Verse 55. "Kissed his sons and his daughters" - That is, his grandchildren, Jacob's eleven sons with Dinah their sister, and their mothers Leah and Rachel. All these he calls his children, ver. 43. And blessed them - prayed heartily for their prosperity, though we find from ver. 29 that he came having bound himself by a vow to God to do them some injury. Thus God turned his intended curse into a blessing.
THE most important topics in this chapter have already been considered in the notes, and to those the reader is referred. Jacob's character we have already seen, and hitherto have met in it little to admire; but we shall soon find a blessed change both in his mind and in his conduct. Laban's character appears in almost every instance to disadvantage; he does not seem to be what we commonly term a wicked man, but he was certainly both weak and covetous; and covetousness extinguished in him, as it does in all its votaries, the principles of righteousness and benevolence, and the very charities of human life. Provided he could get an increase of property, he regarded not who was wronged or who suffered. In this case he hid himself even from his own bowels, and cared not that his own children should lack even the necessaries of life, provided he could increase his own store! How watchful should we be against this destructive, unnatural, and degrading vice! It is impossible for a man who loves money to love either God or man; and consequently he must be in the broad way that leads to destruction.
For the difficulties in the chronology of Jacob's sojourning in Padan-aram, I beg leave to refer to the following remarks.Remarks upon ver. 38, &c., relative to the time spent by Jacob in the service of his father-in-law Laban, in Mesopotamia; from Dr. Kennicott.
"If every reading which introduces but a single difficulty demands our attention, much greater must that demand be when several difficulties are caused by any one mistake, or any one mistranslation. Of this nature is the passage before us, which therefore shall be here considered more fully, especially as I have not already submitted to the learned any remarks upon this subject. Jacob's age at the time of his going to Laban, has (till very lately) been fixed, perhaps universally, at seventy-seven years. But I think it has been shown by the learned Mr. Skinner, in an excellent dissertation, (4to. 1765,) that the number seventy-seven cannot here be right.
"Jacob was one hundred and thirty when he went down (with sixty-six persons) into Egypt. Joseph had then been governor ten years; and when made governor was thirty; therefore Jacob could not be more than ninety at the birth of Joseph. Now, upon supposition that Jacob was seventy-seven at going to Laban, and that he had no son till he was eighty-five, and that he, with eleven sons, left Laban at ninety-seven, there will follow these amongst other strange consequences which are enumerated by Mr. Skinner page 11, &c.:
1. Though Isaac and Esau married at forty, Jacob goes at seventy-seven to look for a wife, and agrees to marry her seven years after.
2. Issachar is born after the affair of the mandrakes, which Reuben finds and brings home when he (Reuben) was about four years old; that is, if Issachar was born before Joseph, agreeably to chap. xxx. 18, 25.
3. Judah begets Er at thirteen; for in the first of the following tables Judah is born in Jacob's year eighty-eight, and Er in one hundred and two.
4. Er marries at nine, and is destroyed for profligacy. Er, born one hundred and two, marries in one hundred and eleven. See also chap. xxxviii. 7.
5. Onan marries at eight; for Onan, born in one hundred and three, marries in one hundred and eleven.
6. Shelah, being grown at ten, ought to be married; for Shelah, born in one hundred and four, is marriageable, but not married to Tamar in one hundred and fourteen. See chap. xxxviii. 14.
7. Pharez kept from marrying while young, yet has a son at thirteen; for Pharez, born in one hundred and fifteen, had two sons at going to Egypt in one hundred and thirty.
8. Esau goes to Ishmael and marries his daughter, after Jacob went to Laban at seventy-seven; though Ishmael died when Jacob was sixty-three.
9. If Jacob had no son till he was eighty-five, and if Joseph was born when his father was ninety, then the eleven sons and Dinah were born in five years.
Lastly, if Jacob had no son till eighty-five, and he went to Egypt at one hundred and thirty, with sixty-six persons, only forty-five years are allowed for his family; whereas the larger sum of sixty-five years seems necessary for the births of so many children and grandchildren. On this subject Leviticus Clerc has pronounced, Hisce in rebus occurrunt nodi, quos nemo hactenus solvit; neque porro, ut opinor, solvet. There are difficulties here which have never been explained, and in my opinion never can be explained. But upon the single principle of Mr. Skinner, that Jacob went to Laban at fifty-seven, (instead of seventy-seven,) these difficulties are solved. And it only remains to wish that some authority may be found to support this conjecture, thus strongly founded on the exigentia loci. The common opinion is formed by reckoning back from the age of Joseph, when governor of Egypt, to the time of his birth, and from the twenty years which Jacob was with Laban. This number, Mr. Skinner thinks, was originally forty; and I think that the Hebrew text as it now stands confirms the conjecture, and furnishes the very authority which is so much wanted.
"After Jacob had served Laban fourteen years for his two wives, where was Jacob to reside? Esau was still living; and Jacob might well be afraid of returning to him, till more years of absence had disarmed his resentment; and had the death of Esau happened, Jacob would then have been secure.
But let us also remember that Isaac was still alive, and that Esau had determined to kill Jacob whenever their father should die. It would therefore be no wonder if Jacob should have desired to continue longer in Haran. And to carry this point more effectually, he might offer to take care of Laban's cattle, and to live in his neighbourhood, upon such terms of advantage to Laban as could not easily be withstood. Lastly, when the good effects to Laban from this connection had been experienced, without profit, nay with some losses, to Jacob, for twenty years, Jacob might naturally grow tired of thus assisting Laban without providing for his own growing family. Accordingly we find that Jacob covenants with Laban for six years of more close attendance and service in Laban's own house, for which the wages were expressly settled. Agreeable to the preceding possibilities seems to have been the fact, Jacob living in Haran forty years, and in this manner:- 14 years in Laban's house, a covenant servant for his wives. 20 in Laban's neighbourhood, as a friend. 6 in Laban's house, a covenant servant for cattle. 40 "Now the twenty concurrent years of neighbourly assistance, and the disjointed twenty of covenant service, seem both of them distinguished in the history itself. For upon Laban's pursuit of Jacob he mentions twenty years twice; which two sets of twenty, if really different, make forty. Each mention of the twenty years is introduced with the word hz zeh, which word, when repeated, is used by way of distinction; as when we say, this and that, the one or the other.
Thus, Exod. xiv. 20: So that the one came not near the other. Eccles. vi. 5: This hath more rest than the other. And with the two words at a great distance, Job xxi. 23: One dieth;