37.And Jacob took him rods of green poplar. The narration of Moses, at first sight, may seem absurd: for he either intends to censure holy Jacob as guilty of fraud, or to praise his industry. But from the context it will appear that this adroitness was not culpable. Let us then see how it is to be excused. Should any one contend that he was impelled to act as he did, by the numerous injuries of his father-in-law, and that he sought nothing but the reparation of former losses; the defense would perhaps be plausible: yet in the sight of God it is neither firm nor probable; for although we may be unjustly treated, we must not enter the contest with equal injustice. And were it permitted to avenge our own injuries, or to repair our own wrongs, there would be no place for legal judgments, and thence would arise horrible confusion. Therefore Jacob ought not to have resorted to this stratagem, for the purpose of producing degenerate cattle, but rather to have followed the rule which the Lord delivers by the mouth of Paul, that the faithful should study to overcome evil with good, (Romans 12:21.) This simplicity, I confess, ought to have been cultivated by Jacob, unless the Lord from heaven had commanded otherwise. But in this narrative there is a hysteron proteron, (a putting of the last first,) for Moses first relates the fact, and then subjoins that Jacob had attempted nothing but by the command of God. Wherefore, it is not for those persons to claim him as their advocate, who oppose malignant and fraudulent men with fallacies like their own; because Jacob did not, of his own will, take license craftily to circumvent his father-in-law, by whom he had been unworthily deceived; but, pursuing the course prescribed to him by the Lord, kept himself within due bounds. In vain, also, according to my judgment, do some dispute whence Jacob learnt this; whether by long practice or by the teaching of his fathers; for it is possible, that he had been suddenly instructed respecting a matter previously unknown. If any one object, the absurdity of supposing, that this act of deceit was suggested by God; the answer is easy, that God is the author of no fraud, when he stretches out his hand to protect his servant. Nothing is more appropriate to him, and more in accordance with his justice, than that he should interpose as an avenger, when any injury is inflicted. But it is not our part to prescribe to him his method of acting. He suffered Laban to retain what he unjustly possessed; but in six years he withdrew his blessing from Laban, and transferred it to his servant Jacob. If an earthly judge condemns a thief to restore twofold or fourfold, no one complains: and why should we concede less to God, than to a mortal and perishing man? He had other methods in his power; but he purposed to connect his grace with the labor and diligence of Jacob, that he might openly repay to him those wages of which he had been long defrauded. For Laban was constrained to open his eyes, which being before shut, he had been accustomed to consume the sweat and even the blood of another. Moreover, as it respects physical causes, it is well known, that the sight of objects by the female has great effect on the form of the foetus. (90) When this happens with women, takes it at least place with animals, where is no reason, but where reigns an enormous rush of carnal lusts. Now Jacob did three things. For first, he stripped the bark from twigs that he might make bare some white places by the incisions in the bark, and thus a varying and manifold color was produced. Secondly, he chose the times when the males and females were assembled. Thirdly, he put the twigs in the waters, (91) for like the drinking feeds the animal parts, it also urges on the sexual drive. By the stronger cattle Moses may be understood to speak of those who bore in spring — by the feeble, those who bore in autumn.