Chapter 31

  1. Jacob Separates from Laban

    • Jacob heard that Laban’s sons were saying that Jacob had built his wealth from their father’s livestock, and Jacob could tell that Laban was no longer happy with their agreement.

      • Guzik points out, “It wasn’t that Jacob had taken anything belonging to Laban. Rather, it was that his wealth was increasing in proportion to Laban’s wealth. The problem wasn’t that Jacob stole; it was that Laban’s sons were filled with envy.”

    • God then told Jacob to return to his homeland and He would be with him.

      • “Even if Jacob never knew it, God prepared him for this time. First, God gave him the desire to go back home (Genesis 30:25). Then his present circumstances became unbearable. Finally, the Lord gave personal direction to Jacob. God may lead one today in the same pattern.” (Guzik)

    • Jacob summoned Rachel and Leah to the field and told them that their father’s opinion of him had changed. He pointed out that they themselves had seen how hard he had worked for their father, yet in return Laban had repeatedly cheated him. He recounted how God had blessed him the entire time increasing Jacob’s flocks no matter how Laban changed is wages.

    • Jacob then told Rachel and Leah that the Angel of God had come to him in a dream. In the dream, the flocks were breeding and only the spotted, or streaked males were breeding with the females. The Angel of God said, “Jacob, look and see that I have made only the spotted and streaked males to breed with the females because I have seen how Laban has cheated you. I am the God of Bethel where you poured oil on the stone and made a vow to Me. Leave this land and go back to your homeland.”

    • Rachel and Leah said, “We don’t have any inheritance left from our father, he has already spent any money that was ours. Everything that God took from our father belongs to us and our children. Obey what God has told you to do.”

    • So Jacob gathered all of his family, his herds, and his possessions and set out in secret, not telling Laban that he was leaving for his homeland in Canaan.

    • Before they departed, Rachel stole her father’s household idols while he was away shearing sheep.

      • Guzik recounts a few different motivations that Rachel may have had for stealing Laban’s idols:

      • “Perhaps she worshiped these idols and did not want to be without them. Perhaps she did not want her father to inquire of them, using them as tools of divination to catch them (as he may have previously done, Genesis 30:27).”

      • “Perhaps it was because such idols were often used as deeds to property and she thought this she was taking whatever inheritance might be left to Laban’s children.”

      • “Perhaps Rachel stole the teraphim simply to get back at her father, whom she felt had mistreated her, her husband, and her whole family.”

      • “According to some Jewish traditions, Rachel took the teraphim because she wanted to keep her father Laban from idolatry.”

  1. Laban Overtakes Jacob

    • Three days passed before Laban found out that Jacob had fled. He gathered his relatives and pursued Jacob for 7 days before he finally caught up with him at Mount Gilead.

    • God came to Laban in a dream and told him, “I’m warning you, leave Jacob alone.”

      • Guzik notes, “The need for God’s message to Laban shows that Laban did have evil intention towards Jacob, and God protected Jacob through this dream by night.”

    • Laban made camp near Jacob, went to him and said, “Why have you been deceptive and fled in secret, taking my daughters like prisoners of war? I would have sent you away joyfully with singing, tambourines, and harps, but you didn’t even give me the opportunity to kiss my daughters and grandchildren goodbye! This is so foolish! I could cause you great harm, but I won’t because your God came to me in a dream last night and warned me leave you alone. I know you have left because you miss your home, but why did you steal my gods?

      • “Laban first tried to shame Jacob with kindness, suggesting that they would have had a celebration at his departure. Apparently, that idea was met with an unsympathetic response, so Laban threatened Jacob (it is in my power to do you harm).” (Guzik)

    • Jacob responded that he had been afraid that Laban would have prevented him from taking his wives by the use of force. Jacob didn’t know that Rachel had taken Laban’s idols, so he then told Laban, “Look for your gods. If you find them with anyone here I’ll kill them. With our relatives as your witness, look for anything that belongs to you and take it.”

    • Laban searched the tents of Jacob, the two female slaves, and Leah, but found nothing. Then he went into Rachel’s tent. Rachel had hidden the idols in a camel’s saddlebag that she was sitting on. When Laban came in she told him that she couldn’t get up because she was on her monthly period, so Laban didn’t find the idols.

  1. Jacob’s Covenant with Laban

    • Then Jacob got angry and challenged Laban, “What have I done to deserve to be chased down like a criminal? You’ve searched everything I have. If you have found anything that belongs to you put it out here in front of everyone and let them judge between us. I have worked hard for you for 20 years and have taken excellent care of your flocks even taking the loss for any of your animals killed by wild animals or stolen. I endured the heat of the day and the cold of the night and spent many sleepless nights. During the 14 years I worked for your daughters and the 6 years I worked for your flocks you have changed my pay 10 times! If God had not blessed me Himself, I’d be leaving with nothing. Clearly God has seen what you have put me through; He even came to you last night in a dream and told you to leave me alone.”

      • “It is likely that this anger built up in Jacob for a long time – perhaps 20 years. Perhaps in his mind he practiced this speech over and over again.” (Guzik)

      • “It was an ancient custom that a shepherd could bring the torn carcass of a sheep to his owner, as evidence that he was brave enough to not let the wolf devour it or take it away, and thus the shepherd would be excused. Jacob explained he didn’t follow this custom, and every animal that was attacked or stolen, he replaced out of his own herd.” (Guzik)

    • Laban responded, “Your wives are my daughters, your sons are my sons, and your flocks are my flocks. Everything you have is mine, but what can I do about it today? Let’s make a covenant that will serve as a witness between us.”

    • Jacob put up a stone as a monument and told his relatives to make a mound of stones. Jacob and Laban ate a covenant meal beside the mound of stones. Laban named the place Jegar-sahadutha ( “witness pile” in Aramaic) and Jacob named it Galeed (which means “witness pile” in Hebrew).

    • Laban said, “This mound which we call Galeed and Mizpah (watchtower) is a witness between us today. May the Lord watch us to be sure that we keep this covenant. If you mistreat my daughters or marry other wives, God will know even if I don’t. This mound will serve as a boundary. I won’t cross this pile to come harm you and you won’t cross it to come do me harm either. The God of our fathers will judge between us.”

    • Jacob swore by the God of his father, Isaac.

      • NLT Illustrated Study Bible notes, “Laban added some face saving stipulations to the treaty, using many words to cover up his own untrustworthiness and portray Jacob as the unethical party. He even took credit for the monument Jacob had erected (this monument I have set, 31:51).

    • Jacob offered a sacrifice on the mountain, ate a meal with his relatives, and they camped there for the night.

    • Early the next morning, Laban kissed his daughters and grandchildren goodbye, blessed them, then went back home.

      • This is the last we hear of Laban in the Bible.