2.21 Jacob's Transformation
Jacob stayed in Haran with Laban, his uncle, for 20 years (Gen 31:41). This was the formative period of his life. It was the re-making of him from the original character of his youth to the man of maturity molded by adversity. Isaac had been soft on Jacob, his mother had been a protective shield. As Sarah favored Isaac over Ishmael, so Rebekah promoted Jacob over Esau: another example of bad mothering. The consequence was that Jacob grew up "warped." He was not really capable of standing on his own as an adult, and he would never have learned this in his dysfunctional family. So God moved him out of there and into a "school of hard knocks."
Living with Laban gave Jacob insight into his own character. Here was a man who, instead of favoring him, took advantage of him at every opportunity. Laban was a master manipulator. He deceived Jacob by marrying him to Leah instead of Rachel (Gen 29:25), and by removing all the speckled sheep belonging to Jacob from the flock (Gen 30:35). As Jacob told his wives,
"your father has cheated me by changing my wages ten times. However, God has not allowed him to harm me" (Gen 31:7).
Laban treated Jacob the way Jacob and Rebekah treated Esau. Laban's scheming against Jacob hurt his own daughters and his 11 grandsons. There were no limits to his rapacity. Even Laban's daughters felt no loyalty to their father. They felt that his actions had disowned them:
Then Rachel and Leah replied, "Do we still have any share in the inheritance of our father's estate? Does he not regard us as foreigners? Not only has he sold us, but he has used up what was paid for us. Surely all the wealth that God took away from our father belongs to us and our children" (Gen 31:14-6).