SBC Banner


Wednesday in the Word

Second Baptist Church

May 11, 2016

Genesis 30:21:43

  1. Recapping from last session and our entire Genesis study. I have shared from the beginning of our study that the main issues after the creation story has been trusting in God. From Adam to Abraham the issue for us is to trust God no matter what you hear, see or experience. This will be the constant struggle for the people of God to have faith in God when there seems to be no reason to have faith. As we get to the most recent part of our study that includes the sisters Leah and Rachel, we see the same issue of struggling to trust God. Both sisters were initially caught up trying to find their fulfillment in children. In this story, both women wanted what the other had. Leah allowed herself to be used by her father to deceive Jacob. Her own lack of self-esteem and need to be wanted hindered her ability to be truthful. She got her husband on faulty pretenses and the relationship was never fulfilling. Rachel on the other hand enjoyed the undivided attention of Jacob, but longed for children. Her need to be over her sister caused her to give her maidservant to Jacob for child bearing purposes. Instead of waiting on God she decided to take matters into her own hands. Leah felt that having sons for Jacob would somehow earn his love, while Rachel was as desperate for children as Sarah had been before her. Giving birth devolved into a competition. Rachel and Leah were unhappy with their circumstances: Rachel: “lf only l had sons like my sister!” Leah: “If only I had my sister's beauty and the love of Jacob.” We would do well to remember the words of the apostle Paul: “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation...I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Phil 4:12-13 NIV). After both women have several children, our story concludes in 30:22-24: God remembered Rachel (cf. 8:1). Apparently, Rachel began to pray and God “gave heed to her.” As a result, Joseph was born. Joseph became the son who saved his family (the Israelites) during the time of famine. He has been used as a type (an illustration) of Christ throughout the Bible. The stress of the entire narrative is the movement from barrenness (29:31) to birth (30:22). For all the maneuverings of the sisters, it is still God who opens the womb. The point that God is making is this: Birth was not accomplished by human action but by God remembering Rachel. Rachel had to wait 14 years before she had her first child. Yet, we see that God came through for her. God is faithful to accomplish His purposes even through the deceitful actions of Laban and Jacob, and the jealous hatred of Jacob's two wives. God is a God of grace. He used these sinful people. If God can work in and through these wicked and impatient individuals, He can work in and through you! But to receive God's best results, He expects you to exercise patience and trust in Him. Once again we are faced with the issue of trusting in God versus our own efforts. In our next part of the story, Jacob will do some maneuvering of his own, but it will be God who gives the increase.

  2. Verses 25-26. The fourteen years of service for Leah and Rachel must have been fulfilled shortly after the birth of Joseph. It has been 20 years, and just as Jacob reminded Laban that it was time to take his wife (29:21), so he must seek his release so that he might return to his homeland and family. Unlike today, Jacob could not simply pack his bags and leave. The authority structure in this Eastern, extended family was far more complex and restrictive--as it is even today, some places in the Eastern culture. There was a shared ownership even of Jacob’s wives and children. To leave without his father-in-law's permission and blessing could lead to outright war within the family clan. Jacob had been living with Laban in Paddam Aram for 20 years (cf. 31:38). During this time, eleven sons and one daughter were born. It was time to leave. This town had become too small for both Jacob and Laban.

  3. Verses 27-30. Laban is kissing up to Jacob. Why? Laban claims to have learned by divination that the Lord has blessed him because of Jacob. Of course, the means were not proper but the truth was correct. Crafty Laban could see that he had a good thing going for him. He knew where his bread was buttered, so he wasn't all that anxious for Jacob to go. Sadly, Laban was averse to Jacob's leaving not because he loved his nephew, or son-in-law, but because he knew his prosperity was dependent on Jacob's presence. He observed that the blessing of heaven rested on Jacob and that his stock was significantly increased under Jacob's management. So Laban says to Jacob, “What will it take for you to stay? Just give me a price.” What a typical business tactic! Laban was all about money and manipulation. Amusingly, in 30:29-30, Jacob let Laban know rather candidly that it didn't call for an act of divination to discover why he had experienced material prosperity. Rather, it was fairly obvious that it was a combination of factors--Jacob's faithfulness and hard work and, I would add, especially God's favor and blessing resting upon him. Clearly, Laban was an ungodly, ruthless man. And Jacob, for all his moral weakness, is a man of faith in God. Both men agree on a remarkable fact: God has blessed a bad man because he had a good man working for him (cf. 12:3; 39:2-6). Laban's increase came on Jacob's account. This concept occurs several times in the Bible. We see it when God promised to spare Sodom and Gomorrah if ten righteous men could be found in the city (Gen 18:16-33). We see it when God prospers Potiphar because Joseph is part of his household (Gen 39:1-6). Even 1 Cor 7:12-14 contains a fascinating discussion of the problem of mixed marriages, where one partner is a believer and the other is not. In such a case, the unbelieving partner and any children that may be involved are “sanctified” through the believing partner. This means that the unbeliever(s) is blessed on account of the believer. Taken together, these passages illustrate the concept that Jacob and Laban are discussing in Gen 30. God blesses the people of the world because the people of God are nearby.

  4. Verses 31-34. Laban desperately wants Jacob to stay so he says “what can l give you?” to stay a little while longer. Jacob had anticipated this and was quick to give an answer. He Said I will take only the speckled, spotted, and striped animals in the flock. Now normally these were the exception to the flock (most are solid color), but Jacob had an inside track about this particular flock. God had given Jacob a vision about the flock that only the males that were striped, speckled and spotted were mating. Now we don't find this out until next chapter, but it helps us understand why Jacob favored the speckled, spotted and striped sheep. The two men agree to the terms and separate the sheep and the flocks. Laban was happy because he thought he got the better of the deal and Jacob was happy because he thought he had a great deal. This is the point where I must interject and point out that God is the author of all of our blessings. God is the one that brings the increase. In the next few verses the casual bible reader might deduce that Jacob's maneuvering with tree branches is how he gets blessed, but I would say that the blessings were by the hand of God. Jacob will try to employ some visual aids/witchcraft to get the thing that God was going to do anyway. We must be careful not to think that we are blessed by some lucky charm or old wives’ tale. We are blessed because God is good and nothing else. God told Jacob which sheep were mating and those were the sheep he picked. Jacob decided to do something in addition to secure a blessing that God had already ordained.

  5. Verses 35-43. Rather than conscientiously tending the flocks of Laban while looking to God for the increase, Jacob decided that this was something he could handle best by resorting to his schemes and devices. He employed three techniques which appeared to result in great success: The first method Jacob used (verses 37-39) was peeled poles, which were supposed to have some kind of prenatal influence on the flocks. Jacob supposed that if the flocks had a visual impression of stripes while they were mating and conceiving, the offspring would assume this same form. So all about the trenches, which served as watering troughs, Jacob placed these peeled poles; and every appearance would incline him to believe that his scheme was working, for the resulting offspring were striped, speckled, or spotted (verse 39). The second phase of Jacob’s plan to predispose the outcome of his labors was to segregate the flocks. The striped, speckled, and spotted offspring (which belonged to Jacob) were put off by themselves. The rest of the flock was faced toward those animals which were either striped or all black (verse 40). While the peeled poles were artificial, the striped animals were the “real McCoy.” Surely by seeing these animals, the rest of the flock would get the idea. The third phase was a stroke of genius (verses 4l-42). It was a kind of selective breeding. We are told that lambing took place twice during the year, once in the fall and once in the spring. Those born in the fall were thought to be hardier, since they must endure the harsh winter. Jacob placed his peeled poles only in front of the superior animals and not before the weaker. In Jacob’s mind the result was that the strong animals went to him, while the weak went to Laban (verse 42). From everything that has been said, we would naturally conclude that the great prosperity of Jacob (verse 43) was due to his shrewd techniques for manipulating the outcome of the mating of the flocks. So it would seem. So it seemed to Jacob. There is only one problem: it didn’t work because it couldn’t work. From a spiritual perspective, it did not work because God does not bless carnal effort. From a physical point of view all of Jacob’s schemes were of no avail because they operated on one assumption, and that assumption was scientifically erroneous. Each of the three techniques Jacob employed was predicated on the belief that visual impressions at the time of conception affected the outcome at birth. In the first and third techniques it was the peeled poles which were thought to produce striped offspring. No one believes that this is true today, and no farmer uses this technique to upgrade his cattle. The second device of Jacob was based on the same premise, but it employed the black and striped of the flock to create the visual impressions. Only later will we be told the real reason for Jacob’s prosperity. But mark this well, Jacob did not prosper because he pulled one over on Laban. Jacob’s success was not the product of his schemes.

  6. Peek ahead to Chapter 31 verses 10-12. In fact, the prosperity which he experienced had nothing to do with his fervent efforts. All of his poles and peeling and segregating were of no profit whatever. A careful look at the words describing the dream will make this clear. Notice how God drew Jacob’s attention to the fact that the males that were mating were striped, speckled, and spotted. In the vision which Jacob had from God there were no peeled poles, no segregated flocks, but only male goats mating that were striped, speckled, and mottled. What determined the offspring of the flocks was not the circumstances (visual impressions) at conception but the characteristics of the male that mated with the female goats. Jacob’s attention was drawn to the fact that all the male goats which were mating were striped, speckled, and mottled. To put it another way, only the striped, speckled, and mottled males were mating, none of the rest. While Jacob operated upon an entirely false premise, God was working on a premise that is scientifically proven. How was it that only the striped, speckled, and mottled males were mating? Simple. God appointed it to be so in order that Laban’s wealth would be passed on to Jacob. All that time peeling poles and separating flocks and striving to outdo Laban was all for naught. What seemed at the moment to be the work of Jacob’s hands and the outcome of his schemes was nothing of the sort. It was the hand of God in spite of his scheming, not because of it.

click here to select another lesson