Monday, September 13, 2010

Humor in the Bible: Jacob, Rachel & Leah

While much of the story of Jacob in the book of Genesis is set in tragedy, there is a fair bit of comedy. Take, for instance, this description of two sisters in Genesis 29:16-17
   Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. And Leah's eyes were weak, but Rachel was beautiful of form and face.
Scholars are a bit torn on just how to translate the word that describes Leah's eyes. It ranges from "weak" or "tender"--suggesting that maybe she had poor eyesight--to "delicate"--hinting that "Well, at least she had nice eyes." On the other hand, it's possible that "tender eyes" is metaphorical for "nice personality"--as in "What did she look like?" "Well, she had a nice personality." At any rate, in light of how Rachel is described, the sense of it is pretty much the same: Rachel was hott-with-two-t's and Leah was not.

If you continue to read the story, Jacob agrees to work on his uncle Laban's farm for 7 years in exchange for Rachel's hand (and, we assume, the rest of her) in marriage. However, says Gen. 29:20... (prepare your gag reflex)
they seemed to him but a few days because of his love for her.
Let the retching commence! One wonders if this was Jake's description of the events when he told the story later--or if it was Rachel's humorous jab at her husband's passionate side.

And, of course, who can forget the way this travesty ends?
   But when evening came, he took his daughter Leah and gave her to Jacob, and Jacob lay with her...

   When morning came, there was Leah! So Jacob said to Laban, "What is this you have done to me? I served you for Rachel, didn't I? Why have you deceived me?"
   Laban replied, "It is not our custom here to give the younger daughter in marriage before the older one. Finish this daughter's bridal week; then we will give you the younger one also, in return for another seven years of work."
Laban unloads both daughters and gets 14 years hard labor for them!

Remember kids: Love makes you stupid!

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