Genesis 29 – 30

Marriages, Family Trouble, and Commercial Success
Genesis 29 – 30
Genesis 29 – 30. In these chapters, Jacob begins to reap what he has sown. As he deceived his father and brother, now he is deceived by his uncle Laban. Nevertheless, God remains with Jacob, caring for him providentially, as that ladder from heaven. Jacob marries four women, has twelve children, and increases his possessions greatly in this part of his life. However, Jacob is still not in the enjoyment of communion with Jehovah. There are still hard lessons ahead for Jacob.

Tension between Jacob and Laban (29:1:30)

Jacob and Laban. In the government of God, Jacob meets in Laban the same family character that was so strong in himself. Was Jacob a shrewd businessman? So was Laban. Was Jacob deceitful? So was Laban. Was Jacob a schemer? So was Laban. Did Jacob exploit his family members? So did Laban. It was a little like looking in the mirror! God sometimes allows us to interact or observe individuals who demonstrate our own character or weaknesses so that we can see our own issues from an external vantage point. We can see our own faults more easily in others than in ourselves.

Jacob meets Laban, Serves for Rachel (vv.1-20)

1 And Jacob continued his journey, and went into the land of the children of the east. v.1 Jacob’s Journey to Haran. This verse covers a journey of roughly 400 miles! The words “continued his journey” are a Hebrew idiom literally translated “lifted up his feet”. It is almost as if the vision of the ladder at Bethel was a “pick-me -up experience” for Jacob, and it encouraged him forward on his journey. Not another detail is given of his journey. He simply leaves Bethel and arrives at Haran. The term “children of the east” in scripture refers generally to those who settled east of the Euphrates river, including Media, Persia, etc. (Judges 6:3; 1 Kings 4:30).
2 And he looked, and behold, there was a well in the fields, and behold there, three flocks of sheep were lying by it; for out of that well they watered the flocks, and a great stone was at the mouth of the well. 3 And when all the flocks were gathered there, they rolled the stone from the mouth of the well, and watered the sheep, and put the stone again on the mouth of the well in its place. 4 And Jacob said to them, My brethren, whence are ye? And they said, Of Haran are we. 5 And he said to them, Do ye know Laban the son of Nahor? And they said, We do know him. 6 And he said to them, Is he well? And they said, He is well; and behold, there comes Rachel his daughter with the sheep. 7 And he said, Behold, it is yet high day; it is not time that the cattle should be gathered together; water the sheep, and go, feed them. 8 And they said, We cannot until all the flocks are gathered together, and they roll the stone from the mouth of the well, and we water the sheep. vv.2-9 Jacob Meets the Shepherds. As Jacob made his way east, he came to a well where a number of shepherds were gathered together with their flocks. God had directed his path to the very place where Laban’s flocks were watered! No doubt the angels of God (ch.28) were being used providentially by God to order this. Jacob quickly ascertained that these shepherds were from Haran, and that they knew Laban. Notice that in referring the Laban’s father, Jacob skips over Bethuel, and says “Laban the son of Nahor”, who was really Laban’s grandfather. This shows us that terms like “father” and “son” in those days were more fluid than in our modern English. There was a large stone covering the opening of the well, presumably to restrict access to the water, prevent evaporation, or prevent sabotage. Jacob wondered why they were gathered around the well waiting in the middle of the day. Usually the flocks would be out in the fields feeding at this time, and then gathered again in the evening. The shepherds’ reply showed how influential Laban was in that area. “We cannot until all the flocks are gathered together, and they roll the stone from the mouth of the well, and we water the sheep”. These men understood that they were not to uncover the well themselves. Once Laban’s men arrived, led by his daughter Rachel, they would roll the stone away, and then all could water their sheep.
9 While he was still speaking to them, Rachel came with her father’s sheep, for she was a shepherdess. 10 And it came to pass when Jacob saw Rachel the daughter of Laban his mother’s brother, and the sheep of Laban his mother’s brother, that Jacob went near, and rolled the stone from the mouth of the well, and watered the sheep of Laban his mother’s brother. 11 And Jacob kissed Rachel, and lifted up his voice and wept. 12 And Jacob told Rachel that he was a brother of her father, and that he was Rebecca’s son; and she ran and told her father. vv.9-12 Jacob Meets Rachel. Now it was no coincidence that Rachel herself came to the well at this very time. The Lord was providentially guiding these individuals, and bringing them together. If there is  such a thing as love at first sight, this is an example of it. Jacob seemed to love Rachel from this very moment on. Rachel appeared to be an outdoors type of girl; one who was not afraid to get dirty in caring for the sheep; “for she was a shepherdess”. Her disposition also seems to be more forward in comparison to her sister Leah. It seems that perhaps Jacob was trying to impress her, because “it came to pass when Jacob saw Rachel… that Jacob went near, and rolled the stone from the mouth of the well, and watered the sheep of Laban”. Remember that at this time Jacob would have been around 77 years old. He was also offering his services. He had no gold and silver to offer as Abraham’s servant had for Rebecca, so he offers his service. Jacob kissed her, which was a form of family greeting in those days (non-sexual, see v.13), and then wept, expressing the emotions of being reunited with his relatives. Jacob explained who he was, and Rachel ran and told her father.
13 And it came to pass when Laban heard the tidings of Jacob his sister’s son, that he ran to meet him, and embraced him, and kissed him, and brought him to his house; and he told Laban all these things. 14 And Laban said to him, Thou art indeed my bone and my flesh. And he abode with him a month’s time. vv.13-14 Jacob Meets Laban. Laban received Jacob warmly, recognizing their common bonds in the family of Terah. Jacob was given a place in Laban’s home, and he even began to serve his uncle in the work of shepherding. Laban pictures one who can talk like a believer, but never has personal faith in God. Laban wanted to be associated with the child of faith (Jacob), because he would be blessed through Jacob’s labors. “I have learned by experience that the LORD hath blessed me for thy sake” (Gen 30:27). But Laban was an idolater the whole time Jacob was with him. Once Jacob left, Laban went after him to recover his idols.
15 And Laban said to Jacob, Because thou art my brother, shouldest thou serve me for nothing? tell me, what shall be thy wages? 16 And Laban had two daughters: the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger, Rachel. 17 And the eyes of Leah were tender; but Rachel was of beautiful form and beautiful countenance. 18 And Jacob loved Rachel, and said, I will serve thee seven years for Rachel thy younger daughter. 19 And Laban said, It is better that I give her to thee than that I should give her to another man: abide with me. vv.15-19 Laban’s Two Daughters. Jacob worked diligently without demanding wages, and his uncle offered to pay him after one month. Jacob didn’t hesitate: he asked for Rachel’s hand in marriage. Laban’s two daughters were very different. Leah was the older one, and appears to have been more quiet while Rachel was more outgoing. Leah had tender eyes, which was considered to be some kind of blemish. Perhaps it was watery eyes or something like that. On the other hand Rachel was physically beautiful, “of beautiful form and beautiful countenance”. Jacob wanted the more outwardly beautiful Rachel. This was quite a different thing from the case of Rebecca. With Rebecca the servant observed not only her outward beauty, but her character and willingness to serve. Jacob appears to have only observed Rachel’s looks. With Rebecca there was a person decision; “I will go”. But with Rachel it was an arrangement made between Jacob and Laban. Himself a poor man, Jacob had no money for a dowry. He offered to work seven years – an extremely generous offer – for the younger Rachel. Laban was quick to capitalize on this opportunity. He knew Jacob was a man of ability, and he would be greatly enriched through Jacob’s labor. As fathers naturally are, Laban wasn’t thrilled with the idea of giving Rachel away at all, but Jacob was better than “any man”, because it was in the family. In those days relatives tried to marry within the family because it keep the wealth and family values from being scattered.
Rachel and Leah as Types. Bible scholars such as J.N. Darby and W. Kelly suggest a typical significance in the two daughters of Laban, who also became the two wives of Jacob. Both represent earthly peoples in connection with Christ. Rachel represents the Jews, being the outwardly attractive one, and Jacob’s first choice. It was Jehovah’s desire to come to them, and be a king over them, but He could not because of their sin. Leah represents the Gentiles, being the unattractive, second choice. In fact, Jacob was forced into marrying Leah because of Laban’s deception. In a similar way, Romans 9-11 makes it clear that sin and failure of the Jews opened a door of mercy for the Gentiles.12 The bride Jehovah first desired was the one He will have last. It is interesting that between the sons of Leah and the sons of Rachel come the sons of the handmaids. These children represent Israel’s position now: “in bondage with her children” (Gal. 4:25).
20 And Jacob served seven years for Rachel; and they were in his eyes as single days, because he loved her. v.20 The First Seven Years: Jacob’s Love for Rachel. Jacob was completely smitten with Rachel. He served seven years for her! When we think of the Lord’s love for us, and all He has “served” for us, and how long He had waited to have us, we are reminded of His love. Impatient love would have made the days seem like years, and years like centuries. But patient love is willing to wait; “and they were in his eyes as single days, because he loved her”.

Jacob tricked by Laban (vv.21-30)

21 And Jacob said to Laban, Give me my wife, for my days are fulfilled, that I may go in to her. 22 And Laban gathered together all the men of the place, and made a feast. 23 And it came to pass in the evening, that he took Leah his daughter, and brought her to him; and he went in to her. 24 And Laban gave to her Zilpah, his maidservant, to be maidservant to Leah his daughter. 25 And it came to pass in the morning, that behold, it was Leah. And he said to Laban, What is this thou hast done to me? Have I not served thee for Rachel? Why then hast thou deceived me? vv.21-25 Laban’s Deception, Jacob’s Incredulity. After seven years of diligent service, Laban said nothing. Jacob spoke to Laban and demanded Rachel. Laban put on a great feast, an outward show of his respect for Jacob, but it was all a trick! Laban gave Leah to Jacob instead of Rachel. It is a sad thing to realize that at least Leah must have been aware of this plan, and said nothing to Jacob. It is also sad to realize that Jacob didn’t know it was Leah until the morning. Perhaps alcohol was a factor in his lack of discernment. How familiar this whole scene is! Family members plotting, lying, deceiving one another… this is what Rebecca and Jacob had done to Isaac in ch.27. “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Gal. 6:7). When Jacob awoke he discovered the switch, and he was angry with Laban.
26 And Laban said, It is not so done in our place, to give the younger before the firstborn. 27 Fulfil the week with this one: then we will give thee the other one also, for the service that thou shalt serve me yet seven other years. 28 And Jacob did so, and fulfilled the week with this one, and he gave him Rachel his daughter to be his wife. 29 And Laban gave to Rachel his daughter, Bilhah, his maidservant, to be her maidservant. vv.26-29 Seven more years for Rachel. Laban’s explanation was weak at best. This custom, that Laban speaks of, of the older girls marrying first, was no excuse for what he had done. Couldn’t Laban have warned Jacob of this “custom” earlier? Laban knew that Jacob was working for Rachel, and wanted to keep his mindset on her. All the while, Laban was planning to extort Jacob for an additional seven years of labor. The girls came to understand that their father cared more for the money Jacob would make him than for their happiness. In ch.31 they acknowledge that “he has sold us”. What kind of a father would do that? “Fulfil the week with this one: then we will give thee the other one also”. Jacob would share the bridal tent with Leah for seven days, then the marriage to Rachel would take place. What an awful situation! It was awful for Rachel, to be married at nearly the same time as Leah to the same man. It was awful for Leah, to be married to a man that couldn’t wait to be with Rachel. The competition between these two women would last for decades, and planted seeds of discord in the family that remained for centuries.
30 And he went in also to Rachel; and he loved also Rachel more than Leah. And he served with him yet seven other years. v.30 Favoritism for Rachel. Jacob loved Rachel from the first time he saw her, and he made no secret that she was his favorite; “he loved also Rachel more than Leah”. Jacob never wanted to be a polygamist, but he was deceived into a double marriage. In the New Testament, one of the requirements for overseers in the church is that they be “husband of one wife”. The reason for this is very important. A man with multiple wives is a man with divided affections, and it leads to trouble in the family. But Jacob’s love for Rachel was such that he was willing to serve another seven years in addition to what he had already served.
Polygamy in the Bible. Throughout the whole of scripture, we learn that God’s mind is for marriage to be monogamous: one man and one woman. For instance, a bishop or a deacon was to be a “husband of one wife”. This is pattern laid out in the garden of Eden, and confirmed by the Lord Jesus when He said concerning divorce, from the beginning it was not so” (Matt. 19:8). Polygamy spoils the type of Christ and the Church. Nevertheless, many of the Old Testament saints practiced polygamy; Abraham, Jacob, David, Solomon, etc. Yet with each of these cases, there was trouble as a result of the marriage. It was something God bore with in the Old Testament, but it is not His mind for us. “For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God” (Heb. 7:19).

Tension between Rachel and Leah (29:31 – 30:24)

Etymology. It would appear that in these days the meaning of a child’s name was for more important than the name itself. With each child that is born, the mother named the child according to how she was feeling at that time.

Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah Born to Leah (vv.31-35)

31 And when Jehovah saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb; but Rachel was barren. v.31 Leah’s Womb Opened. Whatever her involvement in the deception of Jacob, be it little or big, Leah was now in a very difficult position. She was in a double marriage with her sister to a man who only had room in his heart for Rachel. It says that Leah was “hated”. This is similar to how the word is used by the Lord; “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26). The Lord doesn’t want us to have positive malice toward out family members, but rather that our devotion to Christ would be so great that, in comparison, our devotion to family would seem non-existent. In this same way, Jacob loves Rachel very much, but ignored Leah. This lukewarmness or indifference was almost worse than positive hatred; “I would thou wert cold or hot” (Rev. 3:15). But God has a way of showing mercy on those who are downcast and neglected. God would take up a special dealing with Leah, and through her – and not through Rachel – would proceed the royal line of David, and the Messiah. It is interesting that Jacob chose to be buried with Leah, not Rachel. But the end of his life, the work in Jacob’s soul was so deep that he realized God’s value for the wife He gave to Jacob, and wanted to be with her. Perhaps Leah’s prayer in ch.30 v.20 was finally answered when she and Jacob lay side by side in death. But Rachel’s womb was not opened for the time being. How clearly this shows that life – human life – is from God. It is God that opens and closes the womb, and He does so for reasons that we do not always understand.
32 And Leah conceived, and bore a son, and called his name Reuben [‘a son’]; for she said, Because Jehovah has looked upon my affliction; for now my husband will love me. 33 And she again conceived, and bore a son, and said, Because Jehovah has heard that I am hated, he has therefore given me this one also; and she called his name Simeon [‘hearing’]. 34 And she again conceived, and bore a son, and said, Now this time will my husband be united to me, for I have borne him three sons; therefore was his name called Levi [‘joining’]. 35 And she again conceived, and bore a son, and said, This time will I praise Jehovah; therefore she called his name Judah [‘praise’]. And she ceased to bear. vv.32-35 Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah. With each son, Leah makes a statement that reveals something about her state at the time. At the beginning, all she can think of is Jacob’s affection. She names her first born Reuben, which means ‘a son’. She says “for now my husband will love me”, because she had provided Jacob a son, while Rachel had failed to do so. However, having a son did nothing to change Jacob’s affections. With her next two sons, Leah seems to think that child-bearing was the way to Jacob’s heart; “Now this time will my husband be united to me, for I have borne him three sons”. But these sons did not change the fact that Jacob loved Rachel more. In the fourth son, Judah, there is a change with Leah. She was trying to change Jacob, but God was seeking to change her! So it is in our lives as well. When Judah is born, Leah says nothing about her husband; “This time will I praise Jehovah; therefore she called his name Judah. And she ceased to bear.” This is the point we need to come to when we’ve been seeking happiness by changing our circumstances. We need to praise the Lord in our circumstances. It seemed like Judah was the first baby Leah enjoyed as a gift from the Lord, rather than as a bargaining chip. It is fitting that the Messiah was born into a tribe that came with this spirit of praise, rather than one of the other tribes that came in a spirit of competition.

Sons born to the Handmaids (vv.1-13)

1 And when Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, Rachel envied her sister, and said to Jacob, Give me children, or else I die. 2 And Jacob’s anger was kindled against Rachel, and he said, Am I in God’s stead, who has withheld from thee the fruit of the womb? 3 And she said, Behold, there is my maid, Bilhah: go in to her, in order that she may bear on my knees, and I may also be built up by her. 4 And she gave him Bilhah her maidservant as wife, and Jacob went in to her. vv.1-4 Jacob Marries Bilhah. Now begins to unfold a tale of fleshly competition the likes of which is found nowhere else in scripture. We see a little of Rachel’s character coming out here; “Rachel envied her sister, and said to Jacob, Give me children, or else I die”. It shows her impatience, and unwillingness to wait God’s time. Contrast this with how Hannah dealt with her barrenness and the enmity of Peninnah; she prayed and offered sacrifices! Envy had consumed Rachel. It was all she could think about. She demands that Jacob giver her children, but Jacob rightly assessed that God alone can open the womb, and He had chosen to withhold from Rachel “the fruit of the womb”. Rachel had forgotten that she was Jacob’s first love. Perhaps this is a type of how the Jews ceased to appreciate Jehovah’s love. We see a little of this spirit in Acts where the Jews were angry with the gospel going out to the Gentiles. Like Abraham and Sarah, when husbands and wives are unwilling to wait God’s time, they often take things into their own hands and create a scenario that is worse than before. Jacob ought to have known better from the experience of Abraham who listened to Sarah and married Hagar. Although it seems that Rachel pressured Jacob to marry Bilhah, yet Jacob still went along with it. This who chapter shows how easily Jacob was manipulated by his wives. It is solemn to note that Joseph “with the sons of Bilhah, and with the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives: and Joseph brought unto his father their evil report” (Gen. 37:2). This perhaps would indicate that the sons of the concubines were the leaders of the antagonism for Joseph. This was a sad and unexpected consequence of Rachel’s impatience. The expression “that she may bear on my knees” has the thought of adoption, that the sons of Rachel’s handmaid would be counted as her own.
5 And Bilhah conceived, and bore Jacob a son. 6 And Rachel said, God has done me justice, and has also heard my voice, and given me a son; therefore she called his name Dan [‘judged’]. 7 And Bilhah Rachel’s maidservant again conceived, and bore Jacob a second son. 8 And Rachel said, Wrestlings of God have I wrestled with my sister, and have prevailed; and she called his name Naphtali [‘wrestling’]. vv.5-8 Dan and Naphtali. When the first son is born, Rachel speaks of “justice” (Dan) for herself. When the second son is born, she speaks of “wrestling” (Naphtali) with her sister. Rachel was not competing for Jacob’s love, because she already had that. It was competition with her sister.
9 And when Leah saw that she had ceased to bear, she took Zilpah her maidservant and gave her to Jacob as wife. 10 And Zilpah Leah’s maidservant bore Jacob a son. 11 And Leah said, Fortunately! and she called his name Gad [‘a troop’]12 And Zilpah Leah’s maidservant bore Jacob a second son. 13 And Leah said, Happy am I; for the daughters will call me blessed! and she called his name Asher [‘happy’]. vv.9-13 Gad and Asher. It would seem that Leah was caught up in the spirit of competition. In the two sons born to her handmaid Zilpah, Leah no longer speaks of Jehovah’s care for her. She speaks of her fortune and happiness in a natural sense. It would seem that the birth of Judah was the high point in Leah’s history. The names she gives for the other children aren’t nearly as nice. It seemed at the birth of Judah that Leah had finally learned to leave her circumstances with the Lord, but by Rachel’s provocation, she slipped back into the spirit of competition. It is possible for any one of us to slip into old ways even after making progress in our souls. This is why we need God’s keeping grace.

Issachar, Zebulun, and Dinah Born to Leah (vv.14-16)

14 And Reuben went out in the days of wheat-harvest, and found mandrakes in the fields; and he brought them to his mother Leah. And Rachel said to Leah, Give me, I pray thee, of thy son’s mandrakes. 15 And she said to her, Is it too little that thou hast taken my husband, that thou wilt take my son’s mandrakes also? And Rachel said, Therefore he shall lie with thee to-night for thy son’s mandrakes. 16 And when Jacob came from the fields in the evening, Leah went out to meet him, and said, Thou must come in to me, for indeed I have hired thee with my son’s mandrakes. And he lay with her that night. v.16 The Use of Mandrakes. Evidently mandrakes were a plant-delicacy that was valued in those days, considered to be an aphrodisiac, and a fertility enhancer. It is likely that the plant did nothing to encourage conception, similar to Jacob’s efforts with the rods in the water troughs (v.37). Rachel wanted Leah to hand over the mandrakes. Why? Jacob was dwelling with Rachel at this time, as we see by inference from v.20. Rachel knew that Lead would use the mandrakes to “hire” Jacob. She didn’t want Leah to possess this power over Jacob. Leah refused, on the grounds that Rachel and already taken her husband. At any rate, Jacob was persuaded to share his bed with Leah that night. He was led by his natural appetite, but the lives given were by the sovereign power of God.
17 And God hearkened to Leah, and she conceived, and bore Jacob a fifth son. 18 And Leah said, God has given me my hire, because I have given my maidservant to my husband; and she called his name Issachar [‘reward’]. 19 And Leah again conceived, and bore Jacob a sixth son; 20 and Leah said, God has endowed me with a good dowry; this time will my husband dwell with me, because I have borne him six sons. And she called his name Zebulun [‘dwelling’]. vv.17-20 Issachar and Zebulun Born. Leah has two more sons, but it wasn’t because of the mandrakes, rather it we because “God hearkened to Leah”. These six are all the sons that Leah herself bore. This pictures the fact that people can struggle hard to accomplish their own ends, but always come short, for seven is the number of completeness. It is interesting that at the beginning, Leah uses the relationship-name of Jehovah, but with her last son Zebulon, Leah changes to Elohim, a more distant name, having to do with creation. On the other hand Rachel begins using the name Elohim in reference to God, and ends using Jehovah.
21 And afterwards she bore a daughter, and called her name Dinah [‘justice’ feminine form of Dan]. v.21 Dinah. Leah’s seventh child is a daughter, and she named her Dinah, which is the feminine form of Dan, which means justice or judged. It is interesting that Rachel named the firstborn of her handmaid Bilhah the same name (masculine). For Rachel, her justice came at the beginning, but Leah’s came at the end. For Rachel, justice was in keeping up with Leah. While Leah certainly entered into the competitive spirit, for her, justice was in the Lord having given her many children.

Joseph Born to Rachel, with the Promise of another Son (vv.22-24)

22 And God remembered Rachel, and God listened to her, and opened her womb. 23 And she conceived, and bore a son, and said, God has taken away my reproach. 24 And she called his name Joseph; and said, Jehovah will add to me another son [‘increase’]. vv.22-24 Joseph Born. At last the Lord opened Rachel’s womb, and she had a son, and named him Joseph, which means ‘increase’. She believed the Lord would add another son, and she was correct, although the second son of Rachel would not be born for at least six more years, when they came back into Canaan, and Benjamin’s birth would cost Rachel her life (Gen 35:16-18). She says, “God has taken away my reproach”; she felt she was under the hand of God. It was a good place to be. Joseph and Benjamin are both types of Christ personally. Joseph, who was born in Haran and rejected by his brethren when come to Canaan, is a type of Christ who came to seek the welfare of His people, and was rejected. Joseph was consequently imprisoned in Egypt, representing our Lord’s rejection by the Gentiles as well. But Joseph’s exaltation represents Christ victorious over His enemies, restoring the Jews during a seven year tribulation. Benjamin was the only son born in the land of Canaan, and the only son named by Jacob. Benjamin represents Christ in power and glory, reigning in the land during the Millennium.

Jacob’s Flocks and Herds Increased (30:25-43)

25 And it came to pass when Rachel had borne Joseph, that Jacob said to Laban, Send me away, that I may go to my place and to my country. 26 Give me my wives for whom I have served thee, and my children; that I may go away, for thou knowest my service which I have served thee. 27 And Laban said to him, I pray thee, if I have found favour in thine eyes — I have discovered that Jehovah has blessed me for thy sake. 28 And he said, Appoint to me thy wages, and I will give it. vv.25-28 Laban Offers to Pay Jacob. At least fourteen years had passed since Jacob had arrived in Haran, and in all of those years, he had not gained anything financially. Jacob felt that it was time for him to make something for himself. It is interesting that after the birth of Joseph, a type of Christ, Jacob felt a longing for home. History records a strong resurgence of national pride in Israel around the time of Jesus’ birth. Yet there would be six more years spent in Haran, in which Jacob strove to grow rich, and he certainly did. In a similar way, the Jews today are still outside their land, living among the Gentiles, and in many cased growing wealthy. Laban had already grown wealthy through Jacob’s service. Laban is one who never seemed to have genuine faith, but he know how to talk like a believer; “I have discovered that Jehovah has blessed me for thy sake”. In a similar way, the world seeks to profit from the Jews, while the Jews seek to profit from the world. Laban offered to pay Jacob his wages, but later we read that Laban changed his wages ten times (Gen. 31:41)! If Jacob had left after Joseph was born it would have been a happier parting than it was.
29 And he said to him, Thou knowest how I have served thee, and what thy cattle has become with me. 30 For it was little that thou hadst before me, and it is increased to a multitude, and Jehovah has blessed thee from the time I came; and now, when shall I also provide for my house? 31 And he said, What shall I give thee? And Jacob said, Thou shalt not give me anything. If thou doest this for me, I will again feed and keep thy flock: 32 I will pass through all thy flock to-day, to remove thence all the speckled and spotted sheep, and all the brown lambs, and the spotted and speckled among the goats; and that shall be my hire. 33 And my righteousness shall answer for me hereafter, when thou comest about my hire, before thy face: all that is not speckled and spotted among the goats, and brown among the lambs, let that be stolen with me. vv.29-33 Jacob Makes a Deal for the Speckled Cattle. Jacob requested only the blemished animals for himself. This seemed to be a very modest request; he would leave the preferred animals for Laban. Most likely the majority of the animals were all white or black. The deal was lopsided in favor of Laban, or so it appeared. However, Jacob had a plan to make himself rich from this arrangement. He used very bold language, referring to “my righteousness”, and stating that any un-spotted animals found in his herds would be considered “stolen with me”. This is similar to the practice of using common oaths. Jesus spoke against this practice (Matt. 5:34-36). When a Jew’s word was questioned by his fellow-man, they had a habit of using oaths; such as we hear today, “I swear to God.” This practice is predicated on the fact that their ordinary word couldn’t be trusted. This was an extreme statement intended to persuade Laban of his pure intentions. It should have been a clue to Laban that Jacob’s intentions were not pure.
34 And Laban said, Well, let it be according to thy word. 35 And he removed that day the he-goats that were ringstraked and spotted, and all the she-goats that were speckled and spotted, every one that had white in it, and all the brown among the lambs, and gave them into the hand of his sons. 36 And he put three days` journey between himself and Jacob. And Jacob fed the rest of Laban’s flock. vv.34-36 The Flocks Separated. Jacob was taking great pains to ensure that technically he had maintained the agreement with Laban, but in intention he was working against Laban to disproportionately enrich himself. He went so far as to put three days’ journey between his flock and Laban’s. This is a similar character to what we see with the Pharisees, who were rebuked by Jesus; “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, for ye pay tithes of mint and anise and cummin, and ye have left aside the weightier matters of the law, judgment and mercy and faith: these ye ought to have done and not have left those aside” (Matt. 23:23). They would make a big production out of their tithe of the three tiniest seeds in their harvest; “mint and anise and cummin”. But they would totally fail to represent the character of God.
37 And Jacob took fresh rods of white poplar, almond-tree, and maple; and peeled off white stripes in them, uncovering the white which was on the rods. 38 And he set the rods which he had peeled before the flock, in the troughs at the watering-places where the flock came to drink, and they were ardent when they came to drink. 39 And the flock was ardent before the rods; and the flock brought forth ringstraked, speckled, and spotted. 40 And Jacob separated the lambs, and set the faces of the flock toward the ringstraked, and all the brown in the flock of Laban; and he made himself separate flocks, and did not put them with Laban’s flock. 41 And it came to pass whensoever the strong cattle were ardent, that Jacob laid the rods before the eyes of the flock in the gutters, that they might become ardent among the rods; 42 but when the sheep were feeble, he put them not in; so the feeble were Laban’s, and the strong Jacob’s. 43 And the man increased very, very much, and had much cattle, and bondwomen, and bondmen, and camels, and asses. vv.37-43 Jacob’s Attempt at Selective Breeding. What we have in these verses is Jacob’s scheming to increase his flocks by selective breeding, using a method which is strange to say the least. His idea was to use the rods to influence animals with certain traits to breed, resulting a stronger herd for himself, and a weaker herd for Laban. He may have had a primitive understanding of breeding, whereby the “thoroughbred” animals tend to be weaker and prone to disease, while the mixed-breed animals tend to be stronger and more resilient to disease. Jacob also had been given a dream from the Lord which showed him that the spotted animals were the strongest in the flock (Genesis 31:10-12). However, Jacob seemed to think that if the females saw these colored rods at the time of conception that they would give birth to spotted animals. Today we know this method was useless. Ultimately God was over the circumstances, and responsible for the increase of Jacob’s flocks. In typical fashion, Jacob was seeking to gain the blessing through his own efforts. Meanwhile, God was rewarding Laban’s greed and willingness to exploit Jacob according to His righteous government, which is active toward the unbeliever as well as toward the child of God. In the following chapter we find that part of Laban’s changing Jacob’s wages was changing which cattle were to be Jacob’s. But no matter how Laban changed his wages, the Lord caused Jacob to prosper; “If he said thus; The speckled shall be thy hire, then all the flocks bore speckled; and if he said thus: The ringstraked shall be thy hire, then all the flocks bore ringstraked. And God has taken away the cattle of your father, and given them to me” (Gen. 31:8-9).
  1. Can it be doubted that this part of Genesis is typical like what goes before and after? Surely Jacob’s love for Rachel first, for whom nevertheless he must wait and fulfil the week afresh after Leah had been given him, is not without evident bearing on the Lord’s relation to Israel first loved, for whom meanwhile the slighted Gentile has been substituted with rich results in His grace. Rachel is at length remembered by God, who takes away her reproach by adding to her a son (Joseph) — type of One glorified among the Gentiles and delivering His Jewish brethren after suffering among both Jews and Gentiles. – Kelly, William. Genesis.
  2. I have no doubt that in the two wives, as I have said, we have the Gentiles and Israel: Rachel first loved on the earth, but not possessed; but Leah the fruitful mother of children. Rachel had children also afterwards on the earth. Rachel, as representing the Jews, is the mother of Joseph, and later of Benjamin, that is, of a suffering Christ glorified among the Gentiles, while rejected of Israel; and of a reigning Christ, the son of his mother’s sorrow, but of his father’s right hand. – Darby, J.N. Synopsis of the Books of the Bible.