Genesis 30:38
And he set the rods which he had pilled before the flocks in the gutters in the watering troughs when the flocks came to drink, that they should conceive when they came to drink.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(38) In the gutters . . . —Heb., in the troughs at the watering-places. So virtually all the versions; and see Exodus 2:16, where the word rendered here “gutters” is rightly translated troughs. The idea that there were gutters through which to pour the water into the troughs is utterly modern, but all travellers describe the fixed troughs put for the convenience of the cattle round the wells.

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.

38. watering troughs—usually a long stone block hollowed out, from which several sheep could drink at once, but sometimes so small as to admit of only one drinking at a time. When by their refreshment and meeting together, they were most likely to generate and conceive. And he set the rods which he had pilled before the flocks,.... Opposite them, in the view of them:

in the gutters in the watering troughs, when the flocks came to drink; that is, in places of water, where troughs or vessels were made, into which the water ran convenient for the cattle to drink out of; and here he placed his party coloured rods right over against the flocks:

that they should conceive when they came to drink; as it was most likely they should when they were together at the water, and had refreshed themselves with it; and being "heated" (q), as the word signifies, with a desire of copulation, might conceive in sight of the above rods; which were set to move upon their imagination at the time of their conception, in order to produce cattle of different colours; to which no doubt he was directed of God, and it had, through his blessing, the wished for success, as follows:

(q) "incalescebant", Montanus, Vatablus, Drusius; "ut incalescerent", Junius & Tremellius.

And he set the rods which he had pilled before the flocks in the gutters in the watering troughs when the flocks came to drink, that they should conceive when they came to drink.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
38. over against] Jacob places the white peeled rods in front of the flocks, when they come to drink at the breeding season. It was the popular belief that such objects, being presented to the eye at such a season, would be likely to affect the colouring of the progeny.

gutters] This word is explained by the phrase following, “watering troughs”; cf. Exodus 2:16.Verse 38. - And he set the rods which he had pilled before the flecks in the gutters (רִחָטִים; literally, the canals or channels through which the water ran, from a root signifying to run) in the watering troughs (שִׁקֲתות, i.e. the troughs which contained the water, to which the animals approached) when the flocks came to drink, that they should conceive (literally, and they became warm, in the sense expressed in the A.V.) when they cams to drink - this was Jacob's first artifice to overreach Laban. 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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