Jacob Escapes from Laban
1Now Jacob heard that the sons of Laban were complaining, “Everything Jacob owns he has taken from our father! He gained all his wealth from what our father owned.” 2And Jacob saw that Laban no longer viewed him favorably as he once did. 3Then Yahweh said to Jacob, “Return to the land of your ancestors where you were born; and remember, I will be with you.” 4So Jacob sent a message for Leah and Rachel to meet him in the field where his flocks were grazing. 5When they arrived, he said to them, “I can see that your father’s attitude toward me has changed, but the God of my father has been with me. 6You both know I have worked for your father as hard as I could, 7although he has cheated me and reduced # 31:7 Or “changed.” The implication is that Laban did not give him raises, but reduced his salary literally in the Hebrew “ten times” (a term not meant to define how many times, but a figure of speech for “many, many times”). my wages over and over. Yet God has not allowed him to harm me. 8If he said, ‘The speckled ones will be your wages,’ then all the flock bore speckled. If he said, ‘The striped ones will be your wages,’ then all the flock bore striped. 9Because of these miracles, God has taken away your father’s livestock and given them to me!”
10Jacob continued, “Once during the breeding season, I had a dream. I saw that the male goats who were mating were all speckled, streaked, or spotted. 11In the dream, the angel of God called me by my name, ‘Jacob.’ ”
“ ‘I am here,’ I answered.
12“Then he said, ‘Observe and note that all the male goats that are mating are speckled, streaked, or spotted, for I have seen all that Laban is doing to you. 13I am the God who appeared to you at Bethel, # 31:13 As translated from the Septuagint and ancient Targums. The Hebrew is “I 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, “Our father doesn’t want us to inherit a portion from his estate. 15Hasn’t he treated us as outsiders and not as members of his family? Not only did he sell us like property, but he has also spent our purchase price! 16Our father’s wealth that God has given you was legally ours and our children to begin with! So, go ahead and do whatever God has told you.”
17Jacob immediately put his wives and children on camels 18and took with him all the livestock and everything he had amassed in Paddan-Aram. He set out to return to his father Isaac in the land of Canaan.
19One day, when Laban had gone to his fields to shear his sheep, # 31:19 Sheep shearing was done in the spring, and it was a time of celebration and festivities that could have lasted a week (see 1 Sam. 25:2, 8, 11; 2 Sam. 13:23). Laban was preoccupied with the festivities and didn’t realize that his household gods had been stolen and that Jacob was secretly taking off with his daughters. Rachel stole her father’s household idols. # 31:19 This is the Hebrew word teraphim; they can be described as small, carved figurines passed down within the family or clan. Teraphim is taken from an Aramaic root word meaning “to inquire.” Apparently, Laban used these images for guidance by divination. Rachel’s taking her father’s gods meant she took his ability to discover where they had gone (see Judg. 17:5; 1 Sam. 19:13; Ezek. 21:21). Other scholars believe that the teraphim guaranteed the right of inheritance to whoever possessed them. According to ancient Akkadian writings, the possession of these family idols (gods) could verify legal title to the family estate. This was perhaps the reason for Laban’s angry accusation of Jacob (v. 30). 20Jacob had outwitted Laban the Aramean by secretly departing without telling him. 21He fled with all that he had, and after crossing the Euphrates, # 31:21 The Euphrates was known to the Hebrews simply as “the River.” It was about fifty miles from Laban’s home to the Euphrates. he headed for the hill country of Gilead. 22And it wasn’t until three days later that Laban discovered Jacob had left.
Laban Pursues Jacob
23Laban, along with some of his relatives, took off in pursuit and chased after Jacob for seven days. He had almost caught up with him in the hill country of Gilead, 24when God appeared to Laban the Aramean in a dream and warned him, “Be careful that you neither harm nor threaten Jacob.” # 31:24 Or “that you speak not to Jacob a word either good or evil.” This is a merism, for God was not telling Laban to remain silent, but rather to neither harm nor threaten Jacob with his words.
25Now Jacob had set up his camp with his flocks on a hill, and Laban had him in his sights. Laban and his companions set up their camp nearby. 26Laban approached Jacob and said, “Nephew, what have you done? You’ve deceived me and carried away my daughters like captives on a battlefield. 27Why did you trick me and run away in secret without telling me? I would have sent you off joyously, celebrating with singing and dancing to the tambourine and stringed instruments. 28And why did you not even let me kiss my daughters and grandchildren goodbye? What you have done is foolish! 29I could harm you, but the God of your father spoke to me in a dream last night, saying, ‘Be careful that you neither harm nor threaten Jacob.’ 30Now I realize you ran away because you desperately long to return to your father’s house, but why did you steal my gods?”
31“I left in a hurry because I was afraid,” Jacob answered, “and I thought you would take your daughters from me by force. 32Whoever has taken your gods will be put to death! So here, in the presence of our relatives, if you can find among our possessions anything that is yours, take it.” Now Jacob had no clue that Rachel had stolen the gods.
33Laban went immediately into Jacob’s tent to search. Then he went into the tents of Zilpah and Bilhah but found nothing. After searching Leah’s tent, he went into Rachel’s. 34Now Rachel had taken the family gods and put them in her camel’s cushion and sat on them. 35She said to her father, “Please my father, # 31:35 Or “my lord.” don’t be angry if I don’t rise before you, for I’m having my period.” When he rummaged through her tent, he did not find them.
36Then Jacob became angry and complained to Laban, “What have I done wrong? What sin have I committed that you would hotly pursue me as if you were chasing a criminal? 37You have rummaged through all my things, and did you find anything of your own property? If you did, set them here in front of your relatives and mine. Let them decide between the two of us.”
38Jacob continued, “For the last twenty years I have served you, and the whole time your sheep and goats did not miscarry, nor did I feast on any of your rams. 39If one from your flock was mauled by a wild beast, I didn’t bring it to you; I absorbed the loss myself. And you always made me pay for any missing animal, whether snatched by day or by night. 40Many times, scorching heat consumed me by day and hard frost by night; I endured sleepless nights. 41For these twenty years that I’ve lived among you, I slaved away fourteen years for your two daughters, and six years for your flocks. And besides all that, you’ve reduced my wages over and over. 42If the God of my father, the God of Abraham, and the Awesome One of Isaac # 31:42 Or “the One whom Isaac worships” or “the Fear of Isaac.” The Hebrew is uncertain. , had not been on my side, you certainly would have sent me away empty-handed! But God in his mercy took notice of how much I’ve suffered and how hard I’ve worked—and that’s why he rebuked you last night in your dream!”
Laban and Jacob Make a Covenant
43Laban replied to Jacob, “These women are my daughters, these children are my grandchildren; and the flocks are mine. In fact, everything you see belongs to me. But from today I will not be able to do anything more for my daughters and grandchildren. # 31:43 Or “What can I do today about these daughters of mine and these children they have borne?” 44Come now, let’s form a covenant between you and me. Let it endure as a witness between us.” # 31:44 This covenant (treaty), memorialized by the heap of stones and their covenant meal, was an agreement to never harm each other. 45So Jacob took a stone, set it up as a pillar, 46and in the presence of his relatives, he said to them, “Everyone gather stones, and place them here in a pile.” And they did so, and afterward, they ate together next to the heap of stones. 47Laban and Jacob named the place in both languages, Aramaic # 31:47 Or “Jegar Sahadutha,” Aramaic for “Heap of Witness.” and Hebrew, # 31:47 Or “Galeed,” Hebrew for “Heap of Witness.” calling it Witness Heap. 48And Laban said, “Today, this heap of stones will be a witness between you and me of our enduring friendship.” He called it Witness Heap 49and Watchpost, # 31:49 Or “Mizpah,” which means “Watchpost [Lookout].” Jesus is our Mizpah. Eph. 2:14 states that Jesus made the Jew and the gentile one, breaking down the middle wall between them. Jacob, the father of the Israelites, and Laban, a gentile, found peace at Mizpah. for Laban declared, “May Yahweh keep his eyes on us when we are absent from each other. 50If you mistreat my daughters or marry other women besides my daughters, remember that even though no one else is with us, God is watching us. 51Here is the heap of stones and here is the memorial pillar that stands between us. # 31:51 Or “that I have set up between us.” 52This heap and this pillar stand as witnesses that I will never pass beyond them to harm you and that you will never pass beyond them to harm me. 53Now may the God of Abraham and the god of Nahor judge between us!” # 31:53 As translated from some Hebrew manuscripts and the Septuagint. Other Hebrew manuscripts add “the gods of their fathers.” Yahweh, the God of Abraham, was not the god of Nahor. Yahweh called Abraham out of Haran (see Gen. 12:4) and away from idol worship (see Josh. 24:2).
Jacob made his vow by the Awesome One of his father Isaac. # 31:53 Or “by [in the name of] the Fear of Isaac [the One whom Isaac feared].” 54Then Jacob offered a sacrifice on the mountain and called everyone together for a meal, and they remained there all night on the mountain.
55Early the next morning, Laban kissed his daughters and grandchildren, blessed them, and then he returned home.
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Jacob flees from Laban
1Jacob heard that Laban’s sons were saying, ‘Jacob has taken everything our father owned and has gained all this wealth from what belonged to our father.’ 2And Jacob noticed that Laban’s attitude towards him was not what it had been.
3Then the Lord said to Jacob, ‘Go back to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you.’
4So Jacob sent word to Rachel and Leah to come out to the fields where his flocks were. 5He said to them, ‘I see that your father’s attitude towards me is not what it was before, but the God of my father has been with me. 6You know that I’ve worked for your father with all my strength, 7yet your father has cheated me by changing my wages ten times. However, God has not allowed him to harm me. 8If he said, “The speckled ones will be your wages,” then all the flocks gave birth to speckled young; and if he said, “The streaked ones will be your wages,” then all the flocks bore streaked young. 9So God has taken away your father’s livestock and has given them to me.
10‘In the breeding season I once had a dream in which I looked up and saw that the male goats mating with the flock were streaked, speckled or spotted. 11The angel of God said to me in the dream, “Jacob.” I answered, “Here I am.” 12And he said, “Look up and see that all the male goats mating with the flock are streaked, speckled or spotted, for I have seen all that Laban has been doing to you. 13I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed a pillar and where you made a vow to me. Now leave this land at once and go back to your native land.” ’
14Then Rachel and Leah replied, ‘Do we still have any share in the inheritance of our father’s estate? 15Does he not regard us as foreigners? Not only has he sold us, but he has used up what was paid for us. 16Surely all the wealth that God took away from our father belongs to us and our children. So do whatever God has told you.’
17Then Jacob put his children and his wives on camels, 18and he drove all his livestock ahead of him, along with all the goods he had accumulated in Paddan Aram,#31:18 That is, North-west Mesopotamia to go to his father Isaac in the land of Canaan.
19When Laban had gone to shear his sheep, Rachel stole her father’s household gods. 20Moreover, Jacob deceived Laban the Aramean by not telling him he was running away. 21So he fled with all he had, crossed the River Euphrates, and headed for the hill country of Gilead.
Laban pursues Jacob
22On the third day Laban was told that Jacob had fled. 23Taking his relatives with him, he pursued Jacob for seven days and caught up with him in the hill country of Gilead. 24Then God came to Laban the Aramean in a dream at night and said to him, ‘Be careful not to say anything to Jacob, either good or bad.’
25Jacob had pitched his tent in the hill country of Gilead when Laban overtook him, and Laban and his relatives camped there too. 26Then Laban said to Jacob, ‘What have you done? You’ve deceived me, and you’ve carried off my daughters like captives in war. 27Why did you run off secretly and deceive me? Why didn’t you tell me, so that I could send you away with joy and singing to the music of tambourines and harps? 28You didn’t even let me kiss my grandchildren and my daughters goodbye. You have done a foolish thing. 29I have the power to harm you; but last night the God of your father said to me, “Be careful not to say anything to Jacob, either good or bad.” 30Now you have gone off because you longed to return to your father’s household. But why did you steal my gods?’
31Jacob answered Laban, ‘I was afraid, because I thought you would take your daughters away from me by force. 32But if you find anyone who has your gods, that person shall not live. In the presence of our relatives, see for yourself whether there is anything of yours here with me; and if so, 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 female servants, but he found nothing. After he came out of Leah’s tent, he entered Rachel’s tent. 34Now Rachel had taken the household gods and put them inside her camel’s saddle and was sitting on them. Laban searched through everything in the tent but found nothing.
35Rachel said to her father, ‘Don’t be angry, my lord, that I cannot stand up in your presence; I’m having my period.’ So he searched but could not find the household gods.
36Jacob was angry and took Laban to task. ‘What is my crime?’ he asked Laban. ‘How have I wronged you that you hunt me down? 37Now that you have searched through all my goods, what have you found that belongs to your household? Put it here in front of your relatives and mine, and let them judge between the two of us.
38‘I have been with you for twenty years now. Your sheep and goats have not miscarried, nor have I eaten rams from your flocks. 39I did not bring you animals torn by wild beasts; I bore the loss myself. And you demanded payment from me for whatever was stolen by day or night. 40This was my situation: the heat consumed me in the daytime and the cold at night, and sleep fled from my eyes. 41It was like this for the twenty years I was in your household. I worked for you fourteen years for your two daughters and six years for your flocks, and you changed my wages ten times. 42If the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had not been with me, you would surely have sent me away empty-handed. But God has seen my hardship and the toil of my hands, and last night he rebuked you.’
43Laban answered Jacob, ‘The women are my daughters, the children are my children, and the flocks are my flocks. All you see is mine. Yet what can I do today about these daughters of mine, or about the children they have borne? 44Come now, let’s make a covenant, you and I, and let it serve as a witness between us.’
45So Jacob took a stone and set it up as a pillar. 46He said to his relatives, ‘Gather some stones.’ So they took stones and piled them in a heap, and they ate there by the heap. 47Laban called it Jegar Sahadutha, and Jacob called it Galeed.#31:47 The Aramaic Jegar Sahadutha and the Hebrew Galeed both mean witness heap.
48Laban said, ‘This heap is a witness between you and me today.’ That is why it was called Galeed. 49It was also called Mizpah,#31:49 Mizpah means watchtower. because he said, ‘May the Lord keep watch between you and me when we are away from each other. 50If you ill-treat my daughters or if you take any wives besides my daughters, even though no-one is with us, remember that God is a witness between you and me.’
51Laban also said to Jacob, ‘Here is this heap, and here is this pillar I have set up between you and me. 52This heap is a witness, and this pillar is a witness, that I will not go past this heap to your side to harm you and that you will not go past this heap and pillar to my side to harm me. 53May the God of Abraham and the God of Nahor, the God of their father, judge between us.’
So Jacob took an oath in the name of the Fear of his father Isaac. 54He offered a sacrifice there in the hill country and invited his relatives to a meal. After they had eaten, they spent the night there.
55Early the next morning Laban kissed his grandchildren and his daughters and blessed them. Then he left and returned home.#31:55 In Hebrew texts this verse (31:55) is numbered 32:1.
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