After Jacob had served Laban seven years, he said to his uncle: "The Lord destined me to be the father of twelve tribes. I am now eighty-four years old, and if I do not take thought of the matter now, when can I?" Thereupon Laban consented to let him have his daughter Rachel to wife, and he was married forty-four years after his brother Esau. The Lord often defers the happiness of the pious, while He permits the wicked to enjoy the fulfilment of their desires soon. Esau, however, had purposely chosen his fortieth year for his marriage; he had wanted to indicate that he was walking in the footsteps of his father Isaac, who had likewise married at forty years of age. Esau was like a swine that stretches out its feet when it lies down, to show that it is cloven-footed like the clean animals, though it is none the less one of the unclean animals. Until his fortieth year Esau made a practice of violating the wives of other men, and then at his marriage he acted as though he were following the example of his pious father. Accordingly, the woman he married was of his own kind, Judith, a daughter of Heth, for God said: "This one, who is designed for stubble, to be burnt by fire, shall take unto wife one of a people also destined for utter destruction." They, Esau and his wife, illustrated the saying, "Not for naught does the raven consort with the crow; they are birds of a feather."
Far different it was with Jacob. He married the two pious and lovely sisters, Leah and Rachel, for Leah, like her younger sister, was beautiful of countenance, form, and stature. She had but one defect, her eyes were weak, and this malady she had brought down upon herself, through her own action. Laban, who had two daughters, and Rebekah, his sister, who had two sons, had agreed by letter, while their children were still young, that the older son of the one was to marry the older daughter of the other, and the younger son the younger daughter. When Leah grew to maidenhood, and inquired about her future husband, all her tidings spoke of his villainous character, and she wept over her fate until her eyelashes dropped from their lids. But Rachel grew more and more beautiful day by day, for all who spoke of Jacob praised and extolled him, and "good tidings make the bones fat."
In view of the agreement between Laban and Rebekah, Jacob refused to marry the older daughter Leah. As it was, Esau was his mortal enemy, on account of what had happened regarding the birthright and the paternal blessing. If, now, Jacob married the maiden appointed for him, Esau would never forgive his younger brother. Therefore Jacob resolved to take to wife Rachel, the younger daughter of his uncle.
Laban was of another mind. He purposed to marry of his older daughter first, for he knew that Jacob would consent to serve him a second period of seven years for love of Rachel. On the day of the wedding he assembled the inhabitants of Haran, and addressed them as follows: "Ye know well that we used to suffer from lack of water, and as soon as this pious man Jacob came to dwell among us, we had water in abundance." "What hast thou in mind to do?" they asked Laban. He replied: "If ye have naught to say against it, I will deceive him and give him Leah to wife. He loves Rachel with an exceeding great love, and for her sake he will tarry with us yet seven other years." "Do as it pleaseth thee," his friends said. "Well, then," said Laban, "let each one of you give me a pledge that ye will not betray my purpose."
With the pledges they left with him, Laban bought wine, oil, and meat for the wedding feast, and he set a meal before them which they had themselves paid for. Because he deceived his fellow-citizens thus, Laban is called Arami, "the deceiver." They feasted all day long, until late at night, and when Jacob expressed his astonishment at the attention shown him, they said to him: "Through thy piety thou didst a great service of lovingkindness unto us, our supply of water was increased unto abundance, and we desire to show our gratitude therefor." And, indeed, they tried to give him a hint of Laban's purpose. In the marriage ode which they sang they used the refrain "Halia," in the hope that he would understand it as Ha Leah, "This is Leah." But Jacob was unsuspicious and noticed nothing.
When the bride was led into the nuptial chamber, the guests extinguished all the candles, much to Jacob's amazement. But their explanation satisfied him. "Thinkest thou," they said, "we have as little sense of decency as thy countrymen?" Jacob therefore did not discover the deception practiced upon him until morning. During the night Leah responded whenever he called Rachel, for which he reproached her bitterly when daylight came. "O thou deceiver, daughter of a deceiver, why didst thou answer me when I called Rachel's name?" "Is there a teacher without a pupil?" asked Leah, in return. "I but profited by thy instruction. When thy father called thee Esau, didst thou not say, Here am I?"
Jacob was greatly enraged against Laban, and he said to him: "Why didst thou deal treacherously with me? Take back thy daughter, and let me depart, seeing thou didst act wickedly toward me." Laban pacified him, however, saying, "It is not so done in our place, to give the younger before the first-born," and Jacob agreed to serve yet seven other years for Rachel, and after the seven days of the feast of Leah's wedding were fulfilled, he married Rachel.
With Leah and Rachel, Jacob received the handmaids Zilpah and Bilhah, two other daughters of Laban, whom his concubines had borne unto him.