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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 30

Peake's Commentary on the BiblePeake's Commentary

Verses 1-24

Genesis 29:31 to Genesis 30:24 . The Birth of Jacob’ s Children.— This section is from JE, with slight touches from P. Roughly Genesis 29:31-35, Genesis 30:9-13 is from J, Genesis 30:1-6; Genesis 30:8 is from E, Genesis 30:14-24 mainly from JE, the two strands here being hard to unravel. It records the origin of the tribes of Israel. It reflects conditions a good deal earlier than those known to us in the history of Israel. In the later period Reuben dwindled into insignificance, Simeon and Levi were largely exterminated, Judah was detached from the other Leah tribes, Joseph closely associated with them. The rivalry between the sisters plays an important part. The less favoured wife is compensated by the blessing of children, barrenness redresses the superiority of the more fondly loved (1 Samuel 1). It drives her to the device, chosen by Sarah ( Genesis 16:1-3), of yielding her maid to her husband, and, by receiving the child on her knees as it was born, of making it her own. Apparently by this means Rachel secured two sons, while her sister had only one, for when Naphtali is born she gives him a name claiming to have beaten her sister in her mighty wrestlings with her. The names play an important part in the story, reflecting for the most part the struggle between the wives. The etymologies are not scientific, they are based on similarities of sound (see mg., which, however, does not bring out all the assonances); in several cases, two etymologies are suggested, one by E, the other by J. Some of the names in the story are those of animals; Rachel means “ ewe,” Leah perhaps “ antelope,” Reuben possibly “ lion” or “ wolf,” Simeon “ the mongrel of wolf and hyæ na” ; they may point to an earlier prevalence of totemism. In its original form the story of the mandrakes (Ca. Genesis 7:13 *) presumably explained the fruitfulness of Rachel. They were a plum-like fruit ripening at wheat harvest in May. They are regarded as aphrodisiacs ( cf. mg.) and as promoting conception. Rachel does not require the former; she has all her husband’ s love, but she longs for children, and offers to surrender her husband (for one night!) to the neglected Leah, in return for some of the mandrakes. Opportunity is thus given for the “ hired” ( Genesis 29:16) husband to become the father of Issachar. The mandrakes, the earlier form of the story probably went on to say, removed the disability from which Rachel, like Sarah ( Genesis 16:1 f.) and Rebekah ( Genesis 25:21), suffered, so that Joseph was born. It is to be noted that the chronology does not permit more than about three years between Judah and Joseph, so that Joseph and Issachar may well have been about the same age. This is not the general impression left by the narrative, but the whole of Genesis 29:32 to Genesis 30:24 has been crowded into the first seven years of Jacob’ s married life, too short an interval for the events, it is true, Leah having six sons in the period (unless Zebulun is put later), not to speak of Dinah, who seems to be interpolated to prepare for Genesis 29:34, and an interval of barrenness ( Genesis 29:35), during which Zilpah has two sons.

Verses 25-43

Genesis 30:25-43 . Jacob Grows Rich by Overreaching Laban.— This is a difficult section. It is taken from JE. The analysis is uncertain. To J may be assigned Genesis 30:25; Genesis 30:27, Genesis 30:29-31, Genesis 30:35 f., to E Genesis 30:26; Genesis 30:28; Genesis 30:33 f., while Genesis 30:32 is to be divided between them. Genesis 30"37– 45 is in the main from J, but in its present form is barely intelligible. Two accounts of the bargain seem to be combined, though the fragmentary character and the state of E’ s text make reconstruction uncertain. According to E, Jacob takes out of Laban’ s flock all the parti-coloured animals, and they are his pay. If at any time Laban finds animals of the normal colour in Jacob’ s flock, they may be taken as stolen. According to J, Jacob stipulates for no share in Laban’ s present flock, but presumably for any abnormally coloured that may be born hereafter in the flock he tends for Laban. So Laban takes away all the abnormally coloured he has at present, and sends them right away three days’ journey from the flock Jacob has in charge, leaving him with the normally coloured animals only, thus, since they might be expected to have normally-coloured offspring, reducing Jacob’ s prospective share almost to vanishing point. In either case the proportion of abnormally coloured would be small, and Jacob’ s commission would appear to be paltry. Jacob then sets himself to defeat the ordinary course of nature on which Laban counted, and by placing the parti-coloured rods in the drinking-troughs before the females at coupling-time, secure parti-coloured offspring. The plan succeeded admirably; and as he employed it only in the case of the stronger animals, his flock grew sturdier and Laban’ s more delicate.

Genesis 30:27 . divined: perhaps literally meant, perhaps simply discerned by observation.

Genesis 30:32 . The sheep in Syria are almost all white, the goats brown or black.

Genesis 30:37 ff. “ The physiological principle is well established” (Driver).

Genesis 30:40 . The Heb. is obscure and the text corrupt; “ and set . . . of Laban” should probably be omitted as a gloss.

Bibliographical Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Genesis 30". "Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pfc/genesis-30.html. 1919.
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