Genesis 31 The Voice (VOICE)
Jacob, the heel-catcher, has met a kindred spirit. Both men are deceivers and manipulators. Both do whatever they can to get the better of the other. It just comes naturally. Laban tricks Jacob first by marrying him to Leah before Rachel. Then, after Jacob and he agree on a clear strategy to separate the flocks, Laban goes behind his back and takes away the animals that rightfully belong to Jacob. But Jacob is crafty, too, and he devises a way to produce striped, speckled, and spotted animals from Laban’s flocks. After the many years of service, Jacob finally outwits Laban and gains a more valuable flock in the process. Deception may work for a while, but there are dire consequences that come with it. Jacob’s situation is about to change, and it isn’t long before his deceptive days are behind him.
31 As time went on, Jacob overheard what Laban’s sons were saying about him.
Laban’s Sons: Jacob has taken everything that belonged to our father; he gained all his wealth from taking advantage of him.
2 And Jacob also noticed a change in how Laban looked at him and treated him. He seemed colder toward him than before.
Eternal One (to Jacob): 3 You must now return to the land of your ancestors and to your own family. I will be with you always.
4 So Jacob called his wives Rachel and Leah to meet him in the field where his flock was grazing.
Jacob: 5 I notice your father’s attitude toward me has changed; he doesn’t regard me with the same respect as he did before. But the God of my father has been with me. 6 You both know how well I have served your father—with all my strength. 7 However your father cheated me by changing the terms of my salary 10 times, but beyond that my God did not allow him to harm me. 8 If your father said, “The speckled will be your payment,” then all of the flock became speckled; and if he said, “the striped will be your payment,” then all of the flock became striped. 9 In this way, God has taken away your father’s livestock and given them to me. 10 During the mating season of the flock, I once paid attention to a dream, and in the dream, I saw the male goats that mated with the flock were striped, speckled, and mottled. 11 Then God’s messenger said to me in the dream, “Jacob!” and I answered, “I’m here.” 12 And the messenger said, “Look up right now, and see all of the goats that are mating with the flock are striped, speckled, and mottled because I have noticed everything Laban is doing to you. 13 I am the God of Bethel, the place where you poured oil on a pillar and made a vow to Me.[a] Now get up, leave this land, and return to the land where you were born.”
Rachel and Leah: 14 Is there any inheritance at all left for us from our father’s house? 15 He regards us as foreigners now that we’ve married you. He sold us in exchange for your years of labor, and he has been using up all of the money that should have been ours. 16 All of the property God has taken from our father and given to you actually belongs to us and to our children anyway! So do whatever God said to do.
17 So Jacob got up, and he put his children and his wives on camels for the journey. 18 He rounded up all of his livestock and all of the property he had gained, including the livestock he had acquired in Paddan-aram, and he began to drive them to his father Isaac in the land of Canaan. 19 Meanwhile Laban had gone off to shear his sheep. While he was out, Rachel stole her father’s household idols. 20 And Jacob likewise deceived Laban the Aramean by hiding from him the fact that he was leaving. 21 He just left quickly with everything he had. He crossed the Euphrates River and set pace south toward the hill country of Gilead.
22 Three days later, Laban was told that Jacob had left. 23 So he gathered a group of his relatives, and together they pursued him for seven days until they closed in on Jacob in the hill country of Gilead. 24 Then God came to Laban the Aramean in a dream during the night with a message.
Eternal One: Be careful what you say and do to Jacob.
25 Laban caught up to Jacob. Now Jacob had pitched his tent and set up camp in the hill country; and Laban, along with his relatives, also camped in the hill country of Gilead. Laban went out to meet Jacob.
Laban (to Jacob): 26 What have you done, deceiving me and carrying off my daughters as if they were your prisoners of war? 27 Why did you run out on me and try to trick me? Why didn’t you just tell me you were going? I would have sent you off with celebration and songs, with the joyful sounds of the tambourine and lyre. 28 And why didn’t you even allow me to kiss my daughters and grandchildren good-bye? What you have done is foolish. 29 It is certainly in my power to punish you, but the God of your father Isaac spoke to me last night and said, “Be careful what you say and do to Jacob.” 30 Now you have left because you missed your father’s household—I can understand that—but why did you have to steal my family gods?
Jacob (answering Laban): 31 I left because I was afraid, and because I thought you would take your daughters away from me by force. 32 But I pledge to you that anyone who stole your gods will not live. I certainly did not take them. Here in the presence of all of our relatives, search the camp and let’s see if anything I have is yours. If there is, you can take it back!
Of course, Jacob had no idea Rachel had stolen the idols.
33 So Laban went into Jacob’s tent, into Leah’s tent, and into the two female servants’ tent; he searched, but he did not find them. Then he came out of Leah’s tent and into Rachel’s. 34 Now Rachel had taken the household gods and concealed them in the camel’s saddle, and she sat on them. Laban looked around and felt everything in the tent, but he did not find them.
Rachel (to her father): 35 Please don’t be angry that I cannot get up for you, sir, but I am in the midst of my “time of month.”
Rachel has learned the art of deception well from her father and her husband.
So Laban searched, but he did not find the household gods.
36 When Jacob saw that Laban’s search had come up empty, he became angry and confronted Laban.
Jacob: What is my offense? What have I done that is so wicked to make you pursue me like a common criminal? 37 You searched through all of my things, and what have you found that belonged to you? Whatever it is, set it down here between your family and mine, and they can decide whose it is. 38 I’ve worked for you for 20 years. Your ewes and your female goats have never miscarried under my care. I have never feasted on any of the rams in your flocks. 39 When wild animals attacked, I didn’t bring the carcass to you to deal with; I bore the cost myself. You required me to cover any losses, whether the animals were stolen by day or night, and I did so. 40 There I was—at your service—during the day I was hounded by heat; during the night I was cold and couldn’t get a good night’s sleep. 41 For 20 years, I have been in your household. I served you 14 of those years in return for your two daughters, and six years for your flock. And you have altered my payment 10 times. 42 If the God of my father, the God of Abraham, and the Fear of Isaac had not been on my side, surely now you would have sent me away empty-handed. But God knows my plight and how hard I’ve labored for you, and it was He who reprimanded you last night!
Laban: 43 The daughters you speak of are my daughters; the children are my grandchildren; the flocks are my flocks; all you see is mine. But what can I do today about these daughters of mine and the children from their wombs? 44 Come, let’s make a covenant between us, you and me, and let there be a witness to our agreement.
45 So Jacob took a stone and set it up as a pillar. 46 He told his relatives to gather up more stones. So they all took stones and made a large pile of them. Then they ate there by the pile. 47 Laban called it Jegar-sahadutha (Aramaic for “witness-pile”) and Jacob called it Galeed (Hebrew for “witness-pile”).
Laban: 48 This pile of stones stands as a witness to the agreement we have made today.
This is why he called it Galeed. 49 The pillar was called Mizpah, which means “watch post.”
Laban: May the Eternal One watch us when we are away from one another. 50 If you in any way mistreat my daughters or if you take wives in addition to my daughters, even though no one else is with us, remember that God is a witness between you and me.
51 See this pile of stones and this pillar which I have set between us. 52 This pile is a witness and this pillar is a witness that I will not pass beyond this pile of stones to harm you, and you will not pass beyond this pile and this pillar to harm me. 53 May the God of Abraham and the God of Nahor (the God of their father Terah) serve as judge between us.
This is no sweet farewell. It is a parting of the ways between two men who don’t trust one another. Both are tricksters, but they are family. It is probably best from now on if they avoid each other completely.
So Jacob swore an oath on the Fear of Isaac, his father; 54 and Jacob offered a sacrifice on the hill there and called all of his relatives together to eat bread. And they all ate bread and spent the rest of the night in the hill country. 55 Early the next morning, Laban got up, kissed his grandchildren and his daughters, and blessed them; and then he left and returned home.
Genesis 31 New International Version (NIV)
Jacob Flees From Laban
31 Jacob heard that Laban’s sons were saying, “Jacob has taken everything our father owned and has gained all this wealth from what belonged to our father.” 2 And Jacob noticed that Laban’s attitude toward him was not what it had been.
3 Then the Lord said to Jacob, “Go back to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you.”
4 So Jacob sent word to Rachel and Leah to come out to the fields where his flocks were. 5 He said to them, “I see that your father’s attitude toward me is not what it was before, but the God of my father has been with me. 6 You know that I’ve worked for your father with all my strength, 7 yet your father has cheated me by changing my wages ten times. However, God has not allowed him to harm me. 8 If he said, ‘The speckled ones will be your wages,’ then all the flocks gave birth to speckled young; and if he said, ‘The streaked ones will be your wages,’ then all the flocks bore streaked young. 9 So God has taken away your father’s livestock and has given them to me.
10 “In breeding season I once had a dream in which I looked up and saw that the male goats mating with the flock were streaked, speckled or spotted. 11 The angel of God said to me in the dream, ‘Jacob.’ I answered, ‘Here I am.’ 12 And he said, ‘Look up and see that all the male goats mating with the flock are streaked, speckled or spotted, for I have seen all that Laban has been doing to you. 13 I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed a pillar and where you made a vow to me. Now leave this land at once and go back to your native land.’”
14 Then Rachel and Leah replied, “Do we still have any share in the inheritance of our father’s estate? 15 Does he not regard us as foreigners? Not only has he sold us, but he has used up what was paid for us. 16 Surely all the wealth that God took away from our father belongs to us and our children. So do whatever God has told you.”
17 Then Jacob put his children and his wives on camels, 18 and he drove all his livestock ahead of him, along with all the goods he had accumulated in Paddan Aram,[a] to go to his father Isaac in the land of Canaan.
19 When Laban had gone to shear his sheep, Rachel stole her father’s household gods. 20 Moreover, Jacob deceived Laban the Aramean by not telling him he was running away. 21 So he fled with all he had, crossed the Euphrates River, and headed for the hill country of Gilead.
Laban Pursues Jacob
22 On the third day Laban was told that Jacob had fled. 23 Taking his relatives with him, he pursued Jacob for seven days and caught up with him in the hill country of Gilead. 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.”
25 Jacob had pitched his tent in the hill country of Gilead when Laban overtook him, and Laban and his relatives camped there too. 26 Then Laban said to Jacob, “What have you done? You’ve deceived me, and you’ve carried off my daughters like captives in war. 27 Why did you run off secretly and deceive me? Why didn’t you tell me, so I could send you away with joy and singing to the music of timbrels and harps? 28 You didn’t even let me kiss my grandchildren and my daughters goodbye. You have done a foolish thing. 29 I have the power to harm you; but last night the God of your father said to me, ‘Be careful not to say anything to Jacob, either good or bad.’ 30 Now you have gone off because you longed to return to your father’s household. But why did you steal my gods?”
31 Jacob answered Laban, “I was afraid, because I thought you would take your daughters away from me by force. 32 But if you find anyone who has your gods, that person shall not live. In the presence of our relatives, see for yourself whether there is anything of yours here with me; and if so, take it.” Now Jacob did not know that Rachel had stolen the gods.
33 So Laban went into Jacob’s tent and into Leah’s tent and into the tent of the two female servants, but he found nothing. After he came out of Leah’s tent, he entered Rachel’s tent. 34 Now Rachel had taken the household gods and put them inside her camel’s saddle and was sitting on them. Laban searched through everything in the tent but found nothing.
35 Rachel said to her father, “Don’t be angry, my lord, that I cannot stand up in your presence; I’m having my period.” So he searched but could not find the household gods.
36 Jacob was angry and took Laban to task. “What is my crime?” he asked Laban. “How have I wronged you that you hunt me down? 37 Now that you have searched through all my goods, what have you found that belongs to your household? Put it here in front of your relatives and mine, and let them judge between the two of us.
38 “I have been with you for twenty years now. Your sheep and goats have not miscarried, nor have I eaten rams from your flocks. 39 I did not bring you animals torn by wild beasts; I bore the loss myself. And you demanded payment from me for whatever was stolen by day or night. 40 This was my situation: The heat consumed me in the daytime and the cold at night, and sleep fled from my eyes. 41 It was like this for the twenty years I was in your household. I worked for you fourteen years for your two daughters and six years for your flocks, and 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 with me, you would surely have sent me away empty-handed. But God has seen my hardship and the toil of my hands, and last night he rebuked you.”
43 Laban answered Jacob, “The women are my daughters, the children are my children, and the flocks are my flocks. All you see is mine. Yet what can I do today about these daughters of mine, or about the children they have borne? 44 Come now, let’s make a covenant, you and I, and let it serve as a witness between us.”
45 So Jacob took a stone and set it up as a pillar. 46 He said to his relatives, “Gather some stones.” So they took stones and piled them in a heap, and they ate there by the heap. 47 Laban called it Jegar Sahadutha, and Jacob called it Galeed.[b]
48 Laban said, “This heap is a witness between you and me today.” That is why it was called Galeed. 49 It was also called Mizpah,[c] because he said, “May the Lord keep watch between you and me when we are away from each other. 50 If you mistreat my daughters or if you take any wives besides my daughters, even though no one is with us, remember that God is a witness between you and me.”
51 Laban also said to Jacob, “Here is this heap, and here is this pillar I have set up between you and me. 52 This heap is a witness, and this pillar is a witness, that I will not go past this heap to your side to harm you and that you will not go past this heap and pillar to my side to harm me. 53 May the God of Abraham and the God of Nahor, the God of their father, judge between us.”
So Jacob took an oath in the name of the Fear of his father Isaac. 54 He offered a sacrifice there in the hill country and invited his relatives to a meal. After they had eaten, they spent the night there.
55 Early the next morning Laban kissed his grandchildren and his daughters and blessed them. Then he left and returned home.[d]