Genesis 31 (NRSV)
Jacob Flees with Family and Flocks
Now Jacob heard that the sons of Laban were saying, “Jacob has taken all that was our father’s; he has gained all this wealth from what belonged to our father.” 2And Jacob saw that Laban did not regard him as favorably as he did before.
3Then the Lord said to Jacob, “Return to the land of your ancestors and to your kindred, and I will be with you.”
4So Jacob sent and called Rachel and Leah into the field where his flock was, 5and said to them, “I see that your father does not regard me as favorably as he did before. But the God of my father has been with me. 6You know that I have served your father with all my strength; 7yet your father has cheated me and changed my wages ten times, but God did not permit him to harm me. 8If he said, ‘The speckled shall be your wages,’ then all the flock bore speckled; and if he said, ‘The striped shall be your wages,’ then all the flock bore striped. 9Thus God has taken away the livestock of your father, and given them to me.
10″During the mating of the flock I once had a dream in which I looked up and saw that the male goats that leaped upon the flock were striped, speckled, and mottled. 11Then the angel of God said to me in the dream, ‘Jacob,’ and I said, ‘Here I am!’ 12And he said, ‘Look up and see that all the goats that leap on the flock are striped, speckled, and mottled; for I have seen all that Laban is doing to you. 13I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed a pillar and made a vow to me. Now leave this land at once and return to the land of your birth.’“
14Then Rachel and Leah answered him, “Is there any portion or inheritance left to us in our father’s house? 15Are we not regarded by him as foreigners? For he has sold us, and he has been using up the money given for us. 16All the property that God has taken away from our father belongs to us and to our children; now then, do whatever God has said to you.”
Rachel and Leah complain about the loss of their inheritance because of their father’s dishonorable behavior. Consider for a moment the inheritance our Heavenly Father is keeping safe for you. Can the thought of that inheritance encourage you to good thoughts, words, and deeds today?
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.
–1 Peter 1:3-5 (NIV)
17So Jacob arose, and set his children and his wives on camels; 18and he drove away all his livestock, all the property that he had gained, the livestock in his possession that he had acquired in Paddan-aram, to go to his father Isaac in the land of Canaan.
19Now Laban had gone to shear his sheep, and Rachel stole her father’s household gods. 20And Jacob deceived Laban the Aramean, in that he did not tell him that he intended to flee. 21So he fled with all that he had; starting out he crossed the Euphrates, and set his face toward the hill country of Gilead.
Laban Overtakes Jacob
22On the third day Laban was told that Jacob had fled. 23So he took his kinsfolk with him and pursued him for seven days until he caught up with him in the hill country of Gilead. 24But God came to Laban the Aramean in a dream by night, and said to him, “Take heed that you say not a word to Jacob, either good or bad.”
25Laban overtook Jacob. Now Jacob had pitched his tent in the hill country, and Laban with his kinsfolk camped in the hill country of Gilead. 26Laban said to Jacob, “What have you done? You have deceived me, and carried away my daughters like captives of the sword. 27Why did you flee secretly and deceive me and not tell me? I would have sent you away with mirth and songs, with tambourine and lyre. 28And why did you not permit me to kiss my sons and my daughters farewell? What you have done is foolish. 29It is in my power to do you harm; but the God of your father spoke to me last night, saying, ‘Take heed that you speak to Jacob neither good nor bad.’ 30Even though you had to go because you longed greatly for your father’s house, why did you steal my gods?”
31Jacob answered Laban, “Because I was afraid, for I thought that you would take your daughters from me by force. 32But anyone with whom you find your gods shall not live. In the presence of our kinsfolk, point out what I have that is yours, and take it.” Now Jacob did not know that Rachel had stolen the gods.
33So 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. And he went out of Leah’s tent, and entered Rachel’s. 34Now Rachel had taken the household gods and put them in the camel’s saddle, and sat on them. Laban felt all about in the tent, but did not find them.
35And she said to her father, “Let not my lord be angry that I cannot rise before you, for the way of women is upon me.” So he searched, but did not find the household gods.
The Household Gods
by Richard Chess
If, from afar, they saw
her with him at the well
they did not say.
Nor, when she ran
past their shelf, new love
and his arrival, did they
Then, as her sister increased, son by
son by son, they did not increase
nor did they
diminish as Rachel
diminished with the birth
of each guarantee
of that one’s future, poorly loved
They kept no record
of Laban’s flocks, husbanded
by that son-in-law, how
many speckled, how
many dark. Their wisdom
was their refusal to know.
Even on the road
to Canaan, when she sat
on them and refused
to rise for father, how could they
have been anything other
than true to their nature,
speechless, as Rachel, having married
her talent for deception
to Jacob’s, revealed
that the way
of women was upon her?
Laban Searching Jacob’s Baggage for the Stolen Idols, Laurent de La Hire, 1647 (The Louvre). Click HERE to see Laban conducting a very thorough snoop!
36Then Jacob became angry, and upbraided Laban. Jacob said to Laban, “What is my offense? What is my sin, that you have hotly pursued me? 37Although you have felt about through all my goods, what have you found of all your household goods? Set it here before my kinsfolk and your kinsfolk, so 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. 39That which was torn by wild beasts I did not bring to you; I bore the loss of it myself; of my hand you required it, whether stolen by day or stolen by night. 40It was like this with me: by day the heat consumed me, and the cold by night, and my sleep fled from my eyes. 41These twenty years I have been in your house; I served you fourteen years for your two daughters, and six years for your flock, and you have changed my wages ten times. 42If the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had not been on my side, surely now you would have sent me away empty-handed. God saw my affliction and the labor of my hands, and rebuked you last night.”
Laban and Jacob Make a Covenant
43Then 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 today about these daughters of mine, or about their children whom they have borne? 44Come now, let us make a covenant, you and I; and let it be a witness between you and me.”
45So Jacob took a stone, and set it up as a pillar. 46And Jacob said to his kinsfolk, “Gather stones,” and they took stones, and made a heap; and they ate there by the heap. 47Laban called it Jegar-sahadutha: but Jacob called it Galeed.
48Laban said, “This heap is a witness between you and me today.” Therefore he called it Galeed, 49and the pillar Mizpah, for he said, “The Lord watch between you and me, when we are absent one from the other. 50If you ill-treat my daughters, or if you take wives in addition to my daughters, though no one else is with us, remember that God is witness between you and me.”
51Then Laban said to Jacob, “See this heap and see the pillar, which I have set between you and me. 52This heap is a witness, and the pillar is a witness, that I will not pass beyond this heap to you, and you will not pass beyond this heap and this pillar to me, for harm. 53May the God of Abraham and the God of Nahor” —the God of their father—“judge between us.”
Bible commentator Dr. Donald Grey Barnhouse wrote: “In effect, the pillar of Mizpah meant, ‘If you come over on my side of this line, the pact is void and I will kill you.’ The covenant breaker would need God to take care of him, because the other would shoot to kill.” Mizpah was never meant to be a nice sentiment — despite what your “Mizpah coin” might say.
This place is called Mizpah because Laban and Jacob call on God to witness their covenant and to monitor their faithfulness to the covenant. Neither man will cross the boundary with hostile intentions. The covenant ceremony is completed with a sacrificial offering to God and with a covenant meal.
–Linda B. Hinton
So Jacob swore by the Fear of his father Isaac, 54and Jacob offered a sacrifice on the height and called his kinsfolk to eat bread; and they ate bread and tarried all night in the hill country.
55Early in the morning Laban rose up, and kissed his grandchildren and his daughters and blessed them; then he departed and returned home.
Proverbs 10:12 (English Standard Version)
Hatred stirs up strife,
but love covers all offenses.
So much to dislike, so much to forgive, as we read the stories of these people, as we think of our own lives. So much to thank God for, for His wonderful kindness and His glory and grace, shared even with us. Be grateful HERE.
The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.