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Bible Commentaries

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

Genesis 31

Verses 1-13

Jacob Must Return to Canaan

Laban’s sons are as greedy as their father. They are jealous of Jacob’s property and see his property as a loss to themselves. They forget that God had done them well because of Jacob (Genesis 30:27). In the same way, the prosperity of the people of Israel has always been a reason for the hatred of brother peoples.

Laban’s sons feel it like theft. They express their dissatisfaction, which can also be read on the face of their father. Jacob watches the face of his father-in-law. Faces often indicate the state of the soul (Nehemiah 2:2). How does our face look? The expression on our face must be real and not hypocritical (Matthew 6:16).

The LORD speaks to Jacob and reminds him of the promise he has made (Genesis 28:20-Song of Solomon :). Earlier He appeared to him in a dream and spoke to him in the dream (Genesis 28:12-1 Chronicles :). Here He speaks directly for the first time. In total God speaks seven times to Jacob (Genesis 28:12-1 Chronicles :; Genesis 31:3Genesis 31:11; Genesis 32:24-Joel :Genesis 35:1; Genesis 35:9-2 Samuel :Genesis 46:2).

Jacob discusses the matter with his wives. That is a good thing. In the same way a man must discuss with his wife what he intends to do and involve her in his considerations. Jacob points out how God has been busy with him and has taken care of him. He gives God the honor.

Verses 14-21

Jacob Flees

Jacob gives his wives the opportunity to express their thoughts about what he has told them. He takes them seriously in this. That is an example for the married man today. He would do well to listen to his wife’s considerations. Rachel and Leah urge Jacob to do what God has said. Herein they are his real help, although the motives are not of the noblest kind. They choose him because they know their father, while in fact they breathe the spirit of their father. They choose what is most beneficial to them.

As they leave, we see Jacob’s care for his children and wives, whom he puts on camels, while he himself takes care of the flock. At the same time Jacob is not aware of what is going on in his family. He doesn’t know that Rachel steals her father’s idols. This indicates that Rachel still hangs with her heart on the idols, something that is hidden from Jacob. The contact with Rachel does not seem to have been profound. It’s a bad thing anyway when a wife does something she hides from her husband. It says something about the relationship, namely that man and wife live at cross purposes.

They leave quietly, secretly, according to the recipe of the ‘old’ Jacob. Scripture calls it ‘deceive’ (Genesis 31:20). There is always that changing between acknowledging God’s hand in his life and acting according to his own insight. We can do something that is according to God’s will while acting from selfish motives.

For example, if we lend to others because they need it, that’s good. However, if we do so because we expect a return that will benefit us, it is wrong (Luke 6:35). This kind of action indicates a lack of trust in God that He will provide if we obey Him.

Verses 22-30

Laban Pursues Jacob

God knows Laban’s purpose and comes to him in a dream. He warns him that he will speak to Jacob “either good or bad”, which means that he should not say anything that should move Jacob to change his plan (cf. Genesis 24:50). God does not allow Laban to manipulate or threaten Jacob. God does not do this until Laban has already overtaken Jacob, so that it is still clear in his mind when he has reached Jacob.

From what Laban says, it appears that he is a hypocrite. He reproaches Jacob that he left without being given him the opportunity to lead him out in a dignified manner. People who have an evil mind, but are prevented from doing so, always turn the facts around. They claim to be full of good intentions and insinuate that the other has bad intentions. The so-called mistakes they perceive in the other person are enlarged and heavily exaggerated to cover up their own evil intent.

He also says that he did not even have the opportunity to give his children a farewell kiss. As if he was such a good father! He has always acted in his own interest, so much so that his daughters feel treated and sold by him as strangers (Genesis 31:15).

The deeper reason for the chase is that Laban has lost his house gods. This makes him feel unprotected and insecure (cf. Judges 18:24). That Jacob took his daughters and cattle with him is one thing. It goes too far that he also took his house gods with him. Perhaps one day Jacob would return and take all his possessions from him. That could happen just like that, now that he is without protection. We see that later, because he can’t find the idols, he makes a covenant with Jacob (Genesis 31:43-2 Thessalonians :) to keep this, in his eyes unpleasant, man far from his territory.

What folly it is to call something a god that can be stolen. Is there protection to be expected from gods who are not even able to protect themselves? Yet many people connect their happiness to an amulet they wear. They feel vulnerable if they don’t have them with them or have even lost them. The real happiness is to experience the knowledge of the true God and His protection, which does not fail for anyone who calls upon it in faith.

Verses 31-35

The Idols with Rachel

Jacob tells the true reason for his flight. He was afraid that Laban would take his wives away from him, to force him to stay with him. This is how he got to know Laban. As for the gods Laban thinks he took them with him: Jacob curses that with whom he finds them shall not live. Here he speaks in great self-assurance, but with ignorance about the real situation in his family. It is a lesson for us not to hastily and thoughtlessly use big words, even though we are so convinced that we are right.

Besides the deceit of Jacob in his secret escape (Genesis 31:20), there is also the deceit of the household idols stolen by Rachel (Genesis 31:19). Rachel behaves like a real ‘Jacob’, a cheater. And Jacob does not know (Genesis 31:32). Once again Jacob is the failing head of the family, who does not know what has come into his house, this time by his favorite wife. Do we know what comes into our house? Do we have an eye for occult matters which can come in and be with us?

Besides theft and idolatry, Rachel is also guilty of deception. She says she has her period and cannot get up. So the theft remains covered and the evil in the house. One sin comes from another if the first sin is not confessed.

Verses 36-42

Jacob Reproaches Laban

When Laban’s search is unsuccessful, Jacob becomes angry. He defends himself and throws Laban’s selfish behavior at him. This would not have been necessary if he had put everything quietly in God’s hand. The Lord Jesus is our example. He has entrusted [Himself] to Him who judges righteously (1 Peter 2:23). If we do not live with the Lord, we will vigorously defend ourselves against false accusations. We will blame the other.

Such reproaches can be justified in themselves, as here with Jacob, but our anger is mainly due to our own wounded pride. For the sake of convenience, we forget that we ourselves have not always acted correctly and have disadvantaged others. This disadvantage can be material, but also spiritual. We can say something bad about someone else to get out of it better ourselves.

From what Jacob says, and what Laban does not contradict, he turns out to have been a hard worker, someone who has made a lot of effort for the sake of his not easy boss. He hasn’t been an easy-money boy nor deceived his boss. His great patience is also evident from the toleration of the often unjust actions of his boss Laban. He did not revolt, but subjected himself to injustice (cf. 1 Peter 2:18). He also had the experience that God has given him right.

Jacob speaks of God as “the God of my father, the God of Abraham”, that is the God Whom Abraham trusted. He also speaks of God as “the Fear of Isaac”. At the moment Jacob says this, Isaac is still alive, and his life shows respect for God.

Verses 43-55

Covenant Between Jacob and Laban

Laban points at his daughters and their children and the cattle and calls them all his own. As if he has some love or affection for them. People who are without natural love will emphatically express their love when it serves their interests. It is also completely unjustified, because Jacob worked hard for them and received them as a salary. But a worldly man does not easily renounce his possessions, even if they have been transferred to another. The heart remains attached to it.

Laban proposes to make a covenant and Jacob indicates the sign for it. Laban benefits from this covenant, for Jacob it is not necessary. Through this covenant Laban wants to obtain the certainty that Jacob will not return to him. He wants to be redeemed from him forever. He also commits himself never to pass this sign to go to Jacob. The many words Laban uses are a camouflage of his own unreliability. He asks Jacob for things he himself has not lived up to.

Laban gives the erected sign – which is a boundary post – a name, and Jacob also gives it a name, each in his own language. Laban gives it the name “Jegar-sahadutha” in Aramaic. Jacob gives it the name “Gilead” in Hebrew. The meaning is the same, ‘hope of the testimony’. Both speak their own language, which is different from each other. The language of the man of the world is different from that of the believer. And Jacob is a believer. Laban gives the heap an extra name. He does this in Hebrew, “Mizpah”, which means “watchtower”. Here is the boundary drawn, which they will not cross.

In yet another way the difference between the man of the world, Laban, and the believer Jacob appears. Everyone speaks of God in their own way (Genesis 31:53). Laban speaks of God as a god who answers his taste and Jacob confesses the true God, Who wants him to answer His taste. We also see that he confesses the true God in the sacrifice he offers (Genesis 31:54). He involves God in this agreement, while he is aware that this agreement can only be made on the basis of the sacrifice.

Once again he speaks of God as “the fear of his father Isaac”, that is the God Whom his father Isaac fears, who has never served other gods. It is important to remember that there is only one true God: that is the God Who revealed Himself in His Son Jesus Christ. This is important, among other things, when we come into contact with islam, which also invokes the God of Abraham, but rejects the Son of God.

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Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Genesis 31". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/genesis-31.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.