Genesis 31:49
And Mizpah; for he said, The LORD watch between me and you, when we are absent one from another.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(49) Mizpah.—That is, Watchtower. There is, probably, a play in this name upon the pillar which Laban proceeds to set up, and which in Hebrew is Mazebah. In the reason given for the name Labau calls Jacob’s God Jehovah, an appellation which he must have learned from Jacob. and which proves not merely that he had some knowledge of Hebrew but that he and Jacob had talked together upon religious subjects, and that he was not a mere idolater, though he did call the teraphim his gods.

31:43-55 Laban could neither justify himself nor condemn Jacob, therefore desires to hear no more of that matter. He is not willing to own himself in fault, as he ought to have done. But he proposes a covenant of friendship between them, to which Jacob readily agrees. A heap of stones was raised, to keep up the memory of the event, writing being then not known or little used. A sacrifice of peace offerings was offered. Peace with God puts true comfort into our peace with our friends. They did eat bread together, partaking of the feast upon the sacrifice. In ancient times covenants of friendship were ratified by the parties eating and drinking together. God is judge between contending parties, and he will judge righteously; whoever do wrong, it is at their peril. They gave a new name to the place, The heap of witness. After this angry parley, they part friends. God is often better to us than our fears, and overrules the spirits of men in our favour, beyond what we could have expected; for it is not in vain to trust in him.The covenant is then completed. And Mizpah. This refers to some prominent cliff from which, as a watch-tower, an extensive view might be obtained. It was in the northern half of Gilead Deuteronomy 3:12-13, and is noticed in Judges 11:29. It is not to be confounded with other places called by the same name. The reference of this name to the present occurrence is explained in these two verses. The names Gilead and Mizpah may have arisen from this transaction, or received a new turn in consequence of its occurrence. The terms of the covenant are now formally stated. I have cast. The erection of the pillar was a joint act of the two parties; in which Laban proposes, Jacob performs, and all take part. "The God of Abraham, Nahor, and Terah." This is an interesting acknowledgment that their common ancestor Terah and his descendants down to Laban still acknowledged the true God even in their idolatry. Jacob swears by the fear of isaac, perhaps to rid himself of any error that had crept into Laban's notions of God and his worship. The common sacrifice and the common meal ratify the covenant of reconciliation.

- Jacob Wrestles in Prayer

3. מחנים machănāyı̂m, Machanaim, "two camps."

22. יבק yaboq, Jabboq; related: בקק bāqaq "gush or gurgle out" or אבק 'ābaq in niphal, "wrestle." Now Wady Zurka.

29. ישׂראל yı̂śrā'ēl, Jisrael, "prince of God."

31. פניאל penı̂y'ēl equals פנוּאל penû'ēl, Peniel, Penuel, "face of God."

After twenty years spent in Aram, Jacob now returns to Kenann. As his departure was marked by a great moment in his spiritual life, so he is now approaching to a crisis in his life of no less significance

44. Come thou, let us make a covenant—The way in which this covenant was ratified was by a heap of stones being laid in a circular pile, to serve as seats, and in the center of this circle a large one was set up perpendicularly for an altar. It is probable that a sacrifice was first offered, and then that the feast of reconciliation was partaken of by both parties seated on the stones around it. To this day heaps of stones, which have been used as memorials, are found abundantly in the region where this transaction took place. No text from Poole on this verse. And Mizpah,.... Which being an Hebrew word, it looks as if the heap had also this name given it by Jacob, which signifies a "watch" or "watchtower"; though, by what follows, it seems to be given by Laban, who could speak Hebrew as well, as Syriac, or Chaldee:

for he said, the Lord watch between me and thee, when we are absent one from another; or "hid one from another" (q); when being at a distance, they could not see each other, or what one another did in agreement or disagreement with their present covenant: but he intimates, that the Lord sees and knows all things, and therefore imprecates that God would watch over them both, them and their actions, and bring upon them the evil or the good, according as their actions were, or as they broke or kept this covenant.

(q) "abscondemur", Montanus, Vatablus, Drusius; "absconditi erimus", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator; so Ainsworth.

And Mizpah; for he said, The LORD {l} watch between me and thee, when we are absent one from another.

(l) To punish the trespasser.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
49. Mizpah] That is, The watch-tower. Cf. Jdg 11:29, “Mizpeh of Gilead,” and Genesis 31:34, “Mizpah.” Probably a common name for a height. The mention of this name comes in very abruptly at this point, and may be a gloss. The Sam. reads maṣṣêbah, LXX καὶ ἡ ὅρασις = “the vision.” It has been suggested that the high point here indicated might be the Rammath-mizpeh of Joshua 13:25, or the Mizpah in Gilead of Jdg 11:11. A third name for “the heap of stones” is very awkward, and the grammar barely tolerable. The text has undergone some dislocation.

The Lord] LXX ὁ Θεός. Jehovah is the third party in the solemn contract: He is witness; He will uphold the right, and punish the violator of the bond; cf. Genesis 16:5.

between me and thee] The cairn on the hill is to be the witness of the covenant between two sets of people separated at a distance from one another, and tempted to take advantage of one another. The popular use of the word Mizpah, based on this verse, ignores the context, and, in particular, Genesis 31:50. God is here invoked, because of the mutual distrust of the two parties, to watch lest one or the other should violate the compact.

absent] Heb. hidden, i.e. “separated and out of sight.”These words of Jacob "cut Laban to the heart with their truth, so that he turned round, offered his hand, and proposed a covenant." Jacob proceeded at once to give a practical proof of his assent to this proposal of his father-in-law, by erecting a stone as a memorial, and calling upon his relations also ("his brethren," as in Genesis 31:23, by whom Laban and the relations who came with him are intended, as Genesis 31:54 shows) to gather stones into a heap, which formed a table, as is briefly observed in Genesis 31:46, for the covenant meal (Genesis 31:54). This stone-heap was called Jegar-Sahadutha by Laban, and Galeed by Jacob (the former is the Chaldee, the latter the Hebrew; they have both the same meaning, viz., "heaps of witness"),

(Note: These words are the oldest proof, that in the native country of the patriarchs, Mesopotamia, Aramaean or Chaldaean was spoken, and Hebrew in Jacob's native country, Canaan; from which we may conclude that Abraham's family first acquired the Hebrew in Canaan from the Canaanites (Phoenicians).)

because, as Laban, who spoke first, as being the elder, explained, the heap was to be a "witness between him and Jacob." The historian then adds this explanation: "therefore they called his name Gal'ed," and immediately afterwards introduces a second name, which the heap received from words that were spoken by Laban at the conclusion of the covenant (Genesis 31:49): "And Mizpah," i.e., watch, watch-place (sc., he called it), "for he (Laban) said, Jehovah watch between me and thee; for we are hidden from one another (from the face of one another), if thou shalt oppress my daughters, and if thou shalt take wives to my daughters! No man is with us, behold God is witness between me and thee!" (Genesis 31:49, Genesis 31:50). After these words of Laban, which are introduced parenthetically,

(Note: There can be no doubt that Genesis 31:49 and Genesis 31:50 bear the marks of a subsequent insertion. But there is nothing in the nature of this interpolation to indicate a compilation of the history from different sources. That Laban, when making this covenant, should have spoken of the future treatment of his daughters, is a thing so natural, that there would have been something strange in the omission. And it is not less suitable to the circumstances, that he calls upon the God of Jacob, i.e., Jehovah, to watch in this affair. And apart from the use of the name Jehovah, which is perfectly suitable here, there is nothing whatever to point to a different source; to say nothing of the fact that the critics themselves cannot agree as to the nature of the source supposed.)

and in which he enjoined upon Jacob fidelity to his daughters, the formation of the covenant of reconciliation and peace between them is first described, according to which, neither of them (sive ego sive tu, as in Exodus 19:13) was to pass the stone-heap and memorial-stone with a hostile intention towards the other. Of this the memorial was to serve as a witness, and the God of Abraham and the God of Nahor, the God of their father (Terah), would be umpire between them. To this covenant, in which Laban, according to his polytheistic views, placed the God of Abraham upon the same level with the God of Nahor and Terah, Jacob swore by "the Fear of Isaac" (Genesis 31:42), the God who was worshipped by his father with sacred awe. He then offered sacrifices upon the mountain, and invited his relations to eat, i.e., to partake of a sacrificial meal, and seal the covenant by a feast of love.

The geographical names Gilead and Ramath-mizpeh (Joshua 13:26), also Mizpeh-Gilead (Judges 11:29), sound so obviously like Gal'ed and Mizpah, that they are no doubt connected, and owe their origin to the monument erected by Jacob and Laban; so that it was by prolepsis that the scene of this occurrence was called "the mountains of Gilead" in Genesis 31:21, Genesis 31:23, Genesis 31:25. By the mount or mountains of Gilead we are not to understand the mountain range to the south of the Jabbok (Zerka), the present Jebel Jelaad, or Jebel es Salt. The name Gilead has a much more comprehensive signification in the Old Testament; and the mountains to the south of the Jabbok are called in Deuteronomy 3:12 the half of Mount Gilead; the mountains to the north of the Jabbok, the Jebel-Ajlun, forming the other half. In this chapter the name is used in the broader sense, and refers primarily to the northern half of the mountains (above the Jabbok); for Jacob did not cross the Jabbok till afterwards (Genesis 32:23-24). There is nothing in the names Ramath-mizpeh, which Ramoth in Gilead bears in Joshua 13:26, and Mizpeh-Gilead, which it bears in Judges 11:29, to compel us to place Laban's meeting with Jacob in the southern portion of the mountains of Gilead. For even if this city is to be found in the modern Salt, and was called Ramath-mizpeh from the even recorded here, all that can be inferred from that is, that the tradition of Laban's covenant with Jacob was associated in later ages with Ramoth in Gilead, without the correctness of the association being thereby established.

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