Genesis 29:4
And Jacob said to them, My brothers, from where be you? And they said, Of Haran are we.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
29:1-8 Jacob proceeded cheerfully in his journey, after the sweet communion he had with God at Beth-el. Providence brought him to the field where his uncle's flocks were to be watered. What is said of the care of the shepherds for their sheep, may remind us of the tender concern which our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep, has for his flock the church; for he is the good Shepherd, that knows his sheep, and is known of them. The stone at the well's mouth was to secure it; water was scarce, it was not there for every one's use: but separate interests should not take us from helping one another. When all the shepherds came together with their flocks, then, like loving neighbours, they watered their flocks together. The law of kindness in the tongue has a commanding power, Pr 31:26. Jacob was civil to these strangers, and he found them civil to him.Jacob arrives at the well of Haran. "The land of the sons of the east." The points of the heavens were defined by the usage of practical life, and not by the standard of a science yet unknown. Hence, the east means any quarter toward the sunrising. Haran was about four degrees east of Beer-sheba, and five and a half degrees north. The distance was about four hundred and fifty miles, and therefore it would take Jacob fifteen days to perform the journey at thirty miles a day. If he reached Bethel the first night, he must have travelled about fifty miles the first day. After this he proceeds on his journey without any memorable incident. In the neighborhood of Haran he comes upon a well, by which lay three flocks. This is not the well near Haran where Abraham's servant met Rebekah. It is in the pasture grounds at some distance from the town. On its mouth was a large stone, indicating that water was precious, and that the well was the common property of the surrounding natives. The custom was to gather the flocks, roll away the stone, which was too great to be moved by a boy or a female, water the flocks, and replace the stone. Jacob, on making inquiry, learns that Haran is at hand, that Laban is well, and that Rachel is drawing nigh with her father's flocks. Laban is called by Jacob the son of Nahor, that is, his grandson, with the usual latitude of relative names in Scripture Genesis 28:13. "The day is great." A great part of it yet remains. It is not yet the time to shut up the cattle for the night; "water the sheep and go feed them." Jacob may have wished to meet with Rachel without presence of the shepherds. "We cannot." There was a rule or custom that the flocks must be all assembled before the stone was rolled away for the purpose of watering the cattle. This may have been required to insure a fair distribution of the water to all parties, and especially to those who were too weak to roll away the stone.4. Jacob said, My brethren—Finding from the shepherds who were reposing there with flocks and who all belonged to Haran, that his relatives in Haran were well and that one of the family was shortly expected, he enquired why they were idling the best part of the day there instead of watering their flocks and sending them back to pasture. He calls them

my brethren, partly in token of respect and affection, and partly because they were of the same nature and employment with himself. And Jacob said unto them,.... To the shepherds, though not expressly mentioned; it cannot be imagined he spoke to the flocks, but to the keepers of them:

my brethren, whence be ye? a kind and affable way of speaking, used even to strangers, since all men are brethren by nature; or might be used by Jacob, because they were of the same occupation with himself, shepherds, asking them of what city they were, and from whence they came? and which being answered, would lead on to a conversation, which was what he wanted:

and they said, of Haran are we; the very place he was bound for, and was sent unto, Genesis 27:43.

And Jacob said unto them, My {c} brethren, whence be ye? And they said, Of Haran are we.

(c) It seems that in those days the custom was to call even strangers, brethren.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
4. unto them] i.e. the shepherds of the three flocks mentioned in Genesis 29:2.

Of Haran] See Genesis 27:43. There is nothing to shew whether Haran, the town, was near or far off.Verse 4. - And Jacob said unto them (the shepherds of the three flocks), My brethren (a friendly salutation from one who was himself a shepherd), whence be ye? Anticipating that their reply would reveal his whereabouts. And they said, Of Haran are we. This could scarcely fail to remind Jacob of God's premise to guide him in his journey. Lastly, Jacob made a vow: that if God would give him the promised protection on his journey, and bring him back in safety to his father's house, Jehovah should be his God (והיה in Genesis 28:21 commences the apodosis), the stone which he had set up should be a house of God, and Jehovah should receive a tenth of all that He gave to him. It is to be noticed here, that Elohim is used in the protasis instead of Jehovah, as constituting the essence of the vow: if Jehovah, who had appeared to him, proved Himself to be God by fulfilling His promise, then he would acknowledge and worship Him as his God, by making the stone thus set up into a house of God, i.e., a place of sacrifice, and by tithing all his possessions. With regard to the fulfilment of this vow, we learn from Genesis 35:7 that Jacob built an altar, and probably also dedicated the tenth to God, i.e., offered it to Jehovah; or, as some have supposed, applied it partly to the erection and preservation of the altar, and partly to burnt and thank-offerings combined with sacrificial meals, according to the analogy of Deuteronomy 14:28-29 (cf. Genesis 31:54; Genesis 46:1).
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