Jacob Leaves Secretly for Canaan
1 Jacob heard that Laban’s sons were saying: “Jacob has taken away everything that was our father’s, and from what belonged to our father he has acquired all this wealth and honor.” 2 Jacob noticed [a change in] the (a)attitude of Laban, and saw that it was not friendly toward him as before. 3 Then the Lord said to Jacob, “Return to the land of your fathers and to your people, and I will be with you.” 4 So Jacob sent and called Rachel and Leah to his flock in the field, 5 and he said to them, “I see [a change in] your father’s attitude, that he is not friendly toward me as [he was] before; but the God of my father [Isaac] has been with me. 6 You know that I have served your father with all my strength. 7 Yet your father has cheated me [as often as possible] and changed my wages ten times; but God did not allow him to hurt me. 8 If he said, ‘The speckled shall be your wages,’ then the entire flock gave birth to speckled [young]; and if he said, ‘The streaked shall be your wages,’ then the entire flock gave birth to streaked [young]. 9 Thus God has taken away the flocks of your father and given them to me. 10 And it happened at the time when the flock conceived that I looked up and saw in a dream that the rams which mated [with the female goats] were streaked, speckled, and spotted. 11 And the (b)Angel of God said to me in the dream, ‘Jacob.’ And I said, ‘Here I am.’ 12 He said, ‘Look up and see, all the rams which are mating [with the flock] are streaked, speckled, and spotted; for I have seen all that Laban has been doing to you. 13 I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed the pillar, and where you made a vow to Me; now stand up, leave this land, and return to the land of your birth.’” 14 Rachel and Leah answered him, “Is there still any portion or inheritance for us in our father’s house? 15 Are we not counted by him as foreigners? For he sold us [to you in marriage], and has also entirely used up our purchase price. 16 Surely all the riches which God has taken from our father are ours and our children’s. Now then, whatever God has told you to do, do it.”
17 Then Jacob stood [and took action] and put his children and his wives on camels; 18 and he drove away all his livestock and [took along] all his property which he had acquired, the livestock he had obtained and accumulated in Paddan-aram, to go to his father Isaac in the land of Canaan. 19 When Laban had gone to shear his sheep, Rachel [went inside the house and] stole her father’s (c)household gods. 20 And Jacob (d)deceived Laban the Aramean (Syrian) by not telling him that he intended to leave and he slipped away secretly. 21 So he fled with everything that he had, and got up and crossed the river [Euphrates], and set his face toward the hill country of Gilead [east of the Jordan River].
Laban Pursues Jacob
22 On the third day [after his departure] Laban was told that Jacob had fled. 23 So he took his relatives with him and pursued him for seven days, and they overtook him in the hill country of Gilead. 24 God came to Laban the Aramean in a dream at night and said to him, “Be careful that you do not speak to Jacob, either good or bad.”
25 Then Laban overtook Jacob. Now Jacob had pitched his tent on the hill, and Laban with his relatives camped on the same hill of Gilead. 26 Then Laban said to Jacob, “What do you mean by deceiving me and leaving without my knowledge, and carrying off my daughters as if [they were] captives of the sword? 27 Why did you run away secretly and deceive me and not tell me, so that [otherwise] I might have sent you away with joy and with songs, with [music on the] tambourine and lyre? 28 And why did you not allow me to kiss my (e)grandchildren and my daughters [goodbye]? Now you have done a foolish thing [in behaving like this]. 29 It is in my power to harm you, but the God of your father spoke to me last night, saying, ‘Be careful not to speak to Jacob, either good or bad.’ 30 Now [I suppose] you felt you must go because you (f)were homesick for your father’s house and family; but why did you steal my [household] (g)gods?” 31 Jacob answered Laban, “[I left secretly] because I was afraid, for I thought you would take your daughters away from me by force. 32 The one with whom you find your gods shall not live; in the presence of our relatives [search my possessions and] point out whatever you find that belongs to you and take it.” For Jacob did not know that Rachel had stolen the idols.
33 So Laban went into Jacob’s tent and into Leah’s tent and the tent of the two maids, but he did not find them. Then he came out of Leah’s tent and entered Rachel’s tent. 34 Now Rachel had taken the household idols and put them in the camel’s saddlebag and sat on them. Laban searched through all her tent, but did not find them. 35 So Rachel said to her father, “Do not be displeased, my lord, that I cannot rise before you, for the manner of women is on me and I am unwell.” He searched [further] but did not find the household idols.
36 Then Jacob became angry and argued with Laban. And he said to Laban, “What is my fault? What is my sin that you pursued me like this? 37 Although you have searched through all my possessions, what have you found of your household goods? Put it here before my relatives and your relatives, so that they may decide [who has done right] between the two of us. 38 These twenty years I have been with you; your ewes and your female goats have not lost their young, nor have I eaten the rams of your flocks. 39 I did not bring you the torn carcasses [of the animals attacked by predators]; I [personally] took the loss. You required of me [to make good] everything that was stolen, whether it occurred by day or night. 40 This was my situation: by day the heat consumed me and by night the cold, and (h)I could not sleep. 41 These twenty years I have been in your house; I served you fourteen years for your two daughters and six years for [my share of] your flocks, and you have (i)changed my wages ten times. 42 If the God of my father, the God of Abraham, and [the Feared One] of Isaac, had not been with me, most certainly you would have sent me away now empty-handed. God has seen my affliction and humiliation and the [exhausting] labor of my hands, so He rendered judgment and rebuked you last night.”
The Covenant of Mizpah
43 Laban answered Jacob, “These (j)women [that you married] are my daughters, these children are my (k)grandchildren, these flocks are [from] my flocks, and all that you see [here] is mine. But what can I do today to these my daughters or to their children to whom they have given birth? 44 So come now, let us make a covenant, you and I, and let it serve as a witness between you and me.” 45 So Jacob took a stone and set it up as a [memorial] pillar. 46 Jacob said to his relatives, “Gather stones.” And they took stones and made a mound [of stones], and they ate [a ceremonial meal together] there on the mound [of stones].(A) 47 Laban called it Jegar-sahadutha (stone monument of testimony in (l)Aramaic), but Jacob called it (m)Galeed. 48 Laban said, “This mound [of stones] is a witness [a reminder of the oath taken] today between you and me.” Therefore he [also] called the name Galeed, 49 and Mizpah ((n)watchtower), for Laban said, “May the Lord watch between you and me when we are absent from one another. 50 If you should mistreat (humiliate, oppress) my daughters, or if you should take other wives besides my daughters, although no one is with us [as a witness], see and remember, God is witness between you and me.” 51 Laban said to Jacob, “Look at this mound [of stones] and look at this pillar which I have set up between you and me. 52 This mound is a witness, and this pillar is a witness, that I will not pass by this mound to harm you, and that you will not pass by this mound and this pillar to harm me. 53 The God of Abraham [your father] and the God of Nahor [my father], and the (o)god [the image of worship] of their father [Terah, an idolater], judge between us.” But Jacob swore [only] by [the one true God] the Fear of his father Isaac.(B) 54 Then Jacob offered a sacrifice [to the Lord] on the mountain, and called his relatives to the meal; and they ate food and spent the night on the mountain. 55 Early in the morning Laban got up and kissed his (p)grandchildren and his daughters [goodbye] and pronounced a blessing [asking God’s favor] on them. Then Laban left and returned home.
a. Genesis 31:2: Lit face.
b. Genesis 31:11: See note 16:7. Note especially Gen 31:13, where the Angel says, “I am the God of Bethel.”
c. Genesis 31:19: Possession of these pagan figurines implied or conferred a right of inheritance.
d. Genesis 31:20: Lit stole the heart of.
e. Genesis 31:28: Lit sons.
f. Genesis 31:30: Lit longed greatly.
g. Genesis 31:30: Laban was upset because possession of the father’s household gods played an important role in inheritance. In the region where Laban lived, a son-in-law who possessed the family gods could appear before a judge and make a claim to the estate of his father-in-law. Since Jacob’s possession of the household gods implied the right to inherit Laban’s wealth, one can understand why he followed Jacob to recover the idols.
h. Genesis 31:40: Lit sleep fled from my eyes.
i. Genesis 31:41: I.e. cheated me as often as possible.
j. Genesis 31:43: Lit daughters.
k. Genesis 31:43: Lit children.
l. Genesis 31:47: The language of Laban, who was an Aramean (v 20). The two names chosen by Laban and Jacob were equivalent.
m. Genesis 31:47: Heb heap of witness.
n. Genesis 31:49: The stone mound evidently was tall enough to be considered a place from which one could see at a distance. The thought behind it was that the Lord would watch them when they could not watch each other, and He would see and deal with any mistreatment committed by either of them (see v 50).
o. Genesis 31:53: Here “god” is put in lowercase because Joshua later declared that Terah, the father of Abraham and Nahor, was an idolater, serving “other gods” (Josh 24:2). The wording of the Hebrew here indicates that Laban equated the God of Abraham and Nahor with the god of Terah. Whether Laban actually made no distinction in his mind between the true God and false gods, or simply committed an oversight, is not clear. Jacob evidently recognized the ambiguity in Laban’s statement as well, so to avoid any possibility of swearing allegiance to a false god, he swore his own oath by the God of Isaac.
p. Genesis 31:55: Lit sons.