What Happened Between Jacob and Laban? (Genesis 30:33)

Share the Post:

If the timeline is to be believed, then the fourteen years that Jacob agreed to work for Laban ends right after the birth of Joseph (Genesis 30:25). It’s at this point that Jacob asks for the release of his debt from Laban and permission to take his family into his own country.

Laban is appropriately terrified. He knows that Jacob’s presence has greatly enriched his own financial well-being, and he’s none too excited about letting the golden goose roam freely.

His solution is to propose an arrangement. “Name your price,” he tells Jacob in exchange for him staying close by. Laban knows that Jacob has all the power in this negotiation, so this appeal seems to indicate Laban’s desperation to keep Jacob employed.

Here’s where Jacob gets creative. He agrees to stay on and work alongside Laban, but only if he can leverage Laban’s flocks to increase his own possessions.

Jacob proposes that he take the speckled and spotted — the impure, in other words — and use them to breed his own flock. Laban’s herds, composed of the solid colored animals, will remain Laban’s.

Laban jumps all over this deal; truthfully, he’d be a fool not to accept. Common shepherding wisdom knows that spotted and speckled sheep are in the minority. Laban’s flocks were far more likely to be populated with animals that were a solid color.

Both men assumed they got the better end of the deal. Both might have also felt like they cheated the other one.

Jacob tries to improve on his end of the deal by some “questionable” breeding habits. Scholars are divided on what Jacob’s motives were during this time period. Either he tried to take matters into his own hands instead of trusting in God (like Abraham and Ishmael) or he believed in divination to influence the outcome.

Still others think that he just tried some revolutionary breeding technique that he knew because he was a full-time shepherd and Laban was not. 

You can make arguments both for and against Jacob from these assumptions, but Jacob himself gives you the answer in the next chapter. 

In Genesis 31:12, Jacob claims he received a vision from God that the male goats were the ones mating, which implies that God is providentially improving his financial standing.

Regardless of which interpretation you take about Jacob’s character, one thing remains sure: When God promises His people something, He always follows through. Always.

He told Jacob He would bless him, and that’s exactly what happened. Speckled goats and all.