We are all familiar with the story of how Jacob, whose names means “The Cunning One”, was outsmarted by his uncle and father-in-law, Laban, who tricked him into working for him for 14 years, for free, to marry Leah (which was a scam) and then Rebekah. Finally, Jacob had to re-negotiate for his employment contract with him where he asked for the newborn speckled and spotted lambs and goats to be his salary.
Gen 30:31-33 (NKJV)
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.”
He became the father of “genetic engineering” (more of selective breeding) where he miraculously turned almost all of Laban’s sheep and goat into his own by creating brown, speckled and striped offsprings who were stronger than the Laban’s.
As a fan of animal planet since a young age, it got me interested when I read about how he actually pulled that off. Upon careful inspection of the scriptures, I got puzzled even more.
Laban had actually left only all white lambs and goats to Jacob, thinking that he could continue to rip off Jacob for many more years.
“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.”
Being an experienced breeder of sheep and goats, Laban knew what he was doing when he seperated all the animals who already have speckles and spots, and all those that are colored with a little white, as well as those that are brown. In this way, Jacob is left with only pure white sheep and goats; He is making it much more difficult to produce brown, speckled and spots in the new offsprings, which will result in very low wages.
Laban Represents the Law
In this story, I believe Laban represents righteousness through our own works which is what the Law requires, he demanded from Jacob again and again, after he has made Jacob worked for free for 14 years, he still made things difficult for him – he (the law) was never satisfied.
When the law was introduced, it was supposed to remove sin from Man (like how Laban separated the brown, speckled and spotted sheep from his flock over a 3-day journey). In modern science (Mendelian Genetics, to see a more detailed discussion on this, see “Side Note” below), we know that this is not possible because the coloured genes is always hidden in some of the flock – There will always be some hidden sin in Man.
However, what Jacob did was supernatural, he manage to make the majority of Laban’s sheep coloured over 6 years by showing them some branches while they drank and mated!
The Branches (Rods) that Jacob Used
37Jacob, however, took fresh branches of poplar, almond, and plane trees, and peeled the bark, exposing the white inner wood of the branches. 38Then he set the peeled branches in the watering troughs in front of the flocks coming in to drink. So when the flocks were in heat and came to drink, 39they mated in front of the branches. And they bore young that were streaked or speckled or spotted.
Almond Tree – Hebrew “Luz”, meaning – coincidentally, the city renamed Bethel (House of God) by Jacob, also symbolic of “hastiness” for its early blossom from the winter sleep.
Jer 1: 11
“Moreover the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Jeremiah, what do you see?”
And I said, “I see a branch of an almond tree.”
And I said, I see a rod of an almond-tree — Namely, which had leaves, and possibly blossoms on it, like Aaron’s rod; otherwise the prophet could not so readily have discerned of what kind of wood it was. The almond-tree is one of the first that wakes and rises from its winter repose, flowering, in the warm southern countries, in the month of January, and by March bringing its fruits to maturity. From this circumstance, which is mentioned by Pliny, lib. 16. cap. 42, it is supposed to have received its name, שׁקד, shaked, as being intent, and, as it were, on the watch to seize the first opportunity of emitting its buds and blossoms:
Chestnut Tree (not local)/ Plane Tree (local) – It usually sheds its outer bark, Hebrew name, “Armon” means naked.
Poplar Tree – from the name signifying “White” – Righteousness
Isaiah 1:18 “…though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”
The Peeled Branches (or Rods) Represented Jesus Crucified
Peeling off the bark to expose the white, symbolises Jesus the perfectly righteous Man who was striped for our sins.
Jacob shows the flocks of sheep and goat the naked (plane) striped, peeled Man, the white (Righteous) tree that was hasty(almond) to bless them, while they were drinking water (feeding on the Word) the sheep and goat were fruitful and multiplied.
The more we look unto Jesus, the more we feed on His word, the more we will be like Him and be blessed!
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.
This verse got me thinking for a very long time, trying to figure out exactly how he is doing this.
First he separated his own lambs (the striped and speckled ones) then he made the flocks face toward Laban’s streaked and brown; but he did not mix his flocks with those of Laban’s.
How did he make his flock face toward Laban’s streaked and brown flock? Perhaps it was during drinking where he put the watering through so the flocks will face the Laban’s flocks that are streaked and brown.
Wait. Jacob started with all white flock. Laban’s streaked and brown have been removed 3 days’ journey from his flock!
Seeing Sin in Self-Righteousness and Jesus At The Same Time
Laban means white, it stands for self-righteousness. Jacob made his flocks face toward the SIN (streaked and brown) in self-righteousness (Laban’s coloured flock) and at the same time see Jesus while we are drinking (His word) and that is miracles happen!!!
When we see what the law demands from us, and how in our own flesh we can NEVER meet its demand, there is no other way but to turn to Christ as our righteousness (even if we do fall into sin), we will see ourselves blameless before God and ready to receive form Him.
“In this way the man grew exceedingly prosperous and came to own large flocks, and female and male servants, and camels and donkeys.” (NIV)
Only when jacob pointed the sheep to the finished work of Jesus was the righteousness satisfied, not only was he satisfied, he gave Jacob more than he ever gave him when he worked from him in the past 20 years.
Message to Leaders
It also speaks to leaders, in that the more we point our sheep to Jesus Christ and feed them the word of God, the more we will prosper.
The Law Now Works to Bless Us
I love how this story ended, in Gen 31, as Jacob fled from Laban, Laban pursued for 7 days (there will be a complete judgement of sins) and caught up with him. The law will always catch up with us and demand for complete payment for our sins.
“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.’
The law has a judicial right to punish us for our sins, but God has to overlook our sins when we look to Jesus.
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.
A new covenant is made between Jacob and Laban, the law which was given to bring us blessing (Deuteronomy 28) can finally release all of God’s blessings in our lives under the covenant cut between God and Jesus on the cross!!!
Are you at a place where you have been giving and giving to the demands of the Law? Have you tried and tried and tried but just fail keep of all that the law asks of you? You are not alone. The law was never designed to be kept by Man but to bring out the flesh and ultimately the need for Christ our Saviour.
The word of God clearly tells us that we have to look unto Jesus as our Lord and Saviour, the author and finisher of our faith, and keep on drinking from Him(His word) and under this new covenant, God’s righteousness is satisfied and will work to release all the blessings that He has been wanting to give us.
Side note – Mendelian Genetics and Jacob’s Sheep:
Interestingly, J. D. PEARSON, a Visiting Professor in the Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering at the University of Salford, in his paper, “A Mendelian Interpretation of Jacob’s Sheep” (see Source 1 below) has done up the math using Mendelian Genetics to explain how this miracle could’ve worked out if Jacob used selective breeding techniques.
According to his argument, Jacob’s flock would have to interbreed with Laban’s flocks, but according to the scriptures, in Gen 30:40, he separated them.
“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.”
This means the 2nd generation black flock of Jacob did not breed with the first generation flock. Yet all the animals gave birth to speckled and streaked young.
Jacob seemed to have continued to breed from Laban’s flock as well as his flock. Contrary to Mendel’s theory, it was the “rods” that we placed “in the gutters” that caused them to give birth to coloured young.
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.
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.
In my humble opinion, we can always try to explain any miracle away with science, but we have to bear in mind that God is above science. And facts and science may change, but He is the great I Am and he is the same yesterday, today and forever. His word will never change, His love for us is everlasting. Even if Jacob did “work” for his miracle (which I beg to differ) it was God who gave him the idea and prospered the work of his hands, as He did Joseph, Elijah, Elisha… etc.
The bible is God breathed, details are hidden in the scriptures so that it blesses those who ask God for wisdom and revelation and spend time to read between the lines.
To see the hidden truths in the bible, we cannot read the bible with scientific eyes, but with spiritual eyes.
1) “A Mendelian Interpretation of Jacob’s Sheep – Science and Christian ….” https://www.scienceandchristianbelief.org/serve_pdf_free.php?filename=SCB%2013-1%20Pearson.pdf. Accessed 30 Apr. 2019.