Jacob’s love triangle and the dangers of drunkenness

by Joel Ramshaw (2024)

Jacob’s love triangle: the accidental wedding

The unusual story of Jacob and his two wives is found in Genesis 29 starting in verse 15.

To many modern readers the story of Jacob’s wedding raises some questions. Laban switching the brides at the last minute and Jacob only realizing the next morning after he already consummated the wedding sexually with the ugly sister Leah instead of his bride Rachael. The sisters were mentioned as having different appearances so how did Jacob not immediately notice? Also why did he keep Leah rather than just taking Rachael the next day and leaving Leah behind since Leah had never been pledged to him to marry in the first place?

To understand the second question, female virginity was highly valued in the Hebrew culture (whereas it is often spoken of as a negative in the modern world’s hedonistic culture). A woman was assumed to be one of only four options: virgin, wife, widow, or whore. If Jacob tried to discard Leah, many would assume she had been a whore and this would make her much less marriageable except to lower level suitors who could not provide properly. Laban had already failed to find a willing husband for her due to her uninspiring looks, and now it would be nigh impossible. (The text assumes the reader is from their same culture and would automatically know these reasons why Jacob could not just leave Leah).

When requesting Laban’s daughter, Jacob said bluntly “give her to me that I may go in unto her.” (Genesis 21:29) Although it says Jacob had great love for her, Jacob did not mention love or make a fancy eloquent speech about “common interests” “compatible personality” “her love for the Lord,” Jacob knew Laban is shrewd and would see right through any fluff anyways so he just cut straight to the chase. “Hurry and give your daughter to me, I’m dying to have sex.” (Perhaps don’t try this though when hoping to win over a future father-in-law!).

How did Jacob not know he had a different woman? First of all, he may have not seen Rachael often as he was constantly tending the sheep while she likely spent much time indoors. Young virgins also often wore veils when out in public as the bride did in Song of Solomon when pursuing her lover around the city; this is still common among some middle-eastern cultures.

The main reason comes down to one word: Wine

Modern Christian weddings often provide no alcohol. To the Jews however this would be sacrilege. This is why Jesus first miracle was to turn water to wine at the wedding. To run out of wine at a wedding was considered a horror and a major humiliation for the family hosting the event.

The trickster Laban was likely the only one sober at the event, just drinking the minimum for appearances. It would have been easier for him to get the ugly Leah to take the place of the bride Rachel. Perhaps Laban told Leah this was her one chance to be a wife and if she did not participate in the deception, there were not enough eligible men who would want her.

Convincing Rachael would have been much harder. Getting a bride to miss her wedding would be almost impossible. Laban likely took advantage of Rachael’s inexperience and kept giving her more wine, using the excuse that “it’s a special occasion” until she passed out and only found out what happened the next day.

As for Jacob, the wedding tent itself would have been rather dark. It was at night and using candles inside a tent would be a dangerous fire hazard, so there may have been no light at all inside. The combination of darkness, drunkenness and horniness meant Jacob was so caught up enjoying the moment, he did not pause to see the warning signs and realize the sisters had been swapped and he had his wedding night with a different woman.


At this point in the story, it seems Jacob was sleeping with Rachael exclusively and had no interest in his other wife Leah. Leah acquires some mandrakes which Rachael craves and offers Leah a night with Jacob in exchange for the plant. You can see the disfunction in the family dynamics with Leah having to “hire” her husband for a night as if it were a transaction with a prostitute. Mandrakes are an interesting plant. It is a hallucinogenic drug at low doses but is poisonous and will cause vomiting and dizziness. The “trips” caused by this plant are noted for commonly being quite dark and frightening.

Mandrakes were believed to enhance fertility and this is more likely the true reason the girls argued over the plant (rather than using it as some kind of drug). The taste of mandrakes is said to be horrendous, totally bitter and needs to be consumed with some kind of sweetener. Rachael most likely made it into some kind of desert for herself or added honey. It may have been an interesting night with Rachael experiencing nightmarish visions while her sister and Jacob worked to conceive Issachar in the tent, what a strange night.

The bondage of alcohol in the Bible

Nadab and Abihu: drunk on the job

The priests Nadab and Abihu were drunk while offering, and accidentally offered “strange fire” in the temple because they could no longer distinguish between holy and profane. They were immediately consumed by God’s fiery wrath. Immediately following their story, verse 8 specifies that priests must not drink wine or intoxicating beverages:

Leviticus 10:8-10 “Then the Lord spoke to Aaron, saying: “Do not drink wine or intoxicating drink, you, nor your sons with you, when you go into the tabernacle of meeting, lest you die. It shall be a statute forever throughout your generations, that you may distinguish between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean,”

Nadab and Abihu dishonored God greatly by appearing before him in a drunken state and accidentally offering profane fire because they could no longer distinguish between the holy and common. They then became the burnt offering themselves.


Alcohol is not just a problem for alcoholics. There are plenty of cases where a normally sober person makes an exception to drink heavily for a holiday or special event and then wakes up in prison or the hospital the next day with no memory of what happened.

Genesis 9:20-22, 24, And Noah began to be a farmer, and he planted a vineyard. Then he drank of the wine and was drunk, and became uncovered in his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside….. So Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done to him. Then he said: “Cursed be Canaan; A servant of servants he shall be to his brethren.””


The phrase “saw their nakedness” is a Hebrew euphemism for sex and it used constantly throughout Leviticus to this effect.

In the story of Noah and the ark we come to the point where Noah’s family has left the ark and is ready to repopulate the destroyed earth. Noah has three sons each with one wife. His son Ham has one son of his own, Canaan his firstborn. Although Canaan is listed last of Ham’s four sons in Gen 10:6 this should be attributed to his wickedness and the curse placed on him. It does not mean he was born fourth. Genesis 9:18 and 9:22 indicates twice that Ham was the father of only Canaan at that point. There is still the issue of why Noah chose to put the curse on Canaan instead of Ham who had committed the indignity. The firstborn was highly cherished in ancient culture. Remember the slaying of the firstborn was considered the worst of all 10 plagues in Egypt. Perhaps Ham had put his hopes and dreams on his firstborn Canaan and cursing him was more grievous than cursing his father. Now scripture does not give too many extra details but personally I believe that Canaan had a major part to play in Ham’s act. Pestering and encouraging his father Ham to take advantage of Noah’s drunkenness and abuse him while Canaan watched. The passage said Noah woke up the next day and “knew what his younger son had done to him.” He was sore that morning and knew something evil had taken place (if it was mere voyeurism Noah would not have known anything had happened upon waking up).

Lot’s daughters

Genesis 19:30-36

30 Then Lot went up out of Zoar and dwelt in the mountains, and his two daughters were with him; for he was afraid to dwell in Zoar. And he and his two daughters dwelt in a cave. 31 Now the firstborn said to the younger, “Our father is old, and there is no man on the earth to come in to us as is the custom of all the earth. 32 Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve the lineage of our father.” 33 So they made their father drink wine that night. And the firstborn went in and lay with her father, and he did not know when she lay down or when she arose. 34 It happened on the next day that the firstborn said to the younger, “Indeed I lay with my father last night; let us make him drink wine tonight also, and you go in and lie with him, that we may preserve the lineage of our father.” 35 Then they made their father drink wine that night also. And the younger arose and lay with him, and he did not know when she lay down or when she arose. 36 Thus both the daughters of Lot were with child by their father.


The story of Lot also shows the power of wine. Lot devalued his daughters purity by offering the two to the mob in exchange for the mob refraining from sodomizing his two guests (the mob did not accept the trade). As a result of this and having grown up in a city filled with perversion, Lot’s virgin daughters had no misgivings about getting their father drunk and losing their purity to him. They lived in the one location, Sodom, their entire lives and when God “nuked” Sodom by raining down fire from the sky, the daughters believed the three of them were the only survivors on the planet (other than the small village Zoar). They thought they had to repopulate the earth. Their strategy was to get Lot drunk and then sleep with him. In the morning Lot did not remember what had taken place the earlier night and so the other sister successfully attempted the same strategy, using the power of wine to get seed from her father without him even remembering the next morning. Well-drunken Lot just wanted to enjoy the pleasure whatever was happening in the moment and in the darkness of night and the tent he could not see which woman was coming onto him, whether a horny guest from outside, whether his wife reappeared from being cursed, or one of his daughters, nor did her care who it was. Wine does not think about right and wrong or future consequences, only about enjoying the present moment to the full.

None of these people were alcoholics, nor addicted to wine. They were normal individuals who kept having “just one more” on a special occasion.


1 Corinthians 11:17 “Now in giving these instructions I do not praise you, since you come together not for the better but for the worse.”

Paul was stating the Corinthians’ church services were doing more harm than good. It would be better to discontinue having meetings altogether rather than continue in the debauchery. Imagine being the person who had to read Paul’s letter out loud to the congregation with that harsh message.

1 Corinthians 11:21 “for when you eat, each one takes his own supper first; and one goes hungry while another gets drunk.”

Members of the Corinthian church were beginning to see communion not as the body and blood of Christ, but as a way to get free food and booze. The early church did not have micro cups containing grape juice and micro wafers for communion as are used today. They had a true meal with many loaves of bread. The wine (alcoholic wine) was passed around in a single large cup which everyone would share (imagine trying that in the age of Covid). The people who had the cup first were guzzling as much wine as possible and getting hammered, oblivious to the spiritual meaning behind the ceremony. Meanwhile those who were last in line were unable to even take part in the communion ceremony as the wine had already been drunken and only crumbs left of the bread. Paul teaches that this act of turning communion into gluttony and drunkenness is the cause of why the congregation is cursed and members are being stricken with death and illnesses rather than being healed.

Satan always gives a reason to drink

One final takeaway is that the devil always has a reason ready for why it is a time to drink and will always tell us to drink today.

If times are happy with you or friends, then it is “time to drink” to celebrate.

If times are sad then it is “time to drink” to escape the sorrow.

Monday to Thursday it is “time to drink” to “de-stress” from the workday.

And Friday to Sunday it is “time to drink” because it’s the weekend escape.

Thus, satan always tempts us with thoughts that “today is a perfect day for some drinking” and he will give a justification for any day of the week. A person can intend to just start in moderation and escalate this way without intending to. This is why many Christians find it better to just not drink at all, even though the Bible allows it in moderation. It is important to know how satan uses those excuses so that each day of the week always seems like the perfect time to drink, so that intentions of moderation can quickly be replaced by a suffocating habit. Some people start drinking intending it to be temporary to cope with a hard time in life, but then life stays hard. The intended “temporary” solution becomes permanent, leading to serious health problems for the individual. Now that we have seen the excuse patterns of alcohol that always push for more and more, we can be stronger in rejecting those thoughts and temptations.

Support Gateways of His Light by sharing this page on social media

Main Page