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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 31

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

Verses 1-55

Genesis 31:1. He heard the words of Laban’s sons. Three causes are assigned for Jacob’s abrupt removal: first, the bitter reproaches of Laban’s sons: secondly, the consequent change in the countenance of Laban; and thirdly, the special command of God, who, ever faithful to his covenant, guarded Jacob with a watchful eye, and enriched him with a munificent hand.

Genesis 31:15. He hath sold us; that is, he hath given us in marriage for fourteen years’ service, and not returned the wealth gained in that time, which is justly due as a portion to us and to our children.

Genesis 31:19. Rachel had stolen the images. Hebrews תרפים teraphim. Those images were made at first to represent the angels which had appeared to the fathers at sacrifice. They were next made in memory of dead men: some have thought Laban’s gods of that kind. Be the origin what it might, it ultimately led to gross idolatry. The gods of India are constructed in characters so terrific as evidently to have had their origin in a guilty conscience. The devotion paid to those household gods was more than that paid to the Creator. The army would not march, nor would a family emigrate, without its gods. The Danites stole Micah’s image. Judges 17:0. And when Troy was in flames, Eneas said to Anchises,

Tu, genitor, cape sacra manu patriosque penates:

Me, bello è tanto digressum et cæde recenti,

Attrectare nefas; donec me flumine vivo abluero. ÆN. 2:717.

“Do you, oh father, take charge of those hallowed teraphim, and the deities of our country: for me, just come from the field of battle, to touch them would be profanation, until I shall wash myself in the flowing river.” See Deuteronomy 21:6. 1 Kings 18:40.

Genesis 31:21. The river Euphrates, which according to Boiste’s chart of the holy land, runs not more than sixty miles from Haran.

Genesis 31:23. Pursued after him. No doubt with an intent either to kill him, or to deprive him of his wives and property, as is apparent from Jacob’s fears, and from the divine dream which deterred Laban from the execution of his wicked purpose.

Genesis 31:24 . In a dream. God would not honour Laban with a visit of his angelic presence. It was merely in dreams that most of the heathen were favoured at all in this way.

Genesis 31:27. Sent thee away with mirth. Hypocrisy is a mark of consummate wickedness. Laban would have sent him away empty and sorrowful.

Genesis 31:32. Let him not live. It appears from the sentence pronounced by Joseph’s brethren concerning the cup, as well as from this passage, that the ancients punished the grosser acts of theft with death.

Genesis 31:46. Jacob gathered stones and made a heap. This was also the custom of our Gothic fathers. In all places we find burrows raised for the dead, and for memorials of battles and events.

Genesis 31:47. Je g ar-sahadutha, is the Syrian, and Gilead, the Hebrew name of this monument. It was a round heap of stones with a flat top. Gil is any thing round, and Ed or Eed is a witness or testimony.

Genesis 31:53. Jacob sware by the fear of his father. The fear of God being often put for the whole of religion, we are here to understand that Jacob sware by the religion of his father Isaac.


When the time was come for Jacob to return, the Lord permitted the envy of Laban’s sons to operate on the father’s countenance, and to hasten the purposes of providence. Why should we then be so much afraid of evil; for the Spirit and providence of God harmonizing together, shall make the envy of the wicked productive of our present and eternal good.

We learn that counsel and devotion are requisite before any step is taken in which the safety and happiness of a whole family is involved. After prayer to God, Jacob communicated his design to Rachel and Leah. They both at once entered into his views, and being of the same mind and judgment with their husband, they would fully second him in the design; and God set his seal to their counsel by commanding them to depart.

Did God, in addressing the patriarch on this occasion, say, I am the God of Beth-el; the place where Jacob had seen the ladder, and received the promises twenty years before. Then he is mindful to perform the promises to us in old age, which he made us in our youth. Let us keep our eye constantly on these promises, for they are more to be relied on than the favour of princes, and the strongest of human compacts.

Did Jacob steal away from Laban without leave, well knowing the deceit of his character; then cases may occur, in our intercourse with unreasonable men, in which it is proper to use the wisdom of the serpent, combined with the innocence of the dove; for when these cases come to be investigated, no guile must be found in our words, nor iniquity in our hands.

Did the pursuit of Laban and all his family, finally, through the restraining hand of providence, terminate in a covenant of peace, and in a paternal benediction? Let not any family called christian be less disposed to reconciliation and mutual love than Laban. On all such occasions, let us explain, and resume our wonted concord; let us hear a voice ever saying, Live in peace and love, and the God of peace and love shall be with you. But at the same time, how grateful should all men be, that God by his providence has restrained them from doing the evil, which had been purposed during an angry moment!

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Genesis 31". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/genesis-31.html. 1835.
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