1Jacob found out that Laban's sons were saying, “Jacob has taken everything that belonged to our father. All the wealth he has actually came from our father.” 2Jacob also noticed that Laban was treating him differently to the way he had before.
3The Lord told Jacob, “Go back to the country of your forefathers, to your family home. I will be with you.”
4Jacob sent for Rachel and Leah, telling them to come and meet him out in the fields where he was with his flock. 5“I've noticed that your father is treating me differently to the way he did before,” he told them. “But the God of my father will be with me. 6You both know very well how hard I worked for your father. 7But he's been cheating me—he's reduced my wages ten times! However, God hasn't let him hurt me. 8If he said, ‘You can have the speckled ones as your wages,’ then the whole flock had speckled young. If he said, ‘You can have the streaked ones as your wages,’ then the whole flock had streaked young. 9This is how God took your father's livestock and gave them to me. 10During the time the flock was breeding I had a dream where I saw that the male goats mating with the flock were all streaked, speckled, or spotted. 11Then in the dream the angel of the Lord spoke to me and said, ‘Jacob!’ I replied, ‘I'm here.’
12He told me, ‘Take a look and you'll see that all the male goats mating with the flock are streaked, speckled or spotted, for I've been watching everything that Laban has been doing to you. 13I am the God of Bethel, where you poured olive oil on the stone pillar and made a solemn promise to me. Now get ready to leave this land and go back to your homeland.’”
14“There's nothing for us to inherit from our father's estate anyway,” Rachel and Leah replied. 15“He treats us like foreigners because he sold us to you, and now he's spent all that money. 16All the wealth that God has taken from him belongs to us and our children, so do whatever God has told you to do!”
17So Jacob got ready. He helped his children and his wives onto the camels, 18and drove all his livestock in front of him. He took with him all his possessions and livestock he'd gained during his time in Paddan-aram, and left to go back to his father in the country of Canaan.
19While Laban was away from home shearing his sheep, Rachel stole the household idols#31:19. “Household idols”: small figurines considered important and “lucky,” representative of pagan gods and consulted for making decisions. Often they were female figures, and associated with fertility. They also seem to be significant in determining issues of ownership of property and land, which is perhaps another reason why Rachel took them and why Laban was so keen to have them returned. that belonged to her father. 20Jacob also deceived Laban the Aramean by not informing him that he was going to run away. 21So Jacob left in a hurry with everything he had, crossed the Euphrates River, and headed towards the hill country of Gilead.
22Three days later Laban found out that Jacob had run away. 23Taking some of his relatives with him, he chased after Jacob and caught up with him seven days later in the hill country of Gilead. 24But during the night God came to Laban in a dream and told him, “Watch what you say to Jacob. Don't try to persuade him to come back, and don't threaten him either.”#31:24. “Don't try to get him to come back, and don't threaten him either”: literally, “from good to bad.” This idiomatic expression covered the range of possible approaches Laban might have been tempted to take, from trying to induce Jacob to return by offering some reward, to threatening him with force or some kind of penalty.
25Jacob had set up his tents in the hill country of Gilead when Laban caught up with him, so Laban and his relatives did the same. 26“Why did you deceive me like this?” Laban asked Jacob. “You carried off my daughters as if they were some prisoners captured by the sword! 27Why did you run away in secret, trying to trick me? Why didn't you come and tell me? I would have given you a good send-off, a celebration with singing and the music of tambourines and lyres. 28You didn't even let me kiss my grandchildren and daughters goodbye! You've really acted stupidly! 29I could really punish you badly, but the God of your father spoke to me last night and told me, ‘Watch what you say to Jacob. Don't try to persuade him to come back, and don't threaten him either.’ 30Clearly you wanted to leave and go back to your family home, but why did you have to steal my idols?”
31“I ran away because I was afraid,” Jacob explained to Laban. “I was worried that you would take your daughters from me by force. 32As for your idols, anyone you find who has them will die. You can search everything in the presence of our relatives, and if you find I have anything that belongs to you, you can take it.” (Jacob didn't know that Rachel had stolen the household idols.)
33Laban searched the tents of Jacob, Leah, and the two personal maids, but didn't find anything. He left Leah's tent and went into Rachel's tent. 34Rachel had put the household idols in a camel's saddlebag and was sitting on it. Laban carefully searched the whole tent but couldn't find them. 35She said to her father, “Sir, please don't get upset with me for not standing up in your presence, but I have my period.” He looked everywhere but didn't find the idols.
36Jacob got angry with Laban and confronted him, saying, “What crime am I guilty of? What wrong have I done to you that you've come hunting me down? 37You've searched through all my possessions. Did you find anything belonging to you? If you did, bring it out here before my relatives and yours so they can decide who's right!
38I've worked for you for these past twenty years. During that time none of your sheep and goats miscarried, and I haven't eaten a single ram from your flock. 39If any of them were killed by wild animals, I never even brought you the carcass to prove the loss—I bore the loss myself. But you on the other hand always made me compensate you for any animals that were stolen, whether at night or in broad daylight.
40Whether it was sweating in the heat of the day, or freezing in the cold of the night when I couldn't sleep, I went on working for you for twenty years in your home. 41I worked fourteen years for your two daughters, and six more years with your flocks. You reduced my wages ten times! 42If it weren't for the God of my father, the God of Abraham, the awesome God#31:42. “The awesome God”: literally “the Fear.” of Isaac, who took care of me, you would have dismissed me with nothing. But God saw my suffering, how hard I worked, and he condemned you last night.”
43Laban replied, “These are my daughters and these are my children and these are my flocks! In fact, everything you see here is mine! However, what can I do now about my daughters and their children? 44So let's make a solemn agreement between you and I, and it will be a witness to our mutual commitment.”
45Jacob took a stone and set it upright as a pillar. 46Then he told his relatives, “Go and collect some stones.” They all#31:46. “They all”: including both groups. made a pile of stones and then sat beside it to eat a meal. 47Laban called it Jegar-sahadutha, while Jacob called it Galeed.#31:47. Both names mean “pile of stones,” the first in Aramaic, the second in Hebrew.
48Laban announced, “This pile of stone serves as a witness between me and you.” This is why it was called Galeed. 49It was also called Mizpah,#31:49. “Mizpah”: meaning “watchtower.” for as Laban said, “May the Lord keep a close eye on both of us when we're not together. 50If you treat my daughters badly or marry more wives in addition to them, God will see what you do even if no one else finds out!”
51Then Laban told Jacob, “Look at this pile of stones and this pillar that I have set up as a memorial of the agreement#31:51. “A memorial of the agreement”: supplied for clarity. between you and me. 52They also act as a witness to our solemn promises to each other: I will not come past them to attack you; and you will not come past them to attack me. 53May the God of Abraham and the God of Nahor—the God of our forefathers—be the one to judge between us in any dispute.” Jacob in turn made his solemn promise in the name of the awesome God of his father Isaac.
54Then he offered a sacrifice on the mountain and invited all his relatives to eat a meal there. They spent the night on the mountain. 55Laban got up early in the morning and kissed his grandchildren and his daughters goodbye. He blessed them, and then left to go back home.