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We need to begin this section at the end – at vs. 43 where we discover that God has abundantly prospered Jacob. That is quite surprising, given that Jacob came to Laban’s household with nothing but the clothes on his back and ended up serving at least 14 years of indentured servanthood just to obtain the wife of his dreams, Rachel.

Remember God’s promises to bless Jacob (a continuation of the Abrahamic Covenant): with a people, prosperity, and a place. The previous section discussed the offspring of Jacob; now he realizes that he needs to be taking steps to pursue God’s promises regarding prosperity and the Promised Land. So he must depart from Laban’s service and return to Canaan.

This is very different from the Prosperity Gospel that false teachers propagate today – preaching that God’s intention for His people is to “name it and claim it” – to live a life of wealth, health and uninterrupted happiness. [Brian Borgman does a good job with this theme.]


In our culture we have access to financial planners who can lay out the steps to take to pursue prosperity and a secure future. In this text we find that God acts as the financial planner for Jacob. God has a master plan by which He intends to prosper Jacob. It is not a plan that Jacob would have chosen for himself. It is not a plan that is easy or comfortable. But it is a plan that is going to work.

A. (:25-30) Desire of Jacob to Return Home vs. Desire of Laban to Receive More Service

1. (:25-26) Demand to Be Released to Return Home

a. (:25a) Timing of the Demand

“Now it came about when Rachel had borne Joseph,”

b. (:25b) Destination of the Demand

“that Jacob said to Laban, ‘Send me away, that I may go to my own place and to my own country.’”

Look how long Jacob hung in there – working for Laban under trying circumstances. We are too quick to bail on our job situation, on relationships, on our local church when we are going thru hard times. We can learn a lot about perseverance from the example of Jacob. Trust that God’s sovereignty and providence can knock some of the rough edges off us and refine us thru the process.

c. (:26a) Impact of the Demand

“Give me my wives and my children for whom I have served you, and let me depart;”

Interesting – Jacob is prepared to leave empty-handed – with only his family. Instead, he will end up turning the tables on Laban (who is always trying to feather his own nest) and will plunder Laban’s flocks and wealth. This is a foreshadowing of how the Israelites will plunder Egypt in the Exodus.

d. (:26b) Basis for the Demand = Faithful Service

“for you yourself know my service which I have rendered you.”

Parunak: —There is evidence that Jacob has actually worked much longer than the 7 additional years originally agreed upon. The period is more likely on the order of 27 years after the wedding. It is difficult to fit the births of six of Leah’s children, together with a period of barrenness, into 7 years. Jacob’s case is that he has more than satisfied Laban’s expectations.

2. (:27-28) Delay in Releasing Jacob and His Household to Return Home

a. (:27a) Appeal for the Delay

“But Laban said to him, ‘If now it pleases you, stay with me;’”

b. (:27b) Motivation for the Delay

“I have divined that the LORD has blessed me on your account.”

God can bless unsaved individuals thru their association with believers. Look at Paul’s counsel for believers not to flee a mixed marriage but seek to have an impact on their spouse (1 Cor. 7:12-14).

Parunak: The verb “I have learned by experience” actually means, everywhere in the OT, “I have divined, I have used enchantments.” This is actually quite credible, since he later is concerned over the theft of his household gods (31:30). . . What we see is syncretism in Laban’s beliefs. He is willing to acknowledge Jacob’s God, whom he even names as “the Lord,” but only as part of a broader system over which he (Laban) has influence by divination.

Hughes: Laban was not a man of faith. But he readily discerned and admitted that his blessing was because of association with Jacob. Did this make him hungry for God? Sadly, no. Laban’s only desire was for the prosperity of association.

c. (:28) Contract Defining the Terms of the Delay

“And he continued, ‘Name me your wages, and I will give it.’”

Scott Grant: Laban says “Name your wages, and I will give it.” When he first met Jacob, Laban said, “Tell me, what shall your wages be?” (Genesis 29:15). At that time, Jacob named Rachel, but Laban substituted Leah. Knowing that Jacob could never forget that exchange, Laban this time adds the words “and I will give it.”

3. (:29-30) Deduction Justifying the Release to Return Home –- 3 Key Reasons:

a. (:29) I Did You Right

“But he said to him, ‘You yourself know how I have served you and how your cattle have fared with me.’”

Jacob was a hard worker and faithful steward

Jacob was a skilled keeper of flocks

b. (:30a) The Lord Prospered You Because of Me

“For you had little before I came, and it has increased to a multitude;

and the LORD has blessed you wherever I turned.”

J Ligon Duncan: He clearly credits the Lord with blessing Laban. This is an important recognition on Jacob’s part. It shows us that he realizes the ultimate source of blessing. Remember that when a few years from now this man will be wrestling with the Lord himself, craving what? The blessing of the Lord. It’s beginning to dawn on Jacob how important the blessing of the Lord is. He once cheated in order to get a blessing from his father. More and more he’s recognizing the importance of a blessing of the Lord. Jacob doesn’t want to be in the position of being a wage earner at the hands of Laban, not only for economic reasons, but for theological reasons.

c. (:30b) I Need to Focus on Providing for My Household

“But now, when shall I provide for my own household also?”

He had four wives, eleven sons and a daughter. He had servants and dwellings to maintain.

B. (:31-34) Dialogue Over the Terms of Extended Service

1. (:31a) Let’s Make a Deal Proposes Laban

“So he said, ‘What shall I give you?’”

Name your price

Blank check approach to negotiations; this is how much Laban valued the service of Jacob

2. (:31b-32) Livestock Acquisition Will Be Jacob’s Compensation

“And Jacob said, ‘You shall not give me anything. If you will do this one thing for me, I will again pasture and keep your flock: let me pass through your entire flock today, removing from there every speckled and spotted sheep, and every black one among the lambs, and the spotted and speckled among the goats; and such shall be my wages.’”

Seems to Laban like a great deal; look at how the schemers continue to try to outwit one another

Should be about 15-20% of the flock

Parunak: We know from Mesopotamian records of the time that a reasonable wage for a shepherd was 20% of the increase of the flock, but Jacob takes a different tack. He proposes to take distinctively marked animals as his hire. Sheep are generally white, and goats are generally black; any mottled animals will be his.

Keith Krell: Jacob selected the spotted and speckled because of the Lord’s instruction (31:10). Furthermore, Jacob’s dream from God ensured him that the Lord would protect him from the dishonesty of Laban. This was a fine act of faith on Jacob’s part. He cast himself wholly upon God’s mercy.

3. (:33) Legal Ownership Will Not Be Disputed

“So my honesty will answer for me later, when you come concerning my wages. Every one that is not speckled and spotted among the goats and black among the lambs, if found with me, will be considered stolen.”

Ownership will be a black and white, open and shut issue; no room for confusion

Laban will not be able to change the terms of the deal and Jacob will not be able to leave with any more than is rightfully his

4. (:34) Laban Agrees to the Deal

“And Laban said, ‘Good, let it be according to your word.’”

C. (:35-36) Details Surrounding Jacob’s Extended Service

1. (:35) Differentiating the Herd – Accomplished by Laban = Clean Starting Point

“So he removed on that day the striped and spotted male goats and all the speckled and spotted female goats, everyone with white in it, and all the black ones among the sheep, and gave them into the care of his sons.”

Jacob had proclaimed that he would superintend this process of cutting out his portion of the flock; but Laban steps in and takes the initiative – the schemer cannot trust another schemer.

Guzik: Jacob would care for the large flock of his father-in-law Laban, made up of solid-colored animals. Jacob received any speckled or spotted offspring of this flock.

Peter Pett: Throughout the narrative five different words are used to designate the features that distinguished what belonged to Jacob (speckled, spotted, striped, ringstraked, grisled and so on). These were no doubt technical terms clearly recognisable to shepherds in the area who would know exactly what was indicated.

2. (:36a) Distancing Himself from Jacob – Accomplished by Laban = Clear Distinction

“And he put a distance of three days’ journey between himself and Jacob,”

3. (:36b) Doing the Work – Accomplished by Jacob = Care of the Good Shepherd

“and Jacob fed the rest of Laban’s flocks.”

J. Ligon Duncan: Laban does three things to protect his own interest:

– The first thing that he does is he does the culling himself.

– The second thing he does is he puts his own sons in charge of the flocks.

– He puts a great distance between his flocks and Jacob’s. Laban thinks that Jacob’s strategy is going to be to interbreed those speckled and spotted mongrel animals with his non-mongrel animals in order to make more speckled and spotted animals.


A. (:37-39) Superstitious Methodology

1. (:37-38a) Prepared Mating

“Then Jacob took fresh rods of poplar and almond and plane trees, and peeled white stripes in them, exposing the white which was in the rods. And he set the rods which he had peeled in front of the flocks in the gutters, even in the watering troughs, where the flocks came to drink;”

Hughes: If Jacob was operating on largely superstitious beliefs (which is the likely view), we must keep in mind that the Bible is not teaching that animals are influenced by prenatal stimuli. It merely records that Jacob held the superstition along with general Mesopotamian culture. Jacob’s peeled rods, the, are similar to Rachel’s mandrakes. The mandrakes did not produce fertility, and neither did Jacob’s rods. The Scriptures are explicit that God opened Rachel’s womb (cf. 30:22). And they are also explicit that God intervened and gave the livestock to Jacob (31:9). Therefore, however it happened and however informed Jacob was, God did it!

Keith Krell: Interestingly, the Hebrew words for “poplar” and “white” are puns on the name Laban, which means “white.” Jacob is practicing some “white magic” (pardon the pun), but it all comes from the Lord.

2. (:38b-39a) Providential Mating

“and they mated when they came to drink.

So the flocks mated by the rods,”

3. (:39b) Productive Mating

“and the flocks brought forth striped, speckled, and spotted.”

B. (:40-42) Selective Breeding

1. (:40) Purposeful Tactics

“And Jacob separated the lambs, and made the flocks face toward the striped and all the black in the flock of Laban; and he put his own herds apart, and did not put them with Laban’s flock.”

2. (:41-42) Producing Strong vs. Weak

“Moreover, it came about whenever the stronger of the flock were mating, that Jacob would place the rods in the sight of the flock in the gutters, so that they might mate by the rods; but when the flock was feeble, he did not put them in; so the feebler were Laban’s and the stronger Jacob’s.”

Parunak: This trick has two parts.

1. He believes that impressions on the animals at the time of conception will affect the offspring, so he exposes them to splotchy things: peeled sticks (37), and animals already born that were mottled (40), in an effort to increase the incidence of strangely-colored animals.

2. He employs this ruse only when the stronger animals mate (41-42), thus leading to more robust animals for himself.

The second part of his trick is sound animal husbandry, but the first part has puzzled readers, especially in the light of modern genetics. Jacob’s long experience as a shepherd must have suggested to him that this trick would help increase the proportion of spotted animals born.

A number of explanations have been proposed. The most persuasive combines two observations.

1. Extracts of these particular plants were used in antiquity as aphrodisiacs. By placing the peeled branches in the water, he may have stimulated the animals to breed. This is reinforced by the Hebrew of v.39, which says that the animals “came into heat” when they drank.

2. The more vigorous animals would have been the heterozygous ones, the ones carrying the recessive genes that resulted in mixed coloration. By preferentially breeding these animals, he would increase the expression of these recessive qualities.

The important point is that Jacob is trying to tilt the odds in his favor. In fact, the text doesn’t say that the trick worked. It simply states (v.39) that the animals conceived (or “came into heat”) before the rods, and that they brought forth multicolored offspring, but it doesn’t make the causal connection. In the next chapter, God reveals to Jacob that the cause of his growing wealth is not his rod trick, but God’s sovereign provision for him. . .

C. (:43) Surprising Prosperity

“So the man became exceedingly prosperous, and had large flocks and female and male servants and camels and donkeys.”

Scott Grant: This turnaround is reminiscent of the cheer heard at Northwestern University football games years ago. Northwestern was the perennial doormat of the Big 10. How do you cheer for a team like that? The Northwestern fans began cheering this way when the other team scored: “That’s all right, that’s OK; they’re going to work for us some day.” Jacob was Laban’s doormat, but now he has turned the tables on him.

J. Ligon Duncan: Now camels weren’t domesticated in the second millennium. That means there weren’t many of them around in Abraham, Isaac and Jacob’s day. So saying that you had camels, was like saying you had a fleet a Cadillacs in your driveway. If you had camels, you were wealthy.