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25 After Rachel gave birth to Joseph, Jacob said to Laban: “Allow me to go to my own region and land. 26 Give me my wives and my children for whom I served you and let me go, for you know the service that I rendered you.” 27 Laban answered him: “If you will please! I have learned through divination that the Lord has blessed me because of you.” 28 He continued, “State the wages I owe you, and I will pay them.” 29 Jacob replied: “You know what work I did for you and how well your livestock fared under my care; 30 the little you had before I came has grown into an abundance, since the Lord has blessed you in my company. Now, when can I do something for my own household as well?” 31 Laban asked, “What should I give you?” Jacob answered: “You do not have to give me anything. If you do this thing for me, I will again pasture and tend your sheep. 32 Let me go through your whole flock today and remove from it every dark animal among the lambs and every spotted or speckled one among the goats.[a] These will be my wages. 33 In the future, whenever you check on my wages, my honesty will testify for me: any animal that is not speckled or spotted among the goats, or dark among the lambs, got into my possession by theft!” 34 Laban said, “Very well. Let it be as you say.”

35 That same day Laban removed the streaked and spotted he-goats and all the speckled and spotted she-goats, all those with some white on them, as well as every dark lamb, and he put them in the care of his sons.[b] 36 Then he put a three days’ journey between himself and Jacob, while Jacob was pasturing the rest of Laban’s flock.

37 Jacob, however, got some fresh shoots of poplar, almond and plane[c] trees, and he peeled white stripes in them by laying bare the white core of the shoots. 38 The shoots that he had peeled he then set upright in the watering troughs where the animals came to drink, so that they would be in front of them. When the animals were in heat as they came to drink, 39 the goats mated by the shoots, and so they gave birth to streaked, speckled and spotted young. 40 The sheep, on the other hand, Jacob kept apart, and he made these animals face the streaked or completely dark animals of Laban. Thus he produced flocks of his own, which he did not put with Laban’s flock. 41 Whenever the hardier animals were in heat, Jacob would set the shoots in the troughs in full view of these animals, so that they mated by the shoots; 42 but with the weaker animals he would not put the shoots there. So the feeble animals would go to Laban, but the hardy ones to Jacob. 43 So the man grew exceedingly prosperous, and he owned large flocks, male and female servants, camels, and donkeys.

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Footnotes

  1. 30:32 Dark…lambs…spotted or speckled…goats: in the Near East the normal color of sheep is light gray, whereas that of goats is dark brown or black. A minority of sheep in that part of the world have dark patches, and a minority of goats, white markings. Laban is quick to agree to the offer, for Jacob would have received only a few animals. But Jacob gets the better of him, using two different means: (1) he separates out the weaker animals and then provides visual impressions to the stronger animals at mating time (a folkloric belief); (2) in 31:8–12, he transmits the preferred characteristics through controlled propagation. It should be noted that Jacob has been told what to do in a dream (31:10) and that God is behind the increase in his flocks.
  2. 30:35 By giving the abnormally colored animals to his sons, Laban not only deprived Jacob of his first small wages, but he also schemed to prevent the future breeding of such animals in the flock entrusted to Jacob.
  3. 30:37 Plane: also called the Oriental Plane, a deciduous tree found in riverine forests and marshes.

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