About Jesus Steve Sweetman
In verse 1 we begin to
see that Jacob's welcome is now wearing thin with Laban.
Laban's sons are saying that Jacob is steeling their father's
wealth, and they were partly right as we saw in the last chapter.
Jacob was not acting as the man of Yahweh that he should have
been. Still God was blessing him, but this was not due to any goodness
on Jacob's part, but was due to the promises God made to Abraham in the
Verse 2 states that
Laban's attitude towards Jacob had changed as well.
Simply put, things were no longer happy in the household of
Laban, and Jacob was the source of the problem, and for the most part,
this was rightly so.
In verse 3 God spoke to
Jacob. He told Jacob to
return home to the land of his father.
He had now been away for twenty years.
He worked fourteen years for his two wives and an additional six
years. Some people even
suggest that these twenty years were somewhat of an exile for Jacob
because of him steeling Esau's birthright.
I would not be surprised if this thinking is right.
Jacob was a deceiver. He
also went about the will of the Lord in a very humanistic and deceptive
It is certain that God
wanted Jacob to receive Isaac's blessing and the birthright. There is no
doubt about that. It was
just the way in which he and Rebekah went about to get it.
It was very humanistic. It
was wrong. That is often the
case. We often know God's
will but we try to implement His will with our ways.
That only makes things worse and slows down the will of God.
So when people say these twenty years were an exile for Jacob,
they may be right. I often wonder if parts of the church today are in a
So God told Jacob to
return home. He also said
that He would be with him. God
would be with Jacob the deceiver. Once
again, that's not because of any goodness that Jacob had.
It was only because God would be true to His word spoken to
As God told Jacob to
return home, I believe He is saying the same today to many Christians.
We've become very humanistic in our ways, and that needs to
In verses 4 through 9
Jacob calls Leah and Rebekah out into the fields where the sheep were
grazing, so they could have a family meeting.
He told them that their father Laban and him were having serious
problems and so God told him to return to his homeland.
I'm sure Leah and Rebekah knew that things were getting bad
between Jacob and Laban.
Jacob said that he worked
hard for Laban, even though Laban had changed his wages ten times.
If you remember, Jacob didn't want a wage from Laban.
All that he asked for were the spotted and darkened cattle.
I guess he changed his mind.
Jacob paints a better picture of himself here than maybe he
should have. He says that it
was God who had blessed him and increased his flock while decreasing
Laban's flock. Verse 9
actually says that God took Laban's flock and gave them to him.
Yet to be honest, many of Laban's flock were gotten by Jacob
deceptively. I'm not sure
you can say that is God's blessing.
Jacob gives his reasoning
for his assertion in verses 10 through 12.
He had a dream. If I understand the dream properly, some of
Laban's male flock were mating with Jacob's female flock.
The resulting babies would then be Jacob's.
God apparently told Jacob that He was causing this to happen
because of the way Laban was treating him.
This is what is happening
here. Jacob was using
deceptive ways to increase his flocks behind Laban's back.
He was encouraging Laban's healthy male sheep to mate with his
speckled and spotted sheep in order for him to have the baby sheep and
increase his flock. Laban's
sheep were white, and Jacob's sheep were speckled, so you would think
the resulting babies would either be white or specked.
That was not the case. They
were all specked, and it was God who caused this to happen.
So, even though Jacob was being dishonest, God blessed him in his
We've seen God blessing
Abraham, Isaac, and now Jacob all along, even when they weren't living
as they should. The reason
why God blessed these men, as I've stated before, was because that is
what He promised Abraham. It
is His choice, His faithfulness that brought about the blessings, not
the faithfulness of these men. The
same applies to Israel
today. God is still faithful
So who was really in
creasing Jacob's flock. Was
it God, or was it Jacob and his deceptive practices?
Well, it might have been a combination of both.
We should conclude that the dream Jacob had was from God, so
there was a measure of God's blessing in Jacob's flock.
Still, we can't discount some of the deceptive means Jacob used
when working in the fields.
This makes me think about
the Abrahamic Covenant and God blessing
In verse 13 God reminds Jacob who He is. He was the God who spoke to him in a dream at Bethel, when he laid his head on a stone and then turned that stone into a memorial of the occasion. Stones in those days would often be used to build some kind of memorial. We often see God reminding those who He is when He speaks to them. You'd wonder if men like Jacob would need such a reminder, but hearing from God in such a way is probably unsettling to humans, thus the need for the reminder.
In verses 14 through 16
we see Leah' and Rachel's response to Jacob.
They certainly were not on their father's side.
They told Jacob to do whatever God has told you to do.
We finally see Leah and Rachel agree on something.
They've always been fighting sisters but in this case, they are
in total agreement.
The sisters did express
some reservations they had against their father. They
asked in verse 14 if they had any share in the inheritance of their
father. Basically they were
asking if their father had
anything of any value left to give them.
The implication was that Laban had nothing to leave them as an
One reason why Leah and Rachel
brings up the point of in heritance is because in those days when a man
wants to marry a girl, he gives her father a dowry in turn for the girl
in marriage This isn't a
purchase price for the girl. The
girls weren't on sale. This
was a dowry that was meant to be held in trust in case the husband dies.
It appears that Laban spent this dowry, leaving nothing for the
girls if Jacob dies. That's
why they felt that they were sold, not given in marriage.
In verse 15 they asked,
"does he (Laban) not regard us as foreigners?"
It is clear by this statement that not only was the relationship
between Jacob and Laban strained, but the relationship between the
daughters and their father was strained as well.
They felt like foreigners to their dad, and their dad probably
treated them as foreigners.
Leah and Rachel used the
term "sold off", as in Laban sold them off.
That was the custom of the day.
The father would give the daughter away for a price.
That was just the way things were back then, and for the most
part, women accepted this. Yet
because of the mentality of Laban, the girls felt this was more than a
cultural thing. They really
did feel sold off. Their
impression of their father, at least at this time, was that he was a
selfish man, only looking out for himself.
This might well have been so.
In verses 17 and 18 Jacob
packs all of his family, possessions, and livestock up and heads for
In verse 19 we
see that Rachel was not the most righteous person either.
When her father was away, she went in and stole his
"gods" as the NIV puts it.
In those days, the father of the family had these little statues
that were gods to them, or at least symbolized gods to them.
They weren't usually very large in size, although in later
centuries they did get bigger. Some
were actually life size. These
idols were also meant to be somewhat of a status symbol and would
normally be passed down to the next generation in the inheritance.
These little statures were extremely important to its owner, and
important also to the family members who would inherit these gods.
You might say that they were family gods.
We saw earlier that the
girls despised their father. They
thought they would not get any inheritance, so it appears to me that
Rachel did this out of spite. If
she wasn't going to get anything from her father, she'd steel the thing
that meant most to him and that was his gods.
It's a little ironic and funny to me that one can steel someone's
god, but when a god isn't real, just a piece of stone or wood, their
I wonder if Rachel was
simply steeling these gods out of spite, to get back at her father.
Or, I wonder if she wanted these gods as something she felt that
she should inherit but probably wouldn't.
Then I wonder if Rachel herself wasn't one of these polytheistic
god worshippers as well.
Verse 20 tells us that
Jacob deceived Laban by not telling Laban that he was running away.
So both Rachel and Jacob are acting ungodly here.
Jacob would have had reason to not tell Laban he was leaving.
We don't know what Laban and his sons would do to Jacob.
The time for talking was over.
Jacob should just leave as soon as possible and get a few miles
ahead of Laban in case he came after him, which in fact Laban did.
Verse 21 simply states
that Jacob and those with him crossed a river and headed towards
Verse 22 tells us that
three days after Jacob fled, Laban found out that he was gone.
Some people see this as being prophetic, that is, the three days.
They see Jesus' death and resurrection here, but I think that is
stretching things. I do
believe in prophetic symbolism in the Old Testament, but sometimes some
people go overboard and make Scripture say something it doesn't.
Verse 23 says that it
took Laban 7 days to catch up with Jacob.
Both the number three and the number seven in this verse are
often used numbers in the Bible. Once
again, some people see prophecy here, but I don't.
Liberal scholars would say this is just a story, a product of the
writer, not a true event. That
is why you see the numbers three and seven here, and elsewhere.
I believe God is in charge of history.
If He so decides to intervene and cause Laban to take seven days
to catch up to Jacob, He can do that.
In verse 24 we see that
God appeared to Laban in a dream. Now
Laban was not one who feared God, the God of Jacob.
I believe that he might well have believed in the existence of
Jacob's God, but to him, he was just one of many gods.
Everyone had gods back then.
Jacob would have his, and Laban would have his.
Most people were polytheistic.
God does then speak to
non-believers at times, as He did here.
He told Laban not to say anything to Jacob, whether good or bad.
This implies that Laban should not harm Jacob, which he probably
In verses 25 to 30 we see
how upset Laban was. In
verse 26 he compared Jacob taking his family to carrying off captives as
in a war, but that wasn't so. Everyone
went willingly. Laban might
not have been able to understand that his daughters wanted to leave
because things were getting too tense for them and that they had lost
respect for him.
Laban continued to say
that he could have provided a nice send off for them.
He could have had a chance to kiss his grandchildren.
I'm sure he would have wanted to kiss his grandchildren good-bye,
but the grand send off, I'm not sure about that.
Personally I think that Laban might well have tried to either
kill Jacob or kidnap his own daughters.
In verse 29 Laban tells
Jacob that he had the power to kill him, but God told him not to say
anything, either good or bad to Jacob.
So I'm sure he wanted to kill Jacob, but he didn't.
In verse 30 Laban accused
Jacob of steeling is gods. Of
course Jacob did not steel these statues.
He didn't even know anything about them being stolen.
Rachel was the one who stole her father's gods.
Remember, the heads of families back then had these little
statues that were symbols of the gods they believed in.
Some even thought the statures were gods.
In verse 31 we see
Jacob's fear. As I mentioned
above, he was afraid that Laban would kidnap his own daughters and hide
them from Jacob so he could not take them away.
I'm sure that Laban would have done just that.
In verses 32 and 33 Jacob
tells Laban to go and look for the gods among those traveling with him.
Jacob said that the one who stole them, would die.
Of course Jacob didn't believe that the gods were in his party's
company, so that would be why he made such a drastic statement.
We see in verses 33 and
34 that Laban searched all of the tents, from Jacob's, to Leah and
Rachel's, and to their servant's tents.
He found nothing because Rachel had him the gods in her camel's
saddle that she was sitting on.
I find verse 35 comical.
The custom would have been for Rachel to get off her donkey and
in respect bow to Laban, but she didn't.
She didn't want to get off the camel.
She lied and told her father, who she called lord out of respect,
that she was in the midst of her period and therefore could not get off
her donkey. Rachel was not
only deceptive, like Jacob, but she had no problem telling a lie. This
only goes to show human nature. One
can lie in the midst of making a respectful statement.
Now in verses 36 and 37
Jacob expresses his anger at Laban.
He could not find the idols and so Jacob says, come stand before
your relatives with what you have found.
Let them judge what should be done in this situation.
But Laban found nothing. The judgment would be against him.
Verse 38 tells us
specifically that Jacob had been with Laban for twenty years at this
point. That's a long wait.
Remember one of the reasons why Jacob left was in order to give
Esau time to cool down from his anger.
Jacob also began to
relate to Laban the good things that he had done for him over the years.
Of course, Jacob wasn't a fully honest employee.
He didn't mention the dishonest things he had done.
In verses 40 to 41 Jacob
continues to speak about his side of the story, and all the hard work he
did for Laban, both day and night. I'm
sure Jacob worked hard, but I'm not sure he was totally honest in his
work, or even in what he is presently telling Laban.
In verse 42 Jacob told
Laban that the God of Abraham rebuked Laban.
This is in reference to God telling Laban not to speak anything,
either good or bad to Jacob. Also
in verse 42 Jacob speaks of the "Fear of Isaac".
This is in reference to the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac
being with Jacob. If not for
this, he would have left empty handed.
Jacob is recognizing the fact that it was God the provided for
him all those years, and part of the provision was his two wives, along
with all of his possessions that he left with.
I'm not sure why the NIV
capitalizes the word "Fear".
The KJV doesn't. The
Hebrew word translated as fear in this verse is not the most common word
that is usually translated as fear.
In my thinking, the NIV translators must have associated the Fear
of Isaac, with the Fear of God.
For this reason they might have capitalized the word
the case, Jacob is saying that he believes that God has helped him get
to where he presently is.
Laban's response in
verses 42 and 43 suggest that there is nothing he can now do about the
situation, even though he claims the cattle, Jacob's wives and children
are his. Of course, Jacob's
wives are his daughters, and Jacob's children are his grandchildren, but
first and foremost, they all belong to Jacob.
And concerning the cattle, they are rightly Jacob's at this
point, although some of them might have been gotten with deception by
In verse 43 Laban just
acknowledges that there is nothing he can do at this point.
So in verse 44 Laban wants to make a covenant with Jacob.
Jacob agreed to the
covenant. So he and his
people piled some stones in a pile and ate a meal.
The meal would have been the traditional covenant meal that was
often ate when two parties made a covenant.
The stones would be a memorial to the occasion, almost like an
altar. Remember Jacob made a
memorial out of the stone he rested his head on when he had the dream of
the angels ascending and descending up and down the ladder.
Verse 48 confirms the point that the pile of stones would be a
memorial by saying it was a witnesses to what the two men would agree to
In verse 49 Laban says,
"may God watch over us while we are away from each other'.
I think he is suggesting that he maybe doesn't quite fully trust
Jacob, so it is going to have to be the Lord who makes sure this
covenant gets kept.
As with many of the
covenants we see in the Old Testament, we don't know the full details of
the covenant. But verse 50
does give us a clue what was on Laban's mind for his side of the
covenant. He was concerned
about his daughters, and probably rightly so.
He was their father, even though Leah and Rachel had lost faith
in him. He did not want
Jacob to marry any other women. He
said that God would watch over Jacob to make sure that would not happen.
This implies that if Jacob did marry other women, he would be in
trouble with God, although, I'm not sure Laban could make that claim.
He was not a full-fledged believer in the God of Jacob.
He was polytheistic, and he believed in his home-made idols, that
he still didn't presently have since Rachel was still probably sitting
on them, or else she had gotten off her donkey and Laban had given up on
finding the idols amongst Jacob's possessions. Since Laban was
polytheistic, he most likely believed in the God of Abraham, but the God
of Abraham would have simply been one of many gods to him, although, He
might have been the most important God.
Still, this was wrong. That's
why in the Ten Commandments God tells us to have no other gods.
In verses 51 and 52 we
see another part of the covenant. The
pile of stones that the two men set up as a memorial would actually be a
dividing line. The two men
would not cross over the line. One
side is for Jacob and one for Laban.
It doesn't say it here, but we know that Jacob's side would be
the west side, and Laban's side would be the east side.
It seems to me that this
covenant is more about Laban's concerns than Jacobs.
What we see are Laban's concerns.
So Laban says, "may the God of Abraham and the God of Nahor,
the God of their father, judge between us."
We know who the God of Abraham is.
I don't really believe we know who the God of Nahor is.
Nahor was Abraham's brother, Laban's grandfather.
I don't believe that Nahor was a theist, a believer in Yahweh,
unless he had converted to Yahweh. We
have no account thought of such a conversion.
There is a good chance that Nahor believed in the God of Abraham,
but he was just one of many gods he believed in.
The Hebrew word "Elohim" is used here for both the God
of Abraham and the God of Nahor. So
do these two men have the same God?
I can't say for sure. One
things is clear, Laban is just trying to cover all the bases. He tells
Jacob that God will judge between the two of them.
If either of them breaks the covenant, they will have to answer
to God. Once again, I really
don't think that Laban trusts Jacob.
The last part of verse 53
says that Jacob took the oath, and he took it in the name of "the
Fear of Isaac." I
believe this is just another way of saying fear of God, but it is
personalized in the memory of Jacob's father.
I believe he could have easily said, "in the fear of the God
of Isaac". We've seen
over and over again the words, "the God of Abraham". The
words "in the Fear of Isaac" means, "in the fear of the
God of Isaac". Isaac
was Jacob's father, so it would mean more to Jacob if he took the oath
in the name of the God of Isaac his father instead of in the name of the
God of Abraham, his grandfather.
So far we've seen the
pile of stones as a covenant memorial.
We've seen the meal. We
see the meal again in verse 54. The
meal was eaten after there was a sacrifice, and that would be an animal
sacrifice. Part of any covenant back then included an animal or animals
being killed. The animals
were often cut in pieces and would be laid on the ground.
The two parties involved in the covenant would walk between the
pieces of the animal on the ground, just like God walked between the
pieces of animals in Genesis 15 when God put Abraham to sleep.
They all spent the night
together and as it says in verse 55, Laban left for home the next day
after kissing his daughters and grandchildren.
Jacob would have continued on his journey home.