Genesis 31

Jacob Leaves Secretly for Canaan

1 Now Jacob heard the words of Laban's sons, saying, "Jacob has taken away all that was our father's, and from what belonged to our father he has made all this wealth."
2 Jacob saw the attitude of Laban, and behold, it was not friendly toward him as formerly.
3 Then the LORD said to Jacob, "1Return to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and 2I will be with you."
4 So Jacob sent and called Rachel and Leah to his flock in the field,
5 and said to them, "3I see your father's attitude, that it is not friendly toward me as formerly, but 4the God of my father has been with me.
6 "5You know that I have served your father with all my strength.
7 "Yet your father has 6cheated me and 7changed my wages ten times; however, 8God did not allow him to hurt me.
8 "If 9he spoke thus, 'The speckled shall be your wages,' then all the flock brought forth speckled; and if he spoke thus, 'The striped shall be your wages,' then all the flock brought forth striped.
9 "Thus God has 10taken away your father's livestock and given them to me.
10 "And it came about at the time when the flock were mating that I lifted up my eyes and saw in a dream, and behold, the male goats which were mating were striped, speckled, and mottled.
11 "Then 11the angel of God said to me in the dream, 'Jacob,' and I said, 'Here I am.'
12 "He said, 'Lift up now your eyes and see that all the male goats which are mating are striped, speckled, and mottled; for 12I have seen all that Laban has been doing to you.
13 'I am 13the God of Bethel, where * you 14anointed a pillar, where * you made a vow to Me; now arise, leave this land, and 15return to the land of your birth.' "
14 Rachel and Leah said to him, "Do we still have any portion or inheritance in our father's house?
15 "Are we not reckoned by him as foreigners? For 16he has sold us, and has also entirely consumed our purchase price.
16 "Surely all the wealth which God has taken away from our father belongs to us and our children; now then, do whatever * God has said to you."
17 Then Jacob arose and put his children and his wives upon camels;
18 and he drove away all his livestock and all his property which he had gathered, his acquired livestock which he had gathered in Paddan-aram, 17to go to the land of Canaan to his father Isaac.
19 When Laban had gone to shear his flock, then Rachel stole the 18household idols that were her father's.
20 And Jacob deceived Laban the Aramean by not telling him that he was fleeing.
21 So he fled with all that he had; and he arose and crossed the Euphrates River, and set his face toward the hill country of 19Gilead.

Laban Pursues Jacob

22 When it was told Laban on the third day that Jacob had fled,
23 then he took his kinsmen with him and pursued him a distance of seven days' journey, and he overtook him in the hill country of Gilead.
24 20God came to Laban the Aramean in a 21dream of the night and said to him, "22Be careful that you do not speak to Jacob either good or bad."
25 Laban caught up with Jacob. Now Jacob had pitched his tent in the hill country, and Laban with his kinsmen camped in the hill country of Gilead.
26 Then Laban said to Jacob, "What have you done by deceiving me and carrying away my daughters like captives of the sword?
27 "Why did you flee secretly and deceive me, and did not tell me so that I might have sent you away with joy and with songs, with 23timbrel and with 24lyre;
28 and did not allow me 25to kiss my sons and my daughters? Now you have done foolishly.
29 "It is in my power to do you harm, but 26the God of your father spoke to me last night, saying, '27Be careful not to speak either good or bad to Jacob.'
30 "Now you have indeed gone away because you longed greatly for your father's house; but why did you steal 28my gods?"
31 Then Jacob replied to Laban, "Because I was afraid, for I thought that you would take your daughters from me by force.
32 "29The one with whom you find your gods shall not live; in the presence of our kinsmen point out what is yours among my belongings and take it for yourself." For 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 maids, but he did not find them. Then he went out of Leah's tent and entered Rachel's tent.
34 Now Rachel had taken the household idols and put them in the camel's saddle, and she sat on them. And Laban felt through all the tent but did not find them.
35 She said to her father, "Let not my lord be angry that I cannot * 30rise before * you, for the manner of women is upon me." So he searched but did not find the 31household idols.
36 Then Jacob became angry and contended with Laban; and Jacob said to Laban, "What is my transgression? What is my sin that you have hotly pursued me?
37 "Though you have felt through all my goods, what have you found of all your household goods? Set it here before my kinsmen and your 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, nor have I eaten the rams of your flocks.
39 "That which was torn of beasts I did not bring to you; I bore the loss of it myself. You required it of my hand whether stolen by day or stolen by night.
40 "Thus I was: by day the heat consumed me and the frost by night, and my sleep fled from my eyes.
41 "These twenty years I have been in your house; 32I served you fourteen * years for your two daughters and six years for your flock, and you 33changed my wages ten times.
42 "If 34the God of my father, the God of Abraham, and the fear of Isaac, had not been for me, surely now you would have sent me away empty-handed. 35God has seen my affliction and the toil of my hands, so He 36rendered judgment last night."

The Covenant of Mizpah

43 Then Laban replied to Jacob, "The daughters are my daughters, and the children are my children, and 37the flocks are my flocks, and all that you see is mine. But what can I do this day to these my daughters or to their children whom they have borne?
44 "So now come, let us 38make a covenant, you and I, and 39let it be a witness between you and me."
45 Then Jacob took 40a stone and set it up as a pillar.
46 Jacob said to his kinsmen, "Gather stones." So they took stones and made a heap, and they ate there by the heap.
47 Now Laban 41called it Jegar-sahadutha, but Jacob called it Galeed.
48 Laban said, "42This heap is a witness between you and me this day." Therefore * it was named * Galeed,
49 and 43Mizpah, for he said, "May the LORD watch between you and me when we are absent one from the other.
50 "If you mistreat my daughters, or if you take wives besides my daughters, although no man is with us, see, 44God is witness between you and me."
51 Laban said to Jacob, "Behold this heap and behold the pillar which I have set between you and me.
52 "This heap is a witness, and the pillar is a witness, that I will not pass by this heap to you for harm, and you will not pass by this heap and this pillar to me, for harm.
53 "45The God of Abraham and the God of Nahor, the God of their father, 46judge between us." So Jacob swore by 47the fear of his father Isaac.
54 Then Jacob 48offered a sacrifice on the mountain, and called his kinsmen to the meal *; and they ate the meal and spent the night on the mountain.
55 Early in the morning Laban arose, and 49kissed his sons and his daughters and blessed them. Then Laban departed and returned to his place.

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 49

  • 1. Genesis 32:9
  • 2. Genesis 28:15
  • 3. Genesis 31:2
  • 4. Genesis 21:22; Genesis 28:13, 15; Genesis 31:29, 42, 53; Isaiah 41:10; Hebrews 13:5
  • 5. Genesis 30:29
  • 6. Genesis 29:25
  • 7. Genesis 31:41
  • 8. Genesis 15:1; Genesis 31:29
  • 9. Genesis 30:32
  • 10. Genesis 31:1, 16
  • 11. Genesis 16:7-11; Genesis 22:11, 15; Genesis 31:13; Genesis 48:16
  • 12. Exodus 3:7
  • 13. Genesis 28:13, 19
  • 14. Genesis 28:18, 20
  • 15. Genesis 28:15; Genesis 32:9
  • 16. Gen 29:20, 23, 27
  • 17. Genesis 35:27
  • 18. Genesis 31:30, 34; Genesis 35:2; Judges 17:5; 1 Samuel 19:13; Hosea 3:4
  • 19. Genesis 37:25
  • 20. Genesis 20:3; Genesis 31:29
  • 21. Genesis 20:3, 6; Genesis 31:11
  • 22. Genesis 24:50; Genesis 31:7, 29
  • 23. Exodus 15:20
  • 24. Genesis 4:21
  • 25. Genesis 31:55
  • 26. Gen 31:5, 24, 42, 53
  • 27. Genesis 31:24
  • 28. Genesis 31:19; Joshua 24:2; Judges 18:24
  • 29. Genesis 44:9
  • 30. Leviticus 19:32
  • 31. Genesis 31:19
  • 32. Genesis 29:27, 30
  • 33. Genesis 31:7
  • 34. Gen 31:5, 29, 53
  • 35. Genesis 29:32; Exodus 3:7
  • 36. Genesis 31:24, 29
  • 37. Genesis 31:1
  • 38. Genesis 21:27, 32; Genesis 26:28
  • 39. Joshua 24:27
  • 40. Genesis 28:18; Joshua 24:26, 27
  • 41. Joshua 22:34
  • 42. Joshua 24:27
  • 43. Judges 11:29; 1 Samuel 7:5, 6
  • 44. Jeremiah 29:23; Jeremiah 42:5
  • 45. Genesis 28:13
  • 46. Genesis 16:5
  • 47. Genesis 31:42
  • 48. Exodus 18:12
  • 49. Genesis 31:28, 43

Footnotes 42

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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