Jacob Separates from Laban
1Now Jacob heard what Laban’s sons were saying: “Jacob has taken all that was our father’s and has built this wealth from what belonged to our father.” 2And Jacob saw from Laban’s face that his attitude toward him was not the same as before.
3The Lord said to him, “Go back to the land of your ancestors and to your family, and I will be with you.”#Gn 28:15; 32:10
4Jacob had Rachel and Leah called to the field where his flocks were. 5He said to them, “I can see from your father’s face that his attitude toward me is not the same as before, but the God of my father has been with me. 6You know that with all my strength I have served your father#Gn 30:29 7and that he has cheated me and changed my wages ten times. But God has not let him harm me. 8If he said, ‘The spotted sheep will be your wages,’ then all the sheep were born spotted. If he said, ‘The streaked sheep will be your wages,’ then all the sheep were born streaked.#Gn 30:32 9God has taken away your father’s herds and given them to me.
10“When the flocks were breeding, I saw in a dream that the streaked, spotted, and speckled males were mating with the females. 11In that dream the angel of God said to me, ‘Jacob!’ and I said, ‘Here I am.’ 12And he said, ‘Look up and see: all the males that are mating with the flocks are streaked, spotted, and speckled, for I have seen all that Laban has been doing to you.#Gn 30:37–40; Ex 3:7 13I am the God of Bethel, where you poured oil on the stone marker and made a solemn vow to me.#Gn 28:18–19 Get up, leave this land, and return to your native land.’”
14Then Rachel and Leah answered him, “Do we have any portion or inheritance in our father’s family? 15Are we not regarded by him as outsiders? For he has sold us#Gn 29:19–30 and has certainly spent our purchase price. 16In fact, all the wealth that God has taken away from our father belongs to us and to our children. So do whatever God has said to you.”
17So Jacob got up and put his children and wives on the camels. 18He took all the livestock and possessions he had acquired in Paddan-aram, and he drove his herds to go to the land of Canaan, to his father Isaac. 19When Laban had gone to shear his sheep, Rachel stole her father’s household idols.#Jdg 17:5; 1Sm 15:23; 19:13; Ezk 21:21; Hs 3:4; Zch 10:2 20And Jacob deceived#31:20 Lit And he stole the heart of Laban the Aramean, not telling him that he was fleeing. 21He fled with all his possessions, crossed the Euphrates, and headed for#31:21 Lit and set his face to the hill country of Gilead.
Laban Overtakes Jacob
22On the third day Laban was told that Jacob had fled. 23So he took his relatives with him, pursued Jacob for seven days, and overtook him in the hill country of Gilead. 24But God came to Laban the Aramean in a dream at night. “Watch yourself!” God warned him. “Don’t say anything to Jacob, either good or bad.”#Gn 24:50; 31:29; 2Sm 13:22
25When Laban overtook Jacob, Jacob had pitched his tent in the hill country, and Laban and his relatives also pitched their tents in the hill country of Gilead. 26Laban said to Jacob, “What have you done? You have deceived me and taken my daughters away like prisoners of war! 27Why did you secretly flee from me, deceive me, and not tell me? I would have sent you away with joy and singing, with tambourines and lyres, 28but you didn’t even let me kiss my grandchildren and my daughters. You have acted foolishly. 29I could do you great harm, but last night the God of your father said to me, ‘Watch yourself! Don’t say anything to Jacob, either good or bad.’ 30Now you have gone off because you long for your father’s family — but why have you stolen my gods?” #Gn 31:19; Jos 24:2; Jdg 18:24
31Jacob answered, “I was afraid, for I thought you would take your daughters from me by force. 32If you find your gods with anyone here, he will not live!#Gn 44:9 Before our relatives, point out anything that is yours and take it.” Jacob did not know that Rachel had stolen the idols.
33So Laban went into Jacob’s tent, Leah’s tent, and the tents of the two concubines,#31:33 Lit servants but he found nothing. When he left Leah’s tent, he went into Rachel’s tent. 34Now Rachel had taken Laban’s household idols, put them in the saddlebag of the camel, and sat on them. Laban searched the whole tent but found nothing.
35She said to her father, “Don’t be angry, my lord, that I cannot stand up in your presence;#Lv 19:32 I am having my period.” So Laban searched, but could not find the household idols.
Jacob’s Covenant with Laban
36Then Jacob became incensed and brought charges against Laban. “What is my crime?” he said to Laban. “What is my sin, that you have pursued me? 37You’ve searched all my possessions! Have you found anything of yours?#31:37 Lit What have you found from all of the possessions of your house? Put it here before my relatives and yours, and let them decide between the two of us. 38I’ve been with you these twenty years. Your ewes and female goats have not miscarried, and I have not eaten the rams from your flock. 39I did not bring you any of the flock torn by wild beasts; I myself bore the loss. You demanded payment from me for what was stolen by day or by night. 40There I was — the heat consumed me by day and the frost by night, and sleep fled from my eyes. 41For twenty years in your household I served you — fourteen years for your two daughters and six years for your flocks#Gn 29:27,30 — and you have changed my wages ten times! 42If the God of my father, the God of Abraham, the Fear of Isaac, had not been with me, certainly now you would have sent me off empty-handed. But God has seen my affliction and my hard work,#31:42 Lit and the work of my hands and he issued his verdict last night.”
43Then Laban answered Jacob, “The daughters are my daughters; the children, my children; and the flocks, my flocks! Everything you see is mine! But what can I do today for these daughters of mine or for the children they have borne? 44Come now, let’s make a covenant, you and I.#Gn 21:27,32; 26:28 Let it be a witness between the two of us.”
45So Jacob picked out a stone and set it up as a marker.#Jos 24:26–27 46Then Jacob said to his relatives, “Gather stones.” And they took stones and made a mound, then ate there by the mound. 47Laban named the mound Jegar-sahadutha, but Jacob named it Galeed.#31:47 Jegar-sahadutha is Aramaic, and Galeed is Hb; both names = Mound of Witness
48Then Laban said, “This mound is a witness between you and me today.” Therefore the place was called Galeed 49and also Mizpah,#31:49 = Watchtower#Jdg 11:29; 1Sm 7:5–6 for he said, “May the Lord watch between you and me when we are out of each other’s sight. 50If you mistreat my daughters or take other wives, though no one is with us, understand that God will be a witness between you and me.”#Jdg 11:10; 1Sm 12:5; Jb 16:19; Jr 42:5; Mc 1:2 51Laban also said to Jacob, “Look at this mound and the marker I have set up between you and me. 52This mound is a witness and the marker is a witness that I will not pass beyond this mound to you, and you will not pass beyond this mound and this marker to do me harm. 53The God of Abraham, and the gods#Jos 24:2 of Nahor — the gods of their father#31:53 Two Hb mss, LXX omit the gods of their father — will judge between us.” And Jacob swore by the Fear of his father Isaac. 54Then Jacob offered a sacrifice on the mountain and invited his relatives to eat a meal. So they ate a meal and spent the night on the mountain. 55Laban got up early in the morning, kissed his grandchildren and daughters, and blessed them. Then Laban left to return home.
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Flight from Laban. 1#Jacob flees with his family from Laban. The strife that has always accompanied Jacob continues as Laban’s sons complain, “he has taken everything that belonged to our father”; the brothers’ complaint echoes Esau’s in 27:36. Rachel and Leah overcome their mutual hostility and are able to leave together, a harbinger of the reconciliation with Esau in chap. 33. Jacob heard that Laban’s sons were saying, “Jacob has taken everything that belonged to our father, and he has produced all this wealth from our father’s property.” 2Jacob perceived, too, that Laban’s attitude toward him was not what it had previously been. 3Then the Lord said to Jacob: Return to the land of your ancestors, where you were born, and I will be with you.#Gn 26:3; 28:15; 32:10.
4So Jacob sent for Rachel and Leah to meet him in the field where his flock was. 5There he said to them: “I have noticed that your father’s attitude toward me is not as it was in the past; but the God of my father has been with me. 6You know well that with all my strength I served your father; 7yet your father cheated me and changed my wages ten times. God, however, did not let him do me any harm.#Jdt 8:26. 8Whenever your father said, ‘The speckled animals will be your wages,’ the entire flock would bear speckled young; whenever he said, ‘The streaked animals will be your wages,’ the entire flock would bear streaked young. 9So God took away your father’s livestock and gave it to me. 10Once, during the flock’s mating season, I had a dream in which I saw he-goats mating that were streaked, speckled and mottled. 11In the dream God’s angel said to me, ‘Jacob!’ and I replied, ‘Here I am!’ 12Then he said: ‘Look up and see. All the he-goats that are mating are streaked, speckled and mottled, for I have seen all the things that Laban has been doing to you. 13I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed a sacred pillar and made a vow to me. Get up now! Leave this land and return to the land of your birth.’”#Gn 28:18.
14Rachel and Leah answered him: “Do we still have an heir’s portion in our father’s house? 15Are we not regarded by him as outsiders?#Outsiders: lit., “foreign women”; they lacked the favored legal status of native women. Used up: lit., “eaten, consumed”; the bridal price that a man received for giving his daughter in marriage was legally reserved as her inalienable dowry. Perhaps this is the reason that Rachel took the household images belonging to Laban. He not only sold us; he has even used up the money that he got for us! 16All the wealth that God took away from our father really belongs to us and our children. So do whatever God has told you.”#Wis 10:10–11. 17Jacob proceeded to put his children and wives on camels, 18and he drove off all his livestock and all the property he had acquired in Paddan-aram, to go to his father Isaac in the land of Canaan.
19Now Laban was away shearing his sheep, and Rachel had stolen her father’s household images.#Household images: in Hebrew, teraphim, figurines used in divination (Ez 21:26; Zec 10:2). Laban calls them his “gods” (v. 30). The traditional translation “idols” is avoided because it suggests false gods, whereas Genesis seems to accept the fact that the ancestors did not always live according to later biblical religious standards and laws. #Gn 31:34; 1 Sm 19:13. 20Jacob had hoodwinked#Hoodwinked: lit., “stolen the heart of,” i.e., lulled the mind of. Aramean: the earliest extra-biblical references to the Arameans date later than the time of Jacob, if Jacob is dated to the mid-second millennium; to call Laban an Aramean and to have him speak Aramaic (Jegar-sahadutha, v. 47) is an apparent anachronism. The word may have been chosen to underscore the growing estrangement between the two men and the fact that their descendants will be two different peoples. Laban the Aramean by not telling him that he was going to flee. 21Thus he fled with all that he had. Once he was across the Euphrates, he headed for the hill country of Gilead.
22On the third day, word came to Laban that Jacob had fled. 23Taking his kinsmen with him, he pursued him for seven days#For seven days: lit., “a way of seven days,” a general term to designate a long distance; it would actually have taken a camel caravan many more days to travel from Haran to Gilead, the region east of the northern half of the Jordan. The mention of camels in this passage is apparently anachronistic since camels were not domesticated until the late second millennium. until he caught up with him in the hill country of Gilead. 24But that night God appeared to Laban the Aramean in a dream and said to him: Take care not to say anything to Jacob.#Wis 10:12.
Jacob and Laban in Gilead. 25When Laban overtook Jacob, Jacob’s tents were pitched in the hill country; Laban also pitched his tents in the hill country of Gilead. 26Laban said to Jacob, “How could you hoodwink me and carry off my daughters like prisoners of war?#Prisoners of war: lit., “women captured by the sword”; the women of a conquered people were treated as part of the victor’s spoil; cf. 1 Sm 30:2; 2 Kgs 5:2. 27Why did you dupe me by stealing away secretly? You did not tell me! I would have sent you off with joyful singing to the sound of tambourines and harps. 28You did not even allow me a parting kiss to my daughters and grandchildren! Now what you have done makes no sense. 29I have it in my power to harm all of you; but last night the God of your father said to me, ‘Take care not to say anything to Jacob!’ 30Granted that you had to leave because you were longing for your father’s house, why did you steal my gods?” 31Jacob replied to Laban, “I was frightened at the thought that you might take your daughters away from me by force. 32As for your gods, the one you find them with shall not remain alive! If, with our kinsmen looking on, you identify anything here as belonging to you, take it.” Jacob had no idea that Rachel had stolen the household images.
33Laban then went in and searched Jacob’s tent and Leah’s tent, as well as the tents of the two maidservants; but he did not find them. Leaving Leah’s tent, he went into Rachel’s. 34#As in chap. 27, a younger child (Rachel) deceives her father to gain what belongs to him. Meanwhile Rachel had taken the household images, put them inside the camel’s saddlebag, and seated herself upon them. When Laban had rummaged through her whole tent without finding them,#Gn 31:19. 35she said to her father, “Do not let my lord be angry that I cannot rise in your presence; I am having my period.” So, despite his search, he did not find the household images.
36Jacob, now angered, confronted Laban and demanded, “What crime or offense have I committed that you should hound me? 37Now that you have rummaged through all my things, what have you found from your household belongings? Produce it here before your kinsmen and mine, and let them decide between the two of us.
38“In the twenty years that I was under you, no ewe or she-goat of yours ever miscarried, and I have never eaten rams of your flock. 39#Ex 22:12. I never brought you an animal torn by wild beasts; I made good the loss myself. You held me responsible for anything stolen by day or night.#Jacob’s actions are more generous than the customs suggested in the Code of Hammurabi: “If in a sheepfold an act of god has occurred, or a lion has made a kill, the shepherd shall clear himself before the deity, and the owner of the fold must accept the loss” (par. 266); cf. Ex 22:12. 40Often the scorching heat devoured me by day, and the frost by night, while sleep fled from my eyes! 41Of the twenty years that I have now spent in your household, I served you fourteen years for your two daughters and six years for your flock, while you 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, you would now have sent me away empty-handed. But God saw my plight and the fruits of my toil, and last night he reproached you.”#Gn 31:24, 29.
43#In this account of the non-aggression treaty between Laban and Jacob, the different objects that serve as witness (sacred pillar in v. 45, cairn of stones in v. 46), their different names (Jegar-sahadutha in v. 47, Mizpah in v. 49), and the two references to the covenant meal (vv. 46, 54) suggest that two versions have been fused. One version is the Yahwist source, and another source has been used to supplement it. Laban replied to Jacob: “The daughters are mine, their children are mine, and the flocks are mine; everything you see belongs to me. What can I do now for my own daughters and for the children they have borne? 44#The treaty is a typical covenant between two parties: Jacob was bound to treat his wives (Laban’s daughters) well, and Laban was bound not to cross Jacob’s boundaries with hostile intent. Come, now, let us make a covenant, you and I; and it will be a treaty between you and me.”
45Then Jacob took a stone and set it up as a sacred pillar.#Gn 28:18; 35:14. 46Jacob said to his kinsmen, “Gather stones.” So they got stones and made a mound; and they ate there at the mound. 47Laban called it Jegar-sahadutha,#Jegar-sahadutha: an Aramaic term meaning “mound of witness.” Galeed: in Hebrew, “the mound of witness.” but Jacob called it Galeed. 48Laban said, “This mound will be a witness from now on between you and me.” That is why it was named Galeed— 49and also Mizpah,#Mizpah: a town in Gilead; cf. Jgs 10:17; 11:11, 34; Hos 5:1. The Hebrew name mispa (“lookout”) is allied to yisep yhwh (“may the Lord keep watch”), and also echoes the word masseba (“sacred pillar”). for he said: “May the Lord keep watch between you and me when we are out of each other’s sight. 50If you mistreat my daughters, or take other wives besides my daughters, know that even though no one else is there, God will be a witness between you and me.”
51Laban said further to Jacob: “Here is this mound, and here is the sacred pillar that I have set up between you and me. 52This mound will be a witness, and this sacred pillar will be a witness, that, with hostile intent, I may not pass beyond this mound into your territory, nor may you pass beyond it into mine. 53May the God of Abraham and the God of Nahor, the God of their father, judge between us!” Jacob took the oath by the Fear of his father Isaac.#Fear of…Isaac: an archaic title for Jacob’s God of the Father. 54He then offered a sacrifice on the mountain and invited his kinsmen to share in the meal. When they had eaten, they passed the night on the mountain.
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