The Consequences of a Conniving Life
The name Jacob means heel-catcher or supplanter, we might use the word conniver. Someone who connives withholds information and deceitfully manipulates circumstances to their own benefit. The mother of conniving is lying. Conniving is lying in action. As we look at Jacob’s life we see a person who relies on guile and self-centered resources. He learned he could get what he wanted by taking advantage of the weak willed when he bought the birthright from Esau (Genesis 25:27-34). Jacob’s reliance on conniving was confirmed and reinforced by his mother Rebekah who urged and helped him steal the blessing from Esau (Genesis 27). There are consequences to such behavior. It produces bitterness and hatred in the victimized and divides the family unit (Genesis 27:34-46).
But we also learned that God is at work in people like Jacob. God wants us to know Him and have a personal relationship with Him (e.g. John 17:3; Philippians 3:10). In Genesis we see this as God communicates with people (e.g. Adam and Eve – Genesis 2 and 3; Cain – Genesis 4; Noah – Genesis 6; Abraham – Genesis 12; Isaac – Genesis 26; Jacob – Genesis 28). The phrase “the LORD said” occurs 18 times in Genesis (4:6, 9, 15; 6:3, 7; 7:1; 8:21; 11:6; 13:14; 16:9, 10, 11; 18:13, 17, 20, 26; 25:23; 31:3). The phrase “God said,” occurs 25 times in Genesis (1:3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 24, 26, 28, 29; 2:18; 3:14, 22; 6:13; 9:12, 17; 17:9, 15, 19; 20:6; 21:12; 35:1, 10, 11). God wants to be known and makes Himself known, not in a distant way, but in a way that calls people to have a personal relationship with Him.
But there is a problem; there is something that hinders humanity from knowing God. It is the flesh, the self-centered sinful nature of people that keeps them from knowing God the way they should. God is always working to bring sinful people into a saving knowledge and relationship with Him (2 Samuel 14:14).
God is not limited by time. He sees us from start to finish, birth to death. And when God foresaw Jacob He foreknew Jacob’s potential and elected him to rule over Esau and be the successor to his patriarch father Isaac (Genesis 25:23). As we look at Jacob’s life we see the hand of God at work to teach Jacob the futility of life in the flesh and the blessing of a life of trust in God. That’s encouraging because those loved ones who are a hard nut to crack and who seem beyond our influence to reach for the Lord, they are in the Lord’s hands. God never stops working to bring the lost to Himself. That is what grace is all about (e.g. Exodus 34:6-7; Romans 5; 1 Corinthians 15:10).
When Isaac got back to enforcing God’s priorities and sent Jacob away to find a wife among those with the same belief in God, the Lord spoke to Jacob in a dream that had a profound impact on him (Genesis 28:11-22). Jacob was receptive to God’s involvement in his life. This opened the door to God working in him. Jacob’s response to God exposed a carnal conniving nature. You see Jacob has himself as the center of the universe. He actually sees God as his servant and not the other way around! Jacob puts conditions on his following God (e.g. “if . . . then” – Genesis 28:20-22). It isn’t possible to properly relate to God and know when you remain at the center of the universe. God shares His throne with no one. He is either Lord of all or He is not Lord at all. What we will see in the rest of Jacob’s life is God working the impurities of carnality and conniving out of the heart of Jacob.
We can learn a great deal about ourselves and relating to God from examining God’s work in the life of Jacob. If we are truthful, when we look at Jacob, we see a lot of ourselves in him. What we will see in this section is that there is a consequence to living a carnal conniving life. If we pay close attention and learn the lessons God shows us in the life of Jacob, we can save ourselves a lot of grief. How does God work the carnal conniving nature out of Jacob? Let’s see.
God is at Work
Genesis 29:1-12 -
So Jacob went on his journey and came to the land of the people of the East. 2 And he looked, and saw a well in the field; and behold, there were three flocks of sheep lying by it; for out of that well they watered the flocks. A large stone was on the well’s mouth. 3 Now all the flocks would be gathered there; and they would roll the stone from the well’s mouth, water the sheep, and put the stone back in its place on the well’s mouth.
4 And Jacob said to them, “My brethren, where are you from?”
And they said, “We are from Haran.”
5 Then he said to them, “Do you know Laban the son of Nahor?”
And they said, “We know him.”
6 So he said to them, “Is he well?”
And they said, “He is well. And look, his daughter Rachel is coming with the sheep.”
7 Then he said, “Look, it is still high day; it is not time for the cattle to be gathered together. Water the sheep, and go and feed them.”
8 But they said, “We cannot until all the flocks are gathered together, and they have rolled the stone from the well’s mouth; then we water the sheep.”
9 Now while he was still speaking with them, Rachel came with her father’s sheep, for she was a shepherdess. 10 And it came to pass, when Jacob saw Rachel the daughter of Laban his mother’s brother, and the sheep of Laban his mother’s brother, that Jacob went near and rolled the stone from the well’s mouth, and watered the flock of Laban his mother’s brother. 11 Then Jacob kissed Rachel, and lifted up his voice and wept. 12 And Jacob told Rachel that he was her father’s relative and that he was Rebekah’s son. So she ran and told her father.
In Genesis 29 Jacob takes a wife from his extended family, (unlike Esau - 28:8-9; 29:10-11). Rachel was a shepherdess (29:9). Like David there were many lessons to be learned from this vocation (see Psalm 23). But more importantly, God is at work in the life of Jacob the conniver. God’s blessings do not stop because we are carnal. In fact, the Bible tells us God uses blessing to lead us to repentance and a closer walk with Him (Romans 2:4). God blesses us in spite of ourselves. And God blesses Jacob here by leading him to his true love Rachel. God was still working for Jacob though he had a lot of spiritual maturing to do. God is for us (e.g. Romans 8:30-31).
An interesting and important aspect of Jacob’s relationship with Rachel is that he was willing to wait to consummate their relationship. We will see that he was willing to wait seven years to consummate his marriage with Rachel and ended up working another seven years in payment; that’s fourteen (14) years labor to marry Rachel! The lesson here is that true love waits and also true love endures. Sex before marriage is evidence of carnality not Christ-like love for a person. The strict cultural premarital guidelines set a limit on the contact between the couple to be married. And Jacob was willing to submit to this.
Contrast Jacob’s willingness to wait with present day sexual so-called freedoms. Those freedoms have led to more abortions, more sexually transmitted diseases and a fracturing of the marriage and family unit, (not to mention a redefinition of marriage to include same sex partners!). God’s word is true and society and its structures are always better off trusting God’s guidelines rather than seeking alternatives based on mere human wisdom. God created us and He knows what is best for us.
The Consequence of Conniving is Victimization
13 Then it came to pass, when Laban heard the report about Jacob his sister’s son, that he ran to meet him, and embraced him and kissed him, and brought him to his house. So he told Laban all these things. 14 And Laban said to him, “Surely you are my bone and my flesh.” And he stayed with him for a month.
15 Then Laban said to Jacob, “Because you are my relative, should you therefore serve me for nothing? Tell me, what should your wages be?” 16 Now Laban had two daughters: the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. 17 Leah’s eyes were delicate, but Rachel was beautiful of form and appearance.
18 Now Jacob loved Rachel; so he said, “I will serve you seven years for Rachel your younger daughter.”
19 And Laban said, “It is better that I give her to you than that I should give her to another man. Stay with me.” 20 So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed only a few days to him because of the love he had for her.
21 Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife, for my days are fulfilled, that I may go in to her.” 22 And Laban gathered together all the men of the place and made a feast. 23 Now it came to pass in the evening, that he took Leah his daughter and brought her to Jacob; and he went in to her. 24 And Laban gave his maid Zilpah to his daughter Leah as a maid. 25 So it came to pass in the morning, that behold, it was Leah. And he said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? Was it not for Rachel that I served you? Why then have you deceived me?”
26 And Laban said, “It must not be done so in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn. 27 Fulfill her week, and we will give you this one also for the service which you will serve with me still another seven years.”
28 Then Jacob did so and fulfilled her week. So he gave him his daughter Rachel as wife also. 29 And Laban gave his maid Bilhah to his daughter Rachel as a maid. 30 Then Jacob also went in to Rachel, and he also loved Rachel more than Leah. And he served with Laban still another seven years.
31 When the Lord saw that Leah was unloved, He opened her womb; but Rachel was barren. 32 So Leah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Reuben; for she said, “The Lord has surely looked on my affliction. Now therefore, my husband will love me.” 33 Then she conceived again and bore a son, and said, “Because the Lord has heard that I am unloved, He has therefore given me this son also.” And she called his name Simeon. 34 She conceived again and bore a son, and said, “Now this time my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.” Therefore his name was called Levi. 35 And she conceived again and bore a son, and said, “Now I will praise the Lord.” Therefore she called his name Judah. Then she stopped bearing.
One of the ways God teaches the carnal person about the sinfulness of their ways is to allow them to be victimized by other carnal people. God let’s Jacob, (and us at times) get a taste of his own medicine. This medicine for Jacob comes in the form of his uncle Laban who will out-connive the conniver Jacob. The consequence of conniving is victimization; there is always someone who is better at conniving.
Notice what we learn about the demeanor and nature of the conniver. Laban is older than Jacob and has the benefit of many more years of conniving. Jacob assumes his relative will treat him fairly. What are some other rules of the conniver? What does a conniver do to connive?
Rule #1 - There are no set rules to restrict a conniver (29:13-14). Laban wasn’t going to let family ties hinder an opportunity to get his way.
Rule #2 - A conniver can appear welcoming and hospitable (29:13-14). But this is like a predator luring an unsuspecting prey into its lair. Maybe Laban was genuinely welcoming, but as the wheel of deceit began to turn all those good intentions were washed away by evil exploitation.
Rule #3 - A conniver often presents themselves as generous (29:15). Like a 3 Card Monte shark who lures his prey in for the kill by letting them win a few hands, the conniver lures the unsuspecting victim with generosity and then springs the trap.
Rule #4 - Connivers are deceitful deal makers (29:16-19). When Jacob offered to work seven years for Rachel, Jacob was playing right into Laban’s hands. Laban knew it would be a problem if he revealed his intentions up front to Jacob. Instead, Laban withheld that he intended to trick Jacob into marrying his older daughter Leah. It’s never safe to enter into a deal with a conniver; you’re always going to come out with complications, strings attached and a loss of some kind.
Rule #5 - Connivers use deception as a key strategy in their plans (29:20-25). Laban softened up Jacob with a party and then sprung his trap. How Jacob could spend the night and have sexual interaction with someone other than Rachel, and not know it, is a bit befuddling. If Jacob was drunk, it just adds to his lists of carnal weaknesses. Jacob is not totally innocent in this situation.
Rule #6 - Connivers quench the good (29:20-25). Conniving halted the joy of love with a shocking blow. What should have been a beautiful experience was blown away by the devastating realization that one had been dastardly deceived. That is a sad consequence of conniving; it dams up flow of blessing and happiness.
Rule #7 - Connivers don’t play fair and use human tradition for their own devices (29:26). Laban the conniver used human tradition to justify his deception. He lived by the law of the land and felt justified in manipulating it to his owns devices. He wasn’t playing fair with
Rule #8 - Connivers are masters of manipulation (29:27). What is manipulation? Manipulation is when a person is put in a situation where their freedom to choose is taken away from them. A Catch 22 situation where whatever you choose to do leads to something bad is a form of manipulation. When a person puts you on the spot so that if you don’t comply with their request you will be put in a bad light, that is manipulation. Laban manipulates Jacob. If Jacob wants his true love Rachel, he has to work another seven years and keep Leah. And because he really does want Rachel, Jacob has no other choice but to comply with Laban. It’s manipulation.
Rule #9 - Connivers disregard love (29:28-31, 33). Laban didn’t care that he was sending his daughter into a loveless relationship. All Laban cared about was that Leah was married. He may have done this for cultural reasons, but whatever his motive, it wasn’t love. Unloving action is satanic not spiritual (1 John 3:10). Unloving action produces death (1 John 3:14). Those who don’t’ love don’t’ know God because God is love (1 John 4:8, 20).
Rule #10 – Connivers will get their comeuppance. God is not blind to the plight of the victims of conniving. There is a higher rule of God that a person reaps what they sow (Galatians 6:7-9). We will see in the life of Laban and Jacob that there is a consequence to conniving. For Laban it is the loss of much of his family (Genesis 31). For Jacob it is long hard labor (twenty years of it with Laban – Genesis 31:41), and endangering his family.
How do we overcome the impact of connivers? The answer is in the last verses of this chapter. It states, “when the LORD saw that Leah was unloved, He opened her womb; . . .” (29:31). God came to the rescue of the unloved victim of conniving. And Leah responded to God in worship that revealed her faith. She named her children in light of her heart’s cry to God. The sons born to Jacob and Leah were: Reuben (29:32 - “see a son” – “the LORD has surely looked on my affliction”); Simeon (29:33 - “hearing” – “because the LORD has heard I am unloved”); Levi (29:34 – “joined” “attached”; “my husband will become attached to me”); Judah (29:35 – “praise”; “Now I will praise the LORD”). She says, “”The LORD has surely looked on my affliction. . . . Because the LORD has heard that I am unloved, . . . Now I will praise the LORD.” (29:32, 33, 35). Leah turns to the LORD and seeks His help. She did not respond to conniving with her own efforts to connive, (at least not yet). The answer is to turn to conniving is to turn the LORD and seek His defense.
What about Polygamy?
God’s plan for marriage is that two people of the opposite gender be united for life in a holy covenant entered into in the sight of God (Genesis 2:24-25). Polygamy, the marrying of more than one wife, is a creation of human culture. It is evidence of a deviation from God’s best. It is a symptom of the sinful carnal nature of human beings.
Polygamy is the product of a lack of faith in God. Sarah offered Hagar to Abraham when her faith gave out in waiting on God to fulfill His promise (Genesis 16:1-6). Polygamy was also used to assure a large family (Judges 8:30). It was used by kings to create advantageous political ties (1 Kings 3:1). It is rooted in sexual lust (2 Chronicles 11:23). It would be wrong to interpret God’s silence towards those of his people who indulged in polygamy as His endorsement. He clearly warns against the accumulation of wives by His kings (Deuteronomy 17:17). Having more than one wife leads to dissension (Genesis 16), discord and jealousy (1 Samuel 1), and overall degeneracy (1 Kings 11:1-4).
When we enter into marriage God’s way, one man for one woman, He brings blessing (Psalm 128). Furthermore, marriage between one man and one woman is used by God to typologically relate to the relationship between Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:22-33). Polygamy on the other hand would symbolize spiritual adultery.
Jacob was out connived by a master conniver. Laban tricked Jacob (the heal-catcher) into taking Leah as a wife before Rachel and as a result he ended up working 14 years, seven years for each wife (29:18, 23-25, and 27-28). Jacob truly loved Rachel; he loved Leah less (29:30). This polygamous arrangement was not God’s best. But there was a silver lining.
It states that the years Jacob worked for Rachel, the one he loved, “seemed only a few days to him” (29:20). Just like Jacob’s service for the one he loved seemed brief or burden-less, true service to God should flow from our love for Him and be a joy not a burden. That depth of love and relationship will be something the Lord uses to minister to Jacob. We should learn from it too.
The Consequence of Conniving is Competition
Genesis 30 -
Now when Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, Rachel envied her sister, and said to Jacob, “Give me children, or else I die!”
2 And Jacob’s anger was aroused against Rachel, and he said, “Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?”
3 So she said, “Here is my maid Bilhah; go in to her, and she will bear a child on my knees, that I also may have children by her.” 4 Then she gave him Bilhah her maid as wife, and Jacob went in to her. 5 And Bilhah conceived and bore Jacob a son. 6 Then Rachel said, “God has judged my case; and He has also heard my voice and given me a son.” Therefore she called his name Dan. 7 And Rachel’s maid Bilhah conceived again and bore Jacob a second son. 8 Then Rachel said, “With great wrestlings I have wrestled with my sister, and indeed I have prevailed.” So she called his name Naphtali.
9 When Leah saw that she had stopped bearing, she took Zilpah her maid and gave her to Jacob as wife. 10 And Leah’s maid Zilpah bore Jacob a son. 11 Then Leah said, “A troop comes!” So she called his name Gad. 12 And Leah’s maid Zilpah bore Jacob a second son. 13 Then Leah said, “I am happy, for the daughters will call me blessed.” So she called his name Asher.
14 Now Reuben went in the days of wheat harvest and found mandrakes in the field, and brought them to his mother Leah. Then Rachel said to Leah, “Please give me some of your son’s mandrakes.”
15 But she said to her, “Is it a small matter that you have taken away my husband? Would you take away my son’s mandrakes also?”
And Rachel said, “Therefore he will lie with you tonight for your son’s mandrakes.”
16 When Jacob came out of the field in the evening, Leah went out to meet him and said, “You must come in to me, for I have surely hired you with my son’s mandrakes.” And he lay with her that night.
17 And God listened to Leah, and she conceived and bore Jacob a fifth son. 18 Leah said, “God has given me my wages, because I have given my maid to my husband.” So she called his name Issachar. 19 Then Leah conceived again and bore Jacob a sixth son. 20 And Leah said, “God has endowed me with a good endowment; now my husband will dwell with me, because I have borne him six sons.” So she called his name Zebulun. 21 Afterward she bore a daughter, and called her name Dinah.
22 Then God remembered Rachel, and God listened to her and opened her womb. 23 And she conceived and bore a son, and said, “God has taken away my reproach.” 24 So she called his name Joseph, and said, “The Lord shall add to me another son.”
25 And it came to pass, when Rachel had borne Joseph, that Jacob said to Laban, “Send me away, that I may go to my own place and to my country. 26 Give me my wives and my children for whom I have served you, and let me go; for you know my service which I have done for you.”
27 And Laban said to him, “Please stay, if I have found favor in your eyes, for I have learned by experience that the Lord has blessed me for your sake.” 28 Then he said, “Name me your wages, and I will give it.”
29 So Jacob said to him, “You know how I have served you and how your livestock has been with me. 30 For what you had before I came was little, and it has increased to a great amount; the Lord has blessed you since my coming. And now, when shall I also provide for my own house?”
31 So he said, “What shall I give you?”
And Jacob said, “You shall not give me anything. If you will do this thing for me, I will again feed and keep your flocks: 32 Let me pass through all your flock today, removing from there all the speckled and spotted sheep, and all the brown ones among the lambs, and the spotted and speckled among the goats; and these shall be my wages. 33 So my righteousness will answer for me in time to come, when the subject of my wages comes before you: every one that is not speckled and spotted among the goats, and brown among the lambs, will be considered stolen, if it is with me.”
34 And Laban said, “Oh, that it were according to your word!” 35 So he removed that day the male goats that were speckled and spotted, all the female goats that were speckled and spotted, every one that had some white in it, and all the brown ones among the lambs, and gave them into the hand of his sons. 36 Then he put three days’ journey between himself and Jacob, and Jacob fed the rest of Laban’s flocks.
37 Now Jacob took for himself rods of green poplar and of the almond and chestnut trees, peeled white strips in them, and exposed the white which was in the rods. 38 And the rods which he had peeled, he set before the flocks in the gutters, in the watering troughs where the flocks came to drink, so that they should conceive when they came to drink. 39 So the flocks conceived before the rods, and the flocks brought forth streaked, speckled, and spotted. 40 Then Jacob separated the lambs, and made the flocks face toward the streaked and all the brown in the flock of Laban; but he put his own flocks by themselves and did not put them with Laban’s flock.
41 And it came to pass, whenever the stronger livestock conceived, that Jacob placed the rods before the eyes of the livestock in the gutters, that they might conceive among the rods. 42 But when the flocks were feeble, he did not put them in; so the feebler were Laban’s and the stronger Jacob’s. 43 Thus the man became exceedingly prosperous, and had large flocks, female and male servants, and camels and donkeys.
The consequence of conniving is competition. In Genesis 30 we see why polygamous relationships are not God’s perfect will. There are consequences and complications to living outside of God’s perfect will. Right from the start we see envy and anger in this polygamous arrangement (30:1-2). Such emotions are inevitable in such an arrangement. Human sinful nature would make envy and anger a constant in such a familial set up. Love divided rather than focused is bound to lead to a dilution in some way.
Another way of stating this complication is that conniving produces a sinful spirit of competition. We are not talking about healthy competition. We are talking about competition rooted in sinful anger and envy. This competition is seen between Rachel and Leah as well as between Jacob and Laban. When Rachel didn’t produce any children for Jacob and she saw Leah producing a numerous children she turns to a surrogate mother. This starts a virtual baby producing war. Rachel uses Bilhah as a surrogate mother (30:3-5). The children born to Jacob and Rachel via the surrogate Bilhah were: Dan (30:6 - “judging”; “God has judged my case”); Naphtali (30:8 – “wrestling”; “With great wrestlings I have wrestled with my sister, and indeed I have prevailed”). When Leah stopped conceiving, she gave Zilpah to Jacob as a second surrogate and they produced: Gad (30:11 – “a troop”; “a troop comes!”); Asher (30:13 – “happy” “I am happy for the daughters will call me blessed”). Leah conceives again after trading mandrakes (believed to be an aphrodisiac and to enhance fertility) with Rachel for a night with Jacob and the child’s name is Issachar (30:18 – “hire”; “God has given me my wages”). Jacob and Leah had a sixth son named Zebulun (30:19-20 – “dwelling”; “God has endowed me with a good endowment; now my husband will dwell with me, because I have borne him six sons”). The only daughter mentioned is Dinah (“judgment”), borne to Jacob and Leah (30:21). Finally Rachel conceives with Jacob and they name their first biological son Joseph (30:22-24 – “adding”; “The LORD shall add to me another son”).
In the midst of all this conniving and competition the Lord is working in hearts. In Middle Eastern culture and especially in the times of Jacob, Rachel and Leah a wife’s worth and honor was closely tied to her ability to produce children and especially male children. Male children carried on the family name and valuable as a work force. If a wife produced male offspring her husband almost couldn’t divorce her because of the pressure of esteem from the community. There was security for the wife in producing male offspring. This is why Leah was overjoyed when the Lord “opened her womb” (29:31). She equated love from her husband with producing male children (29:32).
But what about Rachel? She was barren (29:31). The pressure was on her. Her and Jacob had a passion and deep love, but she wasn’t able to produce children. She was in a position of dishonor. Her competitor Leah was pumping out babies and Rachel had nothing to show for her love with Jacob. This must have been very threatening to her. It was dishonorable for her. She wasn’t able to fulfill her most basic purpose as a wife, produce male offspring. She envied Leah (30:1). The pressure from the community as well as from within her own nuclear family was building until it had become almost unbearable. Finally she said to Jacob, “Give me children, or else I die!” (30:1). Now I want you to notice something here. God is working in Rachel. The ability to produce male offspring as well as barrenness were attributed to the hand of God. It is true in one sense that God determines such things. But it is more likely that Rachel’s physical fallenness was the cause of her barrenness. God was using this trial in her life. Man’s extremities are God’s opportunities. How was God using these circumstances in Rachel’s life?
Who did Rachel cry out to when she said, “Give me children, or else I die!”? She directed this cry to Jacob. And being the compassionate spouse he was Jacob got angry and said, “Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?” This exchange tells us a lot about Rachel’s spiritual condition. She cried out to her husband Jacob first. She did not cry out to God. She put Jacob in the place of God. There is a word for this, it’s called idolatry. Rachel had made Jacob an idol. That is a very dangerous thing to do. People do it all the time. Relationships with such idolatry won’t last. Why? Because no spouse can measure up to God. There are certain needs in a person that only God can fill. There are certain needs in a person that no human can fill. When a someone idolizes their spouse or when someone puts anyone in a place that only God should be it puts undue pressure, unbearable pressure on the idolized person and eventually that pressure will break the relationship.
The solution is to the problem of idolatry in relationships is to put God first; to keep Him in His proper position as Lord. This is the key. View relationships in a triangle with the two parties at each bottom side and God at the top. The more each spouse moves up that triangle and closer to God the closer they come to each other. There is a principle of relationships here. The closer a spouse moves to God the better a spouse they will be. That is true of parents and children too. The closer a father or mother is to the Lord, the better a parent they will be. The closer children are to the Lord the better children they will be to their parents. The closer you are to God the better anything you will be. God is working to bring Rachel close to Himself.
God was working through Rachel’s circumstances to help her get her priorities right. She must have began to listen when Jacob rebuked her. When a child were born to Jacob and her by Bilhah, she named the child “Dan” which means “God has judged my case.” She is finally turning to God in her trial. That’s always a good thing. She’s still competing carnally with Leah, but she is moving closer to the Lord. Leah is still outstripping her in producing children.
Then Rachel finally gets pregnant. The verse says, “Then God remembered Rachel, and God listened to her and opened her womb.” (30:22). When it says “God remembered,” it doesn’t imply that God forgot Rachel. God forgets no one. It’s just that language is limited in describing the actions of God sometimes. Here God is simply acting in Rachel’s life. Then it says, “God listened to her . . .” What does that imply? It implies Rachel had talked with God in prayer about her problem. You listen to someone who talks to you. Rachel has turned to God in her trial. This is what God desired from the first.
If you are in a relationship make sure you keep God first while in that relationship. Jesus said the love we have for others should not even be in the same league as the love we have for God (Matthew 10:37). The two greatest commandments are to love God with all our heart and strength and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. But those are given in order of priority. We have to keep our love for God first in priority and love for others second always (Matthew 22:37-40). That is what God taught Rachel and that is what He will teach us.
Because of the size of Jacob’s family he seeks to leave the camp of Laban (30:25-26). Laban knows that God has blessed him for Jacob’s sake (30:27). Jacob and Laban agree that Jacob would remain a while longer and he would receive all the speckled, spotted goats, and brown sheep (30:32-34). Jacob uses peeled popular tree branches to facilitate the reproduction of the herds and manipulate their interaction so that his flocks would prosper (30:37-43). Now does putting peeled poplar branches of various kinds before flocks of goats actually control what they will look like? There is no scientific evidence to this that I know of. I believe there is something else going on here.
God has continued to bless Jacob. Even those close to him like Laban are being blessed through him. But Jacob wants to “provide for my own house” (30:30). There is nothing wrong with wanting to provide for your family. Jacob’s desire is perfectly acceptable especially given the fact he has worked fourteen years, without pay, for his uncle Laban.
But there is something else going on here that reveals more of the conniving nature of Jacob. What seems clear to Laban (i.e. “for I have learned by experience that the LORD has blessed me for your sake” – 30:27) does not apparently seem so clear to Jacob. He doesn’t seem to deeply grasp and understand that his blessing comes from God and not some strategy of his own. Jacob does state, “the LORD has blessed you since my coming. . . .” (30:30). But when it comes to producing his flocks, Jacob relies on what seems to be superstitious means to produce streaked, speckled and spotted goats (30:37-43). Jacob the conniver is relying on human wisdom rather than the Lord for blessing. That is the way of the flesh
Who really was behind the abundant blessing poured out on Jacob? It was the LORD! In the next chapter the LORD will reveal this to Jacob (31:1-13). This revelation to Jacob will bring him one step closer to a full surrender to God. But until then it is just one more piece of revelation for Jacob to store away until God ties everything together.
Prospering on the Job
There is some practical application to be gleaned from the work situation of Jacob. The workplace is one of the most important areas of life. We spend a large proportion of our life at work. How can find satisfaction and prosper on the job?
When we look at the efforts of Jacob during his time of service to his uncle Laban (31:25-43), we see some insights into prospering on the job. Before what we see in this chapter is taken and used to make decisions regarding one’s job situation, it should be tempered and bolstered with prayer and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. What do we learn about prospering on the job from this chapter?
First, realize sometimes it’s time to go (Genesis 30:25-26). What precipitated Jacob’s decision to leave? He said, “that I may go to my own place and to my country” (30:25). Jacob had a desire to leave. We may have a desire to leave our present job situation, but we always need to ask, “Where did this desire to leave come from, me or God?” If you are delighting yourself in God then it may be he is directing you onward in his plan for your life (Psalm 37:3-4). If you are leaving in order to escape present pressures, dissatisfactions, felt injustices, etc., it may be you need to check your motives. It may be that God is testing and building your faith and trust in him. If that is the case, and you leave the test prematurely, sooner or later, you’ll have to pass the testing of your faith to move on in God’s plan (James 1:2-8; 1 Peter 1:6-7; 4:19). If God is calling you to go, then go in faith!
Second, God will make your worth known (Genesis 30:27-30). Even crooked old Laban had to admit that he had been blessed as a result of Jacob’s work and presence. God will make the godly worker’s effort and righteousness shine forth like the noonday sun (Psalm 37:5-7).
Third, godly workers get their primary rewards from God (Genesis 30:31-34). Jacob, despite all his faults, was satisfied to rely on God for his wages. He was acquiring a proper view of work (Ephesians 6:5-9; Colossians 3:22-25). If you rely on your earthly employer for satisfaction you will not likely ever find fulfillment. Earthly employers will never give you enough recognition. They will never appreciate you enough. They will never pay you enough. The only employer who will meet all your needs is your heavenly Employer.
Fourth, godly workers learn from experience (Genesis 30:35-43). Jacob worked 20 years as a herdsman. He worked diligently and gave his best effort. He didn’t just go through the motions while working for Laban; he worked heard and made the best of a bad situation. He was innovative and applied thought to his job position and excelled as a result. He must have concentrated on what he had seen during his years of service and applied what he learned. This resulted in being a good witness for the LORD (30:30).
Fifth, God blesses hard work (Genesis 30:43). This is the testimony of God in His word. Read what He tells us:
· Psalm 90:17 – “And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us, And establish the work of our hands for us; Yes, establish the work of our hands.”
· Proverbs 12:24 – “The hand of the diligent will rule, But the lazy man will be put to forced labor.”
· Proverbs 14:23 – “All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.”
· 2 Corinthians 6:3-10 – “We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. 4 Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; 5 in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; 6 in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; 7 in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; 8 through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; 9 known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; 10 sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.” (Emphasis added.)
· 1 Corinthians 15:58 – “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” (Emphasis added.)
This last verse is extremely important. We can labor “in the LORD” in secular jobs. We can be workers on an assembly line, driving a truck, teaching in a classroom, working in a courtroom or hospital, whatever we do wherever we do it, if we do it “in the LORD,” God will bless it both materially and spiritually. That is the substance of what Paul conveys to the Colossians when he writes:
- Colossians 3:22-4:1 - “Bondservants [employees], obey in all things your masters [employers] according to the flesh, not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God.23 And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men,24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.25 But he who does wrong will be repaid for what he has done, and there is no partiality. Masters [employers], give your bondservants [employees] what is just and fair, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.”
If we approach our jobs from this perspective, we will prosper!
God Can Overcome Conniving
Now Jacob heard the words of Laban’s sons, saying, “Jacob has taken away all that was our father’s, and from what was our father’s he has acquired all this wealth.” 2 And Jacob saw the countenance of Laban, and indeed it was not favorable toward him as before. 3 Then the Lord said to Jacob, “Return to the land of your fathers and to your family, and I will be with you.”
4 So Jacob sent and called Rachel and Leah to the field, to his flock, 5 and said to them, “I see your father’s countenance, that it is not favorable toward me as before; but the God of my father has been with me. 6 And you know that with all my might I have served your father. 7 Yet your father has deceived me and changed my wages ten times, but God did not allow him to hurt me. 8 If he said thus: ‘The speckled shall be your wages,’ then all the flocks bore speckled. And if he said thus: ‘The streaked shall be your wages,’ then all the flocks bore streaked. 9 So God has taken away the livestock of your father and given them to me.
10 “And it happened, at the time when the flocks conceived, that I lifted my eyes and saw in a dream, and behold, the rams which leaped upon the flocks were streaked, speckled, and gray-spotted. 11 Then the Angel of God spoke to me in a dream, saying, ‘Jacob.’ And I said, ‘Here I am.’ 12 And He said, ‘Lift your eyes now and see, all the rams which leap on the flocks are streaked, speckled, and gray-spotted; for I have seen all that Laban is doing to you. 13 I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed the pillar and where you made a vow to Me. Now arise, get out of this land, and return to the land of your family.’ ”
14 Then Rachel and Leah answered and said to him, “Is there still any portion or inheritance for us in our father’s house? 15 Are we not considered strangers by him? For he has sold us, and also completely consumed our money. 16 For all these riches which God has taken from our father are really ours and our children’s; now then, whatever God has said to you, do it.”
17 Then Jacob rose and set his sons and his wives on camels. 18 And he carried away all his livestock and all his possessions which he had gained, his acquired livestock which he had gained in Padan Aram, to go to his father Isaac in the land of Canaan. 19 Now Laban had gone to shear his sheep, and Rachel had stolen the household idols that were her father’s. 20 And Jacob stole away, unknown to Laban the Syrian, in that he did not tell him that he intended to flee. 21 So he fled with all that he had. He arose and crossed the river, and headed toward the mountains of Gilead.
22 And Laban was told on the third day that Jacob had fled. 23 Then he took his brethren with him and pursued him for seven days’ journey, and he overtook him in the mountains of Gilead. 24 But God had come to Laban the Syrian in a dream by night, and said to him, “Be careful that you speak to Jacob neither good nor bad.”
25 So Laban overtook Jacob. Now Jacob had pitched his tent in the mountains, and Laban with his brethren pitched in the mountains of Gilead.
26 And Laban said to Jacob: “What have you done, that you have stolen away unknown to me, and carried away my daughters like captives taken with the sword? 27 Why did you flee away secretly, and steal away from me, and not tell me; for I might have sent you away with joy and songs, with timbrel and harp? 28 And you did not allow me to kiss my sons and my daughters. Now you have done foolishly in so doing. 29 It is in my power to do you harm, but the God of your father spoke to me last night, saying, ‘Be careful that you speak to Jacob neither good nor bad.’ 30 And now you have surely gone because you greatly long for your father’s house, but why did you steal my gods?”
31 Then Jacob answered and said to Laban, “Because I was afraid, for I said, ‘Perhaps you would take your daughters from me by force.’ 32 With whomever you find your gods, do not let him live. In the presence of our brethren, identify what I have of yours and take it with you.” For Jacob did not know that Rachel had stolen them.
33 And Laban went into Jacob’s tent, into Leah’s tent, and into the two maids’ tents, but he did not find them. Then he went out of Leah’s tent and entered Rachel’s tent. 34 Now Rachel had taken the household idols, put them in the camel’s saddle, and sat on them. And Laban searched all about the tent but did not find them. 35 And she said to her father, “Let it not displease my lord that I cannot rise before you, for the manner of women is with me.” And he searched but did not find the household idols.
36 Then Jacob was angry and rebuked Laban, and Jacob answered and said to Laban: “What is my trespass? What is my sin, that you have so hotly pursued me? 37 Although you have searched all my things, what part of your household things have you found? Set it here before my brethren and your brethren, that they may judge between us both! 38 These twenty years I have been with you; your ewes and your female goats have not miscarried their young, and I have not eaten the rams of your flock. 39 That which was torn by beasts I did not bring to you; I bore the loss of it. You required it from my hand, whether stolen by day or stolen by night. 40 There I was! In the day the drought consumed me, and the frost by night, and my sleep departed from my eyes. 41 Thus I have been in your house twenty years; I served you fourteen years for your two daughters, and six years for your flock, and you have changed my wages ten times. 42 Unless the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had been with me, surely now you would have sent me away empty-handed. God has seen my affliction and the labor of my hands, and rebuked you last night.”
43 And Laban answered and said to Jacob, “These daughters are my daughters, and these children are my children, and this flock is my flock; all that you see is mine. But what can I do this day to these my daughters or to their children whom they have borne? 44 Now therefore, come, let us make a covenant, you and I, and let it be a witness between you and me.”
45 So Jacob took a stone and set it up as a pillar. 46 Then Jacob said to his brethren, “Gather stones.” And they took stones and made a heap, and they ate there on the heap. 47 Laban called it Jegar Sahadutha, but Jacob called it Galeed. 48 And Laban said, “This heap is a witness between you and me this day.” Therefore its name was called Galeed, 49 also Mizpah, because he said, “May the Lord watch between you and me when we are absent one from another. 50 If you afflict my daughters, or if you take other wives besides my daughters, although no man is with us—see, God is witness between you and me!”
51 Then Laban said to Jacob, “Here is this heap and here is this pillar, which I have placed between you and me. 52 This heap is a witness, and this pillar is a witness, that I will not pass beyond this heap to you, and you will not pass beyond this heap and this pillar to me, for harm. 53 The God of Abraham, the God of Nahor, and the God of their father judge between us.” And Jacob swore by the Fear of his father Isaac. 54 Then Jacob offered a sacrifice on the mountain, and called his brethren to eat bread. And they ate bread and stayed all night on the mountain. 55 And early in the morning Laban arose, and kissed his sons and daughters and blessed them. Then Laban departed and returned to his place.
Conniving leads to more conniving and victimization. Conniving leads to unhealthy competition. And ultimately conniving leads to conflict. But there is also evidence in Jacob of spiritual maturing. God is working in Jacob and Jacob is beginning to respond.
In Genesis 31 Laban and his herdsmen become jealous of the prosperity of Jacob (31:1-2). This serves as a backdrop for us to see that Jacob does indeed have a developing relationship with God. What are these indicators of spiritual growth in Jacob?
First, attentiveness and obedience to God (31:3-5, 17-18). The LORD warned Jacob that it’s time to leave and Jacob is open to hearing the word of the LORD. The LORD told Jacob that He would be with him. Jacob did not hesitate. Jacob obeyed the LORD’s command to leave.
One might wonder how God spoke to Jacob. A hint may come in reference by Jacob to the countenance of Laban (31:4). Perhaps the LORD brought the countenance or look of Laban to Jacob’s attention in a way that impressed upon him that it was time to go. And as God did this He may have spoke to Jacob’s spirit in a way that assured him God would be with him.
Second, a servant’s heart (31:6). Jacob’s spiritual maturing is seen in the fact that Jacob had been developing a servant’s heart. Serving is contrary to the sinful nature. The sinful nature seeks to be served. When you are moving closer to God a transition from being served to serving can be seen. Jesus put great emphasis on serving among His disciples for this very reason (Mark 9:33-37).
Third, trust in God for protection (31:7, 42). Jacob attributes his safety and welfare to God. He has a sense that God is on his side and looking out for him. Perhaps this has been what has buoyed him through the years of service to Laban. This demonstrates patience and patience is a tool of God for character building (James 1:2-5). Jacob testifies to God’s intervention between him and Laban and calls on God to watch between him and Laban in the future (31:42:49). This all tells us that Jacob is learning to lean more on God and less on himself.
Fourth, acknowledging God’s blessing (31:9-13, 42). Jacob recognizes that his prosperity was from God. He comes to the realization in light of God’s revelation that all that he has is from God and not the product of some work of his own. Acknowledging that God is the Source of all blessing is a further sign of spiritual maturing (James 1:17).
Fifth, a family united in faith in God (31:14-16). Rachel and Leah united with Jacob and said, “whatever God ahs said to you, do it” (31:16). That doesn’t just happen; that is the product of a household where God has been discussed. Jacob shared what God had been speaking to him about and the way Jacob shared with his wives was persuasive. You can see the hand of God working in the midst of all of them.
The rest of the chapter records how the conflict between Jacob and Laban pans out. Jacob flees with his family (31:20-21). Laban saw people as property, (he had sold his daughters - 31:14-15) and was probably more concerned with the material loss of Jacob leaving than anything else. . So naturally when he sees Jacob and all his family and goods gone it causes him to pursue Jacob. An interesting part of this account is that Rachel stole her father’s household idols as she left (31:19). This tells us that while Laban was related to the holy line he was an idolater. It also tells us that Rachel had some spiritual maturing to do herself.
Laban pursued Jacob and his family perhaps with a thought of killing them and taking all they had for himself. God gave him an offer he couldn’t refuse and he refrained from violence (31:22-24, 29). When Laban caught up to the group he could not find the stolen idols (note: it’s interesting that a “god” can be stolen!). Jacob rebukes Laban and reminds him of his twenty years of service (31:38, 41). Jacob’s rebuke reveals that he believes it was God Who blessed him even though he was dealt with unfairly by Laban (31:42). Jacob is testifying to his faith and trust in God.
The conflict is ended when Jacob and Laban enter into a covenant of peace. They set up a marker of stones which Jacob named “Galeed” (“the heap of witness”); and “Mizpah” (“watchtower”) (31:43-50). The agreement at Mizpah was more a malediction than a benediction. Jacob was warning Laban to abide by their agreement because God was watching over them to assure that he would and could protect Jacob from Laban (31:49). Jacob sealed the covenant by offering a sacrifice to God (31:54). This is more evidence of Jacob being more outward and comfortable with his faith.
Breaking Away from the World
The Bible is filled with types, symbols that represent realities larger than the single event or person. In Genesis 31 Laban is representative of the way of the world. In this chapter when Jacob leaves Laban, he represents breaking away from the world.
What is the way of the world? When we look at this chapter and Laban as a type of the world we see some pretty ugly things that are associated with the world. What are these things?
1.) RESENTMENT – Laban resented Jacob’s prosperity (31:1-2)
2.) MANIPULATION – Laban manipulated Jacob to his own advantage (31:7, 41).
3.) HYPOCRISY – Laban didn’t pursue Jacob to have a party but to do him harm (31:25-29).
4.) VIOLENCE – Laban likely sought to kill Jacob and keep his goods (31:29).
5.) IDOLATRY – Laban’s concern for a “god’ that could be stolen demonstrates his own spiritual bankruptcy (31:30, 53).
6.) THREATENING – Laban used fear to try to manipulate Jacob (31:51-52).
7.) COVETOUSNESS – Laban lusted for more than he already had enough of, that is, he was covetous (Ephesians 5:5; Colossians 3:5; 1 Timothy 6:9-11).
How do we break away from the world? The world is not a pretty place as the above shows. It can be discouraging and depressing to live in the world. How can we overcome the world? How can we break away from the world’s influence in our lives?
1.) Realize the way of the world for what it is – Jacob began to see the selfishness and self-centeredness of Laban and his group (31:1-2).
2.) Return to God’s word – Jacob turned to God and heard God’s word, which directed him to leave the world he was in (31:3).
3.) See God’s hand at work – Jacob saw the hand of God in his life (31:5, 7, 9, 11, 12-13, 42, 53).
4.) Apply God’s word – Jacob acted on God’s word (31:4-13).
5.) Stand on God’s word – Jacob firmly stood by what God had directed him to do (31:36-42).
6.) Give glory to God – Jacob initiated worship of God as he was freed from the world (31:54).
What happens if we try to take the world with us? That’s what Rachel tried to do. Rachel stole her father’s household idols and though the reason for her doing this may be arguable, the point remains, she took something of the old, past world with her on the journey to a new world and way of life in God. The consequence was to put her family at risk physically and spiritually and led to her having to lie to cover up her deed (31:19, 33-35). Nothing good comes from trying to take a piece of the world with you in your journey of faith with God.
What does the Bible say about our reaction to the world? A time will come when God will remove His followers from this world. But until then, we have to live in this world. The Bible gives some very clear teaching on our relationship to the world. It tells us not to conform to the world (Romans 12:1-2) or let it stain us (James 1:27). Scripture states that any lusts or worldly related desires should be brought to the cross of Christ (Galatians 6:14; Titus 2:12). Lastly, the Bible states we are to overcome the world by faith (1 John 5:4-5). But is this something we do on our own? Absolutely not!
How does the Bible say this can be accomplished? Through Jesus! Jesus has overcome the world (John 16:33) and when we put our faith in Him He will help us overcome the world too. Jesus has made a way for us to overcome the world. Jesus came and shined light into this dark world (John 8:12). He bore the sins of the world (John 1:29; 1 John 2:1-2). He came to save us from the world (John 12:47). Jesus will ultimately judge this world in righteousness (Acts 17:31). Because of this we are called to shine His light of the gospel into the darkness of this world until He returns (Matthew 5:14).
When we look at this chapter in the life of Jacob we see God is always watching over us (31:10-13, 49); He provides for us (31:5-6); and protects us (31:7). God communicates to Jacob to warn him (31:3, 11-13). The Angel of the LORD is identified as God or particularly, “the God of Bethel.” (31:11-13).
When we look at the relationships in this chapter we learn a number of things. What goes around comes around; Jacob was apparently a schemer who relied on his own wits to get things done (Genesis 27). But when he came to Laban’s camp he was manipulated by his uncle much the same way he had manipulated Esau (29:23-25).
True love is willing to wait until marriage to participate in sex. The burden of service is lightened by loving the one for whom you work (29:20).
God provides residual blessings to those who are in close proximity to believers (30:27). Prosperity comes from the LORD (31:1-13). Even when we work for those who try to take advantage of us, if we trust in the LORD, He will watch over us and make things right (31:42).
My service for God should always be rooted and motivated in my love for Him (29:20). God watches over me when those around me may try to take advantage of me (31:12). Though I find myself in unjust or seemingly unfair situations, if I trust in God and walk in His way (24:27), He will work things out (31:42).
Serve the LORD in love. Trust that He is watching over you even when in unfair situations.