Welcome back to my study/review of Genesis. If you missed the previous parts of this study, you can find them HERE.
Genesis 30: 25-28
25 As soon as Rachel had borne Joseph, Jacob said to Laban, “Send me away, that I may go to my own home and country. 26 Give me my wives and my children for whom I have served you, that I may go, for you know the service that I have given you.” 27 But Laban said to him, “If I have found favor in your sight, I have learned by divination that the Lord has blessed me because of you. 28 Name your wages, and I will give it.”
It appears that the birth of Joseph, via Rachel, is the thing Jacob has been waiting upon before returning home. Many years have no passed since he left both to find a wife and to flee from Esau. We are not told here that Jacob has heard that Esau’s anger is lessened. From The Pulpit Commentaries:
And it came to pass, when Rachel had born Joseph,—either at or about the expiry of the second term of seven years. Jacob’s family now consisted in all of eleven sons and one daughter, unless Dinah’s birth occurred later in the next term of service (Keil). Since these were all born within seven years, the chronological cannot be the order observed by the historian in recording the events of the preceding paragraphs. Rather the births of the children are arranged in connection with the mothers from whom they sprang. Hence the possibility of acquiring so large a family in so short a time. The six sons of Leah might be born in the seven years, allowing one year’s complete cessation from pregnancy, viz; the fifth; Bilhah’s in the third and fourth years; Zilpah’s in the beginning of the sixth and seventh; and Rachel’s toward the end of the seventh, leaving Dinah to be born later (cf. Keil in loco)—that Jacob said unto Laban (if not immediately, certainly soon, after Joseph’s birth), Send me away (meaning that Laban should permit him to depart), that I may go (literally, and I will go) unto mine own place, and to my country—to Canaan in general, and to that part of it in particular where he had formerly resided (cf. Genesis 18:33; Genesis 31:55).
If you look at the timeline above, there is only a very short window wherein all twelve of his sons are born. The note above speculates that eleven of his children were born during his second seven year term of service to Laban.
Jacob asks Laban in verse 26 to release his household to return home with him. Continuing in The Pulpit Commentaries:
Give me (suffer me to take) my wives and my children, for whom I have served thee, and let me go (literally, and I will go): for thou knowest my service which I have done thee—implying that he had faithfully implemented his engagement, and that Laban was aware of the justness of his demand to be released from further servitude.
Give me = נָתַן nâthan, naw-than’; a primitive root; to give, used with greatest latitude of application (put, make, etc.):—add, apply, appoint, ascribe, assign, × avenge, × be (healed), bestow, bring (forth, hither), cast, cause, charge, come, commit, consider, count, cry, deliver (up), direct, distribute, do, × doubtless, × without fail, fasten, frame, × get, give (forth, over, up), grant, hang (up), × have, × indeed, lay (unto charge, up), (give) leave, lend, let (out), lie, lift up, make, O that, occupy, offer, ordain, pay, perform, place, pour, print, × pull, put (forth), recompense, render, requite, restore, send (out), set (forth), shew, shoot forth (up), sing, slander, strike, (sub-) mit, suffer, × surely, × take, thrust, trade, turn, utter, weep, willingly, withdraw, would (to) God, yield.
In verse 27, we hear Laban’s reply. From Ellicott’s Bible Commentary:
(27) I have learned by experience.—Heb., I have divined. The verb means, to speak between the teeth; to mutter magical formulœ. Others wrongly suppose that it signifies “to divine by omens taken from serpents;” and some imagine that Laban had consulted his teraphim. Words of this sort lose, at a very early date, their special signification, and all that Laban means is—“I fancy,” I conjecture.” His answer is, however, most Oriental. It is courtly and complimentary, but utterly inconclusive. “If now I have found favour in thine eyes, I have a feeling that God hath blessed me for thy sake.” It, of course, suggests that he would be glad if Jacob would remain with him. In Genesis 30:28 Laban comes to the point, but probably this was reached by many circuitous windings.
Ellicott’s note explains the working here in Laban’s reply as you see above. The Pulpit Commentary interprets the language here in a similar way, though it does seem to allow for the possibility that Laban consulted with his god or was making a reference to a superstition of some sort.
And Laban said unto him (having learnt by fourteen years’ acquaintance with Jacob to know the value of a good shepherd), I pray thee, if I have found favor in thine eyes (the clause is elliptical, the A. V. rightly supplying), tarry: for (this word also is not in the original), I have learned by experience—literally, I have divined; not necessarily by means of serpents (Gesenius, Wordsworth, ‘Speaker’s Commentary’), or even by consulting his gods (Delitzsch, Kalisch), but perhaps by close observation and minute inspection (Murphy, Bush). The LXX. render οἰωνισάμην; the Vulgate by experimento didici—that the Lord—Jehovah. Nominally a worshipper of the true God, Laban was in practice addicted to heathen superstitions (cf. Genesis 31:19, Genesis 31:32)—hath blessed me (with material prosperity) for thy sake.
Laban then tells Jacob to name his wages.
And he said, Appoint me thy wages. Literally, distinctly specify thy hire upon me, i.e. which I will take upon me as binding. Laban’s caution to be clear and specific in defining the terms of any engagement he might enter into was much needed, and would doubtless not be neglected by Jacob, whose past experience must have taught him he was dealing with one who, in respect of covenants and contracts, was eminently treacherous. And I will give it.
Laban’s request here seems straight-forward. The story that follows is famously anything but straight forward.