For it was little which thou had before I came - Jacob takes advantage of the concession made by his father-in-law, and asserts that it was for his sake that the Lord had blessed him: Since my coming, לרגלי leragli, according to my footsteps - every step I took in thy service, God prospered to the multiplication of thy flocks and property.
When shall I provide for mine own house - Jacob had already laid his plan; and, from what is afterwards mentioned, we find him using all his skill and experience to provide for his family by a rapid increase of his flocks.
- Jacob‘s Family and Wealth
6. דן dān Dan, “judge, lord.”
8. נפתלי naptālı̂y Naphtali, “wrestling.”
11. גד gād Gad, “overcoming, victory.” בגד bāgād “in victory or” =גד בא bā' gād “victory cometh.” גוּד gûd “press down.” גדוּד gedûd “troop.”
13. אשׁר 'ǎashēr Asher, “prosperity, happiness.”
18. ישׂשכר yı̂śāskār Jissakar, “reward.” The second Hebrew letter (ש s ) seems to have been merely a full mode of writing the word, instead of the abbreviated form ישׂכר yı̂śākār זבלוּן zebulûn Zebulun, “dwelling.” There is here a play upon the two words זבד zābad “to endow” and זבל zābal “to dwell,” the latter of which, however, prevails in the name. They occur only here as verbs.
21. דינה dı̂ynâh Dinah, “judgment.”
24. יסף yôsêph Joseph, “he shall add.” There is, however, an obvious allusion to the thought. “God hath taken away (אסף 'āsap ) my reproach.” Double references, we find, are usual in the giving of names (see Genesis 25:30).
This chapter is the continuation of the former, and completes the history of Jacob in Haran. The event immediately following probably took place after Leah had borne two of her sons, though not admitted into the narrative until she had paused for a short time.
Bilhah, Rachel‘s maid, bears two sons. Rachel becomes impatient of her barrenness and jealous of her sister, and unjustly reproaches her husband, who indignantly rebukes her. God, not he, has withheld children from her. She does what Sarah had done before her Genesis 16:2-3, gives her handmaid to her husband. No express law yet forbade this course, though nature and Scripture by implication did Genesis 2:23-25. “Dan.” “God hath judged me.” In this passage Jacob and Rachel use the common noun, God, the Everlasting, and therefore Almighty, who rules in the physical relations of things - a name suitable to the occasion. He had judged her, dealt with her according to his sovereign justice in withholding the fruit of the womb, when she was self-complacent and forgetful of her dependence on a higher power; and also in hearing her voice when she approached him in humble supplication. “Naphtali.” “Wrestlings of God,” with God, in prayer, on the part of both sisters, so that they wrestled with one another in the self-same act. Rachel, though looking first to Jacob and then to her maid, had at length learned to look to her God, and then had prevailed.
Leah having stayed from bearing, resorts to the same expedient. Her fourth son was seemingly born in the fourth year of Jacob‘s marriage. Bearing her first four sons so rapidly, she would the sooner observe the temporary cessation. After the interval of a year she may have given Zilpah to Jacob. “Gad.” “Victory cometh.” She too claims a victory. “Asher.” Daughters will pronounce her happy who is so rich in sons. Leah is seemingly conscious that she is here pursuing a device of her own heart; and hence there is no explicit reference to the divine name or influence in the naming of the two sons of her maid.
“Reuben” was at this time four or five years of age, as it is probable that Leah began to bear again before Zilpah had her second son. “Mandrakes” - the fruit of the “mandragora vernaIis,” which is to this day supposed to promote fruitfulness of the womb. Rachel therefore desires to partake of them, and obtains them by a compact with Leah. Leah betakes herself to prayer, and bears a fifth son. She calls him “Issakar,” with a double allusion. She had hired her husband with the mandrakes, and had received this son as her hire for giving her maid to her husband; which she regards as an act of generosity or self-denial. “Zebulun.” Here Leah confesses, “God hath endowed me with a good dowry.” She speaks now like Rachel of the God of nature. The cherished thought that her husband will dwell with her who is the mother of six sons takes form in the name. “Dinah” is the only daughter of Jacob mentioned Genesis 46:7, and that on account of her subsequent connection with the history of Jacob Genesis 30:22-24
“God remembered Rachel,” in the best time for her, after he had taught her the lessons of dependence and patience. “Joseph.” There is a remote allusion to her gratitude for the reproach of barrenness taken away. But there is also hope in the name. The selfish feeling also has died away, and the thankful Rachel rises from Elohim, the invisible Eternal, to Yahweh, the manifest Self-existent. The birth of Joseph was after the fourteen years of service were completed. He and Dinah appear to have been born in the same year.
Jacob enters into a new contract of service with Laban. “When Rachel had borne Joseph.” Jacob cannot ask his dismissal until the twice seven years of service were completed. Hence, the birth of Joseph, which is the date of his request, took place at the earliest in the fifteenth year of his sojourn with Laban. Jacob now wishes to return home, from which he had been detained so long by serving for Rachel. He no doubt expects of Laban the means at least of accomplishing his journey. Laban is loath to part with him. “I have divined” - I have been an attentive observer. The result of his observation is expressed in the following words. “Appoint.” Laban offers to leave the fixing of the hire to Jacob. “Thy hire upon me,” which I will take upon me as binding. Jacob touches upon the value of his services, perhaps with the tacit feeling that Laban in equity owed him at least the means of returning to his home. “Brake forth” - increased. “At my foot” - under my guidance and tending of thy flocks.
“Do” - provide. “Thou shalt not give me anything.” This shows that Jacob had no stock from Laban to begin with. “I will pass through all thy flock today” with thee. “Remove thou thence every speckled and spotted sheep, and every brown sheep among the lambs, and the spotted and speckled among the goats.” These were the rare colors, as in the East the sheep are usually white, and the goats black or dark brown. “And such shall be my hire.” Such as these uncommon party-colored cattle, when they shall appear among the flock already cleared of them; and not those of this description that are now removed. For in this case Laban would have given Jacob something; whereas Jacob was resolved to be entirely dependent on the divine providence for his hire. “And my righteousness will answer for me.” The color will determine at once whose the animal is. Laban willingly consents to so favorable a proposal, removes the party-colored animals from the flock, gives them into the hands of his sons, and puts an interval of three days‘ journey between them and the pure stock which remains in Jacob‘s hands. Jacob is now to begin with nothing, and have for his hire any party-colored lambs or kids that appear in those flocks, from which every specimen of this rare class has been carefully removed.
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.