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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 31

Hampton's Commentary on Selected BooksHampton's Commentary

Verses 1-21

Jacob Decides to Leave Laban

Laban and his sons eventually began to see Jacob as a drain on their flocks. Laban ceased to believe God was blessing him because of Jacob ( Gen_30:27 ). So, God told him to return home. Jacob told his wives of the decision, noting Laban's change of attitude along with frequent changes in what he agreed to pay his son-in-law during the six years of further service rendered to his father-in-law. God had protected Jacob in the midst of such deceit by causing the flocks to bring forth the type of animals designated as his pay.

Rachel and Leah agreed they should follow the Lord's direction and leave their father's house. They said he had sold them, apparently referring to Jacob's service for fourteen years to receive their hands in marriage. Though it was customary for at least a portion of such money to be given to the daughter as a personal dowry, Laban had used up all the money. They saw God had provided for them even when their father had not. While Laban was shearing his sheep, Jacob and his family packed up and headed back to Isaac. Rachel stole her fathers household idols as they were leaving ( Gen_31:1-21 ).

Verses 22-42

Laban Pursues Jacob and His Family

After three days, Laban was told of Jacob's departure. He and his men finally overtook Jacob's company on the seventh day in the mountains of Gilead. The night before he met Jacob, God warned him in a dream to do him no harm. Laban questioned Jacob as to why he had stolen away and why he had taken his household gods. As head of his family, he could have acted violently against Jacob. However, he noted God had warned him not to harm him.

Jacob responded by saying he feared Laban would have taken away his wives if he had told him he was going to leave. He also said he had not taken the idols and promised the one in whose possession they were found with would be slain. Rachel hid the idols under her saddle and sat upon it saying the "manner of women is with me." Thus, Laban found nothing and was rebuked by Jacob for pursuing and accusing him. Jacob reminded Laban he had served faithfully for twenty years ( Gen_31:22-42 ).

Verses 43-55

The Covenant Between Jacob and Laban

Though Jacob accused Laban of intending to do him harm if God had not warned him, Laban claimed he would not hurt his own family. Perhaps to save embarrassment before the male members of his family who he had assembled to pursue a thief, Laban, despite all previous contracts, claimed his daughters, their children and the flocks were his. However, he said he could do no harm to his own flesh and blood.

Instead, he asked Jacob to make a peace covenant with him. Jacob had his brethren gather stones and put them in a pile. Laban, in Aramaic, and Jacob, in Hebrew, named the place "heap of witness." Jacob's prayer was, "May the Lord watch between you and me when we are absent one from another." He and Laban promised not to pass the heap on the way to do one another harm. Then, Jacob made a sacrifice and shared a meal with Laban and the rest of his kinsmen. The next morning, Laban kissed his family goodbye and returned to his home ( Gen_31:43-55 ).

Bibliographical Information
Hampton, Gary. "Commentary on Genesis 31". "Hampton's Commentary on Selected Books". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghc/genesis-31.html. 2014.
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