Genesis 30:25-43

 |  April 9, 2018

Gen. 30:25-43

  1. Locate the passage

This passage is the natural progression of Jacob’s growing family. This passage of the growth of Jacob’s flocks parallels the previous pericope which chronicled the growth of Jacob’s family. He realizes that he needs to be able to provide for his large and growing family. Appropriately, Jacob begins the conversation with Laban.

  1. Genre

The passage is narrative. It records the conversation (negotiation) between Jacob and Laban.

  1. Determine the structure of the passage

30:25-26 – Jacob desires to return to his home country with his family

30:27-34 – Laban and Jacob negotiate wages for Jacob to continue serving Laban

30:35-36-43 – Jacob’s strategy to manipulate the arrangement in his favor

  1. Exegete the passage

In this passage, two deceivers collide.

Despite the difficulty of the text regarding Jacob’s crossbreeding of the stronger sheep to manipulate his agreement with Laban in his favor, the text implies the blessing of the Lord on Jacob in fulfillment of His promise (28:20). There is no “reason” why Jacob’s strategy worked. His antics may reflect a superstition much like the previous episode with the mandrakes.

Both Laban and Jacob acknowledge that the Lord had blessed Laban on account of Jacob.

30:25 – Jacob desires to return to his home land. This would fulfill his request of the Lord (28:29) and the promise of the Lord to him (28:13, 15). The promise of God is never in question in this passage. What is relevant is Jacob’s willingness to trust God to fulfill His promise or try to manipulate God’s promise for himself.

The expression, “send me on my way” suggests Jacob’s request to be released from his obligation to Laban on the basis that he had fulfilled his part of the bargain. The phrase, “send me” (“shalachni”) is the same phrase that the servant requested of Laban in 24:54 and should be translated the same in both passages.

30:26 – Despite Laban’s deception of Jacob, Jacob fulfilled his obligation to Laban. He had served Laban 14 years for Rachel and Leah.

30:27 – Some English translations add the word “stay” to Laban’s request of Jacob. The word is not in the Hebrew, but is implied in Laban’s statement.

30:28 – Laban offers Jacob a blank check.

30:29-30 – Jacob begins the negotiation by highlighting the growth of Laban’s flock in the 14 years that Jacob has served him.

30:31-36 – Laban repeated his offer. Laban’s question relates to what he can “give” Jacob. Jacob seems to have given this situation some consideration. He rejects the need to be “given” anything. Instead, he will earn his wages.

Thus, the text suggests that the initial speckled and spotted sheep of Laban’s flock were not given into Jacob’s care[1]Mathews, Genesis 11:17-50:26, 498-99.. Even though Jacob initially suggested that he would go through the flock and remove the speckled and spotted sheep and goats, it seems that Laban did the actual removing (perhaps to prevent Jacob from falsely claiming them as his own). Note that Laban is the subject of 30:34, so the “he” of 30:35 most naturally would refer to Laban. Moreover, 30:36 says that “he” put three days’ journey between himself and Jacob. This implies that Laban not only separated the flocks and gave them to his sons, but also determined where Jacob would shepherd them.

Thus, Laban has divided his flock (vs. 35 – “that day”) between his sons and Jacob. Laban’s sons were initially given trust of all the speckled and spotted sheep of his flock before this negotiation. Jacob was give the care of all the rest of Laban’s flocks. When the flocks under Jacob’s care reproduced, the speckled and spotted of those would become Jacob’s “wages.” So, initially, Jacob was “given” nothing from Laban. He was completely trusting in the Lord for any future wealth. He trusted that the Lord would allow speckled and spotted flocks to be produced from the non-speckled and non-spotted under his care.

30:37-42 – Jacob’s strategy had three parts to it. First, he developed a strategy which comes across bizarre in the text to procure an initial flock of speckled and spotted sheep and goats. Second, he separated the initial speckled and spotted among the flock and tended those separately. Third, as the stronger (presumably among both sets of flocks that he was overseeing) were mating, he followed the same strategy to ensure that only the strong of the flock would produce speckled and spotted sheep and goats. Thus, the text concludes that over time, Jacob’s herd became stronger and Laban’s became weaker.

The idea of Jacob’s strategy depended on the visual aids that he used. By putting a striped rod in front of the flocks as they mated, the assumption is that they would be more likely to produce striped or spotted flocks.

30:43 – Despite the peculiar strategy that Jacob employed, it seems clear in the text, that the flocks were not blessed due to Jacob’s strategy, but through the blessing of the Lord. Thus, like Abraham (13:2) and Isaac (24:35) before him, Jacob was blessed of God with great wealth.

  1. Let the structure of the text drive the sermon

References   [ + ]

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