Genesis Chapter 31
1 Jacob heard Laban's sons' words, saying, "Jacob has taken away all that was our father's. He has obtained all this wealth from that which was our father's."
2 Jacob saw the expression on Laban's face, and, behold, it was not towards him as before.
3 The LORD said to Jacob, "Return to the land of your fathers, and to your relatives, and I will be with you."
4 Jacob sent and called Rachel and Leah to the field to his flock,
5 and said to them, "I see the expression on your father's face, that it is not towards me as before; but the God of my father has been with me.
6 You know that I have served your father with all of my strength.
7 Your father has deceived me, and changed my wages ten times, but God didn't allow him to hurt me.
8 If he said, 'The speckled will be your wages,' then all the flock bore speckled. If he said, 'The streaked will be your wages,' then all the flock bore streaked.
9 Thus God has taken away your father's livestock, and given them to me.
10 During mating season, I lifted up my eyes, and saw in a dream, and behold, the male goats which leapt on the flock were streaked, speckled, and grizzled.
11 The angel of God said to me in the dream, 'Jacob,' and I said, 'Here I am.'
12 He said, 'Now lift up your eyes, and behold, all the male goats which leap on the flock are streaked, speckled, and grizzled, for I have seen all that Laban does to you.
13 I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed a pillar, where you vowed a vow to me. Now arise, get out from this land, and return to the land of your birth.' "
14 Rachel and Leah answered him, "Is there yet any portion or inheritance for us in our father's house?
15 Aren't we considered as foreigners by him? For he has sold us, and has also used up our money.
16 For all the riches which God has taken away from our father are ours and our children's. Now then, whatever God has said to you, do."
17 Then Jacob rose up, and set his sons and his wives on the camels,
18 and he took away all his livestock, and all his possessions which he had gathered, including the livestock which he had gained in Paddan Aram, to go to Isaac his father, to the land of Canaan.
19 Now Laban had gone to shear his sheep; and Rachel stole the teraphim that were her father's.
20 Jacob deceived Laban the Syrian, in that he didn't tell him that he was running away.
21 So he fled with all that he had. He rose up, passed over the River, and set his face towards the mountain of Gilead.
22 Laban was told on the third day that Jacob had fled.
23 He took his relatives with him, and pursued him seven days' journey. He overtook him in the mountain of Gilead.
24 God came to Laban the Syrian in a dream of the night, and said to him, "Be careful that you don't speak to Jacob either good or bad."
25 Laban caught up with Jacob. Now Jacob had pitched his tent in the mountain, and Laban with his relatives encamped in the mountain of Gilead.
26 Laban said to Jacob, "What have you done, that you have deceived me, and carried away my daughters like captives of the sword?
27 Why did you flee secretly, and deceive me, and didn't tell me, that I might have sent you away with mirth and with songs, with tambourine and with harp;
28 and didn't allow me to kiss my sons and my daughters? Now have you done foolishly.
29 It is in the power of my hand to hurt you, but the God of your father spoke to me last night, saying, 'Be careful that you don't speak to Jacob either good or bad.'
30 Now, you want to be gone, because you greatly longed for your father's house, but why have you stolen my gods?"
31 Jacob answered Laban, "Because I was afraid, for I said, 'Lest you should take your daughters from me by force.'
32 Anyone you find your gods with shall not live. Before our relatives, discern what is yours with me, and take it." For Jacob didn't know that Rachel had stolen them.
33 Laban went into Jacob's tent, into Leah's tent, and into the tent of the two female servants; but he didn't find them. He went out of Leah's tent, and entered into Rachel's tent.
34 Now Rachel had taken the teraphim, put them in the camel's saddle, and sat on them. Laban felt around all the tent, but didn't find them.
35 She said to her father, "Don't let my lord be angry that I can't rise up before you; for I'm having my period." He searched, but didn't find the teraphim.
36 Jacob was angry, and argued with Laban. Jacob answered Laban, "What is my trespass? What is my sin, that you have hotly pursued me?
37 Now that you have felt around in all my stuff, what have you found of all your household stuff? Set it here before my relatives and your relatives, that they may judge between us two.
38 "These twenty years I have been with you. Your ewes and your female goats have not cast their young, and I haven't eaten the rams of your flocks.
39 That which was torn of animals, I didn't bring to you. I bore its loss. Of my hand you required it, whether stolen by day or stolen by night.
40 This was my situation: in the day the drought consumed me, and the frost by night; and my sleep fled from my eyes.
41 These twenty years I have been in your house. I served you fourteen years for your two daughters, and six years for your flock, and you have changed my wages ten times.
42 Unless the God of my father, the God of Abraham, and the fear of Isaac, had been with me, surely now you would have sent me away empty. God has seen my affliction and the labour of my hands, and rebuked you last night."
43 Laban answered Jacob, "The daughters are my daughters, the children are my children, the flocks are my flocks, and all that you see is mine! What can I do today to these my daughters, or to their children whom they have borne?
44 Now come, let's make a covenant, you and I. Let it be for a witness between me and you."
45 Jacob took a stone, and set it up for a pillar.
46 Jacob said to his relatives, "Gather stones." They took stones, and made a heap. They ate there by the heap.
47 Laban called it Jegar Sahadutha, but Jacob called it Galeed.
48 Laban said, "This heap is witness between me and you today." Therefore it was named Galeed
49 and Mizpah, for he said, "The LORD watch between me and you, when we are absent one from another.
50 If you afflict my daughters, or if you take wives in addition to my daughters, no man is with us; behold, God is witness between me and you."
51 Laban said to Jacob, "See this heap, and see the pillar, which I have set between me and you.
52 May this heap be a witness, and the pillar be a witness, that I will not pass over this heap to you, and that you will not pass over this heap and this pillar to me, for harm.
53 The God of Abraham, and the God of Nahor, the God of their father, judge between us." Then Jacob swore by the fear of his father, Isaac.
54 Jacob offered a sacrifice in the mountain, and called his relatives to eat bread. They ate bread, and stayed all night in the mountain.
55 Early in the morning, Laban rose up, and kissed his sons and his daughters, and blessed them. Laban departed and returned to his place.
- Verse 19 (Teraphim)
- teraphim were household idols that may have been associated with inheritance rights to the household property.
- Verse 47 (Jegar Sahadutha)
- "Jegar Sahadutha" means "Witness Heap" in Aramaic.
- Verse 47 (Galeed)
- "Galeed" means "Witness Heap" in Hebrew.
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Genesis Chapter 31 Guide
In the midst of Jacob's success the second divine communication came to him, commanding him to return to the land of his fathers and giving him the promise, "I will be with thee." Thus, after at least twenty years' absence, he set his face again toward home. The same cunning which had been manifested throughout is seen in the stealth with which he broke away from Laban.
Much may happen in twenty years. However, one thing can never happen. The wrongdoing of the past cannot be undone and Jacob started for home with fear, for Esau his brother was yet alive. Nevertheless, the call of God was supreme to him and he went obediently.
Rachel practiced deceit in that she stole the teraphim of her father. This led to one more meeting between Laban and Jacob. After heated controversy, they separated, having erected a stone or a heap and named it Mizpah. It was the symbol of suspicion and called on God to watch between them. It is really a sad spectacle of two men calling on God, not to ratify their comradeship, but to watch over them on behalf of each other in order that neither may wrong the other. The account of the connection between these two men has been full of interest, but its final message is that selfish partnership invariably issues in suspicion and separation.
From "An Exposition of the Whole Bible" by G. Campbell Morgan.
Genesis Chapter 31 Commentary
- Jacob departs secretly. -- (1-21)
- Laban pursues Jacob. -- (23-35)
- Jacob's complaint of Laban's conduct. -- (36-42)
- Their covenant at Galeed. -- (43-55)
The affairs of these families are related very minutely, while (what are called) the great events of states and kingdoms at that period, are not mentioned. The Bible teaches people the common duties of life, how to serve God, how to enjoy the blessings he bestows, and to do good in the various stations and duties of life. Selfish men consider themselves robbed of all that goes past them, and covetousness will even swallow up natural affection. Men's overvaluing worldly wealth is that error which is the root of covetousness, envy, and all evil. The men of the world stand in each other's way, and every one seems to be taking away from the rest; hence discontent, envy, and discord. But there are possessions that will suffice for all; happy they who seek them in the first place. In all our removals we should have respect to the command and promise of God. If He be with us, we need not fear. The perils which surround us are so many, that nothing else can really encourage our hearts. To remember favoured seasons of communion with God, is very refreshing when in difficulties; and we should often recollect our vows, that we fail not to fulfil them.
God can put a bridle in the mouth of wicked men, to restrain their malice, though he do not change their hearts. Though they have no love to God's people, they will pretend to it, and try to make a merit of necessity. Foolish Laban! to call those things his gods which could be stolen! Enemies may steal our goods, but not our God. Here Laban lays to Jacob's charge things that he knew not. Those who commit their cause to God, are not forbidden to plead it themselves with meekness and fear. When we read of Rachel's stealing her father's images, what a scene of iniquity opens! The family of Nahor, who left the idolatrous Chaldees; is this family itself become idolatrous? It is even so. The truth seems to be, that they were like some in after-times, who sware by the Lord and by Malcham, Zep 1:5; and like others in our times, who wish to serve both God and mammon. Great numbers will acknowledge the true God in words, but their hearts and houses are the abodes of spiritual idolatry. When a man gives himself up to covetousness, like Laban, the world is his god; and he has only to reside among gross idolaters in order to become one, or at least a favourer of their abominations.
If Jacob were willingly consumed with heat in the day, and frost by night, to become the son-in-law of Laban, what should we refuse to endure, to become the sons of God? Jacob speaks of God as the God of his father; he thought himself unworthy to be regarded, but was beloved for his father's sake. He calls him the God of Abraham, and the fear of Isaac; for Abraham was dead, and gone to that world where perfect love casts out fear; but Isaac was yet alive, sanctifying the Lord in his heart, as his fear and his dread.
Laban could neither justify himself nor condemn Jacob, therefore desires to hear no more of that matter. He is not willing to own himself in fault, as he ought to have done. But he proposes a covenant of friendship between them, to which Jacob readily agrees. A heap of stones was raised, to keep up the memory of the event, writing being then not known or little used. A sacrifice of peace offerings was offered. Peace with God puts true comfort into our peace with our friends. They did eat bread together, partaking of the feast upon the sacrifice. In ancient times covenants of friendship were ratified by the parties eating and drinking together. God is judge between contending parties, and he will judge righteously; whoever do wrong, it is at their peril. They gave a new name to the place, The heap of witness. After this angry parley, they part friends. God is often better to us than our fears, and overrules the spirits of men in our favour, beyond what we could have expected; for it is not in vain to trust in him.
From the "Concise Commentary on the Bible" by Matthew Henry.