But Jacob soon learned that Laban's sons were beginning to grumble. "Jacob has robbed our father!" they said. "All his wealth has been gained at our father's expense."
And Jacob began to notice a considerable cooling in Laban's attitude toward him.
Then the LORD said to Jacob, "Return to the land of your father and grandfather and to your relatives there, and I will be with you."
Jacob called Rachel and Leah out to the field where he was watching the flocks,
so he could talk things over with them. "Your father has turned against me and is not treating me like he used to," he told them. "But the God of my father has been with me.
You know how hard I have worked for your father,
but he has tricked me, breaking his wage agreement with me again and again. But God has not allowed him to do me any harm.
For if he said the speckled animals were mine, the whole flock began to produce speckled lambs. And when he changed his mind and said I could have the streaked ones, then all the lambs were born streaked.
In this way, God has made me wealthy at your father's expense.
During the mating season, I had a dream and saw that the male goats mating with the flock were streaked, speckled, and spotted.
Then in my dream, the angel of God said to me, 'Jacob!' And I replied, 'Yes, I'm listening!'
The angel said, 'Look, and you will see that only the streaked, speckled, and spotted males are mating with the females of your flock. For I have seen all that Laban has done to you.
I am the God you met at Bethel, the place where you anointed the pillar of stone and made a vow to serve me. Now leave this country and return to the land you came from.'"
Rachel and Leah said, "That's fine with us! There's nothing for us here -- none of our father's wealth will come to us anyway.
He has reduced our rights to those of foreign women. He sold us, and what he received for us has disappeared.
The riches God has given you from our father are legally ours and our children's to begin with. So go ahead and do whatever God has told you."
So Jacob put his wives and children on camels.
He drove the flocks in front of him -- all the livestock he had acquired at Paddan-aram -- and set out on his journey to the land of Canaan, where his father, Isaac, lived.
At the time they left, Laban was some distance away, shearing his sheep. Rachel stole her father's household gods and took them with her.
They set out secretly and never told Laban they were leaving.
Jacob took all his possessions with him and crossed the Euphrates River, heading for the territory of Gilead.
Laban didn't learn of their flight for three days.
But when he did, he gathered a group of his relatives and set out in hot pursuit. He caught up with them seven days later in the hill country of Gilead.
But the previous night God had appeared to Laban in a dream. "Be careful about what you say to Jacob!" he was told.
So when Laban caught up with Jacob as he was camped in the hill country of Gilead, he set up his camp not far from Jacob's.
"What do you mean by sneaking off like this?" Laban demanded. "Are my daughters prisoners, the plunder of war, that you have stolen them away like this?
Why did you slip away secretly? I would have given you a farewell party, with joyful singing accompanied by tambourines and harps.
Why didn't you let me kiss my daughters and grandchildren and tell them good-bye? You have acted very foolishly!
I could destroy you, but the God of your father appeared to me last night and told me, 'Be careful about what you say to Jacob!'
I know you feel you must go, and you long intensely for your childhood home, but why have you stolen my household gods?"
"I rushed away because I was afraid," Jacob answered. "I said to myself, 'He'll take his daughters from me by force.'
But as for your household gods, let the person who has taken them die! If you find anything that belongs to you, I swear before all these relatives of ours, I will give it back without question." But Jacob didn't know that Rachel had taken them.
Laban went first into Jacob's tent to search there, then into Leah's, and then he searched the tents of the two concubines, but he didn't find the gods. Finally, he went into Rachel's tent.
Rachel had taken the household gods and had stuffed them into her camel saddle, and now she was sitting on them. So although Laban searched all the tents, he couldn't find them.
"Forgive my not getting up, Father," Rachel explained. "I'm having my monthly period." So despite his thorough search, Laban didn't find them.
Then Jacob became very angry. "What did you find?" he demanded of Laban. "What is my crime? You have chased me as though I were a criminal.
You have searched through everything I own. Now show me what you have found that belongs to you! Set it out here in front of us, before our relatives, for all to see. Let them decide who is the real owner!"
"Twenty years I have been with you, and all that time I cared for your sheep and goats so they produced healthy offspring. In all those years I never touched a single ram of yours for food.
If any were attacked and killed by wild animals, did I show them to you and ask you to reduce the count of your flock? No, I took the loss! You made me pay for every animal stolen from the flocks, whether the loss was my fault or not.
I worked for you through the scorching heat of the day and through cold and sleepless nights.
Yes, twenty years -- fourteen of them earning your two daughters, and six years to get the flock. And you have reduced my wages ten times!
In fact, except for the grace of God -- the God of my grandfather Abraham, the awe-inspiring God of my father, Isaac -- you would have sent me off without a penny to my name. But God has seen your cruelty and my hard work. That is why he appeared to you last night and vindicated me."
Then Laban replied to Jacob, "These women are my daughters, and these children are my grandchildren, and these flocks and all that you have -- all are mine. But what can I do now to my own daughters and grandchildren?
Come now, and we will make a peace treaty, you and I, and we will live by its terms."
So Jacob took a stone and set it up as a monument.
He also told his men to gather stones and pile them up in a heap. Jacob and Laban then sat down beside the pile of stones to share a meal.
They named it "Witness Pile," which is Jegar-sahadutha in Laban's language and Galeed a in Jacob's.
"This pile of stones will stand as a witness to remind us of our agreement," Laban said.
This place was also called Mizpah, b for Laban said, "May the LORD keep watch between us to make sure that we keep this treaty when we are out of each other's sight.
I won't know about it if you are harsh to my daughters or if you take other wives, but God will see it.
This heap of stones and this pillar
stand between us as a witness of our vows. I will not cross this line to harm you, and you will not cross it to harm me.
I call on the God of our ancestors -- the God of your grandfather Abraham and the God of my grandfather Nahor -- to punish either one of us who harms the other." So Jacob took an oath before the awesome God of his father, Isaac, to respect the boundary line.
Then Jacob presented a sacrifice to God and invited everyone to a feast. Afterward they spent the night there in the hills.
Laban got up early the next morning, and he kissed his daughters and grandchildren and blessed them. Then he returned home.
Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright 1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved. (New Living Translation - The Bible Online)