Genesis 31

Jacob Separates from Laban

1 Now Jacob heard what Laban's sons were saying: "Jacob has taken all that was our father's and has built this wealth from what belonged to our father."
2 And Jacob saw from Laban's face that his attitude toward him was not the same.
3 Then the Lord said to him, "Go back to the land of your fathers and to your family, and I will be with you."[a]
4 Jacob had Rachel and Leah called to the field [where] his flocks were.
5 He said to them, "I can see from your father's face that his attitude toward me is not the same, but the God of my father has been with me.
6 You know that I've worked hard for your father
7 and that he has cheated me and changed my wages 10 times. But God has not let him harm me.
8 If he said, 'The spotted sheep will be your wages,' then all the sheep were born spotted. If he said, 'The streaked sheep will be your wages,' then all the sheep were born streaked.
9 God has taken your father's herds and given them to me.
10 "When the flocks were breeding, I saw in a dream that the streaked, spotted, and speckled males were mating with the females.
11 In that dream the Angel of God said to me, 'Jacob!' and I said: Here I am.
12 And He said, 'Look up and see: all the males that are mating with the flocks are streaked, spotted, and speckled, for I have seen all that Laban has been doing to you.[b]
13 I am the God of Bethel, where you poured oil on the stone marker and made a solemn vow to Me.[c] Get up, leave this land, and return to your native land.' "
14 Then Rachel and Leah answered him, "Do we have any portion or inheritance in our father's household?
15 Are we not regarded by him as outsiders? For he has sold us[d] and has certainly spent our money.
16 In fact, all the wealth that God has taken from our father belongs to us and to our children. So do whatever God has said to you."
17 Then Jacob got up and put his children and wives on the camels.
18 He took all the livestock and possessions he had acquired in Paddan-aram, and he drove his herds to go to the land of his father Isaac in Canaan.
19 When Laban had gone to shear his sheep, Rachel stole her father's household idols.
20 And Jacob deceived[e] Laban the Aramean, not telling him that he was fleeing.
21 He fled with all his possessions, crossed the Euphrates, and headed for[f] the hill country of Gilead.

Laban Overtakes Jacob

22 On the third day Laban was told that Jacob had fled.
23 So he took his relatives with him, pursued Jacob for seven days, and overtook him at Mount Gilead.
24 But God came to Laban the Aramean in a dream at night. "Watch yourself!" God warned him. "Don't say anything to Jacob, either good or bad."
25 When Laban overtook Jacob, Jacob had pitched his tent in the hill country, and Laban and his brothers also pitched [their tents] in the hill country of Gilead.
26 Then Laban said to Jacob, "What have you done? You have deceived me and taken my daughters away like prisoners of war!
27 Why did you secretly flee from me, deceive me, and not tell me? I would have sent you away with joy and singing, with tambourines and lyres,
28 but you didn't even let me kiss my grandchildren and my daughters. You have acted foolishly.
29 I could do you great harm, but last night the God of your father said to me: 'Watch yourself. Don't say anything to Jacob, either good or bad.'
30 Now you have gone off because you long for your father-but why have you stolen my gods?"
31 Jacob answered, "I was afraid, for I thought you would take your daughters from me by force.
32 If you find your gods with anyone [here], he will not live![g] Before our relatives, point out anything that is yours and take it." Jacob did not know that Rachel had stolen [the idols].
33 So Laban went into Jacob's tent, then Leah's tent, and then the tents of the two female slaves, but he found nothing. Then he left Leah's tent and entered Rachel's.
34 Now Rachel had taken Laban's household idols, put them in the saddlebag of the camel, and sat on them. Laban searched the whole tent but found nothing.
35 She said to her father, "Sir, don't be angry that I cannot stand up in your presence;[h] I am having my monthly period." So Laban searched, but could not find the household idols.

Jacob's Covenant with Laban

36 Then Jacob became incensed and brought charges against Laban. "What is my crime?" he said to Laban. "What is my sin, that you have pursued me?
37 You've searched all my possessions! Have you found anything of yours? Put it here before my relatives and yours, and let them decide between the two of us.
38 I've been with you these 20 years. Your ewes and female goats have not miscarried, and I have not eaten the rams from your flock.
39 I did not bring you any of the flock torn by wild beasts; I myself bore the loss. You demanded [payment] from me for what was stolen by day or by night.
40 There I was-the heat consumed me by day and the frost by night, and sleep fled from my eyes.
41 For 20 years I have worked in your household-14 years for your two daughters and six years for your flocks-and you have changed my wages 10 times!
42 If the God of my father, the God of Abraham, the Fear of Isaac, had not been with me, certainly now you would have sent me off empty-handed. But God has seen my affliction and my hard work,[i] and He issued His verdict last night."
43 Then Laban answered Jacob, "The daughters are my daughters; the sons, my sons; and the flocks, my flocks! Everything you see is mine! But what can I do today for these daughters of mine or for the children they have borne?
44 Come now, let's make a covenant, you and I. Let it be a witness between the two of us."
45 So Jacob picked out a stone and set it up as a marker.[j]
46 Then Jacob said to his relatives, "Gather stones." And they took stones and made a mound, then ate there by the mound.
47 Laban named the mound Jegar-sahadutha, but Jacob named it Galeed.[k]
48 Then Laban said, "This mound is a witness between me and you today." Therefore the place was called Galeed,
49 and [also] Mizpah,[l] for he said, "May the Lord watch between you and me when we are out of each other's sight.
50 If you mistreat my daughters or take other wives, though no one is with us, understand that God will be a witness between you and me."
51 Laban also said to Jacob, "Look at this mound and the marker I have set up between you and me.
52 This mound is a witness and the marker is a witness that I will not pass beyond this mound to you, and you will not pass beyond this mound and this marker to do me harm.
53 The God of Abraham, and the gods[m] of Nahor-the gods of their father[n]-will judge between us." And Jacob swore by the Fear of his father Isaac.
54 Then Jacob offered a sacrifice on the mountain and invited his relatives to eat a meal. So they ate a meal and spent the night on the mountain.
55 [o] Laban got up early in the morning, kissed his grandchildren and daughters, and blessed them. Then Laban left to return home.

Genesis 31 Commentary

Chapter 31

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)

Verses 1-21 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.

Verses 22-35 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, ( Zepheniah 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.

Verses 36-42 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.

Verses 43-55 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.

Footnotes 15

Chapter Summary

INTRODUCTION TO GENESIS 31

This chapter relates how that Jacob observing that Laban and his sons envied his prosperity, and having a call from God to return to his own country, acquaints his wives with it; and reports to them Laban's ill usage of him, and the wonderful appearance of God to him, and for him, and his orders to him to depart from thence, Ge 31:1-13; to which they agreed, knowing full well their father's unkindness, and that they had nothing to expect from him, and therefore judged it best to go off with what they had got through the gift of God unto them, Ge 31:14-16; upon which Jacob set out privately, with all he had, towards his own country, while Laban was shearing his sheep, Ge 31:17-21; three days after, Laban, being informed of it, pursued after Jacob, and overtook him at Mount Gilead; but was warned by the way to be cautious what he said to him, Ge 31:22-25; yet nevertheless he warmly expostulated with him about his secret flight, not giving him the opportunity of taking his leave of his children, and especially for taking away his gods, Ge 31:26-30; to which Jacob gave an answer, Ge 31:31-35; and in his turn was warm likewise, and chided Laban severely for his hot pursuit of him, his charge of stealth, when he could find nothing on him, his hard labour for the space of twenty years with him, and his ill requital of him for it, Ge 31:36-42; however, upon the whole, an amicable agreement was made between them, and they parted in a friendly manner, Ge 31:43-55.

Genesis 31 Commentaries