And Jacob answered and said to Laban, Because I was afraid: for I said, Peradventure you would take by force your daughters from me.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Jacob answered.—Jacob gives the true reason for his flight; after which, indignant at the charge of theft, he returns, in his anger, as rash an answer about the teraphim as Joseph’s brethren subsequently did about the stolen cup (Genesis 44:9).
Let him not live.—The Rabbins regard this as a prophecy, fulfilled in Rachel’s premature death. Its more simple meaning is, I yield him up to thee even to be put to death.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.
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.And Jacob answered and said to Laban, Because I was afraid: for I said, Peradventure thou wouldest take by force thy daughters from me.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)31. I was afraid] Jacob’s defence is brief: (1) he fled because he could not trust Laban, who, he thought, would keep his daughters by force; (2) as to the teraphim, he was innocent; if any of his party had stolen them, they should be punished by death.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. Genesis 31:22-24). The night before he overtook them, he was warned by God in a dream, "not to speak to Jacob from good to bad," i.e., not to say anything decisive and emphatic for the purpose of altering what had already occurred (vid., Genesis 31:29, and the note on Genesis 24:50). Hence he confined himself, when they met, "to bitter reproaches combining paternal feeling on the one hand with hypocrisy on the other;" in which he told them that he had the power to do them harm, if God had not forbidden him, and charged them with stealing his gods (the teraphim).
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