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Hughes: Looking forward, Jacob’s exodus from Mesopotamia provides a prophetic outline of Israel’s exodus from Egypt. Here Jacob’s large family flees from Laban; here a multitude of his descendants will flee Pharaoh. Here his family plunders Laban; there they will plunder Pharaoh and his people. Here Laban is forced to let Jacob’s family go; there Pharaoh will be forced to let Jacob’s descendants go. And all of this is prophetic of the glorious exodus that believers would find in Christ, the ultimate Israel, who plundered the power of evil and led them out of bondage to Satan.

The driving point of the narrative of Jacob’s escape here in Genesis 31 is that God did it all – through his multiple interventions and constant protection. God would later do exactly the same in Moses’ escape from Egypt. And so it now is in the ultimate exodus in Christ. All glory goes to God. . .

For any who have eyes to see, here is the work of an awesome, sovereign God who works amidst the compost of human sin to do his will. Amidst the swirl of deception and intrigue he birthed a people who would become the twelve tribes of Israel. God took a poor man who had been repeatedly enslaved and exploited and made him rich. And now God led him in a glorious exodus as a prelude to his return to the land of promise. Such an awesome God!


Calls them out of the world to be a peculiar people of His own possession

– compare past example – calling of Abraham out of Ur

– compare future example – calling of nation of Israel out of bondage in Egypt

– compare ultimate example – calling the church in Jesus Christ out of bondage to sin and

the world; transformation from darkness to light

A. (:1-13) Rationale – Why Return Home?

1. (:1-2) Bad Vibes = I’m Done Here

a. (:1) Resentment – on the part of Laban’s sons

“Now Jacob heard the words of Laban’s sons, saying, ‘Jacob has taken away all that was our father’s, and from what belonged to our father he has made all this wealth.’”

b. (:2) Rankling – on the part of Laban

“And Jacob saw the attitude of Laban, and behold, it was not friendly toward him as formerly.”

2. (:3) Bold Command and Reiteration of Covenant Blessing = I’m Called Back Home

“Then the LORD said to Jacob, ‘Return to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you.’”

J. Ligon Duncan: Jacob was enormously prosperous. Is it possible that there’s a little comfort here on Jacob’s part which has made him a little less anxious to get back home than he appeared to be six years before when he was empty-handed? Could it be that God is giving him a divine shove. Suddenly his brothers-in-law are against him. Suddenly his father-in-law turns antagonistic towards him. Could this be God’s own divine push to move Jacob back to the land of Canaan, the land of promise? You know, sometimes the Lord gives us a gracious shove. And I think that’s exactly what’s happening here. When you get comfortable and you’re not where God ultimately wants you to be, you can expect Him to make you uncomfortable so that you will restart the journey towards where He wants you ultimately to be. And I think that’s exactly what’s happening with Jacob here. With all his problems, he’s prosperous, and the Lord needs to remind him again of his need to return home to the promised land.

Shultz: The fact that the Lord speaks to him about returning, could mean that Jacob had settled in Haran and put his roots so deeply, that it needed this divine reminder to make him go back home. It is easy, for us also, to come to a stage of spiritual inertia, where God has to wake us up to make us realize where we are and where we are going.

3. (:4-13) Boasting in the Lord = I Can Justify My Decision to Return Home

a. (:4-5) Favorable Presence of God – Despite Laban’s Acrimony

“So Jacob sent and called Rachel and Leah to his flock in the field, and said to them, ‘I see your father’s attitude, that it is not friendly toward me as formerly, but the God of my father has been with me.’”

Constable: This is the first time in the narrative that Jacob emerges as a man of public faith. He finally takes the leadership in his home, and his wives, for the first time, follow his lead.

b. (:6-9) Faithful Service of Jacob – Blessed by God with Prosperity

“And you know that I have served your father with all my strength. Yet your father has cheated me and changed my wages ten times; however, God did not allow him to hurt me. If he spoke thus, ‘The speckled shall be your wages,’ then all the flock brought forth speckled; and if he spoke thus, ‘The striped shall be your wages,’ then all the flock brought forth striped. Thus God has taken away your father’s livestock and given them to me.”

c. (:10-13) Future Promised Jacob in Promised Land

“And it came about at the time when the flock were mating that I lifted up my eyes and saw in a dream, and behold, the male goats which were mating were striped, speckled, and mottled. Then the angel of God said to me in the dream, ‘Jacob,’ and I said, ‘Here I am.’ And he said, ‘Lift up, now, your eyes and see that all the male goats which are mating are striped, speckled, and mottled; for I have seen all that Laban has been doing to you. I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed a pillar, where you made a vow to Me; now arise, leave this land, and return to the land of your birth.’”

Schultz: The recounting of the dream seems to have the double purpose of impressing upon Lea and Rachel that Jacob had not really been cheating their father and secondly that Jacob was bound by his vow at Bethel to return to Canaan.

Parunak: The interesting thing about the vision is that it attributes the growth of the piebald flock, not to Jacob’s rods, but to the identify of the males. Jacob sees them as all white, but the Lord reveals them as really piebald themselves. We would say, he makes their recessive genes visible. . .

He identifies himself as “the God of Bethel,” and reminds Jacob of the vow that he made there in 28:20-21. That vow had the following conditions:

– If God will be with me.—In 30:30, Jacob acknowledge that this has been done, when he says that “the Lord hath blessed thee at my foot,” meaning that the Lord’s blessings have followed him around.

– and will keep me in this way that I go.—This is a prayer for protection in his journey to Haran, and it was fulfilled when he arrived there in ch. 29.

– and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on.—He has had these minimal requirements met ever since he was in Laban’s house. Now the Lord has enriched him far beyond these requirements, by giving him extensive riches of his own.

– So that I come again to my father’s house in peace.—The last condition is his safe return to Canaan. Clearly, this depends on his making the return trip.

So God’s identification of himself as the God of Bethel is his way of calling Jacob to his vow. “You made a vow that was contingent on my protection of you. I have protected you. Now it’s time for you to return home.”

B. (:14-18) Response – How do different ones respond to God’s Call?

1. (:14-16) Response of Rachel and Leah = Insecurities

“And Rachel and Leah answered and said to him, ‘Do we still have any portion or inheritance in our father’s house? Are we not reckoned by him as foreigners? For he has sold us, and has also entirely consumed our purchase price. Surely all the wealth which God has taken away from our father belongs to us and our children; now then, do whatever God has said to you.’”

J. Ligon Duncan: they say they feel as if they no longer have an inheritance in their father’s house. They feel like they have been totally excluded from their father’s plans for future blessing and inheritance. You see the sense of alienation there, but they don’t stop. It goes on. Two things they say in verse 15.

– They say first, that they feel as if they are strangers to their father. They feel like their father treats them like foreigners. They no longer feel a family relation to him.

– And they go on to say at the end of verse 15 that they feel as if they have been sold or used by their father for his own benefit, but that he’s not concerned for their welfare. In other words, they’ve fetched their father a handsome dowry, but he’s used it all up on himself, and has no view to blessing them in the future after his own death. And so they feel as if they have been used, as if they’re chattel.

Hughes: Here for the first time we see Rachel and Leah in agreement. The two sisters, at once victims and victimizers, were in concert.

2. (:17-18) Response of Jacob – Instant Obedience to God’s Call

“Then Jacob arose and put his children and his wives upon camels; and he drove away all his livestock and all his property which he had gathered, his acquired livestock which he had gathered in Paddan-aram, to go to the land of Canaan to his father Isaac.”

Jacob immediately purposed to follow thru on the revelation he had received from the angel of the Lord and obey the command to return to the land of Canaan and to his father Isaac.

C. (:19-20) Rogue Behavior – Complications when we devise our own plans

1. (:19) Theft on the Part of Rachel

“When Laban had gone to shear his flock, then Rachel stole the household idols that were her father’s.”

J. Ligon Duncan: Household idols were used for a number of things in this culture. They were used to divine, they were used as oracles to determine the future. They were used for worship in the home. They were usually female deities and they were often seen as necessary for the producing of fertility. So Rachel’s reasons for stealing the household idols may have been she may have feared that unless the household idols were stolen, her father would be able to track them down. She may have desired to have the household idols in order to cultivate her own fertility. She may have wanted the household items as part of her worship. And we also know that those household idols were often times a sign of a person’s right to receive an inheritance. So she may, feeling that her father had stiffed her of her rightful inheritance, have stolen those idols as a way of claiming her right to receive an inheritance.

Constable: These gods were usually small figurines (two to three inches long), sometimes carried on the body as charms, many of which archaeologists have discovered. They may have represented departed ancestors or gods that their makers venerated.

2. (:20) Deception on the Part of Jacob

“And Jacob deceived Laban the Aramean, by not telling him that he was fleeing.”

Look how long Jacob had been dwelling with Laban; now he sneaks away without any notice

Parunak: He ought not to have continued his deceptiveness, but rather told his father-in-law of his departure and trusted in the Lord to handle the circumstances.

Steven Cole: For his part, Jacob wasn’t honorable in the way he left Laban. He should have politely, but firmly, stated his intentions and followed through, trusting God to protect him. While Rachel stole her father’s idols, Jacob stole Laban’s heart (literal, 31:20, 26). Jacob is still the schemer, trying to pull his own strings and get himself out of another tight situation.

Keith Krell: Jacob left without informing Laban. Jacob was doing God’s will by returning to the land of promise, but he was not doing it in God’s way. He was acting in the flesh rather than being led by the Spirit. We can get so caught up in doing God’s will that we forget to ask how we are to do God’s will. Our methods must always be consistent with God’s Word if our actions are to be honoring to God and rewarded by God (cf. Heb 11:6). Jacob was afraid of Laban when he should have been afraid of God. Proverbs 29:25 says, “The fear of man brings a snare, but he who trusts in the LORD will be exalted.” Who are you afraid of today? What circumstances are causing you anxiety? God wants you to release this to Him.

D. (:21) Resolve – What does commitment to God’s calling look like?

1. Total Commitment

“So he fled with all that he had;”

2. No Turning Back

“and he arose and crossed the Euphrates River,”

3. Focused on the Final Destination

“and set his face toward the hill country of Gilead.”


A. (:22-25) Pursuit by Laban Puts Jacob at Risk

1. (:22-23) Chase Scene

“When it was told Laban on the third day that Jacob had fled, then he took his kinsmen with him, and pursued him a distance of seven days’ journey; and he overtook him in the hill country of Gilead.”

Covered about 300 miles

Hughes: Laban’s posse thundered after Jacob with murderous intent. The verbs in verses 22-25 – “fled,” “pursued,” “overtook,” “pitched tents” – are militaristic. Laban was on the warpath.

2. (:24) Caution Issued by God

“And God came to Laban the Aramean in a dream of the night, and said to him,

‘Be careful that you do not speak to Jacob either good or bad.’”

Parunak: has more of a forensic thrust, where “speak” has the sense of declaring a judgment or taking judicial action

Constable: God revealed Himself to people other than the patriarchs in these days (Genesis 31:29; cf. Abimelech in Genesis 20:3). Many scholars believe that Job also lived in the patriarchal period.

3. (:25) Catching Him at Gilead

“And Laban caught up with Jacob. Now Jacob had pitched his tent in the hill country, and Laban with his kinsmen camped in the hill country of Gilead.”

B. (:26-42) Prosecution by Laban Countered by Defense of Jacob

1. (:26-30) Interrogation

a. (:26-28a) Accusation — 2 Questions Exposing Deception

1) (:26) Question #1 = What Have You Done

“Then Laban said to Jacob, ‘What have you done by deceiving me and carrying away my daughters like captives of the sword?’”

2) (:27-28a) Question #2 = Why Did You Do It

“Why did you flee secretly and deceive me, and did not tell me, so that I might have sent you away with joy and with songs, with timbrel and with lyre; and did not allow me to kiss my sons and my daughters?”

b. (:28b) Judgment of Foolishness

“Now you have done foolishly.”

c. (:29) Restriction of Powers

“It is in my power to do you harm, but the God of your father spoke to me last night, saying, ‘Be careful not to speak either good or bad to Jacob.’”

d. (:30) Explanation – What is Understandable vs. Incomprehensible

1) What is Understandable

“And now you have indeed gone away because you longed greatly for your father’s house;”

2) What is Incomprehensible

“but why did you steal my gods?”

Pretty powerless gods if they could not protect themselves and were subject to being stolen

2. (:31-35) Investigation

a. (:31-32) Confidence and Naivety

“Then Jacob answered and said to Laban, ‘Because I was afraid, for I said, Lest you would take your daughters from me by force. The one with whom you find your gods shall not live; in the presence of our kinsmen point out what is yours among my belongings and take it for yourself.’ For Jacob did not know that Rachel had stolen them.”

b. (:33-35) Search and Concealment

“So Laban went into Jacob’s tent, and into Leah’s tent, and into the tent of the two maids, but he did not find them. Then he went out of Leah’s tent and entered Rachel’s tent. Now Rachel had taken the household idols and put them in the camel’s saddle, and she sat on them. And Laban felt through all the tent, but did not find them. And she said to her father, ‘Let not my lord be angry that I cannot rise before you, for the manner of women is upon me.’ So he searched, but did not find the household idols.”

Hughes: We must understand that the reason that wildly suspicious Laban never suspected that Rachel was sitting on his household gods is that he could not imagine such a sacrilege. Among the ancients “the way of women” was considered to be a state of impurity and thus contaminating. Rachel’s recline was therefore a calculated act of withering contempt for the gods of Mesopotamia. She treated them as worthless and unclean. In doing this, Rachel foreshadowed the despoiling of Egypt’s gods during the plagues of Egypt. This passage also announces future Israel’s contempt for pagan gods. Very likely Laban’s terraphim were among the gods that Israel would bury at Shechem (cf.. 35:14).

3. (:36-42) Indignation and Vindication – 4 Arguments Supporting His Vindication:

a. (:36-37) Argues His Innocence

“Then Jacob became angry and contended with Laban; and Jacob answered and said to Laban, ‘What is my transgression? What is my sin, that you have hotly pursued me? Though you have felt through all my goods, what have you found of all your household goods? Set it here before my kinsmen and your kinsmen, that they may decide between us two.’”

b. (:38-40) Argues His Faithfulness

“These twenty years I have been with you; your ewes and your female goats have not miscarried, nor have I eaten the rams of your flocks. That which was torn of beasts I did not bring to you; I bore the loss of it myself. You required it of my hand whether stolen by day or stolen by night. Thus I was: by day the heat consumed me, and the frost by night, and my sleep fled from my eyes. These twenty years I have been in your house;”

c. (:41) Argues His Unjust Treatment at the Hands of Laban

“I served you fourteen years for your two daughters, and six years for your flock, and you changed my wages ten times.”

d. (:42) Argues His Prosperity as a Sign of God’s Providential Blessing

“If the God of my father, the God of Abraham, and the fear of Isaac, had not been for me, surely now you would have sent me away empty-handed. God has seen my affliction and the toil of my hands, so He rendered judgment last night.”


A. (:43) Whining of Laban as He Faces His Impotency

“Then Laban answered and said to Jacob, ‘The daughters are my daughters, and the children are my children, and the flocks are my flocks, and all that you see is mine. But what can I do this day to these my daughters or to their children whom they have borne?’”

Parunak: Jacob and Laban start out life very much alike. Yet they end in very different states. • Jacob ends up recognizing the Lord as the only sure defense, and trusting in him. • Laban ends up deprived of the wealth that had been his real god. The only difference between them is God’s gracious choice and intervention in Jacob’s life, and the lack of this in Laban’s.

B. (:44-54) Witness of a Non-Aggression Treaty

1. (:44) Significance of the Covenant = a Witness

“So now come, let us make a covenant, you and I, and let it be a witness between you and me.”

2. (:45-46) Stones Heaped Up as a Pillar

“Then Jacob took a stone and set it up as a pillar. And Jacob said to his kinsmen, ‘Gather stones.’ So they took stones and made a heap, and they ate there by the heap.”

3. (:47-53) Swearing to the Covenant

a. (:47-49) Witness Heap of Stone Pillar

“Now Laban called it Jegar-sahadutha, but Jacob called it Galeed. And Laban said,‘This heap is a witness between you and me this day.’ Therefore it was named Galeed; and Mizpah, for he said, ‘May the LORD watch between you and me when we are absent one from the other.’”

Constable: Jacob and Laban made a parity covenant, set up a stone pillar (Heb. misbah, standing stone) to mark the spot, and ate a meal together as part of the rite involved in establishing a covenant (Genesis 31:44-48). They may have erected the heap of stones (Heb. gal, cairn, Genesis 31:46) both as a table for the meal and as a memorial of the event. Standing stones sometimes marked supposed dwelling places of the gods (cf. Genesis 28:17-18), and cairns often marked graves (cf. Joshua 7:26; Joshua 8:29; 2 Samuel 18:17).

Galeed (“witness heap,” Genesis 31:47) is the name from which Gilead came. Gilead became a common name for this mountainous area east of the Jordan River between the Sea of Galilee (Cinnereth, Hebrew for “lyre” denoting the shape of the lake) and the Dead (Salt) Sea (cf. Genesis 31:21; Genesis 31:23; Genesis 31:25).

The Song of Solomon -called “Mizpah [lit. watchtower] blessing” was not really a promise between friends but a warning between antagonists who did not trust each other (Genesis 31:49). They called on God to keep each other true to the terms of the covenant they had just made. They could not check on each other themselves.

Hughes: this was the declaration of two men who neither trusted nor liked each other – “Because I don’t trust you out of my sight, may God watch your every move.”

b. (:50) Witness of Treatment by God Who Sees All

“’If you mistreat my daughters, or if you take wives besides my daughters, although no man is with us, see, God is witness between you and me.’”

c. (:51-52) Witness Pillar Pledging Non-Aggression

“And Laban said to Jacob, ‘Behold this heap and behold the pillar which I have set between you and me. This heap is a witness, and the pillar is a witness, that I will not pass by this heap to you for harm, and you will not pass by this heap and this pillar to me, for harm.’”

d. (:53) Witness Oath

“’The God of Abraham and the God of Nahor, the God of their father, judge between us.’ So Jacob swore by the fear of his father Isaac.”

4. (:54) Sacrifice and Feast

“Then Jacob offered a sacrifice on the mountain, and called his kinsmen to the meal; and they ate the meal and spent the night on the mountain.”

C. (:55) Withdrawal of Laban and Removal of the Danger

“And early in the morning Laban arose, and kissed his sons and his daughters and blessed them. Then Laban departed and returned to his place.”

5 Actions:

– Arose

– Kissed

– Blessed

– Departed

– Returned