish context of loving the whole person. A man and wife can rejoice in this intimacy for this very reason that it does involve their emotions, as evidenced by the Song of Solomon.
Dalrock’s assessment that a man loving his wife is like two animals mating is contrary not only to Christian ideals, but to the Jewish context of love and what differentiates man from the beasts of the field. A woman is more than just a body to sate one’s pleasures on, or even to enjoy simply physical pleasure with her. It involves heart and soul. God gave us a heart and a soul for a reason, and the red pill advocates need to find theirs.