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Genesis 30:25 – 31:16 > Deceiver versus Deceiver

Here we find two deceivers who are trying to deceive each other. Jacob and his mother’s brother, Laban. By the Lord’s providence, it is Jacob who walks away the winner – because the Lord determined from eternity that the fulfillment of the promise made to Abraham would be fulfilled through HIM (Jacob). And the fulfillment is of course the eventual coming of Christ to the world and the dawn of the New heaven and New earth (as Revelation concludes). The Lord God does not condone Jacob’s deceit. The Lord has His great and final plan of deliverance in sight. And it is ordained that Jacob would be a link in this plan!

Of course, Jacob did not have all these future facts in view. He was fighting only for himself and for his own survival. He was mainly concerned with the here and now. And naturally the Lord received the glory and praises from his own mouth for the prosperity that resulted from his deceit. The same way it often still works today. For example, if we win money from the Lotto, we give glory to the Lord. Although He forbids us to trust on the goddess of gambling. In the end it was not Jacob’s spirituality or his brilliance that made him walk away a wealthy man. It was the Lord’s eternal covenant-promises!

1 LABAN’S AGREEMENT (30:25 – 36)
Rachel gave birth to Joseph – her firstborn after years of barrenness. Jacob then decided to return to his own country. Indeed, the Lord had promised in 28:10-22 that it would happen. Therefore Jacob asks Laban to release him to go – with his extensive family and possessions.

But Laban acknowledges that the Lord has blessed him (Laban) materially through Jacob, and that it would be a loss to him if Jacob should leave. Jacob was responsible that Laban became a wealthy man. He could not plough anything into his own family, Laban always had to get his share first.

So Laban came with a counter offer: “Name your wages, and I will give it”.

But Jacob replied: “No, you shall not give me anything. Let me pass through all your flock today, removing from it every speckled and spotted sheep and every black lamb, and the spotted and speckled among the goats, and such shall be my wages. Remember I have not received any wages worth mentioning from you during the last 14 years of labour. I only have wives and children. But I will be satisfied with the spotted sheep and goats. Everything that is not speckled or spotted will be yours.”

No sooner said, than done. It is an easy offer, Laban argues by himself. In those days there were very few sheep and goats that were mottled or black. That meant that 95% of the flock would belong to him. Of course he would accept such an agreement! Jacob will not receive much from this bargain. Fantastic advantageous offer! Almost too good to be true. Laban is smiling from ear to ear. It was definitely worth deceiving Jacob to work for him for 14 years like a slave! Let him have the few speckled animals.

But that same day Laban removed all the speckled and spotted and black sheep and goats from the flock and sent them 3 days’ journey away with his sons. Jacob would care for the rest of the flock. With the speckled and striped animals far away, there was very little chance that there would be any speckled and spotted newborns. However, Laban separated only those spotted animals the eye could see but not the males that had certain GENES in their blood. Those males stayed in the main flock. And miraculously the Lord made those males mate with the females in order to generate mottled newborns.

2 JACOB’S CUNNING (30:37-43)
So here we are: The speckled ones are removed far away from the flock and Jacob has to herd the rest. Jacob however, is smiling from ear to ear! He is definitely not just going to sit there looking pious and pray and trust the Lord to swing the scale in his favour. Never! He has a few tricks of his own to take advantage of the situation. Is Laban going to cheat him again? Forget it! Accordingly: in the one corner Laban is laughing up his sleeve, and in the other corner Jacob is laughing up his sleeve.

What Jacob did is the following: He used a technique which was based on the ridiculous unscientific assumption that that which the animals see with their eyes while mating, will determine the appearance of the offspring. If the sheep and goats mate while looking at speckled and striped objects, the new lambs and kids will also be speckled and striped.

That is the reason why Jacob cut branches and peeled white streaks in the bark exposing the white of the rods placing them in the watering troughs where the animals gathered to mate.

And miracle of miracles: it works! The new arrivals are dappled. But Jacob didn’t exposed the weak animals to the branches – only the strong. The stronger ones were therefore speckled, while the weaker ones were white. And those were for Laban. In the end the mottled ones were more plentiful and much stronger, and they were for Jacob. Laban received only the white and weak ones who were fewer. That was in accordance with their agreement.

How on earth could Jacob’s plan be successful? His idea of visuality when the animals are mating has absolutely no scientific proof. Otherwise it would have been used even still today.

One also do not want to think that the Lord worked miracles here, because how would the Lord ever bless such fleshly methods.

The real reason why Jacob’s strange method – that could never have worked – did indeed work and brought him great wealth, was revealed only later. But be assured: It was NOT due to his cleverness.

Jacob’s sudden success of course caused it’s own number of problems. Laban’s sons objected and Laban was not so affable any longer. His agreement with Jacob has boomeranged. The very poor Jacob suddenly became wealthy at Laban’s expense.

These sons of Laban must have been born after Jacob initially arrived, because there was never any mention that Laban had sons. He regarded Jacob as his heir, because in the culture of that time it could be. But when sons of his own came along, Jacob was not needed any longer. Now Jacob was in contention for the inheritance. It is not surprising then that Laban’s sons were so angry. Jacob therefore realised he had to leave, and soon.

In addition, the Lord spoke to Jacob himself and confirmed to him that he had to return to the place of his birth. With the promise that He would be with Jacob. It seemed as if it was the first time in 20 years that the Lord gave direction to Jacob in this manner.

Jacob was not concerned about Laban, but rather that Rachel and Leah would have to make an important choice. They had to choose between their father and their homeland, and Jacob and the promised land of the Lord. That is why Jacob summoned them to come to him in order to get their support. But leave he had to leave. And very soon too. Rachel and Leah had to understand that their father’s attitude towards Jacob has – for whatever reason – turned negative. But, the Lord was on his side. He was actually innocent of any wrongdoing. That was the way Jacob argued.

The most important point in his argument was that the Lord himself had given him a Divine directive. The Lord spoke to him and confirmed His blessing and charged him to return to the promised land. How could there be any doubt about what to do? His cheating to claim the mottled animals was therefore surely also in God’s favour, not so?

Jacob’s argument convinced Rachel and Leah. Yes, their father did indeed sell them to Jacob and abused his willingness to work to enrich Laban. Yes, they will say farewell and leave with Jacob.

The problem was that Jacob understood the Lord’s words only in part. The Lord definitely did not approve of his methods to manipulate the animals to his own advantage. The prosperity and wealth which he enjoyed had nothing to do with his own efforts.

We see this when we look closer at what the Lord told Jacob while he was looking after Laban’s flock. (Verses 10-12).

Look carefully: Jacob’s manipulation of the animals was based on his erroneous idea that visual impressions have an influence on the offspring that would be born. And he told Rachel and Leah that he had received this idea from the Lord in a dream when God’s angel spoke to him.

True enough: God did speak to him. But in the dream there was no mention of rods to be peeled to expose the white wood in stripes to be placed in the water troughs and white and mottled animals that had to be separated. All that was said in the dream was that “all the goats that mated with the flock were speckled and striped and mottled”. That was ALL that the Lord showed him. And then the Lord said: “I have seen all that Laban is doing to you. Now arise, go forth from this land and return to the land of your birth”.

That which determined the appearance of the new born animals, was not the ingeniousness of Jacob with the rods in the troughs. Also not his idea of visual impressions. It was the genes of the males that mated. The Lord clearly showed Jacob that the male goats who mated were all mottled. And not the other. The sovereign Lord interceded and caused only the mottled goats to mate. Because the Lord wanted Laban to suffer loss.

But Jacob did not HEAR what the Lord is saying. He thought that HE had to make a plan HIMSELF to manipulate the animals and that the Lord would approve his (Jacob’s) plans (deceit).

In other words: ALL Jacob’s plans and labour to cheat Laban, were all in vain. While Jacob was so clever, the Lord quietly worked the miracle HIMSELF to let only the mottled goats mate. It was the HAND OF GOD who worked, in spite of Jacob’s hand that hustled and bustled. But Jacob was absolutely oblivious of this. He thought that the Lord was blessing HIS plans. We do not read anywhere that Jacob had insight into the deep sinfulness of his motives and methods. His wealth came to him in spite of his methods. He was blessed by the Lord based on God’s grace and not based on his own spirituality. His wealth was a gracious gift from God, not the Lord’s blessing on his sinful actions. God works with His people based on His own free choice, decision and grace in Jesus Christ and based on the death of Christ on the cross and His resurrection, not based on ANYTHING that is in man. Success and prosperity have nothing to do with piousness and spirituality.

Look at how far removed Jacob’s rod-carvings were from what God had actually showed him in the dream, namely that GOD HIMSELF (without Jacob’s assistance) would have only the mottled goats to mate.

Once we see that distance, we see how far removed human religiosity/piety is from the true Christian Faith.

Human religion is to carve rods for God to bless so that the result can be positive.

The true Christian Faith is God’s miracle-working grace in Christ WITHOUT any human works.

The only way to enter God’s heaven is to acknowledge that we cannot earn it in any way, only receive it. Nothing is more difficult for fallen human nature than to realise and acknowledge THAT fact. Jacob’s nature is seated deep inside all of us. To DISTRUST everything you are and do, and to TRUST only what a certain man did on a hill in ancient Jerusalem 2000 years ago. Nobody is able to do that without a miracle wrought by the Holy Spirit.

Seek FIRST the kingdom of God and all these things will be added to you – Matt 6:33

Translated by Marthie Wilson
Main Source: Bob Deffinbaugh

Category Genesis Series

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