IF ANYONE DESERVED A STINKER of a father-in-law, it was Jacob.
Jacob means “Heel,” and he certainly was.
Not because he was born holding onto the heel of his twin brother Esau, which is how he got his name.
But because of what he did to earn his name:
1. He exploited his hungry brother Esau by feeding him a bowl of beans – but charging him Esau’s share of the family inheritance. As the oldest son, Esau got twice as much as anyone else. Now Jacob would get that, and Esau would probably get what Jacob would have gotten.
2. He tricked his old and nearly blind father Isaac into giving him what Isaac thought was his own end-of-life blessing to his oldest boy, Esau.
Jacob deserved payback. He got it good. Or bad, depending on your point of view.
Jacob had to run for his life to escape from Esau. When Esau found out that Jacob stole his father’s blessing, Esau vowed to kill him.
Jacob’s mom, Rebekah, sent her boy north to what is now Turkey. He would live with Rebekah’s big brother, Laban, until Esau cooled off.
Twenty years later, Jacob was still living with his Uncle Laban because he married into the family.
I’ve been reading the story. I was wondering what it would look like if I built a list of Uncle Laban’s nasty behavior.
- Ugly bride switcheroo. He agreed to let Jacob marry Rachel – Laban’s pretty daughter – after Jacob worked for Laban seven years. But on the wedding night, Laban switched daughters. “Laban took Leah to Jacob,” (Genesis 29:23) and Jacob woke up in bed with what sounds like the ugly one: Leah. Waking up to that would have cured a hangover.
- Double-billing. He made Jacob “work another seven years” (29:27) to marry the daughter he should have gotten in the first place. At least Laban let Jacob have Rachel after Leah’s traditional weeklong wedding celebration.
- Lie, cheat, and steal. After Jacob’s 14 years of hard labor were up, Laban agreed to pay him for staying and helping. Laban would let Jacob keep all the streaked and spotted sheep and goats along with the black sheep. Then Laban told his sons to cut those animals from the flock and take them “a three-days’ journey from where Jacob was” (30:36).
- Job creator off his meds. He changed Jacob’s wages “ten times” (31:6). Probably not raises.
- Woman-hater. He stripped his daughter’s rights “to those of foreign women” (31:15).
- Oniomanic (shopaholic). Instead of holding onto the money Jacob gave Laban as a dowry of Social Security for Rachel and Leah, “he wasted the money” (31:15).
While Laban was off shearing his sheep one spring week, Jacob secretly rounded up everyone and everything he owned, and he hit the road in a hurry.
Funny, now that I think about it. Jacob had to run away coming and going.