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the care of his sons, and sent them to a distance of three days' journey for pasturage, while himself continued to feed Laban's flocks
as before. He proposed this measure, in order that he might entirely leave the matter of his own increase in the hands of God, and also that his honest and just dealing towards Laban might appear; "So shall my righteousness answer for me in time to come, when it shall come for my hire before thy face: every one that is not speckled and spotted among the goats, and brown among the sheep, that shall be counted stolen with me." From that time Jacob's flocks and herds increased exceedingly, so that Laban repented of the terms to which he had at first so willingly agreed. Jacob complains in the text, "Thou hast changed my wages ten times." What these changes were we are not told; but whatever they were, still Jacob equally prospered, for God made him to prosper, and all the devices of Laban were of no effect. As Jacob says to his wives, "Ye know that with all my power I have served 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." It is to be noted therefore that herein was a special interposition of the providence of God, yet acting, as in this case was evident, and in all cases is really though not always evident, according to the rule of justice and equity.
But it may be said that Jacob had recourse to an expedient for procuring the cattle to himself which was not according to the rule of justice and equity. This we will proceed to consider. We read that Jacob pilled off the skin of green rods of different trees so as to make streakes of white in them, and placed them near the watering troughs that the flocks conceiving among them might thus bring forth a party-coloured offspring, and that the expedient answered, for the flocks
brought forth cattle ringstraked, speckled and spotted; that then Jacob placed the flocks so as that they might be constantly looking at those which thus were born coloured; and further, that Jacob made use of his rods whenever the stronger cattle conceived, and by these means became possessed of the best of the cattle, leaving to Laban only the feeblest. Now if this was a natural effect of the means adopted, which Jacob had learned by observation and experience, it may be said that he was justified in using his superior knowledge in the management of cattle to his own advantage. But I rather think that it was not according to natural order, and that such means had not before, and would not again, produce such effects; that therefore Jacob had had some special direction from God respecting the methods he adopted; and that these were supernaturally ordered so that they answered the intended purpose. It was the method which God chose to adopt to enable him to counteract the injustice and selfishness of Laban.
III. In the third place we will consider
some of the circumstances of Jacob's departure which are also here recorded.
Laban and his sons became exceedingly enraged at the prosperity of Jacob, and probably meditated or even expressed some intention of violence towards him. He was therefore warned of God to return to his own country, and the presence and protection of God were promised to him. To prepare his wives for their departure he informs them of a dream which he had had, and in which the angel of God declared unto him, "I am the God of Bethel, where thou anointedst the pillar, and where thou vowedst a vow to me: now arise, get thee out of this land, and return unto the land of thy kindred."
Two things are here to be noticed. It is said that the angel of God spake unto him in a dream; yet the angel said, I am the God of Bethel. Who and what then is this angel? I take this opportunity of observing, what I might have done from some former passages of the Scripture history, that it must have been the Son of God himself, who had before appeared unto Abraham previous to the
destruction of Sodom, and who thus made discoveries of himself preparatory to that great manifestation, in which he "was made flesh and dwelt among us." Thus was the world in some measure prepared for that wonderful mystery of the Gospel, God manifest in the flesh. The title which he here assumed would be peculiarly encouraging to Jacob; for when he appeared to him at Bethel, he said, "I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac." This would remind him of the covenant which the Lord had made with his fathers, and had renewed to him, and also of the additional promises which he had made to him individually; it would remind him also of his own vow, that the Lord should be his God, and that place the Lord's house; and that also would tend to strengthen him. It is thus that God makes his grace according to our day, and is a very present help in every time of need.
Jacob and his family now leave the country, but secretly for fear of Laban. While he was busy at his sheep-shearing, and probably