|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
31:22-35 God can put a bridle in the mouth of wicked men, to restrain their malice, though he do not change their hearts. Though they have no love to God's people, they will pretend to it, and try to make a merit of necessity. Foolish Laban! to call those things his gods which could be stolen! Enemies may steal our goods, but not our God. Here Laban lays to Jacob's charge things that he knew not. Those who commit their cause to God, are not forbidden to plead it themselves with meekness and fear. When we read of Rachel's stealing her father's images, what a scene of iniquity opens! The family of Nahor, who left the idolatrous Chaldees; is this family itself become idolatrous? It is even so. The truth seems to be, that they were like some in after-times, who sware by the Lord and by Malcham, Zep 1:5; and like others in our times, who wish to serve both God and mammon. Great numbers will acknowledge the true God in words, but their hearts and houses are the abodes of spiritual idolatry. When a man gives himself up to covetousness, like Laban, the world is his god; and he has only to reside among gross idolaters in order to become one, or at least a favourer of their abominations.
Verses 31, 32. - And Jacob answered - "in an able and powerful speech" (Kalisch) - and said to Laban (replying to his first interrogation as to why Jacob had stolen away unawares), Because I was afraid: for I said (sc. to myself), Peradventure (literally, lest, i.e. I must depart without informing thee lest) thou wouldest (or shoudest) take by force - the verb signifies to strip off as skin from flesh (vide Micah 3:2), and hence to forcibly remove - thy daughters from me (after which, in response to Laban's question about his stolen gods, he proceeds). With whomsoever thou findest thy gods, let him not live. If Jacob meant he shall not live, but I will slay him with mine own hand (Aben Ezra), let God destroy him (Abarbanel), I give him up to thee to put to death (Rosenmüller), let him instantly die (Drusius), he was guilty of great unadvisedness in speech. Accordingly, the import of his words has been mollified by regarding them simply as a prediction, "he will not live," i.e. he will die before his time (Jonathan), a prediction which, the Rabbins note, was fulfilled in Rachel (vide Genesis 35:16, 18); or by connecting them with clause following, "he will not live before our brethren," i.e. let him be henceforth cut off from the society of his kinsmen (LXX., Bush). Yet, even as thus explained, the language of Jacob was precipitats, since he ought first to have inquired at his wives and children before pronouncing so emphatically on a matter of which he was entirely ignorant (Calvin). Before our brethren - not Jacob's sons, but Laban's kinsmen (ver. 23) - discern thou - literally, examine closely for thyself, the hiph. of נָכַר (to be strange) meaning to press strongly into a thing, i.e. to perceive it by finding out its distinguishing characteristics (vide Furst, sub voce) - what is thine with me, and take it to thee. For (literally, and) Jacob knew not that Rachel had stolen them - otherwise he would have spoken with less heat and more caution.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And Jacob answered and said to Laban, because I was afraid,.... That he would have done all he could to have hindered him from going away himself; and not only so, but would have prevented his taking his daughters with him; and especially would have detained his cattle; but of this last Jacob makes no mention, only of the former:
for I said; either within himself, or to his wives:
peradventure thou wouldest take by force thy daughters from me; which of right belonged to him; for though they were Laban's daughters, they were Jacob's wives; and being given in marriage to him, he had a right unto them, and to take them with him; nor had Laban any right to detain them, which Jacob feared he would have attempted to have done, had he known his design; and this must have been done by force if done at all; for neither Jacob nor his wives would have agreed that they should stay with Laban upon his departure: what Laban charges Jacob with, in going away with his wives, he himself would have done, namely, using force to them. Laban's charge was false, but there was much reason for Jacob's suspicion.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
31, 32. Jacob said, … With whomsoever thou findest thy gods let him not live—Conscious of his own innocence and little suspecting the misdeed of his favorite wife, Jacob boldly challenged a search and denounced the heaviest penalty on the culprit. A personal scrutiny was made by Laban, who examined every tent [Ge 31:33]; and having entered Rachel's last, he would have infallibly discovered the stolen images had not Rachel made an appeal to him which prevented further search [Ge 31:34, 35].
Genesis 31:31 Parallel Commentaries
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