Genesis 30


Genesis 30:  “ Let’s Make a Deal.”  

This chapter sees Jacob’s family increase, another encounter with his father-in-law and a series of deals not only with Laban but also with Leah and Rachel.  

Jacob sometimes seems to be the man who is always trying to please all those around him.  

In verse 1, Rachel has a mini- breakdown. Frustrated at her inability to conceive while Leah, her sister bears one after another, Rachel is jealous or as the KJV states envied her sister. Envy is the offspring of jealousy and is defined as “resentful awareness of another’s advantage.”  Matthew Henry states that envy is grieving at the good of another. Jealousy means you want what someone else has- envy means you not only want it- you also want it taken from the other. Rachel is so upset she says to Jacob “ give me children or I shall die.’.  Remember both of these wives are aware of the covenant of God with Abraham and now with Jacob and the blessing to come through his offspring. How can Rachel the favored wife become part of this – if she has no children?  

Verse 2, Jacob becomes angry with Rachel and says: Am I God? And then further implies there must be something wrong in her life and God has kept her from bearing children. We know Jacob loves Rachel and she- him; but in real life there are arguments and quarrels among a husband and wife who love each other.  There is also friction from these multiple marriages and it will grow even worse.  

In verse 3 comes the first of several deals in this chapter of Jacob’s life. Taking the same route Sarah did with Hagar and Abraham, Rachel requests that Jacob take her handmaid, Bilhah and sleep with her and the offspring will be legally considered Rachel’s child.  

In verses 4-8 we see Jacob father two sons by Bilhah named Dan and Naphtali respectively. Their names express Rachels’ emotions: the name Dan means – God has vindicated me and  given me a son; the name Naphtali means ‘wrestling’ as Rachel viewed this as having wrestled with her sister and won.  

Remember at the end of chapter 29, when Leah gave birth to Judah, we were told she stopped having children. Now in verses 9-12, Leah responds to the challenge of Rachel by convincing Jacob to take her maid, Zilpah, as a concubine or secondary wife and Jacob fathers two more sons in quick succession named Gad and Asher. Their names meaning ‘ fortunate’ and ‘happy’ respectively.  

But there seems to be no end to this contest of conception, it fact the competition escalates and Jacob seems to be a willing pawn giving into his wives demands as a way of keeping peace. But also probably delighted with the birth of so many sons- for they were considered to be a great asset to any man.   But there will be trouble as we will see among these sons for the Word of God tells us clearly- ‘unless the Lord build a house, they labor in vain who build it.” (Psalms 127:1)  

Obviously there are  things about the culture of Jacob’s time that are so different they are difficult for us to comprehend. But we also must realize that Rachel and Leah are the products of their upbringing- they were raised in a family of idolaters. We will later see that after all these years, those household idols were still important to these sisters. We will also see they had come to accept as truth- certain superstitions or what we might today call ‘ wive’s tales’. One such belief was that a rare fruit called mandrakes was an aid to fertility.  

For this reason we find Rachel making a deal with Leah for some mandrakes that her son Reuben had found and brought home.  In verses 14 and 15 we see the bitterness between these two sisters as Rachel asks Leah to give her some of her mandrakes . Leah’s angry response is “ wasn’t it enough you took away my husband and now want to take my son’s mandrakes?”  

Rachel says- I will make you a deal…give me your son’s mandrakes and I will tell Jacob to sleep with you tonight.  But as we will see the deal backfires on Rachel.  

In verse 16- Jacob coming in from the fields from a days’ work is met by Leah who tells  Jacob – you must sleep with me tonight, I have hired you for the night with my son’s mandrakes.  Jacob was truly a hired hand… it makes you wonder sometimes what was going on in his mind and in his walk with the Lord. Jacob seems to drift along sometimes with his only interest being in producing more offspring, increasing flocks and just the day to day business of life and family. We have all had times like that in our spiritual lives, where we seem to be more caught up with the business of everyday life than our spiritual walk with the Lord. If we are not careful – we will drift away.  

There is a time and season for everything. The Lord understands we need work and the ability to make a living. Jesus told us our Heavenly Father knows what we have need of before we ask.  But our priority is to seek first the kingdom of God and His Righteousness- that is His rule and His will must be foremost in our lives .When this is so  He will give us the things we need. We will see as Jacob begins to turn his heart toward God and back home- to seek first His kingdom and His will- God will provide all his needs. Where God guides – He provides.  

But underneath this story with its real, ordinary people and strange customs we must not lose sight that God is at work. For as Jesus told us, my Father is always at work. We are about to see how God directs us in our walk with Him as we observe how He directs Jacob in his walk.   

The method God uses to direct Jacob will reveal the method He uses to direct us:  

  1. An inner witness of the heart. A desire of the heart- a longing . Now one must be cautious for as we are told the heart can be deceitful. But if we delight ourselves in the Lord – He will give us the desires of our heart. The Lord first begins to put a desire in your heart. We may be caught up as Jacob was caught up for a period in our lives where our children are being born and raised and where we are establishing our careers. But God will get our attention first with a desire – a longing.
  2. Next will come outward circumstances of life. These circumstances will confirm our direction. Adversity will often be used to steer us in the right direction.
  3. Then comes the confirmation of the truth of God’s Word. Jacob will develop a longing to return home. Circumstances will steer him in that direction and God’s word to him will confirm it.


We will observe these not only in Jacob’s situation- but God will also reveal the same truths and steps in the life of Joseph.  

It is also wise to consult those closest to us who will also be affected by our decisions. Jacob will consult with Leah and Rachel.  

Back to our story- Jacob sleeps with Leah  and verses 17-18 tell us Rachel’s Mandrake Deal backfired on her and rather than making her fertile- God allows Leah to become pregnant again and  another son is born, named Issachar. ( Meaning reward.) This is the fifth son, Jacob has fathered by Leah.  

Verse 19 reveals Jacob must have decided to spend more time with Leah for she gives him a sixth son, Zebulon. The name means dwelling…for now she felt her husband would dwell with her.  

Evidently Jacob did continue to spend more time with her, for next she bears what is recorded as the first daughter, named Dinah. This baby sister would be much loved by her brothers as we will see later on.  

Finally, in verse 22 we are told that God remembered Rachel and she has a son, named Joseph. Although Judah will the line through which the Messiah, the Lord Jesus would come, Joseph was destined for greatness in his day. But his greatness would come as result of great adversity and patience.   

So at this time- close to 14 years with Laban, Jacob has 12 children- 11 sons and one daughter. Leah has produced 6 sons and 1 daughter, Zilpah- 2 sons, Bilhah- 2 sons and Rachel -1 son. Rachel will later give birth to Benjamin the 12th son and baby of the family. We will see the divisions in the family and the favoring of one wife and one son by Jacob create a very divided family. Surely, the four sons of the two maids would form a natural alliance as their status of secondary sons was obvious, then there would be the natural rivalry between the sons of Leah and the sons of Rachel. Yet in all of this God was at work as we are about to see.  

Verse 25 tells us after Rachel gave birth to Joseph, Jacob begins to have a desire to return home. God has awakened in Jacob a longing to do what God has willed him to do. For as we will see it is God who works in us a desire and power to do His good purpose. So begins the next phase of the story of God’s dealing with Jacob. Jacob has an inner witness of the heart- a strong desire a longing to return to his homeland. Perhaps by now knowing his mother has died but his father and Esau are still alive.  

Verse 26- Jacob says to his father in law Laban- it is time for me to return. I have worked my full 14 years paying for your two daughters. I have worked faithfully for you and done much good for you.  In other words, Jacob says, I have fulfilled my end of the bargain and then some. All I am asking for is my wives and children. 

Laban says to Jacob, please stay. I know your God has blessed me because of you, name your wages ( Laban’s favorite ploy) and I will pay them.  

Let me make a comment about Laban. By now Jacob knows Laban is not a reasonable man. Laban is an unreasonable man. Laban is also a dishonest man.  

Unreasonable people are the most difficult people  to deal with. They can certainly be the sandpaper God uses to refine us- for they do wear us down physically and emotionally. The problem is not that unreasonable  people do not understand- they refuse to understand, they will not understand.

Their refusal is their method of control.

This type of person is not ever going to be “ fair.”

The only type of agreement they will agree to is an arrangement that is grossly in their favor.  

Jacob has learned this lesson and knows  how Laban operates. As we will see not only has God given Jacob a desire, God will give Jacob the plan that Laban an unreasonable man will agree to.  

First Jacob states what he knows Laban already knows. Jacob has increased Laban’s flocks greatly. Jacob also is careful to give the Lord credit- for Jacob knows the Lord has blessed Laban through Jacob.  ( Joseph would be a chip off the old block as his efforts were blessed by God wherever he ended up and clearly helped Potiphar, the prison warden, and the later the Pharoah.)  

Next we will see the deal Jacob offers Laban and Laban takes him up on. It was a deal Laban could not refuse.  

It was Laban’s kind of deal- a deal that weighed heavily in his favor….or so he thought.  

Let’s make a deal continues with Jacob fashioning a deal that Laban could not refuse. We discover later in Chapter 31, Jacob tells Rachel and Leah that God gave him the plan in  a dream.  Here was the deal:  Jacob said to Laban I have worked hard for you and prospered you- but I have nothing of my own for my household. Remember God knows what we have need of before we ask Him.   

So Jacob proposes to Laban a deal that seems to grossly favor Laban.

First Jacob proposes to continue to tend Laban’s flocks and herds. This would immediately please Laban.

Second, Jacob proposes to remove from the flocks all spotted, speckled goat and dark sheep. Keep in mind that the predominant color of goats in that part of the country was black and that eastern sheep were predominantly white. The speckled, spotted goats and the brown sheep would be removed from the herds and flocks and taken three days journey away from the flocks. Jacob would continue to tend the remaining flocks for Laban which would be all white sheep and all black goats.  

Third, Jacob said what will be my wages will be any speckled, spotted goats or brown sheep born in the future.  

Now Jacob was going to work hard as he always did, try a trick or two he had learned but trust God who we discover later is the One who gave Jacob this plan.  

I do not understand what Jacob’s actions with the peeled branches accomplished- but we do understand Mendel’s Law- a law of God’s by the way that Mendel discovered. What occurred over the next six years was the work of the Lord. The law of genetics  tells us a scientific fact that some animals have the recessive genes for speckles, spots and brown color. These are called heterozygous and those having only the genes for pure colors without the recessive traits are called homozygous.  

Here is the bottom line- God who created all things and controls all things – who can cause a great number of fish to swim into a fisherman’s net; or a fish to bring a coin or a rooster to crow at a particular time; or a raven to bring food- has no problem causing those animals with recessive genes- the heterozygous animals to mate and restrain the homozygous animals from mating. This produced a greater number of speckled, spotted and dark colored offspring.  

Jacob then culled these from the herds and allowed them to mate with one another producing even great number of their own kind. For the law of genetics as decreed by God says each will reproduce after its own kind.  

Thus as we come to the end of this ‘deal-making’chapter, we see Jacob’s flocks had grown exceedingly prosperous and he came to own large flocks, and maid servants and men servants, and camels and donkeys.  

But remember how God directs us:

  1. A desire – a longing in our heart, an inward witness.
  2. Circumstances that direct us- an outward witness. Often adversity is used to steer us.
  3. The Word of God instructs and guides us.


This will be exactly what happens with Jacob.  After the birth of Joseph, Jacob’s heart turned toward God and home. He had a desire a longing, an inner witness.  

Where God guides He provides, the next six years, God is able to provide all of Jacob’s needs.  

Then we read in the beginning of chapter 31 there comes the outward circumstances and adversity God uses to confirm our direction and steer us. Jacob heard that Laban’s  sons were saying Jacob had stolen their father’s wealth. Laban’s attitude had changed toward Jacob. Circumstances and adversity were about to move Jacob in a different direction.  

Then comes the confirming Word of God. The Lord said to Jacob,” Go back to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you.” (Genesis 31:3) 

Looking back at your life can you see God’s hand in directing your life?

Can you see how like Jacob, you were introduced to the God of your father, your parents- but you had to personally develop that relationship with God?  

Can you look back to a time in your life when you had a ‘Bethel Experience” where like Jacob the God of your parents became your God?  

Then can you observe how your life seemed to fall into the same routine of Jacob’s? Look how many years we seem to do the same thing over and over— the getting up, going to work, coming home, eating dinner, watching television to go to bed and get up and do it again. 

Somewhere along the way- the Bethel Experience becomes a distant memory- the worship of God becomes as routine as the rest of your life and you wonder sometimes am I missing something?

Then comes an event- ( for Jacob it was the birth of Joseph) that wakes you out of your spiritual slumber and God begins a new, fresh work- there is a longing in your heart, a desire to do God’s will.

Then comes the circumstances- sometimes the adversity that steer us as God re-directs our lives. All of a sudden His Word becomes the source from which we seek guidance and He speaks to us and directs us – for He delights to order our steps.  

Then you realize- every day you wake up:

God the Father has a will for your life; He has an agenda.

God the Son communicates the Father’s will and agenda to us through His Word and His life. For the Lord Jesus is the way, the truth and the life.

God the Holy Spirit’s task is to implement. His mission is to work in us the desire and power to do God’s will.  

You see, the One and Only God Father has made you a deal you dare not refuse: for God so loved the world- you and me- that He sent His only begotten Son, and that who so ever should believe in Him, should not perish but have everlasting life. He has promised if we seek Him first and His righteousness that He will supply all our needs. 

Copyright © 2010 Linda Benthal
Last modified: 08/12/14