Jacob Made Rich Before Leaving Haran. On completing his 14-year work contract for the acquisition of his wives, Jacob was anxious to return to his homeland. But Laban, seeing how Jehovah had blessed him because of Jacob, insisted that he continue overseeing his flocks; Jacob was even told to stipulate his own wages. In that part of the world the sheep and goats are generally of a solid color, the sheep being white, the goats black. Jacob therefore asked that only the sheep and goats with abnormal colors or markings be given to him—all the sheep dark brown in color and all the goats with any white marks. "Why, that is fine!" was Laban’s reply. And to keep the wages as low as possible, Laban, at Jacob’s suggestion, separated out of the flocks all the striped, speckled, and color-patched goats and the dark-brown young male sheep, which he gave to his own sons to look after, even putting a three-day distance between them, to prevent any interbreeding of the two flocks. Only abnormally colored ones born in the future would be Jacob’s.—Ge 30:25-36.
So here Jacob started off tending only sheep of normal color and goats with no markings. However, he worked hard and did what he thought would increase the number of off-colored animals. He took green sapling staffs of the storax, almond, and plane trees, and peeled the barks of these in such a way as to give them a striped, spotty appearance. These he placed in the gutters of the animals’ drinking troughs, apparently with the idea that if the animals looked at the stripes when in heat there would be a prenatal influence that would make the offspring mottled or abnormal in color. Jacob also took care to place the sticks in the troughs only when the stronger robust animals were in heat.—Ge 30:37-42.
Results? The offspring abnormally marked or colored, and therefore Jacob’s wages, proved to be more numerous than those of normal solid color, which were to be Laban’s. Since the desired results were obtained, Jacob probably thought his stratagem with the striped sticks was responsible. In this he no doubt shared the same misconception commonly held by many people, namely, that such things can have an effect on the offspring. However, in a dream his Creator instructed him otherwise.
In his dream Jacob learned that certain principles of genetics, and not the sticks, were responsible for his success. Whereas Jacob was tending only solid-colored animals, yet the vision revealed that the male goats were striped, speckled, and spotty. How could this be? Apparently they were hybrids even though of uniform color, the result of crossbreeding in Laban’s flock before Jacob began being paid. So certain of these animals carried in their reproductive cells the hereditary factors for spotting and speckling future generations, according to the laws of heredity discovered by Gregor Mendel in the last century.—Ge 31:10-12.
During the six years that Jacob worked under this arrangement, Jehovah greatly blessed and prospered him by increasing not only his flocks but also the number of his servants, camels, and asses, and this in spite of the fact that Laban kept changing the agreed-upon wages. Finally, "the true God of Bethel" instructed Jacob to return to the Promised Land.—Ge 30:43; 31:1-13, 41.