Genesis 31

1 Jacob learned that Laban's sons were talking behind his back: "Jacob has used our father's wealth to make himself rich at our father's expense."
2 At the same time, Jacob noticed that Laban had changed toward him. He wasn't treating him the same.
3 That's when God said to Jacob, "Go back home where you were born. I'll go with you."
4 So Jacob sent word for Rachel and Leah to meet him out in the field where his flocks were.
5 He said, "I notice that your father has changed toward me; he doesn't treat me the same as before. But the God of my father hasn't changed; he's still with me.
6 You know how hard I've worked for your father.
7 Still, your father has cheated me over and over, changing my wages time and again. But God never let him really hurt me.
8 If he said, 'Your wages will consist of speckled animals' the whole flock would start having speckled lambs and kids. And if he said, 'From now on your wages will be streaked animals' the whole flock would have streaked ones.
9 Over and over God used your father's livestock to reward me.
10 "Once, while the flocks were mating, I had a dream and saw the billy goats, all of them streaked, speckled, and mottled, mounting their mates.
11 In the dream an angel of God called out to me, 'Jacob!' "I said, 'Yes?'
12 "He said, 'Watch closely. Notice that all the goats in the flock that are mating are streaked, speckled, and mottled. I know what Laban's been doing to you.
13 I'm the God of Bethel where you consecrated a pillar and made a vow to me. Now be on your way, get out of this place, go home to your birthplace.'"
14 Rachel and Leah said, "Has he treated us any better?
15 Aren't we treated worse than outsiders? All he wanted was the money he got from selling us, and he's spent all that.
16 Any wealth that God has seen fit to return to us from our father is justly ours and our children's. Go ahead. Do what God told you."
17 Jacob did it. He put his children and his wives on camels
18 and gathered all his livestock and everything he had gotten, everything acquired in Paddan Aram, to go back home to his father Isaac in the land of Canaan.
19 Laban was off shearing sheep. Rachel stole her father's household gods.
20 And Jacob had concealed his plans so well that Laban the Aramean had no idea what was going on - he was totally in the dark.
21 Jacob got away with everything he had and was soon across the Euphrates headed for the hill country of Gilead.
22 Three days later, Laban got the news: "Jacob's run off."
23 Laban rounded up his relatives and chased after him. Seven days later they caught up with him in the hill country of Gilead.
24 That night God came to Laban the Aramean in a dream and said, "Be careful what you do to Jacob, whether good or bad."
25 When Laban reached him, Jacob's tents were pitched in the Gilead mountains; Laban pitched his tents there too.
26 "What do you mean," said Laban, "by keeping me in the dark and sneaking off, hauling my daughters off like prisoners of war?
27 Why did you run off like a thief in the night? Why didn't you tell me? Why, I would have sent you off with a great celebration - music, timbrels, flutes!
28 But you wouldn't permit me so much as a kiss for my daughters and grandchildren. It was a stupid thing for you to do.
29 If I had a mind to, I could destroy you right now, but the God of your father spoke to me last night, 'Be careful what you do to Jacob, whether good or bad.'
30 I understand. You left because you were homesick. But why did you steal my household gods?"
31 Jacob answered Laban, "I was afraid. I thought you would take your daughters away from me by brute force.
32 But as far as your gods are concerned, if you find that anybody here has them, that person dies. With all of us watching, look around. If you find anything here that belongs to you, take it." Jacob didn't know that Rachel had stolen the gods.
33 Laban went through Jacob's tent, Leah's tent, and the tents of the two maids but didn't find them. He went from Leah's tent to Rachel's.
34 But Rachel had taken the household gods, put them inside a camel cushion, and was sitting on them. When Laban had gone through the tent, searching high and low without finding a thing,
35 Rachel said to her father, "Don't think I'm being disrespectful, my master, that I can't stand before you, but I'm having my period." So even though he turned the place upside down in his search, he didn't find the household gods.
36 Now it was Jacob's turn to get angry. He lit into Laban: "So what's my crime, what wrong have I done you that you badger me like this?
37 You've ransacked the place. Have you turned up a single thing that's yours? Let's see it - display the evidence. Our two families can be the jury and decide between us.
38 "In the twenty years I've worked for you, ewes and she-goats never miscarried. I never feasted on the rams from your flock.
39 I never brought you a torn carcass killed by wild animals but that I paid for it out of my own pocket - actually, you made me pay whether it was my fault or not.
40 I was out in all kinds of weather, from torrid heat to freezing cold, putting in many a sleepless night.
41 For twenty years I've done this: I slaved away fourteen years for your two daughters and another six years for your flock 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 stuck with me, you would have sent me off penniless. But God saw the fix I was in and how hard I had worked and last night rendered his verdict."
43 Laban defended himself: "The daughters are my daughters, the children are my children, the flock is my flock - everything you see is mine. But what can I do about my daughters or for the children they've had?
44 So let's settle things between us, make a covenant - God will be the witness between us."
45 Jacob took a stone and set it upright as a pillar.
46 Jacob called his family around, "Get stones!" They gathered stones and heaped them up and then ate there beside the pile of stones.
47 Laban named it in Aramaic, Yegar-sahadutha (Witness Monument); Jacob echoed the naming in Hebrew, Galeed (Witness Monument).
48 Laban said, "This monument of stones will be a witness, beginning now, between you and me." (That's why it is called Galeed - Witness Monument.)
49 It is also called Mizpah (Watchtower) because Laban said, "God keep watch between you and me when we are out of each other's sight.
50 If you mistreat my daughters or take other wives when there's no one around to see you, God will see you and stand witness between us."
51 Laban continued to Jacob, "This monument of stones and this stone pillar that I have set up is a witness,
52 a witness that I won't cross this line to hurt you and you won't cross this line to hurt me.
53 The God of Abraham and the God of Nahor (the God of their ancestor) will keep things straight between us."
54 Then Jacob offered a sacrifice on the mountain and worshiped, calling in all his family members to the meal. They ate and slept that night on the mountain.
55 Laban got up early the next morning, kissed his grandchildren and his daughters, blessed them, and then set off for 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.

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