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How could Jacob not tell/ see the face of who he was sleeping with? That it was Leah and not Rachel.

22 So Laban gathered together all the people of the place and made a feast. 23 But in the evening he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob, and he went in to her. 24 (Laban gave[b] his female servant Zilpah to his daughter Leah to be her servant.) 25 And in the morning, behold, it was Leah! And Jacob said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? Did I not serve with you for Rachel? Why then have you deceived me?”

If it was dark and she had a veil you would be able to see the face with the veil removed or hear her voice is not Rachel’s voice.

Please no theories or assumptions, no merging with this question Was Jacob so Sexually driven that He mistook Leah for Rachel. Just facts.

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  • Welcome to the group @Nat. I have to say that you've kind of asked the impossible here by insisting on only facts when the answer necessarily involves conjecture. I'll provide my own take with that disclaimer, below. Commented Mar 22, 2023 at 19:08
  • Jacob may have been drunk.
    – Perry Webb
    Commented Mar 22, 2023 at 22:22
  • @PerryWebb Do you have any evidence - any evidence at all - for such an accusation ?
    – Nigel J
    Commented Mar 23, 2023 at 1:30
  • @Nigel -- See my answer. Josephus expressed this.
    – Perry Webb
    Commented Mar 25, 2023 at 19:42
  • @PerryWebb None of the people you quote in your answer were present at the time as witnesses. I repeat, where is the forensic evidence for your accusation ? (I do, fully, agree with your own written paragraph, but not with the armchair speculations of academics.)
    – Nigel J
    Commented Mar 25, 2023 at 23:59

5 Answers 5

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It was the custom of the times for the bride to wear a covering, a veil, over her face. Jacob's mother, Rebekah, had veiled her face when being presented to Isaac.

For she had said unto the servant, What man is this that walketh in the field to meet us? And the servant had said, It is my master: therefore she took a vail, and covered herself. (Genesis 24:65, KJV)

No conversation between Jacob and either Rachel or Leah is recorded during the wedding. The fact that Leah is called "tender eyed" implies that she was shy.

Leah was tender eyed; but Rachel was beautiful and well favored. (Genesis 29:17, KJV)

The lexical entry for this word actually indicates "soft of words" and "timid" as possible meanings for this. So Leah would have been quiet by nature, and would not have found it difficult to maintain her silence with Jacob. Furthermore, she would likely have been frightened to think of what might happen if he discovered the truth.

Though Laban claims it was the custom of the time for the eldest daughter to marry first, we do not have proof for this, and few other examples would help us establish the point one way or the other. Had it been the custom, it seems Jacob might have been more wary of the possibility that Laban could pull a fast one on him like this. Only one sister (Rebekah) is on record for Laban himself, so he would not have seen an example of marriage order like this within his own home.

The final point to remember is that Laban brought Leah to Jacob when it was already evening, i.e. it was dark.

And it came to pass in the evening, that he took Leah his daughter, and brought her to him; and he went in unto her. (Genesis 29:23, KJV)

That "evening" might also be translated as "night." If the veil were not enough to hide her, darkness was there to assist.

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You have quoted the very passage of scripture that answers your question. The reference for all the relevant parts of the account is Genesis chapter 29 verses 14 to 30. All of it needs to be considered.

His new father-in-law was so crafty and deceitful, he had planned all along to marry-off his eldest daughter to Jacob, without Jacob knowing it. Tradition demanded that the eldest daughter be married before younger daughters were married. That's in Genesis 29:26. Laban knew that Jacob was so in love with the younger daughter, Rachel, that he worked seven years in order to be married to her. That's in Genesis 29:16-20.

Come the Big Day, the wedding feast would see everyone very jolly, with wine in plentiful supply. Sunset came, darkness descended, the veil remaining on Leah. There is no indication that she spoke even one word, so that theory about recognising the 'wrong' voice has no basis. She may well have been briefed by her father not to give the game away until morning light revealed the trick Laban had carried off.

The verses that directly answer your question are:

"And it came to pass in the evening, that he [Laban] took Leah his daughter, and brought her in to him [Jacob]" (verse 23).

"And it came to pass that in the morning, behold, it was Leah: and he said to Laban, 'What is this thou hast done unto me? Did I not serve with thee for Rachel? Wherefore then hast thou beguiled me?" (verse 25)

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  • Doesn't even hint at answering the question "How is it possible Jacob didn’t see Leah’s face or hear her voice?"
    – RonJohn
    Commented Mar 23, 2023 at 0:10
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    Up-voted +1. Excellently and hermeneutically answered from the text. (Unlike the comments which condemn without a shred of evidence and which reveal a rather unhealthy pre-occupation.)
    – Nigel J
    Commented Mar 23, 2023 at 1:32
  • It’s not biblical that she kept a veil on. It doesn’t say that she wore one nonetheless had one while they were sleeping together. Yes I know there’s no indication in the Bible that she spoke, that doesn’t mean she didn’t. Unfortunately the scriptures do not explain well enough. It’s good enough for us believers although we must know to explain to unbelievers.
    – Lyd
    Commented Mar 23, 2023 at 18:54
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In addition to the explanations already given -- veiling, darkness, wine, etc. -- I would add this: according the Jewish Encyclopedia, there is a rabbinical tradition that Leah and Rachel were twins:

Rachel and Leah were twin sisters, fourteen years old when Jacob came to their father's house; consequently they were twenty-one years old at the time of their marriage to Jacob (Seder 'Olam Rabbah ii.).

Admittedly this is not a biblical fact but it does make a neat parallel to the story of the twin brothers Jacob and Esau, in which Esau's marrying two Hittite immediately precedes the story of Jacob receiving Esau's blessing from Isaac. After this, Jacob is immediately being sent to Haran to find a wife among his kin.

Conclusion: Leah and Rachel may have appeared similar enough to be indistinguishable either by vision or hearing when Leah first slept with Jacob, especially if one includes factors such as veiling, wine and darkness.

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  • Im sorry it’s just this site has merged my questions before and I have gotten assumptions, conjecture is easy for a believer to understand not an unbeliever. That’s why I wanted facts to explain it but I understand it’s conjecture
    – Lyd
    Commented Mar 23, 2023 at 18:42
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Here are a few factors that might have contributed:

  1. Maybe, despite his supposed reputation for being a deceiver, Jacob wasn't that smart. In Genesis 25:29-33 Jacob doesn't trick Esau out of the birthright, he just takes advantage of his brother's hunger. Later in Genesis 27:5-17, when he tricks his father to receive the blessing, it is all his mother Rebekah's idea. He just goes along with it, somewhat oblivious to the risks. It even took a plan from his mother before he fled from the murderous intent of his brother.

Later with Laban, Jacob is shown as being an extremely poor negotiator. Laban asks Jacob to name his price, and Jacob, opens with 7 years of servitude to marry Rachel. The only clever thing Jacob did was to cheat Laban out of livestock, and even then this turned out to be God's idea (Genesis 31:10). Jacob admits in Genesis 31:42 that:

If the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had not been with me, you would surely have sent me away empty-handed.

  1. Laban was shrewd. He gathered information from Jacob (29:13) and flattered him (verse 14) and then spend the next month lulling him into a false sense of security, before opening financial negotiations. Laban is shown as patient and skilful in manipulating people. If this is true, then there is no reason why he wouldn't set up the situation to ensure success. He gave Zilpah the maidservant to Leah, perhaps as payment for his daughter's cooperation. They both may have acted as accomplices in setting up the situation so that Jacob became drunk at the feast, and set up a dark environment so that Jacob could be easily deceived.
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Here are the three standard reasons given:

Such a bizarre deception seems incredible, and most commentators explain its success by noting that [1] it was dark (Gen 29:23) and [2] Leah was probably veiled (see, e.g., Sarna 1989, 204–205; McKeown 2008, 144). In addition to these reasons, interpreters dating at least back to Josephus (Ant. 1.301) have suggested that Jacob was also [3] inebriated (see, e.g, Hamilton 1995, 262–263; Mathews 2005, 469). -- Mangum, D., Custis, M., & Widder, W. (2013). Genesis 12–50 (Ge 29:1–30:24). Lexham Press.

As far as Rachel and Leah's voice. I've heard two women (not sisters) from the same city in India have identical sounding voices because of their accents from that city. It would be more difficult for Jacob, who grew up in a different location, to tell the difference between Leah and Rachel's voices. Also someone from Germany mentioned how each city in Germany had its own accent. Thus, Rachel and Leah may have had similar sounding voices as well as similar size.

One of the oldest references:

Jacob lay with her that night, as being both in drink [μέθης] and in the dark. -- Josephus, F., & Whiston, W. (1987). *The works of Josephus: complete and unabridged (p. 49). Hendrickson.

In Josephus' time the veil was assumed.

μέθη, ης, ἡ (...) drunkenness -- Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., Bauer, W., & Gingrich, F. W. (2000). In A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed., p. 625). University of Chicago Press.

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