Laban Cheats Jacob


The perseverance of Jacob is a mark of discipleship. If you are tempted to compromise your faith, remember to never give up when looking for God’s promises.

“That day Laban removed the male goats that were striped and spotted, and all the female goats that were speckled and spotted, every one that had white on it, and every lamb that was black, and put them in charge of his sons” (Gen. 30:35).

- Genesis 30:25–36

Immediately after Joseph’s birth, Jacob’s attention shifts back to his homeland. Seeing how God has begun fulfilling His promise to multiply him, Isaac’s son is more confident the Lord will start bringing Canaan into his hands (Gen. 28:10–17). This is why Jacob speaks of the land possessively — it is “his land” (“my” as he speaks in the first person) — when he asks Laban to send him out (30:25–26). 

Jacob’s interaction with Laban at the beginning of this passage should be understood as a request that his father-in-law send him forth with some material provisions as well as his wives and children. “You know the service that I have given you,” is Jacob’s way of calling attention to the way he has benefited Laban (v. 26). It is as if he is saying, “Look Laban, clearly I have gone above and beyond the call of duty. What now are you going to give me as a reward?”

Laban is not afraid to admit his wealth has been increased by Jacob’s wise shepherding (vv. 27, 30). Though Laban has engaged in the forbidden practice of divination, God has overruled his superstition (see also 1 Sam. 28), allowing him to see how divine providence has blessed him. However, his seemingly generous offer to have Jacob name his wages is not an offer to give his son-in-law a free gift (Gen. 30:28). Hiding his intent with polite speech (as is customary in many cultures), Laban actually means, “I have lived up to my bargain to give you my daughters for your fourteen years of service (29:21–30). If you want something else, you must work for it.”

Jacob sees through Laban and shrewdly makes an offer his father-in-law cannot resist. Laban’s flock would have consisted mainly of pure white sheep and solidly colored goats; few black lambs or speckled goats would be present. Thus, he readily agrees to give Jacob these animals in exchange for more service (30:29–34). Laban believed the payout would be small but that his own prosperity would be great.

In keeping with his deceitful nature, Laban removes all of the animals from his herd that could quickly produce speckled offspring for he wanted to keep Jacob around longer (vv. 35–36). But as we will see tomorrow, God will give this cheater his just desserts.

Coram Deo

Though it often expressed itself in deceit, Jacob’s tenacious nature was an asset to him. The way Laban cheated him with Rachel and Leah was merely a temporary setback; he had the fortitude to press on for what he wanted. Moreover, he would rather work for Laban than go away unable to feed his family. Such perseverance is one mark of discipleship. If you are tempted to compromise your faith, remember we must never give up when looking for God’s promises.

Passages for Further Study

  • Ps. 10:17
  • Prov. 26:4–5 
  • Matt. 10:16
  • Gal. 6:9
  • Heb. 12:3

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