Genesis 30


Rachel envies her sister, and chides Jacob, 1.

He reproves her and vindicates himself, 2.

She gives him her maid Bilhah, 3, 4.

She conceives, and bears Dan. 5, 6;

and afterwards Naphtali, 7, 8.

Leah gives Zilpah her maid to Jacob, 9.

She conceives and bears Gad, 10, 11,

and also Asher, 12, 13.

Reuben finds mandrakes, of which Rachel requests a part, 14.

The bargain made between her and Leah, 15.

Jacob in consequence lodges with Leah instead of Rachel, 16.

She conceives, and bears Issachar, 17,18,

and Zebulun, 19, 20,

and Dinah, 21.

Rachel conceives, and bears Joseph, 22-24.

Jacob requests permission from Laban to go to his own country, 25, 26.

Laban entreats him to tarry, and offers to give him what

wages he shall choose to name, 27, 28.

Jacob details the importance of his services to Laban, 29, 30,

and offers to continue those services for the speckled and

spotted among the goats, and the brown among the sheep, 31-33.

Laban consents, 34,

and divides all the ring-streaked and spotted among the

he-goats, the speckled and spotted among the she-goats,

and the brown among the sheep, and puts them under the

care of his sons, and sets three days' journey between

himself and Jacob, 35, 36.

Jacob's stratagem of the pilled rods, to cause the cattle

to bring forth the ring-streaked, speckled, and spotted, 37-39.

In consequence of which he increased his flock greatly,

getting all that was strong and healthy in the flock of

Laban, 40-43.


Verse 1. Give me children, or else I die.] This is a most

reprehensible speech, and argues not only envy and jealousy, but

also a total want of dependence on God. She had the greatest

share of her husband's affection, and yet was not satisfied unless

she could engross all the privileges which her sister enjoyed! How

true are those sayings, Envy is as rottenness of the bones! and,

Jealousy is as cruel as the grave!

Verse 2. Am I in God's stead] Am I greater than God, to give

thee what he has refused?

Verse 3. She shall bear upon my knees] The handmaid was the

sole property of the mistress, as has already been remarked in the

case of Hagar; and therefore not only all her labour, but even the

children borne by her, were the property of the mistress. These

female slaves, therefore, bore children vicariously for their

mistresses; and this appears to be the import of the term, she

shall bear upon my knees.

That I may also have children by her.] veibbaneh

mimmennah, and I shall be built up by her. Hence ben, a son

or child, from banah, to build; because, as a house is formed

of the stones, &c., that enter into its composition, so is a

family by children.

Verse 6. Called she his name Dan.] Because she found God had

judged for her, and decided she should have a son by her

handmaid; hence she called his name dan, judging.

Verse 8. She called his name Naphtali] naphtali, my

wrestling, according to the common mode of interpretation; but it

is more likely that the root pathal signifies to twist or

entwine. Hence Mr. Parkhurst translates the verse, "By the

twistings-agency or operation, of God, I am entwisted with my

sister; that is, my family is now entwined or interwoven with my

sister's family, and has a chance of producing the promised Seed."

The Septuagint, Aquila, and the Vulgate, have nearly the same

meaning. It is, however, difficult to fix the true meaning of the


Verse 11. She called his name Gad.] This has been variously

translated. gad, may signify a troop, an army, a

soldier, a false god, supposed to be the same as Jupiter or

Mars; for as Laban appears to have been, if not an idolater, yet

a dealer in a sort of judicial astrology, (see Ge 31:19), Leah,

in saying bagad, which we translate a troop cometh, might

mean, By or with the assistance of Gad-a particular planet or

star, Jupiter possibly, I have gotten this son; therefore she

called him after the name of that planet or star from which she

supposed the succour came. See Clarke on Ge 31:19. The

Septuagint translate it εντυχη, with good fortune; the Vulgate,

feliciter, happily; but in all this diversity our own translation may

appear as probable as any, if not the genuine one, ba gad,

for the keri, or marginal reading, has it in two words,

a troop cometh; whereas the textual reading has it only in one,

bagad, with a troop. In the Bible published by

Becke, 1549, the word is translated as an exclamation, Good luck!

Verse 13. And Leah said, Happy am I] beoshri, in my

happiness, therefore she called his name asher, that is,

blessedness or happiness.

Verse 14. Reuben-found mandrakes] dudaim. What these

were is utterly unknown, and learned men have wasted much time and

pains in endeavouring to guess out a probable meaning. Some

translate the word lilies, others jessamine, others citrons,

others mushrooms, others figs, and some think the word means

flowers, or fine flowers in general. Hasselquist, the intimate

friend and pupil of Linne, who travelled into the Holy Land to

make discoveries in natural history, imagines that the plant

commonly called mandrake is intended; speaking of Nazareth in

Galilee he says: "What I found most remarkable at this village was

a great number of mandrakes which grew in a vale below it. I had

not the pleasure to see this plant in blossom, the fruit now (May

5th, O. S.) hanging ripe to the stem, which lay withered on the

ground. From the season in which this mandrake blossoms and

ripens fruit, one might form a conjecture that it was Rachel's

dudaim. These were brought her in the wheat harvest, which in

Galilee is in the month of May, about this time, and the mandrake

was now in fruit." Both among the Greeks and orientals this plant

was held in high repute, as being of a prolific virtue, and

helping conception; and from it philtres were made, and this is

favoured by the meaning of the original, loves, i.e., incentives

to matrimonial connections: and it was probably on this account

that Rachel desired them. The whole account however is very


Verse 15. Thou hast taken my husband] It appears probable that

Rachel had found means to engross the whole of Jacob's affection

and company, and that she now agreed to let him visit the tent of

Leah, on account of receiving some of the fruits or plants which

Reuben had found.

Verse 16. I have hired thee] We may remark among the Jewish

women an intense desire of having children; and it seems to have

been produced, not from any peculiar affection for children, but

through the hope of having a share in the blessing of Abraham, by

bringing forth Him in whom all the nations of the earth were to be


Verse 18. God hath given me my hire] sechari. And she

called his name Issachar, , This word is compounded of

yesh, IS, and sachar, WAGES, from sachar, to

content, satisfy, saturate; hence a satisfaction or compensation

for work done, &c.

Verse 20. Now will my husband dwell with me] yizbeleni;

and she called his name Zebulun, a dwelling or

cohabitation, as she now expected that Jacob would dwell with

her, as he had before dwelt with Rachel.

Verse 21. And called her name Dinah.] dinah, judgment.

As Rachel had called her son by Bilhah DAN, Ge 30:6, so Leah

calls her daughter DINAH, God having judged and determined for

her, as well as for her sister in the preceding instance.

Verse 22. And God hearkened to her] After the severe reproof

which Rachel had received from her husband, Ge 30:2, it appears

that she sought God by prayer, and that he heard her; so that her

prayer and faith obtained what her impatience and unbelief had


Verse 24. She called his name Joseph] Yoseph, adding, or

he who adds; thereby prophetically declaring that God would add

unto her another son, which was accomplished in the birth of

Benjamin, Ge 35:18.

Verse 25. Jacob said unto Laban, Send me away] Having now, as is

generally conjectured, fulfilled the fourteen years which he had

engaged to serve for Leah and Rachel. See Ge 30:26, and

conclusion of Clarke's notes "Ge 31:55".

Verse 27. I have learned by experience] nichashti, from

nachash, to view attentively, to observe, to pry into.

I have diligently considered the whole of thy conduct, and marked

the increase of my property, and find that the Lord hath blessed

me for thy sake. For the meaning of the word nachash,

See Clarke on Ge 3:1, &c.

Verse 30. For it was little which thou had before I came] Jacob

takes advantage of the concession made by his father-in-law, and

asserts that it was for his sake that the Lord had blessed him:

Since my coming, leragli, according to my footsteps-every

step I took in thy service, God prospered to the multiplication of

thy flocks and property.

When shall I provide for mine own house] Jacob had already laid

his plan; and, from what is afterwards mentioned, we find him

using all his skill and experience to provide for his family by a

rapid increase of his flocks.

Verse 32. I will pass through all thy flock] tson,

implying, as we have before seen, all smaller cattle, such as

sheep, goats, &c.

All the speckled and spotted cattle] seh, which we

translate cattle, signifies the young either of sheep or goats,

what we call a lamb or a kid. Speckled, nakod,

signifies interspersed with variously coloured spots.

Spotted] talu, spotted with large spot either of the

same or different colours, from tala, to patch, to make

party-coloured or patch-work; see Eze 16:16. I have never seen

such sheep as are here described but in the islands of Zetland.

There I have seen the most beautiful brown, or fine chocolate

colour among the sheep; and several of the ring-streaked, spotted,

speckled, and piebald among the same; and some of the latter

description I have brought over, and can exhibit a specimen of

Jacob's flock brought from the North Seas, feeding in Middlesex.

And all the brown] chum. I should rather suppose this

to signify a lively brown, as the root signifies to be warm or


Verse 35. The he-goats that were ring-streaked]

hatteyashim haakuddim, the he-goats that had rings of black

or other coloured hair around their feet or legs.

It is extremely difficult to find out, from Ge 30:32 and

Ge 30:35, in

what the bargain of Jacob with his father-in-law properly

consisted. It appears from Ge 30:32, that Jacob was to have for

his wages all the speckled, spotted, and brown among the sheep and

the goats; and of course that all those which were not

party-coloured should be considered as the property of Laban. But

in Ge 30:35 it appears that Laban separated all the

party-coloured cattle, delivered them into the hands of his own

sons; which seems as if he had taken these for his own property,

and left the others to Jacob. It has been conjectured that Laban,

for the greater security, when he had separated the

party-coloured, which by the agreement belonged to Jacob, see

Ge 30:32, put them under the care of his own sons, while Jacob

fed the flock of Laban, Ge 30:36, three days' journey being

between the two flocks. If therefore the flocks under the care of

Laban's sons brought forth young that were all of one colour,

these were put to the flocks of Laban under the care of Jacob; and

if any of the flocks under Jacob's care brought forth

party-coloured young, they were put to the flocks belonging to

Jacob under the care of Laban's sons. This conjecture is not

satisfactory, and the true meaning appears to be this: Jacob had

agreed to take all the party-coloured for his wages. As he was

now only beginning to act upon this agreement, consequently none

of the cattle as yet belonged to him; therefore Laban separated

from the flock, Ge 30:35, all such cattle as Jacob might

afterwards claim in consequence of his bargain, (for as yet he had

no right;) therefore Jacob commenced his service to Laban with a

flock that did not contain a single animal of the description of

those to which he might be entitled; and the others were sent away

under the care of Laban's sons, three days' journey from those of

which Jacob had the care. The bargain, therefore, seemed to be

wholly in favour of Laban; and to turn it to his own advantage,

Jacob made use of the stratagems afterwards mentioned. This mode

of interpretation removes all the apparent contradiction between

Ge 30:32 and Ge 30:35, with which commentators in general have

been grievously perplexed. From the whole account we learn that

Laban acted with great prudence and caution, and Jacob with great

judgment. Jacob had already served fourteen years; and had got

no patrimony whatever, though he had now a family of twelve

children, eleven sons and one daughter, besides his two wives, and

their two maids, and several servants. See Ge 30:43. It was

high time that he should get some property for these; and as his

father-in-law was excessively parsimonious, and would scarcely

allow him to live, he was in some sort obliged to make use of

stratagem to get an equivalent for his services. But did he not

push this so far as to ruin his father-in-law's flocks, leaving

him nothing but the refuse? See Ge 30:42.

Verse 37. Rods of green poplar] libneh lach. The

libneh is generally understood to mean the white poplar; and the

word lach, which is here joined to it, does not so much imply

greenness of colour as being fresh, in opposition to

witheredness. Had they not been fresh-just cut off, he could

not have pilled the bark from them.

And of the hazel] luz, the nut or filbert tree,

translated by others the almond tree; which of the two is here

intended is not known.

And chestnut tree] armon, the plane tree, from

aram, he was naked. The plane tree is properly called by this

name, because of the outer bark naturally peeling off, and leaving

the tree bare in various places, having smooth places where it has

fallen off. A portion of this bark the plane tree loses every

year. The Septuagint translate it in the same way, πλατανος and

its name is supposed to be derived from πλατυς, broad, on account

of its broad spreading branches, for which the plane tree is

remarkable. So we find the Grecian army in Homer, Il. ii., ver.

307, sacrificing καληυποπλατανιστω, under a beautiful plane


VIRGIL, Geor. iv. 146, mentions,

���-ministrantem platanum potantibus umbras.

The plane tree yielding the convivial shade.


Nobilis aestivas platanus diffuderat umbras.

"The noble plane had spread its summer shade."

See more in Parkhurst. Such a tree would be peculiarly

acceptable in hot countries, because of its shade.

Pilled white streaks in them] Probably cutting the bark

through in a spiral line, and taking it off in a certain breadth

all round the rods, so that the rods would appear party-coloured,

the white of the wood showing itself where the bark was stripped


Verse 38. And he set the rods which he had pilled before the

flocks] It has long been an opinion that whatever makes a strong

impression on the mind of a female in the time of conception and

gestation, will have a corresponding influence on the mind or body

of the fetus. This opinion is not yet rationally accounted for.

It is not necessary to look for a miracle here; for though the

fact has not been accounted for, it is nevertheless sufficiently

plain that the effect does not exceed the powers of nature; and I

have no doubt that the same modes of trial used by Jacob would

produce the same results in similar cases. The finger of God

works in nature myriads of ways unknown to us; we see effects

without end, of which no rational cause can be assigned; it has

pleased God to work thus and thus, and this is all that we know;

and God mercifully hides the operations of his power from man in a

variety of eases, that he may hide pride from him. Even with the

little we know, how apt are we to be puffed up! We must adore God

in a reverential silence on such subjects as these, confess our

ignorance, and acknowledge that nature is the instrument by which

he chooses to work, and that he performs all things according to

the counsel of his own will, which is always infinitely wise and

infinitely good.

Verse 40. Jacob did separate the lambs, &c.] When Jacob

undertook the care of Laban's flock, according to the agreement

already mentioned, there were no party-coloured sheep or goats

among them, therefore the ring-streaked, &c., mentioned in this

verse, must have been born since the agreement was made; and Jacob

makes use of them precisely as he used the pilled rods, that,

having these before their eyes during conception, the impression

might be made upon their imagination which would lead to the

results already mentioned.

Verse 41. Whensoever the stronger cattle did conceive] The word

mekushsharoth, which we translate stronger, is understood

by several of the ancient interpreters as signifying the early,

first-born, or early spring cattle; and hence it is opposed to

atuphim, which we translate feeble, and which Symmachus

properly renders δευτερογονοι, cattle of the second birth, as he

renders the word mekushsharoth by πρωτογονοι, cattle of the first

or earliest birth. Now this does not apply merely to two births

from the same female in one year, which actually did take place

according to the rabbins, the first in Nisan, about our March, and

the second in Tisri, about our September; but it more particularly

refers to early and late lambs, &c., in the same year; as those

that are born just at the termination of winter, and in the very

commencement of spring, are every way more valuable than those

which were born later in the same spring. Jacob therefore took

good heed not to try his experiments with those late produced

cattle, because he knew these would produce a degenerate breed,

but with the early cattle, which were strong and vigorous, by

which his breed must be improved. Hence the whole flock of Laban

must be necessarily injured, while Jacob's flock was preserved in

a state of increasing perfection. All this proves a consummate

knowledge in Jacob of his pastoral office. If extensive breeders

in this country were to attend to the same plan, our breed would

be improved in a most eminent degree. What a fund of instruction

upon almost every subject is to be found in the sacred writings!

Verse 43. And the man increased exceedingly] No wonder, when he

used such means as the above. And had maid-servants, and

men-servants-he was obliged to increase these as his cattle

multiplied. And camels and asses, to transport his tents, baggage,

and family from place to place, being obliged often to remove for

the benefit of pasturage.

We have already seen many difficulties in this chapter, and

strange incidents, for which we are not able to account. 1. The

vicarious bearing of children; 2. The nature and properties of

the mandrakes; 3. The bargain of Jacob and Laban; and 4. The

business of the party-coloured flocks produced by means of the

females looking at the variegated rods. These, especially the

three last, may be ranked among the most difficult things in this

book. Without encumbering the page with quotations and opinions,

I have given the best sense I could; and think it much better and

safer to confess ignorance, than, under the semblance of wisdom

and learning, to multiply conjectures. Jacob certainly manifested

much address in the whole of his conduct with Laban; but though

nothing can excuse overreaching or insincerity, yet no doubt Jacob

supposed himself justified in taking these advantages of a man who

had greatly injured and defrauded him. Had Jacob got Rachel at

first, for whom he had honestly and faithfully served seven years,

there is no evidence whatever that he would have taken a second

wife. Laban, by having imposed his eldest daughter upon him, and

by obliging him to serve seven years for her who never was an

object of his affection, acted a part wholly foreign to every

dictate of justice and honesty; (for though it was a custom in

that country not to give the younger daughter in marriage before

the elder, yet, as he did not mention this to Jacob, it cannot

plead in his excuse;) therefore, speaking after the manner of men,

he had reason to expect that Jacob should repay him in his own

coin, and right himself by whatever means came into his power; and

many think that he did not transgress the bounds of justice, even

in the business of the party-coloured cattle.

The talent possessed by Jacob was a most dangerous one; he was

what may be truly called a scheming man; his wits were still at

work, and as he devised so he executed, being as fruitful in

expedients as he was in plans. This was the principal and the

most prominent characteristic of his life; and whatever was

excessive here was owing to his mother's tuition; she was

evidently a woman who paid little respect to what is called moral

principle, and sanctified all kinds of means by the goodness of

the end at which she aimed; which in social, civil, and religious

life, is the most dangerous principle on which a person can

possibly act. In this art she appears to have instructed her son;

and, unfortunately for himself, he was in some instances but too

apt a proficient. Early habits are not easily rooted out,

especially those of a bad kind. Next to the influence and grace

of the Spirit of God is a good and religious education. Parents

should teach their children to despise and abhor low cunning, to

fear a lie, and tremble at an oath; and in order to be successful,

they should illustrate their precepts by their own regular and

conscientious example. How far God approved of the whole of

Jacob's conduct I shall not inquire; it is certain that he

attributes his success to Divine interposition, and God himself

censures Laban's conduct towards him; see Ge 31:7-12. But still

he appears to have proceeded farther than this interposition

authorized him to go, especially in the means he used to improve

his own breed, which necessarily led to the deterioration of

Laban's cattle; for, after the transactions referred to above,

these cattle could be of but little worth. The whole account,

with all its lights and shades, I consider as another proof of the

impartiality of the Divine historian, and a strong evidence of the

authenticity of the Pentateuch. Neither the spirit of deceit, nor

the partiality of friendship, could ever pen such an account.

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