Sorry. I don't normally begin articles that way. But that's how I'm feeling right now. My brain absolutely blew after finding this out.
I've been having a lot of struggles with Genesis 30. I read several articles about how pre-scientific Jacob's breeding methods were. I'll just let you read the whole story.
Frankly, I almost entirely lost my faith over this. Seriously, I thought, what is this even saying? That the sight of the striped branches caused the sheep to have striped kids? I mean seriously. No way.
After Rachel gave birth to Joseph, Jacob said to Laban, "Send me on my way so I can go back to my own homeland. Give me my wives and children, for whom I have served you, and I will be on my way. You know how much work I've done for you."
But Laban said to him, "If I have found favor in your eyes, please stay. I have learned by divination that the LORD has blessed me because of you." He added, "Name your wages, and I will pay them."
Jacob said to him, "You know how I have worked for you and how your livestock has fared under my care. The little you had before I came has increased greatly, and the LORD has blessed you wherever I have been. But now, when may I do something for my own household?"
"What shall I give you?" he asked.
"Don't give me anything," Jacob replied. "But if you will do this one thing for me, I will go on tending your flocks and watching over them: Let me go through all your flocks today and remove from them every speckled or spotted sheep, every dark-colored lamb and every spotted or speckled goat. They will be my wages. And my honesty will testify for me in the future, whenever you check on the wages you have paid me. Any goat in my possession that is not speckled or spotted, or any lamb that is not dark-colored, will be considered stolen."
"Agreed," said Laban. "Let it be as you have said." That same day he removed all the male goats that were streaked or spotted, and all the speckled or spotted female goats (all that had white on them) and all the dark-colored lambs, and he placed them in the care of his sons. Then he put a three-day journey between himself and Jacob, while Jacob continued to tend the rest of Laban's flocks.
Jacob, however, took fresh-cut branches from poplar, almond and plane trees and made white stripes on them by peeling the bark and exposing the white inner wood of the branches. Then he placed the peeled branches in all the watering troughs, so that they would be directly in front of the flocks when they came to drink. When the flocks were in heat and came to drink, they mated in front of the branches. And they bore young that were streaked or speckled or spotted. Jacob set apart the young of the flock by themselves, but made the rest face the streaked and dark-colored animals that belonged to Laban. Thus he made separate flocks for himself and did not put them with Laban's animals. Whenever the stronger females were in heat, Jacob would place the branches in the troughs in front of the animals so they would mate near the branches, but if the animals were weak, he would not place them there. So the weak animals went to Laban and the strong ones to Jacob. In this way the man grew exceedingly prosperous and came to own large flocks, and maidservants and menservants, and camels and donkeys.
So I went searching. And found nothing. All the articles by Bible-believing Christians were, to be honest, pretty pathetic. They ducked and skirted around the issue in any manner they could.
I got lost. I mean really. I felt like I had no one to trust anymore. I couldn't trust God, I couldn't trust the Bible. I didn't know where to turn or where to go or what to do. My life had been so real. I had been sharing God with others. I had been psyched about Him. I had been breathing Him in, experiencing God in huge ways.
And then it hit me. Doubt shot through the core of my being and left me numb. I didn't know. I remember taking a bike ride with my family and just being totally zoned out. I didn't want to be with them. I didn't want to be with anyone. I just wanted to be left alone until I could sort myself out, assemble the broken pieces I had thought of as truth.
My brother had accidentally broken a window a while ago. The gaping hole was always there in the living room, staring at me. It was like a wide, ghoulish mouth. I remember thinking that a demon must have come through that hole in the window and gotten into me somehow.
I knew myself, though. I guessed I would come back around. I knew I would be back to normal by the time that the window was fixed.
I did get back to normal. And right on time. When the hole was patched, I was patched. It was an interesting sort of metaphor for the gaping hole in my heart. My faith came back and God began to fill me in that same sort of way again.
Finally, I had sort of come to terms with things and realized that I couldn't go on with half-doubts. I needed to identify the doubt and either recognize it as the voice of truth - and make scary modifications to my beliefs - or recognize it as a plaguing doubt.
I did the latter. Simply too much of my life has revolved around God and Scripture in such real ways that it is ridiculous to think that it could all be fake. There is too much reality to it all. It exhumes the essence of reality.
Genesis 30 had to be right, somehow. My understanding of it was fallible and left plenty of room for a lot of misinterpretation.
The conclusion I came to was that I was simply having trouble understanding a God Who could break the laws of genetics He created. The fact is, during the course of Jacob's life, God was bent on blessing him. Who was I to say that God couldn't have used any means - even the funky superstitious stick thing Jacob did - to bless him?
So I sort-of officially dropped my worry about Genesis 30. The fact is, that answer should be good enough for any Christian. God can make it work.
I asked GotQuestions.org about it. This is what they said:
Thank you for your question concerning Jacob and the flock of Laban. Your desire to dig into the details of Scripture is commendable. The New American Standard Version can help on an important detail. In verses 38-39, we read, "He set the rods which he had peeled in front of the flocks in the gutters, even in the watering troughs, where the flocks came to drink; and they mated when they came to drink. So the flocks mated by the rods, and the flocks brought forth striped, speckled, and spotted." Some might call this selective breeding, or genetic engineering. Apparently Jacob had the knowledge that the natural chemicals under the bark of the plants he used could cause mutations in coloration of the animals. He put the branches in the drinking water of the animals. It was not their seeing the branches, but their drinking the water that caused the mutation. The animals that mated shortly after they drank the water were effected. Notice also that he did this only when the healthy and strong animals came to drink. The result was that Jacob’s animals flourished and he became a wealthy man. Many lessons can be learned from the life of Jacob in Genesis Chapter 30. Out of mundane and even puzzling events the foundation of the nation of Israel was laid through the sovereign plan of God. Our Lord, who is very much involved in His creation stepped into time in the person of God the Son, and brought into reality the plan of redemption for all that believe in Him.Fudged, I thought. That sort of answer to the problem is totally fishy. There's no way that the mother sheep drinking the water with branches could possibly affect the colors of their children. Not a chance. No way.
I just contented myself with the it-was-a-miracle answer. Which, I might remind you, is not a bad answer, because in Genesis 31 Jacob does attribute his success with the sheep to God's providence, not his fancy breeding.
But nevertheless, tonight I searched again for answers on the subject, not really expecting to find anything.
But I did. Something came up.
This is so radical I cannot begin to describe the effect it has had on me. It is so amazing. God is so good. I have been in total shock tonight.
Read this article. Read it. Seriously.
"In people, a forebear's diet can influence obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. In mice, diet can influence body weight, blood pressure and even fur color. Because examples of this inheritance are only starting to emerge, scientists still don't know the full extent to which diet influences health. But they may be starting to figure out how."
Read this article, too. Yeah, read it.
"The reason some animals were yellow and some were brown lay deep in their fetal past, biologists at Duke University Medical Center, Durham, N.C., reported this month: Some of the mothers consumed supplements high in very simple molecular compounds that zip around the genome turning off genes. One silenced gene was for yellow fur; when it is turned off, the mouse's fur color defaults to brown. For the mice, it wasn't just that "you are what you eat," but that you are what your mother ate, too."No. Way. So, as we get into the science of epigenetics, we may just find out that Genesis was right after all.
"There is no doubt that, in the case of the brown or yellow mice, the "you are what your mom ate" phenomenon reflects just such epigenetic influences."
My doubt is gone, I've been set free.