Life-Study of Genesis, Chapter 71





Jacob's record in Genesis 30 and 31 is very interesting. Based upon the two principles that the Bible contains no wasted words and that everything in the Bible is the word of life, we must look to the Lord that we might see the life in this record. I have spent a considerable amount of time in this section of the Word. Many years ago, I took this record merely as a story. But after realizing that whatever is found in the Bible is the word of life, I began to seek the life in this portion of the Word. After I was enlightened, I realized that this record is full of life.

All the main items in 30:25-43 and 31:1-16, 38-42 can be classified under three headings: Laban's squeeze, Jacob's trick, and God's blessing. The three main parties in this record are Laban, Jacob, and God. Two of these parties are visible and one is invisible. Laban, the first party, squeezed Jacob, and Jacob, the second party, tricked Laban. Neither of these two parties, however, could make the final decision. This was made by the third party, the invisible party, God Himself. However much Laban squeezed Jacob, Laban was bound to lose, and whatever tricks Jacob might have played on Laban, it was not Jacob's tricks that made him rich. The last word was not spoken by Laban or Jacob; it was spoken by God, the Lord of all. If we would see the life in this section of the Word and receive the supply of life it contains, we must pay attention to these three parties. If we see them, we shall appreciate this section of the Word.

As we have pointed out, Abraham represents a life justified by God and living in fellowship with God, and Isaac represents the life which enjoys God's grace. In Jacob we see the third aspect of the spiritual life—transformation. Jacob, a man under God's transforming hand, represents the life of transformation. Laban's squeezing of Jacob was sovereign of God. Jacob needed Laban's squeezing hand, and God used it for Jacob's transformation.

As you read the record of Jacob's life, do not read it for others. Read it for yourself, for you are the unique Jacob. Even the sisters are Jacobs. While many sisters have Laban husbands, they, the tricky wives, are Jacobs. Since they are so tricky, God has given them husbands like Laban to squeeze them. However, we may also say that many Jacob husbands have married Laban wives. Nearly every husband is tricky. Although a certain married brother may appear to be a gentleman, he is actually a tricky Jacob. Every husband plays tricks on his wife. But however tricky we may be, God is sovereign. Jacob's record is our biography and autobiography. The record in the Bible is our biography, and the record in our daily living is our autobiography. We are writing our autobiography day by day. In dealing with others, we are tricky; in suffering others' dealings, we are squeezed.

Jacob had been chosen to be the expression of God. How could such a supplanter become God's expression? Not by outward correction, but only through the process of transformation. How can transformation be accomplished? Only by our being placed, by God's sovereign arrangement, into a certain environment and under the hand of certain people. He is sovereign in His arrangement of our environment. To the brothers and sisters who are soon to be married I would say this word: Brothers, do not think that you are about to marry a good sister. No, you will marry a squeezing Laban. Sisters, be prepared. You will not marry a spiritual giant but a tricky Jacob. God is sovereign in this matter.

Although God has chosen us, we are supplanters, heelholders, and must be transformed, whether we like it or not. I have heard many among us saying, "Lord Jesus, I love You." Do you know what it means to say this to the Lord? It means that you agree with His dealing. When you say, "Lord Jesus, I love You," you are actually saying, "Lord Jesus, I'm one with You and I'm ready for You to deal with me." Probably you have not realized what is involved in saying, "Lord Jesus, I love You." Suppose a young lady tells a young man that she loves him. This word involves a great deal and should not be spoken lightly. By speaking this simple word, she sells herself to him. Likewise, when we say, "O Lord Jesus, I love You," we are caught by Him and we become involved in the process of transformation. As many of us can testify, we had no problems before we began to love the Lord. But since we began to say, "Lord Jesus, I love You," we have had one problem after another. These problems, however, do not kill us. Sometimes we may be plagued with so many problems that we want to die. But at such a time the Lord will say, "You may want to die, but I will not let you die. I will keep you alive that you might be transformed. I did not predestinate you to die. I predestinated you to be conformed to the image of the Firstborn Son of God." If we approach this portion of the Word in this light, we shall see how living it is.

8) Laban's Squeeze

Let us now consider Laban's squeeze (30:25-43; 31:1-16, 38-42). In chapter twenty-nine Laban received Jacob for hospitality (29:14). After a while, Laban might have discovered that Jacob was quite smart and that he could be very profitable to him. Appearing to be kind, Laban said to Jacob, "Because thou art my brother, shouldest thou therefore serve me for nought? tell me, what shall thy wages be?" (29:15). Laban seemed to be saying, "Jacob, it is not fair for you to stay with me without being paid. Tell me what you want." Laban might have perceived that Jacob had fallen in love with his daughter Rachel, and he might have said within himself, "Jacob, I will not let you have my daughter cheaply. You love her, and I will give her to you, but you must pay the price." Laban was wise and did not say this to Jacob, but he knew Jacob's heart. When Laban asked him about wages, Jacob said, "I will serve thee seven years for Rachel thy younger daughter" (29:18). As we have pointed out, love blinds people and makes them foolish. Because his love for Rachel had made him foolish, Jacob pledged himself to work for seven years to get her. If I had been Jacob, I would not have worked longer than twelve months. Laban was satisfied with Jacob's offer. When these seven years were expired, however, Laban did nothing concerning Jacob's marriage to Rachel. This shows that he had no heart. Thus, Jacob was forced to say, "Give me my wife, for my days are fulfilled, that I may go in unto her" (29:21). But Laban gave Jacob Leah instead of Rachel. When Jacob realized this, Laban justified himself by saying that it was not the custom in their country to give the younger daughter before the firstborn (29:26). Regarding Rachel, Laban said, "Fulfill her week, and we will give thee this also for the service which thou shalt serve with me yet seven other years" (29:27). Here we see Laban's squeeze. If you recall your past, you will see that you also have been squeezed, perhaps by your husband or wife.

Laban was crafty and cunning, and Jacob could not defeat him. Twice Jacob said that Laban had changed his wages ten times (31:7, 41). Jacob complained to Laban, saying, "Thus have I been twenty years in thy house: I served thee fourteen years for thy two daughters, and six years for thy cattle; and thou hast changed my wages ten times" (31:41). Furthermore, Jacob said to him, "Except the God of my father, the God of Abraham, and the fear of Isaac, had been with me, surely thou hadst sent me away now empty" (31:42). Jacob seemed to be saying, "Laban, not only have I worked fourteen years for your daughters and six years for your cattle, but you were not even willing to let me have my wives, children, and flocks. You have tried to detain them all." What sufferings Jacob passed through under Laban's squeezing hand!

Laban squeezed Jacob in many ways. He trapped Jacob to labor for him fourteen years for his two daughters and then he charged him to labor six years for his flock (31:41). As we have seen, he changed Jacob's wages ten times, probably reducing them every time he changed them. The more Laban demanded of Jacob, the less he paid him. Laban also required Jacob to bear the loss of any cattle which had been torn by beasts or stolen (31:39). How unfair this was! But Laban thought that it was absolutely fair and seemed to say, "Be careful about my cattle. You must replace any that are torn by beasts or any that are stolen." Could you tolerate working under such a squeezing hand? Jacob, however, was patient and endured Laban's squeeze for twenty years. At times, Laban might have threatened Jacob, saying, "If you do not want to work for me according to my demand, then you may leave. I shall keep my daughters, my grandchildren, and my flocks." Jacob was frightened at the prospect of this. Although he had been greatly enlarged, Jacob was still fearful of Laban. When he did escape, he was afraid to tell Laban that he was leaving, fearing that Laban would rob him of his wives, children, and flocks. Laban was a native and Jacob was a stranger. It is always easy for a native to deal with a stranger. Laban must have threatened Jacob with the loss of everything. Nevertheless, Jacob endured it. Besides all this, Laban caused Jacob to be consumed by heat in the day and by frost in the night (31:40). Because Laban treated him in this way, Jacob could say, "My sleep departed from mine eyes" (31:40). As Jacob was shepherding Laban's flock, he was in the open air and had no place to sleep. There was no shade from the heat during the day and no protection from the frost at night. In that region the temperature is hot during the day and cold at night. As Jacob suffered the heat and the cold, his sleep fled away because he was under the pressure of Laban. Finally, as we have already pointed out, Laban tried to detain Jacob's wives, children, and flocks (30:26; 31:14-15, 42). While none of us would be willing to work for someone like Laban, Jacob worked for Laban for twenty years. During this time, he was under Laban's squeezing hand.

If we read the record in this light, we shall say, "Lord, how I worship You. Since the day I began to love You, things have happened to me in the same way and according to the same principle." Look back upon your years in the church life and recall the times you have been squeezed. Just as the natural Jacob needed a squeezing Laban, so our natural disposition also needs the squeezing. Laban's squeezing hand was no accident; it had been prearranged by the sovereign God. Isaac, Rebekah, and Esau were used by God to put Jacob into the transformation oven, and Laban was the fire burning in this oven. All these people were used by God for Jacob's transformation. Do not complain about your situation. Sometimes, as I was complaining, I suddenly saw the light, and God seemed to say, "Why do you complain? Don't you know that this is My arrangement? Your wife, your children, and all your brothers in the church have been prearranged by Me. It is foolish for you to complain." Your wife, husband, and children are exactly what your disposition needs. We may be mistaken, but God can never make a mistake. Everything is of the Lord's hand, and there is no need to complain. Instead of complaining, we should simply say, "Thank You, Lord, for such a good Laban."

9) Jacob's Trick

Although Jacob was squeezed and threatened by Laban, he could still play tricks on him (30:31-43). One day Jacob told Laban that he wanted to go back to his own country and that Laban should give him his wives and his children for whom he had served so many years (30:25-26). Laban answered, "I pray thee, if I have found favour in thine eyes, tarry: for I have learned by experience that the Lord hath blessed me for thy sake" (30:27). Laban seemed to be nice, but he was crafty. Crafty people are always nice. Whoever is nice to you is crafty, but whoever is bold with you is honest. Laban was very crafty with Jacob, saying that he had learned that by having Jacob stay with him, he had received the Lord's blessing. When Laban said to Jacob, "Appoint me thy wages, and I will give it," Jacob answered, "Thou knowest how I have served thee, and how thy cattle was with me. 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?" (30:28-30). Jacob seemed to be saying, "I have worked here for many years, but still I cannot provide for my own household. When shall I be able to provide for my own family?" Laban, realizing that if Jacob would leave, God's blessing would depart with him, seemed to say, "Stay with me. I don't care how much I pay you. Simply tell me what you want. As long as we are under God's blessing, everything will be all right."

Now we see that Jacob, who had suffered Laban's squeeze, had a way to steal Laban's wealth and make himself rich. When Laban asked him what he should give him as wages, Jacob said, "Thou shalt not give me any thing: if thou wilt do this thing for me, I will again feed and keep thy flock: I will pass through all thy flock to day, removing from thence all the speckled and spotted cattle, and all the black 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 black among the sheep, that shall be counted stolen with me" (30:31-33, Heb.). Jacob seemed to be saying, "Uncle Laban, promise me one thing and I will stay. Take from your flock all the speckled, spotted, and black cattle and leave all the white ones with me. From now on, the cattle which are spotted, speckled, and black will be mine." Laban thought that this was an excellent suggestion, for he knew that the white cattle could only produce white cattle and that they could not produce any that were speckled, spotted, or black. Hence, Laban removed from his flock all the cattle which were not purely white and gave them into the hand of his sons (30:34-35). The flock left to Jacob was purely white. Probably thinking that, once again, Jacob had fallen into his trap, Laban "set three days' journey betwixt himself and Jacob: and Jacob fed the rest of Laban's flocks" (30:36). As we shall see, this gave Jacob the opportunity to play his trick on Laban.

In playing his trick, Jacob took rods of poplar, hazel, and chestnut trees and "peeled white stripes in them, and made the white appear which was in the rods" (30:37). Jacob then set these striped rods before the flocks in the watering troughs, "that they should conceive when they came to drink" (30:38). In 30:39 we are told that "the flocks conceived before the rods, and brought forth cattle striped, speckled, and spotted." Jacob then separated his cattle from Laban's cattle. Furthermore, when the stronger cattle conceived, "Jacob laid the rods before the eyes of the cattle in the gutters, that they might conceive among the rods. But when the cattle were feeble, he put them not in: so the feebler were Laban's and the stronger Jacob's" (30:41-42). Thus, the speckled, spotted, and striped cattle were stronger, and the white cattle were feebler. I do not believe that Jacob's scheme actually worked; it was merely an invention of Jacob's clever mind. But whether or not the trick worked, the results appeared, and Jacob thought that his plan had been successful.

When Jacob saw that the countenance of Laban was not toward him as before, the Lord said unto him, "Return unto the land of thy fathers, and to thy kindred; and I will be with thee" (31:2-3). Then, according to 31:4-5, "Jacob sent and called Rachel and Leah to the field unto his flock," and told them that their father's countenance had changed toward him. After this, he related a dream he had had during the time the cattle were conceiving. In this dream he saw that "the rams which leaped upon the cattle were striped, speckled, and spotted," and he heard the Angel of God saying, "Lift up now thine eyes, and see, all the rams which leap upon the cattle are striped, speckled, and spotted: for I have seen all that Laban doeth unto thee" (31:10-12). When I read the account of this dream in the past, I doubted the truth of it. I thought that Jacob was lying because he did not want to divulge his trick to his wives. Eventually, I discovered that the dream was not a lie, for in relating it, Jacob said that the Angel of the Lord had spoken to him, saying, "I am the God of Beth-el, where thou anointedst the pillar, and where thou vowedst a vow unto me" (31:13). Since this word cannot be false, the dream must have been true. While Jacob was playing his trick on Laban with the striped branches, God spoke to him in a dream, telling him to see that all the rams which leaped upon the cattle were striped, speckled, and spotted. In this way God indicated to Jacob that he did not acquire these cattle by his trick but by God's sovereignty. The principle here is the same as that in Jacob's gaining the birthright. While Jacob did his best to obtain it, it was actually given to him. Apparently, Jacob secured the birthright by his trick; actually, it was given to him by God's sovereignty. Likewise, apparently Jacob gained the riches of the flock by his trick; actually, these riches came by God's sovereignty.

There is a difficult problem in this section of the Word. In chapter thirty we are told that only white cattle were conceiving before the rods, but in the dream speckled, and spotted striped rams, not white rams, were leaping on others. How can we reconcile this? There are two ways. The first way is to claim that the dream was a lie. I cannot accept this. The second way is to say that this is a matter of God's sovereignty. According to this way, God changed the white cattle into speckled, spotted, and striped cattle in a way similar to His changing Balaam's curses into blessings (Num. 23:11-12; 24:10). However, regardless of the way we explain this occurrence, I do not believe that the speckled, spotted, and striped cattle were conceived through Jacob's trick but through God's sovereignty. Jacob's dream in chapter thirty-one reveals that it was God's sovereignty that actually produced these results. Compare this once again with the case of Jacob's securing the birthright. If God had not been sovereign in that situation and had not given Jacob the birthright, Jacob never could have obtained it through trickery. The principle is the same here. Jacob did not become rich through his trickery but through God's sovereignty.

Jacob had been chosen by God and he was under God's blessing. There was no need for him to play tricks in order to become rich. Since Jacob was under God's blessing, God granted him His blessing. Apparently, Jacob gained these riches through the success of his trickery; actually, they were given to him by God's sovereign, blessing hand. In principle, it is the same with us today. We also are God's chosen ones and are under His blessing. There is no need for us to strive or to play tricks in order to get God's blessing. God will grant us the blessing we need. Nevertheless, after being saved, we all have struggled and played tricks to get the blessing. In many cases it seemed that the blessing did come through our struggling and trickery. Actually, the blessing came through God's sovereignty. It is the same with everything related to us. We should not think that any blessing has come through our successful endeavors. Rather, we must realize that every blessing, whether spiritual or material, has come through God's sovereignty.

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