Personal study notes Genesis 31

Thursday, July 27, 2006
Genesis 31Jacob overhears Laban’s sons say in verse 1 “Jacob has taken away all that was our father’s, and from what was our father’s he has acquired all his wealth.”

Not only Laban’s sons were muttering, but Laban’s countenance was (understatement of the year) not favorable towards Jacob.

It is so incredible how God takes our situations and uses them to help us get where God wants us to go. Verse 3 “Then the LORD said to Jacob, “Return to the land of your fathers and to your family, and I will be with you.””

Remember when we looked at Abram going to Egypt, and how that time in Egypt was wasted.  Because of the trickery of Jacob and  his taking the blessing, Jacob had to go to Ur, and the 20 years spent there were wasted in God’s economy. We will see this even more when he meets Esau and ends up giving away all that he “earned” in Ur. I often wonder what would have happened had Rebekah and Jacob waited on God to make things happen.

Jacob calls Rachel and Leah to the field and tells them that he has perceived the change in Laban’s countenance and makes a case for them for uprooting their family and moving back to the land of his fathers. Jacob points out that he has served Laban will all of his might, and (this is priceless), verse 7 “Yet your father has deceived me and changed my wages ten times, but God did not allow him to hurt me.”

Funny how, when we are the deceiver we justify our deception of others, but when we are on the receiving end of deception it doesn’t feel so good. Jacob does not realize that Laban is kind of like a mirror for Jacob, that shows Jacob a reflection of his own flawed character. Genuinely nice people don’t look at the flaws in others. Often the flaws we spot in others are the very ones that we have within ourselves.

Jacob tells Rachel and Leah that if their father said speckled were to be Jacob’s then speckled were born, if Laban said striped, then striped sheep were born. Jacob concludes in verse 9 “So God has taken away the livestock of your father and given them to me.”

Apparently Jacob had a dream where he saw that the rams leaping on the flocks were speckled and gray-spotted. I wonder if this is where Jacob got the idea of making the striped and speckled wood in chapter 30.

Jacob was a dreamer. If you want dreams to come true you have to get out of bed and partner with God, this is what Jacob tried to do. Here is what the Angel of God spoke to Jacob in a dream, Genesis 31:11-13Then the Angel of God spoke to me in a dream, saying, ‘Jacob.’ And I said, ‘Here I am.’ And He said, ‘Lift your eyes now and see, all the rams which leap on the flocks are streaked, speckled, and gray-spotted; for I have seen all that Laban is doing to you. I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed the pillar and where you made a vow to Me. Now arise, get out of this land, and return to the land of your family.” Just like with Abram in Egypt, Jacob has to return where he had his last encounter with God in Canaan, in Bethel.

Rachel and Leah realize the truth of what Jacob is saying and realize that they will gain no portion of Laban’s inheritance. They realize that they are treated as strangers, that Laban has sold them, and consumed the money received for them. They realize that God gave Jacob the riches, and respond, verse 16 “whatever God has said to you, do it.”

Jacob takes his sons and wives on camels. He takes all the livestock and his possessions which he has gained and acquired and plans to go to his father Isaac in the land of Canaan.

Unfortunately in Ur, Jacob’s wives worshipped idols, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Jacob didn’t resort to some of this type of worship too. In leaving the land, Rachel steals Laban’s household idol. Jacob stole away (just like he stole away from Esau), and did not let Laban know that he was going to flee. Jacob and his family and possessions are on the lam going toward the mountains of Gilead.

Beth Moore in The Patriarchs, Page 145 says, Surely we have been in situations where we were genuinely mistreated; but in the process of gaining our freedom, someone in our camp did something foolish. Have you ever noticed how hard remaining blameless can be in a conflict? I have.”

I have too, our human nature is such that we want to distort and rationalize our actions. We carry roots of bitterness, and feel “justified” in doing what we do. I know that in my past, with all the abuse I received, I also did things that were not right to do. Taking my sister’s medicine to numb pain, my walking away from my family for so long that they didn’t know if I was alive or dead, my actions of active rebellion, turning to paganism. Those were not spotless actions, and although I spent years rationalizing them, they were sins, and I had sunk as low as those who abused me. Fortunately we have a wonderful God who forgives us, who helps us to remedy our rebellion and turns our lives around.

Laban is going to realize that Jacob has fled and pursue him – remember Laban is an idol worshipper and his household idol is missing. Jacob is going to be accused and feel he is purely innocent – which he is because Jacob did not take Laban’s idol. Jacob will make a statement, that could have had disastrous results. Reminds me of the king who offered to sacrifice the first thing that came to him – only to find that instead of an animal, it was his daughter. We have to be so careful what we say.

Laban was told on the THIRD (again the third) day that Jacob had fled. Laban pursues Jacob for seven days, and overtakes him in the mountains of Gilead.

God came to Laban (a pagan) in a dream and says, verse 24 “Be careful that you speak to Jacob neither good nor bad.”

The master manipulator, Laban will now try to keep Jacob when he asks Jacob why he fled, and carried away his daughters like captives taken with a sword. (That was not what happened, the daughters saw the need to leave with Jacob, who spoke with them and gained their consent).

Here is another untruth. Verse 27-30 “Why did you flee away secretly, and steal away from me, and not tell me; for I might have sent you away with joy and songs, with timbrel and harp? And you did not allow me to kiss my sons and my daughters. Now you have done foolishly in so doing. It is in my power to do you harm, but the God of your father spoke to me last night, saying, ‘Be careful that you speak to Jacob neither good nor bad.’ And now you have surely gone because you greatly long for your father’s house, but why did you steal my gods? 

Let’s look at the above a bit more closely. Would Laban have really sent Jacob away with a party? Probably not – last time Jacob told Laban that he wanted to go home, Laban convinced him to stay because he was blessed by God, and that blessed Laban. I cannot see selfish Laban letting Jacob go with his wages and possessions, he would have tried to keep them with him. It is not in Laban’s power to do Jacob harm – God intervened in a dream instructing Laban not to speak good or evil to Jacob. I cannot imagine God allowing Jacob, through whom the Messiah would come, to come to harm at the hands of Laban and his men. The only sad and true thing is that one of the household gods was stolen – and that was done by the one Jacob loved the most – Rachel, and Jacob did not know Rachel did this. It is not told to us in the Bible, but I wonder if Jacob ever discovered that Rachel had stolen the idol.

Jacob, who believed that his family was innocent of stealing the idol, answered Laban, verses 31-32 “Because I was afraid, for I said, ‘Perhaps you would take your daughters from me by force. With whomever you find your gods, do not let him live. In the presence of our brethren, identify what I have of yours and take it with you.”

Well Laban searches all the tents and does not find the idol. He comes into Rachel’s tent – she is the idol thief – and she had put the idols in a camel’s saddle and sat on the saddle, telling Laban that she could not get up because it was her time of month.

Jacob is angry and rebukes Laban – pointing out that he did not trespass, and there was no reason for Laban to pursue him.

Jacob points out that in the 20 years that he stayed with Laban, Laban changed his wages ten times. And in verse 42 Jacob says, “Unless the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had been with me, surely now you would have sent me away empty handed. God has seen my affliction and the labor of my hands, and rebuked you last night.”

Several times Jacob has said that Laban changed his wages 10 times, I am not certain about this – He bargained for Leah and Rebekah (two times), then there was a few bargainings for the sheep – but it doesn’t add up to ten times. Although maybe God did not think it necessary to elaborate on all the times the wages were changed. Ten is the number of the commandments, so maybe it is a reference to the law verses God’s grace.

Laban asserts himeself claiming that these are his daughters, and the flock is his flock and all that Jacob sees is Laban’s (That is not entirely true because Jacob worked 14 years for the wives and agreed upon the wages with Laban regarding speckled and striped sheep.)

Laban offers to make a covenant as a witness.

They pile stones and make a heap and eat by the heap. Laban calls the place Jegar Sahadutha but Jacob calls it Galeed -both names mean Heap of witness. It is also called Mizpah (which means watch), and Laban says, verse 49 “May the LORD watch between you and me when we are absent from one another. If you afflict my daughters, or if you take other wives besides my daughters, although no man is with us–see, God is witness between you and me.”

They covenant that neither of them will pass beyond the heap to harm the other. Jacob swears by the Fear of his father Isaac. This is kind of like drawing a line in the sand.

Beth Moore adds the following about the fear of Isaac, page 147 “Can’t we imagine Isaac intimately knew of the fear of God through both terror and reverence? After all, it was Isaac who encountered God while strapped to an altar and his father’s hand raised to slay him. Surely Isaac was terrified of the One who sent him to Mount Moriah, yet he reverenced the One who spared him. I have no trouble picturing that the name of God most closely associated with Isaac is fear. By calling God this name in front of Laban, Jacob was reminding his father-in-law that God isn’t to be taken lightly or disobeyed flippantly.”

Jacob offers a sacrifice, and shares bread on the mountain, staying together all night. Early in the morning Laban rises, kisses his sons and daughters and blesses them, departing.

Notice, It doesn’t say that Laban gave Jacob a kiss (as in a kiss of friendship), it was a parting but not without some ill feeling on both sides. We do not hear another word about Laban in the Bible.

I can just imagine Rachel giving a big sigh of relief, and feeling a bit of triumph at having the household gods. I just wonder how much enjoyment she got from her spoil. Perhaps she would not be able to display them prominently because then Jacob would know what she did. Perhaps there was a bit of guilt at what she took.

I suspect that after the sigh of relief that Jacob has, his next experience will make him feel he has jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire.

Regarding the covenant, Beth states on page 148 “Although God’s Word teaches us to forgive and to seek forgiveness, I don’t believe Scripture counsels us to reconcile relationships God despised. He loves people, but make no mistake–He can despise relationships. Some relationships are nothing less than an abomination. Sometimes two people who need God to stand between them weren’t in an illicit relationship. They simply can’t keep from doing one another harm. Too much anger still rages. They need to be sent to opposite ends of the boxing ring with the referee firmly planted between them. I think Laban and Jacob offer us a prime example of restoration in terms of forgiveness and goodwill—but not togetherness. Sometimes God restores two people to one another on the basis of the cross. Other times He restores them to Himself but stands between them as a witness for their protection and accountability.”

I wish I had had a chance to talk with my parents regarding my abuse, but by the time I was emotionally fit to talk with them, they were both dead. I suspect that like Jacob and Laban, God would have helped us to verbally reconcile, but would have stood between us. It is so good to know that we can forgive, and just get restored to God, even if we still have to stay away from those who hurt us. For then, we do not carry the burden of the past around with us. We can get weighted down so much with emotions, anger, rage, roots of bitterness. But God can give us liberty in the midst.

Have a blessed evening,



About Heather Marsten

Welcome to Heather's Blog. I'm looking forward to meeting you and checking out your sites. I just moved about nine years of material over from another blog site, Xanga, who may close down mid-July. At first I was disappointed to make the move because I had a lifetime membership at Xanga and had to spend weeks transferring posts. But now I'm thrilled. Already I've met new bloggers and read many new websites. Blogging is a wonderful way to expand my horizons and garner new ideas. I'm a happily married mom of three young adults. My husband and I are proud to watch our children grow and venture out into the world. My daughter is still in college but my two sons have graduated. One has a job and the other just graduated and is in the process of finding a job in his field, physics. Anyone know of any jobs out there? I'm proud of our children and love watching them grow and mature. They've become fine, compassionate, and loving people. Empty nest? Nah, I'm too busy to let an empty nest bother me. Not enough hours in the day. My husband and I enjoy quiet time together and I have many interests to pursue - one of which is blogging :D I am a born-again believer and love God. As you read this blog, you will discover that Bible studies thrill me. There is so much wisdom contained between the covers of the Bible and I am fortunate to sit under the teachings of a remarkable pastor, Pastor Don Moore. Members of our church (Living Word Chapel in West Hurley, New York) are encouraged to teach and there are visiting pastors who stop by our church, I also study the Bible on my own and love sharing what I learn. One other passion is writing. My current work in process is a memoir. A scene from my memoir was published in a book called: Heavenly Company: Entertaining Angels Unaware - an anthology of angelic encounters compiled by Cecil Murphy. I'm hoping my memoir will encourage other survivors of abuse. I grew up in a home filled with abuse, including incest. For most of my life I was searching for something that would fill the void of not being loved by my parents. I tried many ways to find that love -- therapy, relationships, occult studies, and keeping my life so filled I had no way to think about my past. It was only when I discovered God that I was able to put the pieces of my life back together and walk forward in a joyous life. My nickname - wondering has changed from wondering where the heck God was in my life, to wondering what incredible adventure is going to happen next. I hope you enjoy my site. Please say hi, share some thoughts, and ask questions. I look forward to meeting you and checking out your sites. Have a blessed day. Heather
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