God Intervenes in the Genetics of Lambs - - Camel's Nose for Macro Evolution!

(George Brooks) #1

Inspired by a recent discussion featuring @benkirk,

I invite comments from: @glipsnort, @Chris_Falter, @pacificmaelstrom, @TedDavis, @Eddie, @Sy_Garte, @Socratic.Fanatic, @Swamidass, and any other interested reader!:

I wanted to dedicate a new thread to Genesis 30, Jacob, and how God assisted Jacob in producing a large flock of lambs with stripes:

Gen 30:37-40
Then Jacob took some fresh branches from poplar, almond, and plane trees and peeled off strips of bark, making white streaks on them.

Then he placed these peeled branches in the watering troughs where the flocks came to drink, for that was where they mated.

And when they mated in front of the white-streaked branches, they gave birth to young that were streaked, speckled, and spotted.

Jacob separated those lambs from Laban’s flock. And at mating time he turned the flock to face Laban’s animals that were streaked or black. This is how he built his own flock instead of increasing Laban’s.

@Relates, please take note.

We must think EITHER:

  1. that these sticks are producing their magical affect all on their own… or

  2. that Yahweh put the idea of the sticks into Jacob’s head … and helped adjust the lamb’s genetics accordingly (at conception!) … which is the logical approach, yes?

It’s not like the story says that Jacob created adult lambs with stripes just by WAVING sticks at adults… No!
The genetics were adjusted when it was easiest to make the change.

Here is a God that makes natural law his servant!

(Jamie) #2

I think Laban was probably just a little thick.

Black sheep + White sheep = Speckled/Striped Sheep.

This wouldn’t be the first time Jacob has “fleeced” someone. Not to mention some payback for that Leah business. :smiley:


Of course, the Genesis text doesn’t claim that the sticks had “magical influences” on the animals. It only states that Jacob thought the sticks would have that effect.

The idea that pregnant animals (even human females) can see things which will cause their offspring to change in a certain way or even be tragically harmed is a common folk belief in many cultures, including various societies in our day. So it is hardly surprising that scheming Jacob would try to get the advantage by utilizing ancient “folk science!”

As for God’s part, it had already been prophesied that God was going to bless Jacob. So the use of the sticks was entirely superfluous! God alone was responsible for Jacob’s prosperity, but it was entirely appropriate that the story of Jacob would describe examples of Jacob’s scheming ways to help himself to come out on top! (Certainly, his pride led him to think that he was the master of his prosperity. But the story tells us otherwise.)

Where does the text say that YHWH put the idea of the sticks into Jacob’s head? This kind of manipulative folk magic was probably thousands of years old even in Jacob’s day!

Frankly, I grew up in rural, agrarian America and you’d be amazed how many of the oldest old timers I knew still had memories of various “folk traditions” they had learned from their ancestors, passed from father to son and mother to daughter. (Of course, the latter were often discounted as “old wives’ tales.”) Such tales and practices were common to Europe in the Middle Ages and we would expect them to make their way to America with the early Colonists.

Keep in mind that most of the old farmers I knew would laugh about these old folk traditions, but there were a few who would tell me, “You younguns can laugh all ya want but take it from me: this is for real!”

I haven’t thought about those old tales in years but here are a few which I can still recall:

(1) If your cow’s milk is going sour and she’s prone to mastitis, it’s because she saw a black cat cross her path on the day she was mated. But if you put a silver coin in her water trough for three days, that will clear it up. Some also said that the milk would last twice as long before spoiling if you put a silver coin in the bucket you used to milk her. (Some said copper coins were the key. No consistency!)

(2) If a cow sees an owl before the sun goes down, her calf will be stillborn. (I asked the old guy, “How many owls have you ever seen before sundown?” He replied, “None. And that’s a good thing cuz it’s bad luck!”)

(3) I vaguely remember some superstition about not allowing a pregnant women to see cloth that was striped black-and-white and shaken up and down… That’s all I can remember.

(4) I also remember some superstition about how to grow your herd faster by encouraging the birth of twins. The procedure is lost to my memories.

(5) There were also stories about tying special poultices around an animals neck, usually as cures but sometimes for other things like if the new mother animal’s milk hadn’t come in soon enough.

Does anybody really think that folk tales/magic/science/tradition were any less common in Jacob’s day?

P.S. There were criminal penalties in some areas of medieval Europe for a “deformed person” (especially one with a hideous face) to be seen by a pregnant woman—because the frightening sight was thought to cause miscarriage or cause the baby to be born with a birth defect or at least an ugly birthmark on its face! Thus, deformed people often had to wear shawls or robes to cover up.

(George Brooks) #4

Why would the story about the striped sticks be included in Genesis unless God had something to do with the events that transpired?

It’s the very same principle as Moses telling people to look on the brazen serpent pole … to be CURED of snake bite.

If it failed to work, then it is an embarrassment. If it worked, it would be because of God … because we all know that looking on a metal snake doesn’t ordinarily cure anyone of anything.


Your demand is fully met: The prophecy that Jacob would be a bumbling schemer but God would bless him anyway and make him prosperous was beautifully met in the story! You could hardly ask for better!


I think that the term for Jacob’s use of sticks is “imitative magic.”

(George Brooks) #7

Yes, I concur. But @beaglelady, it leaves YEC’s with an odd dilemma:

  1. They either have to assume that Jacob was possessed by a demon to make the magic work…


  1. They have to assume that Yahweh intervened to give Jacob a large flock.


I don’t think ANYBODY doubts that the Book of Genesis says that God promised to bless Jacob. We see this in the blessing granted by Isaac and then God’s promise Jacob when he had the dream of the ladder:

"And God said to Jacob:“I am the Lord, the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac your father; and I will be your God, too. The land where you are lying all alone, shall belong to you and to your children after you; and your children shall spread abroad over the lands, east and west, and north and south, like the dust of the earth; and in your family all the world shall receive a blessing. And I am with you in your journey, and I will keep you where you are going, and will bring you back to this land. I will never leave you, and I will surely keep my promise to you.”

I’d that God’s promises to Jacob included prospering his flocks, one of the major assets representing one’s wealth in those days. I don’t think anyone doubts that when God promises to bless/prosper someone, divine intervention of some sort might be involved.

However, I have no idea where you get the idea that there are just two possibilities and the first is that Jacob was possessed by a demon to make magic work. That sounds more like what the Pharisees said of Jesus’ miracles: “He heals through Beelzebub!” Where are you getting this stuff???

(George Brooks) #9


I really don’t know what you are complaining about …

Do you think humans can make real magic on their own?

Jacob’s lambs are either of the Devil or of God.

Which do you think it was?

(George Brooks) #10

Isn’t this story of Jacob and the striped lambs a clear story of God affecting a gene pool?


I still don’t understand the strict dichotomy. Scholars have published various other interpretations for many years now.

For example, a third possibility is simple Mendelian genetics:

[I’m not necessarily endorsing this paper as the best viewpoint, nor am I elevating the stature of Dr. Pearson. I just needed an example of the Mendelian option that’s been kicked around for a very long time and that was the first one that came up on Google! Obviously, a casual Biologos forum discussion doesn’t motivate me to search carefully for the best representative paper on the subject.]

Jacob could have manipulated the coloration of each mating season’s new lambs by either selection castration of the non-desired rams or by using the much mentioned “sticks” to create enclosures so that optimum mating choices could be controlled by the herders.

Of course, Jacob could be expected to justify the outcomes as simply a matter of God blessing him (which was, in fact, true, in fulfillment of prophesy.) But being a schemer, Jacob always worked to his own advantage. (Indeed, one should always remember that when Jacob tells of some of his encounters with God, we don’t really know if he is telling the truth! Yes, the ladder narrative is told as a third person “this is what happened”. But some of the other pericopes are purely “Jacob told them this happened.”

Biblical scholars have never restricted the interpretations of the “stick stories” to just your two choices. And I don’t see any reason to narrow things down to such a strict dichotomy. Plus, it seems to be exaggerating an interesting story element far beyond it’s appropriate significance. Aren’t there more interesting things going on in the overall Jacob narrative?

Irrelevant. The Genesis text doesn’t tell of any magic. It just tells us of what happened and I don’t see any argument made for “magic”.

Or we can listen to the Biblical studies academy and say that Jacob’s lambs are either of the Devil or of God or of Jacob or of Mendelian genetics.

That’s at least four choices. Not just two.

As a Molinist, I can even accommodate God, Jacob, and Mendelian Genetics all at the same time.

Frankly, I was about to make the same observation to you. Why are you so determined to defy centuries of scholarship and insist on reducing the possibilities to just two? It sounds like you want to force your “magic” interpretation into the text, so you are demanding a false dichotomy.

And by the way, being Socratic about this issue, I’ve not actually stated my preferred interpretation. Why? Professionally speaking, it’s just not my area of academic expertise and experience. So I have great respect for my colleagues and tend to defer to the rabbinical scholars under whom I studied.

(George Brooks) #12


Do you actually think Lambs mating in front of these sticks would affect the coloration of lambs conceived?

It’s magic… it’s either God’s magic or it’s Satan’s magic.

Your other two options are not provided for in any way by the text.


One more time: They are NOT my “other two options.” They’ve been in the scholarly, peer-reviewed literature for years. I’ve sat through the AAR/SBL and ETS papers. (As for me, I’ve never published on this topic.)

I doubt that you are that confused about what I wrote. I have no time for your brand of disingenuous mockery. It doesn’t interest me. So I’m withdrawing. You can—and probably will—continue it without me.

(George Brooks) #14


Do what you like … but rationalizing a difficult passage in the Bible by referring to Biblical apologia that makes no sense is not one of your credible options.

You offer one scenario you don’t even want to champion. And then you propose “selection castration” or even using “… sticks to create enclsosures.”

@Socratic.Fanatic, the Bible specifically says what Jacob is doing. It isn’t even just a single sentence… it’s an extensive analysis of how Jacob created more striped lambs.

Castration is not specified. Enclosures are not specified.

If you are going to invent unspecified scenarios, I would think you would be perfectly capable of doing the same for the Genesis account of Creation !!!

(Jon) #15

Or we think something else; that Jacob was indulging in some local superstition which had no effect at all, and God had nothing to do with the sticks.


Exactly. The verses don’t mention any supplication to God or any action by God concerning this. What Jacob does with the sticks is called imitative magic. (Think floating axe heads.) And I wouldn’t put it past Jacob to use dye to make the white lambs and kids appear speckled.

(George Brooks) #17


You have to decide which side of the discussion you want to pick when you offer your explanation.

If you are looking at it from a YEC view, that part of Genesis is as INSPIRED and as LITERAL as Genesis… and whether or not there was a local superstition or not is irrelevant. The text positively INVESTS in the whole process. Only the Lord’s agreement with the process (even if He ONLY provided these results for Jacob) would explain the textual fixation on the repetitive details of the process.

jon, I would think you would ADMIRE the parallel context of this Jacob story and the story of 6 Day Creation… which ALSO, no doubt, was influenced by local superstition.

Ultimately, I have to AGREE with you, Jon, that the Spotted Lambs story is not LITERALLY true … and for the same reason. Superstitious Myths influenced both the Jacob story and the Eden story.

(system) #18

This topic was automatically closed 6 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.