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B'resheet/Genesis 30:28 And he said, "Specify your wage to me and I will pay it."
After Ya'akov's beloved wife Rachel has finally given birth to Yosef, her first-born son, Ya'akov's thoughts turn to home and he asks Laban, his uncle and father-in-law, to release him "so that I can return to my own place, to my own country" (B'resheet 30:25, CJB). Laban, reluctant to let a good thing go, pretends to think that this is just the opening shot in a salary negotiation and responds first with a little flattery and then this invitation for Ya'akov to put his initial bid on the table. The word only occurs once in the Hebrew Scriptures and at first glance looks like a Qal affix 3fs form of the verb , which includes the meanings "to bore or pierce; to mark out, determine, specify or name", but since is a masculine noun that cannot be the subject and translation becomes difficult.Rashi, pointing to Targum Onkelos - , spell out your wage - explains instead that is a Qal imperative ms form with a paragogic hay: a command or instruction - let's have it then, what are you after!
The Torah is insistent that wages should be paid promptly: "The wages of a hired man are not to remain with you all night until morning" (Vayikra 19:13, NASB), and "You shall give [a hired servant] his wages on his day before the sun sets, for he is poor and sets his heart on it; so that he not cry out against you to the L-rd and it become sin in you" (D'varim 24:15, NASB). James picks up the theme in his letter: "Behold, the pay of the labourers who mowed your fields, and which has been withheld by you, cries out against you; and the outcry of those who did the harvesting has reached the ears of the L-rd of Hosts" (James 5:4, NASB). Rich farmers and landowners would hire workers for their fields and then not pay them until it was convenient for themselves, putting the workers in dire financial circumstances and starving their families.
The negotiation between Ya'akov and Laban shows that it is important to set and pay appropriate wages. G-d rebuked the rich people who returned from the exile in Babylon because they "oppress the wage earner in his wages" (Malachi 3:5, NASB), while Yeshua told the disciples on a mission trip to "stay in the house, eating and drinking what they give you for the worker is worthy of his wages" (Luke 10:7, NASB). Rav Sha'ul quotes these words is his first letter to Timothy, applying the same principle to elders and "those who work hard at preaching and teaching" (1 Timothy 5:17, CJB). Even Judas Iscariot received the preset wages for betraying Yeshua into the hands of the Chief Priests (Matthew 26:14-15, Zechariah 11:12).
From all this we can see that G-d attaches great importance to people receiving the appropriate wages, and receiving them on time. How blessed is mankind that G-d does not operate the same timeliness with us in regard to our dealings with Him. Rav Sha'ul tells us clearly that "the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23); perhaps one of the most well-known and frequently quoted verses from the Bible, although the verse which gives the other side of the coin - "The wages of the righteous is life" (Proverbs 10:16, NASB) - is rather less well-known. We have all sinned in our lives, a fact that becomes painfully aware to many people just before they pass out of this life, and there are consequences which will be faced, no matter who we are. Are we not blessed that G-d doesn't immediately bring the just and appropriate wages for our sin down on our heads the minute we commit it, but instead gives us an opportunity to repent and set things right with Him. "The L-rd is not slow in keeping His promises, as some people think of slowness; on the contrary, He is patient with you; for it is not His purpose that anyone should be destroyed, but that everyone should turn from his sins" (2 Peter 3:9, CJB).
G-d's judgement is certain and we must not take Him for granted as Peter's letter continues, "However the day of the L-rd will come 'like a thief'" (v. 10, CJB). Our lives will catch up with us on that day when we stand before Him. Peter urges his readers, "You should lead holy and godly lives, as you wait for the Day of G-d and work to hasten its coming" (vv. 11-12, CJB); "do everything you can to be found by Him without spot or defect and at peace - think of our L-rd's patience as deliverance" (vv. 14-15, CJB). It is as if we are Ya'akov, hearing G-d say through Laban, "Specify your wage and I will pay it."
Further Study: Malachi 3:5; Matthew 20:1-16
Application: Where do you stand before G-d today? Are your accounts with Him all resolved, or are you delaying coming to terms with Him, hoping either that you won't have to do this or that a miracle will happen to make everything come right? Don't delude yourself either way: you will and it has - Yeshua the Messiah has come!
© Jonathan Allen, 2007
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