Genesis: The Beginning
Jacob and Laban 1-30-16
READ: Genesis 30:25–31:55
Yesterday, relational conflict was the biggest lesson from our text; Jacob’s family was familiar with conflict. Today, we will look at the relationship between Laban and Jacob; Jacob begins to gain wealth as God prospers him. We shall see Laban is not finished being a scoundrel.
Jacob is ready to return to the land God promised to Abraham, so he goes to Laban and asks to be released from any further commitment to work for him. Laban, always about money, had to admit having a relationship with Jacob has prospered him; he does not want Jacob to leave. Jacob asks for very little, in wages, if he is to stay a bit longer. He asks Laban for the sheep and goats that are speckled, spotted, or black in color. Jacob is thinking that way they will be able to tell their flocks apart.
Laban seems to be very good at saying one thing and doing another. He agrees to honor Jacob’s request, but behind the scenes he tells his workers to remove the male goats that were streaked, and spotted, all the female goats that were speckled and spotted or had white patches, and all the black sheep. The workers take them a great distance away, so Jacob will have nothing to start his flock. Remember, God is with Jacob.
Jacob realizes the animals that are not streaked, spotted, or black still carry latent genes within them that enable them to produce off-colored or spotted offspring. It was believed that sticks with peeled white streaks in them could influence the kind of animal that would be born; so, Jacob uses the peeled sticks (in the water) when the strongest of the flock come to the watering trough and trusts God with the result. That trust is rewarded, because God prospers Jacob. Laban, on the other hand, gets the weak flock.
Laban’s sons are angry with how Jacob is prospering and they are losing their inheritance. So, to get Jacob away from this conflict, God tells him to return to Canaan. Jacob explains the situation to his wives—Leah and Rachel—and they decide it is time to pack up and leave. (NOTE: Rachel packs up some of Laban’s idols/figurines of deities that are associated with protection). Jacob leaves with his wives and flocks without telling Laban.
When Laban realizes they are gone, he pursues them well over one hundred miles. During this time, God tells Laban to leave Jacob alone, but he continues until he finds him. Laban is angry and says, “What do you mean by deceiving me like this? Blah, blah, blah…and, Why have you stolen my gods?” Jacob didn’t tell Laban he was leaving, because he already knew his character was destructive! But, Jacob explains he did not take Laban’s gods (a pagan source of blessing) and invites Laban to kill the person who did (Jacob did not know Rachel had taken them). But, Rachel dishonestly sits on them when Laban searches the tent and denies she know anything about them.
It is now Jacob’s turn to be mad! He vents to Laban about having worked for twenty years; having been mistreated by him the entire time. Jacob turns the attention to God, “If the God of my father had not been on my side—the God of Abraham and the fearsome God of Isaac—you would have sent me away empty-handed. But God has seen your abuse and my hard work. That is why He appeared to you last night and rebuked you!” Jacob and Laban set a boundary line and make a covenant of peace for the future; Jacob makes a sacrifice to God and they share a meal. Laban leaves in the morning after blessing Jacob’s family.
This lesson makes me think about honest vs. dishonest gain and how strongly God feels about it; we need to treat others fairly and with honor.