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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Jacob Runs Away From Laban
1Jacob heard what Laban’s sons were saying. “Jacob has taken everything our father owned,” they said. “He has gained all this wealth from what belonged to our father.” 2Jacob noticed that Laban’s feelings toward him had changed.
3Then the Lord spoke to Jacob. He said, “Go back to your father’s land and to your relatives. I will be with you.”
4So Jacob sent word to Rachel and Leah. He told them to come out to the fields where his flocks were. 5He said to them, “I see that your father’s feelings toward me have changed. But the God of my father has been with me. 6You know that I’ve worked for your father with all my strength. 7But your father has cheated me. He has changed my pay ten times. In spite of everything that’s happened, God hasn’t let him harm me. 8Sometimes Laban would say, ‘The speckled ones will be your pay.’ Then all the flocks had little ones with speckles. At other times he would say, ‘The striped ones will be your pay.’ Then all the flocks had little ones with stripes. 9So God has taken away your father’s livestock and given them to me.
10“Once during the mating season I had a dream. In my dream I looked and saw male goats mating with the flock. The goats had stripes, speckles or spots. 11The angel of God said to me in the dream, ‘Jacob.’ I answered, ‘Here I am.’ 12He said, ‘Look around you. See the male goats mating with the flock. All of them have stripes, speckles or spots. That’s because I have seen everything that Laban has been doing to you. 13I am the God of Bethel. That is where you poured olive oil on a sacred stone. There you made a promise to me. Now leave this land. Go back to your own land.’ ”
14Rachel and Leah replied, “Do we still have any share of our father’s property? 15Doesn’t our father think of us as outsiders? First he sold us. Now he has used up what he was paid for us. 16All the wealth God took away from our father really belongs to us and our children. So do what God has told you to do.”
17Then Jacob put his children and wives on camels. 18He drove all his livestock ahead of him. He also took with him everything he had acquired in Paddan Aram. He left to go to his father Isaac in the land of Canaan.
19Laban had gone to clip the wool from his sheep. While he was gone, Rachel stole the statues of the family gods that belonged to her father. 20And that’s not all. Jacob tricked Laban, the Aramean. He didn’t tell him he was running away. 21So Jacob ran off with everything he had. He crossed the Euphrates River. And he headed for the hill country of Gilead.
Laban Chases Jacob
22On the third day Laban was told that Jacob had run away. 23He took his relatives with him and went after Jacob. Seven days later he caught up with him in the hill country of Gilead. 24Then God came to Laban, the Aramean, in a dream at night. He said to him, “Be careful. Do not say anything to Jacob, whether it is good or bad.”
25Jacob had set up his tent in the hill country of Gilead. That’s where Laban caught up with him. Laban and his relatives camped there too. 26Laban said to Jacob, “What have you done? You have tricked me. You have taken my daughters away like prisoners of war. 27Why did you run away in secret and trick me? Why didn’t you tell me? Then I could have sent you away happily. We could have sung 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 spoke to me. He said, ‘Be careful. Do not say anything to Jacob, whether it is good or bad.’ 30Now you have run away. You longed to go back to your father’s home. But why did you have to steal the statues of my gods?”
31Jacob answered Laban, “I was afraid. I thought you would take your daughters away from me by force. 32But if you find anyone who has the statues of your gods, that person will not remain alive. While our relatives are watching, look for yourself. See if there’s anything of yours here with me. If you find anything belonging to you, take it.” But Jacob didn’t know that Rachel had stolen the statues.
33So Laban went into Jacob’s tent and Leah’s tent. He went into the tent of their two female servants. But he didn’t find anything. After he came out of Leah’s tent, he entered Rachel’s tent. 34Rachel was the one who had taken the statues of Laban’s family gods. She had put them inside her camel’s saddle. She was sitting on them. Laban searched the whole tent. But he didn’t find anything.
35Rachel said to her father, “I’m sorry, sir. I can’t get up for you right now. But don’t be angry with me. I’m having my monthly period.” So he searched everywhere but couldn’t find the statues of his gods.
36Jacob was very angry with Laban. “What is my crime?” he asked. “What have I done to you that you hunt me down like this? 37You have searched through all my things. What have you found that belongs to your family? Put it here in front of your relatives and mine. Let them decide between the two of us.
38“I’ve been with you for 20 years now. The little ones of your sheep and goats were not dead when they were born. I haven’t eaten rams from your flocks. 39I didn’t bring you animals torn apart by wild beasts. I made up for the loss myself. Also, you made me pay for anything stolen by day or night. 40And what was my life like? The heat burned me in the daytime. And it was so cold at night that I froze. I couldn’t sleep. 41That’s what it was like for the 20 years I was living with you. I worked for 14 years to marry your two daughters. I worked for six years to get my share of your flocks. You changed my pay ten times. 42But the God of my father was with me. He is the God of Abraham and the God Isaac worshiped. If he hadn’t been with me, you would surely have sent me away without anything to show for all my work. But God has seen my hard times. He has seen all the work my hands have done. So last night he warned you.”
43Laban answered Jacob, “The women are my daughters. The children are my children. The flocks are my flocks. Everything you see is mine. But what can I do today about these daughters of mine? What can I do about the children they’ve had? 44Come now. Let’s make a formal agreement, you and I. Let it be a witness between us.”
45So Jacob set up a stone as a way to remember. 46He said to his relatives, “Get some stones.” So they took stones and put them in a pile. And they ate there by it. 47Laban named the pile of stones Jegar Sahadutha. Jacob named it Galeed.
48Laban said, “This pile of stones is a witness between you and me today.” That’s why it was named Galeed. 49It was also called Mizpah. That’s because Laban said, “May the Lord keep watch between you and me when we are away from each other. 50Don’t treat my daughters badly. Don’t get married to any women besides my daughters. There isn’t anyone here to see what we’re doing. But remember that God is a witness between you and me.”
51Laban also said to Jacob, “Here is this pile of stones. And here is this stone I’ve set up. I’ve set them up between you and me. 52This pile is a witness. And this stone is a witness. They are witnesses that I won’t go past this pile to harm you. And they are witnesses that you won’t go past this pile and this stone to harm me. 53The God of Abraham and Nahor is also the God of their father. May their God decide which of us is right.”
So Jacob made a promise using the name of the God his father Isaac worshiped. 54He offered a sacrifice there in the hill country. And he 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. He gave them his blessing. Then he left and returned home.
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