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Bible Commentaries

John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible
Genesis 31

 

 

Verses 1-55


Jacob's Return from Haran

4-13. Jacob attributes his prosperity to God's favour.

14-16. Rachel and Leah point out that their father had no claim on them, since Jacob had won them by his services, and Laban had given them no share in the profits he had made through their husband's labours. They agree to leave their home.

19. The images] Heb. teraphim. These were figures of metal, wood, or clay of varying sizes, apparently in human form. They probably answered to the 'Lares and Penates,' or household gods of the Romans, which were supposed to ward off danger from the home and to bring luck. This would explain Rachel's reason for stealing them. Laban speaks of them as 'my gods' in Genesis 31:30. There is an, interesting reference to them in 1 Samuel 19:13, 1 Samuel 19:16. From Ezekiel 21:21; RV it is clear they were connected with magic and soothsaying. It has been suggested that in some cases the teraphim were mummied human heads, perhaps of ancestors, and were consulted in some way as an oracle. Whatever they were, it is not probable that their possession by the Jews interfered seriously with belief in and worship of God, though we find their use rightly denounced as superstitious. The following passages refer to the teraphim: Judges 17:5; 1 Samuel 15:23; RV 2 Kings 23:24; RV Hosea 3:4; Zechariah 10:2 RV. Payne Smith remarks on 'the tendency of uneducated minds, even when their religion is in the main true, to add to it some superstitions, especially in the way of fashioning for themselves some lower mediator.'

21. The river] the Euphrates. Gilead] Hebrew territory E. of the Jordan.

24. Either good or bad] cp. Genesis 24:50. God warns Laban to restrain his feelings.

27. Tabret] i.e. 'tambourine.'

30. My gods] see on Genesis 31:19.

34. The camel's furniture] a sort of palanquin or basket-seat bound upon the camel.

40. Frost by night] Hot as the days are in the East, it often becomes very cold when the sun goes down.

42. The fear of Isaac] the God whom Isaac feared and reverenced.

4352. Laban and Jacob conclude a covenant of friendship. 'The narrative.. is disconnected, and full of duplications, and is certainly the result of a union of several sources' (D.). The main features are the erection of a great stone as a memorial pillar by Jacob, and the collection of a heap of stones on which the covenant meal was held: cp. Genesis 26:30. The cairn of stones and pillar were erected as witnesses to Jacob's promise that he would not ill-treat Laban's daughters, and to an agreement pledging both Jacob and Laban to regard Mt. Gilead as a boundary which neither must cross with hostile motives. The narrative was of special interest in after times as the original settlement of the border between Israel and Syria (represented by Jacob and Laban).

47. Jegar-sahadutha. Galeed] We have here the popular etymology of the name Gilead. Both words in the text mean 'heap of witness,' the former being Aramaic, the latter Hebrew. The double designation is due to the fact that the place is regarded as a boundary between Syria and Israel. It may be remarked here that Hebrew is but one branch of a great family of languages spoken in Western Asia between the Mediterranean and the Euphrates, to which the general name of Semitic is applied. This is usually divided into (1) the South Semitic, which includes Arabic, classical and modern, and Ethiopie; and (2) the North Semitic. The latter again comprises three main branches, viz. (a) Assyrian-Babylonian in the East, the language of the cuneiform inscriptions; (b) Aramaic, in the northern parts of Mesopotamia and Syria; it is to this dialect, incorrectly styled Chaldee, that the first name in the text belongs, and in it certain parts of Ezra and Daniel are written. From Isaiah 36:11 we gather that it was used as the diplomatic language in the 8th cent. b.c.; and it ultimately took the place of Hebrew as the language of Palestine. The language of the Jewish Targums is a form of Aramaic, and so too is Syriac. The third branch of the North Semitic language is (c) the Canaanitic, which comprises Hebrew, and closely connected with it, Phœnician or Punic. From this table it appears that Abraham coming from the East would find in Canaan a dialect very closely akin to that with which he was familiar, and that he (or his descendants) adopted it. In all probability his native dialect was Aramaic, spoken at Haran in Mesopotamia. Or he may have spoken the language of Assyria, which, as the Tel el A marna tablets show, was the official language of communication between Palestine and Egypt in the 15th cent. b.c.

49. Mizpah] 'Outlook place.'

54. Did eat bread] in token of friendship.

55. It is pleasant to read of this happy ending to years of strife.

 


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Bibliography Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Genesis 31:4". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcb/genesis-31.html. 1909.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, October 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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