Was Jacob superstitious?


Before returning to his own country, Jacob asked his uncle Laban for his wages as follows:

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 they shall be my wages. (Gen 30:32ESV)

Laban agreed, and then Jacob tried to increase his wages in the following way:

Then Jacob took fresh sticks of poplar and almond and plane trees, and peeled white streaks in them, exposing the white of the sticks. He set the sticks 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, the flocks bred in front of the sticks and so the flocks brought forth striped, speckled, and spotted. Gen 30:37-39 ESV)

This method of producing striped, speckled, and spotted offspring seems like superstition. Yet, the author of Genesis, whether Moses or someone else, seems to have believed that when the flocks viewed peeled sticks while mating, they would produce striped, speckled, and spotted offspring. Then he records that this technique actually worked.

If the story is true, here are my questions:

  1. What was the cause (if any) of the striped, speckled, and spotted offspring?
  2. Was it only a coincidence that striped, speckled, and spotted offspring were produced?
  3. Did God indulge Jacob’s seemingly superstitious belief by causing the flocks to produce striped, speckled, and spotted offspring? That seem unlike God.


I would agree. I once heard it explained (and have no idea how accurate this is) that such stripped sticks can have a tendency to spin/rotate in the water given certain conditions say like a windy day and that such a thing (light then dark movement) could likely startled the sheep and as a result produce the so-called imperfections of spotting etc. NO idea how true that is but they may have believed such a practice to work.


My grandmother had a birth mark that looked like a mouse, and she said it was because a mouse ran across her mother’s foot when she was pregnant with Grandma, scaring her and causing the fetus to change.
How could I prove her wrong? Superstitions, like Jacob’s, are funny and interesting.


I posted this in “The Narrow Path” forum. Steve Gregg who instigated that forum had a different explanation. He said there was no superstition involved, and that Jacob placed the peeled sticks in the drinking trough, not for the animals to view, but to add sap to the drinking water since this was considered to be an aid to fertility.


Sounds feasible.


Paidion, Davo, I agree. I think that the sap from the sticks probably sweetened the water. This method either aided in fertility or attracted the animals to the water during mating season. Laban probably thought he had the upper hand in the deal since the speckled and spotted animals were fewer in number and probably considered worthless. However, I think he was surprised to find out that Jacob had a knack for raising flocks and increasing his fold.