Genesis 31 - Outline of Genesis (Book Notes menu page)
31:1 And he heard the words of Laban's sons, saying,
Jacob hath taken away all that [was] our father's;
and of [that] which [was] our father's hath he gotten all this glory.
31:2 And Jacob beheld the countenance of Laban,
and, behold, it [was] not toward him as before.
31:3 And the LORD said unto Jacob,
Return unto the land of thy fathers, and to thy kindred; and I will be with thee.
31:4 And Jacob sent and called Rachel and Leah to the field unto his flock,
31:5 And said unto them, I see your father's countenance,
that it [is] not toward me as before;
but the God of my father hath been with me.
31:6 And ye know that with all my power I have served your father.
31:7 And your father hath deceived me, and changed my wages ten times;
but God suffered him not to hurt me.
31:8 If he said thus, The speckled shall be thy wages;
then all the cattle bare speckled:
and if he said thus, The ringstraked shall be thy hire;
then bare all the cattle ringstraked.
31:9 Thus God hath taken away the cattle of your father, and given [them] to me.
31:10 And it came to pass at the time that the cattle conceived,
that I lifted up mine eyes, and saw in a dream, and, behold,
the rams which leaped upon the cattle [were] ringstraked, speckled, and grisled.
31:11 And the angel of God spake unto me in a dream, [saying], Jacob:
And I said, Here [am] I.
31:12 And he said, Lift up now thine eyes, and see,
all the rams which leap upon the cattle [are] ringstraked, speckled, and grisled:
for I have seen all that Laban doeth unto thee.
31:13 I [am] the God of Bethel,
where thou anointedst the pillar, [and] where thou vowedst a vow unto me:
now arise, get thee out from this land, and return unto the land of thy kindred.
31:14 And Rachel and Leah answered and said unto him,
[Is there] yet any portion or inheritance for us in our father's house?
31:15 Are we not counted of him strangers?
for he hath sold us, and hath quite devoured also our money.
31:16 For all the riches which God hath taken from our father,
that [is] ours, and our children's:
now then, whatsoever God hath said unto thee, do.
The LORD said unto Jacob, Return unto the land of thy fathers...(v.3)- This word came
as Jacob had begun to perceive that he had worn out his welcome with Laban (v.1,2).
Jacob called Leah & Rachel, to a place where they could not be overheard (v.4) to discuss:
  1. Laban's countenance {ie., face} (v.5)- ie., Laban was no longer favorable toward Jacob.
    Laban & his sons credited Jacob's success to his self-serving schemes. v.1; cp. 30:37-43
  2. Laban's deception (v.6-8)-
    ''At Bethel, Jacob was to learn what God was; at Haran, what man was...
    At Bethel, God enriched him: at Haran, man robbed him!
    [This was] a needed lesson for such a pupil as Jacob; for, had he not schemed and shuffled and planned for himself, but trusted God to plan for him, how dignified and noble and beautiful would have been his life.'' [GWms]
  3. God's intervention (v.9-12)-
    Jacob now understood that his prosperity was not due to his cleverness, as he had once thought (30:37-43). God saw Laban's injustice toward Jacob. God was actively blessing Jacob.
  4. God's instruction (v.13)- was a command that could not be ignored.
Rachel & Leah give their consent-
  1. Laban is not to be trusted. v.14-16a
  2. God's Word is to be obeyed. v.16b - ''Whatsoever God has said unto thee, do.''
    No better counsel could be given to anyone, at anytime. cp. Joh 2:5
    A man can have no better ''help meet'' than a wife who yields to the leading of the Lord. Gen 2:18
31:17 Then Jacob rose up, and set his sons and his wives upon camels;
31:18 And he carried away all his cattle, and all his goods which he had gotten,
the cattle of his getting, which he had gotten in Padanaram,
for to go to Isaac his father in the land of Canaan.
31:19 And Laban went to shear his sheep:
and Rachel had stolen the images that [were] her father's.
31:20 And Jacob stole away unawares to Laban the Syrian,
in that he told him not that he fled.
31:21 So he fled with all that he had;
and he rose up, and passed over the river
{ie., Euphrates},
and set his face [toward] the mount Gilead.
Jacob departed secretly.- As he had fled from Esau, now he flees from Laban.
The fault is not entirely with him, but he had a part in the deterioration of their relationship.
Rachel had stolen the images {HB=teraphim, household gods} that were her father's (v.19).
From this, we learn that:
  1. Laban was an idolater. Here was another reason for the urgency of Jacob's departure.
    Jacob's sons would become the heads of the twelve tribes of Israel. The Lord wanted these boys removed from ungodly influence, just as He had once called Abraham out of an idolatrous city.
  2. Rachel - may have regarded the idols as religious assurance.
    Perhaps she had not yet fully trusted the Lord, and was still clinging to false religion.
  3. Rachel - may have regarded the idols as financial insurance.
    ''Excavations at Nuzi in northern Mesopotamia, in the region which Laban lived, show that the possession of the household gods of a father-in-law by a son-in-law was legally acceptable as proof of the designation of that son-in-law as principal heir... [This helps to explain Laban's haste in his pursuit of Jacob.] It is no wonder that Jacob was very angry that he should be accused of such a deed (v.36), and that the two men set up a boundary and promised not to cross it to injure one another (v.45-52). Jacob never made evil use of these images... but [later] ordered that they should be buried at Shechem (Gen 35:2-4).'' [NewScofRB]
31:22 And it was told Laban on the third day that Jacob was fled.
31:23 And he took his brethren with him, and pursued after him seven days' journey;
and they overtook him in the mount Gilead.
31:24 And God came to Laban the Syrian in a dream by night, and said unto him,
Take heed that thou speak not to Jacob either good or bad.
31:25 Then Laban overtook Jacob.
Now Jacob had pitched his tent in the mount:
and Laban with his brethren pitched in the mount of Gilead.
31:26 And Laban said to Jacob,
What hast thou done, that thou hast stolen away unawares to me,
and carried away my daughters, as captives [taken] with the sword?
31:27 Wherefore didst thou flee away secretly, and steal away from me; and didst not tell me,
that I might have sent thee away with mirth, and with songs, with tabret, and with harp?
31:28 And hast not suffered me to kiss my sons and my daughters?
thou hast now done foolishly in [so] doing.
31:29 It is in the power of my hand to do you hurt:
but the God of your father spake unto me yesternight, saying,
Take thou heed that thou speak not to Jacob either good or bad.
31:30 And now, [though] thou wouldest needs be gone,
because thou sore longedst after thy father's house,
[yet] wherefore hast thou stolen my gods?
31:31 And Jacob answered and said to Laban,
{Jacob replies first to v.26-29}
Because I was afraid:
for I said, Peradventure thou wouldest take by force thy daughters from me.
{Then, he replies to the accusation in v.30}
31:32 With whomsoever thou findest thy gods, let him not live:
before our brethren discern thou what [is] thine with me, and take [it] to thee.
For Jacob knew not that Rachel had stolen them.
Laban overtook Jacob after 7 days of travel at Mt. Gilead (approx. 300 miles). v.23
Jacob, with a 3 day headstart (v.22), had been travelling 10 days.
Laban probably intended to kill Jacob and to reclaim Jacob's family and goods for himself.
But God intervened. v.24,29
Laban's hypocrisy is evident in v.27.
If Laban had known of Jacob's plan to leave, there would have been no 'farewell party.' Instead, he would have used force to prevent their departure.
31:33 And Laban went into Jacob's tent,
and into Leah's tent, and into the two maidservants' tents;
but he found [them] not.
Then went he out of Leah's tent, and entered into Rachel's tent.
31:34 Now Rachel had taken the images,
and put them in the camel's furniture
{ie., saddle}, and sat upon them.
And Laban searched all the tent, but found [them] not.
31:35 And she said to her father,
Let it not displease my lord that I cannot rise up before thee;
for the custom of women [is] upon me.
And he searched, but found not the images.
31:36 And Jacob was wroth, and chode with Laban: and Jacob answered and said to Laban,
What [is] my trespass? what [is] my sin, that thou hast so hotly pursued after me?
31:37 Whereas thou hast searched all my stuff, what hast thou found of all thy household stuff?
set [it] here before my brethren and thy brethren, that they may judge betwixt us both.
31:38 This twenty years [have] I [been] with thee;
thy ewes and thy she goats have not cast their young, and the rams of thy flock have I not eaten.
31:39 That which was torn [of beasts] I brought not unto thee; I bare the loss of it;
of my hand didst thou require it, [whether] stolen by day, or stolen by night.
31:40 [Thus] I was; in the day the drought consumed me, and the frost by night;
and my sleep departed from mine eyes.
31:41 Thus have I been twenty years in thy house;
I served thee fourteen years for thy two daughters, and six years for thy cattle:
and thou hast changed my wages ten times.
31:42 Except the God of my father, the God of Abraham, and the fear of Isaac, had been with me,
surely thou hadst sent me away now empty.
God hath seen mine affliction and the labour of my hands, and rebuked [thee] yesternight.
''the fear of Isaac'' (v.42,53)- means 'God, the One that Isaac fears.'
Laban searched... (v.34)- HB= mashash, to feel through, to grope.
This was no quick visual inspection, but a thorough hands on examination of Jacob's stuff.
Rachel's lie reveals that she had learned her father's skill at deception.
She claimed that she could not rise due to menstrual bleeding (v.35).
Jacob, in his indignation at Laban's suspicion, paints himself as more righteous than he was. v.36-41
But in the end, he acknowledges that God, not his own worldly wisdom and fleshly scheming, brought him through the years of conflict, and saved him from the wrath of his uncle (v.42). Jacob had reaped what he had sown (Gal 6:7,8). Nevertheless, God had preserved him.
     Jacob is beginning to appreciate that the God who entered into covenant with Abraham and Isaac, had also covenanted with him (at Bethel, v.13).
     Note that, to Jacob, a son of the covenant, He appeared as 'the LORD' (v.3, using His covenant name, which stresses His eternality, and therefore, the everlasting nature of the covenant); but to Laban, He came as 'God' {Elohim, a more generic name, which stresses His mighty power (eg., to deliver His own), v.24,29}.
31:43 And Laban answered and said unto Jacob,
[These] daughters [are] my daughters, and [these] children [are] my children,
and [these] cattle [are] my cattle, and all that thou seest [is] mine:
and what can I do this day unto these my daughters,
or unto their children which they have born?
31:44 Now therefore come thou, let us make a covenant, I and thou;
and let it be for a witness between me and thee.
31:45 And Jacob took a stone, and set it up [for] a pillar.
31:46 And Jacob said unto his brethren, Gather stones;
and they took stones, and made an heap: and they did eat there upon the heap.
31:47 And Laban called it Jegarsahadutha
{Chaldean: 'the heap of witness'}:
but Jacob called it Galeed
{Hebrew: 'the heap of witness').
31:48 And Laban said, This heap [is] a witness between me and thee this day.
Therefore was the name of it called Galeed;
31:49 And Mizpah
{HB: 'watchtower'}; for he said,
The LORD watch between me and thee, when we are absent one from another.
31:50 If thou shalt afflict my daughters,
or if thou shalt take [other] wives beside my daughters, no man [is] with us;
see, God [is] witness betwixt me and thee.
31:51 And Laban said to Jacob,
Behold this heap, and behold [this] pillar, which I have cast betwixt me and thee;
31:52 This heap [be] witness, and [this] pillar [be] witness,
that I will not pass over this heap to thee,
and that thou shalt not pass over this heap and this pillar unto me, for harm.
31:53 The God of Abraham, and the God of Nahor, the God of their father, judge betwixt us.
And Jacob sware by the fear of his father Isaac.
31:54 Then Jacob offered sacrifice upon the mount, and called his brethren to eat bread:
and they did eat bread, and tarried all night in the mount.
31:55 And early in the morning Laban rose up,
and kissed his sons and his daughters, and blessed them:
and Laban departed, and returned unto his place.
The LORD watch between me and thee...(v.49)- These words were not spoken as a blessing.
Rather, because they distrusted one another, Jacob and Laban...
  1. called upon God to guard against either party harming the other.
  2. erected a pillar of stones as a boundary between them, beyond which neither party would pass to harm the other.
Were Laban and Jacob calling upon the same God, to watch between them?
  • Laban does refer to the LORD (v.49), but recognizes Him as the God {HB=elehe} of Jacob's father, Isaac (v.29).
  • Laban also refers to God {HB=Elohim} in v.50.
    This plural form of the generic word for 'god' {HB=el} is usually applied to the true God.
  • In v.53, Laban called upon the 'gods' of Abraham, Nahor and Terah (their father).
    In this verse, every occurrence of the word for 'God' is HB=elehe (a plural form of 'el' which is often applied to gods other than the true God). When the LORD called Abraham out of Ur of the Chaldees, Nahor and Terah accompanied him. But they did not leave their false gods behind (as evidenced by Laban's idolatrous images, v.19, which were his 'gods' {HB=elehe, v.30,32}). Laban called upon whatever gods there were to guard the keeping of this covenant, between him and Jacob.
  • However, "Jacob sware by the fear {masc. singular} of his father Isaac" (v.53).
    Abraham and Isaac feared one true and living God. Here, Jacob states that he is accountable to, and under the watchcare of, the one God, in whom his father trusted.
Following Laban's peaceful departure, Jacob is no longer in fear of harm, from his deceitful uncle.
But he is afraid of what his vengeful brother Esau will do, when they meet. With every day of travel, that inevitable meeting draws nearer.

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