With the birth of Joseph, Jacob decides the time has come to return to his homeland. The Israel Bible explains that according to a verse in Obadiah (1:18), Joseph is compared to a flame and Esau to “a house of straw”. Thus, once the “flame” destined to combat Esau is born, Jacob could confront his brother and fulfil his commitment to God to return to the land of his fathers.
Jacob asks his father-in-law’s permission to return, but Laban convinces him to extend his stay, this time to earn his own living and not leave empty-handed. He tells Jacob to set his wages. Jacob acknowledges he has not had time to amass his own fortune, and tells Laban he should remove any speckled or spotted sheep from his current flock. From this point forward, any spotted sheep born will be Jacob’s. Laban agrees to the terms and Jacob sets out to tend Laban’s spotless sheep.
Jacob prepares an elaborate system to encourage the birth of speckled sheep, and it works. Additionally, he arranges for his sheep to be born among the strongest of the flock, leaving Laban with the weaker animals.
Virtual Classroom Discussion
Do you think Jacob’s manipulation of the sheep actually affected the outcome? Why or why not? If not, why do you think Jacob did those things?
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