>Now it came about when Rachel had borne Joseph, that Jacob said to Laban, “Send me away, that I may go to my own place and to my own country. Give me my wives and my children for whom I have served you, and let me depart; for you yourself know my service which I have rendered you.” But Laban said to him, “If now it pleases you, stay with me; I have divined that the LORD has blessed me on your account.” And he continued, “Name me your wages, and I will give it.” But he said to him, “You yourself know how I have served you and how your cattle have fared with me. For you had little before I came, and it has increased to a multitude; and the LORD has blessed you wherever I turned. But now, when shall I provide for my own household also?” So he said, “What shall I give you?” And Jacob said, “You shall not give me anything. If you will do this one thing for me, I will again pasture and keep your flock: Let me pass through your entire flock today, removing from there every speckled and spotted sheep, and every black one among the lambs, and the spotted and speckled among the goats; and such shall be my wages. So my honesty will answer for me later, when you come concerning my wages. Every one that is not speckled and spotted among the goats and black among the lambs, if found with me, will be considered stolen.” And Laban said, “Good, let it be according to your word.” So he removed on that day the striped and spotted male goats and all the speckled and spotted female goats, every one with white in it, and all the black ones among the sheep, and gave them into the care of his sons. And he put a distance of three days’ journey between himself and Jacob, and Jacob fed the rest of Laban’s flocks. – Genesis 30:25-36 (NET Bible)
If you didn’t know any better, you would think that Laban was working Jacob some more. The passage reveals the sticky situation of their relationship. You discover clearly how Laban and Jacob were intertwined on multiple levels and degrees over their years together.
- Laban was Jacob’s uncle, the brother of his mother Rebekah
- Laban was his boss/ supervisor; he tended the herds and flocks of Laban
- Laban was his father-in-law, the father of Rachel and Leah
After the birth of Joseph, Jacob is ready to go out on his own. He was ready to part ways with Laban. However, Laban pleads against Jacob’s departure. He shares in verse 27 that he knows how the Lord has blessed him for the sake of Jacob. Laban is willing to negotiate at this point.
What is odd to me is how Laban jumps on the opportunity for Jacob to set his own wages. He hears the young man out, but he fails to realize something. When Jacob arrived in Haran, Laban was a herdsman and labored among his own flocks and herds. As he began to prosper and take advantage of Jacob, it appears that Jacob is more familiar with the herds and flocks than Laban. Thus, Jacob’s offer may appear tempting to the unwise and unknowing.
Laban was out of touch with his flock. Jacob wasn’t swindling the man. He was using his own knowledge to his advantage. He had an advantage over Laban. Laban agreed for things to be as Jacob had outlined, according to verse 34.
Their relationship was starting to change. This was no longer the young man so in love that he would work an additional seven years for his love’s hand in marriage. This young man had prospered Laban and wanted to do his own thing for his own family. No matter the details of it all, we know that the relationship has grown deeper and deeper. Jacob is ready to part ways and be gone.
I would have been ready to go, too. Imagine living close to one such as Laban. Think about how Laban’s sons must have teased and taunted Jacob about those fourteen years serving for the hands of their two sisters. Jacob used what he knew to his advantage and made a move that placed some distance between both he and Laban, approximately “three days’ journey.” In any similar situation, I believe most of us would have told Laban off as we were packing our small things and causing a major divide within the seriously-dysfunctional environment.
Good for Jacob. He didn’t go for losing. He used all to his advantage in order to advance his own prosperity. This allowed for how Jacob to “increased exceedingly” in verse 43. Jacob did so without totally doing Laban in or taking him out.
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