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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.
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CHAPTER 31
1After that, Jacob heard the words of the sons of Laban, that said, Jacob hath taken away all things that were our father’s, and of his chattel Jacob is made rich, and noble.
2Also Jacob perceived the face of Laban, that it was not against him as yesterday, and the third day ago,
3mostly for the Lord said to Jacob, Turn again into the land of thy fathers, and to thy generation, and I shall be with thee.
4Jacob sent, and called Rachel and Leah into the field, where he kept [the] flocks,
5and he said to them, I see the face of your father, that it is not against me as yesterday, and the third day ago; but God of my father was with me.
6And ye know that with all my strengths I have served your father;
7but and your father hath deceived me, and changed my meed ten times; and nevertheless God suffered not him to annoy me.
8If he said any time, Diversely-coloured sheep shall be thy meed, all the sheep brought forth diversely-coloured lambs; forsooth when he said, on the contrary, Thou shalt take all the white for thy meed, all the flocks brought forth white beasts;
9and God took away the substance of your father, and gave it to me.
10For after that the time of con-ceiving of sheep came, I raised [up] mine eyes, and saw in sleep males diverse, and spotty, and of diverse colours, going up on females.
11And the angel of the Lord said to me in sleep, Jacob! and I answered, I am ready.
12Which said, Raise [up] thine eyes, and see all [the] males that be diverse, [and] besprinkled, and spotty, going [up] on [the] females; for I have seen all things which Laban hath done to thee;
13I am God of Bethel, where thou anointedest a stone, and madest a vow to me. Now therefore rise thou, and go out of this land, and turn again into the land of thy birth.
14And Rachel and Leah answered, Whether we have anything residue, or left, in the chattels, and heritage of our father?
15Whether he areckoned not, or held, us as aliens, and sold us, and ate our price?
16But God took away the riches of our father, and gave those [or them] to us, and to our sons; wherefore do thou all things which God hath commanded to thee.
17Forsooth Jacob rose, and put his free children and wives on camels, and went forth;
18and he took all his cattle, flocks, and whatever thing he had gotten in Mesopotamia, and went to Isaac, his father, into the land of Canaan.
19In that time Laban went to shear sheep, and Rachel stole the idols of her father.
20And Jacob would not acknowledge to the father of his wives, that he would flee;
21and when he had gone, as well he as all things that were of his right, and when he had passed [over] the water, and he went against the hill of Gilead,
22it was told to Laban, in the third day, that Jacob fled.
23And Laban took his brethren [with him], and pursued him seven days, and [over] took him in the hill of Gilead.
24And Laban saw in sleep the Lord saying to him, Beware that thou speak not anything sharply against Jacob.
25And then Jacob had stretched forth the tabernacle in the hill; and when Laban had pursued Jacob with his brethren, Laban set a tent in the same hill of Gilead;
26and he said to Jacob, Why hast thou done so, that the while I knew not, thou wouldest drive away my daughters as captives, either taken prisoners, by sword?
27Why wouldest thou flee the while I knew not, neither wouldest show to me, that I should pursue [or follow] thee with joy, and songs, and tympans, and harps?
28Thou sufferedest not that I should kiss my sons and daughters; thou hast wrought follily.
29And now soothly mine hand may yield evil to thee, but the God of thy father said to me yesterday, Beware that thou speak not any hard thing with Jacob.
30Suppose, if thou covetedest to go to thy kinsmen, and the house of thy father was in desire to thee, why hast thou stolen my gods?
31Jacob answered, That I went forth while thou knewest not, I dreaded lest thou wouldest take away thy daughters from me violently;
32soothly that thou reprovest me of theft, at whomever thou findest thy gods, be he slain before our brethren; seek thou, whatever thing of thine thou findest at me, and take it away. Jacob said these things, and knew not that Rachel had stolen the idols.
33And so Laban entered into the tabernacles of Jacob, and of Leah, and of ever either menial, and he found not; and when Laban had entered into the tent of Rachel,
34she hasted, and hid the idols under the strewings of the camel, and she sat above.
35And she said to Laban, seeking throughout all the tent, and finding nothing, My lord, be not wroth that I may not rise before thee, for it befelled now to me by the custom of women; so the busyness of the seeker was scorned.
36And Jacob swelled, and said with strife, For what cause of me, and for what sin of me, hast thou come so fiercely after me,
37and hast sought through all the appurtenance of mine house? What hast thou found of all the chattel of thine household? Put thou here before my brethren and thy brethren, and deem they betwixt me and thee.
38Was I not with thee therefore twenty years? Thy sheep and goats were not barren, I ate not the rams of thy flock,
39neither I showed to thee anything taken of a beast; I yielded all [the] harm; whatever thing perished by theft, thou askedest of me;
40I was anguished in day and night with heat and frost, and sleep fled from mine eyes;
41so I served thee by twenty years in thine house, fourteen years for thy daughters, and six years for thy flocks; and thou changedest my meed ten times.
42But if [the] God of my father Abraham, and the dread of Isaac had not helped me, peradventure now thou haddest left me naked; the Lord hath beheld my tormenting and the travail of mine hands, and reproved thee yesterday.
43Laban answered to Jacob, The daughters, and the sons, and the flocks, and all things which thou seest, be mine; what may I do to my sons, and to the sons of my sons?
44Therefore come thou, and make we bond of peace, that it be a witnessing betwixt me and thee.
45And so Jacob took a stone, and raised it into a title, either a sign,
46and said to his brethren, Bring ye stones; which gathered, and made an heap, and ate on it.
47And Laban called it The heap of witness, and Jacob called it The heap of witnessing; ever either called it by the property of his language.
48And Laban said, This heap shall be witness betwixt me and thee today, and therefore the name thereof was called Galeed, that is, The heap of witness.
49And Laban added, The Lord behold, and deem betwixt us, when we shall go away from you;
50if thou shalt torment my daughters, and if thou shalt bring in other wives on them, none is witness of our word, except God, which is present, and beholdeth.
51And again Laban said to Jacob, Lo! this heap, and the stone, or the pillar, which I have raised betwixt me and thee,
52shall be witnesses; soothly this heap, and the stone be into witnessing, forsooth if I shall pass it, and go to thee, either thou shalt pass it, and think to do evil to me.
53God of Abraham, and God of Nahor, [the] God of the father of them, deem betwixt us. Therefore Jacob swore by the dread of his father Isaac;
54and when slain sacrifices were offered in the hill, Jacob called his brethren to eat bread, and when they had eaten, they dwelled there.
55Forsooth Laban rose by night, and kissed his sons, and daughters, and blessed them, and turned again into his place.