Christianity for Thinkers

A COMMON SENSE, BIBLE-BASED APPROACH TO CHRISTIANITY

Understanding the Old Testament

Jacob and Laban

(All quotations are from the New American Standard Bible translation)

After stealing his brother’s blessing, Jacob journeyed to Haran, to the family of his mother Rebekah. There he went to work for his uncle, Laban, Rebekah’s brother.

Jacob fell in love with Laban’s younger daughter, Rachel, so he agreed to work for his uncle for seven years for her hand in marriage. But at the end of the seven years, Laban substituted his older daughter, Leah, as Jacob’s bride. Jacob did not learn of the deceit until after the marriage had been consummated.

We may wonder how Jacob remained so ignorant of his new wife’s identity. There are at least two possibilities. One is that the wedding festivities made him too drunk to recognize the substitution. But The Wycliffe Bible Commentary tells us that it was customary then for the bride to wear her veil until after the wedding night, so perhaps that is the reason. Or maybe it was a combination of the two.

In any event, Laban insisted on seven more years of labor for Rachel, and Jacob agreed. However, contrary to what I thought when I was a boy, he did not have to wait another seven years to marry Rachel. He was instead able to marry her only a week after his marriage to Leah. (See Genesis 29:27-28.)

Laban’s deceitfulness was soon to backfire on him, for Jacob was a clever adversary. At the end of the second seven-year period, the two of them made a bargain: Jacob would continue to work for his uncle in return for all of the black sheep and the speckled and spotted goats—in other words, the less desirable animals. Laban would keep the rest. In this way Jacob’s honesty would be unquestionable, for the color of the animals would conclusively establish to whom they belonged.

This seemed like a good deal for Laban, until Jacob engineered the herds to produce mostly black sheep and speckled and spotted goats. Furthermore, he ensured that the healthiest animals were those in his own flocks. Thus, during the six years that Jacob continued to work for his uncle, he became wealthy at Laban’s expense. This produced discord between Jacob and Laban’s family. So after about twenty years in Haran, an angel of the Lord appeared to Jacob in a dream and told him to return home to Canaan.

Questions to ponder or discuss: Genesis 30:37-42 tells us that Jacob used striped rods to induce the mating animals to produce discolored offspring. But many suspect Jacob also possessed at least a rudimentary knowledge of how genetics works—that is, the importance of dominant and recessive characteristics. Which seems more likely? And does it really matter? (Note what Genesis 31:6-9 says.)

Copyright 2017 by Don Davidson

My new book, Beyond Blind Faith: Reasons for the Hope We Have (1 Peter 3:15), is available on Amazon.com as either a print book or a Kindle e-book. Here's the link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B074MVHVHP.

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