Genesis 31:36
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?
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(36) Jacob was wroth.—Naturally he regarded the accusation about the teraphim as a mere device for searching his goods, and when nothing was found gave free vent to his indignation.

31:36-42 If Jacob were willingly consumed with heat in the day, and frost by night, to become the son-in-law of Laban, what should we refuse to endure, to become the sons of God? Jacob speaks of God as the God of his father; he thought himself unworthy to be 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 perfect love casts out fear; but Isaac was yet alive, sanctifying the Lord in his heart, as his fear and his dread.After the search for the teraphim has proved vain, Jacob warmly upbraids Laban. "The camel's saddle." This was a pack-saddle, in the recesses of which articles might be deposited, and on which was a seat or couch for the rider. Rachel pleads the custom of women as an excuse for keeping her seat; which is admitted by Laban, not perhaps from the fear of ceremonial defilement Leviticus 15:19-27, as this law was not yet in force, but from respect to his daughter and the conviction that in such circumstances she would not sit upon the teraphim. "My brethren and thy brethren" - their common kindred. Jacob recapitulates his services in feeling terms. "By day the drought;" caused by the heat, which is extreme during the day, while the cold is not less severe in Palestine during the night. "The fear of Isaac" - the God whom Isaac fears. Judged - requited by restraining thee from wrong-doing.36, 37. Jacob was wroth—Recrimination on his part was natural in the circumstances, and, as usual, when passion is high, the charges took a wide range. He rapidly enumerated his grievances for twenty years and in a tone of unrestrained severity described the stubborn character and vexatious exactions of his uncle, together with the hardships of various kinds he had patiently endured. With so much fury and violence.

And Jacob was wroth, and chode with Laban,.... Having answered Laban's questions to the silencing of him, and nothing of his upon search, being found with him, Jacob took heart, and was of good courage and in high spirits, and in his turn was heated also; and perhaps might carry his passion a little too far, and is not to be excused from some degree of sin and weakness; however, his reasoning is strong and nervous, and his expostulations very just and pathetic; whatever may be said for the temper he was in, and the wrath and resentment he showed:

and Jacob answered and said to Laban; that whereas he had suggested that he had done a very bad thing, he asks him:

what is my trespass? what is my sin? what heinous offence have I committed? what law of God or man have I broke?

that thou hast so hotly pursued after me? with so much haste and swiftness, and with such a number of men, as if he came to take a thief, a robber, or a murderer.

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?
36. trespass … sin] i.e. (a) the particular outrage against the rights of kinship, and (b) moral offence generally. Jacob regards the charge of the theft of the teraphim as a mere pretext, devised by Laban in order to ransack his goods. For the word rendered “trespass,” “transgression,” “rebellion,” cf. Genesis 50:17; 1 Samuel 24:12; 1 Kings 12:19; 2 Kings 8:20.

Verses 36-42. - And Jacob was wroth, - literally, and it burned, sc. with indignation (same word as used by Rachel, ver. 35), to Jacob, i.e. he was infuriated at what he believed to be Laban's unjustifiable insinuation about his lost teraphim - and chode - or contended; the fundamental signification of the root, רוּב or רִיב, being to seize or tear, e.g. the hair, hence to strive with the bands (Deuteronomy 33:7), or with words (Psalm 103:9). The two verbs, וַתִּחַר and וַיָּרֶב, give a vivid representation of the exasperation which Jacob felt - with Laban: and Jacob answered and said to Laban, - in words characterized by "verbosity and self-glorification" (Kalisch), or "acute, sensibility and elevated self-consciousness (Delitzsch, Keil), according as one inclines to an unfavorable or favorable view of Jacob's character - What is my trespass? what is my sin, that thou hast so hotly pursued after me? The intensity of Jacob s feeling imparts to his language a rythmical movement, and leads to the selection of poetical forms of expression, such as דָּלַק אַחֲרֵי, to burn after, in the sense of fiercely persecuting, which occurs again only in 1 Samuel 17:53 (vide Gesenius and Furst, sub voce; and cf. Keil, in lose), causing the reader at times to catch "the dance and music of actual verse" (Ewald). Whereas thou hast searched all my stuff, - literally (so. What is my sin) that thou hast felt all my articles (LXX., Kalisch)? the clause being co-ordinate with the preceding; though by others כִּי is taken as equivalent to כַּאֲשֶׁר, quando quidem, since (A.V., Ainsworth), or quando, when (Calvin, Murphy) - what hast thou found of all thy household stuff? set it here Before my brethren and thy brethren (i.e. Laban's kinsmen who accompanied him, who were also of necessity kinsmen to Jacob), that they may judge betwixt us both - which of us has injured the other. This twenty years have I been with thee (vide infra, vet. 41); thy ewes (רָחֵל, a ewe, whence Rachel) and thy she goats - עֵן a she-goat; cf. Sanscrit, adsha, a he-goat; adsha, a she-goat; Goth., gaitsa; Anglo-Saxon, gat; German, geis; Greek, αἵξ; Turkish, gieik (Gesenius, sub voce) - have not cast their young, and the rams of thy flock have I not eaten. Roberts says that the people of the East do not eat female sheep except when sterile, and that it would be considered folly and prodigality in the extreme to eat that which has the power of producing more (vide 'Oriental Illustrations,' p. 37). That which was torn of beasts (טְרֵפָה, a coll. fem., from טָרַפ, to tear in pieces, meaning that which is torn in pieces, hence cattle destroyed by wild beasts) I brought not unto thee; I bare the loss of it; - אֲחֶטַּנָּה, literally, I made expiation for it, the piel of חָטָא, signifying to make atonement for a thing by sacrifice (Leviticus 9:15), or by compensation, as here; hence "I bare the loss it" (Rashi, equivalent to cf. Furst), or ἐγὼ ἀπετίννουν (LXX.), or, perhaps, "I will be at the loss of it, or pay it back" (Kalisch) - of my hand didst thou require it, - otherwise, "of my hand require it" (Kalisch) - whether stolen by day, or stolen by night. Without adhering literally to the text, the LXX. give the sense of this and the preceding clause as being, "From my own I paid back the stolen by day and the stolen by night." Thus I was; (i.e. I was in this condition that) in the day the drought consumed me, and the frost by night קֶרַח, ice, so called from its smoothness, hence cold. The alternation of heat and cold in many eastern countries is very great and severely felt by shepherds, travelers, and watchmen, who require to pass the night in the open air, and who in consequence are often obliged to wear clothes lined with skins (cf. Psalm 121:6; Jeremiah 36:30). "The thermometer at 24° Fahr. at night, a lump of solid ice in our basins in the morning, and then the scorching heat of the day drawing up the moisture, made the neighborhood, convenient as it was, rather a fever-trap, and premonitory symptoms warned us to move" (Tristram, 'The Land of Moab,' p. 217). "The night air at Joaiza was keen and cold; indeed there was a sharp frost, and ice appeared on all the little pools about the camp" (Thomson, 'The Land and the Book,' p. 364). "Does a master reprove his servant for being idle; he will ask, "What can I do? the heat eats me up by day, and the cold eats me up by night'" (Roberts 'Oriental Illustrations,' p. 37; cf. Paxton's 'Illustrations,' vol. 1. p. 30). And my sleep departed from mine eyes. Syrian shepherds were compelled to watch their flocks often both night and day, and for a whole month together, and repair into long plains and deserts without any shelter; and when reduced to this incessant labor, they were besides chilled by the piercing cold of the morning, and scorched by the succeeding heats of a flaming sun, the opposite action of which often swells and chafes their lips and face" (Paxton's 'Illustrations of Scripture,' vol. 1. p. 30). Thus have I been - literally, this to me (or for myself, vide infra) - twenty years in thy house; I served thee fourteen years for thy two daughters, and six years for thy cattle. The majority of expositors understand the twenty years referred to in ver. 38 to be the same as the twenty spoken of here as consisting of fourteen and six. Dr. Kennicott, regarding the twenty years of ver. 38 as having intervened between the fourteen and the six of ver. 41, makes the entire period of Jacob's sojourn in Padan-aram to have been forty years. In support of this he contends -

(1) that the particle זֶה, twice repeated (in ver. 38 and in ver. 41), may be legitimately rendered, "This (one) twenty years I was with thee" (ver. 38), i.e. taking care of thy flocks; and "this for myself (another) twenty years in thy house," i.e. serving for thy daughters and thy cattle (cf. Exodus 14:20; Job 21:23, 25; Ecclesiastes 6:5);

(2) that on this hypothesis more time is afforded for the birth of Jacob's family, viz. twenty-seven years instead of seven; and

(3) that it relieves the narrative of certain grave chronological difficulties in connection with Judah and his family, which, on the supposition of the shorter period, subsequently emerge, such as that Judah and his sons must have been quite children when they married (vide Genesis 38:1-11). But, on the other hand, in favor of the accepted chronology it may be urged -

(1) that the interposition of a second twenty years in the middle of the first is unnatural;

(2) that, though legitimate, the proposed rendering of זֶה does not at first sight suggest itself as that which Jacob intended;

(3) that it is not impossible for Jacob's family to have been born in the short space of seven years (vide Genesis 27:1; Genesis 30:35);

(4) that in reality the difficulties connected with Judah and his sons are not removed by the hypothesis of a forty years' sojourn in Padan-aram any more than by a sojourn of only twenty years, since Judah must have married either after the sale of Joseph, in which case only twenty-two years remain for the birth and marriage of Er and Onan, for Pharez and Zarah, Judah's children by Tamar, to grow to manhood, and for Pharez to have two sons, Hezron and Hamul, before descending to Egypt, unless indeed, as Kurtz supposes, Judah's grandchildren were born in Egypt; or before the sale of Joseph - indeed, if Hezron and Hamul were born in Canaan, before the birth of Joseph, i.e. while Judah was yet in Padan-aram, which is contrary to the narrative (vide Genesis 38:1, 2). For these reasons, though adopted by some excellent authorities (Bishop Horsley, Adam Clarke, 'Speaker's Commentary,' Inglis), the computation of Dr. Kennicott does not appear of sufficient weight to set aside the ordinary reckoning, which is followed by interpreters of equal credit (Keil, Kalisch, Kurtz, Lange, Murphy, Wordsworth). And thou hast changed my wages ten times (vide ver. 7). Except (לוּלֵי, if not, i.e. unless, introducing the protasis of the sentence) the God of my father, the God of Abraham, and the fear of Isaac, - i.e. the object of Isaac's fear, not "terror" (Oort and Kuenen, vide 'The Bible for Young People,' vol. 1. p. 243), viz. God; פַּחַד being used metonymically of that which inspires reverence or fear, like σέβας and σέβασμα. The entire clause is a periphrasis for Jehovah of ver. 3, which is usually ascribed to the Jehovist, while the present verse belongs, it is alleged, to the fundamental document - had been with - or, for (cf. Psalm 124:1, 2) - me (during the whole period of my sojurn in Padan-aram, but especially during the last six years), surely (כִּי, then, commencing the apodosis) thou hadst sent me away now empty (as by thy stratagem in changing my wages thou didst design; but) God hath seen mine affliction (cf. Genesis 29:32; Exodus 3:7) and the labor - especially that which is wearisome, from a root signifying to toil with effort so as to become fatiguing (cf. Job 39:11) - of my hands, and rebuked - i.e. reproved, sc. thee, as in Genesis 21:25 (LXX., Vulgate, A.V., Calvin, Ainsworth, Lange, Kalisch, and others); or judged, sc. it, i.e. mine affliction, in the sense of pronouncing an opinion or verdict on it, as in 1 Chronicles 12:17 (Keil, Murphy); or proved, sc. it, viz. that he had seen my affliction (Dathius, Peele); or decided, sc. betwixt us, as in ver. 37 (Furst, Gesenius) thee yester-night. Genesis 31:36

As Laban found nothing, Jacob grew angry, and pointed out the injustice of his hot pursuit and his search among all his things, but more especially the harsh treatment he had received from him in return for the unselfish and self-denying services that he had rendered him for twenty years. Acute sensibility and elevated self-consciousness give to Jacob's words a rhythmical movement and a poetical form. Hence such expressions as אחרי דּלק "hotly pursued," which is only met with in 1 Samuel 17:53; אחטּנּה for אחטּאנּה "I had to atone for it," i.e., to bear the loss; "the Fear of Isaac," used as a name for God, פּחד, σέβας equals σέβασμα, the object of Isaac's fear or sacred awe.
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