Home > Bible Journal > January 25th, Genesis 31-32: Jacob flees from Laban

January 25th, Genesis 31-32: Jacob flees from Laban

February 14, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

I’ve heard it said that you should never go into business with family. When the times are going good, it’s all smiles and sunshine. But when the times turn bad, it’s all frowns and storms. And it’s the down times in business that place a great stress on familial relationships, often obliterating them into oblivion.

Genesis 31 starts out with Jacob overhearing Laban’s sons saying that their father’s wealth has been stolen. Jacob also noticed that Laban’s attitude was not what it had been.

The LORD then told Jacob to return to the land of his fathers, and that the LORD would be with him.

Jacob then gathered Rachel and Leah to come out to the fields where the flocks were. He let them know that he had worked hard and honestly for their father, but their father kept changing his wages. Now the LORD commanded him to leave for his native land.

Rachel and Leah replied that Laban had already used up what Jacob paid for them. Surely God has taken away from their father and given wealth to Jacob and their children.

Then Jacob put his children and wives on camels, took all of his livestock and goods he had accumulated in Paddam Aram, to go to his father Isaac’s land in Canaan.

When Laban went to shear his sheep, his daughter Rachel stole his household gods. Moreover, Jacob deceived Laban by not telling him that he was running away. So he fled with all he had, crossing the Euphrates for the hill country of Gilead.

On the third day, Laban found out that Jacob had fled with his daughters, children, and goods. Taking his relatives with him, Laban pursued Jacob for seven days and caught up with him in the hill country of Gilead.

Genesis 31:24 says:
24 Then God came to Laban the Aramean in a dream at night and said to him, “Be careful not to say anything to Jacob, either good or bad.”

Jacob pitched his tent in the hill country of Gilead, and Laban and his relatives did likewise. Laban, likely with much anger, accused Jacob of deceiving him, cheating him of an opportunity to see his daughters and grandchildren off. Though he had the power to harm Jacob, Laban said that the God of Isaac had told him not to say anything to Jacob, either good or bad. Now Jacob left because he longed for his father’s house, but why steal Laban’s household gods?

Jacob answered that he was afraid that Laban would take his daughters away by force. But Jacob maintained that he did not take Laban’s gods, and that if anyone in Jacob’s household had stolen Laban’s household gods, he shall not live. Of course, Jacob did not know that Rachel had stolen the gods.

So Laban searched Jacob’s tent and Leah’s tent and into the tents of the two maidservants, but found nothing. Then he came into Rachel’s tent. Now Rachel had taken her father’s household gods and put them inside her camel’s saddle and was sitting on them while they found nothing in the tent.

Rachel then claimed that she could not stand up before Laban because she was having her period, so they could not find the household gods. [Ed. note: Women used PMS as an excuse even back in Biblical times.]

Jacob then vented at Laban when the household gods could not be found. Laban merely replied that he could not control what was his, i.e. his daughters, his children, his grandchildren or his flocks. So let them make a covenant to serve as a witness.

Jacob took a stone and gathered it as a pillar, calling on his relatives to gather more stones. They took stones and piled it in a heap, and they ate by the heap. Laban called it Jegar Saudutha and Jacob called it Galeed, which both mean “witness heap”.

Then they made the covenant at that place, which was also called Mizpah which means “watchtower”. Laban told Jacob not to take any wives other than his daughters. Neither Laban nor Jacob would cross the heap to do harm to the other. May the God of Abraham and the God of Nahor, the God of their father, judge them.

So Jacob took an oath in the name of the Fear of his father ISaac. He offered a sacrifice in the hill country and invited his relatives to a meal. After they ate, they spent the night.

Early the next morning Laban kissed his grandchildren and daughters and blessed them before returning home.

Genesis 32 begins with angels of the God meeting Jacob. When he saw them, he proclaimed that “This is the camp of God!” So he named that place Mahanaim, which means “two camps”.

Jacob send messengers ahead to his brother Esau who was living in the land of Seir, the country of Edom. He instructed them to refer to him as “Your servant Jacob” and that Jacob had cattle, donkeys, sheep, goats, menservants and maidservants as gifts for his elder brother.

The messengers returned, informing Jacob that Esau was coming to meet him with four hundred men.

In great fear and distress, Jacob split his people into two groups, thinking that if Esau attacked one group, the other could escape.

Jacob then prayed for protection from his brother Esau. But he remembered that the LORD had told him that he would prosper and make his descendants like the sand of the sea.

He spent the night there, and selected from his flocks the gifts for his brother Esau. He instructed his servants to go ahead of him, and to keep space between the herds. each one was to say that each herd belonged to “Your servant Jacob” and that it was a gift sent to “my lord Esau”, and that Jacob was coming behind them.

That night Jacob got up and took his family and crossed the ford of Jabook. After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man could not overpower him, the man touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched while they wrestled. Then the man said to let him go, for it was daybreak.

But Jacob replied that he would not let go until the man blessed him. The man asked what Jacob’s name was, to which Jacob replied, “Jacob”.

Genesis 32:28-29 says:
28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”

29 Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.”
But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there.

For reference’s sake, remember that Israel means “he struggles with God.” Jacob called that place Peniel, which means “face of God”, because he had been spared after meeting God face-to-face. The sun rose past Peniel and Jacob limped because of hip.

Therefore, to this day the Israelites do not eat tendon attached to the socket of the hip.

Questions: Have you ever fled in fear? Is there someone in your life that you feed would need many gifts to make up for what you did to them in the past?

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