Having promised his nephew Jacob the hand of his daughter Rachel in return for seven years' hard work, in the dark of the night Laban slipped his older, weak-eyed daughter, Leah, into the marriage bed in her place. When Jacob woke up to discover he'd been had, Laban not only convinced him that it was all a misunderstanding, but managed to get a second seven years out of him by declaring that only then would Rachel finally be his.

On another occasion he promised to pay Jacob all his speckled and spotted goats plus all his black lambs if he would go on working for him a while longer and then proceeded to spirit those very ones away so that only the unblemished white ones were left. But this time Jacob trumped his uncle's ace. By means of some arcane breeding techniques, he saw to it that the next time his flocks produced young, they were almost all of them speckled or spotted or black.

They are not the most admirable pair in the Old Testament, but it's hard to avoid a sneaking affection for them anyway-Jacob because in spite of everything he was renamed Israel and becamefather of the twelve tribes, and Laban because he was such an unabashed and genial crook. They parted friends in the end, swearing before God never to con each other again, and then celebrated with a feast that lasted till daybreak, whereupon Laban kissed his nephew's entire family good-bye and gave them all his blessing.

~originally published in Peculiar Treasures and later in Beyond Words

To receive daily Quote of the Day emails, sign up here.