Genesis 31

Jacob Flees From Laban

1 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.”
2 And Jacob noticed that Laban’s attitude toward him was not what it had been.
3 Then the LORD said to Jacob, “Go back to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you.”
4 So Jacob sent word to Rachel and Leah to come out to the fields where his flocks were.
5 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.
6 You know that I’ve worked for your father with all my strength,
7 yet your father has cheated me by changing my wages ten times. However, God has not allowed him to harm me.
8 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.
9 So God has taken away your father’s livestock and has given them to me.
10 “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.
11 The angel of God said to me in the dream, ‘Jacob.’ I answered, ‘Here I am.’
12 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.
13 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.’ ”
14 Then Rachel and Leah replied, “Do we still have any share in the inheritance of our father’s estate?
15 Does he not regard us as foreigners? Not only has he sold us, but he has used up what was paid for us.
16 Surely all the wealth that God took away from our father belongs to us and our children. So do whatever God has told you.”
17 Then Jacob put his children and his wives on camels,
18 and he drove all his livestock ahead of him, along with all the goods he had accumulated in Paddan Aram,[a] to go to his father Isaac in the land of Canaan.
19 When Laban had gone to shear his sheep, Rachel stole her father’s household gods.
20 Moreover, Jacob deceived Laban the Aramean by not telling him he was running away.
21 So he fled with all he had, crossed the Euphrates River, and headed for the hill country of Gilead.

Laban Pursues Jacob

22 On the third day Laban was told that Jacob had fled.
23 Taking his relatives with him, he pursued Jacob for seven days and caught up with him in the hill country of Gilead.
24 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.”
25 Jacob had pitched his tent in the hill country of Gilead when Laban overtook him, and Laban and his relatives camped there too.
26 Then Laban said to Jacob, “What have you done? You’ve deceived me, and you’ve carried off my daughters like captives in war.
27 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?
28 You didn’t even let me kiss my grandchildren and my daughters goodbye. You have done a foolish thing.
29 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.’
30 Now you have gone off because you longed to return to your father’s household. But why did you steal my gods?”
31 Jacob answered Laban, “I was afraid, because I thought you would take your daughters away from me by force.
32 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.
33 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.
34 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.
35 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.
36 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?
37 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.
38 “I have been with you for twenty years now. Your sheep and goats have not miscarried, nor have I eaten rams from your flocks.
39 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.
40 This was my situation: The heat consumed me in the daytime and the cold at night, and sleep fled from my eyes.
41 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.
42 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.”
43 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?
44 Come now, let’s make a covenant, you and I, and let it serve as a witness between us.”
45 So Jacob took a stone and set it up as a pillar.
46 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.
47 Laban called it Jegar Sahadutha, and Jacob called it Galeed.[b]
48 Laban said, “This heap is a witness between you and me today.” That is why it was called Galeed.
49 It was also called Mizpah,[c] because he said, “May the LORD keep watch between you and me when we are away from each other.
50 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.”
51 Laban also said to Jacob, “Here is this heap, and here is this pillar I have set up between you and me.
52 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.
53 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.
54 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.
55 Early the next morning Laban kissed his grandchildren and his daughters and blessed them. Then he left and returned home.[d]

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 126

  • 1. Genesis 30:35
  • 2. S Genesis 30:42
  • 3. ver 5
  • 4. ver 13; Genesis 32:9; Deuteronomy 30:3; Isaiah 10:21; Isaiah 35:10; Jeremiah 30:3; Jeremiah 42:12
  • 5. S Genesis 21:22; S Genesis 26:3; Genesis 28:15
  • 6. ver 29,42,53; Genesis 43:23; Daniel 2:23
  • 7. ver 2
  • 8. S Genesis 21:22; S Genesis 26:3
  • 9. Genesis 30:29
  • 10. Leviticus 6:2; Amos 8:5
  • 11. S Genesis 29:15
  • 12. ver 41; Numbers 14:22; Job 19:3
  • 13. ver 52; S Genesis 24:50; Psalms 37:28; Psalms 105:14
  • 14. S Genesis 30:32
  • 15. Job 39:2; Ezekiel 31:6
  • 16. ver 1,16; S Genesis 30:42
  • 17. S Genesis 20:3
  • 18. S Genesis 16:7; Genesis 48:16
  • 19. S Genesis 20:3
  • 20. S Genesis 22:1; S Exodus 3:4
  • 21. S Genesis 30:32
  • 22. Exodus 3:7
  • 23. Genesis 28:10-22
  • 24. S Genesis 28:18
  • 25. S Genesis 28:20
  • 26. S ver 3; Genesis 32:9
  • 27. 2 Samuel 20:1; 1 Kings 12:16
  • 28. Deuteronomy 15:3; Deuteronomy 23:20; Ruth 2:10; 2 Samuel 15:19; 1 Kings 8:41; Obadiah 1:11
  • 29. S Genesis 29:20
  • 30. S Genesis 30:42
  • 31. S Genesis 27:41
  • 32. S Genesis 24:63-64
  • 33. S Genesis 12:5
  • 34. S Genesis 25:20
  • 35. Genesis 35:27
  • 36. S Genesis 10:19
  • 37. Genesis 38:12,13; 1Sa 25:2,4,7; 2 Samuel 13:23
  • 38. ver 30,32,34-35; Genesis 35:2; Joshua 24:14; Judges 17:5; Judges 18:14,17,24,30; 1 Samuel 7:3; 1 Samuel 19:13; 2 Kings 23:24; Hosea 3:4
  • 39. S Genesis 27:36
  • 40. S Genesis 25:20
  • 41. ver 27
  • 42. ver 22; Exodus 2:15; Exodus 14:5; 1 Kings 18:46; 1 Kings 19:3; Jeremiah 26:21
  • 43. S Genesis 2:14
  • 44. ver 23,25; Genesis 37:25; Numbers 26:30; Numbers 32:1; Deuteronomy 3:10; Joshua 12:2; Jeremiah 22:6
  • 45. S Genesis 30:36
  • 46. S ver 21
  • 47. ver 37
  • 48. Exodus 14:9
  • 49. S ver 21
  • 50. S Genesis 25:20
  • 51. S Genesis 20:3; Job 33:15
  • 52. S Genesis 24:50
  • 53. S ver 21
  • 54. S Genesis 12:18
  • 55. S Genesis 27:36
  • 56. Genesis 34:29; 1 Samuel 30:2-3
  • 57. ver 20
  • 58. Exodus 15:20; Judges 11:34; 1 Samuel 10:5; 2 Samuel 6:5; Psalms 68:25; Isaiah 24:8; Jeremiah 31:4
  • 59. S Genesis 4:21
  • 60. ver 55; S Genesis 27:27; Ruth 1:14; Acts 20:37
  • 61. S ver 7; S Genesis 26:29
  • 62. S ver 5; ver 53
  • 63. S Genesis 24:50
  • 64. S Genesis 28:15; Job 29:2
  • 65. Genesis 44:8
  • 66. S ver 19; Judges 18:24
  • 67. S Genesis 20:11
  • 68. Genesis 44:9
  • 69. S ver 19
  • 70. Genesis 24:67
  • 71. S Genesis 16:1
  • 72. ver 37
  • 73. S ver 19
  • 74. S Genesis 24:63-64
  • 75. ver 37; Genesis 44:12
  • 76. Exodus 20:12; Leviticus 19:3,32; Deuteronomy 21:18; Deuteronomy 27:16; Jeremiah 35:18
  • 77. Leviticus 15:19-23
  • 78. ver 19
  • 79. 1 Samuel 19:5; 1 Samuel 20:32
  • 80. 1 Samuel 23:23; 1 Samuel 24:11
  • 81. ver 33
  • 82. ver 23
  • 83. Deuteronomy 1:16; Deuteronomy 16:18
  • 84. S Genesis 27:44
  • 85. S Genesis 30:27
  • 86. Genesis 30:33
  • 87. Exodus 22:13
  • 88. Psalms 132:4; 2 Corinthians 11:27
  • 89. S Genesis 27:44
  • 90. Genesis 29:30
  • 91. S Genesis 30:32
  • 92. S Genesis 29:15
  • 93. S ver 7
  • 94. S ver 5; S Exodus 3:15; 1 Chronicles 12:17
  • 95. S Genesis 24:12
  • 96. ver 53; Genesis 46:1; Isaiah 8:13
  • 97. S Genesis 21:22; Psalms 124:1-2
  • 98. S Genesis 3:17; Genesis 29:32
  • 99. S Genesis 24:50
  • 100. Genesis 30:32,42
  • 101. S Genesis 21:27; Genesis 26:28
  • 102. S Genesis 21:30; Joshua 24:27
  • 103. S Genesis 28:18
  • 104. ver 48,51,52
  • 105. S Genesis 21:30
  • 106. S ver 46
  • 107. S Genesis 21:30; Jeremiah 29:23; Jeremiah 42:5
  • 108. Joshua 11:3; Judges 10:17; Judges 11:29; 1 Samuel 7:5-6
  • 109. Genesis 16:6
  • 110. Deuteronomy 31:19; Joshua 24:27; Judges 11:10; 1 Samuel 12:5; 1 Samuel 20:14,23,42; Job 16:19; Jeremiah 29:23; Jeremiah 42:5; Micah 1:2
  • 111. S Genesis 21:30; S Deuteronomy 4:26; S Jeremiah 7:11
  • 112. S ver 46
  • 113. S Genesis 28:18
  • 114. S Genesis 21:30
  • 115. S ver 46
  • 116. S ver 7; S Genesis 26:29
  • 117. S Genesis 24:12; Genesis 28:13
  • 118. S Genesis 11:27
  • 119. S Genesis 16:5
  • 120. S Genesis 21:23,27
  • 121. S ver 42
  • 122. Genesis 46:1; Exodus 24:5; Leviticus 3:1
  • 123. S Genesis 26:30
  • 124. S ver 28; Ruth 1:9
  • 125. S Genesis 24:60; S Exodus 39:43
  • 126. Genesis 18:33; Genesis 30:25

Footnotes 4

  • [a]. That is, Northwest Mesopotamia
  • [b]. The Aramaic "Jegar Sahadutha" and the Hebrew "Galeed" both mean "witness heap."
  • [c]. "Mizpah" means "watchtower."
  • [d]. In Hebrew texts this verse (31:55) is numbered 32:1.

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

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