Genesis 31.4-9 – God’s unseen hand at work
Posted: 29 September 2014 in Genesis

And Jacob sent and called Rachel and Leah to the field unto his flock, And said unto them, I see your father’s countenance, that it is not toward me as before; but the God of my father hath been with me. And ye know that with all my power I have served your father. And your father hath deceived me, and changed my wages ten times; but God suffered him not to hurt me. If he said thus, The speckled shall be thy wages; then all the cattle bare speckled: and if he said thus, The ringstraked shall be thy hire; then bare all the cattle ringstraked. Thus God hath taken away the cattle of your father, and given them to me.

One of the things I take away from the above passage is in the final sentence, where God is represented as being sovereignly free to withdraw his gifts from whomsoever he will (Laban), and to bestow them upon whomsoever he will (Jacob). A partial explanation for the favour shown to Jacob, at the expense of Laban, may be found when, in a later age, it would be revealed to Moses that the Jews, of whom Jacob was the progenitor, were to be a people specially chosen by God, and that for the purpose of bringing his salvation to the whole world. Clearly we have here no deistic god, who creates the universe, and then leads it to go its own sweet way. We have instead a God who is the Lord of all history, and who governs the universe in such a way as to ensure that his purposes are realised.

Another thing I take away from this passage is the way in which the taking of cattle from Laban, and the giving of them to Jacob, is described by Jacob himself as being of God’s doing. The slightly surprising thing here is that, the closing verses of the previous chapter, a description is to be found of an artifice, whereby which Jacob himself tried to bring about the desired end:

And it came to pass, whensoever the stronger cattle did conceive, that Jacob laid the rods before the eyes of the cattle in the gutters, that they might conceive among the rods. But when the cattle were feeble, he put them not in: so the feebler were Laban’s, and the stronger Jacob’s.

It is very easy to imagine those verses drawing forth from an atheist a comment along the lines of, “Ha, ha, how ridiculous! Everybody knows that the appearance of the cattle depends upon genetic factors, and has nothing to do with what was before their eyes at the time of conception. You say the Bible is inerrant. What baloney!” In the light of the above passage it can be said that, in one sense, this hypothetical atheist would be right, but not in the way he imagines. Jacob’s actions would indeed have been ineffectual, had they denoted nothing but a human activity. However, these verses reveal Jacob’s actions to have been but an outward sign of a hidden and divine activity. The taking of cattle from Laban, and the giving of them to Jacob, was in reality the Lord’s doing.

An atheist, of course, will not give the divine Word the reverence which is its due. In blaspheming it, he is effectively blaspheming the almighty and most merciful God whose word it is, and who gave it to us for our instruction. In the absence of divine grace, such is the depravity of man. One of the reasons why not all are saved, in God’s providence, may be that the reprobate are to be a mirror within which the elect can behold the reflection of their own corrupt and sinful nature, and then to praise and glorify the Lord, because he nevertheless deigned to have mercy upon us. To paraphrase Paul: All things work together to the glory of the Lord. And that is no accident; it is the Lord’s own doing.

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