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Genesis 31

31
Flight from Laban. 1#Jacob flees with his family from Laban. The strife that has always accompanied Jacob continues as Laban’s sons complain, “he has taken everything that belonged to our father”; the brothers’ complaint echoes Esau’s in 27:36. Rachel and Leah overcome their mutual hostility and are able to leave together, a harbinger of the reconciliation with Esau in chap. 33. Jacob heard that Laban’s sons were saying, “Jacob has taken everything that belonged to our father, and he has produced all this wealth from our father’s property.” 2Jacob perceived, too, that Laban’s attitude toward him was not what it had previously been. 3Then the Lord said to Jacob: Return to the land of your ancestors, where you were born, and I will be with you.#Gn 26:3; 28:15; 32:10.
4So Jacob sent for Rachel and Leah to meet him in the field where his flock was. 5There he said to them: “I have noticed that your father’s attitude toward me is not as it was in the past; but the God of my father has been with me. 6You know well that with all my strength I served your father; 7yet your father cheated me and changed my wages ten times. God, however, did not let him do me any harm.#Jdt 8:26. 8Whenever your father said, ‘The speckled animals will be your wages,’ the entire flock would bear speckled young; whenever he said, ‘The streaked animals will be your wages,’ the entire flock would bear streaked young. 9So God took away your father’s livestock and gave it to me. 10Once, during the flock’s mating season, I had a dream in which I saw he-goats mating that were streaked, speckled and mottled. 11In the dream God’s angel said to me, ‘Jacob!’ and I replied, ‘Here I am!’ 12Then he said: ‘Look up and see. All the he-goats that are mating are streaked, speckled and mottled, for I have seen all the things that Laban has been doing to you. 13I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed a sacred pillar and made a vow to me. Get up now! Leave this land and return to the land of your birth.’”#Gn 28:18.
14Rachel and Leah answered him: “Do we still have an heir’s portion in our father’s house? 15Are we not regarded by him as outsiders?#Outsiders: lit., “foreign women”; they lacked the favored legal status of native women. Used up: lit., “eaten, consumed”; the bridal price that a man received for giving his daughter in marriage was legally reserved as her inalienable dowry. Perhaps this is the reason that Rachel took the household images belonging to Laban. He not only sold us; he has even used up the money that he got for us! 16All the wealth that God took away from our father really belongs to us and our children. So do whatever God has told you.”#Wis 10:10–11. 17Jacob proceeded to put his children and wives on camels, 18and he drove off all his livestock and all the property he had acquired in Paddan-aram, to go to his father Isaac in the land of Canaan.
19Now Laban was away shearing his sheep, and Rachel had stolen her father’s household images.#Household images: in Hebrew, teraphim, figurines used in divination (Ez 21:26; Zec 10:2). Laban calls them his “gods” (v. 30). The traditional translation “idols” is avoided because it suggests false gods, whereas Genesis seems to accept the fact that the ancestors did not always live according to later biblical religious standards and laws. #Gn 31:34; 1 Sm 19:13. 20Jacob had hoodwinked#Hoodwinked: lit., “stolen the heart of,” i.e., lulled the mind of. Aramean: the earliest extra-biblical references to the Arameans date later than the time of Jacob, if Jacob is dated to the mid-second millennium; to call Laban an Aramean and to have him speak Aramaic (Jegar-sahadutha, v. 47) is an apparent anachronism. The word may have been chosen to underscore the growing estrangement between the two men and the fact that their descendants will be two different peoples. Laban the Aramean by not telling him that he was going to flee. 21Thus he fled with all that he had. Once he was across the Euphrates, he headed for the hill country of Gilead.
22On the third day, word came to Laban that Jacob had fled. 23Taking his kinsmen with him, he pursued him for seven days#For seven days: lit., “a way of seven days,” a general term to designate a long distance; it would actually have taken a camel caravan many more days to travel from Haran to Gilead, the region east of the northern half of the Jordan. The mention of camels in this passage is apparently anachronistic since camels were not domesticated until the late second millennium. until he caught up with him in the hill country of Gilead. 24But that night God appeared to Laban the Aramean in a dream and said to him: Take care not to say anything to Jacob.#Wis 10:12.
Jacob and Laban in Gilead. 25When Laban overtook Jacob, Jacob’s tents were pitched in the hill country; Laban also pitched his tents in the hill country of Gilead. 26Laban said to Jacob, “How could you hoodwink me and carry off my daughters like prisoners of war?#Prisoners of war: lit., “women captured by the sword”; the women of a conquered people were treated as part of the victor’s spoil; cf. 1 Sm 30:2; 2 Kgs 5:2. 27Why did you dupe me by stealing away secretly? You did not tell me! I would have sent you off with joyful singing to the sound of tambourines and harps. 28You did not even allow me a parting kiss to my daughters and grandchildren! Now what you have done makes no sense. 29I have it in my power to harm all of you; but last night the God of your father said to me, ‘Take care not to say anything to Jacob!’ 30Granted that you had to leave because you were longing for your father’s house, why did you steal my gods?” 31Jacob replied to Laban, “I was frightened at the thought that you might take your daughters away from me by force. 32As for your gods, the one you find them with shall not remain alive! If, with our kinsmen looking on, you identify anything here as belonging to you, take it.” Jacob had no idea that Rachel had stolen the household images.
33Laban then went in and searched Jacob’s tent and Leah’s tent, as well as the tents of the two maidservants; but he did not find them. Leaving Leah’s tent, he went into Rachel’s. 34#As in chap. 27, a younger child (Rachel) deceives her father to gain what belongs to him. Meanwhile Rachel had taken the household images, put them inside the camel’s saddlebag, and seated herself upon them. When Laban had rummaged through her whole tent without finding them,#Gn 31:19. 35she said to her father, “Do not let my lord be angry that I cannot rise in your presence; I am having my period.” So, despite his search, he did not find the household images.
36Jacob, now angered, confronted Laban and demanded, “What crime or offense have I committed that you should hound me? 37Now that you have rummaged through all my things, what have you found from your household belongings? Produce it here before your kinsmen and mine, and let them decide between the two of us.
38“In the twenty years that I was under you, no ewe or she-goat of yours ever miscarried, and I have never eaten rams of your flock. 39#Ex 22:12. I never brought you an animal torn by wild beasts; I made good the loss myself. You held me responsible for anything stolen by day or night.#Jacob’s actions are more generous than the customs suggested in the Code of Hammurabi: “If in a sheepfold an act of god has occurred, or a lion has made a kill, the shepherd shall clear himself before the deity, and the owner of the fold must accept the loss” (par. 266); cf. Ex 22:12. 40Often the scorching heat devoured me by day, and the frost by night, while sleep fled from my eyes! 41Of the twenty years that I have now spent in your household, I served you fourteen years for your two daughters and six years for your flock, while you changed my wages ten times. 42If the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had not been on my side, you would now have sent me away empty-handed. But God saw my plight and the fruits of my toil, and last night he reproached you.”#Gn 31:24, 29.
43#In this account of the non-aggression treaty between Laban and Jacob, the different objects that serve as witness (sacred pillar in v. 45, cairn of stones in v. 46), their different names (Jegar-sahadutha in v. 47, Mizpah in v. 49), and the two references to the covenant meal (vv. 46, 54) suggest that two versions have been fused. One version is the Yahwist source, and another source has been used to supplement it. Laban replied to Jacob: “The daughters are mine, their children are mine, and the flocks are mine; everything you see belongs to me. What can I do now for my own daughters and for the children they have borne? 44#The treaty is a typical covenant between two parties: Jacob was bound to treat his wives (Laban’s daughters) well, and Laban was bound not to cross Jacob’s boundaries with hostile intent. Come, now, let us make a covenant, you and I; and it will be a treaty between you and me.”
45Then Jacob took a stone and set it up as a sacred pillar.#Gn 28:18; 35:14. 46Jacob said to his kinsmen, “Gather stones.” So they got stones and made a mound; and they ate there at the mound. 47Laban called it Jegar-sahadutha,#Jegar-sahadutha: an Aramaic term meaning “mound of witness.” Galeed: in Hebrew, “the mound of witness.” but Jacob called it Galeed. 48Laban said, “This mound will be a witness from now on between you and me.” That is why it was named Galeed— 49and also Mizpah,#Mizpah: a town in Gilead; cf. Jgs 10:17; 11:11, 34; Hos 5:1. The Hebrew name mispa (“lookout”) is allied to yisep yhwh (“may the Lord keep watch”), and also echoes the word masseba (“sacred pillar”). for he said: “May the Lord keep watch between you and me when we are out of each other’s sight. 50If you mistreat my daughters, or take other wives besides my daughters, know that even though no one else is there, God will be a witness between you and me.”
51Laban said further to Jacob: “Here is this mound, and here is the sacred pillar that I have set up between you and me. 52This mound will be a witness, and this sacred pillar will be a witness, that, with hostile intent, I may not pass beyond this mound into your territory, nor may you pass beyond it into mine. 53May the God of Abraham and the God of Nahor, the God of their father, judge between us!” Jacob took the oath by the Fear of his father Isaac.#Fear of…Isaac: an archaic title for Jacob’s God of the Father. 54He then offered a sacrifice on the mountain and invited his kinsmen to share in the meal. When they had eaten, they passed the night on the mountain.
31
Jacob Flees from Laban
1Now he#That is, Jacob heard the words of the sons of Laban, saying, “Jacob has taken all that our father has,” and “From that which was our father’s he has gained all this wealth.” 2Then Jacob saw the face of Laban and, behold, it was not like it had been in the past.#Literally “there was not with him like yesterday or the day before” 3And Yahweh said to Jacob, “Return to the land of your ancestors#Or “fathers” and to your family, and I will be with you.” 4So Jacob sent and called Rachel and Leah to the field, to his flocks, 5and he said to them, “Look, I see the face of your father, that it is not like it has been toward me in the past.#Literally “it is not to me like yesterday or the day before” But the God of my father is with me. 6Now you yourselves know that I have served your father with all my strength, 7and your father has cheated me and changed my wages ten times, but God has not allowed him to harm me. 8If thus he said, ‘Speckled shall be your wage,’ then all the flock bore speckled. And if he said, ‘Streaked shall be your wage,’ then all the flock bore streaked. 9God has taken away your father’s livestock and given them to me. 10Now it happened that at the time of the mating of the flock I lifted up my eyes and saw in a dream, and behold, the rams mounting the flock were streaked, speckled, and dappled. 11Then the angel of God said to me in the dream, ‘Jacob,’ and I said, ‘Here I am.’ 12And he said, ‘Lift up your eyes and see—all the rams mounting the flock are streaked, speckled, and dappled, for I have seen all that Laban is doing to you. 13I am the God of Bethel where you anointed a stone pillar, where you made a vow to me. Now get up, go out from this land and return to the land of your birth.’ ” 14Then Rachel and Leah answered and said to him, “Is there yet a portion for us, and an inheritance in the house of our father? 15Are we not regarded as foreigners by him, because he has sold us and completely consumed our money? 16For all the wealth that God has taken away from our father, it belongs to us and to our sons. So now, all that God has said to you, do.” 17Then Jacob got up and put his children and his wives on the camels. 18And he drove all his livestock and his possessions that he had acquired, the livestock of his possession that he had acquired in Paddan-Aram, in order to go to Isaac his father, to the land of Canaan.
19Now Laban had gone to shear his sheep, and Rachel stole the idols#Hebrew teraphim that belonged to her father. 20And Jacob tricked#Literally “stole the heart of” Laban the Aramean by not telling him that he intended to flee. 21Then he fled with all that he had, and arose and crossed the Euphrates#Or “the river” and set his face toward the hill country of Gilead. 22And on the third day it was told to Laban that Jacob had fled. 23Then he took his kinsmen with him and pursued after him, a seven-day journey, and he caught up with him in the hill country of Gilead. 24And God came to Laban the Aramean in a dream at night and said to him, “Take care#Literally “watch to yourself” that you not speak with Jacob, whether good or evil.” 25And Laban overtook Jacob. Now Jacob had pitched his tent in the hill country, and Laban and his kinsmen pitched their tents in the hill country of Gilead. 26Then Laban said to Jacob, “What have you done that you tricked me#Literally “stole my heart” and have carried off my daughters like captives of the sword? 27Why did you hide your intention to flee and trick me,#Literally “steal my heart” and did not tell me so that I would have sent you away with joy and song and tambourine and lyre? 28And why did you not give me opportunity to kiss my grandsons#Or “sons” and my daughters goodbye? Now you have behaved foolishly by doing this. 29It is in my power#Literally “there is power in my hand” to do harm to you, but the God of your father spoke to me last night saying, ‘Take care#Literally “watch to yourself” from speaking with Jacob, whether good or evil.’ 30Now, you have surely gone because you desperately longed for the house of your father, but why did you steal my gods?” 31Then Jacob answered and said to Laban, “Because I was afraid, for I thought, ‘Lest you take your daughters from me by force.’ 32But with whomever you find your gods, he shall not live. In the presence of your kinsmen now identify what is with me that is yours and take it.” Now Jacob did not know that Rachel had stolen them. 33Then Laban went into Jacob’s tent and Leah’s tent and the tent of the two female servants and did not find his gods. And he came out of Leah’s tent and went into Rachel’s tent. 34Now Rachel had taken the idols and put them in the saddle bag of the camel and sat on them. And Jacob searched the whole tent thoroughly but did not find them. 35And she said to her father, “Let there not be anger in the eyes of my lord, for I am not able to rise before you, for the way of women is with me. And he searched carefully and did not find the idols. 36Then Jacob became angry and quarreled with Laban. Jacob answered and said to Laban, “What is my offense? What is my sin that you pursued after me? 37For you have searched all my possessions and what did you find among all the possessions of my household? Set it before my kinsmen and your kinsmen that they may decide between the two of us! 38These twenty years I was with you; your ewes and your female goats did not miscarry, and the rams of your flocks I did not eat. 39I brought no mangled carcass to you—I bore its loss. From my hand you sought it, whether stolen by day or stolen by night. 40There I was, during the day the heat consumed me, and the cold by night, and my sleep fled from my eyes. 41These twenty years I have been in your house. I served you fourteen years for your two daughters and six years for your flock, and you have changed my wages ten times. 42If the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac had not been with me, indeed now you would have sent me away empty-handed. God saw my misery and the labor of my hands and rebuked you last night.” 43Then Laban answered and said to Jacob, “The daughters are my daughters and the grandsons#Or “sons” are my grandsons,#Or “sons” and the flocks are my flocks, and all that you see, it is mine. Now, what can I do for these my daughters today, or for their children whom they have borne? 44So now, come, let us make#Literally “cut” a covenant, you and I, and let it be a witness between me and you.” 45And Jacob took a stone and set it up as a stone pillar. 46And Jacob said to his kinsmen, “Gather stones.” And they took stones and made a pile of stones, and they ate there by the pile of stones. 47And Laban called it Jegar Sahadutha,#Aramaic for “the heap of witness” but Jacob called it Galeed.#Hebrew for “the heap of witness” 48Then Laban said, “This pile of stones is a witness between me and you today.” Therefore its name is called Galeed,#Hebrew for “the heap of witness” 49and Mizpah,#Hebrew for “watchpost” because he said, “Yahweh watch between me and you when we are out of sight of each other.#Literally “each from his neighbor is concealed” 50If you mistreat my daughters, and if you take wives besides my daughters, when there is no man with us, see—God is a witness between me and you.” 51And Laban said to Jacob, “See, this pile of stones, and see the pillar that I have set up between me and you. 52This pile of stones is a witness, and the pillar is a witness, that I will not pass beyond this pile of stones to you, and that you will not pass beyond this pile of stones and this pillar to me intending harm. 53May the God of Abraham and the God of Nahor, the God of their father#That is, Terah judge between us.” Then Jacob swore by the Fear of his father Isaac. 54And Jacob sacrificed a sacrifice on the hill, and he called his kinsmen to eat the meal.#Or “food, bread” And they ate the meal#Or “food, bread” and spent the night on the hill. 55#Genesis 31:55–32:32 in the English Bible is 32:1–33 in the Hebrew Bible And Laban arose early in the morning and kissed his grandsons#Or “sons” and his daughters, and blessed them. Then Laban departed and returned to his homeland.