1 “And when Rachel saw that she bare Jacob no children, Rachel envied her
sister; and said unto Jacob, Give me children, or else I die.”
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:
Ø that she might emulate her sister,
Ø become more dear to her husband, and
Ø above all share the hope of being a progenitress 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). (see ch. 25:21) 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.
Envy Working in God’s People (v.1)
“Rachel envied her sister.” Jacob’s love for Rachel is 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
(compare John 9:16), and would rather have the work not done than done
thus (compare Numbers 11:28; Mark 9:38). Contrast the spirit of
(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 (comparfe Mark 14:4). 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 (I Thessalonians 5:21).
Ø We are called to enlarge the household of God; to be the means of
making enemies into children (compare Psalm 87:4-5) through producing
faith (compare 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).
Ø As an exercise of unselfishness, be careful not to provoke envy by
parading distinctive peculiarities (Romans 12:18) or exalting our own
Ø Be not discouraged that work of others seems more blessed (John
4:36-37). 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.
2 “And Jacob's anger was kindled against Rachel: and he said, Am I in God's
stead, who hath withheld from thee the fruit of the womb?”
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 (see Ewald, 'Hebrew Syntax,' § 324) –
who hath withheld from thee the fruit of the womb? Rachel herself understood
that God alone could remove sterility (v. 6); but to this fact jealousy of Leah
appears for the moment to have blinded her.
3 “And she said, Behold my maid Bilhah, go in unto her; and she shall bear
upon my knees, that I may also have children by her.”
And she said, - resorting to the sinful expedient of Sarah (ch. 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 (see ch. 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 (compare ch. 16:2) - by her.
4 “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
He did not thereby condone the offense of either Jacob or Rachel.
5 “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). (But they still live with the consequences of their choices! CY – 2018)
6 “And Rachel said, God hath judged me, and hath also heard my voice, and
hath given me a son: therefore called she his name Dan.”
And Rachel said, God hath judged me, - "hath chastened me," as in ch. 15:14
(Ainsworth, Wordsworth); better, "hath procured for me justice," as if reckoning
her sterility an injustice by the side of Leah's fertility (Keil, Lange); or, hath
carried through my cause like a patron, i.e. hath vindicated me from the reproach
of barrenness (
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
hypocritically, 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 Rachel’s 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 olii), 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 (see 'Suppl.,' p. 425).
7 “And Bilhah Rachel's maid conceived again, and bare Jacob a second son.
8 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 (Authorized Version, 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: and she called his name Naphtali.”
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.
9 “When Leah saw that she had left bearing(literally, stood from bearing,
as in ch. 29:35), she took Zilpah her maid, and gave her Jacob to wife.”
Being in this led astray by Rachel's sinful example, both as:
Ø to the spirit of unholy rivalry she cherished, and
Ø the questionable means she employed for its gratification.
10 “And Zilpah Leah's maid bare Jacob a son. 11 And Leah said, A troop cometh:
and she called his name Gad.” 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 –
en tuchae - (Septuagint); 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, which is followed by Onkelos and Syriac, reading
בָּא גָד, fortune cometh. The Authorized rendering, supported by the Samaritan,
and supposed to accord better with ch. 49:19, is approved by Calvin, Ainsworth,
Bush, and others. And she called his name Gad - i.e. Good Fortune.
12 “And Zilpah Leah's maid bare Jacob a second son. 13 And Leah said,
Happy am I, for the daughters will call me blessed: and she called his name
Asher.” 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.
14 “And Reuben went in the days of wheat harvest, and found mandrakes
in the field, and brought them unto his mother Leah. Then Rachel said to
Leah, Give me, I pray thee, of thy son's mandrakes.” And Reuben (at this time
four or five years old) went (probably accompanying the reapers) in the days of
wheat harvest (in the beginning of May), and found mandrakes - דּוּדָאים, μῆλα
μαδραγορῶν – maela madragoron - (Septuagitn, 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 (see Gesenius, p. 191, and compare
Rosenmüller's 'Seholia,' and Kalisch in loco) - 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).
Rachel and Leah, or Unholy Rivalry (vs. 1-13)
Ø 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.
Ø 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.
Ø 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.
Ø 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.
Ø 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.
Ø 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.
Ø 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.
Ø 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
Ø 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,
Ø The bitterness of envy.
Ø The wickedness of polygamy.
Ø The contagiousness of sin.
15 “And she said unto her, Is it a small matter that thou hast taken my
husband? and wouldest thou take away my son's mandrakes also? And
Rachel said, Therefore he shall lie with thee to night for thy son's mandrakes.”
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 lie
with thee tonight for thy son's mandrakes.
16 “And Jacob came out of the field in the evening, and Leah went out to
meet him, and said, Thou must come in unto me; for surely I have hired
thee with my son's mandrakes. And he lay with her that night.”
And Jacob came out of the field in the evening, - i.e. the harvest-field (v. 14) –
and Leah went out to meet him, and said, Thou must come in unto me (the
Samaritan codex adds "this night," and the Septuagint "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.
17 “And God hearkened unto Leah, and she conceived, and bare Jacob the
fifth son.” 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.
18 “And Leah said, God hath given me my hire, because I have given my
maiden to my husband: and she called his name Issachar.” 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
19 “And Leah conceived again, and bare Jacob the sixth son. 20 And Leah said,
God hath endued me with a good dowry; now will my husband dwell with me,
because I have born him six sons: and she called his name Zebulun.”
And Leah conceived again, and bare Jacob the sixth son. And Leah said, God
(Elohim) hath endued me with a good dowry. Δεδώρηται μοι δῶρον καλον –
Dedoraetai moi doron kalon (Septuagint), dotavit me dote bona (Vulgate),
hath presented me with a goodly present. The word זָבַד is a ἄπαξ λεγόμενον -
apax legomenon - word used one time. Now will my husband dwell with me.
זָבַל, also a ἄπαξ λεγόμενον, 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 Septuagint render αἱρετιεῖ - haretiei –
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 Zebulun - 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).
21 “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
in her history afterwards related (ch. 34:1).
22 “And God remembered Rachel, and God hearkened to her, and opened
her womb. 23 And she conceived, and bare a son; and said, God hath taken
away my reproach: 24 And she called his name Joseph; and said, The LORD
shall add to me another son.” And God remembered Rachel (compare ch. 8:1;
I Samuel 1:19), and God hearkened to her, - as to Leah (v. 17) - and opened her
womb - as He had previously done to Leah (ch. 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; - יוסֵפ, 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 (vs. 14-24)
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.” (Titus 1:15)
mandrakes.” Rachel obviously shared the popular belief that Reuben’s
fragrant herbs would have an influence in removing her sterility. It is
useless inquiring how 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
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
turmoil 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
uncertain whether to ascribe virtue to the mandrakes or not. God
determined the problem in a way that must have fully convinced them.
Ø 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.
Ø 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
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
The Life of Faith and Its Reward (vs. 22-24)
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, is a testimony to the Divine covenant; the original
promise pervading all the national life.
TO PRAYER. God remembers, though we think He forgets. Reproach may lie
awhile on the true believer, but is taken away at last. Consider:
Ø the Syrophenician woman (Matthew 15:21-28; Mark 7:24-30;
Ø that seeming neglect calls out stronger expression of faith.
Ø Pray without ceasing. (I Thessalonians 1:17)
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. Rachel, the true beloved, the chosen bride,
represents 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.”
forward, to cherish expectation. “The Lord shall add to me another son,”
We ask for more when we know that our prayer is heard.
25 “And it came to pass, when Rachel had born Joseph, that Jacob said unto
Laban, Send me away, that I may go unto mine own place, and to my country.”
And it came to pass, when Rachel had born Joseph, - either at or about the expiration
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 - 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
26 “Give me my wives and my children, for whom I have served thee, and
let me go: for thou knowest my service which I have done thee.”
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.
27 “And Laban said unto him, I pray thee, if I have found favor in thine
eyes, tarry: for I have learned by experience that the LORD hath blessed
me for thy sake.” And Laban said unto him (having learned 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 Authorized Version
rightly supplying), tarry: for (this word also is not in the original), I have learned
by experience - literally, I have divined (נִחַשְֹׁתִּי, from נָחַשׁ, to hiss as a serpent,
hence to augur); 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 Septuagint renders οἰωνισάμην – oionisamaen – have divined; the Vulgate
by experimento didici - that the Lord - Jehovah. Nominally a worshipper of
the true God, Laban was in practice addicted to heathen superstitions
(compare ch. 31:19, 32) - hath blessed me (with material prosperity) for thy sake.
28 “And he said, Appoint me thy wages, and I will give it.”
And he said, Appoint me thy wages. Literally, distinctly specify (from a root
signifying to bore, hence to declare accurately) 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.
29 “And he said unto him, Thou knowest how I have served thee, and how
thy cattle was with me.” 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
30 “For it was little which thou hadst before I came, and it is now increased
unto a multitude; and the LORD hath blessed thee since my coming: and now
when shall I provide for mine own house also?” 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, ἐναντίον ἐμοῦ - enantion emou – before I came (Septuagint), but in time,
i.e. before my arrival - and it is now increased - literally, broken forth (compare
v. 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?
31“And he said, What shall I give thee? And Jacob said, Thou shalt not give me
any thing: if thou wilt do this thing for me, I will again feed and keep thy flock:”
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.
32 “I will pass through all thy flock to day, removing from thence all the
speckled and spotted cattle, and all the brown cattle among the sheep, and
the spotted and speckled among the goats: and of such shall be my hire.”
I will pass through all thy flock today, - wrongly rendered παρελθέτω πάντα
τὰ πρόβάτα σου – pareltheto panta ta probata sou – I will pass through all
your flock (Septuagint), gyra per omnes greges tuos (Vulgate}, as if Jacob
proposed that the separation of the flocks should be effected by Laban, and
not by himself - removing from thence - not remove thou, as if the verb were
imperative (Rosenmüller, Murphy, Kalisch), but "to remove," the verb being
in the inf. (Keil; cf. Ewald, 'Hebrews Synt.,' § 279) - 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).
33 “So shall my righteousness answer for me in time to come, when it shall
come for my hire before thy face: every one that is not speckled and spotted
among the goats, and brown among the sheep, that shall be counted stolen
with me.” 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,
(1) for it (my righteousness) shall come, concerning my wages, before thy face, sc.
for consideration (Calvin); or,
(2) when thou shalt come to my reward, connecting "before thy face" with the
previous clause (Chaldee, Rosenmüller, Ainsworth, Lange); or,
(3) when thou shalt come to my wages before thee (Murphy), or to inspect it
(Kalisch). Every one that is not speckled and spotted among the goats,
and brown among the sheep, that shall be counted stolen with me –
and therefore to be delivered up to thee.
34 “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 kinsman'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.
35 “And he removed that day the he goats that were ringstraked 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, and gave them into the
hand of his sons.” 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
(1) the dotted,
(2) the patched,
(3) the ring-marked or striped, and
(4) the black or brown - and gave them into the hand of his (Laban's or Jacob's,
as above) sons.
36 “And he set three days' journey betwixt himself and Jacob: and Jacob fed
the rest of Laban's flocks.” 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.
37 “And Jacob took him rods of green poplar, and of the hazel and chesnut tree;
and pilled white strakes in them, and made the white appear which was in the
rods.” 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 (Septuagint, in Hosea 4:13; Vulgate, Kalisch) or the storax (Septuagint
in loco, Keil; compare Michaelis, 'Suppl.,' p. 1404) 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; - עַרְמון, 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.
38 “And he set the rods which he had pilled before the flocks in the gutters
in the watering troughs when the flocks came to drink, that they should
conceive when they came to drink.” 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 (שִׁקֲתות,
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 Authorized Version) when they came to drink –
this was Jacob's first artifice to overreach Laban.
39 “And the flocks conceived before the rods, and brought forth cattle
ringstraked, speckled, and spotted.” 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.
40 “And Jacob did separate the lambs, and set the faces of the flocks toward the
ringstraked, and all the brown in the flock of Laban; and he put his own flocks
by themselves, and put them not unto Laban's cattle.” 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.
41 “And it came to pass, whensoever the stronger cattle did conceive, that
Jacob laid the rods before the eyes of the cattle in the gutters, that they might
conceive among the rods.” And it came to pass, whensoever the stronger cattle
did conceive, literally, in every heating 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.
42 “But when the cattle were feeble, he put them not in: so the feebler were
Laban's, and the stronger Jacob's.” 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.
43 “And the man increased exceedingly, and had much cattle, and maidservants,
and menservants, and camels, and asses.” And - as the apparent result of the triple
stratagem, though vide supra, v. 38, and compare ch. 31:12 - the man increased
exceedingly, - literally, broke forth greatly (see v. 30) - and had much cattle, and
maid-servants, and men-servants, and camels, and asses - like Abraham (ch. 13:2)
and Isaac (ch. 26:13-14). 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 (vs. 25-43)
fourteen years harsh and exacting service, Jacob desires permission to take
his wives and children and return to
him were probably:
Ø The termination of his contract, which released him from a servitude
both galling and oppressive.
Ø The remembrance of God’s covenant, which had assigned him the land
of promise as his true inheritance.
Ø The joy occasioned by the birth of Rachel’s child, whom he seems to
have regarded as the theocratic heir.
Ø A desire to provide for his now rapidly-increasing household.
and father-in-law was unwilling to acquiesce in his departure and solicitous
to retain him was due to:
Ø 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.
Ø 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.
Ø 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.
to serve a third time with Laban on condition of receiving all the speckled
and spotted, ring-straked and brown, animals that Laban’s flocks might
produce, after all of those sorts had been previously removed.
Ø 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. (then why all the alterations? CY -
Ø 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.
Ø The nature of it. This was the employment of a triple artifice:
o by means of pilled rods to produce parti-colored animals in
o on securing these, so to use them as to increase their number; and
o to direct the animals in such a fashion that the stronger and
healthier portion of the flock should be his, and the feebler
Ø 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.
Ø 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
(ch. 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.
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 combined, 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. ("Cast thy burden
upon the Lord, and He shall sustain thee." - Psalm 55:22)
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.
Jacob’s History an Illustration of the Blending Together
The Natural and The Supernatural in God s Dealings.
“And the man increased exceedingly.”
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
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
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.”
(Luke 12:32) “The meek shall inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5)
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