The 29th Chapter of Genesis exposes the birth of the opportunist Laban. Laban is from the house of Nahor who is the brother of Abraham. In prior chapters we see the seed of this behaviour planted in the encounter Laban has with Eliezer the servant of Abraham. Nahor means “snoring”, while these people were descendants of Shem and part of YHVH’s set apart race, yet they were “asleep” to the Torah [instructions] of YHVH.
In the prior encounter Laban claims for himself that which belongs to his father, offers up flattery and angles to acquire gain without relationship. Here Laban uses the relationship to soften the approach to his desire to profit off of the blessing of YHVH without the relationship to YHVH.
Genesis 29:14-19 “14 And Laban said to him, Surely thou art my bone and my flesh. And he abode with him the space of a month. 15 And Laban said unto Jacob, Because thou art my brother, shouldest thou therefore serve me for nought? tell me, what shall thy wages be? 16 And Laban had two daughters: the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel.17 Leah was tender (weak) eyed; but Rachel was beautiful and well favoured. (very shapely) 18 And Jacob loved Rachel; and said, I will serve thee seven years for Rachel thy younger daughter.19 And Laban said, It is better that I give her to thee, than that I should give her to another man: abide with me.”
Strong eyes or weak eyes were idioms that indicated either beauty or plainness. Unlike Eliezer and his prayer to YHVH, here there is NO reference at all to Jacob having consulted God on his choice of a wife.Jacob makes his choice based on outward appearances and not about the character of the person.
Laban sees that Jacob would be a valuable addition to his family, as he is a gifted shepherd and a hard worker. We do not see a betrothal or a marriage contract between Jacob and Laban. There was not a covenant meal or a shedding of blood (Salt Covenant) to seal the deal, Jacob just jumped in and began working for his bride. Laban being the opportunist he lets Jacob go. Without a contract, Laban is free from obligation, a place he has resided in for his entire life.
Genesis 29:20-21 “20 And Jacob served seven years for Rachel; and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her. 21 And Jacob said unto Laban, Give me my wife, for my days are fulfilled, that I may go in unto her.” Jacob doesn’t specifically state Rachel; one has to wonder if Jacob was relying on, or assuming, that a blood-relative would do right by him without verifying their history or character.
Verses 22-25 “22 And Laban gathered together all the men of the place, and made a feast.23 And it came to pass in the evening, that he took Leah his daughter, and brought her to him; and he went in unto her. 24 And Laban gave unto his daughter Leah Zilpah his maid for an handmaid. 25 And it came to pass, that in the morning, behold, it was Leah: and he said to Laban, What is this thou hast done unto me? did not I serve with thee for Rachel? wherefore then hast thou beguiled me?”
There is that word beguiled – the same that was in the garden. *to delude or betray Galatians 6:7 “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” As Jacob had deceived his father for the blessing, so did Laban deceive Jacob with the substitute wife of his marriage. The opportunist in Laban turns to suave salesman and the assumptions of Jacob are squashed by his elder statesman.
Genesis 29:26-29 ” 26 And Laban said, It must not be so done in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn. 27 Fulfil her week, and we will give thee this also for the service which thou shalt serve with me yet seven other years. 28 And Jacob did so, and fulfilled her week: and he gave him Rachel his daughter to wife also. 29 And Laban gave to Rachel his daughter Bilhah his handmaid to be her maid. ”
This is an elderly man, 80 years old, suddenly finding himself in the position of trying to please not ONE but TWO wives. You would think that Jacob would have learned the treachery of Laban after this set of events. Yet, at the end of the 14 years Jacob still finds himself without enough funds or property to make the trip back to his homeland.
Genesis 30:30 “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?” Here comes Mr. Opportunity again! Laban allows Jacob to set the terms of the agreement again, and this time, Jacob has the terms in his favor. It is a subject Jacob knows well.
Genesis 30:32-38 “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. 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. And Laban said, Behold, I would it might be according to thy word. 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 set three days’ journey betwixt himself and Jacob: and Jacob fed the rest of Laban’s flocks. 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 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.”
There are certain factors which can become prenatal influences, and which can determine to some degree, the physical characteristics of the progeny. Stripes, for whatever reason, create a sense of apprehension and/or fear in livestock animals creating stressors. For example cattle will not cross a roadway painted with white stripes.
The acute stress causes an immediate spike in cortisol concentrations which in turn spike the LH/GnRH secretion and forces ovulation in the livestock. The Hebrew word for conceive used here is H3179 יָחַם yacham (yaw-cham’) v. 1. to be hot. 2. (figuratively) to conceive. Jacob places these “overheated” livestock at the front of the herd to get the attention of the studs. Jacob knew what geneticists finally figured out just a decades ago, that changing the hormonal levels of the adult livestock could genetically alter the offspring when combined with other epi-genetic influences. The additional influences include but are not limited to food sources, temperature, disease exposure, exercise, toxins, medicines or drugs, etc.
Verse 43 brings it all home: “And the man increased exceedingly, and had much cattle, and maidservants, and menservants, and camels, and asses.” This is a foreshadow of the Exodus; the penniless Hebrews leave Egypt with much wealth after growing in number. The ‘lord-of-the-land’ will resist the freedom of the people because he sees them as a free labor.