Genesis Chapter Thirty-One


Read Genesis 31:1-16 – Family Discord and Jealousy


v.1-2And he heard the words of Laban’s sons, saying, Jacob hath taken away all that was our father’s; and of that which was our father’s hath he gotten all this glory. 2And Jacob beheld the countenance of Laban, and, behold, it was not toward him as before”.


            In the chapter just completed, there was dissension and jealousy between Leah and Rachel as would be expected when two women, one of whom he doesn’t love, are trying to share the same man.  Now, because God has blessed Jacob and increased his wealth, because the covenant that Laban made gave Jacob the offspring of the flocks of certain colors and patterns and these have multiplied at a much greater rate than Laban’s, Laban’s sons are also becoming jealous.  Just as the scripture tells us will happen in such circumstances:


So that the man that is tender among you, and very delicate, his eye shall be evil toward his brother, and toward the wife of his bosom, and toward the remnant of his children which he shall leave:” Deuteronomy 28:54


            The man that is tender among you, what about him is tender?  Not his compassion, not his heart, but his feelings are hurt.  His brother, his neighbor or one someone is prospering more that he is, so his feelings are hurt, jealousy arises.  Feelings of this nature now arise among the sons of Laban because Jacob’s wealth is growing.  Jacob hears the grumbling of the sons, and observes that Laban, as well, has become disenchanted with their situation.


v.3.  And the LORD said unto Jacob, Return unto the land of thy fathers, and to thy kindred; and I will be with thee.”


            So now the Lord intervenes as well.  As we have noted before Jacob was probably not a very decisive man and at times had to be pushed a little and now he gets direct instruction.  God renews his prior promise made at Bethel:


Genesis 28:15And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.”


And now the time has come that God will “BRING THEE AGAIN INTO THIS LAND;” as he had promised.


v. 4-5And Jacob sent and called Rachel and Leah to the field unto his flock, 5And said unto them, I see your father’s countenance, that it is not toward me as before; but the God of my father hath been with me.”


            So Jacob calls his wives to the fields where he is grazing his flocks, explains to them the situation with their father, that he has now fallen out of favor with Laban but that God has been with him and given him instructions.


v.6-7And ye know that with all my power I have served your father. 7And your father hath deceived me, and changed my wages ten times; but God suffered him not to hurt me.”


            He tells them what they must already know.  He has served their father faithfully and for many more years than he should have had to serve.  Their father has not dealt honestly with Jacob.  Laban has changed the wages that Jacob was to receive for serving him ten times and not for the better but rather to defraud Jacob.  But God has protected Jacob, provided his prosperity in spite of Laban and that has just added fuel to the jealousy of Laban and his sons.


v.8-9If he said thus, The speckled shall be thy wages; then all the cattle bare speckled: and if he said thus, The ringstreaked shall be thy hire; then bare all the cattle ringstreaked. 9Thus God hath taken away the cattle of your father, and given them to me.”


            The Jacob explains how all of this has come about.  When Laban gave him all the speckled animals, God caused the flocks to bear speckled offspring.  Laban would see Jacob’s prosperity growing and change their agreement to give Jacob all the ringstraked or stripped animals so then God would cause the flocks to bear all ringstraked animals.  Everything Laban did to cheat Jacob was turned against him and his every move only caused Jacob to prosper further.


v.10And it came to pass at the time that the cattle conceived, that I lifted up mine eyes, and saw in a dream, and, behold, the rams which leaped upon the cattle were ringstreaked, speckled, and grisled.”


            Jacob tells them how he has seen in a dream that the dominant males of the flocks were those that were ringstraked, or ringstreaked (stripped), speckled and grizzled.  This was what was causing the flocks to bear animals that would be Jacob’s rather than Laban’s.


v.11And the angel of God spake unto me in a dream, saying, Jacob: And I said, Here am I.”


            He tells them about the angel of God coming to speak to him in a dream, an occurrence that he apparently had not shared with them previously.


v.12-13And he said, Lift up now thine eyes, and see, all the rams which leap upon the cattle are ringstreaked, speckled, and grisled: for I have seen all that Laban doeth unto thee. 13I am the God of Bethel, where thou anointedst the pillar, and where thou vowedst a vow unto me: now arise, get thee out from this land, and return unto the land of thy kindred.”


            The God that Jacob has worshiped at Bethel has now appeared unto him in a dream and assured him just as he assured Moses at the burning bush:


Exodus 3:7And the LORD said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows;”


Just as he knows our troubles today:




            So Jacob tells his wives about the source of his prosperity, the word that God has brought to him in his dreams and that the time has now come that they must return to the land from which he came to Haran.


v.14-16And Rachel and Leah answered and said unto him, Is there yet any portion or inheritance for us in our father’s house? 15Are we not counted of him strangers? for he hath sold us, and hath quite devoured also our money. 16For all the riches which God hath taken from our father, that is ours, and our children’s: now then, whatsoever God hath said unto thee, do.”


            Rachel and Leah take the practical approach.  There is no inheritance in their father’s house for them.  In the culture of that time daughters did not share in the inheritance from their father, only sons did.  Since they are Jacob’s wives they share any animosity or jealousy that Laban directs toward Jacob.  If fact there appears to be some animosity on their part as well because their father indeed did sell them to Jacob as wives in exchange for his service.  In addition Laban has “DEVOURED” whatever would have been given to their husbands as a dowry so they have nothing to look forward to as daughters in Laban’s house.  Jacob now has all of the riches that God has taken from Laban so Jacob should do whatever God has told him to do.


Read Genesis 31:17-24 – Jacob Leaves Haran


v.17-18Then Jacob rose up, and set his sons and his wives upon camels; 18And he carried away all his cattle, and all his goods which he had gotten, the cattle of his getting, which he had gotten in Padanaram, for to go to Isaac his father in the land of Canaan.”


            So Jacob makes his preparations.  He gathers up all of his herds and flocks, all of the goods that God has blessed him with, everything that he has gotten in Padanaram; puts his sons and wives on camels to go back to Canaan.


v.19And Laban went to shear his sheep: and Rachel had stolen the images that were her father’s.”


            We should remember from an earlier study that the flocks of Jacob and Laban were situated a distance apart equal to three day’s journey.  Now Jacob takes advantage of that separation and waits until Laban goes to shear his sheep to pack up and leave.  He is fearful of being hindered or even that Laban might try to take his goods if he knew that Jacob was leaving.

            Jacob follows that which is honest and appropriate in his situation and takes only that which is rightfully his but Rachel isn’t so inclined.  She steals the family gods or images that her father apparently worshipped or consulted at various times.


v.20-21  And Jacob stole away unawares to Laban the Syrian, in that he told him not that he fled. 21So he fled with all that he had; and he rose up, and passed over the river, and set his face toward the mount Gilead.”


            So Jacob leaves while Laban is gone and Laban is unaware of what Jacob had planned or what he was doing.  Jacob takes his family and his possessions and travels far enough to cross over the river.  This river can be either the Belikh that flows right by the site thought to be the location of Haran or the Euphrates that is about 100 miles south of Haran.  He has “SET HIS FACE” toward “THE MOUNT GILEAD”.  This is not a single mountain but rather the name given the mountainous region east of the Jordan and south of the Sea of Galilee.


v.22-23And it was told Laban on the third day that Jacob was fled. 23And he took his brethren with him, and pursued after him seven days’ journey; and they overtook him in the mount Gilead.”


             As we remember, Laban’s flocks were moved three days away from Jacob so when Jacob leaves it takes three days for Laban to be notified.  When he does learn that Jacob has left he takes his “BRETHREN” or his sons and servants and pursues Jacob all the way to the region of Gilead.


v.24And God came to Laban the Syrian in a dream by night, and said unto him, Take heed that thou speak not to Jacob either good or bad.”


            We don’t know the intentions of Laban toward his nephew and his family but we can surmise that they probably were not those of a loving uncle who was just upset because Jacob left without saying goodbye.  So Laban is visited by God in a dream and warned not to speak to Jacob either good or bad.  So God visits not only the righteous in this case but the one who would possibly do harm to the righteous as well to give him instruction regarding His will.  God is indeed protecting Jacob as promised.


Read Genesis 31:25-35 – Laban and Jacob’s Confrontation


v.25Then Laban overtook Jacob. Now Jacob had pitched his tent in the mount: and Laban with his brethren pitched in the mount of Gilead.”


            Jacob had pitched his tent, made his stopping place in the region of Gilead and that is where Laban finds him.


v.26And Laban said to Jacob, What hast thou done, that thou hast stolen away unawares to me, and carried away my daughters, as captives taken with the sword?”


            Laban has had some time to think about God’s warning but he’s still upset.  The first thing he does is accuse of Jacob of carrying away his daughters as though they were captives taken in war.  This is not the case at all because, as we remember, Jacob discussed their situation with Leah and Rachel and had their full approval and cooperation in the decision to leave Haran.


v.27-28Wherefore didst thou flee away secretly, and steal away from me; and didst not tell me, that I might have sent thee away with mirth, and with songs, with tabret, and with harp? 28And hast not suffered me to kiss my sons and my daughters? thou hast now done foolishly in so doing.”


            Then Laban upbraids Jacob for leaving secretly but we know why Jacob left secretly, Laban would have tried to stop him.  Then Laban tells Jacob something that was probably as far from the truth as anything could be.  If only Jacob had given him the opportunity he would have thrown a go-away party and declared a feast in celebration of their leaving.  And then lastly he complains that he wasn’t even given the opportunity to kiss his daughters and his grandchildren goodbye.  He claims that Jacob has acted foolishly in doing what he did.


v.29 “It is in the power of my hand to do you hurt: but the God of your father spake unto me yesternight, saying, Take thou heed that thou speak not to Jacob either good or bad.”


            Laban has apparently brought a sizable force of men with him and even with Jacob’s sons and hired servants available to fight could have done Jacob much harm.  However, Laban does respect the instructions that God has given regarding the safety of Jacob and his family and does not harm him in any way.

Laban saves his best shot for last.


v.30  And now, though thou wouldest needs be gone, because thou sore longedst after thy father’s house, yet wherefore hast thou stolen my gods?”


            Laban now claims he understands Jacob’s need to be gone from Haran back to his father house.  But his gods have been stolen, the images that represent his power, are gone and he accuses Jacob of stealing them.


v.31And Jacob answered and said to Laban, Because I was afraid: for I said, Peradventure thou wouldest take by force thy daughters from me.


            We have a word here that perhaps we should define further, but then perhaps I was the only one who had to look it up.  What does the word “peradventure” mean?  It means chance, doubt or uncertainty in our current usage and perhaps, possibly or maybe in the usage in older versions of the English language.  So Jacob is saying that he left Haran in secret because quite possibly Laban would have tried to take his daughters and grandchildren from him by force.  Based on what the scripture has told us about Laban I think we could consider it to be more than just a possibility.


v.32With whomsoever thou findest thy gods, let him not live: before our brethren discern thou what is thine with me, and take it to thee. For Jacob knew not that Rachel had stolen them.”


            Jacob responds very strongly to the other accusation that Laban makes.  He’s going to let Laban search his possessions in the presence of all their men for his gods and declares that if they are found the person that stole them doesn’t deserve to live.  Then the scripture tells us that Jacob does not know that Rachel did in fact steal her father’s idols.  If he had; I’m sure Jacob’s reactive would have been quite different.


v.33-34And Laban went into Jacob’s tent, and into Leah’s tent, and into the two maidservants’ tents; but he found them not. Then went he out of Leah’s tent, and entered into Rachel’s tent.”


            Laban searches Jacob’s tent first, an insult to Jacob’s integrity, the probably since I’m sure he trusted the maid servants less than his daughters he searches their tents next, then Leah’s and finally Rachel’s.  She has them and has hidden them in “THE CAMEL’S FURNITURE”.  What is the writer talking about when he uses this term?  It is the very same as would be found in some places today when someone talks about the horse furniture.  It is simply the tack; particularly the saddle that is used to ride the animal.  Rachel is literally sitting on her camel saddle, and sitting on or over the idols that Laban is looking for.


v.35And she said to her father, Let it not displease my lord that I cannot rise up before thee; for the custom of women is upon me. And he searched, but found not the images.


            Rachel, playing the role of the sweet, dutiful daughter, gives her father an excuse for not rising and letting him search her saddle that she knows he will accept without question.  So Laban searches as thoroughly as he can, cannot find his gods, and has to finally give up without proving his accusation.


Read Genesis 31:36-42 – Jacob’s Response to Laban


v.36And Jacob was wroth, and chode with Laban: and Jacob answered and said to Laban, What is my trespass? what is my sin, that thou hast so hotly pursued after me?”


            Jacob is now angry, perhaps really angry for the first time that scripture has recorded.  The word used is “CHODE”, it is found only twice in the King James Translation of our Bible, and I did not find it in a modern dictionary, what does it mean?  We use a very similar word today that means the same thing, chide.  Jacob chided Laban, scolded him, he reproached him strongly.  He asks what is my trespass, my sin, the reason that Laban has pursued him with a small army?


v.37 Whereas thou hast searched all my stuff, what hast thou found of all thy household stuff? set it here before my brethren and thy brethren, that they may judge betwixt us both.”


            He further accuses Laban of treating him like a common thief.  Laban has come in and searched all of Jacob’s belongings, accusing him of stealing his gods, so now it’s time for him to set before all those present what he’s found and prove his accusations.  But Laban cannot do so, because Rachel hide the gods, he didn’t find them.


v.38-39This twenty years have I been with thee; thy ewes and thy she goats have not cast their young, and the rams of thy flock have I not eaten. 39That which was torn of beasts I brought not unto thee; I bare the loss of it; of my hand didst thou require it, whether stolen by day, or stolen by night.”


            Jacob unloads the frustrations of twenty years on Laban.  This sounds like some of the things that took place in my family when we were sharecropping grandfather’s farm.

            Jacob says Laban’s ewes and she goats didn’t bear well but it wasn’t because he butchered and ate the rams.  Jacob bore the loss of all the animals that were lost to predators and all those that were stolen.  Jacob had charge of the welfare of Laban’s flocks and was required by Laban to replace any losses out of his own flocks.


v.40-41Thus I was; in the day the drought consumed me, and the frost by night; and my sleep departed from mine eyes. 41Thus have I been twenty years in thy house; I served thee fourteen years for thy two daughters; and six years for thy cattle: and thou hast changed my wages ten times.”


            Jacob has worked for Laban for twenty years, seven each for Leah and Rachel to become his wives and another six for the flocks that Jacob started from the animals that Laban provided to him in their agreement.  He’s worked day and night and served faithfully, through drought, cold and whatever adversity came because that was what was required.  Now Laban is treating him like a common thief, a runaway that deserved to be pursued and stopped in a land far from Laban’s home.


v.42Except the God of my father, the God of Abraham, and the fear of Isaac, had been with me, surely thou hadst sent me away now empty. God hath seen mine affliction and the labour of my hands, and rebuked thee yesternight.


            Now Jacob tells Laban that he knows that if it had not been for the warning given Laban by God; that Laban would indeed have striped Jacob of everything he had, including his wives and children and sent him on his way.   The only reason that Laban is hesitating even now is that he knows that the Almighty God, the God of Abraham and Isaac is with Jacob also.  God has seen Jacob’s labor and affliction, knows Laban’s heart and mind has stopped Laban and Laban is afraid not to obey Him.


Read Genesis 31:43-55 – Jacob and Laban Make a Covenant


v.43-44And Laban answered and said unto Jacob, These daughters are my daughters, and these children are my children, and these cattle are my cattle, and all that thou seest is mine: and what can I do this day unto these my daughters, or unto their children which they have born? Now therefore come thou, let us make a covenant, I and thou; and let it be for a witness between me and thee.”


            Sound familiar?  That’s mine; no it’s not, its mine.  At no other time do grown men sound more like spoiled children than when they get into an argument.  Laban is not moved by Jacob’s rebuke.  He is wrong, he knows he’s wrong but is not willing to acknowledge that fact, nor will he accept Jacob’s forgiveness for those things he has done.  He turns it off with an expression of kindness, probably false, toward Jacob.  Jacob’s wives are his daughters, their children are his grandchildren; Laban even claims the “cattle” actually flocks of sheep and goats (see NIV, NASB, ESV, NKJV, ASV) as his, so the man who has tried in vain to defraud Jacob for 20 years wants to make another covenant.  The man whose promises have proven to be empty wants to make Jacob yet one more.


v.45-46 And Jacob took a stone, and set it up for a pillar. 46And Jacob said unto his brethren, Gather stones; and they took stones, and made an heap: and they did eat there upon the heap.”


            Jacob is not interested in prolonging this problem any longer.  In response to Laban’s call for a covenant he simply took a stone and set it up for a pillar and instructed his sons to gather the stones necessary to complete the monument to the agreement that they would make.


v.47-48And Laban called it Jegarsahadutha: but Jacob called it Galeed. 48And Laban said, This heap is a witness between me and thee this day. Therefore was the name of it called Galeed;


            In honor of their covenant Laban wants to call the place Je-gar-sa-ha-du-tha which in the Syrian language means heap of testimony but Jacob rather calls it Galeed, which in Hebrew means “heap of witness” a somewhat stronger term than Laban’s.  This is very similar to what Joshua did at Shechem when the twelve tribes of Israel made their covenant with each other to serve the God of heaven.


Joshua 24:27 And Joshua said unto all the people, Behold, this stone shall be a witness unto us; for it hath heard all the words of the LORD which he spake unto us: it shall be therefore a witness unto you, lest ye deny your God.”


v.49-50  And Mizpah; for he said, The LORD watch between me and thee, when we are absent one from another. If thou shalt afflict my daughters, or if thou shalt take other wives beside my daughters, no man is with us; see, God is witness betwixt me and thee.”


            In their covenant God was to be the watchman between Laban and Jacob to make sure that neither violated that covenant.  Therefore Laban added the name Mizpah to that location as well, which means “watchtower” for “lookout”.  This made it a symbolic place where God as the watchman over their covenant would keep watch to make sure that neither violated that covenant.  Part of that covenant was that Jacob was to take no other wives or afflict or abuse Laban’s daughters in any way.


v.51-52And Laban said to Jacob, Behold this heap, and behold this pillar, which I have cast betwixt me and thee; 52This heap be witness, and this pillar be witness, that I will not pass over this heap to thee, and that thou shalt not pass over this heap and this pillar unto me, for harm.”


            The heap of stones and the pillar that Jacob had erected to mark their covenant now also becomes a boundary over which neither Laban nor Jacob will pass except in peace.


v.53  The God of Abraham, and the God of Nahor, the God of their father, judge betwixt us. And Jacob sware by the fear of his father Isaac.”


            Laban now places their covenant in the hands of the God of Abraham and the God of Nahor.  Could this indicate that Laban was not a true believer?  In my thinking, most likely he was not, because he swears by the God of his ancestors, indicating that there is no regular fellowship between him and the true God.  He says God judge between us, but of course we know that God has already done just that.  Jacob swears his oath by the fear or respect of God by his father Isaac.


v.54Then Jacob offered sacrifice upon the mount, and called his brethren to eat bread: and they did eat bread, and tarried all night in the mount.”


            Jacob doesn’t forget that this has all been brought about by God.  He offers a sacrifice and worships God giving him honor first.  Then they have a feast to celebrate the covenant and the occasion of their reconciliation.  Laban, his sons and his servants spend the night, probably in doing those things that families will do before parting for a long period of time.


v.55And early in the morning Laban rose up, and kissed his sons and his daughters, and blessed them: and Laban departed, and returned unto his place.”


            The crisis has ended; Laban makes his farewells and returns to Haran.  Jacob has gained two wives with their maid servants, eleven sons and at least one daughter, is wealthy in flocks and herds and has returned to the land of promise.  Time, and God’s plan for the nation that Israel is to become marches forward.