Kinsmen and Hired Hands

Laban’s statement to Jacob in Gen. 29:15 literally reads, “Is it because you are my brother that you have served me for nothing? Tell me what should your wages should be.”

This, despite numerous mistranslations, is a rejection of Jacob’s status as brother.

1st) The parable of the prodigal son shows us that making someone a hired servant demoted them below the status of the family member (Luke 15:19).

2nd) Laban never pays Jacob appropriately. He changes his wages ten times, always trying to exploit him (Gen. 31:41). When Jacob finally leaves, he says that he needs to provide for his own house (Gen. 30:30), indicating that up to that point it has not been provided for.

3rd) Laban has disowned his daughters (Gen. 31:14-16). They are considered strangers by him.

4th) Laban sets his own sons over Jacob, to watch him and report of any misdoings (Gen. 30:35; 31:1).

Jacob, as Israel of course, is doing his time in the trenches. He is slaving under the tyranny of a relative, much like Joseph will first be tyrannized by his brothers, then his distant cousins, the Ishmaelites. God remembers Israel’s toils and hears their cries, and He brings to them prosperity. Pharaoh Laban’s riches increase, and thus he tries to keep Israel as his servant. God brings Jacob out under the cover of secrecy, and when Laban chases after, God prevents any harm from coming on Jacob.

Interestingly enough, Jacob is in his mid-90s at this point. He came to Laban as a man fresh out of the parents’ house, and is leaving a seasoned elder with a large house of his own to care for.

There is a very important principle in all of this. Though the son might look like a slave when he is young, he has never been working for wages, but rather preparing himself for the promised inheritance.

This entry was posted in genesis by Steven Wedgeworth. Bookmark the permalink.

About Steven Wedgeworth

Steven Wedgeworth is the associate pastor of Faith Presbyterian Church in Vancouver, British Columbia. He writes about theology, history, and political theory, and he has taught Jr. High and High School. He is the founder and general editor of The Calvinist International, an online journal of Christian Humanism and political theology, and a Director for the Davenant Institute.

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