Jacob fell in love with his cousin Rachel, but to marry her, his Uncle Laban (Rachel’s father) told him he must serve him for seven years tending his sheep before he would give Jacob his daughter.
When the seven years had passed, however, Laban gave Jacob Rachel’s elder sister Leah. When Jacob demanded to know why, Laban explained that the oldest daughter would have to be given in marriage before the younger could be. He then told Jacob that if he served him for seven more years, at the end of that time he could have Rachel. Because Jacob loved Rachel so much, he agreed and did just that.
While Laban clearly intended to trick Jacob into 14 years of service from the start, God did not turn a blind eye to Jacob’s plight.
Jacob took two more wives in the form of Leah and Rachel’s servants, and his wives bore him many children. It was after Rachel herself finally gave birth to a son, Joseph, that Jacob went to Laban and told him he wanted to return to his father’s land.
Unwilling to lose his best worker, Laban asked Jacob to name his price for continuing to work his flock. Unbeknownst to Laban, this time Jacob had a plan to trick his wily uncle. Jacob replied:
If you will do this one thing for me, I will go on tending your flocks and watching over them: Let me go through all your flocks today and remove from them every speckled or spotted sheep, every dark-colored lamb and every spotted or speckled goat. They will be my wages. And my honesty will testify for me in the future, whenever you check on the wages you have paid me. Any goat in my possession that is not speckled or spotted, or any lamb that is not dark-colored, will be considered stolen.” Genesis 30:31-33
Laban agreed to Jacob’s terms, but before Jacob could separate the colored animals from the flock, Laban took them and gave them to his sons to take care of, so for Jacob there was none.
Jacob, however, took fresh-cut branches from poplar, almond and plane trees and made white stripes on them by peeling the bark and exposing the white inner wood of the branches. Then he placed the peeled branches in all the watering troughs, so that they would be directly in front of the flocks when they came to drink. When the flocks were in heat and came to drink, they mated in front of the branches. And they bore young that were streaked or speckled or spotted.” Genesis 30:37-39
After a while, virtually all of Laban’s flock were colored, and Jacob fled in the night with his wives, children, and his huge flock of sheep.
People like Laban are unfortunately too common. They take advantage of their employees, either changing the terms of service during employment or failing to live up to their obligations under those terms.
While it’s true that Jacob was favoured by the Lord because He intended to make the nation of Israel from him, God doesn’t like cheats anywhere He finds them, and He protects the defenseless and those taken advantage of.
If you are an employer, be fair with your employees, and above all, give to them what they are due, otherwise you run the very real risk of being on the wrong side of God’s intervention, like Laban.