Jacobs time working for Laban is not easily pin-
We know that Jacob worked for Laban for 20 years in total (Genesis 31:38). Genesis 29:18 indicates that Jacob spent 7 years working for Laban to receive Rachel as his wife. However, Laban deceives Jacob and at the end of the 7 years he gives Leah to Jacob as a wife instead (Genesis 29:21-
That is the easy part. The hard part is actually determining the period in Jacobs life this 20 year period happened. The clue comes when you look at Genesis 30:25, where it states “And it came to pass, WHEN Rachel had borne Joseph, that Jacob said unto Laban, Send me away, that I may go unto mine own place, and to my own country” (KJV). Some versions use the word “After” in place of the word “When”, and this does make a difference because the word “when” would imply that the request from Jacob to Laban happened at the same time as Joseph being born, where as the word “after” would mean that the request from Jacob to Laban happened at any point after Joseph being born. So we need to work out which is the best interpretation.
It makes sense that the request from Jacob to Laban to send him back to his family happened immediately after the 14 years of working for Leah and Rachel had finished. Jacob had completed his promised time, and why should he continue working for Laban for free? Because Jacob had completed his time and Laban wanted him to continue then Laban agrees to pay Jacob from his flock to continue working for him, so I believe it to be clear that Jacob’s request to Laban to return to his family happened at the end of the 14th year of the 20 year period. Therefore in 7 years we find that Jacob had to have had 12 children, 4 to Leah (Genesis 29:31-
Joseph would therefore have been 6 years old when Jacob fled Laban which is consistent with Genesis 33:7 where it is seen that Joseph is old enough to understand that he should go in front of Rachel to bow to Esau. Had he been much younger than 6 then he probably would have required instruction from Rachel or Jacob.
An additional thought is that it makes perfect sense to link Jacob’s request to Laban to be sent back to his family with the birth of Joseph as Genesis 30:25 does if the request happened at the end of 14 years and Joseph was born at the same time. If the birth of Joseph and the end of the 14 year period did not happen at the same time, then it does not make as much sense, and in such a case it would make more sense for Genesis to tell us about the birth of Joseph, and then say “When the 14 years had ended Jacob requested to be sent back to his family”. In any case that is just an additional thought, and not something we can be definite about. However the rest of this information shows pretty clearly that the end of the 14 year period and Joseph’s birth happened in the same year. Therefore all we need to do to determine the 20 year period that Jacob worked for Laban is to subtract 14 years from the birth of Joseph to find its start date, and add 6 years to the birth of Joseph to find its end date, and then of course we can subtract 7 years from the birth of Joseph to find the date of Jacob’s marriage to Leah and Rachel.
Jacob’s time Working for Laban