The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Genesis 30

Gen 30:1

Gen 30, general background: "Jacob fled to the house of Laban because he had deceived his brother Esau too many times. He was born grasping the heel of Esau, he took his birthright and his blessing. The meaning of his name, Jacob, is, 'He deceives.'

"When Esau spoke about Jacob he said, 'Isn't he rightly named Jacob? He has deceived me these two times: He took my birthright and now he's taken my blessing!' (Gen 27:36).

"But when Jacob went to Laban's house he met his match. There was deceit in everything Laban did for Jacob. He gave him Leah instead of Rachel, he made Jacob work 14 years instead of 7 for Rachel, he demanded payment for any stolen property -- even though it was not Jacob's responsibility, and he changed Jacob's wages ten times. If it was possible, Laban would have kept all the benefit of Jacob's hard work and sent him away empty-handed.

"So Jacob, the deceiver, learned what it was like to be deceived. He learnt how distasteful it was and, it seems, his character was improved by his experience.

"God may put us in similar situations to improve our characters. If we have a problem he may sting us with it as he did to Jacob. So when we are confronted by attributes we despise in others, let us make sure we cleanse those attributes thoroughly from our own lives to become more like the people God wants us to be" (RP).

SHE BECAME JEALOUS OF (ENVIED) HER SISTER: Continuous animosity between Leah and Rachel: (1) Saul (of Rachel) vs David (of Leah); (2) Judah/Southern Kingdom (Leah) vs Israel/Northern Kingdom (Rachel). God shows greater favor to Leah's seed.

OR I'LL DIE!: She DID die, at birth of her second son (Gen 35:18,19).

Gen 30:3

SHE CAN BEAR CHILDREN FOR ME: Or "upon my knees" (AV). A custom of placing the newborn on the knees first of the father (who, by accepting it, acknowledged the infant as his own), and secondly upon the knees of the mother. So Bilhah's children were put on Rachel's knees to show they were legally hers.

Gen 30:13

HOW HAPPY I AM!: 'I am in luck' -- no real thought of God.

Gen 30:14

Mandrakes were thought to have aphrodisiac qualities, according to the superstition of the times. This would mean much to Rachel, if not to Leah. The people's superstitions are shown clearly in this chapter (vv 37,38,41).

Gen 30:17

Leah has been revealed in five stages, in which she typifies Israel after the flesh:

Gen 30:20

Leah, as the ecclesia, had borne fruit to her husband (sym Christ): "But women will be saved through childbearing -- if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety" (1Ti 2:15). Therefore, she expected acceptance (the Marriage Supper of the Lamb). But, instead, she was to experience the same sad unfulfilled hope. For Leah, patience and sadness, but reward in the future Kingdom.

Gen 30:24

JOSEPH: Sig either "take away" or "add" -- given as "Jehoseph" in Psa 81:5, Heb. Jehoseph is the first personal name to include "Yahweh/Jehovah".

Gen 30:25

The birth of a son to his beloved Rachel (the son Jacob considered his true firstborn) inspired him to assert his independence.

Gen 30:27

DIVINATION: "Experience" in AV, but "divination" (NIV) is better. Divination = consultation of witchcraft. Note Laban's use of idolatry with God's covenant name (use of both "gods" together again: Gen 31:53). Laban professed true religion, but his familiar speech patterns gave himself away!

THE LORD HAS BLESSED ME BECAUSE OF YOU: A great lesson: God blesses those who are closely associated with His saints.

Gen 30:28

Laban was a greedy man, not a generous man. Prob, Jacob knows full well that he cannot ask for a fair wage; so he very carefully chooses his wages.

Gen 30:30

Quite often in Scripture God blesses one person or group because of their attachment to the initial righteous person. God had been prepared to spare Sodom for the sake of ten righteous men; He blessed Potiphar and the whole land of Egypt for Joseph's sake; the widow for Elijah; the shipload of men for Paul.

And -- wonder of wonders! -- for the sake of one man Jesus, God has gladly forgiven the sins of multitudes who have joined themselves to Him.

WHEREVER I HAVE BEEN: Lit, "at my foot". RV: "Whithersoever I turned". AV: "since my coming".

Gen 30:31

Jacob receives wages for his long labor. Cp the nation in leaving Egypt: Exo 3:22; 11:2.

Gen 30:35

Vv 35,36: Laban wonders at such a foolhardy request by Jacob -- for there can be only a very few such animals as he requests. Nevertheless, Laban tries to hide even the few that should go to Jacob.

Gen 30:37

Vv 37-43: It is God who causes Jacob to prosper: Gen 31:7-9.

Gen 30:43

God prepares Jacob to leave Laban. No scheming here, but a reliance upon God's providence. "Diligent application of legitimate efforts and precautions" (GVG, Ber 43:55; WP 57).

The sheep were normally white; the goats, black or brown. Black sheep and goats which were "speckled or spotted" were very few. So Jacob proposed to Laban that the inferior animals (black sheep and spotted goats) would be his and the rest would be Laban's. Laban immediately agreed and then, to make doubly sure of his own profit in this transaction, Laban weeded from among the flock all the sheep not totally white and all the goats not wholly black or brown. Therefore Jacob was left with a flock of all white sheep and all brown or all black goats. Their offspring could not have been expected to be any that Jacob had bargained for, so it appeared that Laban had gotten by far the best deal. Jacob, however, schemed to recoup his losses at his father-in-law's expense. So Jacob made rods of certain trees and set them before the flocks when they came to the watering troughs, so that the stronger might conceive there among the rods. There is, of course, no biological proof behind this device which Jacob was now putting into practice, because animals are not influenced by such things. But in those days, the laws of heredity and genes and such like were not known. But Jacob's planning did work and therefore he (Jacob) increased exceedingly (Gen 30:43). But although Jacob thought it was through his own cleverness that he was prospering, it was actually the angel of the Lord who was prospering his service to Laban. Jacob will learn this in due time. The promise of Bethel (Gen 28:15) was being faithfully kept by God even though at this time Jacob probably thought it was all due to his intelligence. We know that it is God who causes Jacob to prosper: see Gen 31:7-9.

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