There was eventually going to be a time when Jacob would have had it with Laban, and demand to leave. What I’m sure both of them didn’t know was the terms and conditions, and whether the circumstances surrounding their going separate ways will be acrimonious or not. Interestingly, both parties had shown themselves to be crafty and witty, especially relating to taking advantage of their associates. Jacob to Esau as regards the issue of birthright, then Laban to Jacob regarding the latter’s marriage to the former’s daughters. So, right after “… Rachel had borne Joseph, that Jacob said unto Laban, Send me away, that I may go to my place, and to my country. Give me my wives and my children for whom I have served you, and let me go: for you know my service with which I have served you” (Genesis 30:25-26). Jacob understood his place in Laban’s household, he knew that the fact that he was married to Laban’s daughters didn’t automatically make him a son, and as the saying goes, “after a while strangers like fish, begin to smell”, even if Laban in the weirdest of conditions considered him so, the same couldn’t be said of his cousins.
But of course Laban would have none of it, he even admitted to Jacob that he “… surmised that YAHWEH has blessed me for your sake” (v.27), and would rather Jacob “… so appoints (his) wages, and (he) will give it” (v.28). He knew he could be paying Jacob a living wage, but never broached it until the later decided to leave. The same is the case with many of us in paid employment, where pay isn’t necessary at par or commensurate with wages or earnings, and sometimes we may have to agitate for it, and be given a listening ear only when we’re being poached by the competition, or we decide to leave. Many remain slaves to their jobs because they never outlined conditions under which the job regardless of the benefits becomes untenable. Jacob had come to the point where he found what subsisted quite untenable hence his decision to leave, with members of his family, and when his mind was made up, not even a favorable wage plan would sway him, it would so appear that the mention of the review of wages in Jacob’s favor, even galvanized his resolve to leave, seeing that apparently he had been more of a blessing than otherwise to Laban and his business.
Now, I’m not saying when work resumes next week, you should up and posthaste tender your resignation letter before your employer or Personnel Manager, just like that. Jacob had cogent reasons for leaving Laban, he knew that much of the wealth and greatness that had accrued to Laban over the past few years couldn’t have been achieved without his input, to which even Laban alluded. Hence it was in Laban’s interest that Jacob remained, this time no matter the cost. I am of the view that if most employees knew how important they are to the growth of an establishment, they wouldn’t approach the matter of wage increases with levity, even though some tact and diplomacy needs be employed while at it, in order not to lose everything, while negotiating for better working conditions. In some cases, like that of Jacob, it was definitely time to leave seeing that up until that time, he had a family that he couldn’t be said to have complete control over, living under the roof of his father-in-law, to whom he must’ve had to defer to, at some point or the other, even in matters concerning his nuclear family, out of respect to the father figure that Laban represented to and for him. When Laban saw that his nephew couldn’t be persuaded otherwise, he agreed to an arrangement that will have Jacob separated from him by a journey of three days, however of his flock, Jacob would still continue to shepherd them, but will now have as his portion “… every speckled and spotted one, and every black one among the sheep, and the spotted and speckled among the goats, and of such shall be my hire” (v.32), while the others not fitting that description will belong to Laban. Hence Jacob started his journey towards independence without necessarily leaving Laban his uncle.
I hate to say, “as is common nature to Jacob”, but it is what it is. Jacob sought to take advantage even of this situation, and seeing that he was much more closer and associated with the flock than either Laban and his sons, who apparently had over the years, fed fat on Jacob’s labour, he employed a trick that even Charles Darwin would’ve envied in its execution, ensuring that part of the flock that became his were of the strong breed while those that were his uncles’ and father-in-law and his family, were the weaklings. Jacob must’ve tended to the philosophy of “kill or be killed”, he wouldn’t take hostages when it came to exploiting loopholes, he was adept at getting ahead in a dog-eat-dog world, howbeit in a nonviolent way. It is no wonder that cunning was associated with his name and he didn’t disappoint. It was the technique of genetics mixed with some cunning, as recorded in Genesis 30: 32-42 that eventually led to Jacob becoming a man who “… increased exceedingly, and had large flocks, and maid-servants and men-servants, and camels and asses” (v.43), enough for Laban’s sons to begin grumbling, such that even Laban’s face “… was not toward him as before.” (Genesis 31:2).
Recall that Jacob had intended to leave Laban without prompting by and of the Almighty YAHWEH, before he struck a deal with Laban. I have raised this in support of a notion amongst the Igbo people of Nigeria, maybe in a bid to encourage the people not to wait on the gods in saying, “Ife Onye Kwelu, Chi Ya Ekwe”, literally “What You Want Is What Your Chi Must Agree With”, against the wholesale thought that what will happen to you is at the discretion of your Chi or God, and I say this in the light of the popular saying amongst believers with respect to waiting to hear from The Almighty before taking certain steps, when HE has already equipped us with the wherewithal and wisdom to make such decisions. Many who have found that they couldn’t hear the divine voice, have then gone on to charlatans (in the worst case scenario) posing as prophets and the likes, to cause such people to go astray and lose their way, sometimes with far untoward consequences, when they could have saved themselves so much stress by looking inwards for answers to and for the way forward.
It is instructive though, that once Jacob reached a remuneration agreement with Laban, he foreclosed the thought of leaving, at least temporarily, and we are not told that he again considered it when grumbling against his success (considering the growth in the number of flock that became Jacobs’ compared to the dwindling fortunes of those that accrued to Laban) by Laban’s sons, and the change in reaction of Laban towards him became the rule rather than the exception with each passing day. When YAHWEH said to Jacob, “… return to the land of your fathers, and to your kindred; and I will be with you” (v.3), he not only knew that he could no longer extend his stay with Laban, just so as not to offend or displease him, but it was clear to him where he was to return, especially backed by YAHWEH’s assurances, considering there was still unfinished business back home, the reason for which he took flight to Labans’ for safety many years back.
– Genesis Chapter 30 Verses 25 – 43 to Chapter 31 Verses 1 – 3, THE SACRED SCRIPTURES (Bethel Edition), An Assemblies of Yahweh ®, Publication, © 1981 (Fourth Printing, 1993).