Genesis 31

1 After that, Jacob heard the words of the sons of Laban, that said, Jacob hath taken away all things that were our father's, and of his chattel Jacob is made rich, and noble (and Jacob was made rich, and noble, out of our father's possessions).
2 Also Jacob perceived the face of Laban, that it was not against him as yesterday, and the third day ago, (And Jacob saw that Laban's face was not favourable toward him, like it was yesterday, and the third day ago,)
3 mostly for the Lord (had) said to Jacob, Turn again into the land of thy fathers, and to thy generation (Return to the land of thy fathers, and to thy kindred), and I shall be with thee.
4 (And so) Jacob sent (for), and called Rachel and Leah (out) into the field, where he kept [the] flocks,
5 and he said to them, I see the face of your father, that it is not against me as yesterday, and the third day ago; but God of my father was with me. (and he said to them, I see that your father's face is not favourable toward me, like it was yesterday, and the third day ago; but the God of my father is with me.)
6 And ye know that with all my strengths I have served your father;
7 but and your father hath deceived me, and changed my meed ten times; and nevertheless God suffered not him to harm me. (but your father hath deceived me, and changed my reward ten times; but God hath not allowed him to harm me.)
8 If he said any time (If any time he said), Diverse(ly)-coloured sheep shall be thy meed, all the sheep brought forth diverse(ly)-coloured lambs; forsooth when he said, on the contrary, Thou shalt take all the white for thy meed, all the flocks brought forth white beasts;
9 and God took away the substance of your father (and so God took away your father's property), and gave it to me.
10 For after that the time of conceiving of sheep came, I raised [up] mine eyes, and saw in sleep males diverse, and spotty, and of diverse colours, going up on females. (For when the time of conceiving for the sheep came, I raised up my eyes, and saw in my sleep males diverse, and spotted, and of diverse colours, going up on the females.)
11 And the angel of the Lord said to me in sleep, Jacob! and I answered, I am ready (I am here).
12 Which said, Raise [up] thine eyes, and see all [the] males (that be) diverse, [and] besprinkled, and spotty (and spotted), going [up] on [the] females; for I have seen all things which Laban hath done to thee;
13 I am (the) God of Bethel, where thou anointedest a stone, and madest a vow to me. Now therefore rise thou (up), and go out of this land, and turn again into the land of thy birth (and return to the land of thy birth).
14 And Rachel and Leah answered, Whether we have anything residue, or left, in the chattels, and heritage of our father? (And Rachel and Leah asked, Is there anything left here for us, among our father's possessions, yea of our inheritance?)
15 Whether he areckoned not, or held, us (as) aliens, and sold (us), and ate our price? (Did he not treat us like foreigners, or like strangers, and sell us, and then eat up all the money that was paid for us?)
16 But God took away the riches of our father, and gave those to us, and to our sons; wherefore do thou all things which God hath commanded to thee.
17 Forsooth Jacob rose, and put his free children and wives on camels, and went forth; (So Jacob rose up, and put his children and his wives on camels, and went forth;)
18 and he took all his cattle, (and his) flocks, and whatever thing he had gotten in Mesopotamia (and whatever he had gotten in Paddan-aram), and went (back) to Isaac, his father, into the land of Canaan.
19 In that time Laban went to shear sheep, and Rachel stole the idols of her father. (Now at that time Laban went out to shear sheep, and while he was away, Rachel stole her father's household idols.)
20 And Jacob would not acknowledge to the father of his wives, that he would flee;
21 and when he had gone, as well he as all things that were of his right, and when he had passed [over] the water, and he went against the hill of Gilead, (and so when he had gone forth, he as well as all of the things that were rightfully his, and when he had crossed over the Euphrates River, and had gone toward the hill country of Gilead,)
22 it was told to Laban, in the third day, that Jacob fled. (Laban learned, on the third day, that Jacob had fled.)
23 And Laban took his brethren [with him], and pursued him seven days, and [over]took him in the hill of Gilead. (And Laban took his kinsmen with him, and pursued Jacob for seven days, and finally overtook him in the hill country of Gilead.)
24 And Laban saw in sleep the Lord saying to him, Beware that thou speak not anything sharply against Jacob.
25 And then Jacob had stretched forth the tabernacle in the hill; and when Laban had followed Jacob with his brethren, Laban set a tent in the same hill of Gilead; (And Jacob had pitched his tent in the hill country of Gilead; and when Laban and his kinsmen caught up to him, Laban pitched his tent on the same hill;)
26 and he said to Jacob, Why hast thou done so, that the while I knew not, thou wouldest drive away my daughters as captives, either (as those) taken prisoners, by sword? (and then he said to Jacob, Why hast thou done this, that while I knew not, thou hast driven away my daughters like captives, or like prisoners, taken with the sword?)
27 Why wouldest thou flee the while I knew not, neither wouldest show (it) to me, that I should follow thee with joy, and songs, and tympans, and harps? (Why didest thou flee while I knew not, nor toldest me first, so that I could send thee on thy way with joy, and with songs, and tambourines, and harps?)
28 Thou sufferedest not that I should kiss my sons and daughters; thou hast wrought follily. (Thou hast not allowed me to kiss good-bye my grandsons and my daughters; yea, thou hast done foolishly.)
29 And now soothly mine hand may yield evil to thee (And now truly my hand should yield evil to thee), but the God of thy father said to me yesterday, Beware that thou speak not any hard thing with Jacob.
30 Suppose, if thou covetedest to go to thy kinsmen, and the house of thy father was in desire to thee, why hast thou stolen my gods? (And even if thou covetedest to go to thy kinsmen, and thou desiredest to return to thy father's house, why hast thou stolen my household gods?)
31 Jacob answered, That I went forth while thou knewest not, I dreaded lest thou wouldest take away thy daughters from me violently; (And Jacob answered, I went away while thou knewest not, for I feared that thou wouldest violently take away thy daughters from me;)
32 soothly that thou reprovest me of theft, at whomever thou findest thy gods, be he slain before our brethren; seek thou, (for) whatever thing of thine (that) thou findest at me, and take it away (but for thou hast accused me of theft, yea, with whomever thou findest thy gods, be he killed here before all our kinsmen; seek thou, and whatever thing of thine that thou findest with me, take it away). Jacob said these things, and knew not that Rachel had stolen the idols.
33 And so Laban entered into the tabernacle(s) of Jacob, and of Leah, and of ever either menial, and he found not; and when Laban had entered into the tent of Rachel, (And so Laban entered into the tents of Jacob, and of Leah, and of both slave-girls, but he did not find the idols; but before Laban entered into Rachel's tent,)
34 she hasted, and hid the idols under the strewings of the camel, and she sat above. (she hastened, and hid the idols in the camel-bag, and then she sat upon them.)
35 And she said to Laban, seeking (throughout) all the tent, and finding nothing, My lord, be (thou) not wroth that I may not rise (up) before thee, for it befelled now to me by the custom of women (for it hath befallen now to me by the custom of women); so the busyness of the seeker was scorned.
36 And Jacob swelled, and said with strife, For what cause of me, and for what sin of me, hast thou come so fiercely after me, (And Jacob swelled with anger, and said, What have I done, and what have I sinned, that thou shouldest come after me so fiercely,)
37 and hast sought (through) all the purtenance of mine house(hold)? What hast thou found of all the chattel of thine house(hold)? Put thou here before my brethren and thy brethren, and deem they betwixt me and thee (Put thou it here before my kinsmen and thy kinsmen, and let them judge between me and thee).
38 Was I (not) with thee therefore twenty years? (Was I not with thee for twenty years?) Thy sheep and (thy) goats were not barren, I ate not the rams of thy flock,
39 neither I showed to thee anything taken of a beast; I yielded all [the] harm; whatever thing perished by theft, thou askedest of me; (I never showed thee anything caught by a beast; I even yielded to thee for any harm that was done; yea, whatever thing perished by theft, thou askedest for it from me, and thou received it;)
40 I was anguished in day and night with heat and frost, and sleep fled from mine eyes;
41 so I served thee by twenty years in thine house (but I served thee for twenty years in thy household), fourteen years for thy daughters, and six years for thy flocks; and thou changedest my meed ten times.
42 But if [the] God of my father Abraham, and the dread of Isaac had not helped me, peradventure now thou haddest left me naked; the Lord hath beheld my tormenting and the travail of mine hands, and reproved thee yesterday (and yesterday rebuked thee).
43 Laban answered to Jacob, The daughters, and the sons, and the flocks, and all things which thou seest, be mine; what may I do to my sons, and to the sons of my sons? (but now, what can I do about my daughters, or the children to whom they have given birth?)
44 Therefore come thou, and make we bond of peace, that it be a witnessing betwixt me and thee. (And so come thou, and let us make a covenant, and let it be a witness between me and thee.)
45 And so Jacob took a stone, and raised it (up) into a title, either a sign, (And so Jacob took a stone, and set it up as a sacred pillar,)
46 and said to his brethren, Bring ye stones; which gathered, and made an heap, and ate on it. (and said to his kinsmen, Bring ye some stones; and they gathered some, and made a heap, or a pile, out of them, and then they ate a meal beside it.)
47 And Laban called it The heap of witness, and Jacob called it The heap of witnessing; ever either called it by the property of his (own) language. (And Laban called it Jegarsahadutha, and Jacob called it Galeed; each named it in his own language.)
48 And Laban said, This heap shall be (a) witness betwixt me and thee today, and therefore the name thereof was called Galeed, that is, The heap of witness.
49 And Laban added, The Lord behold, and deem betwixt us, when we shall go away from you;
50 if thou shalt torment my daughters, and if thou shalt bring in other wives on them, none is witness of our word, except God, which is present, and beholdeth. (if thou shalt torment my daughters, or if thou shalt take other wives besides them, no one is a witness of our word, except God, who is present here, and beholdeth all of this.)
51 And again Laban said to Jacob, Lo! this heap, and the stone, (or the pillar,) which I have raised (up) betwixt me and thee,
52 shall be witness(es); soothly this heap, and the stone be into witnessing (this heap, and the stone, shall be witnesses for both of us), forsooth if I shall pass (over) it, and go to thee, either (if) thou shalt pass (over) it, and think (to do) evil to me.
53 God of Abraham, and God of Nahor, [the] God of the father of them, deem betwixt us. Therefore Jacob swore by the dread of his father Isaac;
54 and when slain sacrifices were offered (there) in the hill (country), Jacob called his brethren to eat bread (Jacob called his kinsmen to eat with him), and when they had eaten, they dwelled there (all night).
55 Forsooth Laban rose by night, and kissed his sons, and daughters, and blessed them, and turned again into his place. (And the next day, Laban rose up early, and kissed his grandsons, and his daughters, and blessed them, and then returned to his 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


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

Copyright © 2001 by Terence P. Noble. For personal use only.