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17 Jacob proceeded to put his children and wives on camels, 18 and he drove off all his livestock and all the property he had acquired in Paddan-aram, to go to his father Isaac in the land of Canaan.

19 Now Laban was away shearing his sheep, and Rachel had stolen her father’s household images.[a](A) 20 Jacob had hoodwinked[b] Laban the Aramean by not telling him that he was going to flee. 21 Thus he fled with all that he had. Once he was across the Euphrates, he headed for the hill country of Gilead.

22 On the third day, word came to Laban that Jacob had fled. 23 Taking his kinsmen with him, he pursued him for seven days[c] until he caught up with him in the hill country of Gilead. 24 But that night God appeared to Laban the Aramean in a dream and said to him: Take care not to say anything to Jacob.(B)

Jacob and Laban in Gilead. 25 When Laban overtook Jacob, Jacob’s tents were pitched in the hill country; Laban also pitched his tents in the hill country of Gilead. 26 Laban said to Jacob, “How could you hoodwink me and carry off my daughters like prisoners of war?[d] 27 Why did you dupe me by stealing away secretly? You did not tell me! I would have sent you off with joyful singing to the sound of tambourines and harps. 28 You did not even allow me a parting kiss to my daughters and grandchildren! Now what you have done makes no sense. 29 I have it in my power to harm all of you; but last night the God of your father said to me, ‘Take care not to say anything to Jacob!’ 30 Granted that you had to leave because you were longing for your father’s house, why did you steal my gods?” 31 Jacob replied to Laban, “I was frightened at the thought that you might take your daughters away from me by force. 32 As for your gods, the one you find them with shall not remain alive! If, with our kinsmen looking on, you identify anything here as belonging to you, take it.” Jacob had no idea that Rachel had stolen the household images.

33 Laban then went in and searched Jacob’s tent and Leah’s tent, as well as the tents of the two maidservants; but he did not find them. Leaving Leah’s tent, he went into Rachel’s. 34 [e]Meanwhile Rachel had taken the household images, put them inside the camel’s saddlebag, and seated herself upon them. When Laban had rummaged through her whole tent without finding them,(C) 35 she said to her father, “Do not let my lord be angry that I cannot rise in your presence; I am having my period.” So, despite his search, he did not find the household images.

36 Jacob, now angered, confronted Laban and demanded, “What crime or offense have I committed that you should hound me? 37 Now that you have rummaged through all my things, what have you found from your household belongings? Produce it here before your kinsmen and mine, and let them decide between the two of us.

38 “In the twenty years that I was under you, no ewe or she-goat of yours ever miscarried, and I have never eaten rams of your flock. 39 (D)I never brought you an animal torn by wild beasts; I made good the loss myself. You held me responsible for anything stolen by day or night.[f] 40 Often the scorching heat devoured me by day, and the frost by night, while sleep fled from my eyes! 41 Of the twenty years that I have now spent in your household, I served you fourteen years for your two daughters and six years for your flock, while you changed my wages ten times. 42 If the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had not been on my side, you would now have sent me away empty-handed. But God saw my plight and the fruits of my toil, and last night he reproached you.”(E)

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Footnotes

  1. 31:19 Household images: in Hebrew, teraphim, figurines used in divination (Ez 21:26; Zec 10:2). Laban calls them his “gods” (v. 30). The traditional translation “idols” is avoided because it suggests false gods, whereas Genesis seems to accept the fact that the ancestors did not always live according to later biblical religious standards and laws.
  2. 31:20 Hoodwinked: lit., “stolen the heart of,” i.e., lulled the mind of. Aramean: the earliest extra-biblical references to the Arameans date later than the time of Jacob, if Jacob is dated to the mid-second millennium; to call Laban an Aramean and to have him speak Aramaic (Jegar-sahadutha, v. 47) is an apparent anachronism. The word may have been chosen to underscore the growing estrangement between the two men and the fact that their descendants will be two different peoples.
  3. 31:23 For seven days: lit., “a way of seven days,” a general term to designate a long distance; it would actually have taken a camel caravan many more days to travel from Haran to Gilead, the region east of the northern half of the Jordan. The mention of camels in this passage is apparently anachronistic since camels were not domesticated until the late second millennium.
  4. 31:26 Prisoners of war: lit., “women captured by the sword”; the women of a conquered people were treated as part of the victor’s spoil; cf. 1 Sm 30:2; 2 Kgs 5:2.
  5. 31:34 As in chap. 27, a younger child (Rachel) deceives her father to gain what belongs to him.
  6. 31:39 Jacob’s actions are more generous than the customs suggested in the Code of Hammurabi: “If in a sheepfold an act of god has occurred, or a lion has made a kill, the shepherd shall clear himself before the deity, and the owner of the fold must accept the loss” (par. 266); cf. Ex 22:12.

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