And when Rachel saw (apparently after, though probably before, the birth of Leah's fourth son) that she bare Jacob no children (literally, that she bare not to Jacob), Rachel envied her sister (was jealous of her, the root referring to the redness with which the face of an angry woman is suffused); and said unto Jacob, Give me children (sons), or else I die—literally, and if not, I am a dead woman; i.e. for shame at her sterility. Rachel had three strong reasons for desiring children—that she might emulate her sister, become more dear to her husband, and above all share the hope of being a progenitrix of the promised Seed. If not warranted to infer that Rachel's barrenness was due to lack of prayer on her part and Jacob's (Keil), we are at least justified in asserting that her conduct in breaking forth into angry reproaches against her husband was unlike that of Jacob's mother, Rebekah, who, in similar circumstances, sought relief in prayer and oracles (Kalisch). The brief period that had elapsed since Rachel's marriage, in comparison with the twenty years of Rebekah's barrenness, signally discovered Rachel's sinful impatience.
And Jacob's anger was kindled against Rachel (not without just cause, since she not only evinced a want of faith and resignation, but wrongfully imputed blame to him): and he said, Am I in God's stead,—i.e. am I omnipotent like him? This you yourself will surely not presume to believe. The interrogative particle conveys the force of a spirited denial—who hath withheld from thee the fruit of the womb? Rachel herself understood that God alone could remove sterility (Genesis 30:6); but to this fact jealousy of Leah appears for the moment to have blinded her.
And she said,—resorting to the sinful expedient of Sarah (Genesis 16:2), though without Sarah's excuse, since there was no question whatever about an heir for Jacob; which, even if there had been, would not have justified a practice which, in the case of her distinguished relative, had been so palpably condemned—Behold my maid Bilhah (vide Genesis 29:29), go in unto her; and she shall bear upon my knees,—i.e. children that I may place upon my knees, as mothers do (Piscator, A Lapide, Calvin, Rosenmüller, Lange, Ainsworth); the literal sense of the words being too absurd to require refutation—that I may also have children—literally, be builded up (cf. Genesis 16:2)—by her.
And she gave him Bilhah her handmaid to wife: and Jacob went in unto her. "Whence we gather that there is no end of sin where once the Divine institution of marriage is neglected" (Calvin). Jacob began with polygamy, and is now drawn into concubinage. Though God overruled this for the development of the seed of Israel, he did not thereby condone the offense of either Jacob or Rachel.
And Bilhah conceived, and bare Jacob a son. "Conception and birth may be granted to irregular marriages" (Hughes). "So God often strives to overcome men's wickedness through kindness, and pursues the unworthy with his grace" (Calvin).
And Rachel said, God hath judged me,—"hath chastened me," as in Genesis 15:14 (Ainsworth, Wordsworth); better, "hath procured for me justice," as if reckoning her sterility an injustice by the side of Leah's fecundity (Keil, Lange); or, hath carried through my cause like a patron, i.e. hath vindicated me from the reproach of barrenness (Munster, Rosenmüller); or, hath dealt with me according to his sovereign justice, withholding' from me the fruit of the womb while I was forgetful of my dependence on him, and granting me posterity when I approached him in humble supplication (Murphy), which it is obvious from the next clause that Rachel did—and hath also heard my voice, and hath given me a son. With undue severity older interpreters regard Rachel as using the Divine name more hypocritarum, who, when their schemes prosper, think that God favors them (Vatablus, Calvin). The employment of Elohim by Jacob and Rachel, supposed to mark the first thirteen verses as belonging to the primitive document (Tuch, Bleek, Kalisch), though by others (Davidson, Colenso) they are ascribed to the Jehovist, is sufficiently explained by Rachers consciousness that in a large measure her handmaid's son was rather the fruit of her own impious device than the gift of Jehovah (Hengstenberg). Therefore called she his name Dan—i.e. "Judge," one decreeing justice, vindex, from דּוּן, to judge (Gesenius, Keil, Lange, et alii), though, as in other proper names, e.g. Joseph, Zebulun, in which two verbs are alluded to, Michaelis thinks non ajudicando solum, sed et ab audiendo nomen accepisse Danem, and connects it with another verb, a denominative from an Arabic root, signifying to hear.
Genesis 30:7, Genesis 30:8
And Bilhah Rachel's maid conceived again, and bare Jacob a second son. And Rachel said, With great wrestlings have I wrestled with my sister, literally, wrestlings of God have I wrestled with my sister, meaning, by "wrestlings of Elohim;" not great wrestlings in rivalry, with Leah (A.V. Vatablus, Ainsworth, Rosenmüller, Calvin), nor wrestlings in the cause of God, as being unwilling to leave the founding of the nation to her sister alone (Knobel), but wrestlings with God in prayer (Delitzsch, Lange, Murphy, Kalisch), wrestlings regarding Elohim and his grace (Hengstenberg, Keil), in which she at the same time contended with her sister, to whom apparently that grace had been hitherto restricted—and I have prevailed (scarcely in the sense of achieving a victory over Leah, who had already borne four sons, but in the sense of drawing the Divine favor, though only indirectly, towards herself): and she called his name Naphtali—i.e. "My Wrestling."
When Leah saw that she had left bearing (literally, stood from bearing, as in Genesis 29:35), she took Zilpah her maid, and gave her to Jacob to wife—being in this led astray by Rachel's sinful example, both as to the spirit of unholy rivalry she cherished, and the questionable means she employed for its gratification.
Genesis 30:10, Genesis 30:11
And Zilpah Leah's maid bare Jacob a son. And Leah said, A troop cometh. בָּגָד, for בְּגָד, in or with good fortune; ἐν τύχη (LXX.); feliciter, sc. this happens to me (Vulgate), a translation which has the sanction of Gesenius, Furst, Rosenmüller, Keil, Kalisch, and other content authorities—the Keri, whith is followed by Onkelos and Syriac, reading בָּא גָד, fortune cometh. The Authorised rendering, supported by the Samaritan, and supposed to accord better with Genesis 49:19, is approved by Calvin, Ainsworth, Bush, and others. And she called his name Gad—i.e. Good Fortune.
Genesis 30:12, Genesis 30:13
And Zilpah, Leah's maid, bare Jacob a second son. And Leah said, Happy am I,—literally, in my happiness, so am I ('Speaker's Commentary'); or, for or to my happiness (Keil, Kalisch )—for the daughters will call me blessed (or, happy): and she called his name Asher—i.e. Happy.
Rachel and Leah, or unholy rivalry.
I. RACHEL'S ENVY OF LEAH.
1. The insufficient cause. "She saw that she bare Jacob no children," while Leah had begun to have a family. Though commonly regarded by Hebrew wives as a peculiarly severe affliction, childlessness was not without its compensations, which Rachel should have reckoned. Then the motherhood of Leah was the good fortune of a sister, in which Rachel should have lovingly rejoiced; and both the barrenness and the fruitfulness were of God's appointment, in which Rachel should have piously acquiesced.
2. The querulous complaint. "Give me children, or else I die." To inordinately long for children was, on Rachel's part, a great sin; to depreciate the gift of life with its manifold blessings because of their absence was a greater sin; to express her bitter and despondent feeling in reproachful language against her husband was a sin still greater; but the greatest sin of all was to overlook the hand of God in her affliction.
3. The merited rebuke. "Am I in God's stead?" If Jacob sinned in being angry with Rachel, evincing want of sympathy and patience with her womanly distress, if even he erred in infusing a too great degree of heat into his words, he yet acted with propriety in censuring her fault. It is the province of a husband to reprove grievous misdemeanors in a wife, only not with severity, as Jacob, yet with Jacob's fidelity.
4. The sinful expedient. "Behold my maid Bilhah." Sanctioned by popular custom, the plan adopted by Rachel for obtaining children might almost seem to have been sanctified by the conduct of Sarah. But the circumstances in which the two wives were placed were widely different. Yet, even though they had been the same, Rachel was not at liberty, any more than Sarah, to tempt her husband to a violation of the marriage law. The bad example of a saint no more than the evil practice of the world can justify a sin.
5. The apparent success. "Rachel's maid conceived." God often allows wicked schemes to prosper, without approving of either the schemes or the schemers. Sometimes their success is needful, as in this case, to manifest their wickedness and folly.
6. The mistaken inference. "God hath judged me." Rachel is not the only person who has reckoned God upon his side because of outward prosperity. The world's standard of morality is success. But moral triumphs are frequently achieved through material defeats.
II. LEAH'S IMITATION OF RACHEL.
1. Of Rachel's bad feeling. She might have borne with her sister's exultation over the happiness of reaching motherhood by proxy, might have allowed Rachel to have her little triumph, but she could not. immediately foreseeing the possibility of being out-distanced by her favored rival, she became a victim of green-eyed jealousy. The envy stirring in the heart of Rachel had at length spread its contagion to her.
2. Of Rachel's sinful conduct. "Leah took Zilpah her maid, and gave her Jacob to wife. One never knows where the influence of a bad example is to end. When one saint steps aside from the straight path others are sure to follow. The more eminent the first transgressor is, the easier sinning is to his successors.
3. Of Rachel's wrong reasoning. "The daughters will call me blessed." Faulty logic (at least in morals) seems as easy to copy as improper feelings or wicked deeds. The connection between much happiness and many children is not absolute and inevitable. The hopes of rejoicing mothers are sometimes sadly blighted, and their expectations of felicity strangely disappointed. She is truly happy whom not the daughters, but Jehovah, pronounces blessed.
1. The bitterness of envy.
2. The wickedness of polygamy.
3. The contagiousness of sin.
HOMILIES BY J.F. MONTGOMERY
Envy working in God's people.
"Rachel envied her sister." Jacob's love for Rachel a type of Christ's love for his Church. We cannot doubt that his love was returned. There was thus the chief element of conjugal happiness. But her sister, less favored in this, had a blessing which was denied her, and "Rachel envied her sister." It was not that she feared to lose her husband's love. Of that she had abundant proof: It was a selfish sorrow. Her husband's children were growing up, but they were not hers. Rachel's envy has its counterpart among Christians. Love for Christ may take the form of selfish zeal; unwillingness to acknowledge or rejoice in work for God in which we take no part. In the spiritual history of the world a blessing often seems to rest upon means irregular or unlikely. Where efforts that promised well have failed, God makes his own power felt; and many think this cannot be right (cf. John 9:16), and would rather have the work not done than done thus. Contrast the spirit of St. Paul (Philippians 1:18). Examples of this: unwillingness to rejoice in good done by some other communion, or some other party than our own; inclination to look at points of difference rather than at those held in common; the work of others doubted, criticized, or ignored; eagerness to warn against this or that. Self lies at the root of this. Perhaps the harvest of another seems to diminish ours. Perhaps our own thoughts are to us the measure of God's plans. Men see the outside of others' work, and judge as if they knew both the motives and the full results. Yet with this there may be much real zeal and love for the Lord. The failure lies in the want of complete acceptance of his will. To rejoice in work for Christ, by whomsoever done, is not inconsistent with decided views as to the objects to be aimed at, and the means to be used (1 Thessalonians 5:21).
1. We are called to enlarge the household of God; to be the means of making enemies into children (cf. Psalms 87:4, Psalms 87:5) through producing faith (cf. John 1:12). Each responsible for the faithful use of the powers given to us, and bidden to examine ourselves as to sincerity. But the visible results are as God pleases. Here a test of singleness of mind. Can we rejoice in success of a work in which we have no share, or when another's success appears greater than ours? (Galatians 5:26).
2. As an exercise of unselfishness, be careful not to provoke envy by parading distinctive peculiarities (Romans 12:18) or exalting our own work.
3. Be not discouraged that work of others seems more blessed (John 4:36, John 4:37). Faithfulness is within the power of all. It is that which God regards (Matthew 25:21). The result we cannot judge of here. The fruit delayed may prove a greater blessing.—M.
And Reuben (at this time four or five years old) went (probably accompanying the reapers) in the days of wheat harvest, and found mandrakes— דּוּדָאים, μῆλα μαδραγορῶν, (LXX; Josephus), apples of the mandragora, an herb resembling belladonna, with a root like a carrot, having white and reddish blossoms of a sweet smell, and with yellow odoriferous apples, ripening in May and June, and supposed, according to Oriental superstition, to possess the virtue of conciliating love and promoting fruitfulness—in the field (when at his childish play), and brought them unto his mother Leah (which a son of more mature years would not have done). Then Rachel (not exempt from the prevailing superstition) said to Leah, Give me, I pray thee, of thy son's mandrakes (in the hopes that they would remove her sterility).
And she (Leah) said unto her,—stomachose (Calvin)—Is it a small matter that thou hast taken my husband?—literally, Is it little thy taking away my husband? meaning that Rachel had been the cause of Jacob's forsaking her (Leah's) society—and wouldest thou take away (literally, and to take also = wouldst thou take? expressive of strong surprise) my son's mandrakes also? Calvin thinks it unlikely that Jacob's wives were naturally quarrelsome; sod Deus confligere eas inter se passus est ut polygamiae puma ad posteras extaret. And Rachel said (in order to induce Leah's compliance with her request), Therefore he shall be with thee tonight for thy son's mandrakes.
And Jacob came out of the field in the evening,—i.e. the harvest-field (Genesis 30:14)—and Leah went out to meet him, and said, Thou must come in unto me (the Samaritan codex adds "this night," and the LXX. "today"); for surely I have hired thee (literally, hiring; I have hired thee) with my son's mandrakes. And (assenting to the arrangement of his wives) he lay with her that night.
And God hearkened unto Leah,—i.e. unto Leah's prayers (Onkelos, Jerome, Rosenmüller, Murphy), which Calvin thinks doubtful—quis enim putaret, dum odiose sorori suae negat Lea fructus a puero collectos, et hoc pretio noctem mariti mercatur, ullum esse precibus locum. The historian employs the term Elohim to show that Leah's pregnancy was not owing to her son's mandrakes, but to Divine power (Keil, Lange)—and she conceived, and bare Jacob the fifth son—or, counting Zilpah's, the seventh; while, reckoning Bilhah's, this was Jacob's ninth child.
And Leah said, God—Elohim; a proof of the lower religious consciousness into which Leah had fallen (Hengstenberg), though perhaps on the above hypothesis an evidence of her piety and faith (Keil, Lange)—hath given me my hire, because I have given my maiden to my husband:—i.e. as a reward for my self-denial (Keil, Murphy); an exclamation in which appears Leah's love for Jacob (Lange), if not also a tacit acknowledgment that she had her fears lest she may have sinned in asking him to wed Zilpah (Rosenmüller)—and she called his name Issachar—"There is Reward," or "There is Hire;" containing a double allusion to her hire of Jacob and her reward for Zilpah
Genesis 30:19, Genesis 30:20
And Leah conceived again, and bare Jacob the sixth son. And Leah said, God (Elohim; vide supra) hath endued me with a good dowry. Δεδώρηται μοι δῶρον καλον (LXX.), dotavit me dote bona (Vulgate), hath presented me with a goodly present. The word זָבַד is a ἄπαξ λεγόμενον. Now will my husband dwell with me. זָבַל, also a ἅπαξ λεγ; signifies to be or make round (Gesenius), to limit round or encompass (Furst); hence, according to both, to cohabit or dwell together as husband and wife. The LXX. render αἱρετιεῖ, the meaning being that Leah's six sons would, in her judgment, be an inducement sufficiently powerful to cause Jacob to select her society instead of that of her barren sister. And she called his name Zebulan—i.e. Dwelling; from zabal, to dwell with, with a play upon the word זָבַל, to hire, which, commencing with the same letter, was regarded as similar in sound to זָבַד, the ד and the ל being sometimes interchangeable (Keil, Kalisch).
And afterwards she bare a daughter, and called her name Dinah—i.e. Judgment. Dinah (the female Dan) may not have been Jacob's only daughter (vide Genesis 37:35; Genesis 46:7). Her name is here recorded probably because of the incident in her history afterwards related (Genesis 34:1).
And God remembered Rachel (cf. Genesis 8:1; 1 Samuel 1:19), and God hearkened to her,—as to Leah (Genesis 30:17)—and opened her womb—as he had previously done to Leah (Genesis 29:31). Rachel's barrenness had not continued so long as either Sarah's or Rebekah's. And she conceived, and bare a son; and said, God hath taken away my reproach—i.e. of sterility. The mandrakes of Leah having proved inefficacious, Rachel at length realizes that children are God's gift, and this thought sufficiently explains the use of the term Elohim. And she called his name Joseph;— יוֹסֵף, either, "he takes away," with allusion to the removal of her reproach, or, "he shall add," with reference to her hope of another son. Perhaps the first thought is not obscurely hinted at, though the second appears' from the ensuing clause to have occupied the greater prominence in Rachel's mind—and said, The Lord—Jehovah; a trace of the Jehovistic pen (Tuch, Bleek, et alii); rather an outcome of the higher spiritual life of Rachel, who had now got emancipated from all such merely human devices as resorting to mandrakes, and was able to recognize her complete dependence for offspring on the sovereign grace of the covenant God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob (Hengstenberg, Keil)—shall add to me another son.
The story of the mandrakes.
I. A YOUNG CHILD'S INNOCENCE. "Reuben found mandrakes in the field, and brought them to his mother." Nature, with its beautiful sights and harmonious sounds, possesses a wonderful fascination for the infant mind. In proportion as man sinks beneath the power of sin does he fall out of sympathy with God's fair world. Strong and tender is the bond of love which unites a child to its mother. The true depositary for a child's treasures is the mother's lap, for a child's joys and sorrows the mother's heart. Yet a child's inexperience and simplicity may sometimes cause a parent to err, though the true source of temptation lies in the parent, and not in the child. "To the pure all things are pure; but to them that are defiled is nothing pure."
II. A GROWN WOMAN'S SUPERSTITION. "Give me of thy son's mandrakes." Rachel obviously shared the popular belief that Reuben's fragrant herbs would have an influence in removing her sterility. It is useless inquiring bow such a notion originated. Superstitions commonly arise from mistaking as cause and effect what are only coincident occurrences. Of more importance it is to note that Rachel was of mature years, had been born and nurtured in what may be regarded as a religious home, was now the wife of an intelligent and pious (if also encompassed with infirmities) man, and yet she was the victim of delusive beliefs. In this Rachel was perhaps scarcely to be charged with blame. Superstition is essentially a fault of the intellect resulting from defective information. But Rachel erred in calling superstition to her aid in her unholy rivalry with Leah; all the more when she knew that God alone could remove her reproach.
III. A JEALOUS WIFE'S BARGAIN. On the part both of Rachel and Leah it was a miserable compact; and a pitiable spectacle it surely was, that of two rival wives contracting with one another about their husband's society. Rachel disposes of Jacob for a night in consideration of a handful of mandrakes, and Leah counts herself entitled to Jacob's favors as a boon which she had purchased with Reuben's yellow apples. Not to speak of the humiliation in all this to Jacob, and the continual misery to which he must have been subjected between his ardent sister-wives, think of the wretchedness it must have entailed upon the women themselves, and the dispeace it must have brought into the rival homes. A more powerful condemnation of polygamy it will be difficult to find, or a more signal illustration of the retribution which sooner or later follows on the heels of transgression.
IV. A SOVEREIGN GOD'S-DECISION. The two wives were seemingly uncertain whether to ascribe virtue to the mandrakes or not. God determined the problem in a way that must have fully convinced them.
1. That the mandrakes could not remove sterility he demonstrated by allowing Rachel's barrenness to continue at least two years longer, though she had made use of Reuben's apples, and by opening Leah's womb without them.
2. That he alone could bestow offspring on married people he showed by remembering Rachel in his own time, and causing her reproach to depart.
1. That things and persons innocent and pleasant in themselves may lead astray.
2. That out of small occasions great events may spring.
3. That much infirmity may cling to good men and women.
4. That things desirable in themselves may be sought in wrong ways.
5. That God's hand should be recognized in the giving or withholding children.
HOMILIES BY R.A. REDFORD
The life of faith and its reward.
The Scripture teaches us to put the facts of common life in the light of God's countenance. The true foundation on which family welfare rests is God's faithfulness and favor. The intense desire of the Hebrew women for children, especially sons, a testimony to the Divine covenant; the original promise pervading all the national life.
I. The birth of Joseph a REWARD OF FAITH AND ANSWER TO PRAYER. God remembers, though we think he forgets. Reproach may lie awhile on the true believer, but is taken away at last. Syrophenician woman; seeming neglect calls out stronger expression of faith. Pray without ceasing.
II. BLESSINGS WAITED FOR are the more appreciated and the richer WHEN THEY COME. "Joseph" a type of him who, though he was sent after many prophets and long tarrying, was greater than all his brethren. The Rachel, the true beloved, the chosen bride, the Church in whom the true Jacob finds special delight, waits and prays. When God shall show that he has remembered and hearkened, the elect one shall be abundantly satisfied. "God hath taken away my reproach."
III. All experience of Divine faithfulness is a great help, in looking forward, to cherish expectation. "The Lord shall add to me another son," We ask for more when we know that our prayer is heard.—R.
And it came to pass, when Rachel had born Joseph,—either at or about the expiry of the second term of seven years. Jacob's family now consisted in all of eleven sons and one daughter, unless Dinah's birth occurred later in the next term of service (Keil). Since these were all born within seven years, the chronological cannot be the order observed by the historian in recording the events of the preceding paragraphs. Rather the births of the children are arranged in connection with the mothers from whom they sprang. Hence the possibility of acquiring so large a family in so short a time. The six sons of Leah might be born in the seven years, allowing one year's complete cessation from pregnancy, viz; the fifth; Bilhah's in the third and fourth years; Zilpah's in the beginning of the sixth and seventh; and Rachel's toward the end of the seventh, leaving Dinah to be born later (cf. Keil in loco)—that Jacob said unto Laban (if not immediately, certainly soon, after Joseph's birth), Send me away (meaning that Laban should permit him to depart), that I may go (literally, and I will go) unto mine own place, and to my country—to Canaan in general, and to that part of it in particular where he had formerly resided (cf. Genesis 18:33; Genesis 31:55).
Give me (suffer me to take) my wives and my children, for whom I have served thee, and let me go (literally, and I will go): for thou knowest my service which I have done thee—implying that he had faithfully implemented his engagement, and that Laban was aware of the justness of his demand to be released from further servitude.
And Laban said unto him (having learnt by fourteen years' acquaintance with Jacob to know the value of a good shepherd), I pray thee, if I have found favor in thine eyes (the clause is elliptical, the A. V. rightly supplying), tarry: for (this word also is not in the original), I have learned by experience—literally, I have divined; not necessarily by means of serpents (Gesenius, Wordsworth, 'Speaker's Commentary'), or even by consulting his gods (Delitzsch, Kalisch), but perhaps by close observation and minute inspection (Murphy, Bush). The LXX. render οἰωνισάμην; the Vulgate by experimento didici—that the Lord—Jehovah. Nominally a worshipper of the true God, Laban was in practice addicted to heathen superstitions (cf. Genesis 31:19, Genesis 31:32)—hath blessed me (with material prosperity) for thy sake.
And he said, Appoint me thy wages. Literally, distinctly specify thy hire upon me, i.e. which I will take upon me as binding. Laban's caution to be clear and specific in defining the terms of any engagement he might enter into was much needed, and would doubtless not be neglected by Jacob, whose past experience must have taught him he was dealing with one who, in respect of covenants and contracts, was eminently treacherous. And I will give it.
And he (Jacob) said unto him (Laban), Thou knowest how (literally, what) I have served thee, and how thy cattle was with me—literally, and what thy cattle has been (or become) with me, i.e. to what a number they have grown.
For it was little which thou hadst before I came,—literally, for little (it was) was to thee before me; i.e. not in place, ἰναντίον ἐμοῦ (LXX.), but in time, i.e. before my arrival—and it is now increased—literally, broken forth (cf. Genesis 30:43)—unto a multitude; and the Lord (Jehovah) hath blessed thee since my coming (literally, at my foot, i.e. wherever I have gone among your flocks): and now when shall I provide (literally, do) for mine own house also?
And he (Laban, unwilling to part with so profitable an assistant) said, What shall I give thee? He was apparently prepared to detain Jacob at his own terms. And Jacob said, Thou shalt not give me anything. Jacob did not design to serve Laban gratuitously, but chose rather to trust God than Laban for recompense (Wordsworth, Gosman in Lange); or he may have meant that he would have no wages of Laban's setting, but only of his own proposing (Hughes). If thou wilt do this thing for me (accede to this stipulation), I will again feed and keep thy flock—literally, I will turn, I will tend thy flock, I will keep (sc. 2).
I will pass through all thy flock today,—wrongly rendered παρελθέτω πάντα τὰ πρόβάτα σου (LXX), gyra per omnes greges tuos, but "to remove," the verb being in the inf.—all the speckled and spotted cattle, and all the brown cattle among the sheep, and the spotted and speckled among the goats. Since in Oriental countries sheep are commonly white and goats black, the number of speckled and spotted animals (i.e. sheep with little spots and largo patches of black, and goats with little or large points of white, in their hair) would be unusually small. And of such shall be my hire—i.e. the dark-spotted or entirely black sheep and white or white-speckled goats were to be Jacob's reward (Knobel, Delitzsch, Keil, Lunge), which was to be subsequently increased by whatever speckled animals might appear among the one-colored flocks; but it seems more probable that Jacob only claimed the latter, and, both to make the bargain more attractive to Laban and to show that he wanted nothing from Laban but only what God might be pleased in accordance with this arrangement to bestow, he suggested that the flocks and herds should be purged of all such speckled and spotted animals to begin with (Tuch, Baumgarten, Kurtz, Rosenmüller, Kalisch, Candlish; Murphy, 'Speaker's Commentary,' Clarke, Bush).
So shall my righteousness (literally, and my righteousness) answer for me (or bear testimony in my behalf) in time to come,—literally, in the day, tomorrow; meaning in the future (Gesenius) rather than the day following (Delitzsch)—when it shall come for my hire before thy face. Either,
And Laban said, Behold, I would it might be according to thy word. Jacob's chances of obtaining speckled animals by this arrangement were so small that Laban, with his customary selfishness, had no difficulty in closing with the offered bargain. As originally proposed by Jacob it seems to have been an honest desire on his part to commit the question of wages to the decision rather of God's providence than of his kiss-man's greed. That at this time Jacob's mind "had already formed the whole fraudulent procedure by which he acquired his wealth" (Kalisch) does not accord with the statement subsequently made.
And he—Laban (Rosenmüller, Keil, Delitzsch, Kalisch, Murphy, et alii); Jacob (Lange)—removed that day (that the smallest possible chance of success might remain to his nephew) the he-goats that were ringstraked (striped or banded) and spotted, and all the she-goats that were speckled and spotted, and every one that had some white in it, and all the brown among the sheep,—four sorts of animals were to be removed:
—and gave them into the hand of his (Laban's or Jacob's, ut supra) sons.
And (as if to insure the impossibility of the two flocks mingling and breeding) he set three days journey betwixt himself (with his sons and the parti-colored animals) and Jacob: and Jacob fed the rest of Laban's flocks—out of which he was to pay himself as best he could in accordance with the contract.
And Jacob took him rods of green poplar—literally, a rod (the singular being used collectively for rods) of לִבְנֶה, (from לָבַן, to be white, meaning either the) poplar (LXX; in Hosea 4:13; Vulgate, Kalisch) or the storax fresh green—and of the hazel— לוּז, the hazel tree (Raschi, Kimchi, Arabic, Luther, Furst, Kalisch) or the almond tree (Vulgate, Saadias, Calvin, Gesenius, 'Speaker's Commentary')—and chestnut tree;— עַרְמוֹן, the plane tree (LXX; Vulgate, et alii), so called from its height—and pilled white strakes in them (literally, peeled off in them peeled places white), and made the white appear (literally, making naked the white) which was in the rods.
And he set the rods which he had pilled before the flecks in the gutters ( רִחָטִים; literally, the canals or channels through which the water ran, from a root signifying to run) in the watering troughs ( שִׁקֲתוֹת, i.e. the troughs which contained the water, to which the animals approached) when the flocks came to drink, that they should conceive (literally, and they became warm, in the sense expressed in the A.V.) when they cams to drink—this was Jacob's first artifice to overreach Laban.
And the flocks conceived (ut supra) before the rods, and brought forth cattle ringstraked, speckled, and spotted. The fact is said to have been frequently observed that, particularly in the case of sheep, whatever fixes their attention in copulation is marked upon the young. That Jacob believed in the efficacy of the artifice he adopted is apparent; but the multiplication of Parti-colored animals it will be safer to ascribe to Divine blessing than to human craft.
And Jacob did separate the lambs (i.e. the speckled lambs procured by the foregoing artifice he removed from the main body of the flock), and set the faces of the flocks toward the ringstraked, and all the brown in the flock of Laban (this was Jacob's second artifice, to make the speckled lambs serve the same purpose as the pilled rods); and he put his own flocks by themselves, and put them not unto Laban's cattle—so that they were not exposed to the risk of producing offspring of uniform color.
And it came to pass, whensoever the stronger cattle did conceive, literally, in every healing of the cattle, the bound ones, i.e. the firm, compact sheep, "the spring flock" (Luther), which, being conceived in spring and dropped in autumn, are supposed to be stronger than those conceived in autumn and dropped in spring; but this is doubtful—that Jacob laid the rods before the eyes of the cattle in the gutters, that they might conceive among the rods. Jacob's third artifice aimed at securing for himself a vigorous breed of sheep.
But when the cattle were feeble,—literally, in the covering (sc. with wool; hence weakening) of the flock, which took place in autumn—he put them not in (partly to prevent the introduction of feeble animals amongst his parti-colored flocks, but partly also, it is thought, to avoid prematurely exciting Laban's suspicion): so the feebler were Laban's, and the stronger Jacob's.
And—as the apparent result of the triple stratagem, though vide supra, Genesis 30:38, and cf. Genesis 31:12—the man increased exceedingly,—literally, broke forth greatly (vide verse 80)—and had much cattle, and maid-servants, and men-servants, and camels, and asses—like Abraham (Genesis 13:2) and Isaac (Genesis 26:13, Genesis 26:14). Thus far the historian simply narrates the fact of the patriarch's priority, and the steps which to it, "without expressing approbation of his conduct or describing his increasing wealth as a blessing from God. The verdict is contained in what follows (Keil).
Jacob and Laban, or craft versus greed.
I. JACOB'S RESPECTFUL REQUEST OF LABAN. At the close of fourteen years harsh and exacting service, Jacob desires permission to take his wives and children and return to Canaan. The motives which induced him were probably—
1. The termination of his contract, which released him from a servitude both galling and oppressive.
2. The remembrance of God's covenant, which had assigned him the land of promise as his true inheritance.
3. The joy occasioned by the birth of Rachel's child, whom he seems to have regarded as the theocratic heir.
4. A desire to provide for his now rapidly-increasing household.
II. JACOB'S SELFISH HINDRANCE BY LABAN. That Jacob's uncle and father-in-law was unwilling to acquiesce in his departure and solicitous to retain him was due to—
1. His appreciation of Jacob's qualities as a flock-master. Jacob felt he could appeal to "the service he had done" for the past fourteen years.
2. His discovery of a latent connection between Jacob's presence and his own augmenting prosperity. Laban, poor enough before his nephew's arrival, had shrewdly noted that the day of Jacob's coming had been the day of fortune's turning in his favor, and that, wherever his clever "brother" went, flocks and herds broke out beside him.
3. His secret hope of effecting easy terms with Jacob. Though ostensibly willing to take him at his own price, he was clearly calculating that he would not have much difficulty in over-reaching the man whom already he had cheated in the matter of his daughters.
III. JACOB'S REMARKABLE CONTRACT WITH LABAN. He agrees to serve a third time with Laban on condition of receiving all the speckled and spotted, ringstraked and brown, animals that Laban's flocks might produce, after all- of those sorts had been previously removed.
1. The proposal of such a singular condition on the part of Jacob was an act not of folly, but of faith, being tantamount to a committal of his cause to God instead of Laban.
2. The acceptance of it on the part of Laban was a pitiful display of greed, and a proof that the bygone years of prosperity had both awakened in his soul the insatiable demon of avarice and extinguished any spark of kindly feeling towards Jacob that may have once existed in his breast.
IV. JACOB'S CUNNING STRATAGEM AGAINST LABAN.
1. The nature of it. This was the employment of a triple artifice:
2. The success of it. That Jacob's stratagem did not fail is apparent; but how far it was due to the particular expedient employed cannot be so easily determined. That impressions made upon the minds of sheep at rutting time affect the fetus seems a well-established fact; but the extraordinary rapidity with which brown and speckled animals were produced appears to point to the intervention of a special providence in Jacob's behalf.
3. The rightness of it. That in what Jacob did there was nothing fraudulent may be inferred from the fact that he acted under the Divine approval (Genesis 31:12), and made use of nothing but the superior knowledge of the habits of animals which he had acquired through his long experience in keeping sheep.
V. JACOB'S ULTIMATE ADVANCEMENT OVER LABAN. This comes out with greater prominence in the ensuing chapter; the present notices his amazing prosperity. "The man increased exceedingly;" and, in spite of Laban's craft and avarice come blued, eventually eclipsed him in the possession of flocks and herds.
1. The attractive influence of home, both temporal and spiritual.
2. The danger of material prosperity—exemplified in Laban.
3. The wisdom of trusting God in all things, even in secular callings.
4. The value of all kinds of knowledge, but especially of the best.
5. The advantage of having God upon our side in all our bargains—notably when dealing with the selfish and mean.
6. The right to use all lawful means to preserve our interests—particularly against such as would invade them.
7. The possibility of the last outstripping the first—in the Church as well as in the world.
HOMILIES BY R.A. REDFORD
Jacob's history an illustration of the blending together of the natural and the supernatural in God's dealings.
"And the man increased exceedingly," &c.
I. The PROMISE TO GUIDE, protect, and bless fulfilled in connection with the employment of ordinary faculties and instrumentalities. Jacob's craft partly natural, but in this instance specially assisted that he might be helped in an emergency. The "supplanter" in this case represented the better cause.
II. HUMAN DEVICES only apparently, and not really, thwart the purposes of God. Jacob represents the people of God. The victory is appointed them. Their interests must be served by the kingdoms of this world, though for a season the advantage appears on the side of the mere calculating, selfish policy. The true wisdom is that which cometh from above.
III. INCREASE in the best sense is God's promise. It will be sent as he wills and when he wills, but will be found the true answer to prayer and the true manifestation of love. On all that belongs to us the blessing rests. Spiritual prosperity carries with it all other. Though the individual may be called to suffer for the sake of the community, the promise to the Church must be fulfilled. "It is our Father's good pleasure to give us the kingdom." "The meek shall inherit the earth."—R.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Genesis 30". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Lent