Genesis 30:37
And Jacob took him rods of green poplar, and of the hazel and chesnut tree; and pilled white strakes in them, and made the white appear which was in the rods.
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(37) And Jacob took him rods . . . —Jacob’s plan was to place before the ewes and she-goats at breeding time objects of a speckled colour, and as he put them at their watering-place, where everything was familiar to them, they would, with the usual curiosity of these animals, gaze upon them intently, with the result, physically certain to follow, that many of them would bear speckled young.

Poplar.—Really, the storax-tree (styrax officinalis). “This,” says Canon Tristram, “is a very beautiful perfumed shrub, which grows abundantly on the lower hills of Palestine.” The word occurs elsewhere only in Hosea 4:13, and the idea that it was the poplar arises solely from the name signifying white; but this epithet is even more deserved by the storax, “which in March is covered with a sheet of white blossom, and is the predominant shrub through the dells of Carmel and Galilee” (Natural History of the Bible, pp. 395, 396).

Hazel.—Heb., luz (Genesis 28:19), the almond-tree (amygdalus communis). Dr. Tristram (Natural History of the Bible, p. 358) says that he never observed the true hazel wild in Southern or Central Pales·tine, nor was it likely to occur in Mesopotamia. The almond is one of the most common trees in Palestine.

Chesnut tree.—Heb., armon, the plane-tree (platanus orientalis). “We never,” says Dr. Tristram (p. 345), “saw the chesnut in Palestine, excepting planted in orchards in Lebanon; while the plane-tree, though local, is frequent by the sides of streams and in plains.” The tree is mentioned again in Ezekiel 31:8.

Genesis 30:37-38. And pilled white streaks in them — Pilled off the bark from the rods, at certain distances, till the white appeared between the bark. He set the rods in the gutters — Or channels of water, at the time when the cattle were wont to couple, that their fancies might be painted with such divers colours as they saw in the rods. As it appears from Genesis 31:10, that God, to reward Jacob’s fidelity, and punish Laban’s injustice, determined that the cattle should generally be speckled and spotted; so it is probable he directed him to take this method to attain that end; not as though it were sufficient of itself to produce such an effect, which any person that will make the trial will find it is not; but as a means which God would bless in order to it, and which Jacob was required to use in testimony of his dependance on God, as Naaman was required to wash in the river Jordan, in order to his being cured of his leprosy. Much being said by authors concerning the surprising effects which impressions made upon the imaginations of pregnant animals will have upon the form, shape, and colour of the young, Dr. Shuckford observes, “1st, That it cannot be proved that the method which Jacob used is a natural and effectual way to produce variegated cattle; the ancient naturalists having carried their thoughts upon these subjects much further than they will bear; that the effect of impressions upon the imagination must be very accidental, because the objects that should cause them may or may not be taken notice of. But, 2d, Granting that they might naturally produce the effect here mentioned; yet if, as is probable, Jacob used the rods in obedience to a special divine direction, without knowing any thing of their natural virtue, the effect must still be ascribed immediately to God himself; just as in the case of Hezekiah, though the figs which were applied for his recovery might be a natural remedy for his distemper; yet, since the application of them was not made by any rules of physic then known, but by a divine direction, the cure is justly ascribed to the immediate hand of God.”30:25-43 The fourteen years being gone, Jacob was willing to depart without any provision, except God's promise. But he had in many ways a just claim on Laban's substance, and it was the will of God that he should be provided for from it. He referred his cause to God, rather than agree for stated wages with Laban, whose selfishness was very great. And it would appear that he acted honestly, when none but those of the colours fixed upon should be found among his cattle. Laban selfishly thought that his cattle would produce few different in colour from their own. Jacob's course after this agreement has been considered an instance of his policy and management. But it was done by intimation from God, and as a token of his power. The Lord will one way or another plead the cause of the oppressed, and honour those who simply trust his providence. Neither could Laban complain of Jacob, for he had nothing more than was freely agreed that he should have; nor was he injured, but greatly benefitted by Jacob's services. May all our mercies be received with thanksgiving and prayer, that coming from his bounty, they may lead to his praise.Jacob devises means to provide himself with a flock in these unfavorable circumstances. His first device is to place party-colored rods before the eyes of the cattle at the rutting season, that they might drop lambs and kids varied with speckles, patches, or streaks of white. He had learned from experience that there is a congruence between the colors of the objects contemplated by the dams at that season and those of their young. At all events they bare many straked, speckled, and spotted lambs and kids. He now separated the lambs, and set the faces of the flock toward the young of the rare colors, doubtless to affect them in the same way as the pilled rods. "Put his own folds by themselves." These are the party-colored cattle that from time to time appeared in the flock of Laban. In order to secure the stronger cattle, Jacob added the second device of employing the party-colored rods only when the strong cattle conceived. The sheep in the East lamb twice a year, and it is supposed that the lambs dropped in autumn are stronger than those dropped in the spring. On this supposition Jacob used his artifice in the spring, and not in the autumn. It is probable, however, that he made his experiments on the healthy and vigorous cattle, without reference to the season of the year. The result is here stated. "The man brake forth exceedingly" - became rapidly rich in hands and cattle.

It is obvious that the preceding and present chapters form one continuous piece of composition; as otherwise we have no account of the whole family of Jacob from one author. But the names אלהים 'ĕlohı̂ym and יהוה yehovâh are both employed in the piece, and, hence, their presence and interchange cannot indicate diversity of authorship.

- Jacob's Flight from Haran

19. תרפים terāpı̂ym, Teraphim. This word occurs fifteen times in the Old Testament. It appears three times in this chapter, and nowhere else in the Pentateuch. It is always in the plural number. The root does not appear in Biblical Hebrew. It perhaps means "to live well," intransitively (Gesenius, Roedig.), "to nourish," transitively (Furst). The teraphim were symbols or representatives of the Deity, as Laban calls them his gods. They seem to have been busts (προτομαί protomai, Aquila) of the human form, sometimes as large as life 1 Samuel 19:13. Those of full size were probably of wood; the smaller ones may have been of metal. In two passages Judges 17:1-13; 18; Hosea 3:4 they are six times associated with the ephod. This intimates either that they were worn on the ephod, like the Urim and Thummim, or more probably that the ephod was worn on them; in accordance with which they were employed for the purposes of divination Genesis 30:27; Zechariah 10:2. The employment of them in the worship of God, which Laban seems to have inherited from his fathers Joshua 24:2, is denounced as idolatry 1 Samuel 15:23; and hence, they are classed with the idols and other abominations put away by Josiah 2 Kings 23:24.

47. שׂהדוּתא יגר yegar-śâhădûtā', Jegar-sahadutha, "cairn of witness" in the Aramaic dialect of the old Hebrew or Shemite speech. גלעד gal‛ēd, Gal'ed; and גלעד gı̂l‛ād, Gil'ad, "cairn of witness" in Hebrew especially so called (see Genesis 11:1-9).

49. מצפה mı̂tspâh, Mizpah, "watch-tower."

Jacob had now been twenty years in Laban's service, and was therefore, ninety-six years of age. It has now become manifest that he cannot obtain leave of Laban to return home. He must, therefore, either come off by the high hand, or by secret flight. Jacob has many reasons for preferring the latter course.

37. Jacob took rods, &c.—There are many varieties of the hazel, some of which are more erect than the common hazel, and it was probably one of these varieties Jacob employed. The styles are of a bright red color, when peeled; and along with them he took wands of other shrubs, which, when stripped of the bark, had white streaks. These, kept constantly before the eyes of the female at the time of gestation, his observation had taught him would have an influence, through the imagination, on the future offspring. Jacob took rods: this he did by Divine appointment, as will appear in the sequel, which is sufficient for Jacob’s justification.

Took rods of green popular, and of the hazel and chesnut tree; either because these trees were next at hand, or because he saw these in the Divine vision afterwards mentioned, and would exactly follow his pattern. He

made the white appear, by pilling off the rind which covered it. And Jacob took him rods of green poplar,.... Of the white poplar tree, called green, not from the colour, but from the moisture, being such as were cut off of the tree:

and of the hazel and chestnut tree; the former some take to be the almond tree, as Saadiah Gaon, and others; and the latter to be the plantain or plane tree, so Ainsworth, and others:

and pilled white strakes in them; took off the bark of them in some places, and left it on in others, which made white strakes:

and made the white appear which was in the rods; that part of the rods which was stripped of the bark appeared white; and it appeared the whiter for the bark that was left on in other parts; and both made the rods to appear to have various colours, which was the design of Jacob in pilling them.

And Jacob {l} took him rods of green poplar, and of the hazel and chesnut tree; and pilled white strakes in them, and made the white appear which was in the rods.

(l) Jacob used no deceit in this for it was God's commandment as he declares in Ge 31:9,11.

37. poplar] R.V. marg. storax tree. The Hebrew name is libneh, and is probably connected with the word laban, meaning “white.” By some it is identified with the styrax officinalis.

plane tree] In the Hebrew ‘armon, i.e. “naked,” a name derived from the annual scaling of the bark of the tree. The platanus orientalis was held in high veneration in the East. Cf. Ezekiel 31:8.

white strakes] Jacob’s trick turns upon the whiteness of the rods; and this supplies a play upon the name “Laban” (= “white”), who is outwitted by Jacob. The device is said to be well known to shepherds. “Strake” is Old English for “streak”; cf. Leviticus 14:37.Verse 37. - And Jacob took him rods of green poplar - literally, a rod (the singular being used collectively for rods) of לִבְנֶה, (from לָבַן, to be white, meaning either the) poplar (LXX., in Hosea 4:13; Vulgate, Kalisch) or the storax (LXX. in loco, Keil; cf. Michaelis, 'Suppl.,' p. 1404) fresh green - and of the hazel - לוּז, the hazel tree (Raschi, Kimchi, Arabic, Luther, Furst, Kalisch) or the almond tree (Vulgate, Saadias, Calvin, Gesenius, 'Speaker s Commentary') - and chestnut tree; - עַרְמון, the plane tree (LXX., Vulgate, et alii), so called from its height - and pilled white strakes in them (literally, peeled off in them peeled places white), and made the white appear (literally, making naked the white) which was in the rods. New Contract of Service Between Jacob and Laban. - As the second period of seven years terminated about the time of Joseph's birth, Jacob requested Laban to let him return to his own place and country, i.e., to Canaan. Laban, however, entreated him to remain, for he had perceived that Jehovah, Jacob's God, had blessed him for his sake; and told him to fix his wages for further service. The words, "if I have found favour in thine eyes" (Genesis 30:27), contain an aposiopesis, sc., then remain. נחשׁתּי "a heathen expression, like augurando cognovi" (Delitzsch). עלי שׂכרך thy wages, which it will be binding upon me to give. Jacob reminded him, on the other hand, what service he had rendered him, how Jehovah's blessing had followed "at his foot," and asked when he should begin to provide for his own house. But when Laban repeated the question, what should he give him, Jacob offered to feed and keep his flock still, upon one condition, which was founded upon the fact, that in the East the goats, as a rule, are black or dark-brown, rarely white or spotted with white, and that the sheep for the most part are white, very seldom black or speckled. Jacob required as wages, namely, all the speckled, spotted, and black among the sheep, and all the speckled, spotted, and white among the goats; and offered "even to-day" to commence separating them, so that "to-morrow" Laban might convince himself of the uprightness of his proceedings. הסר (Genesis 30:32) cannot be imperative, because of the preceding אעבר, but must be infinitive: "I will go through the whole flock to-day to remove from thence all...;" and שׂכרי היה signifies "what is removed shall be my wages," but not everything of an abnormal colour that shall hereafter be found in the flock. This was no doubt intended by Jacob, as the further course of the narrative shows, but it is not involved in the words of Genesis 30:32. Either the writer has restricted himself to the main fact, and omitted to mention that it was also agreed at the same time that the separation should be repeated at certain regular periods, and that all the sheep of an abnormal colour in Laban's flock should also be set aside as part of Jacob's wages; or this point was probably not mentioned at first, but taken for granted by both parties, since Jacob took measures with that idea to his own advantage, and even Laban, notwithstanding the frequent alteration of the contract with which Jacob charged him (Genesis 31:7-8, and Genesis 31:41), does not appear to have disputed this right.
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