All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. - 2 Timothy 3:16-17

Based on Genesis 30 and 31

Through a dream at Bethel, God promises Jacob an inheritance, prosperity, and to bless all nations through him. He also promises to bring him back to Canaan after his exile in Syria with his uncle, Laban.

Jacob’s labored 14 years to accumulate bride money for his wives, Leah and Rachel. These dowries are normally given to the women at marriage in case their husband dies, divorces, or abandons them. However, Laban hasn't fulfilled his duty to his daughters—and he's not arranged to pay Jacob, either!

Reminding Laban that his contract has ended, he asks to be released. But God's blessing on Jacob has greatly enriched Laban, so he asks him to stay and name his price.

Overconfidence and Greed

In a rash of self-confidence, Jacob proposes an odd deal to keep all the speckled and spotted sheep and goats, and all the brown lambs. Laban thinks this foolish, since the goats were usually of solid color, and the sheep generally white. He quickly agrees, separates, and sends the speckled and spotted ones away to keep them from interbreeding.

Starting with only solid-color animals, Jacob follows an ancient superstition that offspring markings can be affected by what mothers see during the prenatal period. Taking tree branches, he strips off some bark to expose the white wood and sets them before the mating animals. This seems to work, and Jacob quickly acquires a sizeable flock! Laban now begins claiming the speckled and spotted ones by turns, but Jacob still prospers.

Finally, the Angel of God comes to Jacob in a dream and explains how recessive genes of off-color characteristics are transmitted through pure-color parents (lest he boast of his cleverness). Only supernatural intervention has brought about his prosperity.

Still Fearful

God now tells Jacob to return home, and his wives agree, complaining that their father has sold them, treated them as strangers, and has spent their dowries. Still fearful, Jacob puts his wives on camels and steals away with his family and flocks while Laban shears sheep.

Three days later, Laban discovers this and is furious, but God warns him in a dream to neither speak good nor bad to Jacob. Overtaking them, Laban accuses him of taking away his daughters like captives, of not allowing him to kiss his family, and of stealing his household gods (typically small nude female figures worshiped for protection and fertility).

Not realizing that Rachel's hidden the gods in the camel saddle she's sitting on, Jacob allows Laban to search the tents, adding that whoever stole them should be put to death!

Laban searches Jacob's tent, then those of his wives and maids. (Bedouin wives still have separate tents today—to help keep the peace!) Children of any age are obliged to stand in the presence of a parent, but Rachel refuses, claiming she's menstruating. This excuse works, and Laban comes up empty-handed.

Now Jacob's gorge rises! He rails over the ill-treatment he's endured for 20 years, while never taking advantage of his uncle, enduring both heat and cold with the flocks, and having his wages changed ten times!

Put in his place, Laban proposes a formal covenant to resolve their problem—a written document, signed, sealed, and concluded with a sacrifice and communal meal. A stone pillar and heap of stones will now serve as a territorial marker to keep them permanently apart. It will be called Mizpah—a stern warning that God will watch this boundary when they are not present.

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Was I spinning? It must have worked.

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