Scriptures

Genesis 31

Introduction

‘Jacob heard that Laban’s sons were saying, ‘Jacob has taken everything our father owned and has gained all this wealth from what belonged to our father.’ And Jacob noticed that Laban’s attitude toward him was not what it had been. Then the LORD said to Jacob, ‘Go back to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you.’ So, Jacob sent word to Rachel and Leah to come out to the fields where his flocks were. He said to them, ‘I see that your father’s attitude toward me is not what it was before, but the God of my father has been with me. You know that I’ve worked for your father with all my strength, yet your father has cheated me by changing my wages ten times. However, God has not allowed him to harm me. If he said, ‘The speckled ones will be your wages,’ then all the flocks gave birth to speckled young; and if he said, ‘The streaked ones will be your wages,’ then all the flocks bore streaked young. So, God has taken away your father’s livestock and has given them to me. ‘In breeding season, I once had a dream in which I looked up and saw that the male goats mating with the flock were streaked, speckled or spotted. The angel of God said to me in the dream, ‘Jacob.’ I answered, ‘Here I am.’ And he said, ‘Look up and see that all the male goats mating with the flock are streaked, speckled or spotted, for I have seen all that Laban has been doing to you. I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed a pillar and where you made a vow to me. Now leave this land at once and go back to your native land.’ Then Rachel and Leah replied, ‘Do we still have any share in the inheritance of our father’s estate? Does he not regard us as foreigners? Not only has he sold us, but he has used up what was paid for us. Surely all the wealth that God took away from our father belongs to us and our children. So, do whatever God has told you.’ Genesis 31:1-16

We must point out that when Jacob arrived at Laban’s house, he had nothing, but after serving him for many years, he’s certainly leaving a lot wealthier than when he first arrived. And so, because of this Laban’s sons were becoming increasingly jealous and so Jacob noticed that something wasn’t right. 1 Corinthians 3:3 / James 3:16 / 1 Corinthians 13:4 / Titus 3:3 / Matthew 27:18.

Not only did Jacob know something wasn’t right, so did the Lord, hence He tells him to return to his homeland, this is back to where Isaac and Rebekah lived.

Notice that Jacob had to demonstrate faith in action, he had to return to the land and then God promised He would be with him. In other words, he had to act first in faith to receive the promise of God being with him.

Jacob told Laban’s sons that their father had cheated him of his wages, by changes his wages. This may well be the way things were done in their culture, but it was still dishonest, and God recognised this as dishonest too. Jacob goes ahead and tells Rachel and Leah that it was time to leave.

Jacob goes on to assure Rachel and Leah that everything which happened concerning their father’s flock was the work of God and not his own idea. In other words, it was God’s will that Jacob should prosper so that he could return to his homeland wealthier.

Rachel and Leah acknowledged that their father didn’t deal with Jacob honestly and so, they agree to leave secretly from their father’s household. Laban has become their enemy and he and his sons needed to get right with God, Revelation 2:4-5.

Whilst Jacob gained two wives and a number of sheep and goats, Laban lost two daughters, his grandchildren and most of his flock. Surely there’s a lesson here about dishonesty and reaping the consequences.

‘Then Jacob put his children and his wives on camels, and he drove all his livestock ahead of him, along with all the goods he had accumulated in Paddan Aram, to go to his father Isaac in the land of Canaan. When Laban had gone to shear his sheep, Rachel stole her father’s household gods. Moreover, Jacob deceived Laban the Aramean by not telling him he was running away. So, he fled with all he had, crossed the Euphrates River, and headed for the hill country of Gilead. On the third day Laban was told that Jacob had fled. Taking his relatives with him, he pursued Jacob for seven days and caught up with him in the hill country of Gilead. Then God came to Laban the Aramean in a dream at night and said to him, ‘Be careful not to say anything to Jacob, either good or bad.’ Genesis 31:17-24

The plan to leave Laban’s land was now underway, and they leave without saying goodbye, but notice that Jacob puts his livestock ahead of him and his children. Usually the head of the house would lead the way but here it’s the opposite.

Why?

Possibly because Jacob remembered that Esau was going to be a real danger when he returned.

Why did Rachel take the household gods?

They were like an inheritance, they were the deeds of ownership of the property of Laban and so, whoever possessed them had legal rights to the inheritance of Laban.

Rachel and Leah were wrong to look to Laban for their inheritance, because they were married to Jacob, they should be looking to him for their inheritance.

Notice that God came to Laban in a dream, in that dream God basically warned Him not to speak harshly against Jacob. God was simply putting fear into Laban’s heart.

‘Jacob had pitched his tent in the hill country of Gilead when Laban overtook him, and Laban and his relatives camped there too. Then Laban said to Jacob, “What have you done? You’ve deceived me, and you’ve carried off my daughters like captives in war. Why did you run off secretly and deceive me? Why didn’t you tell me, so I could send you away with joy and singing to the music of timbrels and harps? You didn’t even let me kiss my grandchildren and my daughters goodbye. You have done a foolish thing. I have the power to harm you; but last night the God of your father said to me, ‘Be careful not to say anything to Jacob, either good or bad.’ Now you have gone off because you longed to return to your father’s household. But why did you steal my gods?’ Jacob answered Laban, ‘I was afraid, because I thought you would take your daughters away from me by force. But if you find anyone who has your gods, that person shall not live. In the presence of our relatives, see for yourself whether there is anything of yours here with me; and if so, take it.’ Now Jacob did not know that Rachel had stolen the gods. So, Laban went into Jacob’s tent and into Leah’s tent and into the tent of the two female servants, but he found nothing. After he came out of Leah’s tent, he entered Rachel’s tent. Now Rachel had taken the household gods and put them inside her camel’s saddle and was sitting on them. Laban searched through everything in the tent but found nothing. Rachel said to her father, ‘Don’t be angry, my lord, that I cannot stand up in your presence; I’m having my period.’ So, he searched but could not find the household gods.’ Genesis 31:25-35

The word hypocrisy comes to mind here when we read about what Laban accuses Jacob of. He accused Jacob of stealing his family, rude in the way he left, ignoring his so-called generosity, and of being denied the right to send his daughters away with a feast. Laban doesn’t seem to realise that he was guilty of everything he was accusing Jacob of.

He even accused Jacob of being a thief, he accused him of stealing the household gods. We must remember that Jacob had no idea that Rachel had taken them. notice how Jacob deals with all these accusations, he didn’t defend himself in any shape of form. This shows the kind of character that Jacob is now becoming.

Laban is looking for household his gods but couldn’t find them because Rachel was sitting on them. She obviously had hidden them in the saddle of her camel and so, when everyone is searching for them, she comes out with the excuse that she was on her monthly period, which we know was a lie.

‘Jacob was angry and took Laban to task. ‘What is my crime?’ he asked Laban. ‘How have I wronged you that you hunt me down? Now that you have searched through all my goods, what have you found that belongs to your household? Put it here in front of your relatives and mine and let them judge between the two of us. ‘I have been with you for twenty years now. Your sheep and goats have not miscarried, nor have I eaten rams from your flocks. I did not bring you animals torn by wild beasts; I bore the loss myself. And you demanded payment from me for whatever was stolen by day or night. This was my situation: The heat consumed me in the daytime and the cold at night, and sleep fled from my eyes. It was like this for the twenty years I was in your household. I worked for you fourteen years for your two daughters and six years for your flocks, and you changed my wages ten times. If the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had not been with me, you would surely have sent me away empty-handed. But God has seen my hardship and the toil of my hands, and last night he rebuked you.’ Genesis 31:36-42

Because Jacob had been accused of all kinds of things, especially stealing Laban’s household gods, we can understand why Jacob would become angry, he was basically being accused of being a thief. He goes to on rebuke Laban because of his behaviour and the way he has treated Jacob since he arrived in Laban’s house.

Jacob reminds Laban that it was God who was blessing him, if God wants blessing him then he would have left with nothing. He also reminds him that God Himself rebuked Laban in a dream.

‘Laban answered Jacob, ‘The women are my daughters, the children are my children, and the flocks are my flocks. All you see is mine. Yet what can I do today about these daughters of mine, or about the children they have borne? Come now, let’s make a covenant, you and I, and let it serve as a witness between us.’ So, Jacob took a stone and set it up as a pillar. He said to his relatives, ‘Gather some stones.’ So, they took stones and piled them in a heap, and they ate there by the heap. Laban called it Jegar Sahadutha, and Jacob called it Galeed. Laban said, ‘This heap is a witness between you and me today.’ That is why it was called Galeed. It was also called Mizpah, because he said, ‘May the LORD keep watch between you and me when we are away from each other. If you mistreat my daughters or if you take any wives besides my daughters, even though no one is with us, remember that God is a witness between you and me.’ Laban also said to Jacob, ‘Here is this heap, and here is this pillar I have set up between you and me. This heap is a witness, and this pillar is a witness, that I will not go past this heap to your side to harm you and that you will not go past this heap and pillar to my side to harm me. May the God of Abraham and the God of Nahor, the God of their father, judge between us.’ So, Jacob took an oath in the name of the Fear of his father Isaac. He offered a sacrifice there in the hill country and invited his relatives to a meal. After they had eaten, they spent the night there. Early the next morning Laban kissed his grandchildren and his daughters and blessed them. Then he left and returned home.’ Genesis 31:43-55

The reality of God being involved in everything, seems to have finally struck a chord with Laban and so, he recognising that Jacob isn’t his slave and everything Jacob owns is legally his. He asks Jacob to make a covenant, normally to establish a covenant, some kind of memorial was erected made form stone, oaths were then shared and then some kind of feast was held, where they could eat the meat from a sacrificed animal.

Notice that Laban named the heap of stones ‘Jegar-sahadutha’, but Jacob named it Galeed, which means ‘witness heap’. It was also called Mizpah which means, ‘watchtower’. The idea is that if you do wrong, God will see it and will punish you.

The agreement was that Laban wouldn’t increase his territory south of the monument and Jacob wouldn’t increase his north of the monument in order that they not trespass on one another’s lands.

Laban goes on to ask Jacob to treat his daughters well but also not to take any more wives. Laban seems to know that having more wives only brings about more trouble, especially if they are Canaanite women.

They depart from each other and this is the last time we hear of Laban, who was clearly a man of the world.

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DAILY BIBLE VERSE

"Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience."

Colossians 3:12

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