Genesis 31
Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
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.
And Jacob sent and called Rachel and Leah to the field unto his flock,

Jacob’s flight. Laban’s persecution. The covenant between the two on the mountain of Gilead. Departure.

CHAPTER 31:4–32:2

, 4And Jacob sent and called Rachel and Leah to the field unto his flock. 5And said unto them, I see [am seeing] your father’s countenance, that it is not toward me as before: 6but the God [Elohim] of my father hath been with me. And ye3 know that with all my power I have served your father. 7And your father hath deceived4 me, and changed my wages ten times: but God suffered him not to hurt me. 8If he said thus, The speckled shall be thy wages; then all the cattle bare speckled: and if he said thus, The [symm.: white-footed] ring-streaked shall be thy hire; then bare all the cattle ring-streaked. 9Thus God hath taken away the [acquisitions] cattle of your father, and given them to me. 10And it came to pass at the time that the cattle conceived, that I lifted up mine eyes, and saw in a dream, and behold [I saw], the rams which leaped upon the cattle were ring-streaked, speckled, and grizzled.5 11And the angel of God spake unto me in a dream, saying, Jacob: And I said, Here am I. 12And he said, Lift up now thine eyes and see, all the rams which leap upon the cattle are ring-streaked, speckled, and 13grizzled: for I have seen all that Laban [is doing] doeth unto thee. I am the God of Beth-el, 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 [birth]. 14And Rachel and Leah answered, and said unto him, Is there yet any portion or inheritance for us in our father’s house? 15Are we not counted of him strangers? for he hath sold us, and hath quite devoured6 also our money. 16For 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.

, 17Then Jacob rose up, and set his sons and wives upon camels; 18And he carried away all his cattle, and all his goods [his movable property, gain] which he had gotten, the cattle of his getting, which he had gotten in Padan-aram; for to go to Isaac his father in the land of Canaan. 19And Laban went to shear his [to the feast of sheep-shearing] sheep: and Rachel had stolen the images7 [Teraphim, household gods] that were her father’s. 20And Jacob stole away unwares [the heart of] to Laban the Syrian, in that he told him not that he fled. 21So he fled with all that he had; and he rose up, and passed over the river [Euphrates], and set his face [journey] toward the mount Gilead. 22And it was told 23Laban on the third day, that Jacob was fled. And [Then] he took his brethren with him, and pursued after him seven days’ journey: and they overtook him in the mount Gilead. 24And 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.

25Then Laban overtook Jacob. Now Jacob had pitched his tent in the mount: and Laban with his brethren [tented] pitched in the mount of Gilead. 26And Laban said to Jacob, What hast thou done, that thou hast stolen away unwares to me, and carried away my daughters, as captives taken with the sword [the spoils of war]? 27Wherefore didst thou flee away secretly, and steal away from me, and didst not tell me, that I might have sent thee away [given thee a convoy] with mirth, and with songs, with tabret, and with harp? 28And hast not suffered me to kiss my sons [grandsons], and my daughters? thou hast now done foolishly in so doing. 29It is in the power of my hand8 to do you hurt: but the God of your father spake unto me yesternight, saying, Take thou heed 30that thou speak not to Jacob either good or bad. And now, though thou wouldest needs be gone, because thou sore longedst after thy father’s house; yet wherefore hast thou stolen my gods? 31And Jacob answered and said to Laban, Because I was afraid: for I said [said to myself], Peradventure thou wouldest take by force thy daughters from me. 32With 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. 33And Laban went into Jacob’s tent, and into Leah’s tent, and into the two maid-servants’ tents; but he found them not. Then went he out of Leah’s tent, and entered into Rachel’s tent. 34Now Rachel had taken the images [household gods], and put them in the camel’s furniture, and sat upon them. And Laban searched all the tent, but found them not. 35And she said to her father, Let it not displease my lord that I cannot rise up before thee; for the custom of women [female period] is upon me. And he searched [all], but found not the images.

36And 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 [burned] after me? 37Whereas 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. 38This 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. 39That which was torn of beasts, I brought not unto thee; I bare the loss of it [must make satisfaction for it]; 40of my hand didst thou require it, whether stolen by day, or stolen by night. Thus I was; in the day the drought consumed me, and the frost by night; and my sleep departed from mine eyes. 41Thus 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. 42Except 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 labor [wearisome labor] of my hands, and rebuked [judged] thee yesternight.

43And Laban answered, and said unto Jacob, These daughters are my daughters, and these children are my children, and these cattle are my cattle [herds], 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 borne? 44Now therefore come thou, let us make a covenant 45[a covenant of peace], 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. 46And Jacob said unto his brethren, Gather stones; and they took stones, and made an heap: and they did eat there upon the heap. 47And Laban called it Jegar-sahadutha [syriac: heap of witness]: but Jacob called it Galeed [the same in Hebrew]: 48And Laban said, This heap is a witness between me and 49 thee this day. Therefore was the name of it called Galeed: And Mizpah [watch-tower]; for he said, The LORD watch between me and thee, when we are absent one from another. 50If thou shalt afflict my daughters, or if thou shalt take other wives besides my daughters, no man is with us; see, God, is witness betwixt me and thee. 51And Laban said to Jacob, Behold this heap [stone heap], and behold this pillar, which I have 52cast [erected] 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. 53The God of Abraham, and the God of Nahor, the God of their father, judge [plural] betwixt us. And [But] Jacob sware by the fear of his father Isaac. 54Then 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. 55And 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.

Gen 32:1And Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him. And 2when Jacob saw them, he said, This is God’s host: and he called the name of that place Mahanaim [two camps: double camp].


1. Delitzsch regards the present section as throughout Elohistic; but according to Knobel, Jehovistic portions are inwrought into it, and hence the narrative is here and there broken and disconnected.

2. The present journey of Jacob is evidently in contrast with his previous journey to Mesopotamia; Mahanaim and Peniel form the contrast with Bethel.

3. We make the following division: 1. Jacob’s conference with his wives, Gen 31:4–16; 2. the flight, Gen 31:17–21; 3. Laban’s pursuit, Gen 31:22–25; 4. Laban’s reproof, Gen 31:26–30; 5. Laban’s search in the tents of Jacob, Gen 31:31–35; 6. Jacob’s reproof, Gen 31:36–42; 7. the covenant of peace between the two, Gen 31:43, 53; 8. the covenant meal and the departure, Gen 31:54–ch. 32:2.


1. Gen 31:4–16. Jacob’s conference with his wives.—Unto his flock.—Under some pretext Jacob had left the flocks of Laban, although it was then the feast of sheep-shearing, and gone to his own flocks (a three days’ journey, and probably in a direction favoring his flight). Hither, to the field, he calls his wives, and Rachel, as the favorite, is called first.—Changed my wages ten times.—The expression ten times is used for frequently, in Numb. 14:22, and in other passages. [Keil holds that the ten, as the number of completeness, here denotes as often as he could, or as he had opportunity. It is probably the definite for an indefinite.—A. G.]—If he said thus, The ring-streaked.—As Laban deceived Jacob in the matter of Rachel, so now in the arrangement for the last six years, he had in various ways dealt selfishly and unjustly, partly in dividing equally the spotted lambs, according to his own terms, and partly in always assigning to Jacob that particular kind of spotted lambs which had previously been the least fruitful.—And the Angel of God.—Jacob here evidently joins together a circle of night-visions, which he traces up to the Angel of the Lord, as the angel of Elohim, and which run through the whole six years to their close. If Laban imposed a new and unfavorable condition, he saw in a dream that now the flocks should bring forth lambs of that particular color agreed upon, now ring-streaked, now speckled, and now spotted. But the vision was given to comfort him, and indeed, under the image of the variegated rams which served the flocks. This angel of Elohim declares himself to be identical with the God of Bethel, i, e., with Jehovah, who reveals himself at Bethel as exalted above the angels. It is thus his covenant God who has guarded his rights against the injustice of Laban, and prepares this wonderful blessing for him; a fact which does not militate against his use of skill and craft, but places those in a modified and milder light. The conclusion of these visions is, that Jacob must return. [The difference between this narrative and that given in ch.30, is a difference having its ground and explanation in the facts of the case. For obvious reasons Jacob chose here to pass over his own strategy and craft in silence, and brings out into prominence the divine providence and aid to which his prosperity was due. That Jacob resorted to the means he did, is not inconsistent with the objective reality of the dream-vision, but rather confirms it. If he regarded the vision as prophetic of the issue, as he must have done, the means which he used, the arts and cunning, are characteristic of the man, who was not yet weaned from confidence in himself, was not entirely the man of faith. If we regard this vision as occurring at the beginning of the six years’ service, it is entirely natural that Jacob should now connect it so closely with the voice of the same angel commanding him to return to the land of his birth.—A. G.]—Are we not counted of him strangers?—Laban takes the same position towards his daughters as towards Jacob himself. Hence they have nothing more to hope for from him. He had sold them as strangers, i. e., really, as slaves, for the service of Jacob. But this very price, i. e., the blessing resulting from Jacob’s service, he had entirely consumed, i. e., the daughters had received no share of it. Hence it is evident that they speak with an inward alienation from him, although not calling him by name, and that they desired the flight.

2. Gen 31:17–21. The Flight.—The circumstance that Jacob, with his wives, was already at the station of his herds, while Laban remained at his own station, three days’ journey distant, keeping the feast of sheep-shearing, favored the flight. Either Laban had not invited Jacob to this feast, which is scarcely probable, since he was usually at this station, or Jacob took the opportunity of leaving, in order to visit his own flocks. As the sheep-shearing lasted several days (1 Sam. 25.) the opportunity was a very favorable one.—And Rachel had stolen.—This feature, however, as also the following, when she denied the theft to her father, reveals a cunning which is far more befitting the daughter of Laban, than the wife of the prudent Jacob.—The images.—Literally Teraphim (see DELITZSCH, p. 410, Note 73), Penates, small figures, probably resembling the human form, which were honored as guardians of the household prosperity, and as oracles. But as we must distinguish the symbolic adoration of religious images (statuettes) among ancients, from the true and proper mythological worship, so we must distinguish between a gentler and severe censure of the use of such images upon Shemitic ground. Doubtless the symbolic usage prevailed in the house of Laban and Nahor. It is hardly probable that Rachel intended, by a pious and fanatical theft, to free her father from idolatry (Greg. Naz., Basil), for then she would have thrown the images away. She appears to have stolen them with the superstitious idea that she would prevent her father from consulting them as oracles, and under their guidance, as the pursuer of Jacob, from overtaking and destroying him (Aben Ezra). The supposition of a condition of war, with its necessity and strategy, enters here with apologetic force. This, however, does not exclude the idea, that she attributed to the images a certain magical, though not religious, power (perhaps, as oracles. Chrysostom). The very lowest and most degrading supposition, is that she took the images, often overlaid with silver, or precious metals, from mercenary motives (Peirerius). Jacob himself had at first a lax rather than a strict conscience in regard to these images (see Gen 35:2), but the stricter view prevails since the time of Moses (EX. 20; Josh. 24:2, 14 f.) [The derivation of the Heb. word teraphim, always used in the plural, is doubtful. Some derive it from taraph, to rejoice—thus dispensers of good; others from a like root, to inquire—thus they are oracles; and others, as Kurtz and Hofmann, make it another form of Seraphim. They were regarded and used as oracles (Judg. 17:5–6; Ezek. 21:21; Zech. 10:2). They were not idols in the worst sense of the word; and were sometimes used by those who professed the worship of the true God (1 Sam. 19:13). The tendency was always hurtful, and they were ultimately rooted out from Israel. Laban had lapsed into a more corrupt form of religion, and his daughters had not escaped the infection. We may modify our views of Rachel’s sin, but it cannot be excused or justified (see KEIL, “Arch.,” p. 90; WORDSWORTH, p. 132; HENGSTENBERG, “Christology;” HAVERICK’S“Ezek.” 13:47).—A.G.]—And Jacob stole away unawares to Laban.—The explanation κλέπτειν νόον in the sense of “to deceive” (Del., Keil), appears to us incorrect. The expression indeed does not bear the sense which we moderns associate with the words “steal the heart,” and Gen 31:26 seems to indicate that the heart of Laban is the love which this hard-hearted father bears towards his daughters. Rachel, however, seems to have been his favorite. He regarded and treated her not only as a wise but cunning child, and, hence, while he searched carefully everything in all the tents, he did not venture to compel her to arise. The last clause of Gen 31:20, further cannot possibly mean “in that he told him not that he fled.” For who would betray his own flight? We interpret הִגִּיד impersonally, it was not told him.—The Syrian.—“Moses gives this title to Laban because the Syrians were more crafty than other nations.” Jacob, however, surpassed him (Cleric.). Over the river.—The Euphrates.—Toward the mount Gilead.—For the mountains of Gilead see Geographies of Palestine, Bible Dictionaries, Books of Travels, etc. “Knobel understands הַר גִּלְעָד to be the mountain range now known as Gebel Gilad, or Gebel es-Ssalt, and combines מצפה with the present Ssalt. But this assumption leads to the improbable results that Mahanaim, south of Jabbok and Succoth (probably the one on the other side), lay north from Jabbok, and thus Jacob’s line of march would be backwards in a north-westerly direction.” DELITZSCH. Delitzsch understands correctly, that it is the northern side of the mountains of Gilead, above the Jabbok, which lay nearest to those coming from Mesopotamia.ְ

3. Gen 31:22–25. Laban’s pursuit.On the third day.—This is partially explained by the long distance between the two stations.—His brethren with him.—Of the same tribe, kinsmen.—Seven days’ journey.—As Jacob, with his herds, moved slower than Laban, he lost his start of three days in the course of seven days.—And God came to Laban.—A proof that he had still some nobler traits of character.—Either good or bad.—The translation neither good nor bad is not fitting here. Literally from good to bad (Knobel). It presupposes that he was inclined to pass from a hasty greeting of his daughters and their children, to reproaches and invectives.—Now Jacob had pitched his tent.—As soon as he reached the heights of the mountain range, the mount Gilead, he pitched his tent, but here Laban with his retinue overtook him, and tented near by him. The text assumes: 1. That a certain mountain, north of Jabbok, gave its name to the whole range of mountains (just as Galilee, originally designating a small mountain region, gradually extended its significance). 2. That thus we must distinguish between this first mountain in the range of Gilead, and the principal mountain mentioned later.

4. Gen 31:26–30. The words of Laban are characteristic, passionate, idiomatic, exaggerated even to falsehood and hypocrisy, and still at the end there is a word which betrays the man—shows his human nature and kindness. He calls his daughters his heart; their voluntary flight (although he had sold them) an abduction, as if they were captives. He asserts that he had not given any occasion to Jacob to flee, on the contrary, that he would have sent him away with music and mirth. He had not, however, even suffered him to take leave of his daughters and grandsons. These tender utterances are followed at once by haughty threats (Gen 31:29). From his own point of view it seems imprudent to relate the night warning, but his pride and animosity lead him to do it. Jacob should not think that he willingly let him go unpunished, but “the God of your father,” he says, with a bitter heart, has forbidden me. He finally (Gen 31:30) acknowledges in a sarcastic way that Jacob might go, but only to crush him with the burden of his accusation, in which, however, there was a two-fold exaggeration; first, in calling the teraphim his gods, and then, second, in making Jacob the thief. The true sentiment for his children, the fear of God, and, finally, a real indignation at the secrecy of Jacob’s departure, form the core of the speech, which assumes at last the shape of a pointed accusation. There is no trace of self-knowledge or humility.—With mirth.—(See 1 Sam. 18:6; 2 Sam. 6:5.) The word שִׂמְחָה is indeed a collective for all that follows, and Delitzsch thinks it probably means dance.—With tabret.—See WINER: “Musical Instruments.” [Also KITTO and SMITH.—A. G.].—Thou hast done foolishly.—Thou who art usually so prudent hast here acted foolishly. The reproach of folly carries with it that of immorality.—It is in the power of my hand.—Knobel and Keil [and Jacobus.—A. G.] translate “There is to God my hand,” with reference to Job, 12:6; Hab. 1:11. Others translate אֵל power (so Rosen., Gesen.), [Wordsworth, Bush, A. G.] and this seems here to be preferable, notwithstanding Knobel’s objection, since Laban immediately says it is Elohim who restrains his hand.

5. Gen 31:31–35. Laban’s search.—Laban’s rash accusation gives Jacob, who knew nothing of the theft of the teraphim, great boldness.—Let him not live.—We must emphasize the finding, otherwise Jacob condemned Rachel to death. “The cunning of Rachel was well planned, for even if Laban had not regarded it as impure and wrong to touch the seat of a woman in this state (see Lev. 15:22), how could he have thought it possible that one in this state would sit upon his God.”—DELITZSCH. But Keil calls attention to the fact that the view upon which the law (Lev. 15.) was based, is much older than that statute, and exists among other people. [See also KURTZ: Gesch., vol. i. p. 252; BAEHR’S “Sym. of the Mosaic Cultus,” vol. ii. p. 466.—A. G.] For the camel’s furniture or saddle, see Knobel, p. 251.

6. Gen 31:36–42. Jacob’s reproof. He connects it with Laban’s furious pursuit and search. Then he reminds him generally of his harsh treatment, as opposed to his own faithful and self-sacrificing shepherd service for more than twenty years. “The strong feeling and the lofty self-consciousness which utter themselves in his speech, impart to it a rhythmical movement and poetic forms (דָּלַק אַחֲרֵי to pursue ardently; elsewhere only 1 Sam. 17:53.”) DELITZSCH.—And the frost by night.—The cold of the nights corresponds with the heat of the day in the East (Jer. 36:30; Psalms. 121:6).—My sleep.—Which I needed and which belonged to me. He had faithfully guarded the flocks by night. Notwithstanding all this Laban had left him unrewarded, but the God of his fathers had been with him and secured his rights. Both the name of his God, and of his venerable father, must touch the conscience of Laban.—The fear of Isaac.—[Heb: he whom Isaac feared.] The object of his religious fear, and veneration; of his religion, σέβας, σέβασμα.—Rebuked thee yesternight.—This circumstance, which is only incidentally alluded to in the course of Laban’s speech, forms the emphatic close to that of Jacob. Jacob understands the dream-revelation of Laban better than Laban himself.

7. The covenant of peace between the two. Laban is overcome. He alludes boastfully indeed once more to his superior power, but acknowledges that any injury inflicted upon Jacob, the husband and father, would be visited upon his own daughters and their children.—What can I do unto thee.—i.e., in a bad sense. The fact that his daughters and grandsons were henceforth dependent upon Jacob, fills his selfish and ignoble mind with care and solicitude about them; indeed, reminded of the promises to Abraham and Isaac, he is apprehensive that Jacob might some time return from Canaan to Haran as a mighty prince and avenge his wrong. In this view, anticipating some such event, he proposes a covenant of peace, which would have required merely a feast of reconciliation. But the covenant of peace involved not only a well-cemented peace, but a theocratic separation.—Let us make a covenant.—Laban makes the proposal, Jacob assents by entering at once upon its execution. The pillar which Jacob erected, marks the settlement, the peaceful separation; the stones heaped together by his brethren (Laban and his retinue, his kindred) designate the friendly communion, the covenant table. The preliminary eating (Gen 31:46) appears to be distinct from the covenant meal (Gen 31:54), for this common meal continued throughout the day. The Aramaic designation of the stone heap used by Laban, and the Hebraic by Jacob, are explainable on the supposition “that in the fatherland of the patriarchs, Mesopotamia, the Aramaic or Chaldee was used, but in the fatherland of Jacob, Canaan, the Hebrew was spoken, whence it may be inferred that the family of Abraham had acquired the Hebrew tongue from the canaanites (Phœnicians).”—KEIL. [But this is a slender foundation upon which to base such a theory. The whole history implies that the two families of Abraham and Nahor down to this time and even later found no difficulty in holding intercourse. They both used the same language, though with some growing dialectic differences. It is just as easy to prove that Laban deviated from the mother tongue as that Jacob did.—A. G.] Knobel regards it an error to derive the name Gilead, which means hard, firm, stony, from the Gal-Ed here used. But proper names are constantly modified as to their significance in popular use, from the original or more remote, to that which is proximate.—And Mizpah, for he said.—Keil concedes that Gen 31:49 and 50 have the appearance of an interpolation, but not such as to justify any resort to the theory of combination from different sources. But since Laban’s principal concern was for the future of his daughters, we might at least regard the words, And Mizpah, for he said, as a later explanatory interpolation. But there is not sufficient ground even for this, since Galeed and Mizpah are here identical in fact, both referring to the stone heap as well as to the pillar. Laban prays specifically to Jehovah, to watch that Jacob should not afflict his daughters; especially that he should not deprive them of their acquired rights, of being the ancestress of Jehovah’s covenant people. From this hour Jehovah, according to his prayer, looks down from the heights of Gilead, as the representative of his rights, and watches that Jacob should keep his word to his daughters, even when across the Jordan. But now, as the name Gilead has its origin in some old sacred tradition, so has the name Mizpah, also. It is not to be identified with the later cities bearing that name, with the Mizpah of Jephthah (Judg. 11:11, 34), or the Mizpah of Gilead (Judg. 11:29), or Ramoth-Mizpah (Josh. 13:26), but must be viewed as the family name which has spread itself through many daughters all over Canaan (KEIL, 216).—No man is with us.—i.e., no one but God only can be judge and witness between us, since we are to be so widely separated.—Which I have cast.—He views himself as the originator, and of the highest authority in this covenant.—That I will not pass over.—Here this covenant thought is purely negative, growing out of a suspicious nature, and securing a safeguard against mutual injuries; properly a theocratic separation.—The God of Abraham and the God of Nahor.—The monotheism of Laban seems gliding into dualism; they may judge, or “judge.” He corrects himself by adding the name of the God of their common father, i.e., Terah. From his alien and wavering point of view he seeks for sacredness in the abundance of words. But Jacob swears simply and distinctly by the God whom Isaac feared, and whom even his father-in-law, Laban, should reverence and fear. Laban, indeed, also adheres to the communion with Jacob in his monotheism, and intimates that the God of Abraham and the God of Nahor designate two different religious directions from a common source or ground.

8. Ver. Gen 31:54–32:4. The covenant meal, and the departure.—Then Jacob offered Sacrifice.—As Isaac prepared a meal for the envious and ill-disposed Abimelech, so Jacob for Laban, whom even this generosity should now have led to shame and repentance. The following morning they separate from each other. The genial blood-tenderness of Laban, which leads him to kiss both at meeting and parting should not pass unnoticed (see Gen 31:28; Gen 29:13, and the Piel forms). It is a pleasant thing that as a grandfather he first kissed his grandsons. Blessing, he takes his departure.—Met him.—Lit., came, drew near to him, not precisely that they came from an opposite direction. This vision does not relate primarily to the approaching meeting with Esau (Peniel relates to this), but to the dangerous meeting with Laban. As the Angel of God had disclosed to him in vision the divine assistance against his unjust sufferings in Mesopotamia, so now he enjoys a revelation of the protection which God had prepared for him upon Mount Gilead, through his angels (comp. 2 Kings 6:17). In this sense he well calls the angels, “God’s host,” and the place in which they met him, double camp. By the side of the visible camp, which he, with Laban and his retainers, had made, God had prepared another, invisible camp, for his protection. It served also to encourage him, in a general way for the approaching meeting with Esau.—Mahanaim.—Later a city on the north of Jabbok (see V RAUMER’S “Palestine,” p. 253; ROBINSON: “Re searches,” vol. iii. 2 app. 166), probably the one now called Mahneh. [For the more, distinct reference of this vision to the meeting with Esau, see KURTZGeschichte, p. 254, who draws an instructive and beautiful parallel between this vision and that at Bethel.—A. G.]


1. Jacob a fugitive even in his journey home. But the God of Bethel protects him now as the God of Mahanaim; and the angels who, as heavenly messengers, moved up and down the ladder at Bethel, now appear, as became the situation, a warlike host, or the army of God. Keil holds that he saw the angels in a waking state, “not inwardly, but without and above himself; but whether with the eye of the body or of the spirit (2 Kings 6:17) cannot be decided.” At all events, in the first place he saw an objective revelation of God, with which was connected, in the second place, the vision-power [i.e., eine visionäre stimmung, a power or disposition corresponding to the vision and enabling him to perceive it.—A. G.].

2. The want of candor between Laban and Jacob at Haran leads finally to the violent and passionate outbreak on Mount Gilead. But such outbreaks have ever been the punishment for the want of frankness and candor. The fearful public terrors of war, correspond to the secrecies and blandishments of diplomacy.—The blessing of a genuine and thorough frankness. Moral storms, their danger, and their salutary results.

3. The visions in which Jacob saw how God secured his rights against Laban’s injustice, prove that from his own point of view he saw nothing wrong in the transaction with the parti-colored rods. But those rods are thus seen to be merely a subordinate means. There is no sufficient ground for the conjecture of Keil, that it may be suspected that the dream-vision of Jacob (of the spotted rams) was a mere natural dream (see p. 212). It is evident that the vision-disposition pervades the night-life of Jacob, growing out of his oppressed condition and his unjust sufferings.—SCHRÖDER: “But Jacob’s crafty course (Gen 30:37) is not therefore commended by God, as Luther and Calvin have taught. Jacob was still striving to bring about the fulfilment of the divine promise by his own efforts.”

4. The alienation of the daughters of Laban from their father is not commendable, but is explained by his severity. On the other hand, they are bound to their husband in a close and lovely union. For the theft of the teraphim, see the Exegetical notes.

5. It is not a chance that we meet here in the idols of Laban the earliest traces of idolatry in the Old World, although they had doubtless existed elsewhere much earlier and in a grosser form. We can thus see how Polytheism gradually developed itself out of the symbolic image-worship of Monotheism (Rom. 1:23). Moreover, the teraphim are estimated entirely from a theocratic point of view. They could be stolen as other household furniture (have eyes but see not). They could be hidden under a camel’s saddle. They are a contemptible nonentity, which can render no assistance.

Gen 31:23. The zeal for gods and idols is always fanatical.

6. The speech of Laban, and Jacob’s answer, give us a representation of the original art of speaking among men, just as the speech of Eliezer did. They form at the same time an antithesis between a passionate and exaggerated rhetoric and phraseology on the one hand, and an earnest, grave, religious, and moral oratory on the other hand, exemplified in history in the antithesis of the heathen (not strictly classic) to the theocratic and religious oratory. The contrast between the speeches of Tertullus and Paul Acts 24:2) is noticeable here. Laban’s eloquence agrees with his sanguine temperament. It is passionate, exaggerated in its terms, untrue in its exaggeration, and yet not without a germ of true and affectionate sentiment. Analysis of diffuse and wordy speeches a difficult but necessary task of the Christian spirit.

7. Prov. 20:22, Rom. 12:17, come to us in the place of the example of Jacob; still we are not justified in judging the conduct of Jacob by those utterances of a more developed economy (as Keil does). [This is true in a qualified sense only. The light which men have is of course an important element in our judgment of the character of their acts. But Jacob had, or might have had, light sufficient to know that his conduct was wrong. He might have known certainly that it was his duty, as the heir of faith, to commit his cause unto the Lord.—A. G.]

8. The establishment of peace between Laban and Jacob has evidently, on the part of Laban, the significance and force, that he breaks off the theocratic communion between the descendants of Nahor and Abraham, just as the line of Haran, earlier, was separated in Lot.

9. At all events, the covenant-meal forms a thorough and final conciliation. Laban’s reverence for the God of his fathers, and his love for his daughters and grandsons, present him once more in the most favorable aspect of his character, and thus we take our leave of him. We must notice, however, that before the entrance of Jacob he had made little progress in his business. Close, narrow-hearted views, are as really the cause of the curse, as its fruits.

10. The elevated state and feeling of Jacob, after this departure of Laban, reveals itself in the vision of the hosts of God. Heaven is not merely connected with the saint on the earth (through the ladder); its hosts are warlike hosts, who invisibly guard the saints and defend them, even while upon the earth. Here is the very germ and source of the designation of God as the God of hosts (Zebaoth).

11. There are still, as it appears to us, two striking relations between this narrative and that which follows. Jacob here (Gen 31:32) pronounces judgment of death upon any one of his family who had stolen the images. But now his own Rachel, over whom he had unconsciously pronounced this sentence, dies soon after the images were buried in the earth (see 35:4, 18). But when we read afterwards, that Joseph, the wise son of the wise Rachel, describes his cup as his oracle (although only as a pretext), the conjecture is easy, that the mother also valued the images as a means of securing her desires and longings. She even ascribes marvellous results to the mandrakes.

12. The Mount of Gilead a monument and witness of the former connection between Mesopotamia and Canaan.


Contrasts: Jacob’s emigration and return, or the two-fold flight, under the protection of the God of Bethel, and of Mahanaim.—Laban the persecutor: a. of his own; b. of the heir of the promise.—The persecutor: 1. His malicious companions; 2. those who flee from him; 3. his motives.—The word of God to Laban: “Take heed,” etc., in its typical and lasting significance.—The punishments of the want of candor: strife and war.—The two speeches and speakers.—The peaceful departure: 1. Its light side, reconciliation; 2. its dark aspect, separation.

First Section, Gen 31:4–16. STARKE: CRAMER: The husband should not always take his own way, but sometimes consult with his wife (Sir. 4:35).—It is a grievous thing when children complain before God of the injustice of their parents.—Children should conceal, as far as possible, the faults of their parents.—LISCO: The human means which he used are not commanded by God, but are his own.—GERLACH: Jacob’s conduct, the impatient weakness of faith; still a case of self-defence, not of injustice.—SCHRÖDER: A contrast: the face of your father, the God of my father.

Second Section, Gen 31:17–21. STARKE: Although Jacob actually begins his journey to the land of Canaan, some suppose that ten years elapse before he comes to Isaac, since he remained some time at Succoth, Sichem, and Bethel (comp. Gen 33:17; 35:6).—The shearing of the sheep was in the East a true feast for the shepherds—an occasion of great joy (see Gen 38:12; 1 Sam. 25:2, 8, 36).

Section Third, Gen 31:22–25. STARKE: Josephus. The intervention of the night, and the warning by God in his sleep, kept him from injuring Jacob.—Bibl. Tub.: God sometimes so influences and directs the hearts of enemies that they shall be favorably inclined towards the saints, although they are really embittered against them.—HALL: God makes foolish the enemies of his church, etc.—Whoever is in covenant with God need have no fear of men.—SCHRÖDER: Jacob moves under the instant and pressing danger of being plundered, or slain, or of being made a slave with his family and taken to Mesopotamia. Still the promiser (Gen 28:15) fulfils the promise to him. Thus, whatever may oppress us for a time, must at last turn to our salvation (Calvin).

Section Fourth, Gen 31:26–30. STARKE: (It is the way of hypocrites when their acts do not prosper, to speak in other tones.)

Gen 31:29. He does not say that he has the right and authority, but that he has the power (comp. John 19:10). In this, however, he refutes himself. For if he possessed the power, why does he suffer himself to be terrified and deterred by the warning of God in the dream?—CALWER Handbuch: He cannot cease to threaten.—He would have injured him but dared not.—SCHRÖDER: The images are his highest happiness, since to him the presence of the Deity is bound and confined to its symbol.

Section Fifth, Gen 31:31–35. STARKE: CRAMER: Gen 31:32. A Christian should not be rash and passionate in his answer. Gen 31:35. The woman’s cunning is preëminent (Sir. 25:17; Judg. 14:16).—CALWER Handbuch: Gen 31:38. The ewes and the goats in their state were the objects of his special care.—Falsehood follows theft.—Man’s cunning is ready; woman’s inexhaustible and endless (Val. Herberger).

Section Sixth, Gen 31:36–42. STARKE: What is included in a shepherd’s faithfulness (Gen 31:38).—Bibl. Wirt.: When one can show that he has been faithful, upright, and diligent, in his office, he can stand up with a clear conscience, and assert his innocence. CRAMER: A good conscience and a gracious God give one boldness and consolation.—SCHRÖDER: The persecution of Jacob by Laban ends at last in peace, love and blessing.—Thus the brother line in Mesopotamia is excluded after it has reached its destination.

Section Seventh, Gen 31:43–53. STARKE: (Different conjectures as to what Laban understood by the God of Nahor, whether the true God or idols).—CRAMER: When a man’s ways please the Lord, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him (Prov, 16:7).—CALWER Handbuch: Laban now turns again and gives way to the natural affections of a father. The circumstances which tended to calm his mind: 1. The seven days’ journey; 2. the divine warning; 3. the mortification resulting from his fruitless search; 4. Jacob’s self-defence and the truth of his reproaches.—His courage and anger gradually give way to fear and anxiety.—SCHRÖDER: In the Hebrew, the word “if ” occurs twice, pointing, as we may suppose, to the idea, may God so punish thee.—(LUTHER: How can this fellow (Laban) so name the thing?)

Eighth Section, Gen 31:55–32:2. STARKE: Jacob has just escaped the persecutions of his unjust father-in-law, when he began to fear that he should meet a fiercer enemy in his brother Esau. Hence God confirms him in his faith, opens his eyes, etc.—It is the office of the angels to guard the saints. (Two conjectures as to the double camp: one that some of the angels went before Jacob, others followed him; the other that it is the angel camp and the encampment of Jacob.)—(Why the angels are called hosts: 1. From their multitude; 2. their order; 3. their power for the protection of the saints, and the resistance and punishment of the wicked; 4. from their rendering a cheerful obedience as became a warlike host.—CALWER Handbuch: The same as Gen 28 Probably here as there an inward vision (Ps. 34:7).—Schröder: Jacob’s hard service, his departure with wealth, and the persecution of Laban, prefigure the future of Israel in Egypt.—(Val. Herberger.) Whosoever walks in his way, diligent in his pursuits, may at all times say with St. Paul: “He shall never be forsaken.”—The invisible world was disclosed to him, because anxiety and fear fill the visible world.—LUTHER: The angels. In heaven their office is to sing Glory to God in the Highest; on the earth, to watch, to guide, to war.

 3Ch. 31 ver.6.—The full form of the pronoun, see GREEN’S Grammar, 71, (2.)—A. G.

4Gen 31:7.—הֵתֶל, Hiphil from תָּלַל; see GREEN’S Grammar, 142, (3.)—A. G.

5Gen 31:10.—Heb., Beruddim, spotted with hail. Our word, grizzled, is from the French, grêle, hail, and thus a literal translation of the Hebrew.—A. G.

6Gen 31:15.—The Hebrew form, the absolute infinitive after the finite verb, denotes continuance of the action.—He has constantly devoured.—A. G.

7Gen 31:19.—תְּרָפִים. The word occurs fifteen times in the Old Testament; three times in this chapter, and nowhere else in the Pentateuch. It is always in the plural. It means, perhaps, to live well, or to nourish. In two passages (Judg. 17. and 18., and Hosea 3:4), they are six times associated with the ephod. The use of them in the worship of God, is denounced as idolatry (1 Sam. 15:23), and hence they are classed with the idols put away by Josiah, 2 Kings 23. Murphy—A. G.

8Gen 31:29.—Heb., There is to God my hand.—A. G.

Lange, John Peter - Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical

Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bible Hub
Genesis 30
Top of Page
Top of Page