After the escape of Jacob and his family, Laban began to hotly pursue Jacob with the intent of harm. The passage focused on how Laban and Jacob would have been locked in heated accusations and confrontations, if it weren’t for the Lord’s intervention. These events remind us how the Lord is able to prevent one from harming His people and how the Lord judges and becomes a witness to one’s deeds and conducts.
Did You Know...?
- Gilead (31:23): In Hebrew, the name literally means “monument of stones.” Gilead sometimes refers to all of Israelite Transjordan (Josh 22:9) but often it is restricted only to the areas between the Jabbok and Yarmuk rivers to the south (Num 32:29). It is a rugged highland area (Gen 31:21, 23, 25) cut by river valleys and bordered by Bashan to the north. [ref]
- Jegar-Sahadutha (31:47) literally in Aramean means “heap of witness.”
- Galeed (31:47) in Hebrew literally means “heap of witness.” The name has similar meaning to the name “Jegar-Sahadutha,” called by Laban. Probably Nahor’s family originally spoke Aramaic, and Abraham and his descendants learned Hebrew, a kindred dialect, in the land of Canaan. [ref]
How did Laban react when hearing that Jacob had fled?
What would Laban initial intention after he overtook Jacob?
What caused the change of intent?
What can we learn about God’s character from His intervention?Hide Answer
From God’s intervention toward Laban’s harmful intent, we can learn that God is faithful to His promise. Previously, the Lord had promised Jacob that He would be with him (Gen 31:3) in his journey to return to the land of his family. Thus, when Laban was pursuing Jacob with the intent to interfere with the progress of Jacob’s return, the Lord intervened through a dream of warning. In addition, the Lord’s intervention also showed His loving-kindness to protect over His people. Earlier, in Gen 31:7 the Lord had protected Jacob to be hurt from Laban’s deception. Now, the Lord warned Laban to be careful in his speech (Gen 31:24), knowing that Laban had the intention to harm Jacob.
What can we learn about Laban’s character from the Lord’s intervention?Hide Answer
In Gen 31:24, the Lord came to Laban in a dream by night and warned him to be careful in his speech to Jacob. From here, we learn that Laban is a person who does not take into consideration about his speech toward other people. From Laban’s words in Gen 31:29, we know that he is able to speak badly to Jacob, apart from the deceitful words which he has done (Gen 31:7, 29:26-27).
What were the accusations of Laban to Jacob?Hide Answer
After Laban had overtaken Jacob in the mountains of Gilead, Laban accused Jacob of several things: First, Laban accused Jacob of stealing away and carrying away his daughters like captives taken with the sword (Gen 31:26). Second, Laban blamed Jacob for fleeing away secretly, taking away Laban’s opportunity to send Jacob away properly with joy, songs, timbrel and harp (Gen 31:27). Third, Laban considered Jacob to be foolish for preventing him to kiss his sons and daughters (Gen 31:28). Fourth, Laban accused Jacob of stealing his gods (Gen 31:30).
Were Laban’s accusations against Jacob justified?Hide Answer
The four accusations of Laban toward Jacob were not entirely justified. Although Jacob did not carry away Laban’s daughters and grandchildren like captives, Jacob’s fleeing away secretly prevented Laban to do a formal family farewell for them. Next, the accusation of stealing the gods. Though Laban was hasty in assuming Jacob to be the culprit, it was logical to conclude that the household gods went missing at the same time with Jacob’s secretive escape. Last, the accusation of taking away a proper send-off for Jacob. Such an accusation was rather a weak one because Laban never had the intention to send Jacob away, let alone make a proper joyous celebration for the send-off.
How did Jacob respond to the accusations of Laban?Hide Answer
Responding to the accusations of Laban, Jacob explained that he took Laban’s daughters and the children because he was afraid of Laban taking them away by force (Gen 31:31). Jacob’s fear of Laban was supported through Laban’s hesitation to let Jacob go (Gen 30:27, 28) and Laban’s action in taking away the inheritance of his daughters (Gen 31:14, 15). Furthermore, Jacob challenged Laban to identify his stolen belonging and not to let the person live (Gen 31:32).
Were Jacob’s responses toward Laban justified?Hide Answer
The responses of Jacob toward Laban were not entirely justified. Jacob’s challenge to Laban over the household gods showed that he was overly confident. Jacob did not know that it was his family member, his wife Rachel, who had stolen the household gods. Yet, Jacob dared to challenge Laban to kill the perpetrator. If only Laban had searched Rachel’s camel saddle, Jacob would have been dumb-founded to answer his own challenge. Furthermore, Jacob told Laban that he had fled away because he feared him. But such a statement was an excuse to cover his deceit over Laban. Although Laban insisted on keeping Jacob to serve him, it was still with Jacob’s agreement and consent over the negotiated payment which he would receive.
What can we learn from the differences of opinions between Laban and Jacob?Hide Answer
From the differences of opinions between Laban, the father-in-law, and Jacob, the son-in-law; we can learn the importance of communication between family members. As father-in-law, Laban should have learned to listen to his son-in-law. After Rachel had given birth to Joseph, Jacob pleaded with Laban to let him go to his own place and to his country along with his wives and children (Gen 30:25-26). Jacob also beseeched Laban to let him provide for his own house (Gen 30:29-30), by starting a new life back in his home country. Yet, Laban was being indecisive when he agreed to Jacob’s plea (Gen 30:34) and later changed his mind by violating his own agreement with Jacob (Gen 30:35-36). The unfair and deceitful treatment of Laban toward his son-in-law caused Jacob to disassociate himself from his father-in-law. In the epistle to the Ephesians, the apostle Paul specifically warned fathers not to provoke their children to wrath, but to bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord (Eph 6:4). If only Laban could have listened and cared for the needs of his son-in-law, the ending of their relationship would have been different.
As son-in-law, Jacob ought to have shown his honor and respect to Laban no matter how deceitful his father-in-law. In Gen 31:20, Jacob fled away secretly with all that he had without telling Laban. Jacob did not put into consideration that it was Laban who first welcomed him, let him stay in his place (Gen 29:13-14) and gave him permission to marry Rachel (Gen 29:19) and Leah (Gen 29:26), Laban’s daughters who gave children to Jacob. Fleeing away without permission and taking away the opportunity for the father-in-law to give a proper farewell to the daughters and grandchildren would be dishonoring the man who had already given Jacob his wealth and his family. In addition, deceiving Laban by secretly carrying all his livestock and family when Laban had gone to sheer his sheep (Gen 31:19) was an act of dishonor for Jacob toward his father-in-law. In his letter to the Ephesians, the apostle Paul admonished children to honor their father and mother (Eph 6:1). Although Jacob was mistreated and deceived by Laban, as a son-in-law, he should have respected and honored his father-in-law.
To what extreme did Laban and Rachel go for the sake of the household gods? Laban;Hide Answer
Assuming that Jacob had stolen his household gods (Gen 31:30), Laban along with his brethren hotly pursued and overtook Jacob in a seven days’ journey (Gen 31:23). Later, Laban accused Jacob and intensely examined the tents of Jacob and the tents of his wives (Gen 31:26-30, 33-35). Finally, Laban’s unwillingness to accept the lost household gods and to stop searching Jacob’s properties caused Jacob’s anger to be kindled against Laban (Gen 31:36-42).
After Rachel had stolen the household gods (Gen 31:32), she hid them in a place where no one could find them. Even when her father, Laban, desperately searched for them in Jacob’s tent, Leah’s tent, the two maids’ tents and Rachel’s tent (Gen 31:33), Rachel lied brazenly about the idols’ whereabouts because she wanted to keep the idols to herself (Gen 31:34, 35).
It was ironic to see Jacob realizing that the God of his father had been with him (Gen 31:42), while his wife, Rachel, was still holding tightly on to the household gods (Gen 31:32). Though Jacob loved Rachel and she became his wife (Gen 29:18, 30), his love could not influence Rachel to hold on to the God of Abraham just like he did.
The irony between Rachel and Jacob teaches us a lesson about the relationship between a husband and a wife. In his letter to the Corinthians, the apostle Paul reminded the members that the wife or the husband was sanctified by the spouse (
1Cor 7:14, 16). In other words, a husband or a wife should actively influence his or her spouse spiritually to save him or her. Thus, he or she should make every effort to sanctify the spouse in deeds and thoughts. A husband or a wife should not only care for each other physically and mentally but one also needs to influence and sanctify the spouse’s faith.
What was the writer’s purpose to include Gen 31:34?Hide Answer
The writer of the book of Genesis included Gen 31:34 in the passage to let the readers know that it was Rachel, the perpetrator, who had stolen the missing the household gods of Laban. While both Laban and Jacob did not know who had taken the gods, the readers knew exactly who had taken them.
How was Rachel responsible for the conflict between her father, Laban, and her husband, Jacob?Hide Answer
When Laban had pursued and overtaken Jacob, Rachel knew that Laban was desperately searching for his household gods (Gen 31:30). Nevertheless, Rachel lied to Laban in regards to the whereabouts of the household gods (Gen 31:35). If only Rachel had told her father the truth, Laban would not have accused Jacob so harshly and Jacob would not have been greatly offended by Laban’s ill treatment.
Observe Rachel’s character from her actions in Gen 31:34-35.Hide Answer
From what she had done to her father and her husband, we learn that Rachel was a selfish person. First, Rachel intentionally and secretly stole the gods belonging to her father. She knew that the gods were very important to him that he searched intensely for them (Gen 31:30-35). She was willing to lie to her father, just to make sure she kept the stolen gods (Gen 31:35). Second, she only cared about herself. Even after Jacob announced that the one who had stolen the gods should be killed (Gen 31:32), Rachel still did not make any attempt to correct her mistake nor prevent the escalating mistrust between her father and her husband. Instead, she had the gods remain hidden in her camel’s saddle (Gen 31:34) and made sure no one found them, including her father. She only cared about keeping the stolen idols and not the conflict between Laban and Jacob.
Why was Jacob angry? Why did he rebuke Laban?Hide Answer
Jacob’s anger was aroused and he rebuked Laban because of Laban’s treatment toward him and his wives. Laban treated Jacob as if he had done a trespass against Laban. And Laban intensely searched Jacob’s tent and his wives’ tents (Gen 31:33-35) as if they were thieves. Jacob rebuked Laban for his unwillingness to accept that Jacob did not steal his household things (Gen 31:37) and did not sin against Laban.
Observe Jacob’s work ethic from Gen 31:38-40.Hide Answer
From Gen 31:38-40, we can observe several of Jacob’s work ethics. First, Jacob was responsible in his line of duty. Over the course of twenty years of service, Jacob attended to Laban’s ewes and female goats so that they never miscarried their young. Jacob also bore the loss of the rams which had been torn by beasts (Gen 31:38-39). Second, Jacob was honest in his service. Jacob admitted to Laban that in his twenty years of servitude, he never ate any of Laban’s flock (Gen 31:38). Third, Jacob was committed in his servitude. Though the drought consumed him and sleep departed from his eyes, Jacob kept watch of Laban’s flock by heat of day and by frost of night (Gen 31:40).
Observe Laban’s character as an employer from Gen 31:39-42.Hide Answer
There are several characteristics which Laban showed to Jacob as an employer from Gen 31:39-42. First, Laban was the type of employer who would blame the loss of his business on his employee. When his flocks were torn by beasts or stolen by day or by night, Laban required the loss from Jacob’s hand, demanding Jacob to cover the loss (Gen 31:38). Second, Laban was the type of employer who would want to take the profit all by himself. Not only did Laban change and cheat Jacob’s wages ten times, he also would have sent Jacob away empty-handed (Gen 31:41-42) if it had not been for God’s intervention.
The phrase “the Fear of Isaac” has a significant meaning. In Gen 31:53, the writer explained that Jacob swore by the Fear of his father Isaac. In Gen 31:42, the writer referenced the Fear as the God of Abraham, the God of his father—Isaac.
Furthermore, throughout the Scriptures, “the Fear” depicts the majesty and the glory of the Lord (Isa 2:19, 21). The book of Isaiah explained how men who trusted the idols would hide from the terror of the Lord due to His glory, majesty and power to shake the earth mightily. In addition, the psalmist referenced the Fear for God’s judgment (Ps 119:120). The writer of the book of Job suggested the Fear as the dread of the Lord’s excellence (Job 13:11). And the book of
2nd Chronicles explained the Fear of the Lord as His clearance from iniquity and partiality ( 2 Chr 19:7).
Lastly, according to the book of
1st Samuel, the Fear of God would lead one to obedience and to be in one consent ( 1 Sam 11:7). In 2 Chr 17:10, the Fear of God would cause the enemies to restrain themselves from waging war against the people of God.
What was the significance of the phrase “the Fear of Isaac” for Jacob?Hide Answer
The phrase “the Fear of Isaac” was significant for Jacob. The phrase reflected Jacob’s personal experience of the Lord’s guidance upon him. The God of Isaac, his father, indeed saw Jacob’s affliction and the labor of his hands (Gen 31:42). In other words, Jacob’s confession of the Fear of Isaac proved to be a comfort from Laban’s maltreatment and dishonesty, and as a strength toward Jacob’s helplessness against his own father-in-law and employer.
Share your experience of how the fear of God influences the way you make a certain choice.(The answer is empty)Hide Answer
What desperation did you note from Laban’s words in Gen 31:43? Why did he utter such words?Hide Answer
Answering Jacob’s rebuke, Laban said that the wives and the children of Jacob were in fact the daughters and the children of Laban (Gen 31:43), for they still lived under Laban’s roof. Yet now Laban knew that Jacob was determined to return to his home country, along with his wives and children (Gen 30:26, 31:30). Moreover, Jacob was bringing along the flocks which were gained on Laban’s loss. Thus, Laban was in bitter desperation seeing Jacob bringing along his gained wealth which was originally taken from his flocks.
In addition, the last words of Laban “But what can I do this day to these my daughters or to their children whom they have borne?” described his intense desperation (Gen 31:43). Since the daughters and their children were with Jacob, Laban felt that he could no longer exercise any authority as he was previously to them. Laban believed that they had turned against him. But from the writer’s point of view, it was Laban who had considered the daughters as strangers, consumed their money and took their portion of inheritance from their father’s house (Gen 31:14-16).
What did Laban command Jacob to do in response of his reply? Why did he make such a command?Hide Answer
Following his reply to Jacob, Laban commanded him to make a covenant between Jacob and himself. Laban knew that he was unable to do anything anymore to his daughters and their children. He had now accepted the fact that Leah, Rachel and the children were moving forward without him. Nevertheless, it still tugged at his heartstrings that he might never see them again and he wanted some reassurances from Jacob. Therefore, the covenant would become a witness between the two of them (Gen 31:44).
What did the heap of witness mean for Laban?Hide Answer
For Laban, the heap of witness became a witness between him and Jacob when they were absent from one another (Gen 31:49). The heap of stones was a witness of their covenant that God would be watching if Jacob ever afflicted the daughters of Laban or if Jacob ever took other wives besides Laban’s daughters (Gen 31:50). Furthermore, the pillar acted as a witness that Laban would not pass beyond that heap to harm Jacob, and Jacob would not pass beyond that heap to harm Laban (Gen 31:51-52).
What did the heap of witness mean for Jacob?Hide Answer
For Jacob, the heap of witness was a covenant that he would not pass beyond that heap to Laban for harm (Gen 31:52). Moreover, the heap of witness was a chance for Jacob to offer a sacrifice on the mountain and to eat bread with his brethren together with Laban (Gen 31:54). In other words, the pillar acted as a witness that God had protected Jacob from Laban’s harm and had turned hot pursuit into a peaceful agreement between father-in-law and son-in-law. The heap of witness became a proof that the Lord had guided Jacob and his family to a safe return to the home country, preventing Laban from ever taking Jacob’s family by force (Gen 31:31).
What is the significance of the phrase “God is a witness although no man is present” for us?Hide Answer
Laban’s phrase in Gen 31:50 serves as a warning in our life. Laban made an important statement, “Although no man is with us—see, God is witness between you and me.” In other words, though there was no witness around Jacob, God would be the witness to see what deeds and thoughts Jacob was planning to do. Similarly, the writer of the book of Proverbs explains to us that “the eyes of the LORD are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good” (Prov 15:3). The admonishment of the writer of Proverbs tells us that God’s eyes are ever-watching, observing our every step, thought and conduct done in secret or in the open. Thus, both the phrase of Laban and the warning of the writer of Proverbs should deter us from sinning and doing evil things, though no men will see what we will do or think.