Genesis 30:25–43: The Increase of Jacob
Ever since Laban tricked Jacob into marrying Leah before Rachel, Jacob’s family has spiraled downward. The previous passage recorded all manner of strife, envy, paganism, and sexual sins in the birth stories of the men who eventually become the heads of the twelve tribes of Israel. It is no wonder that Jacob wants to get out of this toxic environment. As soon as Rachel gives birth to Joseph, Jacob asks Laban to permit him, his wives, and his family go back to Canaan. Jacob only intended to stay with Laban for a few days (Gen. 27:44), but time continues to stretch further away from his original departure. So far, Jacob has served his father-in-law for fourteen years, and, in the course of this passage, he will end up serving Laban for still another six years (Gen. 31:41). At every turn throughout these twenty, Laban has cheated, tricked, deceived, and manipulated Jacob. How long can Jacob endure Laban’s oppression?
The second half of Genesis 30 records still more of Jacob’s suffering at the hands of Laban. More than that, this passage demonstrates that God fully knows Jacob’s oppression. Up to now, Laban has plundered the blessings of the Lord toward Jacob (Gen. 30:30). Here, though, the Lord begins to enrich Jacob with blessings that Laban cannot touch. Importantly, this story employs several textual elements which foreshadow the oppression and eventual exodus of the descendants of Jacob out of Egypt. The nation of Israel will also be oppressed by a cruel master, and they too will come out of their house of bondage with great wealth that they receive from their oppressors. Both of these stories teach that God plunders the oppressors of his people.
1. How does God prosper Jacob in the midst of his oppression (Gen. 30:30)? How does God prosper the Israelites in the midst of their oppression in Egypt (Ex. 1:12)? How does God prosper us in the midst of our oppression? Why do we ascribe so much power to our circumstances? Why does God use the paradoxical theology of the cross to bring glory out of pain and shame?
2. What does Laban believe about his power over Jacob (Gen. 30:31)? What does Jacob believe? How do Jacob’s words echo Abram’s words to the king of Sodom (Gen. 14:22–23)? Why do we believe that we live at the mercy of those who have temporal power over us? Why must we continue to remind ourselves that God is the Possessor of heaven and earth?
3. Does God really see, hear, remember, and know the oppression of his people? Does he care? What evidence do you see in this passage that God perceives the oppression of Jacob? What evidence in your own life do you see that God perceives your oppression? Do you live with confidence in God’s providential care? Or, do your circumstances dictate your confidence?
4. How does God plunder Jacob’s oppressor (Gen. 30:43)? How does God plunder Israel’s oppressors (Ex. 12:36)? How did God plunder our oppressor at Christ’s resurrection from the dead (Eph. 4:7–16)? What riches does the conquering King Jesus give to his people? How does he intend you to steward your gifts faithfully for the fruitfulness of his kingdom?