Genesis 31

Listen to Genesis 31

Jacob Flees from Laban

1 Now Jacob heard that the sons of Laban were saying, "Jacob has taken all that was our father's, and from what was our father's he has gained all this wealth."
2 And Jacob saw 1that Laban did not regard him with favor as before.
3 Then the LORD said to Jacob, 2"Return to the land of your fathers and to your kindred, and I will be with you."
4 So Jacob sent and called Rachel and Leah into the field where his flock was
5 and said to them, 3"I see that your father does not regard me with favor as he did before. But the God of my father 4has been with me.
6 5You know that I have served your father with all my strength,
7 yet your father has cheated me and changed my wages 6ten times. But God did not permit him to harm me.
8 If he said, 7'The spotted shall be your wages,' then all the flock bore spotted; and if he said, 'The striped shall be your wages,' then all the flock bore striped.
9 Thus God has 8taken away the livestock of your father and given them to me.
10 In the breeding season of the flock I lifted up my eyes and saw in a dream that the goats that mated with the flock were striped, spotted, and mottled.
11 Then the angel of God said to me in the dream, 'Jacob,' and I said, 'Here I am!'
12 And he said, 'Lift up your eyes and see, all the goats that mate with the flock are striped, spotted, and mottled, for 9I have seen all that Laban is doing to you.
13 I am the God of Bethel, 10where you anointed a pillar and made a vow to me. Now 11arise, go out from this land and return to the land of your kindred.'"
14 Then Rachel and Leah answered and said to him, "Is there 12any portion or inheritance left to us in our father's house?
15 Are we not regarded by him as foreigners? For 13he has sold us, and he has indeed devoured our money.
16 All the wealth that God has taken away from our father belongs to us and to our children. Now then, whatever God has said to you, do."
17 So Jacob arose and set his sons and his wives on camels.
18 He drove away all his livestock, all his property that he had gained, the livestock in his possession that he had acquired in 14Paddan-aram, to go to the land of Canaan to his father Isaac.
19 Laban had gone to shear his sheep, and Rachel stole her father's 15household gods.
20 And Jacob tricked[a] Laban the Aramean, by not telling him that he intended to flee.
21 He fled with all that he had and arose and crossed the 16Euphrates, and 17set his face toward the hill country of Gilead.
22 When it was told Laban on the third day that Jacob had fled,
23 he took his kinsmen with him and pursued him for seven days and followed close after him into the hill country of Gilead.
24 But God came to Laban the Aramean 18in a dream by night and said to him, "Be careful not to say anything to Jacob, 19either good or bad."
25 And Laban overtook Jacob. Now Jacob had pitched his tent in the hill country, and Laban with his kinsmen pitched tents in the hill country of Gilead.
26 And Laban said to Jacob, "What have you done, that you have 20tricked me and driven away my daughters like captives of the sword?
27 Why did you flee secretly 21and trick me, and did not tell me, so that I might have sent you away with mirth and songs, with tambourine and lyre?
28 And why did you not permit me 22to kiss my sons and my daughters farewell? Now you have done foolishly.
29 It is 23in my power to do you harm. But the 24God of your[b] father spoke to me last night, saying, 'Be careful not to say anything to Jacob, 25either good or bad.'
30 And now you have gone away because you longed greatly for your father's house, but why did you 26steal my gods?"
31 Jacob answered and said to Laban, "Because I was afraid, for I thought that you would take your daughters from me by force.
32 27Anyone with whom you find your gods shall not live. In the presence of our kinsmen point out what I have that is yours, and take it." Now Jacob did not know that Rachel had stolen them.
33 So Laban went into Jacob's tent and into Leah's tent and into the tent of the two female servants, but he did not find them. And he went out of Leah's tent and entered Rachel's.
34 Now Rachel had taken the household gods and put them in the camel's saddle and sat on them. Laban felt all about the tent, but did not find them.
35 And she said to her father, "Let not my lord be angry that I cannot 28rise before you, for the way of women is upon me." So he searched but did not find the household gods.
36 Then Jacob became angry and berated Laban. Jacob said to Laban, "What is my offense? What is my sin, that you have hotly pursued me?
37 For you have felt through all my goods; what have you found of all your household goods? Set it here before my kinsmen and 29your kinsmen, that they may decide between us two.
38 These twenty years I have been with you. Your ewes and your female goats have not miscarried, and I have not eaten the rams of your flocks.
39 What was torn by wild beasts I did not bring to you. I bore the loss of it myself. 30From my hand you required it, whether stolen by day or stolen by night.
40 There I was: by day the heat consumed me, and the cold by night, and my sleep fled from my eyes.
41 These twenty years I have been in your house. 31I served you fourteen years for your two daughters, and six years for your flock, and 32you have changed my wages ten times.
42 33If the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the 34Fear of Isaac, had not been on my side, surely now you would have sent me away empty-handed. 35God saw my affliction and the labor of my hands and 36rebuked you last night."
43 Then Laban answered and said to Jacob, "The daughters are my daughters, the children are my children, the flocks are my flocks, and all that you see is mine. But what can I do this day for these my daughters or for their children whom they have borne?
44 Come now, 37let us make a covenant, you and I. 38And let it be a witness between you and me."
45 So Jacob 39took a stone and set it up as a pillar.
46 And Jacob said to his kinsmen, "Gather stones." And they took stones and made a heap, and they ate there by the heap.
47 Laban called it Jegar-sahadutha,[c] but Jacob called it Galeed.[d]
48 Laban said, 40"This heap is a witness between you and me today." Therefore he named it Galeed,
49 41and Mizpah,[e] for he said, "The LORD watch between you and me, when we are out of one another's sight.
50 If you oppress my daughters, or if you take wives besides my daughters, although no one is with us, see, 42God is witness between you and me."
51 Then Laban said to Jacob, "See this heap and the pillar, which I have set between you and me.
52 43This heap is a witness, and the pillar is a witness, that I will not pass over this heap to you, and you will not pass over this heap and this pillar to me, to do harm.
53 The God of Abraham and the God of Nahor, the God of their father, judge between us." So Jacob swore by the 44Fear of his father Isaac,
54 and Jacob offered a sacrifice in the hill country and called 45his kinsmen to eat bread. They ate bread and spent the night in the hill country.
55 [f] Early in the morning Laban arose and kissed 46his grandchildren and his daughters and blessed them. Then Laban departed and returned 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.

Cross References 46

  • 1. Genesis 4:5
  • 2. ver. 13; Genesis 28:15; Genesis 32:9
  • 3. ver. 2
  • 4. ver. 3
  • 5. ver. 38-40; Genesis 30:29
  • 6. ver. 41; [Numbers 14:22; Nehemiah 4:12; Job 19:3; Zechariah 8:23]
  • 7. Genesis 30:32
  • 8. ver. 1
  • 9. [Exodus 3:7]
  • 10. See Genesis 28:18-22
  • 11. ver. 3; Genesis 32:9
  • 12. [2 Samuel 20:1; 1 Kings 12:16]
  • 13. Genesis 30:26; See Genesis 29:15-20, 27
  • 14. Genesis 25:20; Genesis 28:2, 6, 7
  • 15. ver. 30, 34; [Judges 17:5; 1 Samuel 15:23; 1 Samuel 19:13; Ezekiel 21:21; Hosea 3:4; Zechariah 10:2]
  • 16. Exodus 23:31; Psalms 72:8
  • 17. 2 Kings 12:17; Luke 9:51
  • 18. See Genesis 20:3
  • 19. Genesis 24:50; Numbers 24:13; 2 Samuel 13:22
  • 20. ver. 20
  • 21. [See ver. 26 above]
  • 22. ver. 55; Ruth 1:9, 14; 1 Kings 19:20; Acts 20:37
  • 23. Deuteronomy 28:32; Nehemiah 5:5(Heb.); Proverbs 3:27; Micah 2:1
  • 24. ver. 42, 53; Genesis 28:13
  • 25. ver. 24
  • 26. ver. 19; Judges 18:24
  • 27. [Genesis 44:9]
  • 28. [Leviticus 19:32]
  • 29. ver. 54
  • 30. [Exodus 22:12]
  • 31. Genesis 29:27, 28
  • 32. ver. 7
  • 33. Psalms 124:1, 2
  • 34. ver. 53
  • 35. See Genesis 29:32
  • 36. ver. 29
  • 37. Genesis 26:28
  • 38. Joshua 24:27
  • 39. Genesis 28:18
  • 40. ver. 44
  • 41. Judges 11:29, 34
  • 42. Judges 11:10; 1 Samuel 12:5; Jeremiah 42:5; Micah 1:2; [Job 16:19]
  • 43. ver. 43, 44
  • 44. ver. 42
  • 45. ver. 37
  • 46. ver. 28, 43

Footnotes 6

  • [a]. Hebrew stole the heart of; also verses 26, 27
  • [b]. The Hebrew for your is plural here
  • [c]. Aramaic the heap of witness
  • [d]. Hebrew the heap of witness
  • [e]. Mizpah means watchpost
  • [f]. Ch 32:1 in Hebrew

Chapter Summary


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

The English Standard Version is published with the permission of Good News Publishers.