Matthew Poole's Commentary
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.Jacob observing Laban’s envy, on God’s command and promise, with the consent of his wives, departs secretly, Genesis 31:1-21. Laban pursues him; God in a dream warns him not to treat Jacob ill; he overtakes him on Mount Gilead; taxes him sharply for his secret departure, and with stealing his gods, Genesis 31:23-30. Jacob excuses his departure, Genesis 31:31; denies the taking either gods or aught else that was Laban’s, Genesis 31:32. Laban searches, but finds not, Genesis 31:33-35. Jacob is wroth, and rebukes him vehemently for all he had suffered from him, Genesis 31:36-41. He owns God as his defence in the day of his affliction, Genesis 31:42. They make a covenant, in which Laban obliges Jacob not to hurt his daughters, nor take other wives to them, Genesis 31:44-52. Jacob swears by the fear of Isaac, and offers sacrifice, Genesis 31:53,54. Laban returns to his place, Genesis 31:55.
cir. 1739 These riches, which are called glory, Genesis 45:13 Psalm 49:16 Isaiah 66:12, compared with Isaiah 60:6, because their possessors use to glory in them, and by them gain glory and esteem from others.
And Jacob beheld the countenance of Laban, and, behold, it was not toward him as before.And this change of his countenance argued a change in his mind, and prosaged some evil intentions in him towards Jacob.
And the LORD said unto Jacob, Return unto the land of thy fathers, and to thy kindred; and I will be with thee.No text from Poole on this verse.
And Jacob sent and called Rachel and Leah to the field unto his flock,Rachel is first named here, as also Ruth 4:11, because she was his chief, and, by right, his first and only designed wife. And therefore it is observable, that in the enumeration of Jacob’s wives and children, Genesis 46:1-34,
Leah is only mentioned by her name, Genesis 46:15, but Rachel is called Jacob’s wife, Genesis 46:19, by way of eminency, and in a peculiar manner. In the field they might more freely discourse of their business, and without fear or interruption.
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.Either,
1. Hath blessed me; hath stood constantly by me, when your father hath failed and deceived me. Or,
2. Hath appeared unto me, as Genesis 31:13.
And ye know that with all my power I have served your father.With all my power, both of my mind and body, as I would have done for myself, as became a faithful servant to do.
And your father hath deceived me, and changed my wages ten times; but God suffered him not to hurt me.Ten times, i.e. ofttimes, as that certain number is commonly used, as Leviticus 26:26 Numbers 14:22 1 Samuel 1:8 Job 19:3, &c.
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.All the cattle. All is here, as oft elsewhere, put for the greater or the better part, as appears from Genesis 31:1,8. Or, for all that Jacob desired to be such.
The ring-straked shall be thy hire; hence it appears that Laban through envy and covetousness did break his agreement made with Jacob, and altered it as he thought meet, and that Jacob patiently yielded to all such changes.
Thus God hath taken away the cattle of your father, and given them to me.No text from Poole on this verse.
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.i.e. Were marked with spots, like hail in colour and proportion, as the word signifieth.
And the angel of God spake unto me in a dream, saying, Jacob: And I said, Here am I.No text from Poole on this verse.
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.No text from Poole on this verse.
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.Where thou vowedst a vow unto me; of which see Genesis 28:19,20. And this God here mentions to show his acceptance of that action of Jacob’s, his mindfulness even of the past and forgotten services of his people, and his purpose now to fulfil the promise there made to him.
And Rachel and Leah answered and said unto him, Is there yet any portion or inheritance for us in our father's house?We can expect no further benefit from him, but deceit, and oppression, and injury, and therefore are willing to leave him. This was the fruit of his unnatural and unworthy carriage to them, that it did eat out their natural affection to him.
Are we not counted of him strangers? for he hath sold us, and hath quite devoured also our money.Are we not confuted of him strangers? as if we had no more right to his estate than strangers? Instead of a good part of his estate, which by the law of God and nature belongs to us, 2 Corinthians 12:14, wherewith he should have endowed us upon our marriage, he hath made sale of us for this fourteen years’ hard service, seeking only his own, not our advantage. He hath not only withheld from us, but spent upon himself, that money which he got by thy care and industry, whereof a considerable part was due in equity to us and to our children.
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.That is ours; not only by God’s special gift, but by the natural right which children have to a share in his estate, and upon the account of thy faitithful and laborious service.
Then Jacob rose up, and set his sons and his wives upon camels;Cir. 1739
No text from Poole on this verse.
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.No text from Poole on this verse.
And Laban went to shear his sheep: and Rachel had stolen the images that were her father's.Quest. 1. What were those teraphim or images?
Answ. They were images made in the shape of men, 1 Samuel 19:13,16, which the Gentiles worshipped as subordinate gods, Genesis 31:30,32, to which they committed the protection of their families, 1 Samuel 19:13, which they used to consult about secret or future things, and from which they received answers about them, Ezekiel 21:21 Zechariah 10:2. Of these see more Judges 17:5 18:14,17, &c.; Hosea 3:4. And these idols Laban worshipped together with the true God.
Quest. 2. Why did Rachel steal them?
Answ. Partly, lest her father by consulting them should discover their flight, and the course which they took; and partly, because she seemed yet to retain a superstitious conceit of them, as may be gathered from Genesis 35:2. Others, because they were pretty and precious things, made of silver and gold, which she took as a part of what was due to her, both as his daughter, and for her husband’s service. Others, that she might remove so great an occasion of her father’s idolatry, and show him the vanity of such gods as might be stolen away.
And Jacob stole away unawares to Laban the Syrian, in that he told him not that he fled.Heb. Stole away the heart of Laban, to wit, his daughters, his cattle, and his gods, upon which his heart was vehemently set, as Micah’s was, Judges 18:24. But if this had been meant, it had been imputed to Rachel, and not to Jacob, who knew nothing of the gods. Or rather, stole away from the heart, & c., the Hebrew eth being put for meeth, as Genesis 4:1 49:25 1 Kings 8:43, compared with 2 Chronicles 6:33 Micah 3:8, i.e. without the knowledge and consent of Laban, which sense is confirmed by the words next following, and by Genesis 31:26,27, and by the like use of the phrase, 2 Samuel 19:3. Thus he fled, because he knew Laban’s selfish, and unrighteous, and cruel disposition, that he would always hinder him from departing, either by fraudulent pretences or by open force, nor suffer so great a diminution in that estate, which he thought one time or other he might in good measure recover to himself.
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.The river Euphrates, which lay between Mesopotamia and Chaldea, Genesis 15:18, which for its largeness and famousness is oft called the river emphatically, as Exodus 23:31 Joshua 24:2,3, &c.
And set his face, i.e. resolutely directed his course. See Jeremiah 50:5 Luke 9:51,53.
Mount Gilead, a very high and long mountain beyond Jordan, adjoining to the mountain of Lebanon, at the foot of which there was a large and fruitful country, which from the mountain received the name of Gilead, Deu 34:1 Jeremiah 8:22 22:6. This mountain is here called Gilead by anticipation, as appears from Genesis 31:48.
And it was told Laban on the third day that Jacob was fled.That he heard of it no sooner must be ascribed to the great distance which Laban had put between his and Jacob’s flocks, Genesis 30:36, and to the care and art which Jacob used to prevent a sooner discovery.
And he took his brethren with him, and pursued after him seven days' journey; and they overtook him in the mount Gilead.No text from Poole on this verse.
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.Neither persuading him by flattering promises and cunning artifices, nor compelling him by threatenings, to return. For so these general words must be limited, as is evident from God’s design in them, and from the following relation. So this is a synecdochical expression.
Then Laban overtook Jacob. Now Jacob had pitched his tent in the mount: and Laban with his brethren pitched in the mount of Gilead.No text from Poole on this verse.
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?By force and violence. A false accusation; for they freely consented, Genesis 31:14-16.
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?No text from Poole on this verse.
And hast not suffered me to kiss my sons and my daughters? thou hast now done foolishly in so doing.To kiss my sons and my daughters, as was usual at the parting of friends. See Poole on "Genesis 29:11". But indeed Jacob took the wisest course for the security of his person and estate, especially having the direction and protection of God in it.
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.The God of your father, Isaac or Abraham, by which he disowns him for his God, and tacitly reproacheth him with the novelty of his religion, which was first brought in by his father. Compare Genesis 31:53.
And now, though thou wouldest needs be gone, because thou sore longedst after thy father's house, yet wherefore hast thou stolen my gods?Laban could not be so senseless as to take those for true gods which could be stolen away; but he called them gods, because they were the means or representations whereby he worshipped his gods.
And Jacob answered and said to Laban, Because I was afraid: for I said, Peradventure thou wouldest take by force thy daughters from me.No text from Poole on this verse.
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.Let him not live; I give my consent that he shall die by the hands of justice. A rash and inconsiderate sentence.
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.The men and women’s tents were distinct and separate. See Genesis 18:2 24:67.
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.No text from Poole on this verse.
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.Quest. How could that occasion hinder her from rising up to her father?
Answ. 1. It might be attended in her, as it was and is in some other women, especially in those hot countries, with a great flux of blood, or with more than ordinary infirmity and sickness; and this Laban might know to be usual with her by former observation or information.
2. She offers this as a reason, not why she could not rise up to show a civility to him, but why she could not rise up from his face, or from before him, as the words in the Hebrew sound, i.e. so as to give way to him that he might come and search there for the images; because menstruous women were anciently esteemed polluted, and to pollute the things which they touched or sat upon, as you may see by Leviticus 15:19-22; which law, though it were not yet given and written, yet that, as well as divers other ceremonial rites, might be enjoined by God, and observed by sober heathens at that time, especially by such as were akin to Abraham, as Laban and his family were, who by that means might easily come to the knowledge of such matters. Add to this, one of the seven precepts given to the sons of Noah, was that of uncovering nakedness; which both Jewish and Christian writers take to be a very comprehensive expression, and to include all such things as have a natural turpitude in them, among which this is confessed to be one. And the words thus understood contain a solid and satisfactory reason why Laban should not now come near her, nor search the things which she sat upon, which had been an uncivil and immodest thing.
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?With so much fury and violence.
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.No text from Poole on this verse.
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.Thy she-goats have not cast their young, which thou owest in a great measure to my care and diligence in ordering them, and principally to God’s blessing given to thee for my sake, by thy own confession, Genesis 30:27.
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.Which was unjust and unreasonable, except where it fell out through the shepherd’s default. See Exodus 22:13.
Quest. How could Jacob pay these losses, seeing he came empty from his father’s house, and got nothing by his service, for the first fourteen years, but his wives?
Answ. Either, 1. He had some supplies sent from his father, though it be not mentioned in this history. Or,
2. He might have some inconsiderable allowances or privileges from Laban, out of which he could easily defray these charges, which because of his great care and watchfulness did but seldom happen. Or,
3. These losses were put to his account, to be satisfied by him as soon as he should be able to do it.
Thus I was; in the day the drought consumed me, and the frost by night; and my sleep departed from mine eyes.Through my extraordinary thoughtfulness and care about thy cattle, especially in cases of danger.
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.No text from Poole on this verse.
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.The fear of Isaac, i.e. the God whom my father Isaac worships with reverence and godly fear, as appears by comparing Genesis 31:53. The act is here put for the object, as it frequently is; and particularly God is called our fear, Isaiah 8:13. And fear is one of God’s names amongst the rabbins. He calls him not Isaac’s God, but his fear, because Isaac was yet alive, and in the state of probation, and served God with fear and trembling: see Genesis 27:33. The Jews observe, that God is not called the God of any particular person, as of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, till after their death.
God hath seen my affliction, with compassion and intention of good to me for it. God’s seeing is oft used for his relieving and helping, as Genesis 16:13 29:32 Exodus 3:7,9. Or, hath showed or proved it, to wit, that he hath seen, & c.: compare Genesis 20:16. Either way it is an ellipsis of the pronoun, which is usual, as appears by comparing 1 Kings 10:7, with 2 Chronicles 9:6 and Psalm 41:9, with John 13:18.
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?He pretends that to be an act of his natural affection and kindness which was indeed the effect of his fear.
Now therefore come thou, let us make a covenant, I and thou; and let it be for a witness between me and thee.Both to our own consciences of our mutual obligations, and to God against either of us who shall break it, that he may severely punish us for it.
And Jacob took a stone, and set it up for a pillar.In testimony of his compliance with Laban’s proposal, and his entering into this covenant. See Exodus 24:4.
And Jacob said unto his brethren, Gather stones; and they took stones, and made an heap: and they did eat there upon the heap.To wit, afterwards, Genesis 31:54, though it be here mentioned by anticipation.
They did eat there upon the heap, or rather by or beside the heap, as the Hebrew particle al is oft understood, as Psalm 23:2 81:7.
And Laban called it Jegarsahadutha: but Jacob called it Galeed.Both names signify the same thing, a heap of witness; only Laban gives the name in the Syrian language; but Jacob, though he had been long conversant in Syria, and understood that language, yet he chose to give it in Hebrew, which was both a secret renouncing of the Syrian manners and religion, together with their language, and an implicit profession of his conjunction with the Hebrews, as in their tongue, so in their religion.
And Laban said, This heap is a witness between me and thee this day. Therefore was the name of it called Galeed;No text from Poole on this verse.
And Mizpah; for he said, The LORD watch between me and thee, when we are absent one from another.No text from Poole on this verse.
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.The curse is here understood, as it commonly is, to maintain a greater reverence for oaths, and to beget a greater dread of the curse belonging to the violaters of it.
No man is with us, i.e. here is now no man with us, who when we are parted can witness and judge between us, and punish the transgressor. Or thus, Though now we have many with us, as witnesses of this agreement, yet shortly, when we shall be parted, no man will be with us, to observe and report our actions to the other, or to do the injured person right.
And Laban said to Jacob, Behold this heap, and behold this pillar, which I have cast betwixt me and thee;No text from Poole on this verse.
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.No text from Poole on this verse.
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.The God of Nahor, the God of their father. He joins idols with the true God, and secretly chargeth the religion of Jacob and Abraham with novelty, and prefers his own as the most ancient religion. See Joshua 24:2. Whence we may learn that antiquity of itself is no certain argument of the true church or religion.
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.Then Jacob offered sacrifice; either to give God thanks for the great mercies and deliverances vouchsafed to him, or to beg God’s blessing upon the present treaty, and upon their whole family. But it is not so probable that Jacob would choose that time for the offering of sacrifices when Laban was present, whom he could neither honestly admit to them, nor conveniently exclude from them. And therefore, seeing the same Hebrew word signifies killing as well as sacrificing, as appears from Numbers 22:40 1 Samuel 28:24 1 Kings 1:9 2 Chronicles 18:2, &c., I rather understand it of his killing of beasts, in order to a feast which he made for his brethren, whom he called, as it here follows, to eat bread, & c., under which phrase all meats are usually comprehended in Scripture, as hath been already noted, and will appear hereafter. And this practice was usual in those times, to confirm covenants by a feast. See Genesis 26:30.
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.No text from Poole on this verse.