How did the flocks of Jacob multiply greatly?

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The agreement between Jacob and Laban

Jacob worked very hard for his father-in-law in tending his flocks (Laban) for 14 years. At the end of this period, he asked for his wages (Genesis 30: 25-26). Laban asked his son in law to “name his wages,” and son in law said, “Let me go through all your flocks today and remove from them every speckled or spotted sheep, every dark-colored lamb and every spotted or speckled goat. They will be my wages. And . . . in the future . . . any goat in my possession that is not speckled or spotted, or any lamb that is not dark-colored, will be considered stolen” (Genesis 30:32–33).

In the Near East, goats, generally are black or dark brown, seldom white or spotted with white. And the sheep are generally white, rarely black or speckled. Thus, the son in law’s request was for a small part of Laban’s flocks and herds. Laban happily accepted the deal but did not leave his son in law to make the separation of animals (vs. 34–36). And he set three days’ journey between his flock and his son in law’s flocks to prevent breeding between the two flocks.

Multiplying the flocks

Then, Laban’s son in law “placed the peeled branches in all the watering troughs, so that they would be directly in front of the flocks when they came to drink. When the flocks were in heat and came to drink, they mated in front of the branches. And they bore young that were streaked or speckled or spotted” (Genesis 30:38–39).  

But if the animals were weak, he would not place them there” (Genesis 30:42). The result was that the stronger of the flock were multi-colored, and the weaker were normal colored. In the end, the son of Isaac “grew exceedingly prosperous and came to own large flocks” (verse 43). 

The story of vs. 37–40 on the surface may appear to contradict known laws of genetics, and some wrongly use it as evidence that the Bible is unscientific. However, close examination of the story and the known facts of genetics shows that what happened proves the inspiration of the Scriptures.  

The angel and the dream

Laban had been unfair and his son in law explained his mistreatment to his wives this way, “your father has deceived me and changed my wages ten times, but God did not allow him to hurt me. 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. So God has taken away the livestock of your father and given them to me” (Genesis 31:7-9). 

And he added how God gave him the insight to place the rods to get the spotted offering, “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.”

“Then the Angel of God spoke to me in a dream, saying, “‘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.  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’” (Genesis 31:10–13).

The Benson commentary explained the dream as follows: “we cannot but see reason to conclude that it was really communicated to Jacob at this time to make use of the speckled rods; for here is a plain declaration that God would effect the thing, and the reason why; because he had seen Laban’s ungenerous and unfair dealing toward Jacob, and therefore was resolved to punish him for it, and at the same time reward Jacob for his fidelity and contentedness under these injuries.” 

In His service, 

BibleAsk Team

 

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