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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 Secretly Leaves Laban
1Now Jacob heard the words Laban’s sons were saying, “Jacob has taken everything that belongs to our father, and from what belongs to our father he has made all these riches.”
2Then Jacob saw Laban’s face, and he noticed that his expression wasn’t the same as it was just a day or two before.
3Then Adonai said to Jacob, “Return to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you.”
4So Jacob sent and called for Rachel and Leah to come to the field, to his flock.
5He said to them, “I can see by your father’s face that his expression isn’t the same as it was just a day or two ago. But the God of my father has been with me.
6Now you yourselves know that I’ve served your father with all my strength.
7Yet your father has fooled around with me and has changed my salary ten times—but God hasn’t allowed him to harm me.
8If he would say, ‘the spotted ones will be your salary,’ then the flocks would give birth to spotted ones. Or if he would say, ‘the striped ones will be your salary,’ then all the flocks would give birth to striped ones.
9So God has taken away your father’s livestock and has given them to me.
10Now it happened when the flocks were in heat that I lifted up my eyes and saw, in a dream, behold, the males going up to the flocks were striped, spotted and speckled.
11Then the angel of God said to me in the dream, ‘Jacob,’ and I said, ‘Hineni.’
12He said, ‘Lift up your eyes and see that all the males going up to the flocks are striped, spotted and speckled. For I have seen everything Laban has done to you.
13I am the God of Beth-El where you anointed a memorial stone, where you made a vow to Me. Get up now and leave this land, and return to the land of your relatives.’”
14Then Rachel answered along with Leah and they said to him, “Is there still a portion and inheritance for us in our father’s house?
15Aren’t we considered foreigners to him? For he has sold us and has also completely used up our bridal price.
16For all the riches that God has taken away from our father is for us and for our children. So now, everything God said to you, do it!”
17Then Jacob got up and put his children and wives on camels.
18He drove away all his livestock and all his possessions that he had acquired—the livestock in his possession that he acquired in Paddan-aram—to go to his father Isaac, to the land of Canaan.
19But while Laban went to shear his flocks, Rachel stole the idols that belonged to her father,
20while Jacob stole the heart from Laban the Aramean by not telling him that he was fleeing.
21He himself fled with everything that belonged to him, and he got up and crossed the River, and set his face toward the hill country of Gilead.
Laban Confronts Jacob and Makes Covenant
22When Laban was told on the third day after Jacob had fled,
23he took his relatives with him and pursued him a seven days’ journey. Then he overtook him in the hill country of Gilead.
24But God came to Laban the Aramean in a dream at night and said to him, “Watch yourself—lest you say anything to Jacob, good or bad.”
25So Laban caught up to Jacob. (Jacob had pitched his tent in the hill country, so Laban and his brothers pitched their tents in the hill country of Gilead as well).
26Then Laban said to Jacob, “What have you done, that you’ve stolen my heart and have driven my daughters away like captives of the sword?
27Why did you secretly flee away, and steal from me? Why didn’t you tell me, so I could send you away with joy and with songs, with tambourines and with lyres?
28And you didn’t even let me kiss my sons and daughters! “Now, you’ve behaved foolishly.
29It is in the power of my hand to do evil with you, but yesterday the God of your fathers spoke to me, saying, ‘Watch yourself—lest you say anything to Jacob, good or bad.’
30So now, when you up and left because you really missed your father’s house, why did you steal my gods?”
31In response, Jacob said to Laban, “Because I was afraid, for I thought, ‘Suppose you snatch your daughters away from me.’
32Anyone with whom you find your gods shall not live. In front of our relatives, identify whatever is yours that is with me, and take it back.” (But Jacob did not know that Rachel had stolen them.)
33So Laban went into Jacob’s tent, and Leah’s tent and into the tent of the two maids, but he found nothing. Then he went out of Leah’s tent and entered Rachel’s tent.
34(Now Rachel had taken the idols, put them in the camel’s saddlebag and sat on them.) So Laban felt around the entire tent but did not find them.
35She said to her father, “Let not my lord be angry that I cannot rise before you, for I am having the way of women.” So he searched but did not find the idols.
36Then Jacob got angry and argued with Laban. Jacob answered and said to Laban, “What’s my crime? What’s my sin that you’ve hotly pursued me?
37For you’ve felt through all my things. What did you find? Any of your household things? Put them here, in front of my relatives and yours—so they can decide between the two of us.
38These past twenty years I’ve been with you, your ewes and female goats have never miscarried, and I’ve never eaten the rams of your flock.
39I didn’t bring you animals torn by wild beasts. I myself would bear the loss. You would require it from my hand, whether stolen by day or stolen by night.
40I was consumed by heat during the day, consumed by frost during the night, and my sleep fled from my eyes.
41This is how it’s been for me twenty years in your house. I served you fourteen years for your two daughters, and six years for your flocks—and you changed my salary ten times!
42Had I not had the God of my father, the God of Abraham, and the fear of Isaac, you would have sent me away empty-handed now. But God saw my misery and the toil of my hands and last night He became the Judge.”
43In response Laban said to Jacob, “The daughters are my daughters, and the sons are my sons, and the flocks are my flocks. Everything you see is mine. But what can I do for these, my daughters, today, or for their sons to whom they’ve given birth?
44So now, come, let’s make a covenant, you and I, and let it be a witness between you and me.”
45So Jacob took a stone and set it up as a pillar,
46and Jacob said to his relatives, “Gather stones.” So they took the stones and made a pile. Then they ate there on the pile.
47Laban called it Jegar-sahadutha and Jacob called it Gal-ed.
48And Laban said, “This pile is a witness between me and you today.” That is why its name is Gal-ed,
49or Mizpah, for he said, “Let Adonai keep watch between you and me when we are out of one another’s sight.
50If you mistreat my daughters, and if you take wives besides my daughters, though no one is with us, look! God is the witness between you and me.”
51Laban said further to Jacob, “Behold, this pile, and this pillar which I’ve set up between you and me:
52this pile serves as a witness, that I won’t pass by this pillar to go to you, and that you won’t pass by this pile and this pillar to go to me—with evil intent.
53May the God of Abraham and the gods of Nahor, the gods of their father, judge between us.” Jacob also made an oath by the fear of his father Isaac.
54Then Jacob offered a sacrifice on the mountain and he invited his relatives to eat bread. So they ate bread and spent the night on the mountain.