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Genesis 30:25-43

The Flocks of Jacob

30:25 After Rachel had given birth 1  to Joseph, Jacob said to Laban, “Send 2  me on my way so that I can go 3  home to my own country. 4  30:26 Let me take my wives and my children whom I have acquired by working for you. 5  Then I’ll depart, 6  because you know how hard I’ve worked for you.” 7 

30:27 But Laban said to him, “If I have found favor in your sight, please stay here, 8  for I have learned by divination 9  that the Lord has blessed me on account of you.” 30:28 He added, “Just name your wages – I’ll pay whatever you want.” 10 

30:29 “You know how I have worked for you,” Jacob replied, 11  “and how well your livestock have fared under my care. 12  30:30 Indeed, 13  you had little before I arrived, 14  but now your possessions have increased many times over. 15  The Lord has blessed you wherever I worked. 16  But now, how long must it be before I do something for my own family too?” 17 

30:31 So Laban asked, 18  “What should I give you?” “You don’t need to give me a thing,” 19  Jacob replied, 20  “but if you agree to this one condition, 21  I will continue to care for 22  your flocks and protect them: 30:32 Let me walk among 23  all your flocks today and remove from them every speckled or spotted sheep, every dark-colored lamb, 24  and the spotted or speckled goats. 25  These animals will be my wages. 26  30:33 My integrity will testify for me 27  later on. 28  When you come to verify that I’ve taken only the wages we agreed on, 29  if I have in my possession any goat that is not speckled or spotted or any sheep that is not dark-colored, it will be considered stolen.” 30  30:34 “Agreed!” said Laban, “It will be as you say.” 31 

30:35 So that day Laban 32  removed the male goats that were streaked or spotted, all the female goats that were speckled or spotted (all that had any white on them), and all the dark-colored lambs, and put them in the care 33  of his sons. 30:36 Then he separated them from Jacob by a three-day journey, 34  while 35  Jacob was taking care of the rest of Laban’s flocks.

30:37 But Jacob took fresh-cut branches from poplar, almond, and plane trees. He made white streaks by peeling them, making the white inner wood in the branches visible. 30:38 Then he set up the peeled branches in all the watering troughs where the flocks came to drink. He set up the branches in front of the flocks when they were in heat and came to drink. 36  30:39 When the sheep mated 37  in front of the branches, they 38  gave birth to young that were streaked or speckled or spotted. 30:40 Jacob removed these lambs, but he made the rest of the flock face 39  the streaked and completely dark-colored animals in Laban’s flock. So he made separate flocks for himself and did not mix them with Laban’s flocks. 30:41 When the stronger females were in heat, 40  Jacob would set up the branches in the troughs in front of the flock, so they would mate near the branches. 30:42 But if the animals were weaker, he did not set the branches there. 41  So the weaker animals ended up belonging to Laban 42  and the stronger animals to Jacob. 30:43 In this way Jacob 43  became extremely prosperous. He owned 44  large flocks, male and female servants, camels, and donkeys.

1 tn The perfect verbal form is translated as a past perfect because Rachel’s giving birth to Joseph preceded Jacob’s conversation with Laban.

2 tn The imperatival form here expresses a request.

sn For Jacob to ask to leave would mean that seven more years had passed. Thus all Jacob’s children were born within the range of seven years of each other, with Joseph coming right at the end of the seven years.

3 tn Following the imperative, the cohortative with the prefixed conjunction indicates purpose or result.

4 tn Heb “to my place and to my land.”

5 tn Heb “give my wives and my children, for whom I have served you.” In one sense Laban had already “given” Jacob his two daughters as wives (Gen 29:21, 28). Here Jacob was asking for permission to take his own family along with him on the journey back to Canaan.

6 tn Following the imperative, the cohortative with the prefixed conjunction indicates purpose or result.

7 tn Heb “for you, you know my service [with] which I have served you.”

8 tn The words “please stay here” have been supplied in the translation for clarification and for stylistic reasons.

9 tn Or perhaps “I have grown rich and the Lord has blessed me” (cf. NEB). See J. Finkelstein, “An Old Babylonian Herding Contract and Genesis 31:38f.,” JAOS 88 (1968): 34, n. 19.

10 tn Heb “set your wage for me so I may give [it].”

11 tn Heb “and he said to him, ‘You know how I have served you.’” The order of the introductory clause and the direct discourse has been rearranged in the translation for stylistic reasons, and the referent of the pronoun “he” (Jacob) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

12 tn Heb “and how your cattle were with me.”

13 tn Or “for.”

14 tn Heb “before me.”

15 tn Heb “and it has broken out with respect to abundance.”

16 tn Heb “at my foot.”

17 tn Heb “How long [until] I do, also I, for my house?”

18 tn Heb “and he said.” The referent (Laban) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

19 tn The negated imperfect verbal form has an obligatory nuance.

20 tn The order of the introductory clause and the direct discourse has been rearranged in the translation for stylistic reasons.

21 tn Heb “If you do for me this thing.”

22 tn Heb “I will return, I will tend,” an idiom meaning “I will continue tending.”

23 tn Heb “pass through.”

24 tn Or “every black lamb”; Heb “and every dark sheep among the lambs.”

25 tn Heb “and the spotted and speckled among the goats.”

26 tn Heb “and it will be my wage.” The referent collective singular pronoun (“it) has been specified as “these animals” in the translation for clarity.

27 tn Heb “will answer on my behalf.”

28 tn Heb “on the following day,” or “tomorrow.”

29 tn Heb “when you come concerning my wage before you.”

sn Only the wage we agreed on. Jacob would have to be considered completely honest here, for he would have no control over the kind of animals born; and there could be no disagreement over which animals were his wages.

30 tn Heb “every one which is not speckled and spotted among the lambs and dark among the goats, stolen it is with me.”

31 tn Heb “and Laban said, ‘Good, let it be according to your word.’” On the asseverative use of the particle לוּ (lu) here, see HALOT 521 s.v. לוּ.

32 tn Heb “he”; the referent (Laban) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

33 tn Heb “and he gave [them] into the hand.”

34 tn Heb “and he put a journey of three days between himself and Jacob.”

sn Three days’ traveling distance from Jacob. E. A. Speiser observes, “Laban is delighted with the terms, and promptly proceeds to violate the spirit of the bargain by removing to a safe distance all the grown animals that would be likely to produce the specified spots” (Genesis [AB], 238). Laban apparently thought that by separating out the spotted, striped, and dark colored animals he could minimize the production of spotted, striped, or dark offspring that would then belong to Jacob.

35 tn The disjunctive clause (introduced by the vav with subject) is circumstantial/temporal; Laban removed the animals while Jacob was taking care of the rest.

36 sn He put the branches in front of the flocks…when they came to drink. It was generally believed that placing such “visual aids” before the animals as they were mating, it was possible to influence the appearance of their offspring. E. A. Speiser notes that “Jacob finds a way to outwit his father-in-law, through prenatal conditioning of the flock by visual aids – in conformance with universal folk beliefs” (Genesis [AB], 238). Nevertheless, in spite of Jacob’s efforts at animal husbandry, he still attributes the resulting success to God (see 31:5).

37 tn The Hebrew verb used here can mean “to be in heat” (see v. 38) or “to mate; to conceive; to become pregnant.” The latter nuance makes better sense in this verse, for the next clause describes them giving birth.

38 tn Heb “the sheep.” The noun has been replaced by the pronoun (“they”) in the translation for stylistic reasons.

39 tn Heb “and he set the faces of.”

40 tn Heb “and at every breeding-heat of the flock.”

41 tn Heb “he did not put [them] in.” The referent of the [understood] direct object, “them,” has been specified as “the branches” in the translation for clarity.

42 tn Heb “were for Laban.”

43 tn Heb “the man”; Jacob’s name has been supplied in the translation for clarity.

44 tn Heb “and there were to him.”

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