Genesis Segment 21 (31:3-32:23)

Originally published 7/31/02

Genesis 31:3 “And the LORD said unto Jacob, Return unto the land of thy fathers, and to thy kindred; and I will be with thee.”

We ended the last segment with this verse. Jacob had spent twenty years with Laban and had two wives, two concubines, eleven sons, and at least one daughter when he left. He was also wealthy.

Genesis 31:4-10 “And Jacob sent and called Rachel and Leah to the field unto his flock, {5} And 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. {6} And ye know that with all my power I have served your father. {7} And your father hath deceived me, and changed my wages ten times; but God suffered him not to hurt me. {8} If 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. {9} Thus God hath taken away the cattle of your father, and given them to me. {10} And 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 explained to Rachel and Leah why he must leave. He tells us here that every time Laban changed what type of cattle (wages—he paid Jacob’s wages in cattle) he would pay Jacob, God would make the cattle bear whatever young Laban changed the wages to. So this tells us that the striped sticks and separation of the flocks (Gen 30:37-43) were not responsible for Jacob’s fortunes, but God was.

Genesis 31:11-13 “And the angel of God spake unto me in a dream, saying, Jacob: And I said, Here am I. {12} And 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. {13} I 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.”

This expands upon Gen 31:9, filling in the details. Bethel (Gen 28:19) is where Jacob saw the stairway to heaven (Gen 28:12-13).

Genesis 31:14 “And Rachel and Leah answered and said unto him, Is there yet any portion or inheritance for us in our father’s house?”

They knew that Laban would not provide for them now that they were married to Jacob, and rightly so. Jacob would have to provide for them.

Genesis 31:15 “Are we not counted of him strangers? for he hath sold us, and hath quite devoured also our money.”

Not only that, but he had disowned them and spent all their money. He had gotten rid of them. He would not take them back. Women had no status as citizens. They had to be provided for by male relatives. Here are exceptions to this, but that was generally the rule. An exception would be a widow whose husband left her land and/or money. That was not the case here.

Remember, Naomi told Ruth and Orpah “Go, return each to her mother’s house: the LORD deal kindly with you, as ye have dealt with the dead, and with me.” (Ruth 1:8) The implication is their families would have taken them back and provided for them. Laban certainly would not have been that generous. Naomi owned her husband’s land, but Ruth and Orpah did not.

Genesis 31:16 “For 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.”

Since their father had spent their dowry, they figured that the flocks Jacob had gained made up for their loss. They were all for leaving.

Genesis 31:18-20 “And 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. {19} And Laban went to shear his sheep: and Rachel had stolen the images that were her father’s. {20} And Jacob stole away unawares to Laban the Syrian, in that he told him not that he fled.”

The images Rachel took were teraphim, or household idols. Teraphim have quite a history in the house of Israel. Here Israel’s wife kept them. They were figurines of gods that were small enough to hold in your hand. One could carry the small idols with them for worship at any time and any place. They were small enough to pack in baggage.  There are numerous occasions in the Bible where other Israelites had them. One example is Micah in the book of judges. Here is the story:

Judges 17:1-5 Now there was a man from the mountains of Ephraim, whose name was Micah. {2} And he said to his mother, “The eleven hundred shekels of silver that were taken from you, and on which you put a curse, even saying it in my ears—here is the silver with me; I took it.” And his mother said, “May you be blessed by the LORD, my son!” {3} So when he had returned the eleven hundred shekels of silver to his mother, his mother said, “I had wholly dedicated the silver from my hand to the LORD for my son, to make a carved image and a molded image; now therefore, I will return it to you.” {4} Thus he returned the silver to his mother. Then his mother took two hundred shekels of silver and gave them to the silversmith, and he made it into a carved image and a molded image; and they were in the house of Micah. {5} The man Micah had a shrine, and made an ephod and household idols [teraphim]; and he consecrated one of his sons, who became his priest.

Micah worshipped the LORD and had his household gods. It was a pluralistic type of worship. In Josiah’s day all teraphim were made illegal (“images”, 2 Kings 23:24). There is an instance of such idols in the New Testament as well. Small silver statues of Diana were sold in Ephesus (Acts 19:24). Rachel stole her father’s teraphim and hid them in her personal effects. Jacob packed up all the family and servants and took all his goods and cattle and secretly left for Padan Aram:

Genesis 31:21-22 “So he fled with all that he had; and he rose up, and passed over the river, and set his face toward the mount Gilead. {22} And it was told Laban on the third day that Jacob was fled.”

They had three days lead time, but Jacob’s entourage could not travel as quickly as a troop of armed men could.

Genesis 31:23 “And he took his brethren with him, and pursued after him seven days’ journey; and they overtook him in the mount Gilead.”

The three days lead time turned into seven-day time period for Laban and his men to catch up. It was inevitable that they would. Seven days would likely have taken Jacob’s entourage about 150-175 miles at about 25 miles per day, or 2-3 mph for eight to ten hours. This was nearly half way back to Beersheba.

Genesis 31:24 “And 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.”

Evidently Laban was a God fearing man. He heeded this dream and did not harm Jacob. The LORD would have stopped him had he tried to harm Jacob.

Genesis 31:26-28 “And 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? {27} Wherefore 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? {28} And hast not suffered me to kiss my sons and my daughters? thou hast now done foolishly in so doing.”

Laban is up to his old tricks. This was simply aggrandizing and exaggeration.  He was lying; he would not have done that; he would have fabricated yet another scheme to keep Jacob under his thumb. Laban was actually steaming because Jacob left him. He wanted to keep Jacob to whom he paid almost slave wages. He prospered when Jacob worked for him. If Jacob had told him he was leaving, Laban would have concocted some great reason why Jacob should stay and offered some new wage that he did not intend to pay in the end. He would have insisted. Leaving stealthily was the best way for Jacob to get away. Laban did not care to have a party nor did he care to kiss his children and grandchildren goodbye. That was just an excuse to chew Jacob out.

Jacob had not done foolishly in leaving. He had inquired of God and God had told him to leave. Doing what God tells one to do is never foolish even if it seems so to the world.

Genesis 31:29 “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.”

This was yet another whopper. Laban in no way had the power to harm Jacob. God would not have allowed it. Laban was boasting here. just to prove how fair-minded he was, Laban told Jacob that God had told him not to do Jacob any harm. It was all bluster. There were no teeth in his boast.

Genesis 31:30 “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 basically said “I know you were longing to go home, but why take my teraphim?”

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

This was Jacob’s answer to Laban’s first question posed in verse 27. Jacob had reason to be afraid. Up to that time Laban had not been trustworthy so why should Jacob trust him to do the right thing now.

Genesis 31:32 “With 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 was totally unaware of Rachel’s theft. He probably thought Laban was lying about that too. He said that if the teraphim were found in front of all the witnesses, then the perpetrator should die.

Genesis  gathered there31:33-35 “And 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. {34} Now Rachel had taken the images, and put them in the camel’s furniture, and sat upon them. And Laban searched all the tent, but found them not. {35} And 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.”

The ruse was thus: Rachel had stolen the teraphim, but now hid them in her camel’s saddle and sat on the saddle. She then told her father she could not get up because she was having her monthly cycle. He accepted her story. After all, she had never given him any reason not to believe her.

Genesis 31:36-42 “And Jacob was wroth, and chided 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? {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. {38} This 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. {39} That 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. {40} Thus I was; in the day the drought consumed me, and the frost by night; and my sleep departed from mine eyes. {41} Thus 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. {42} Except 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.”

Jacob was very angry over this turn of events and he let Laban have it. He let out all of his stored up frustration against Laban at that moment. He left nothing out. Laban was taken aback. So he continued his bravado:

Genesis 31:43 “Then Laban answered and said to Jacob, “The daughters are my daughters, the children are my children, the flocks are my flocks, and all that you see is mine. But what can I do today about these daughters of mine, or about their children whom they have borne?”

This statement is patently untrue. The daughters were Jacobs’s wives for whom he had work fourteen years. The flocks were the wages promised to him by Laban for six years work, and the children were Jacob’s by birth. Everything else Jacob had he had earned. None of it was Laban’s. Laban was just making himself look good and trying to save face. So he said, “The daughters and children are mine, but I could do nothing to harm them so let’s make a pact.”

Genesis 31:44-47 “Now therefore come thou, let us make a covenant, I and thou; and let it be for a witness between me and thee. {45} And Jacob took a stone, and set it up for a pillar. {46} And Jacob said unto his brethren, Gather stones; and they took stones, and made an heap: and they did eat there upon the heap. {47} And Laban called it Jegarsahadutha: but Jacob called it Galeed.”

Jegar Sahadutha and Galeed are Aramaic and Hebrew respectively, both meaning “Heap of Testimony” (or Witness). Laban also named it Mizpah:

Genesis 31:48-49 “And Laban said, This heap is a witness between me and thee this day. Therefore was the name of it called Galeed; {49} And Mizpah; for he said, The LORD watch between me and thee, when we are absent one from another.”

Mizpah means Watchtower. The Jehovah’s Witnesses get their societal name from this word. God is to be a watch to make sure both sides keep their end of the covenant.

Genesis 31:50-53 “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. {51} And Laban said to Jacob, Behold this heap, and behold this pillar, which I have cast betwixt me and thee; {52} This 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. {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.”

The provisions of this pact are: Jacob was to take good care of Leah and Rachel, not harm them and not marry other wives. Laban would stay on his side of the boundary formed by the pillar and Jacob would stay on the other side. They would never cross over into one another’s area again in order to cause harm on one another. A friendly family visit was still acceptable. But the Bible does not tell us if they ever met again.

Genesis 31:54-55 “Then 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. {55} And 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.”

A sacrifice was made and a feast proclaimed to seal this covenant between them. Then Laban went back home and Jacob headed south.

Genesis 32:1-2 “And Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him. {2} And when Jacob saw them, he said, This is God’s host: and he called the name of that place Mahanaim.”

The KJV renders this “God’s hosts” but the Hebrew means “God’s encampment”. Mahanaim is a Hebrew word literally meaning “camps” but here it means “two camps”. It is the plural of mahaneh, which means camp or encampment. That is the word the KJV translators rendered “hosts”. Jacob called the place “Two Camps” because that is where he camped and it was God’s encampment. There is a second reason it was called “Two Camps”. When Jacob heard his brother Esau was coming to him, he divided his group into two camps to protect them from Esau. The New English Translation of the Septuagint renders the verse thus: “Now Iakob, when he saw them, said, “This is a divine camp!” And he called the name of that place Camps.” Brenton’s English translation of the Septuagint: “And Jacob said, when he saw them, This is the Camp of God; and he called the name of that place, Encampments.

Genesis 32:4-5 “And he commanded them, saying, Thus shall ye speak unto my lord Esau; Thy servant Jacob saith thus, I have sojourned with Laban, and stayed there until now: {5} And I have oxen, and asses, flocks, and menservants, and womenservants: and I have sent to tell my lord, that I may find grace in thy sight.”

Note the change in Jacob. He had left after swindling his brother Esau. He left in fear of his life. Esau had sworn to kill Jacob because Jacob had stolen his blessing. Jacob sent messengers to tell Esau he had done well and was wealthy. It is implied that Jacob was willing to pay Esau back for what he had done to him, perhaps with some of his wealth. He wanted Esau to allow Jacob to return peacefully to his homeland. He wanted Esau to be gracious and forgive him.

Genesis 32:6 “And the messengers returned to Jacob, saying, We came to thy brother Esau, and also he cometh to meet thee, and four hundred men with him.”

With a band of four hundred men, Jacob thought Esau was coming to attack. He could figure no other reason for Esau to bring so many men. Given his trickery toward Esau twenty years earlier, he expected Esau to be angry still.

Genesis 32:7-8 “Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed: and he divided the people that was with him, and the flocks, and herds, and the camels, into two bands; {8} And said, If Esau come to the one company, and smite it, then the other company which is left shall escape.”

Jacob divided his people into two groups so that if Esau attacked one group, the other could escape.

Perhaps this is where the division of the twelve tribes began. When Jacob divided them, they may have stayed somewhat divided and perhaps this division later developed into a rift separating Benjamin and Judah from the other tribes.

The tribes were later divided into two political divisions and were so in the days of King Saul. When David became king, the nation was still divided into those two groups. He united them while he was king. They stayed united through Solomon’s reign, but divided sharply again into two separate kingdoms after the death of Solomon. They have stayed that way since. The future return to the land would unite them again. Those in modern Israel are of the tribe of Judah thus the uniting of all the tribes is still future.

Genesis 32:9-12 “And Jacob said, O God of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac, the LORD which saidst unto me, Return unto thy country, and to thy kindred, and I will deal well with thee: {10} I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which thou hast showed unto thy servant; for with my staff I passed over this Jordan; and now I am become two bands. {11} Deliver me, I pray thee, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau: for I fear him, lest he will come and smite me, and the mother with the children. {12} And thou saidst, I will surely do thee good, and make thy seed as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.”

Jacob’s prayer was one of repentance. He acknowledged he was not worthy of all the blessings God had bestowed on him. He then asked for deliverance from Esau, repeating God’s promise for good measure. The point is, Jacob asked God to deliver him instead of trying to deliver himself. It was the right thing to do. And God would deliver him.

Jacob has changed from the usurper to a man of God who is humble, wise, and trustworthy. His twenty years with Laban, a better trickster than Jacob would ever be, had taught Jacob some humility. Rebekah, Laban’s sister and Jacob’s mom, seems also to have been a little on the crafty side like her brother. Is it possible to say, then, that their father Bethuel, Abraham’s nephew, was also an artful individual, passing this on to his son and daughter? And perhaps Abraham’s brother Nahor as well? Taken further, perhaps even Terah their father was clever as well? It is hard to say.

Genesis 32:13-15 “And he lodged there that same night; and took of that which came to his hand a present for Esau his brother; {14} Two hundred she goats, and twenty he goats, two hundred ewes, and twenty rams, {15} Thirty milch camels with their colts, forty kine, and ten bulls, twenty she asses, and ten foals.”

Jacob planned to meet Esau the very next day so he put together a gift for Esau from his own holdings. It was quite a gift—a goodly portion of Jacob’s wealth. The modern spelling of milch is milk. These camels were nursing their young. Kine are heifers or cows.

Genesis 32:16 “And he delivered them into the hand of his servants, every drove by themselves; and said unto his servants, Pass over before me, and put a space betwixt drove and drove.”

The servants were to take the flocks to Esau ahead of the main parties from the camp. This would give Jacob some insulation to possibly avoid a conflict with Esau that would injure his family. A drove is a flock or herd. A drover is a herdsman.

Genesis 32:17-19 “And he commanded the foremost, saying, When Esau my brother meeteth thee, and asketh thee, saying, Whose art thou? and whither goest thou? and whose are these before thee? {18} Then thou shalt say, They be thy servant Jacob’s; it is a present sent unto my lord Esau: and, behold, also he is behind us. {19} And so commanded he the second, and the third, and all that followed the droves, saying, On this manner shall ye speak unto Esau, when ye find him.”

Notice that Jacob told his servant that he was to tell Esau that Jacob was Esau’s servant. That is a much different Jacob than the one who stole Esau’s birthright. That Jacob was brash and cocksure. He had few scruples. He bargained away Esau’s birthright over a bowl of stew, and he sneaked into Isaac’s presence pretending to be Esau. That took fortitude. Jacob was no wimp, but now he was putting Esau ahead of himself. Yes he had a good reason, the safety of his family, but aside from that this was a changed man.

Genesis 32:20 “And say ye moreover, Behold, thy servant Jacob is behind us. For he said, I will appease him with the present that goeth before me, and afterward I will see his face; peradventure he will accept of me.”

Jacob could have kept his motive for the gifts a secret, but he told the servants to tell Esau the exact reason for his gift—that perhaps Esau would accept his gift and be appeased and accept Jacob as his own brother.

Genesis 32:21 “So went the present over before him: and himself lodged that night in the company.”

He sent the gifts ahead and stayed in the camp.

Genesis 32:22-23 “And he rose up that night, and took his two wives, and his two womenservants, and his eleven sons, and passed over the ford Jabbok. {23} And he took them, and sent them over the brook, and sent over that he had.”

Later that night Jacob got up and took his family over to the other side of the Jabbok River and he left them and all his possessions there. He had a divine appointment. He returned to the camp where he met the LORD face to face. This is a theophany. See The Memra for an explanation of theophanies.

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