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Re: Jacob's Breeding Methods  Farrell Till
 Apr 09, 2002 08:53 PDT 
The question below was sent to me by a list member who is at a stage of
serious doubt but is not prepared yet to let family members know that he
has lost confidence in the traditional view of the Bible. Many of us are
familiar with this stage of skepticism, because we went through it
ourselves. Since his question relates to what we try to discuss here, I am
forwarding his question and my answer to the list. For the time being, he
will be identified only as B. L.

 Mr. Till,

What would you say to those who object to you citing Jacob's use of a
colored pole as a Biblical discrepancy? They point out that later God
told Jacob he was behind the pole causing the animals to have a certain
color. If you want you can transfer this to your Topica discussion site
but list me only as "B.L".

The account in Genesis 30 is the J version of the story, and the one in the
next chapter is the E version. The two accounts are contradictory, because
in the J account, all of the ringstreak, spotted, and speckled sheep were
separated from the flock and put a three days' journey away from the
regular flock (30:32-36). After this was done, according to the J account,
Jacob put the streaked rods before the watering troughs, and so when the
ewes conceived before the rods, they produced streaked, spotted, and
speckled offspring (30:37-41).

 Genesis 30:27 But Laban said to him, "If you will allow me to say so, I
have learned by divination that Yahweh has blessed me because of you;
28 name your wages, and I will give it."
29 Jacob said to him, "You yourself know how I have served you, and how
your cattle have fared with me.
30 For you had little before I came, and it has increased abundantly; and
Yahweh has blessed you wherever I turned. But now when shall I provide for
my own household also?"
31 He said, "What shall I give you?" Jacob said, "You shall not give me
anything; if you will do this for me, I will again feed your flock and keep it:
32 let me pass through all your flock today, removing from it every
speckled and spotted sheep and every black lamb, and the spotted and
speckled among the goats; and such shall be my wages.
33 So my honesty will answer for me later, when you come to look into my
wages with you. Every one that is not speckled and spotted among the goats
and black among the lambs, if found with me, shall be counted stolen."
34 Laban said, "Good! Let it be as you have said."
35 But that day Laban removed the male goats that were striped and
spotted, and all the female goats that were speckled and spotted, every
one that had white on it, and every lamb that was black, and put them in
charge of his sons;
36 and he set a distance of three days' journey between himself and
Jacob, while Jacob was pasturing the rest of Laban's flock.
37 Then Jacob took fresh rods of poplar and almond and plane, and peeled
white streaks in them, exposing the white of the rods.
38 He set the rods that he had peeled in front of the flocks in the
troughs, that is, the watering places, where the flocks came to drink. And
since they bred when they came to drink,
39 the flocks bred in front of the rods, and so the flocks produced young
that were striped, speckled, and spotted.
40 Jacob separated the lambs, and set the faces of the flocks toward the
striped and the completely black animals in the flock of Laban; and he put
his own droves apart, and did not put them with Laban's flock.
41 Whenever the stronger of the flock were breeding, Jacob laid the rods
in the troughs before the eyes of the flock, that they might breed among
the rods,
42 but for the feebler of the flock he did not lay them there; so the
feebler were Laban's, and the stronger Jacob's.
43 Thus the man grew exceedingly rich, and had large flocks, and male and
female slaves, and camels and donkeys.

Notice that in this version of the story, the spotted, striped, and
speckled sheep were segregated and removed a distance of about 60 miles
(three days' journey) from the regular flock. Hence, there could have been
no cross-breeding between regular ewes and spotted, speckled, and
ringstreaked rams. so in this account, the characteristics of the offspring
were attributed to environmental influences under which the breeding occurred.

The E version, however, simply relates a dream in which Jacob saw the
ringstreaked, speckled, and grizzled rams leaping upon the ewes (31:10).

 Genesis 31:1 Now Jacob heard that the sons of Laban were saying, "Jacob
has taken all that was our father's; he has gained all this wealth from
what belonged to our father."
2 And Jacob saw that Laban did not regard him as favorably as he did before.
3 Then Yahweh said to Jacob, "Return to the land of your ancestors and to
your kindred, and I will be with you."
4 So Jacob sent and called Rachel and Leah into the field where his flock
5 and said to them, "I see that your father does not regard me as
favorably as he did before. But the God of my father has been with me.
6 You know that I have served your father with all my strength;
7 yet your father has cheated me and changed my wages ten times, but God
did not permit him to harm me.
8 If he said, 'The speckled shall be your wages,' then all the flock bore
speckled; and if he said, 'The striped shall be your wages,' then all the
flock bore striped.
9 Thus God has taken away the livestock of your father, and given them to me.
10 During the mating of the flock I once had a dream in which I looked up
and saw that the male goats that leaped upon the flock were striped,
speckled, and mottled.
11 Then the angel of God said to me in the dream, 'Jacob,' and I said,
'Here I am!'
12 And he said, 'Look up and see that all the goats that leap on the
flock are striped, speckled, and mottled; for I have seen all that Laban
is doing to you.
13 I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed a pillar and made a vow to
me. Now leave this land at once and return to the land of your birth.'"
14 Then Rachel and Leah answered him, "Is there any portion or
inheritance left to us in our father's house?
15 Are we not regarded by him as foreigners? For he has sold us, and he
has been using up the money given for us.
16 All the property that God has taken away from our father belongs to us
and to our children; now then, do whatever God has said to you."
17 So Jacob arose, and set his children and his wives on camels;

In this version, the spotted, speckled, and streaked offspring were
resulting from ewes being bred by ringstreaked, speckled, and grizzled
rams, and that would be consistent with the laws of genetics. However,
this version contradicts the other one, because the ringstreaked, speckled,
and grizzled rams were about 60 miles (three day's journey) away from the
unspotted ewes. How could the cross-breeding have occurred under those

The first version obviously attributed the speckled and spotted offspring
to the ewes' having conceived before the peeled rods. The second version
attributes the speckled and spotted offspring to cross-breeding, which
could not have occurred under the circumstances described in the first
version. The two accounts are not at all consistent unless we assume that
the spotted and speckled rams were leaping a distance of 60 miles to
impregnate the regular ewes.

Who would be surprised if an inerrantist took this route and claimed that
God could have made it happen?

Farrell Till
Skepticism, Inc.
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