Friday, December 31, 2010

Genesis 30:25-30 Jacob Prepares to Leave Laban's Household

Soon after Rachel gave birth to Joseph, Jacob was ready to be on his way.  Apparently the fourteen years of service which he owed Laban was at an end, and Jacob was ready to return to his homeland. (v.25)  Jacob was also confident that he had not only put in the required time, but that he had rendered Laban an honest amount of labor:  "...You know how much work I've done for you.", Jacob states in Genesis 30:26 (NIV), as though this fact was beyond dispute.

Laban must have agreed, for he begs Jacob to stay.  "...'If I have found favor in your eyes, please stay.  I have learned by divination that the Lord has blessed me because of you.'  He added, 'Name your wages, and I will pay them.' " (Genesis 30:27-28 NIV)  Remember, this was Laban speaking!  If he was willing to pay Jacob whatever he asked, he really must have wanted Jacob to stay.

The fact that Laban was using divination is rather disturbing.  Apparently at least at this point he is not a man who is following after God.  Divination, according to the NIV Study Bible (2008 Update, Zondervan, pg. 53) is "the attempt to discover hidden knowledge through mechanical means, the interpretation of omens, or the aid of supernatuiral powers.  It was strictly forbidden to Israel because it reflected a pagan concept of the world controlled by evil forces, and therefore obviously not under the sovereign rule of the Lord." (This definition included verses to support this statement, but I did not include these here becaue of space.  If you are interested in knowing them, contact me (  Laban's use of divination may also explain why Rachel was so interested in  using somewhat magical means (mandrakes) to help her to obtain a son.  That thought is a solemn reminder to me that our behavior can have great effect upon our children or others who are watching us.  May our influence upon others always be toward God and godliness!

"Jacob said to him, 'You know how I have worked for you and how your livestock has fared under my care.  The little you had before I came has increased greatly, and the Lord has blessed you wherever I have been.  But now, when may I do something for my own household?' " (Genesis 30:29-30 NIV)  Jacob has wives, concubines, and children, but he has no real property of his own in order to support his family or advance their interests.  Still, Laban persists.  "What shall I give you?" he asked. (v.31)

Jacob is in an awkward position.  He has no real property to bring with him back to Canaan.  Also, Laban would probably be insulted if he leaves at this point, even though there is no real reason for him to feel this way.  However, Jacob does not want Laban to do him any more 'favors', either, for he has seen that Laban always has his own interests at heart.

"...Don't give me anything," Jacob replied.  "But if you will do this one thing for me, I will go on tending your flocks and watching over them:  Let me go through all your flocks today and remove from them every speckled or spotted sheep, every dark-colored lamb and every speckled or spotted goat.  They will be my wages.  And my honesty will testify for me in the future, whenever you check on the wages you have paid me.  Any goat in my possession that is not dark-colored, will be considered stolen." (Genesis 30:31-33 NIV)

Laban agreed to this proposal (v.34)  "That same day he removed all the male goats that were streaked or spotted, and all the speckled or spotted female goats (all that had white on them) and all the dark-colored lambs, and he placed them in the care of his sons.  Then he put a three-day journey between himself and Jacob, while Jacob continued to tend the rest of Laban's flocks."  (Genesis 30:35-36 NIV)

Do you notice the fundamental difference between Jacob and Laban's dealings?  Jacob acknowledges that the Lord had been responsible for Laban's flocks' increase while under Jacob's care, -- a continuing evidence of God faithfully carrying out His covenant promises. (v.30)  Jacob also asks a very reasonable wage, considering that the sheep were usually white and the goats solid black.  He is obviously much more willing to let the Lord work out the proper percentage of his wages than to allow Laban to do so.  The establishment of a difference in color between his flocks and those of Laban's cleverly leaves no room for Laban to ever dispute his holdings in the future, or to cheat him in his wages.  Laban is quick to seize upon this method of determining Jacob's wages, no doubt believing that it is to his own advantage.  He also puts a three day journey between the flocks, which was not part of the original agreement.  He probably believed that separating the flocks in this way would ensure even fewer would turn out to be dark or spotted or streaked.  Leaving the flocks of Jacob in the care of his own sons seems a bit strange to me, as though Laban planned to do other things to discourage the prospering of that flock.  At the very least, those sons would not be inclined to expend much effort beyond minimal care, for they would not receive any benefit from that flock, as it would not be part of their own inheritance.

Unknown to Laban, Jacob had plans of his own.

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