Laban is a trickster. At least that’s what people call him. He tricked Jacob one too many times and made the Exodus take shape. This man, even though we could not see it now, is a history-maker. In this episode, we will see the cause and impact of what Laban has done with the people of Israel.
And then let us find out how Laban is People Just Like You.
Laban’s Back story
Jacob made Esau furious by tricking him into giving up his birthright and stealing the blessing from their father Isaac. Esau, after realizing what his little brother has done, became envious towards Jacob and tried to kill him. Rebekah, their mother, asked her youngest to flee to Paddan Aram where his brother Laban lives until the anger of Esau calms down.
After a long journey to his mother’s homeland, Jacob saw Rachel and fortunately was the daughter of his uncle. Thus the start of Laban’s foul schemes.
see full story in the Bible: Genesis 29-31
Jacob travelled east, far from his parents, in search of his uncle Laban and hoping to find a non-Canaanite woman for a wife, just as his father asked of him to do. (read Genesis 28:1-5)
He arrived on the land of the eastern people and saw a well in the open country where they roll the stone away from its mouth to water the sheep. The shepherds were from Haran, the place near her mother’s hometown. Jacob asked them if they know Laban and if he is well. They affirmed him and then Rachel came with her father’s sheep, for she was a shepherd.
The runaway prince was stunned by this beauty and chivalrously rolled the stone single-handed for his uncle’s sheep to drink. (He managed to do this by the help of the grace of God) Then Jacob kissed Rachel and then wept aloud. He told her everything about him being relative of Laban and a son of Rebekah. Rachel ran to tell his father the good news.
When Laban heard of this, he hurried to meet Jacob and kissed him and brought him to his home. Jacob told him everything that had happened about his family and how Esau wanted him dead.
“Seven years for Rachel”
Laban took Jacob in his house. After a whole month, Laban told Jacob that he must not work for free and asked him what his wages would be.
Now Laban has two daughters: Leah the older sister and Rachel the younger. He must have noticed that Jacob was in love of the latter. This young man then asked for the hand of the younger sister, Rachel, in exchange of seven years labor.
In the early ages, it was traditional to present a mohar (a gift from the family of the groom to the parents of the bride) to the bride’s father when the parents had their consent to the marriage. A mohar could be in a form of money, land, jewelries or something “precious”. After the marriage, the parents must give the mohar back to their daughter.
Since Jacob flee from home hastily, he did not bring anything with him. It means when he started the journey, he had nothing to give in exchange for Rachel. The only thing he can offer was toil and hard work.
18 Jacob was in love with Rachel and said, “I’ll work for you seven years in return for your younger daughter Rachel.”Genesis 29:18
Uncle Laban thought it was a win-win situation, seven years of fruitful labor from the son of his rich brother-in-law Isaac. Then Laban in Genesis 29:19 said “It’s better that I give her to you than to some other man. Stay here with me.” So it was settled and the trickery begins.
Seven years slipped through Jacob’s hands and it only felt like a few days because he looked up to his precious price, Rachel. He asked Laban to give him his reward.
21 Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife. My time is completed, and I want to make love to her.”
Laban gathered everyone to have a feast. When evening came and the place was dark, he gave Leah instead. In the morning, when the feast made sense to Jacob, he found out about the deception his uncle has made. He got the wrong sister. The wronged questioned his deceiver why he did something so horrible to him. Didn’t he served him for Rachel?
26 Laban replied, “It is not our custom here to give the younger daughter in marriage before the older one. 27 Finish this daughter’s bridal week; then we will give you the younger one also, in return for another seven years of work.”
Without any rejections, Jacob accepted his uncle’s terms. He patiently waited a week to fully take Rachel for his wife.
Just as Jacob switched places with his brother to deceive their father, so was he tricked by his uncle by switching the bride he longed for.
30 Jacob made love to Rachel also, and his love for Rachel was greater than his love for Leah. And he worked for Laban another seven years.
Those first seven years made Laban more and more wealthy but he was not yet contented that he made a way to squeeze more years out of Jacob.
“Laban wanted to keep Jacob for himself”
Jacob’s family grew from Leah who conceived and bore sons who she named Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah respectively; To Rachel’s servant Bilhah who bore Dan and Naphtali; To Leah’s attendant Zilpah who conceived and bore another two sons for Leah named Gad and Asher; Then Leah once again bore two younger sons who was named Issachar and Zebulun (plus the unica hija Dinah); Then finally Rachel, who was loved even more by Jacob, conceived and bore Joseph after being barren. It has become a competition for the siblings to have a son from Jacob and so the tribe God has promised Abraham initiated. And they were later called the Israelites.
(story written in the bible from Genesis 29:31-35 to Genesis 30:1-22)
After Rachel gave birth to Joseph, Jacob asked Laban to let him go back to his own homeland with his new-formed family whom he worked for all those years.
27 But Laban said to him, “If I have found favor in your eyes, please stay. I have learned by divination that the Lord has blessed me because of you.” 28 He added, “Name your wages, and I will pay them.”Genesis 30:27-28
He doesn’t want to let Jacob go and so he bribed him with more wages. But to his disappointment, Jacob was not willing to get anything from him. So Rebekah’s son put on his con face and asked a favor from Laban.
31 “What shall I give you?” he asked.Genesis 30:31-33
“Don’t give me anything,” Jacob replied. “But if you will do this one thing for me, I will go on tending your flocks and watching over them:
32 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. 33 And my honesty will testify for me in the future, whenever you check on the wages you have paid me. Any goat in my possession that is not speckled or spotted, or any lamb that is not dark-colored, will be considered stolen.”
Laban accepted the offer and before Jacob started tending the flocks, he separated the speckled and spotted and any flock with blemishes and placed them to the care of his sons. Then he put a three-day journey between himself and Jacob, while Jacob continued to tend the rest of his uncle’s flocks.
The Joke was on Laban
Galatians 6:7 – A man reaps what he sows.
Jacob, with the wisdom that God gave him, did a trick by making the offspring of the flock streaked or speckled or spotted. (Jacob later explained to his wives about the dream he had with the angel of God in Genesis 31:10-13)
37 Jacob, however, took fresh-cut branches from poplar, almond and plane trees and made white stripes on them by peeling the bark and exposing the white inner wood of the branches.
38 Then he 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,
39 they mated in front of the branches. And they bore young that were streaked or speckled or spotted.
40 Jacob set apart the young of the flock by themselves, but made the rest face the streaked and dark-colored animals that belonged to Laban. Thus he made separate flocks for himself and did not put them with Laban’s animals.
41 Whenever the stronger females were in heat, Jacob would place the branches in the troughs in front of the animals so they would mate near the branches,
42 but if the animals were weak, he would not place them there. So the weak animals went to Laban and the strong ones to Jacob.
43 In this way the man grew exceedingly prosperous and came to own large flocks, and female and male servants, and camels and donkeys.
(see full story Genesis 30:31-43 to Genesis 31)
Jacob’s livestock grew bigger and larger. Laban and his sons noticed and changed attitude towards him. But God talked to Jacob to go back to the land of his father.
3 Then the Lord said to Jacob, “Go back to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you.”Genesis 31
The man gathered his wives and explained the flaw of his father-in-law to them. He cheated Jacob by changing the wages ten times. Yet God did not let him get harmed. Every time the wages were altered, God met Jacob’s needs.
8 If he said, ‘The speckled ones will be your wages,’ then all the flocks gave birth to speckled young; and if he said, ‘The streaked ones will be your wages,’ then all the flocks bore streaked young. 9 So God has taken away your father’s livestock and has given them to me.Genesis 31
Rachel and Leah agreed to Jacob and complained about their father regarding them as foreigners because he sold them and used the payment for himself. God took away the wealth of their father because it was rightfully belonged to them and their children.
And they said, “So do whatever God has told you.”
Jacob and his family rode camels along with the livestock and goods he accumulated in Paddan Aram, to go to his father Isaac in the land of Canaan.
20 Moreover, Jacob deceived Laban the Aramean by not telling him he was running away.
The separation of the parties
In Genesis 31:22-55 it was written that after seven days of pursuing Jacob, Laban caught up with him in the hill country of Gilead. He was frustrated about not letting him say goodbye to his daughters and grand daughters. And that he might have sent them away with joy and singing to the music of timbrels and harps.
Though Jacob and his wives did not seem to buy any of that, they remained silent. But God was already ahead of them and Laban met with Him in a dream saying, “Be careful not to say anything to Jacob, either good or bad.”
And, shocker, Laban was more angry about the missing gods, which Rachel stole from him. (Genesis 31:19) He searched the tents of his daughters and their attendants. But the god idols was not in any of their tents but inside the camel’s saddle where Rachel was sitting. So unfortunately he ended up empty-handed.
Laban and Jacob made an oath that they would not harm each other by crossing the landmarks they made by building a pillar and a heap.
55 Early the next morning Laban kissed his grandchildren and his daughters and blessed them. Then he left and returned home.
We Reflect on Laban because:
We trick others for our own desires.
Deceiving someone into getting our wants is not the way of the Lord. But we are falling from our inner demons. The flesh is sometimes heavier to carry and we drop deep just to keep it on our backs. It is making us servant.
Let God make the way for what you need and not take advantage of others.
We are greedy.
Greedy. We want more than what we have. It is harder to be contented if we keep on taking more than what we deserve.
16 For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.1 John 2:16
10 Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless.Ecclesiastes 5:10
15 Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”Luke 12:15
21 An inheritance claimed too soon will not be blessed at the end.Proverbs 20:21
What you do comes back to you.
Laban was not the only one who deceived in this story. Jacob tricked his father Isaac into disguising as Esau and robbed his blessing. Isaac and Abraham deceived two different kings both named Abimelech (Philistine king and Gerar king) by telling the kingdom that their wives were their sisters.
7 Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.Galatians 6
8 Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.
9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
God is true to His promises.
Every thing he promised Abraham and his descendants from becoming a great nation into keeping them safe, He did not fail yet. God is ever true to His promises up to this day.
9 God is ever true to His promises, and it was by Him that you were, one and all, called into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ, our Lord.1 Corinthians 1:9 (WNT version)
God is watching over us.
Jacob, in his growth in the land of his uncle Laban, was carefully watched by God. He did not let anything harm Jacob. And so will He on us.
“I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”Genesis 28:15
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.Psalm 32:8
The eyes of the Lord are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.Proverbs 15:3
God molds us.
We cannot be molded without trials. Jacob needed to outgrow his deceiving spirit. He was sent to the wilderness to bloom. And there he fulfills the will of God by him becoming a great nation.
God changes nothing into something.
Jacob came to his uncle’s hometown naked with no possession, no family and no hope left in him. But he left with plenty. He owned hundreds and thousands of livestock. Jacob earned a family, a whole nation, with him and for him. Nothing is impossible with God.
The best example is in the first book of the Scripture.
1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.Genesis 1:1
There are so much deception and tricks in this world. But God can turn horrible things around and make it wonderful.
You might be going through people failing you but God is with you always. He will not let you get hurt. Be truthful and let God do the rest.
17 “Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.Jeremiah 32:17
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