The two shepherds left Haran and lead their flocks to green pastures.
Leaning on his staff, Ya’akov watched the animals nibble on the young grass. One of the sheep veered off to investigate a bush and Ya’akov grabbed the rod hanging from his girdle. He didn’t have to hurl it though, for the sheep dog’s sudden appearance caused the wayward animal to scurry back to the others.
“Good boy!” Ya’akov patted the panting animal on the flank. It sat down next to his master, happy to serve and keep watch together.
“Good grounds for grazing!” The other shepherd joined Ya’akov and looked out over the vast sea of black, brown and white in front of them.
“How’s your family, Salman?” They had been friends for a long time and Ya’akov was glad for his company.
“They’re well, thanks. My first wife’s expecting again. This time I hope it’s a boy.” He sighed.
Ya’akov laughed. “Well, the LORD has blessed me with plenty of those!”
“Does that beauty of yours have children yet?”
“Who? Rachel you mean?” Ya’akov shook his head. “Unfortunately, no. Yesterday she yelled at me that if I didn’t give her children, she would die.” He frowned. “As if it’s my fault she’s childless. I shouted back at her that I wasn’t in God’s place. He is the one that kept her from having children.”
“I still can’t believe it that you were willing to slave seven years so you could marry her!” Salman laughed.
Ya’akov smiled pensively. “I fell in love with her the moment I saw her arriving with her flock. Now I would have driven a harder bargain, but then I was ready to do anything, just to get her. Sometimes I was sick with longing for her.”
“Was that why you always choose the farthest fields? And stayed away for weeks on end?”
Ya’akov nodded. “Yes, and when I thought I finally married her, Laban tricked me by giving me plain Leah instead.” He clutched his staff so hard his knuckles turned white.
“But she’s the one that has given you many sons! I envy you, my friend!”
Salman whistled a command to his dog which immediately drove a wayward goat back to the group.
“It’s funny,” Ya’akov rearranged his headdress, “It’s as if the LORD knows I don’t love Leah, and on purpose keeps blessing her with sons.” He shook his head. “I can’t believe the names she gave them!”
“I wondered about those. You know, it really says a lot about her character.” Salman patted his dog, which licked his master’s hand and ran off again. “What are their names again?”
“Well, there’s Reuven, my first-born, meaning ‘God has seen my misery’.” He coughed. “Then the second, Shimeon. After his circumcision Leah said, ‘the LORD heard I’m not loved, He gave me another son!’ Rather embarrassing! Then there was Levi, same story, and after him Yehudah. Then she began to praise the LORD.”
“Good looks aren’t everything. I think you have been given a treasure, my friend.” Salman put a hand on Ya’akov’s shoulder.
“You’re right. Leah’s inner strength seems to make up for the fact that her eyes don’t sparkle, and she isn’t as lovely in form and beautiful as Rachel.” Ya’akov sighed. “Rachel is my favorite wife, and she knows it. She knows I’m lost when she flutters those sensuous, beautiful, sparkling eyes.” He smiled. “She has all kind of tricks to keep me away from Leah and thinks I don’t know what she’s doing.” He stroke his beard. “I only wished for Rachel to have a little more depth like her sister, and also her faith in God. She is so jealous of Leah! Their rivalry gives me a headache!” He grinned at Salman. “Good to be out here, with the sheep. No shouting matches.”
“How long have you’ve been working for Laban now?”
“Far too long! Seven years for Rachel, another seven for Leah. Now I want to earn my own flock.”
“Seems to me you have years ahead of you!” Salman grinned. “I wouldn’t want to miss our friendship.”
“You’re the only one with whom I can share my family troubles.” Ya’akov patted Salman on the back.
“Yes my friend, life isn’t easy for us men who have to please several wives.” Salman grinned. “Why do you think I prefer my well-trained, obedient dogs?”
Roaring with laughter, the two friends walked downhill to lead their sheep to another field.
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