And he heard the words of Laban's sons, saying, Jacob hath taken away all that was our father's; and of that which was our father's hath he gotten all this glory.Genesis 31:1. He heard the words of Laban’s sons — For it seems they spoke them in Jacob’s hearing. The last chapter began with Rachel’s envying Leah; this begins with Laban’s sons envying Jacob. Hath taken away all that was our father’s — Not all, sure: what was become of those cattle which were committed to the custody of Laban’s sons, and sent three days’ journey off? He has gotten all this glory — And what was this glory? It was a parcel of brown sheep, and speckled goats, and some camels and asses. But they meant wealth, which the possessors usually glory in, and whereby they gain much esteem from others.
And Jacob beheld the countenance of Laban, and, behold, it was not toward him as before.
And the LORD said unto Jacob, Return unto the land of thy fathers, and to thy kindred; and I will be with thee.Genesis 31:3-4. The Lord said unto Jacob, Return — God, who orders all things aright, having blessed Jacob with greater substance in the house of Laban than he could have obtained in his father’s house, without great inconveniences, perhaps irreconcilable, fatal hatred between him and his brother Esau, now orders him to return. For, though Jacob had met with very hard usage, yet he would not quit his place till God bid him. The direction he had from Heaven is more fully related to his wives afterward. Unto the land of thy fathers — Not which was properly theirs, but only that in which they had sojourned, and which was promised to them in their seed. And, as Jacob was an inheritor of the promise, it was proper that he should sojourn in the land, to keep alive the hopes of it in his posterity. Jacob sent for Rachel and Leah to the field — That he might discourse with them more privately.
And Jacob sent and called Rachel and Leah to the field unto his flock,
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.
And ye know that with all my power I have served your father.
And your father hath deceived me, and changed my wages ten times; but God suffered him not to hurt me.Genesis 31:7-8. Hath changed my wages ten times — That is, oft-times, as is often the signification of the number ten. It appears that Laban, through envy and covetousness, often broke his agreement made with Jacob, and altered it as he thought fit, and that Jacob patiently yielded to all such changes Then all the cattle bare speckled — This seems to put it out of doubt, that, as Jacob says in the following verse, it was indeed God who ordered this matter; for it can scarcely be supposed that any natural causes whatever, without his peculiar providence, could produce so many different changes in a thing of this nature, without once failing.
If he said thus, The speckled shall be thy wages; then all the cattle bare speckled: and if he said thus, The ringstraked shall be thy hire; then bare all the cattle ringstraked.
Thus God hath taken away the cattle of your father, and given them to me.Genesis 31:9. God hath taken away the cattle of your father, and given them to me — Thus the righteous God paid Jacob for his hard service out of Laban’s estate, as he afterward paid the seed of Jacob for the service of the Egyptians with the spoils of that people.
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 ringstraked, speckled, and grisled.
And the angel of God spake unto me in a dream, saying, Jacob: And I said, Here am I.Genesis 31:11-13. The angel of the Lord spake, I am the God of Beth-el — This, no doubt, was the Word, or Song of Solomon of God, who now condescended to be the angel or messenger of the Father to Jacob, and yet styles himself the God of Beth-el. Thus was Jacob reminded of Beth-el, and of the promises made to him there, by the same divine person, who now again appeared to him in a dream, to his great comfort.
And he said, Lift up now thine eyes, and see, all the rams which leap upon the cattle are ringstraked, speckled, and grisled: for I have seen all that Laban doeth unto thee.Genesis 31:12. I have seen all that Laban doeth to thee — If we attend to this vision we cannot but see reason to conclude that it was really communicated to Jacob at this time to make use of the speckled rods; for here is a plain declaration that God would effect the thing, and the reason why; because he had seen Laban’s ungenerous and unfair dealing toward Jacob, and therefore was resolved to punish him for it, and at the same time reward Jacob for his fidelity and contentedness under these injuries.
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.
And Rachel and Leah answered and said unto him, Is there yet any portion or inheritance for us in our father's house?Genesis 31:14-15. Is there any portion — Any hope of benefit; for us in our father’s house? — They both agree in acknowledging that his behaviour had been extremely ungenerous and sordid, even to them, his own children. Are we not counted of him strangers? — Dealt with as strangers, rather than children: for he hath sold us — To thee for fourteen years’ service. And hath quite devoured (wholly converted to his own use) our money — That which in equity was due to us for our portions, and for our husband’s service. Whereas Jacob looked upon the wealth which God had transferred from Laban to him as his wages, they look upon it as their portions; so that, both ways, God forced Laban to pay his debts, both to his servant and to his daughters.
Are we not counted of him strangers? for he hath sold us, and hath quite devoured also our money.
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.
Then Jacob rose up, and set his sons and his wives upon camels;
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.
And Laban went to shear his sheep: and Rachel had stolen the images that were her father's.Genesis 31:19. Laban went to shear his sheep — That part of his flock which was in the hands of his sons, three days’ journey off. Now, 1st, It is certain it was lawful for Jacob to leave his service suddenly: it was not only justified by the particular instructions God gave him, but warranted by the fundamental law of self-preservation, which directs us, when we are in danger, to shift for our own safety, as far as we can do it without wronging our consciences. 2d, It was his prudence to steal away unawares to Laban, lest if Laban had known, he should have hindered him, or plundered him. 3d, It was honestly done to take no more than his own with him, the cattle of his getting. He took what Providence gave him, and would not take the repair of his damages into his own hands. Yet Rachel was not so honest as her husband; she stole her father’s images, and carried them away. The Hebrew calls them teraphim. Some think they were only little representations of the ancestors of the family in statue or picture, which Rachel had a particular fondness for, and was desirous to have with her, now she was going into another country. It should rather seem they were images for a religious use, penates, household gods, either worshipped, or consulted as oracles; and we are willing to hope that she took them away, not out of covetousness, much less for her own use, or out of any superstitions fear, lest Laban, by consulting his teraphim, might know which way they were gone; but with a design to convince her father of the folly of his regard to those as gods which could not secure themselves.
And Jacob stole away unawares to Laban the Syrian, in that he told him not that he fled.
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.
And it was told Laban on the third day that Jacob was fled.
And he took his brethren with him, and pursued after him seven days' journey; and they overtook him in the mount Gilead.Genesis 31:23. He took his brethren — That is, his relations, and pursues Jacob to bring him back into bondage, or to strip him of what he had. They overtook him in the mount Gilead — This mount was about two hundred and fifty miles from Haran; so that Jacob travelled twenty-five miles each day, and Laban, in pursuing him, thirty-seven.
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.Genesis 31:24. Speak not to Jacob either good or bad — The Hebrew is, from good to bad — That is, enter into no altercations, and use no harsh language with him, which may occasion a quarrel. Say nothing against his going on with his journey, for the thing proceedeth from the Lord. The same Hebraism we have, Genesis 24:50. The safety of good men is very much owing to the hold God has on the consciences of bad men, and the access he has to them.
Then Laban overtook Jacob. Now Jacob had pitched his tent in the mount: and Laban with his brethren pitched in the mount of Gilead.
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?
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?Genesis 31:27. I might have sent thee away with mirth and with songs — Not as Rebekah was sent away out of the same family above one hundred and twenty years before, with prayers and blessings, but with sport and merriment; which was a sign that religion was much decayed in the family.
And hast not suffered me to kiss my sons and my daughters? thou hast now done foolishly in so doing.
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.Genesis 31:29. The God of your fathers spake to me yesterday — We find here that Laban, whatever his disposition was, and how great soever his anger, paid regard to the heavenly vision. For though he supposed that he had both right and strength on his side, either to revenge the wrong or recover the right, yet he owns himself under the restraint of God’s power; he durst not injure one whom he saw to be the particular care of Heaven. It seems probable that God, who can change the heart in a moment, effected a sudden alteration in his disposition toward Jacob.
And now, though thou wouldest needs be gone, because thou sore longedst after thy father's house, yet wherefore hast thou stolen my gods?Genesis 31:30. Wherefore hast thou stolen my gods? — Foolish man! to call those his gods that could be stolen! Could he expect protection from them that could neither resist nor discover their invaders? Happy are they who have the Lord for their God. Enemies may steal our goods, but not our God.
And Jacob answered and said to Laban, Because I was afraid: for I said, Peradventure thou wouldest take by force thy daughters from me.Genesis 31:31-32. Jacob clears himself by giving the true reason why he went away unknown to Laban; he feared lest Laban should by force take away his daughters, and so oblige him to continue in his service. As to the charge of stealing Laban’s gods, he pleads not guilty. He not only did not take them himself, but he did not know that they were taken. Let him not live — This was rashly said, and might have produced fatal effects.
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.
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.
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.
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.
And Jacob was wroth, and chode 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?
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.
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.
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.Genesis 31:39-40. That which was torn I brought not unto thee — What Jacob here affirms, and for the truth of which he appeals to Laban, shows him to have been of a very industrious and faithful disposition, and that Laban’s temper was exceedingly selfish and sordid: for though Jacob was his relation, and his substance had increased so greatly under his hand, yet he was very rigid toward him, and required him to make good all the cattle that were lost, by whatever accident it happened. In the day the drought consumed me — “In Europe,” says Sir John Chardin, quoted by Harmer, vol. 1. p. 74, “the days and nights resemble each other, with respect to the qualities of heat and cold; but it is quite otherwise in the East. In the lower Asia, in particular, the day is always hot, and, as soon as the sun is fifteen degrees above the horizon, no cold is felt in the depth of winter itself. On the contrary, in the height of summer, the nights are as cold as at Paris in the month of March. It is for this reason that in Persia and Turkey they always make use of furred habits in the country, such only being sufficient to resist the cold of the nights.”
Thus I was; in the day the drought consumed me, and the frost by night; and my sleep departed from mine eyes.
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.
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.Genesis 31:42. Except God had been with me — Jacob, on every mention of his substance, attributes all the increase of it to the care that God had of him. And he here speaks of God, as the God of his father, intimating, that he thought himself unworthy to be thus regarded, but was beloved for his father’s sake. He calls him the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac: for Abraham was dead, and gone to that world where there is no fear; but Isaac was yet alive, sanctifying the Lord in his heart as his fear and his dread.
And Laban answered and said unto Jacob, These daughters are my daughters, and these children are my children, and these cattle are my cattle, and all that thou seest is mine: and what can I do this day unto these my daughters, or unto their children which they have born?Genesis 31:43-44. All is mine — That is, came by me. Let us make a covenant — It was made and ratified with great solemnity, according to the usages of those times. 1st, A pillar was erected, a heap of stones raised to perpetuate the memory of the thing, writing being then not known. 2d, A sacrifice was offered, a sacrifice of peace-offerings. 3d, They ate bread together, jointly partaking of the feast upon the sacrifice. This was in token of a hearty reconciliation. Covenants of friendship were anciently ratified by the parties eating and drinking together.
Now therefore come thou, let us make a covenant, I and thou; and let it be for a witness between me and thee.
And Jacob took a stone, and set it up for a pillar.
And Jacob said unto his brethren, Gather stones; and they took stones, and made an heap: and they did eat there upon the heap.
And Laban called it Jegarsahadutha: but Jacob called it Galeed.Genesis 31:47-53. But Jacob called it Galeed — The name Laban gave it signifies the heap of witness, in the Syrian tongue, which he used, and Galeed signifies the same in Hebrew, the language which Jacob used. It appears that the name which Jacob gave it remained to it, and not the name which Laban gave it. And Mizpah — (Genesis 31:49,) This name in Hebrew signifies a watchtower. And they agreed to give it this second name to remind them and their posterity of the solemn appeal they had now mutually made to the all-seeing eye of God, whose providence watches over the actions of mankind, rewarding sincerity and punishing deceitfulness. They appeal to him, 1st, As a witness, The Lord judge between thee and me — That is, the Lord take cognizance of every thing that shall be done on either side in violation of this league. 2d, As a judge. The God of Abraham, (Genesis 31:53,) from whom Jacob was descended; and the God of Nahor — Laban’s progenitor; the God of their father — From whom they were both descended; judge betwixt us. God’s relation to them is thus expressed, to intimate that they worshipped one and the same God, upon which consideration there ought to be no enmity betwixt them. Those that have one God, should have one heart: God is judge between contending parties, and he will judge righteously. Whoever does wrong, it is at his peril. Jacob sware by the Fear of his father Isaac — The God whom his father Isaac feared, who had never served other gods, as Abraham and Nahor had done: to this only living and true God he offered a sacrifice, (Genesis 31:54,) in gratitude for the peace he had obtained with Laban.
And Laban said, This heap is a witness between me and thee this day. Therefore was the name of it called Galeed;
And Mizpah; for he said, The LORD watch between me and thee, when we are absent one from another.
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.
And Laban said to Jacob, Behold this heap, and behold this pillar, which I have cast betwixt me and thee;
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.
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.
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.
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.