Genesis 30:25-31:2 “Jacob’s Prosperity, Part 1”

Posted on November 12, 2011. Filed under: Genesis: Answers to Life's Crucial Questions |

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Bryan E. Walker

Read Genesis 30:25-43

            As soon as Rachel had borne Joseph, Jacob said to Laban, “Send me away, that I may go to my own home and country. Give me my wives and my children for whom I have served you, that I may go, for you know the service that I have given you.” But Laban said to him, “If I have found favor in your sight, I have learned by divination that the LORD has blessed me because of you. Name your wages, and I will give it.” Jacob said to him, “You yourself know how I have served you, and how your livestock has fared with me. For you had little before I came, and it has increased abundantly, and the LORD has blessed you wherever I turned. But now when shall I provide for my own household also?” He said, “What shall I give you?” Jacob said, “You shall not give me anything. If you will do this for me, I will again pasture your flock and keep it: let me pass through all your flock today, removing from it every speckled and spotted sheep and every black lamb, and the spotted and speckled among the goats, and they shall be my wages. So my honesty will answer for me later, when you come to look into my wages with you. Every one that is not speckled and spotted among the goats and black among the lambs, if found with me, shall be counted stolen.” Laban said, “Good! Let it be as you have said.” But that day Laban removed the male goats that were striped and spotted, and all the female goats that were speckled and spotted, every one that had white on it, and every lamb that was black, and put them in the charge of his sons. And he set a distance of three days’ journey between himself and Jacob, and Jacob pastured the rest of Laban’s flock.

            Then Jacob took fresh sticks of poplar and almond and plane trees, and peeled white streaks in them, exposing the white of the sticks. He set the sticks that he had peeled in front of the flocks in the troughs, that is, the watering places, where the flocks came to drink. And since they bred when they came to drink, the flocks bred in front of the sticks and so the flocks brought forth striped, speckled, and spotted. And Jacob separated the lambs and set the faces of the flocks toward the striped and all the black in the flock of Laban. He put his own droves apart and did not put them with Laban’s flock. Whenever the stronger of the flock were breeding, Jacob would lay the sticks in the troughs before the eyes of the flock, that they might breed among the sticks, but for the feebler of the flock he would not lay them there. So the feebler would be Laban’s, and the stronger Jacob’s. Thus the man increased greatly and had large flocks, female servants and male servants, and camels and donkeys.

            Now Jacob heard that the sons of Laban were saying, “Jacob has taken all that was our father’s, and from what was our father’s he has gained all this wealth.” And Jacob saw that Laban did not regard him with favor as before.

            (Genesis 30:25-31:2 ESV) http://www.esvbible.org/search/Genesis+30/

Pray:

Introduction: I was on vacation this week, visiting family inOklahoma, and gave these notes to brother Wayne Spray who led the class and discussion in my absence.

Literary Analysis

Plot: The events in this portion of Jacob’s story show that the Lord is keeping his promise to prosper Jacob and bless him and mirrors the previous passage about the births of his children, also a sign of God’s promise being kept. The two passages together show that our covenant keeping God is fulfilling the promises made to Abraham, Isaac, and now Jacob. This passage, however, is also about the conflict with Laban and thus mirrors 29:1-30. Remember that Conflict and Obstacles have been a part of the Patriarch’s lives since11:30 “Sarai was barren.” Conflict, Obstacles, and Blessing seem to always go together with the Patriarchs (and with we who follow Jesus). What stands out as strange to us is, of course, the pre-scientific view of genetics and breeding that Jacob uses with the striped rods. Much like the mandrakes his wives used, this pagan and pre-scientific procedure DOES NOT produce the desired effect; rather, Moses is careful to show that the blessings come from God’s grace, not human efforts.

Waltke writes, pp.416-417, “In the theophany atBethel, God promises to be with Jacob. His presence entails blessing in children and in property, not in the absence of conflict. In the preceding scenes, God has been building Jacob’s house; in this scene, his property. Prudently, one should build up property before his family (Prov.27:23-27), but Laban prevents his flesh and blood from acting prudently. During the first seven years of their marriage contract, Laban should have allowed Jacob to prepare for his household; instead, he left him empty handed. Now Jacob builds up his property on his own.”

Geography: Jacob is still in the Haran area, the ancestral homeland, but vs.25 introduces the idea of returning to his own “home and country”.

Characters: The story shifts from dealing with Jacob’s wives (Laban’s daughters) and their children, to dealing with Jacob and Laban. While Laban remains as we have seen him so far, greedy, Jacob seems to come out of his passivity and return to his old, scheming self. Waltke writes, “Whereas he was a passive victim of both Laban and his wives with reference to his marriages and children, now he is once again aggressive and shrewd….Jacob the manipulated becomes again Jacob the manipulator.”

In the episode with Laban swapping Leah for Rachel, Jacob was honorable and stayed, working for Rachel, and did not divorce Leah (although he does not treat Leah with love as he does Rachel) despite Laban’s trickery. But now, in regards to the flocks, he seems to try to deliberately breed Laban’s flocks and herds to his own advantage, thus enriching himself at Laban’s expense (that is how Laban’s sons interpreted it in 31:1). However, in 31:5-12 he ascribes his increase (and, logically, Laban’s decline) to the Lord (despite Laban’s prior ‘divination’ that his increase was coming from the LORD in 30:27).

Key Words: In vs.25 “send me away” points back to 28:5 “Thus Isaac sent Jacob away,” and, even further back, to 24:54 “Send me away to my master,” by Abraham’s servant seeking to leave Laban with Rebekah and return to Isaac. Laban seeks to delay Abraham’s servant and does delay Jacob (by about 6 years). The “send me away” of 30:25 also points forward to 32:1 “Jacob went on his way.”

“Serve-work-hire-wages-reward-wealth” are the key words in the Jacob-Esau and Jacob-Laban passages. In our present text they appear in vss.25 (2x), 28, 29, 33; 31:1(wealth),

“Increased”  or “the LORD has blessed”, in vs.27, 30 (both terms), 43 and “gained” 31:1.

Context:

Moses’ formal outline using the toledoths

  1. a.      Prologue, 1:1-2:3
  2. b.      The Generations of the Heavens and the Earth 2:3-4:26
  3. c.       The Generations of Adam 5:1-6:8
  4. d.      The Generations of Noah 6:9-9:29
  5. e.      The Generations of the Sons of Noah 10:1-11:9
  6. f.        The Generations of Shem 11:10-26
  7. g.      The Generations of Terah 11:27-25:11
  8. h.      The Generations of Ishmael 25:12-18
  9. i.        The Generations of Isaac 25:19-35:29 ***
  10. j.        The Generations of Esau 36:1-37:1
  11. k.      The Generations of Jacob 37:2-50:26

 

This Chiastic structure, slightly modified by me, comes from Waltke, p.352, 385.

A-Births and genealogy 25:19-24

  B-Digression: Rebekah in Foreign Palace, Foreigners 26:1-33

    C-Jacob steals Esau’s blessing 26:34-28:9

      D-Jacob receives the blessing but is in exile 28:10-32:32

        1-Encounter with God at Bethel28:10-22

          2-Conflict with Laban inHaran29:1-30

            3-Birth of the 12 Tribes 29:31-30:24 (Moses’ main point!)

          2’-Jacob prospers but flees Laban 30:25-31:55 (We are here!)

        1’-Encounters with God 32:1-32

    C’-Reconciliation with Esau 33:1-17

  B’-Digression: Dinah in Foreign Palace, Foreigners 33:18-34:31

A’-Births and Deaths 35:1-29

Structure: This passage opens with a temporal clause in vs.25, “As soon as Rachel…” that gives a break in the story pointing to a new section as well as linking with the previous section. When Jacob says, “Send me away…” also in vs.25 we get the theme for the next two sections of the story: this one 30:25-31:1 dealing with his prosperity and the next, 31:2-55 his actual departure.

There is some disagreement over the proper point of conclusion for this section, however. The chapter division at 30:43 could be the proper place, with 31:1 the proper beginning of the next section. Keep in mind that chapter and verse divisions are not in the original manuscripts, and neither is punctuation. However, Wenham, p.252, makes a good case for ending the first section at 31:1 and beginning the next at 31:2. Grammatically, 31:1 has no nominal subject and literally reads: “he heard what Laban’s sons were saying” which is a good conclusion to the prior section, but not a good introduction to the following.

The section could end at 31:2, “And Jacob saw that Laban did not regard him with favor as before.” This phrase is repeated in 31:5 as Jacob speaks with Rachel and Leah. This makes a good case for the prior section ending at 31:2 with a phrase that points forward to 32:5 and the start of the next section.  Wenham prefers the break between 31:1 and 31:2, “Thus by the conventions of Genesis, 31:1 is a fitting close to the episode,” (p.252).

I am going with 31:2 as the end point of the first section for three reasons. First, Laban is mentioned in 30:25 “Jacob said to Laban, ‘Send me away’ and in 31:1-2, giving a resolution to the story with Laban’s sons talking bad about Jacob, and “Laban did not regard him with favor.” This makes for a decent pair of bookends with the key word being Laban and the theme of Jacob’s desire to leave being matched by Laban’s ill regard for him. Secondly, what is stated in 31:2 points forward to 31:5 in a rather typical Moses fashion. Finally, 31:3 has the LORD commanding Jacob to return which is a fitting beginning point for the next section, Jacob’s departure.

Ross outlines the text with two sub-sections, 30:25-34 and then 35-43, keeping the major break at the end of 30:43 and the next section starting at 31:1. Wenham also has two sub-sections, 30:25-36, and then 37-31:1. Boice and Hamilton both deal with 30:25-43 as a whole unit. I will deal with the text broken into three sub-sections: (1) Laban Tries To Swindle Jacob, 30:25-36, (2) Jacob Tries To Swindle Laban, 30:37-43. and (3) Jacob Prospers at Laban’s Expense, 31:1-2.

 

  1. I.                   Laban Tries To Swindle Jacob, 30:25-36
    1. A.     Jacob Requests To Leave Laban’s Service, 30:25-26
      1. 1.      As soon as Rachel had borne Joseph, v.25a- this is a transition from the previous section of Jacob’s story to the next and links the two. The birth of Joseph to Rachel seems to free up Jacob along with the completion of the second 7 years of work for Laban. Given that Leah had borne 7 children and had a period of unknown length of barrenness, it is possible that the 7 years is a theological rounded number. Keep in mind that Joseph’s name means “He will add” pointing not only to the future birth of Benjamin, but in this instance, to the blessings of flocks and herds (Mathews, p.493.)
      2. 2.      Jacob said to Laban, “Send me away…”, v.25b- Wenham writes, p.254, “In this first speech, Jacob demands permission from his father-in-law to return home with his wives and children. He uses the straight imperative without even a ‘please’ or any of the milder forms of request. The verbal forms suggest a somewhat aggressive first move on Jacob’s part, ‘Let me go so that I may return.’ Here Jacob echoes the words of Abraham’s servant (24:54,56), who similarly asked leave of Laban to return toCanaan.” This exact phrase is used in 32:27 where Jacob is wrestling with the Lord all night. This would also minister to the people of Moses’ day as it would call to mind Moses confronting Pharaoh, “Let my people go!” (Ex.5:1).
      3. 3.      that I may go to my own home and country- even though this is the ancestral homeland he wants to go back to the Promised Land which is part of the covenant, hence, the “my land”; it is his by promise from the LORD.
      4. 4.      Give me my wives and my children, v.26- this phrasing points us back to Jacob’s wedding day in 29:21, AND possibly forward to Exodus 21:3-6 which basically states that if a male slave was given a wife by his master and then subsequently was freed, he had to leave behind his wife and kids. (American slavery in the antebellum South was infamous for breaking up slave families). According to 31:43, Laban still considers his daughters and their children as his property.
      5. 5.      for whom I have served you– serve is repeated 3x in this verse (literally- you know the service I have served you). All the words for “serve” in this story can also be understood as “slave”. While Jacob was not a slave technically, Laban treated him just about as badly. Remember that Jacob showed up penniless. All this slave type language would, again, reach Moses’ people.
      6. 6.      Deut. 15:12-14 points out that a master was not to send his freed slave out empty-handed. He was to essentially give the freed slave enough to start a homestead. 31:42 indicates that Jacob believes Laban would have sent him away empty handed.
      7. B.     Laban Wants Jacob To Stay and Work for Wages, vv.27-28
        1. 1.      But Laban said, v.27- Like he did with Abraham’s servant, and like Pharaoh withIsrael, he is trying to delay Jacob’s departure. He succeeds, but loses his wealth to Jacob in the process. He does not deal with Jacob’s request, he makes a counter offer.
        2. 2.      I have learned by divination- divination was forbidden toIsrael in Lev.19:26; Deut. 18:10,14. This is an occultic practice. Again, the Bible is not here teaching that the practice worked nor is it being recommended. Moses is faithfully reporting a sinful practice of Laban’s.
        3. 3.      Apply- when I was a kid I remember being with other kids in our Baptist youth group and someone had a Ouija board and brought it to a couple of youth functions. We also tried a séance on an RA camp out. Where was the adult supervision? Nothing weird happened, but Christian kids have no business playing around like that. Today I know there are people who claim Christ who read their horoscopes daily or who have visited mediums to get their palm read or fortune told. Unbelievable!
        4. 4.      the LORD has blessed me because of you- this goes straight back to 12:1-3 and God’s promise to Abram that he would be a blessing to others and that those who blessed him would be blessed and those who cursed him would be cursed. Laban is clearly stating that he has received a blessing and is implying that he may even know of God’s covenant with Jacob. The blessings of prosperity are taken away as he mistreats Jacob.
        5. 5.      Can you think of other occasions in Genesis where people have prospered by being close to the Patriarchs? 21:22f; 26:28f;14:19; 39:5, 23.
        6. 6.      Apply-The difference in the West from all the rest is the Judeo-Christian foundationWestern Civ has. It is no accident that the West is reeling in financial trauma now, as we have abandoned our Judeo-Christian faith and worldview. Our foreign policy is turning away from support forIsrael and we will suffer for it.
        7. 7.      Name your wages- Laban makes a bold claim here, which he apparently does not intend to keep.
        8. 8.       
      8. C.     Jacob Wants To Provide for His Own Household, vv.29-30
      9. D.    Jacob and Laban Negotiate, vv.31-33
      10. E.     Laban Tries To Swindle Jacob, vv. 34-36

 

  1. II.                Jacob Tries To Swindle Laban, 30:37-43
  2. III.             Jacob Prospers at Laban’s Expense, 31:1-2

Bibliography:

Boice, James Montomery. Genesis: An Expositional Commentary, Volume 2, Genesis 12:1-36:43. Zondervan:Grand Rapids, MI. 1985 (pp.312-317).

Calvin, John. Genesis, in the Geneva Series of Commentaries, translated and edited by John King, two volumes in one. Banner of Truth Trust:Carlisle,PA 1847 (originally published in Latin 1554). Vol.2, pages 134-149.

Duguid, Iain M. Living In The Grip Of Relentless Grace: The Gospel In The Lives Of Isaac & Jacob. P&R Publishing:Phillipsburg, NJ 2002 (pp.77-91).

Hamilton, Victor P. The New International Commentary on the Old Testament, The Book of Genesis Chapters 18-50. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company:Grand Rapids,MI 1995 (pp.269-278).

Luther, Martin. Lectures on Genesis, Chapters 26-30,Luther’s Works, Volume 5, translated by George V. Schick and Paul D. Pahl, edited by Jaroslav Pelikan and Walter A. Hansen. Concordia Publishing House:St. Louis,MO 1968 (pp.313-363). These lectures were given by Luther in 1541-1542.

Mathews, Kenneth A. The New American Commentary, Volume 1B, Genesis 11:27-50:26. Broadman & Holman Publishers:Nashville, TN. 2005. (pp.472-490).

Ross, Allen P. Creation & Blessing: A Guide to the Study and Exposition of Genesis. Baker Academic:Grand Rapids,MI 1998 (pp.517-529.)

Waltke, Bruce K. Genesis: A Commentary. Zondervan: Grand Rapids, MI 2001 (pp.416-423.)

Wenham, Gordon J. Word Biblical Commentary Volume 2, Genesis 16-50. Word Books, Publisher:Dallas,TX 1994 (pp.250-269.)

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