Confrontation Between Laban and Jacob
Three days later, Laban was told that Jacob had fled. So he gathered a group of his relatives and set out in hot pursuit. He caught up with Jacob seven days later in the hill country of Gilead.
Genesis 31:22-23 (NLT)
Since a three-days’ journey lay between Laban’s settlement and that of Jacob (Gen. 30:36), it took that long for the word to get to Laban that his son-in-law had bolted; and by the time Laban got the news, Jacob was far away. It took a week for Laban to catch up with the fleeing family, and Jacob and Laban finally met in the hill country of Gilead.
But God came to Laban the Aramean in a dream at night. “Watch yourself!” God warned him. “Don’t say anything to Jacob, either good or bad.”
Genesis 31:24 (HCSB)
If Laban’s intentions were not bad, God would not have spoken to him and given him this warning. The Lord can sometimes get our attention when we are asleep in a way that we will not allow when we are awake. This greatly impacted Laban. God protected Jacob according to His promise. The Lord always keeps His promises (2 Corinthians 1:20).
When Laban overtook Jacob, Jacob had pitched his tent in the hill country, and Laban and his brothers also pitched ⌊their tents⌋ in the hill country of Gilead.
Then Laban said to Jacob, “What have you done? You have deceived me and taken my daughters away like prisoners of war!”
Genesis 31:25-26 (HCSB)
Laban’s past actions lead me to believe he was not sincere in his affection for his daughters and grandchildren. He masked his real feelings, which were anger and jealousy towards Jacob because he had prospered at Laban’s expense.
Why did you flee secretly and cheat me and did not tell me, so that I might have sent you away with joy and gladness and with singing, with tambourine and lyre?
Genesis 31:27 (AMP)
Laban tried to get the upper hand immediately by rebuking Jacob for the way he had stolen away from Padan Aram. Imagine this clever schemer asking Jacob,
“Why did you run off secretly and deceive me?”
Deceive him indeed! Laban had spent twenty years deceiving Jacob!
And why did you not permit me to kiss my sons [grandchildren] and my daughters good-bye? Now you have done foolishly [in behaving like this].
Genesis 31:28 (AMP)
I could do you great harm, but last night the God of your father said to me: ‘Watch yourself. Don’t say anything to Jacob, either good or bad.’
Genesis 31:29 (HCSB)
But for all his blustering, Laban was helpless to harm Jacob because the Lord had warned him to be careful. This reveals Laban’s true intent in pursuing Jacob. He was going to take out his wrath on Jacob and recover all the animals, which he loved more than his daughters. But God stopped him from fulfilling his purpose.
This must have been quite a confirmation to Jacob that the Lord truly was with him and would fulfill his covenant. God had promised to protect Jacob and He kept His promise.
And now you felt you must go because you were homesick for your father’s house, but why did you steal my [household] gods?
Genesis 31:30 (AMP)
But the thing that angered Laban most was the fact that somebody had stolen his household gods, and he was sure the guilty person was in Jacob’s family. He was right; it was Rachel who did the deed (v. 19), but Jacob didn’t know it.
The fact that Laban had idols says a lot about Laban. He was not a true worshiper of the Lord. But yet he had a respect for the true God who appeared to him in the dream and warned him about doing anything to harm Jacob. Laban must have acknowledged the God of Abraham but probably believed in multiple gods, as many people of his day did.
Jacob answered, “I was afraid, for I thought you would take your daughters from me by force.”
Genesis 31:31 (HCSB)
If this was a valid concern, then Jacob was justified in sneaking away. I wouldn’t have put something like this past Laban. It is consistent with his past actions.
If you find your gods with anyone ⌊here⌋, he will not live! Before our relatives, point out anything that is yours and take it. Jacob did not know that Rachel had stolen ⌊the idols⌋.
Genesis 31:32 (HCSB)
This shows Jacob had no knowledge of what Rachel had done. This not only absolves Jacob of any guilt in this matter but shows that Rachel knew Jacob would not go along with what she did so she hid her actions from Jacob.
Even though Jacob proved by this verdict that he was innocent, he spoke rashly. If these idols had been discovered with Rachel, Jacob would not have wanted her killed. He could have and should have thought through what he was saying. The Lord protected Jacob and Rachel even in this matter of idolatry.
So Laban went into Jacob’s tent and into Leah’s tent and the tent of the two maids, but he did not find them. Then he went from Leah’s tent into Rachel’s tent.
Genesis 31:33 (AMP)
The fact that Laban had to search his daughters’ tents, instead of just asking them if they had the idols, speaks a lot about Laban and his relationship with his daughters. He didn’t trust them.
And why should he?
He had prostituted his daughters. They didn’t love and respect him, and therefore, he couldn’t trust them because they didn’t trust him. We reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7).
Now Rachel had taken Laban’s household idols, put them in the saddlebag of the camel, and sat on them. Laban searched the whole tent but found nothing.
She said to her father, “Sir, don’t be angry that I cannot stand up in your presence; I am having my period.” So Laban searched, but could not find the household idols.
Genesis 31:34-35 (HCSB)
The Message says, “But Rachel had taken the household gods, put them inside a camel cushion, and was sitting on them.”
This was a bold-faced lie. But anyone who would steal and/or be an idolator would also have no scruples about lying. Once we violate our consciences in one area then it is easier to violate them in another. It’s like starting down a slippery slope. Once you start, it is hard to stop. Sin begets sin.
Then Jacob became very angry, and he challenged Laban. “What’s my crime?” he demanded. “What have I done wrong to make you chase after me as though I were a criminal? You have rummaged through everything I own. Now show me what you found that belongs to you! Set it out here in front of us, before our relatives, for all to see. Let them judge between us!
“For twenty years I have been with you, caring for your flocks. In all that time your sheep and goats never miscarried. In all those years I never used a single ram of yours for food. If any were attacked and killed by wild animals, I never showed you the carcass and asked you to reduce the count of your flock. No, I took the loss myself! You made me pay for every stolen animal, whether it was taken in broad daylight or in the dark of night.
“I worked for you through the scorching heat of the day and through cold and sleepless nights. Yes, for twenty years I slaved in your house! I worked for fourteen years earning your two daughters, and then six more years for your flock. And you changed my wages ten times! In fact, if the God of my father had not been on my side—the God of Abraham and the fearsome God of Isaac—you would have sent me away empty-handed. But God has seen your abuse and my hard work. That is why he appeared to you last night and rebuked you!”
Genesis 31:36-42 (NLT)
Watching his devious father-in-law arrogantly search through all the family’s personal possessions made Jacob angry, and rightly so; and feelings were now released from his heart that had been buried there for twenty years. Jacob spoke openly of Laban’s under-handed practices, how he had deceived Jacob, given him the hardest work, and changed his wages many times. God had blessed Laban because of Jacob, but Laban had never thanked either the Lord or Jacob, nor had he repaid Jacob for the animals he replaced at his own expense.
But the most important thing in Jacob’s speech was the way he gave honor to the Lord: “In fact, if the God of my father had not been on my side—the God of Abraham and the fearsome God of Isaac—you would have sent me away empty-handed. But God has seen your abuse and my hard work. That is why he appeared to you last night and rebuked you!” What a testimony from a man who was inclined to give in to others and do what he was told!
|Be Authentic (Genesis 25-50)
By Warren W. Wiersbe
Life is full of imitations. Which is why today’s culture genuine, transparent people of God; believers who crave real spiritual growth. But what does that look like? The book of Genesis provides the answer, where we find 3 men who experienced an authentic life: Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. Be Authentic: Genesis 25-50 shows the vital need shows the vital need for authenticity in an artificial world. Through this commentary you will discover how to pursue authentic relationships with others and God and how to live out your faith in an irresistible, compelling way.