It’s Sunday School time! And our reading today is going to be from Genesis. Specifically, I want to tell you the story of Laban the Aramite. You can find the details in Gen 29:1-32:3. Today’s reading is dedicated to Senator Bob Corker, who may find some bits of the story familiar.
Now when our father Jacob, the memory of the righteous is as a blessing, fled from the anger of his brother Esau, he came to the land of Charan where dwelt his Uncle Laban the Aramite. Laban had two daughters, Leah and Rachel. He also had an abundance of flocks of various kinds.
Now when Jacob had been there a month, Laban asked: “Would you work for me for free? Say what shall be your wage.” And Jacob loved Rachel, and he said: “I shall work for you seven years for your daughter Rachel’s hand in marriage.” And Laban agreed. And so great was Jacob’s love for Rachel that the seven years had seemed but a few days. But at the end of the seven years, Laban tricked Jacob and gave his daughter Leah instead.
And Jacob discovered this and said to Laban: “You tricked me!” And Laban said: “But here we have a law that we will not give the younger in marriage before the elder. Sure, I might have mentioned that before, but hey — it wasn’t my responsibility. You agreed to the terms of the contract without worrying about the underlying legal background which — curiously enough — is controlled by me and my fellow similarly situated Arameans. And while it may seem like we are just picking on you because you are a worker and helpless stranger in our land, that really isn’t it at all. Now, becuase I am such a nice guy, I will let you marry Rachel in addition to Leah in exchange for another seven years of labor.”
And even though Laban had cheeted him, Jacob was without recourse, so he maried Rachel and he worked another seven years for Laban on account of Rachel.
And at the end of the seven years, Laban said: “Now let us negotiate and tell me what you wish your wages to be.” And Jacob said: “I will take all the striped sheep and all the spotted sheep, and you will take all the solid sheep.” And to this Laban agreed. And Jacob guarded the sheep, and did all that he could to maximize the number of striped and spotted sheep because, after 14 years of working for Laban the Aramite, Jacob was no fool and knew exactly what he was getting into. And time and again, Laban the Aramite changed Jacob’s wages without notice. And time and again, God protected Jacob and caused Jacob’s flocks to increase. And throughout all this, although Laban always sought to cheat Jacob, Jacob did his job as best he could. He stood guard at night in the freezing cold. He watched the flocks in the summer heat. And Laban’s flocks grew vast from the labor of Jacob.
But there came a time when Laban and his sons grew Jealous of Jacob. Yes, Jacob did everything he was asked to do. And everytime Laban tried to cheat him and changed his wages, Jacob would still work hard for Laban. And because of Jacob’s labors, Laban and his sons grew very prosperous. But still, the fact that Jacob also grew wealthy stirred their hearts against them. And the sons of Laban said: “Behold how Jacob has taken all that belonged to our father, and from what was our father’s he has gotten his glory.” And Jacob saw that Laban did not look at him as he had before. Because of course, the fact that Laban wasn’t doing nearly as well as he wished he were was totally Jacob’s fault for doing everything Laban had told him, and because every time Laban had tried to cheat Jacob by changing his wage, God had protected Jacob. So Laban and his sons knew that it must somehow be Jacob’s fault. So God told Jacob to gather up all the cattle and wealth he had earned and take early retirement, while Laban and his sons went off to the big sheep convention in Paddan Aram. (Rachel took the opportunity to grab the household idols as a parting gift, but Jacob did not know this.)
When Laban heard Jacob was taking early retirement, Laban and his sons rose to persue him and steal from him all the wealth that he had earned from Laban. But God did not think very highly of Laban and his conduct. So he warned Laban that attempts to improve the balance of trade between Charan and Canaan by confiscating all the wealth that Jacob had earned was a very, very BAD IDEA. And the Lord would not look kindly on the efforts of Laban and his sons to resolve Laban’s economic problems at the expense of Jacob and his family.
So when Laban overtook Jacob, he made a big deal about all of this as if it were Jacob’s fault, even though Laban had been the one to ask Jacob to name his wage, and Jacob had labored faithfully at all Laban had asked. And Jacob got really pissed off, and reminded Laban that Laban had tried to cheat him like 100 times, and that everytime it looked Like Jacob would get ahead, Laban tried to cheat him, even though Jacob’s labors enriched Laban and his sons. And Laban was all like “well, I’ll still do you a big favor and let you leave with everything you earned, but I reserve the right to cross the border and take stuff away from you if I think you are mistreating my daughters.” And Jacob did roll his eyes, because everyone knew Laban did give a rat’s patootie for his daughters, but said “fine, whatever. Just bugger off and let me keep what I earned you miserable whanker.”
And Laban and Jacob made their piece, and Laban departed.
Here endeth the lesson. Next week, we’ll take up Exodus, and why crapping all over immigrants because you fear them doesn’t work out very well either. In the meantime, I would recommend Mr. Corker and his Republican buddies spend a bit more time with their Bibles. In particular, I refer them to Deut. 24: 10-16. You should find it instructive on how to reform the personal bankruptcy code.
Stay tuned . . . .