Genesis Chapter 31.
Looking back at chapter 29, we read that Jacob offered to work for Laban for seven years -his wages would be marriage to Rachel. Then Laban asked him work another seven for Leah. After Joseph was born, in chapter 30 we read that Laban persuaded Jacob to stay and work for him. They agreed that he would manage the livestock and his wages would be the speckled and spotted sheep. Laban’s sheep would have no markings. Over the years, Laban became dissatisfied. God blessed Jacob with a good flock. Laban changed the rules ten times. However, because God was looking after Jacob, his flock continued to thrive.
We read in tonight’s chapter, that Jacob heard Laban’s sons complaining that he was becoming wealthy to their detriment. This was because God had blessed Jacob with a large flock of healthy animals. Then, in verse 2 we read that Laban no longer favoured him.
In Genesis chapter 31 verse 3, God told Jacob that he should return to the land he came from. Jacob would have remembered, years before, setting out on the journey to find a wife from his father’s relatives. It’s recorded in chapter 28. Verses 20 and 21 tell us about Jacobs vow. “ … If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I go, and give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God.”
Twenty years later, Jacob must have been reassured by God’s words in chapter 31 verse 3. It was time to make the journey home. Jacob told Rachel and Leah about their Laban’s deceitful dealings with him. His wives’ reaction is recorded in verses 14 -16. They felt that they had been sold to Jacob.
Jacob takes his family and belongings. They leave without Laban’s knowledge. In verses 22-25 we have the account of Laban pursuing them. Laban was angry with Jacob. He wanted to say goodbye to them before they left. He also believed that his family idols he had been stolen. Understandably, Jacob was convinced that Laban was mistaken, and gave him permission to search the camp. Verse 34 reveals that of all people, Rachel is guilty of stealing the idols. She hid them where Laban wouldn’t find them.
It was said in discussion that the people we read about in the Bible were human, sometimes living in ways we don’t expect. This is a good reason for believing that the bible is God’s word. If the Bible is a hoax, surely it would not be written this way.
Laban had to be satisfied that the idols were not among Jacob’s goods. We have a dramatic account of Jacob’s angry reaction at being unfairly accused in verses 36 and 37. He then goes on, in verses 38 – 42, to defend his reasons for leaving secretly. Laban gives his reasons for acting as he did in verses 43.
The two men made a covenant. The ritual involved a stone erected as a pillar. Verse 46 talks about Jacob’s brothers gathering stones. Esau was Jacob’s only brother, but the Hebrew word can also be translated kinsmen. It could have been Jacob’s eleven sons that gathered the stones into a heap? Or, more likely, Laban’s brothers? (have a look at verse 23.) Then, in verse 46, they ate on the heap. We discussed what was meant here. What did they eat? Was the heap set up like a table for the food to be laid out? There is no more information. We don’t know what kind of meal was prepared. But the two companies ate together – a sign of the peace they were making.
Verses 47 and 48 tell us that the men named the heap of stones Galeed, the Hebrew word for heap of testimony. Jegar is the Aramaic equivalent. Laban also called it Saadutha which is an Aramaic word meaning gathering. Then it was given the name Mizpah, a Hebrew word for watchtower. The explanation is given by Laban in verses 49 – 53. His conclusion in verse 54 reads, “This heap is a witness, and this pillar is a witness, that I will not pass over this heap to you, and you will not pass over this heap to me, to do harm.”
Verse 53 is interesting. Despite going after Jacob to reclaim his lost idols, Laban acknowledges the one true God. “The God of Abraham, the God of Nahor and the God of their father. Jacob swore by the Fear of his father Isaac.” We discussed the reasons for this, the Hebrew word can mean awe.
Then in verse 54, Jacob offered a sacrifice and they ate bread and stayed all night on the mountain. A final family ceremony and celebration before Laban left in the morning.