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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and Homiletical

Genesis 31

Verses 1-3

THIRD SECTION

Jacob’s thought of returning home. New treaty with Laban. His closely calculated proposition (Prelude to the method of acquiring possession of the Egyptian vessels). Laban’s displeasure. God’s command to return

Genesis 30:25 to Genesis 31:3

25And it came to pass, when Rachel had borne Joseph, that Jacob said unto Laban, Send me away [let me go], that I may go unto mine own place, and to my country. 26Give me my wives and my children, for whom I have served thee, and let me go: for thou knowest my service which I have done thee. 27And Laban said unto him, I pray thee, if I have found favour in thine eyes, tarry; for I have learned by experience3 that the Lord hath blessed me for thy sake. 28And he said, [farther], Appoint me thy 29wages, and I will give it. And [But] he said unto him, Thou knowest how I have 30served thee, and how thy cattle was with me [what thy herds have become under me]. For it was little which thou hadst before I came, and it is now increased unto a multitude; and the Lord hath blessed thee, since my coming4 [after me]: and now when shall I provide for mine own house also? 31And he said, What shall I give thee? And Jacob said, Thou shalt not give me anything [anything peculiar], If thou wilt do this thing for me, I will again feed and keep thy flock [small cattle]: 32I will pass through all thy flock to-day, removing from thence all the speckled and spotted [dappled] cattle [lambs], and all the brown [dark-colored] cattle among the sheep, and the spotted and speckled among the goats: and of such shall be my hire. 33So shall my righteousness [rectitude] answer for me in time to come,5 when it shall come for my hire; before thy face: every one that is not speckled and spotted among the goats, and brown among the sheep, that shall be counted stolen with me. 34And Laban said, Behold, I would it might be according to thy word. 35And he removed that day the he-goats that were ringstreaked [striped] and spotted, and all the she-goats that were speckled and spotted, and every one that had some white in it, and all the brown among the sheep, and gave them into the hands of his sons. 36And he set three days’ journey betwixt himself [the shepherds and flocks of Laban] and Jacob [the flocks of Jacob under his sons]: and Jacob fed the rest [the sifted] of Laban’s flocks.

37And Jacob took him rods of green poplar, [gum] and of the hazel [almond] and chestnut-tree [maple]6; and pilled white streaks in them, and made the white appear which 38 was in the rods. And he laid the rods which he had [striped] pilled before the flocks in the gutters in the watering-troughs7 when the flocks came [to which the flocks must come] to drink, that they should conceive when they came to drink. 39And the flocks conceived before the rods, and brought forth [threw, cast] ringstreaked, speckled and spotted. 40And Jacob did separate the lambs, and set the faces of the flocks toward the ringstraked, and all the brown in the flock of Laban; and he put his own flocks by themselves, and put them not unto Laban’s cattle. 41And it came to pass, whensoever the stronger cattle did conceive, that Jacob laid the rods before the eyes of the cattle in the gutters, that they might conceive among the rods. 42But when the cattle were feeble, 43he put them not in: so the feebler were Laban’s, and the stronger Jacob’s. And the man increased exceedingly, and had much [small] cattle, and maid-servants, and menservants, and camels and asses.

 Genesis 31:1 And he heard the words of Laban’s sons, saying, Jacob hath taken away all that was our father’s; and of that which was our father’s hath he gotten all this glory [riches]8. 2And Jacob beheld the countenance of Laban, and, behold, it was 3not toward him as before9 [formerly]. And [Then] the Lord said unto Jacob, Return unto the land of thy fathers, and to thy kindred [thy home]; and I will be with thee.

GENERAL PRELIMINARY REMARKS

1. The term בִּגְלָל, Genesis 30:27 (comp. Genesis 12:13), shows that this section, according to Knobel, is Jehovistic.

2. In consequence of Laban’s deception, Jacob must serve fourteen years for his Rachel. According to Genesis 31:41 he served him six years longer, agreeably to the terms of the contract that he had just now concluded with him.

3. The doubtful way in which he now secured his reward leads us to conjecture that he was conscious that he had been defrauded by Laban, and that he was dealing with a selfish man, whose selfishness and power, he thought, could only be countervailed by cunning. Nor is it to be denied that wisdom’s weapon is given to the feeble to protect himself against the harsh and cruel power of the strong. Our narrative comes under the same category with the surreptitious obtaining of the blessing of the first-born by Jacob, and the acquisition of the gold and silver vessels of the Egyptians by the Israelites. The prudence manifested in these cases is the same; but still there was a real deception in the first case (one deception, however, against another); in the present case it was simply an overreaching, while in the third they were only availing themselves of the situation of the Egyptians, i. e., their disposition. In all three cases, however, the artful, or at least wisely-calculated, project, was provoked by a great and gross wrong. Esau proposes to take back the birthright which he had sold to Jacob. Laban caused him to perform a service of fourteen years, and intends to make him still further a prey to his avarice. The Egyptians have indeed consumed the very strength of Israel by their bondage. And if the scale here turns against Jacob because he thus cunningly overreached his father-in-law, it is balanced by Laban’s pressing him again into his service, that he might misuse him anew; nor is the marvellous charm to be left out of view, which lay in his ancient nomadic science and art. Superior minds were never inclined to let their arts and sciences lie dormant.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

1.Genesis 30:25-34. The new contract.—When Rachel.—At Joseph’s birth [which therefore could not have occurred until the fifteenth year of his residence with Laban.—A. G.] a strong feeling comes over Jacob, which leads him to believe that he is to return home without having received a call from thence or a divine command here. It is apparent from what follows that he first of all wished to become independent of Laban, in order to provide for his own. He is, therefore, soon hampered again, since a fair prospect opened to him now and here. Laban’s character now comes into view in every utterance.—May I still grace, etc., lit., If I have found favor, etc. If this expression may be called an aposiopesis, we must still bear in mind that this was a standing form of expression even in the oath. Keil supplies “stay yet.” The optative form already expresses all that is possible. If נחשתי is, according to Delitzsch, a heathen expression, then the phraseology in Laban’s mouth appears more striking still, through the connection of this expression with Jehovah’s name.—Appoint me.—He not only recognizes, almost fawningly, Jacob’s worth to his house, but is even willing to yield unconditionally to his determination—a proof that he did not expect of Jacob too great a demand. But Jacob is not inclined to trust himself to his generosity, and hence his cunningly calculated though seemingly trifling demand. Laban’s consent to his demand, however, breathes in the very expression the joy of selfishness; and it is scarcely sufficient to translate: Behold, I would it might be according to thy word. But Jacob’s proposition seems to point to a very trifling reward, since the sheep in the East are nearly all white, while the goats are generally of a dark color or speckled. For he only demands of Laban’s herds those sheep that have dark spots or specks, or that are entirely black, and those only of the goats that were white-spotted or striped. But he does not only demand the speckled lambs brought forth hereafter, after the present number of such are set aside for Laban (Tuch, Baumg., Kurtz), but the present inspection is to form the first stock of his herds (Knobel, Delitzsch). [The words, “thou shalt not give me anything,” seem to indicate that Jacob had no stock from Laban to begin with, and did not intend to be dependent upon him for any part of his possessions. Those of this description which should appear among the flocks should be his hire. He would depend upon the divine providence and his own skill. He would be no more indebted to Laban than Abraham to the king of Sodom.—A. G.] Afterwards, also, the speckled ones brought forth among Laban’s herds are to be added to his, as is evident from his following arts. Michaelis and Bohlen miss the purport, but it lies in verse 33. For when he invites Laban to muster his herds in time to come, ביום מחר it surely does not mean literally the next day, as Delitzsch supposes, but in time to come (see Gesenius, מחר). As often as Laban came to Jacob’s herds in the future he must regard all the increase in speckled and ringstreaked lambs as Jacob’s property, but if he found a purely white sheep or an entirely black goat, then, and only then, he might regard it as stolen. (As to the sheep and goats of the East, see Bible Dictionaries, the Natural History of the Bible, and Knobel, p. 246.) Moreover, this transaction is not conducted wholly “in the conventional forms of oriental politeness, as in Genesis 23:0, between Abraham and the Hittites” (Del.). Laban’s language is submissive, while that of Jacob is very frank and bold, as became his invigorated courage and the sense of the injustice which he had suffered.

2.Genesis 30:35-36. The separation of the herds.—And he removed.—It surely is not correct, as Rosenmüller, Maurer, Del. and Keil suppose, that Laban is here referred to; that Laban, “to be more certain,” had removed the speckled ones himself and put them under the care of his own sons. In this view everything becomes confused, and Bohlen justly remarks: “The reference here is to Jacob, because he intended to separate the animals (Genesis 30:32), as certainly it was proper for the head servant to do, and because there is no mention of Laban’s sons until Genesis 31:1, while Jacob’s older children were certainly able to take care of the sheep.” Reuben, at the close of this new term of six years, had probably reached his thirteenth year, Simeon his eleventh. But even if they had not reached these years, the expression he gave them, בּיד־בּניו, could mean: he formed a new family state, or herds, as a possession of his sons, although they were assisted in the management by the mothers, maids, and servants, since he himself had anew become Laban’s servant. Hence it is also possible (Genesis 30:36) for him to make a distinction between himself as Laban’s servant, and Jacob as an independent owner, now represented by his sons. It is altogether improbable that Jacob would entrust his herds to Laban’s sons. But it is entirely incomprehensible that Jacob, with his herds, could have taken flight without Laban’s knowledge, and gained three days the start, unless his herds were under the care of his own sons. [This is of course well put and unanswerable on the supposition that the sheep and goats which were removed from the flocks ere Jacob’s stock to begin with, but it has no force if we regard these as Laban’s, and put therefore under the care of his own sons, while Jacob was left to manage the flocks from which the separated were taken.—A. G.]—Three days’ journey betwixt.—Lit., “a space of three days between.” Certainly days’ journeys here are those of the herds and are not to be estimated according to the journeys of men. Again, Jacob is ahead of Laban three days, and yet Laban can overtake him. We may conceive, therefore, of a distance of about twelve hours, or perhaps eighteen miles. By means of this separation Jacob not only gained Laban’s confidence but also his property.

3.Genesis 30:37-43. Jacob’s management of Laban’s herds.—Took him rods.—De Wette: Storax, almond-tree, maple. Bunsen: “Gum-tree. The Alexandrians here translate, styrax-tree, but Hosea 4:13 poplars. If we look at the Arabic, in which our Hebrew word has been preserved, the explanation of styrax-tree is to be preferred. It is similar to the quince, grows in Syria, Arabia, and Asia Minor, reaches the height of about twelve feet, and furnishes, if incisions are made in the bark, a sweet, fragrant-smelling, and transparent gum, of a light-red color, called styrax. Almond-tree. This signification is uncertain, since the hazelnut-tree may also be referred to. Plane-tree. A splendid tree, frequent even in South Europe, having large boughs, extending to a great distance (hence the Greek name, Platane), and bearing some resemblance to the maple tree.” Jacob of course must select rods from such trees, whose dark external bark produced the greatest contrast with the white one below it. In this respect gum-tree might be better adapted than white poplars, almond-tree or chestnut better than hazelnut, and maple better than plane-tree. Keil: Storax, chestnut, and maple trees, which all have below their, bark a white, dazzling wood. Thus he procured rods of different kinds and pilled white streaks in them.—And he set the rods.—Knobel thinks, he placed the staffs on the watering-troughs, but did not put them in the gutters. But this does not agree with the choice of the verb, nor the fact itself: the animals, by looking into the water for some time, were to receive, as it were, into themselves, the appearance of the rods lying near. They, in a technical sense, “were frightened” at them. The wells were surrounded with watering-troughs, used for the watering of the cattle.—And they conceived.—For the change of the forms here, see Keil, p. 210.—And brought forth cattle.—“This crafty trick was based upon the common experience of the so-called fright of animals, especially of sheep, namely, that the representations of the senses during coition are stamped upon the form of the fœtus (see Boch., Hieroz., i. 618, and Friedreich upon the Bible, i. 37, etc.).” Keil. For details see Knobel, p. 247, and Delitzsch, p. 472—And set the faces of the flock.—Jacob’s second artifice. The speckled animals, it is true, were removed, from time to time, from Laban’s herds, and added to Jacob’s flock, but in the meantime Jacob put the speckled animals in front of the others, so that Laban’s herds had always these spotted or variegated animals before them, and in this manner another impression was produced upon the she-goats and sheep. Bohlen opposes this second artifice, against Rosenmüller, Maurer, and others. The clause in question should be: he sent them to the speckled ones that already belonged to him (פני in the sense of versus). But the general term הַצֹּאן is against this. The separation of the new-born lambs and goats from the old herds could only be gradual.—The stronger cattle.—The third artifice. He so arranged the thing that the stronger cattle fell to him, the feebler to Laban. His first artifice, therefore, produced fully the desired effect. It was owing partly, perhaps, to his sense of equity toward Laban, and partly to his prudence, that he set these limits to his gain; but he still, however, takes the advantage, since he seeks to gain the stronger cattle for himself. Bohlen: “Literally, the bound ones, firmly set, i. e., the strong, just as the covered ones, i. e., the feeble, languid, faint; for the transition is easy from the idea of binding, firmness, to that of strength, and from that of covering, to languishing, or faintness. Some of the old translators refer them to vernal and autumnal lambs (comp. Plin. 8, 47, Columella, De re rust., 8, 3), because the sheep in Palestine and similar climates bear twice in a year (Aristot., Hist. Anim., 6, 18, 19; ‘Problems’, 10, 46; Bochart, Hieroz., i. p. 512), and because those conceived in the Spring or Summer and born in the Autumn are stronger than those conceived in Autumn and born in Spring. But the text does not draw this precise distinction.” The Septuagint only distinguishes between ἐπίσημα and ἄσημα. Luther renders “late” and “early born.”—And the man increased.—With the rich increase in cattle, care was taken at the same time to secure an increase in men-servants and maid-servants, as well as camels and asses. Knobel finds a contradiction in the fact that this rich increase is here ascribed to Jacob’s artifice, whilst it is attributed to the divine blessing in Genesis 31:9. But so much only is evident, that Jacob did not act against his conscience, but thought that he might anticipate and assist by human means the fulfilment of those visions in which the rewards of this kind were promised to him.—And he heard. The complete success that Jacob met with excited the envy and jealousy of Laban’s sons, whose existence is indicated first in the plural (Genesis 29:27), but whose definite appearance here shows that the selfish disposition peculiar to this family was more fully developed in them than in Laban himself.—The words of Laban’s sons.—According to Delitzsch, they were quite small, not yet fourteen years of age—an assertion, however, which has no sufficient ground.

4.Genesis 31:1-3. Jacob’s resolution to return home.—All that was our father’s.—They evidently exaggerate in their hatred, and even accus him of dishonesty by the use of the expression: of that which was our father’s. But Laban shares in the threatening disposition; his countenance had changed remarkably toward Jacob, a fact all the more striking, since he had formerly been extraordinarily friendly. Trouble and dangers similar to those at home now develop themselves here; then comes, at the critical juncture, Jehovah’s command: Return.

DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL

1. Jacob’s resolution to return home at his own risk, is to be explained from his excessive joy at Joseph’s birth, and from his longing for home and for deliverance from the oppression of Laban. Moreover, he seems to have considered Rachel’s son as the principal Messianic heir, and therefore must hasten to conduct him to the promised land, even at the peril of his life. Besides, he now feels that he must provide for his own house, and with Laban’s selfishness there is very little prospect of his attaining this in Laban’s house. These two circumstances show clearly why he allows himself to be retained by Laban (for he has no assurance of faith that he is now to return), and in the second place, the manner and means by which he turns the contract to his own advantage.
2. We here learn that Laban’s prosperity was not very great before Jacob’s arrival. The blessing first returns to the house with Jacob’s entrance. But this blessing seemed to become to Laban no blessing of faith. His conduct toward the son of his sister and his son-in-law, becomes more and more base. He seizes eagerly, therefore, the terms offered to him by Jacob, because they appear to him most favorable, since the sheep in the East are generally white, while the goats are black. His intention, therefore, is to defraud Jacob, while he is actually overreached by him. Besides, this avails only of the mere form; as to the thing itself, Jacob really had claims to a fair compensation.
3. Just as Jacob’s conduct at the surreptitious obtaining the birthright was preceded by Isaac’s intended cunning, and the injustice of Esau, so also, in many respects, here Laban’s injustice and artifice precedes Jacob’s project (Genesis 31:0). In this light Jacob’s conduct is to be judged. Hence he afterwards views his real gain as a divine blessing, although he had to atone again for his selfishness and cunning, in the form of the gain, at least, by fears and danger. Moreover, we must still bring into view, as to Jacob’s and Laban’s bargain, the following points: 1. Jacob asks for his wages very modestly and frankly; he asks for his wives and children, as the fruit of his wives, and for his discharge. While Laban wishes to keep him for his own advantage. 2. Jacob speaks frankly, Laban flatters and fawns. 3. Jacob might now expect a paternal treatment and dowry on the part of Laban. Laban, on the contrary, prolongs his servile relation, and asks him to determine his reward, because he expected from Jacob’s modesty the announcement of very small wages. 4. In the proposition made by Jacob, he thought he had caught him.

4. The establishment of his own household, after being married fourteen years, shows that Jacob, in this respect, as well as in the conclusion of his marriage, awaited his time.
5. The so-called impressions of she goats and sheep, a very old observation, which the coöperation of subtle impressions, images, and even imaginations at the formation of the fœtus, and, indeed, the fœtus itself among animals confirms.—The attainment of varieties and new species among animals and plants is very ancient, and stands closely connected with civilization and the kingdom of God.
6. Jacob’s sagacity, his weapon against the strong. But as he stands over against God, he employed different means, especially prayer.
7. The want of candor in Laban’s household, corresponds with the selfishness of the household.

8. In the following chapter we find still further details respecting Jacob’s bargain. In the first place, the selfish Laban broke, in different ways, the firm bargain made with Jacob, in order to change it to his advantage (Genesis 31:7). Secondly, Jacob’s morbid sense of justice had been so excited that he received explanation of the state of things in his herds even in his night-visions.

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

See the Doctrinal and Ethical paragraphs. The present section is, for the most part, fitted for religious, biographical, and psychological contemplations. It is to be treated carefully both with respect to Jacob’s censure as well as his praise.—Jacob’s resolutions to return home: 1. The first: why so vividly formed, but not accomplished; 2. the second: the cause of his assurance (the divine command). Moreover, perils equal to those threatening at home, were now surrounding him.—His longing for home during his service abroad.—The hardships of a severe servitude in Jacob’s life, as well as in the history of his descendants: when blessed?—Laban’s selfishness and Jacob’s sense of right at war with each other.—Prudence as a weapon in life’s batttle: 1. The authority to use this weapon when opposed to a harsh superiority or subtlety; 2. the mighty efficacy of this weapon; 3. the danger of this weapon.—Jacob’s prudence in its right and wrong aspects in our history: 1. The right lies in his just claims; 2. the wrong, in his want of candor, his dissimulation and his self-help.—His natural science, or knowledge of nature, combined with prudence, a great power in life.—The difficulties in the establishment of an household: 1. Their general causes; 2. how they are to be overcome.—Jacob’s prosperity abroad.—Jacob struggling with difficulties all his life long.

Section First, Genesis 30:25-34. Starke: (As to the different meanings of נחש, Genesis 30:27. Some commentators hold that Laban had superstitiously consulted his teraphim, or idols.)—Bibl. Wirt.: It is customary with covetous people to deal selfishly with their neighbors.

Genesis 30:30. By means of my foot. Luther: i. e., I had to hunt and run through thick and thin in order that you might be rich.

Genesis 30:34. If Laban had been honest, he could have represented to Jacob, that he would be a great loser by this bargain. God even blesses impious masters on account of their pious servants (1 Timothy 5:8).—Calwer Handbuch: Jacob 91 years old.—Thus Laban’s covetousness and avarice is punished by the very bargain which he purposed to make for his own advantage.—We are not to apply the criterion of Christianity to Jacob’s conduct.—Schröder: Acts and course of life among strangers. As to Laban. Courtesy together with religion are made serviceable to the attainment of his ends.—Thus, also, in the future, there is only a more definite agreement of master and servant between Jacob and his father-in-law.—(The period of pregnancy with sheep lasts five months; they may therefore lamb twice during the year. Herds were the liveliest and strongest in autumn, after having enjoyed the good pasture during the summer, etc. On the contrary, herds are feeble after having just passed the winter.)

Section Second, Genesis 30:35-36. Starke: A Christian is to look for pious men-servants and maid-servants.

Section Third, Genesis 30:37-43. Starke: Christian, be warned not to misuse this example to encourage the practice of cunning and deceit with your neighbor.—Cramer: Wages that are earned, but kept back, cry to heaven; hence nature here serves Jacob (James 5:4).—Hall: God’s children, even in external things, have evident proofs that his grace over them is greater than over the godless.—Schröder: Luther and Calvin are inclined to excuse Jacob (Genesis 31:12).

Section Fourth. Genesis 31:1-3. Starke: It is a very great reproach if acquaintances and relatives slander each other.—Hall: As the godless enjoy no peace with God, so also the pious enjoy no peace with godless men.—Cramer: Sin in man is so poisonous that it glitters in the eye, and is sweet to the taste, and pleasant to all the members.—Schröder: Thus the Lord often serves his people more through the jealousy of the godless, than if he suffered them to grow feeble in prosperity.

Genesis 30:3. Luther: It probably was an answer to Jacob’s prayer.—The divine command and promise compensates Jacob for the promised message of the mother. Thus his return receives the character of an act of faith (Baumgarten).

Footnotes:

Genesis 30:27; Genesis 30:27.—Lit., I have augured, נִחַשׁתִּי; Sept., οἰωνίςομαι; not that Laban was a serpent-worshipper, but that he used divination as the heathen; and thus drew his inferences and auguries.—A. G.

Genesis 30:30; Genesis 30:30.—Lit., at my foot—A. G.

Genesis 30:33; Genesis 30:33.—Lit., in day to-morrow—the future—at all times, when, etc. Lange renders “when thou shalt come upon or to my wages; i.e., to examine.—A. G.

Genesis 30:37; Genesis 30:37.—Heb.,עַרמֹון, plane-tree; so Sept., Vulg. and Syriac—A.G.

[7] וַיֵּחְמְנָת, an unusual archaic form for וַתֵּחַמְנְת. Keil.—A G.

[8] Ch. 31. Ver Genesis 31:2.—Lit., weight.—A G.

Genesis 30:2; Genesis 30:2.—Lit., as yesterday, the day before.—A. G.

Verses 4-55

FOURTH SECTION

Jacob’s flight. Laban’s persecution. The covenant between the two on the mountain of Gilead. Departure.

Genesis 31:4 to Genesis 32:2

, 4And Jacob sent and called Rachel and Leah to the field unto his flock. 5And said unto them, I see [am seeing] your father’s countenance, that it is not toward me as before: 6but the God [Elohim] of my father hath been with me. And ye3 know that with all my power I have served your father. 7And your father hath deceived4 me, and changed my wages ten times: but God suffered him not to hurt me. 8If he said thus, The speckled shall be thy wages; then all the cattle bare speckled: and if he said thus, The [symm.: white-footed] ring-streaked shall be thy hire; then bare all the cattle ring-streaked. 9Thus God hath taken away the [acquisitions] cattle of your father, and given them to me. 10And it came to pass at the time that the cattle conceived, that I lifted up mine eyes, and saw in a dream, and behold [I saw], the rams which leaped upon the cattle were ring-streaked, speckled, and grizzled.5 11And the angel of God spake unto me in a dream, saying, Jacob: And I said, Here am I. 12And he said, Lift up now thine eyes and see, all the rams which leap upon the cattle are ring-streaked, speckled, and 13grizzled: for I have seen all that Laban [is doing] doeth unto thee. I am the God of Beth-el, where thou anointedst the pillar, and where thou vowedst a vow unto me: now arise, get thee out from this land, and return unto the land of thy kindred [birth]. 14And Rachel and Leah answered, and said unto him, Is there yet any portion or inheritance for us in our father’s house? 15Are we not counted of him strangers? for he hath sold us, and hath quite devoured6 also our money. 16For all the riches which God hath taken from our father, that is ours, and our children’s: now then, whatsoever God hath said unto thee, do.

, 17Then Jacob rose up, and set his sons and wives upon camels; 18And he carried away all his cattle, and all his goods [his movable property, gain] which he had gotten, the cattle of his getting, which he had gotten in Padan-aram; for to go to Isaac his father in the land of Canaan. 19And Laban went to shear his [to the feast of sheep-shearing] sheep: and Rachel had stolen the images7 [Teraphim, household gods] that were her father’s. 20And Jacob stole away unwares [the heart of] to Laban the Syrian, in that he told him not that he fled. 21So he fled with all that he had; and he rose up, and passed over the river [Euphrates], and set his face [journey] toward the mount Gilead. 22And it was told 23Laban on the third day, that Jacob was fled. And [Then] he took his brethren with him, and pursued after him seven days’ journey: and they overtook him in the mount Gilead. 24And God came to Laban the Syrian in a dream by night, and said unto him, Take heed that thou speak not to Jacob either good or bad.

25Then Laban overtook Jacob. Now Jacob had pitched his tent in the mount: and Laban with his brethren [tented] pitched in the mount of Gilead. 26And Laban said to Jacob, What hast thou done, that thou hast stolen away unwares to me, and carried away my daughters, as captives taken with the sword [the spoils of war]? 27Wherefore didst thou flee away secretly, and steal away from me, and didst not tell me, that I might have sent thee away [given thee a convoy] with mirth, and with songs, with tabret, and with harp? 28And hast not suffered me to kiss my sons [grandsons], and my daughters? thou hast now done foolishly in so doing. 29It is in the power of my hand8 to do you hurt: but the God of your father spake unto me yesternight, saying, Take thou heed 30that thou speak not to Jacob either good or bad. And now, though thou wouldest needs be gone, because thou sore longedst after thy father’s house; yet wherefore hast thou stolen my gods? 31And Jacob answered and said to Laban, Because I was afraid: for I said [said to myself], Peradventure thou wouldest take by force thy daughters from me. 32With whomsoever thou findest thy gods, let him not live: before our brethren discern thou what is thine with me, and take it to thee: for Jacob knew not that Rachel had stolen them. 33And Laban went into Jacob’s tent, and into Leah’s tent, and into the two maid-servants’ tents; but he found them not. Then went he out of Leah’s tent, and entered into Rachel’s tent. 34Now Rachel had taken the images [household gods], and put them in the camel’s furniture, and sat upon them. And Laban searched all the tent, but found them not. 35And she said to her father, Let it not displease my lord that I cannot rise up before thee; for the custom of women [female period] is upon me. And he searched [all], but found not the images.

36And Jacob was wroth, and chode with Laban: and Jacob answered, and said to Laban, What is my trespass? what is my sin, that thou hast so hotly pursued [burned] after me? 37Whereas thou hast searched all my stuff, what hast thou found of all thy household-stuff? set it here before my brethren, and thy brethren, that they may judge betwixt us both. 38This twenty years have I been with thee; thy ewes and thy she-goats have not cast their young, and the rams of thy flock have I not eaten. 39That which was torn of beasts, I brought not unto thee; I bare the loss of it [must make satisfaction for it]; 40of my hand didst thou require it, whether stolen by day, or stolen by night. Thus I was; in the day the drought consumed me, and the frost by night; and my sleep departed from mine eyes. 41Thus have I been twenty years in thy house: I served thee fourteen years for thy two daughters, and six years for thy cattle: and thou hast changed my wages ten times. 42Except the God of my father, the God of Abraham, and the fear of Isaac had been with me, surely thou hadst sent me away now empty. God hath seen mine affliction, and the labor [wearisome labor] of my hands, and rebuked [judged] thee yesternight.

43And Laban answered, and said unto Jacob, These daughters are my daughters, and these children are my children, and these cattle are my cattle [herds], and all that thou seest is mine; and what can I do this day unto these my daughters, or unto their children which they have borne? 44Now therefore come thou, let us make a covenant 45[a covenant of peace], I and thou; and let it be for a witness between me and thee. And Jacob took a stone, and set it up for a pillar. 46And Jacob said unto his brethren, Gather stones; and they took stones, and made an heap: and they did eat there upon the heap. 47And Laban called it Jegar-sahadutha [syriac: heap of witness]: but Jacob called it Galeed [the same in Hebrew]: 48And Laban said, This heap is a witness between me and 49 thee this day. Therefore was the name of it called Galeed: And Mizpah [watch-tower]; for he said, The Lord watch between me and thee, when we are absent one from another. 50If thou shalt afflict my daughters, or if thou shalt take other wives besides my daughters, no man is with us; see, God, is witness betwixt me and thee. 51And Laban said to Jacob, Behold this heap [stone heap], and behold this pillar, which I have 52cast [erected] betwixt me and thee; This heap be witness, and this pillar be witness, that I will not pass over this heap to thee, and that thou shalt not pass over this heap and this pillar unto me, for harm. 53The God of Abraham, and the God of Nahor, the God of their father, judge [plural] betwixt us. And [But] Jacob sware by the fear of his father Isaac. 54Then Jacob offered sacrifice upon the mount, and called his brethren to eat bread: and they did eat bread, and tarried all night in the mount. 55And early in the morning Laban rose up, and kissed his sons and his daughters, and blessed them: and Laban departed, and returned unto his place.

Genesis 32:1 And Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him. And 2when Jacob saw them, he said, This is God’s host: and he called the name of that place Mahanaim [two camps: double camp].

GENERAL PRELIMINARY REMARKS

1. Delitzsch regards the present section as throughout Elohistic; but according to Knobel, Jehovistic portions are inwrought into it, and hence the narrative is here and there broken and disconnected.
2. The present journey of Jacob is evidently in contrast with his previous journey to Mesopotamia; Mahanaim and Peniel form the contrast with Bethel.

3. We make the following division: 1. Jacob’s conference with his wives, Genesis 31:4-16; Genesis 2:0. the flight, Genesis 31:17-21; Genesis 3:0. Laban’s pursuit, Genesis 31:22-25; Genesis 4:0. Laban’s reproof, Genesis 31:26-30; Genesis 5:0. Laban’s search in the tents of Jacob, Genesis 31:31-35; Genesis 6:0. Jacob’s reproof, Genesis 31:36-42; Genesis 7:0. the covenant of peace between the two, Genesis 31:43; Genesis 31:53; Genesis 8:0. the covenant meal and the departure, Genesis 31:54–ch. Genesis 32:2.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

1.Genesis 31:4-16. Jacob’s conference with his wives.—Unto his flock.—Under some pretext Jacob had left the flocks of Laban, although it was then the feast of sheep-shearing, and gone to his own flocks (a three days’ journey, and probably in a direction favoring his flight). Hither, to the field, he calls his wives, and Rachel, as the favorite, is called first.—Changed my wages ten times.—The expression ten times is used for frequently, in Numbers 14:22, and in other passages. [Keil holds that the ten, as the number of completeness, here denotes as often as he could, or as he had opportunity. It is probably the definite for an indefinite.—A. G.]—If he said thus, The ring-streaked.—As Laban deceived Jacob in the matter of Rachel, so now in the arrangement for the last six years, he had in various ways dealt selfishly and unjustly, partly in dividing equally the spotted lambs, according to his own terms, and partly in always assigning to Jacob that particular kind of spotted lambs which had previously been the least fruitful.—And the Angel of God.—Jacob here evidently joins together a circle of night-visions, which he traces up to the Angel of the Lord, as the angel of Elohim, and which run through the whole six years to their close. If Laban imposed a new and unfavorable condition, he saw in a dream that now the flocks should bring forth lambs of that particular color agreed upon, now ring-streaked, now speckled, and now spotted. But the vision was given to comfort him, and indeed, under the image of the variegated rams which served the flocks. This angel of Elohim declares himself to be identical with the God of Bethel, i, e., with Jehovah, who reveals himself at Bethel as exalted above the angels. It is thus his covenant God who has guarded his rights against the injustice of Laban, and prepares this wonderful blessing for him; a fact which does not militate against his use of skill and craft, but places those in a modified and milder light. The conclusion of these visions is, that Jacob must return. [The difference between this narrative and that given in ch.30, is a difference having its ground and explanation in the facts of the case. For obvious reasons Jacob chose here to pass over his own strategy and craft in silence, and brings out into prominence the divine providence and aid to which his prosperity was due. That Jacob resorted to the means he did, is not inconsistent with the objective reality of the dream-vision, but rather confirms it. If he regarded the vision as prophetic of the issue, as he must have done, the means which he used, the arts and cunning, are characteristic of the man, who was not yet weaned from confidence in himself, was not entirely the man of faith. If we regard this vision as occurring at the beginning of the six years’ service, it is entirely natural that Jacob should now connect it so closely with the voice of the same angel commanding him to return to the land of his birth.—A. G.]—Are we not counted of him strangers?—Laban takes the same position towards his daughters as towards Jacob himself. Hence they have nothing more to hope for from him. He had sold them as strangers, i. e., really, as slaves, for the service of Jacob. But this very price, i. e., the blessing resulting from Jacob’s service, he had entirely consumed, i. e., the daughters had received no share of it. Hence it is evident that they speak with an inward alienation from him, although not calling him by name, and that they desired the flight.

2.Genesis 31:17-21. The Flight.—The circumstance that Jacob, with his wives, was already at the station of his herds, while Laban remained at his own station, three days’ journey distant, keeping the feast of sheep-shearing, favored the flight. Either Laban had not invited Jacob to this feast, which is scarcely probable, since he was usually at this station, or Jacob took the opportunity of leaving, in order to visit his own flocks. As the sheep-shearing lasted several days (1 Samuel 25:0.) the opportunity was a very favorable one.—And Rachel had stolen.—This feature, however, as also the following, when she denied the theft to her father, reveals a cunning which is far more befitting the daughter of Laban, than the wife of the prudent Jacob.—The images.—Literally Teraphim (see Delitzsch, p. 410, Note 73), Penates, small figures, probably resembling the human form, which were honored as guardians of the household prosperity, and as oracles. But as we must distinguish the symbolic adoration of religious images (statuettes) among ancients, from the true and proper mythological worship, so we must distinguish between a gentler and severe censure of the use of such images upon Shemitic ground. Doubtless the symbolic usage prevailed in the house of Laban and Nahor. It is hardly probable that Rachel intended, by a pious and fanatical theft, to free her father from idolatry (Greg. Naz., Basil), for then she would have thrown the images away. She appears to have stolen them with the superstitious idea that she would prevent her father from consulting them as oracles, and under their guidance, as the pursuer of Jacob, from overtaking and destroying him (Aben Ezra). The supposition of a condition of war, with its necessity and strategy, enters here with apologetic force. This, however, does not exclude the idea, that she attributed to the images a certain magical, though not religious, power (perhaps, as oracles. Chrysostom). The very lowest and most degrading supposition, is that she took the images, often overlaid with silver, or precious metals, from mercenary motives (Peirerius). Jacob himself had at first a lax rather than a strict conscience in regard to these images (see Genesis 35:2), but the stricter view prevails since the time of Moses (Exodus 20:0; Joshua 24:2; Joshua 24:14 f.) [The derivation of the Heb. word teraphim, always used in the plural, is doubtful. Some derive it from taraph, to rejoice—thus dispensers of good; others from a like root, to inquire—thus they are oracles; and others, as Kurtz and Hofmann, make it another form of Seraphim. They were regarded and used as oracles (Judges 17:5-6; Ezekiel 21:21; Zechariah 10:2). They were not idols in the worst sense of the word; and were sometimes used by those who professed the worship of the true God (1 Samuel 19:13). The tendency was always hurtful, and they were ultimately rooted out from Israel. Laban had lapsed into a more corrupt form of religion, and his daughters had not escaped the infection. We may modify our views of Rachel’s sin, but it cannot be excused or justified (see Keil, “Arch.,” p. 90; Wordsworth, p. 132; Hengstenberg, “Christology;” Haverick’s “Ezek.” 13:47).—A.G.]—And Jacob stole away unawares to Laban.—The explanation κλέπτειν νόον in the sense of “to deceive” (Del., Keil), appears to us incorrect. The expression indeed does not bear the sense which we moderns associate with the words “steal the heart,” and Genesis 31:26 seems to indicate that the heart of Laban is the love which this hard-hearted father bears towards his daughters. Rachel, however, seems to have been his favorite. He regarded and treated her not only as a wise but cunning child, and, hence, while he searched carefully everything in all the tents, he did not venture to compel her to arise. The last clause of Genesis 31:20, further cannot possibly mean “in that he told him not that he fled.” For who would betray his own flight? We interpret הִגִּיד impersonally, it was not told him.—The Syrian.—“Moses gives this title to Laban because the Syrians were more crafty than other nations.” Jacob, however, surpassed him (Cleric.). Over the river.—The Euphrates.—Toward the mount Gilead.—For the mountains of Gilead see Geographies of Palestine, Bible Dictionaries, Books of Travels, etc. “Knobel understands הַר גִּלְעָד to be the mountain range now known as Gebel Gilad, or Gebel es-Ssalt, and combines מצפה with the present Ssalt. But this assumption leads to the improbable results that Mahanaim, south of Jabbok and Succoth (probably the one on the other side), lay north from Jabbok, and thus Jacob’s line of march would be backwards in a north-westerly direction.” Delitzsch. Delitzsch understands correctly, that it is the northern side of the mountains of Gilead, above the Jabbok, which lay nearest to those coming from Mesopotamia.ְ

3.Genesis 31:22-25. Laban’s pursuit.On the third day.—This is partially explained by the long distance between the two stations.—His brethren with him.—Of the same tribe, kinsmen.—Seven days’ journey.—As Jacob, with his herds, moved slower than Laban, he lost his start of three days in the course of seven days.—And God came to Laban.—A proof that he had still some nobler traits of character.—Either good or bad.—The translation neither good nor bad is not fitting here. Literally from good to bad (Knobel). It presupposes that he was inclined to pass from a hasty greeting of his daughters and their children, to reproaches and invectives.—Now Jacob had pitched his tent.—As soon as he reached the heights of the mountain range, the mount Gilead, he pitched his tent, but here Laban with his retinue overtook him, and tented near by him. The text assumes: 1. That a certain mountain, north of Jabbok, gave its name to the whole range of mountains (just as Galilee, originally designating a small mountain region, gradually extended its significance). 2. That thus we must distinguish between this first mountain in the range of Gilead, and the principal mountain mentioned later.

4.Genesis 31:26-30. The words of Laban are characteristic, passionate, idiomatic, exaggerated even to falsehood and hypocrisy, and still at the end there is a word which betrays the man—shows his human nature and kindness. He calls his daughters his heart; their voluntary flight (although he had sold them) an abduction, as if they were captives. He asserts that he had not given any occasion to Jacob to flee, on the contrary, that he would have sent him away with music and mirth. He had not, however, even suffered him to take leave of his daughters and grandsons. These tender utterances are followed at once by haughty threats (Genesis 31:29). From his own point of view it seems imprudent to relate the night warning, but his pride and animosity lead him to do it. Jacob should not think that he willingly let him go unpunished, but “the God of your father,” he says, with a bitter heart, has forbidden me. He finally (Genesis 31:30) acknowledges in a sarcastic way that Jacob might go, but only to crush him with the burden of his accusation, in which, however, there was a two-fold exaggeration; first, in calling the teraphim his gods, and then, second, in making Jacob the thief. The true sentiment for his children, the fear of God, and, finally, a real indignation at the secrecy of Jacob’s departure, form the core of the speech, which assumes at last the shape of a pointed accusation. There is no trace of self-knowledge or humility.—With mirth.—(See 1 Samuel 18:6; 2 Samuel 6:5.) The word שִׂמְחָה is indeed a collective for all that follows, and Delitzsch thinks it probably means dance.—With tabret.—See Winer: “Musical Instruments.” [Also Kitto and Smith.—A. G.].—Thou hast done foolishly.—Thou who art usually so prudent hast here acted foolishly. The reproach of folly carries with it that of immorality.—It is in the power of my hand.—Knobel and Keil [and Jacobus.—A. G.] translate “There is to God my hand,” with reference to Job 12:6; Habakkuk 1:11. Others translate אֵל power (so Rosen., Gesen.), [Wordsworth, Bush, A. G.] and this seems here to be preferable, notwithstanding Knobel’s objection, since Laban immediately says it is Elohim who restrains his hand.

5.Genesis 31:31-35. Laban’s search.—Laban’s rash accusation gives Jacob, who knew nothing of the theft of the teraphim, great boldness.—Let him not live.—We must emphasize the finding, otherwise Jacob condemned Rachel to death. “The cunning of Rachel was well planned, for even if Laban had not regarded it as impure and wrong to touch the seat of a woman in this state (see Leviticus 15:22), how could he have thought it possible that one in this state would sit upon his God.”—Delitzsch. But Keil calls attention to the fact that the view upon which the law (Leviticus 15:0.) was based, is much older than that statute, and exists among other people. [See also Kurtz: Gesch., vol. i. p. 252; Baehr’s “Sym. of the Mosaic Cultus,” vol. ii. p. 466.—A. G.] For the camel’s furniture or saddle, see Knobel, p. 251.

6. Genesis 31:36-42. Jacob’s reproof. He connects it with Laban’s furious pursuit and search. Then he reminds him generally of his harsh treatment, as opposed to his own faithful and self-sacrificing shepherd service for more than twenty years. “The strong feeling and the lofty self-consciousness which utter themselves in his speech, impart to it a rhythmical movement and poetic forms (דָּלַק אַחֲרֵי to pursue ardently; elsewhere only 1 Samuel 17:53.”) Delitzsch.—And the frost by night.—The cold of the nights corresponds with the heat of the day in the East (Jeremiah 36:30; Psalms 121:6).—My sleep.—Which I needed and which belonged to me. He had faithfully guarded the flocks by night. Notwithstanding all this Laban had left him unrewarded, but the God of his fathers had been with him and secured his rights. Both the name of his God, and of his venerable father, must touch the conscience of Laban.—The fear of Isaac.—[Heb: he whom Isaac feared.] The object of his religious fear, and veneration; of his religion, σέβας, σέβασμα.—Rebuked thee yesternight.—This circumstance, which is only incidentally alluded to in the course of Laban’s speech, forms the emphatic close to that of Jacob. Jacob understands the dream-revelation of Laban better than Laban himself.

7. The covenant of peace between the two. Laban is overcome. He alludes boastfully indeed once more to his superior power, but acknowledges that any injury inflicted upon Jacob, the husband and father, would be visited upon his own daughters and their children.—What can I do unto thee.—i.e., in a bad sense. The fact that his daughters and grandsons were henceforth dependent upon Jacob, fills his selfish and ignoble mind with care and solicitude about them; indeed, reminded of the promises to Abraham and Isaac, he is apprehensive that Jacob might some time return from Canaan to Haran as a mighty prince and avenge his wrong. In this view, anticipating some such event, he proposes a covenant of peace, which would have required merely a feast of reconciliation. But the covenant of peace involved not only a well-cemented peace, but a theocratic separation.—Let us make a covenant.—Laban makes the proposal, Jacob assents by entering at once upon its execution. The pillar which Jacob erected, marks the settlement, the peaceful separation; the stones heaped together by his brethren (Laban and his retinue, his kindred) designate the friendly communion, the covenant table. The preliminary eating (Genesis 31:46) appears to be distinct from the covenant meal (Genesis 31:54), for this common meal continued throughout the day. The Aramaic designation of the stone heap used by Laban, and the Hebraic by Jacob, are explainable on the supposition “that in the fatherland of the patriarchs, Mesopotamia, the Aramaic or Chaldee was used, but in the fatherland of Jacob, Canaan, the Hebrew was spoken, whence it may be inferred that the family of Abraham had acquired the Hebrew tongue from the canaanites (Phœnicians).”—Keil. [But this is a slender foundation upon which to base such a theory. The whole history implies that the two families of Abraham and Nahor down to this time and even later found no difficulty in holding intercourse. They both used the same language, though with some growing dialectic differences. It is just as easy to prove that Laban deviated from the mother tongue as that Jacob did.—A. G.] Knobel regards it an error to derive the name Gilead, which means hard, firm, stony, from the Gal-Ed here used. But proper names are constantly modified as to their significance in popular use, from the original or more remote, to that which is proximate.—And Mizpah, for he said.—Keil concedes that Genesis 31:49-50 have the appearance of an interpolation, but not such as to justify any resort to the theory of combination from different sources. But since Laban’s principal concern was for the future of his daughters, we might at least regard the words, And Mizpah, for he said, as a later explanatory interpolation. But there is not sufficient ground even for this, since Galeed and Mizpah are here identical in fact, both referring to the stone heap as well as to the pillar. Laban prays specifically to Jehovah, to watch that Jacob should not afflict his daughters; especially that he should not deprive them of their acquired rights, of being the ancestress of Jehovah’s covenant people. From this hour Jehovah, according to his prayer, looks down from the heights of Gilead, as the representative of his rights, and watches that Jacob should keep his word to his daughters, even when across the Jordan. But now, as the name Gilead has its origin in some old sacred tradition, so has the name Mizpah, also. It is not to be identified with the later cities bearing that name, with the Mizpah of Jephthah (Judges 11:11; Judges 11:34), or the Mizpah of Gilead (Judges 11:29), or Ramoth-Mizpah (Joshua 13:26), but must be viewed as the family name which has spread itself through many daughters all over Canaan (Keil, 216).—No man is with us.—i.e., no one but God only can be judge and witness between us, since we are to be so widely separated.—Which I have cast.—He views himself as the originator, and of the highest authority in this covenant.—That I will not pass over.—Here this covenant thought is purely negative, growing out of a suspicious nature, and securing a safeguard against mutual injuries; properly a theocratic separation.—The God of Abraham and the God of Nahor.—The monotheism of Laban seems gliding into dualism; they may judge, or “judge.” He corrects himself by adding the name of the God of their common father, i.e., Terah. From his alien and wavering point of view he seeks for sacredness in the abundance of words. But Jacob swears simply and distinctly by the God whom Isaac feared, and whom even his father-in-law, Laban, should reverence and fear. Laban, indeed, also adheres to the communion with Jacob in his monotheism, and intimates that the God of Abraham and the God of Nahor designate two different religious directions from a common source or ground.

8. Ver. Genesis 31:54 to Genesis 32:4. The covenant meal, and the departure.—Then Jacob offered Sacrifice.—As Isaac prepared a meal for the envious and ill-disposed Abimelech, so Jacob for Laban, whom even this generosity should now have led to shame and repentance. The following morning they separate from each other. The genial blood-tenderness of Laban, which leads him to kiss both at meeting and parting should not pass unnoticed (see Genesis 31:28; Genesis 29:13, and the Piel forms). It is a pleasant thing that as a grandfather he first kissed his grandsons. Blessing, he takes his departure.—Met him.—Lit., came, drew near to him, not precisely that they came from an opposite direction. This vision does not relate primarily to the approaching meeting with Esau (Peniel relates to this), but to the dangerous meeting with Laban. As the Angel of God had disclosed to him in vision the divine assistance against his unjust sufferings in Mesopotamia, so now he enjoys a revelation of the protection which God had prepared for him upon Mount Gilead, through his angels (comp. 2 Kings 6:17). In this sense he well calls the angels, “God’s host,” and the place in which they met him, double camp. By the side of the visible camp, which he, with Laban and his retainers, had made, God had prepared another, invisible camp, for his protection. It served also to encourage him, in a general way for the approaching meeting with Esau.—Mahanaim.—Later a city on the north of Jabbok (see V Raumer’s “Palestine,” p. 253; Robinson: “Re searches,” vol. iii. 2 app. 166), probably the one now called Mahneh. [For the more, distinct reference of this vision to the meeting with Esau, see KurtzGeschichte, p. 254, who draws an instructive and beautiful parallel between this vision and that at Bethel.—A. G.]

DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL

1. Jacob a fugitive even in his journey home. But the God of Bethel protects him now as the God of Mahanaim; and the angels who, as heavenly messengers, moved up and down the ladder at Bethel, now appear, as became the situation, a warlike host, or the army of God. Keil holds that he saw the angels in a waking state, “not inwardly, but without and above himself; but whether with the eye of the body or of the spirit (2 Kings 6:17) cannot be decided.” At all events, in the first place he saw an objective revelation of God, with which was connected, in the second place, the vision-power [i.e., eine visionäre stimmung, a power or disposition corresponding to the vision and enabling him to perceive it.—A. G.].

2. The want of candor between Laban and Jacob at Haran leads finally to the violent and passionate outbreak on Mount Gilead. But such outbreaks have ever been the punishment for the want of frankness and candor. The fearful public terrors of war, correspond to the secrecies and blandishments of diplomacy.—The blessing of a genuine and thorough frankness. Moral storms, their danger, and their salutary results.
3. The visions in which Jacob saw how God secured his rights against Laban’s injustice, prove that from his own point of view he saw nothing wrong in the transaction with the parti-colored rods. But those rods are thus seen to be merely a subordinate means. There is no sufficient ground for the conjecture of Keil, that it may be suspected that the dream-vision of Jacob (of the spotted rams) was a mere natural dream (see p. 212). It is evident that the vision-disposition pervades the night-life of Jacob, growing out of his oppressed condition and his unjust sufferings.—Schröder: “But Jacob’s crafty course (Genesis 30:37) is not therefore commended by God, as Luther and Calvin have taught. Jacob was still striving to bring about the fulfilment of the divine promise by his own efforts.”

4. The alienation of the daughters of Laban from their father is not commendable, but is explained by his severity. On the other hand, they are bound to their husband in a close and lovely union. For the theft of the teraphim, see the Exegetical notes.

5. It is not a chance that we meet here in the idols of Laban the earliest traces of idolatry in the Old World, although they had doubtless existed elsewhere much earlier and in a grosser form. We can thus see how Polytheism gradually developed itself out of the symbolic image-worship of Monotheism (Romans 1:23). Moreover, the teraphim are estimated entirely from a theocratic point of view. They could be stolen as other household furniture (have eyes but see not). They could be hidden under a camel’s saddle. They are a contemptible nonentity, which can render no assistance.

Genesis 31:23. The zeal for gods and idols is always fanatical.

6. The speech of Laban, and Jacob’s answer, give us a representation of the original art of speaking among men, just as the speech of Eliezer did. They form at the same time an antithesis between a passionate and exaggerated rhetoric and phraseology on the one hand, and an earnest, grave, religious, and moral oratory on the other hand, exemplified in history in the antithesis of the heathen (not strictly classic) to the theocratic and religious oratory. The contrast between the speeches of Tertullus and Paul Acts 24:2) is noticeable here. Laban’s eloquence agrees with his sanguine temperament. It is passionate, exaggerated in its terms, untrue in its exaggeration, and yet not without a germ of true and affectionate sentiment. Analysis of diffuse and wordy speeches a difficult but necessary task of the Christian spirit.

7. Proverbs 20:22, Romans 12:17, come to us in the place of the example of Jacob; still we are not justified in judging the conduct of Jacob by those utterances of a more developed economy (as Keil does). [This is true in a qualified sense only. The light which men have is of course an important element in our judgment of the character of their acts. But Jacob had, or might have had, light sufficient to know that his conduct was wrong. He might have known certainly that it was his duty, as the heir of faith, to commit his cause unto the Lord.—A. G.]

8. The establishment of peace between Laban and Jacob has evidently, on the part of Laban, the significance and force, that he breaks off the theocratic communion between the descendants of Nahor and Abraham, just as the line of Haran, earlier, was separated in Lot.
9. At all events, the covenant-meal forms a thorough and final conciliation. Laban’s reverence for the God of his fathers, and his love for his daughters and grandsons, present him once more in the most favorable aspect of his character, and thus we take our leave of him. We must notice, however, that before the entrance of Jacob he had made little progress in his business. Close, narrow-hearted views, are as really the cause of the curse, as its fruits.
10. The elevated state and feeling of Jacob, after this departure of Laban, reveals itself in the vision of the hosts of God. Heaven is not merely connected with the saint on the earth (through the ladder); its hosts are warlike hosts, who invisibly guard the saints and defend them, even while upon the earth. Here is the very germ and source of the designation of God as the God of hosts (Zebaoth).

11. There are still, as it appears to us, two striking relations between this narrative and that which follows. Jacob here (Genesis 31:32) pronounces judgment of death upon any one of his family who had stolen the images. But now his own Rachel, over whom he had unconsciously pronounced this sentence, dies soon after the images were buried in the earth (see Genesis 35:4; Genesis 35:18). But when we read afterwards, that Joseph, the wise son of the wise Rachel, describes his cup as his oracle (although only as a pretext), the conjecture is easy, that the mother also valued the images as a means of securing her desires and longings. She even ascribes marvellous results to the mandrakes.

12. The Mount of Gilead a monument and witness of the former connection between Mesopotamia and Canaan.

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

Contrasts: Jacob’s emigration and return, or the two-fold flight, under the protection of the God of Bethel, and of Mahanaim.—Laban the persecutor: a. of his own; b. of the heir of the promise.—The persecutor: 1. His malicious companions; 2. those who flee from him; 3. his motives.—The word of God to Laban: “Take heed,” etc., in its typical and lasting significance.—The punishments of the want of candor: strife and war.—The two speeches and speakers.—The peaceful departure: 1. Its light side, reconciliation; 2. its dark aspect, separation.

First Section, Genesis 31:4-16. Starke: Cramer: The husband should not always take his own way, but sometimes consult with his wife (Sir. 4:35).—It is a grievous thing when children complain before God of the injustice of their parents.—Children should conceal, as far as possible, the faults of their parents.—Lisco: The human means which he used are not commanded by God, but are his own.—Gerlach: Jacob’s conduct, the impatient weakness of faith; still a case of self-defence, not of injustice.—Schröder: A contrast: the face of your father, the God of my father.

Second Section, Genesis 31:17-21. Starke: Although Jacob actually begins his journey to the land of Canaan, some suppose that ten years elapse before he comes to Isaac, since he remained some time at Succoth, Sichem, and Bethel (comp. Genesis 33:17; Genesis 35:6).—The shearing of the sheep was in the East a true feast for the shepherds—an occasion of great joy (see Genesis 38:12; 1 Samuel 25:2; 1 Samuel 25:8; 1 Samuel 25:36).

Section Third, Genesis 31:22-25. Starke: Josephus. The intervention of the night, and the warning by God in his sleep, kept him from injuring Jacob.—Bibl. Tub.: God sometimes so influences and directs the hearts of enemies that they shall be favorably inclined towards the saints, although they are really embittered against them.—Hall: God makes foolish the enemies of his church, etc.—Whoever is in covenant with God need have no fear of men.—Schröder: Jacob moves under the instant and pressing danger of being plundered, or slain, or of being made a slave with his family and taken to Mesopotamia. Still the promiser (Genesis 28:15) fulfils the promise to him. Thus, whatever may oppress us for a time, must at last turn to our salvation (Calvin).

Section Fourth, Genesis 31:26-30. Starke: (It is the way of hypocrites when their acts do not prosper, to speak in other tones.)

Genesis 31:29. He does not say that he has the right and authority, but that he has the power (comp. John 19:10). In this, however, he refutes himself. For if he possessed the power, why does he suffer himself to be terrified and deterred by the warning of God in the dream?—Calwer Handbuch: He cannot cease to threaten.—He would have injured him but dared not.—Schröder: The images are his highest happiness, since to him the presence of the Deity is bound and confined to its symbol.

Section Fifth, Genesis 31:31-35. Starke: Cramer: Genesis 31:32. A Christian should not be rash and passionate in his answer. Genesis 31:35. The woman’s cunning is preëminent (Sir 25:17; Judges 14:16).—Calwer Handbuch: Genesis 31:38. The ewes and the goats in their state were the objects of his special care.—Falsehood follows theft.—Man’s cunning is ready; woman’s inexhaustible and endless (Val. Herberger).

Section Sixth, Genesis 31:36-42. Starke: What is included in a shepherd’s faithfulness (Genesis 31:38).—Bibl. Wirt.: When one can show that he has been faithful, upright, and diligent, in his office, he can stand up with a clear conscience, and assert his innocence. Cramer: A good conscience and a gracious God give one boldness and consolation.—Schröder: The persecution of Jacob by Laban ends at last in peace, love and blessing.—Thus the brother line in Mesopotamia is excluded after it has reached its destination.

Section Seventh, Genesis 31:43-53. Starke: (Different conjectures as to what Laban understood by the God of Nahor, whether the true God or idols).—Cramer: When a man’s ways please the Lord, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him (Proverbs 16:7).—Calwer Handbuch: Laban now turns again and gives way to the natural affections of a father. The circumstances which tended to calm his mind: 1. The seven days’ journey; 2. the divine warning; 3. the mortification resulting from his fruitless search; 4. Jacob’s self-defence and the truth of his reproaches.—His courage and anger gradually give way to fear and anxiety.—Schröder: In the Hebrew, the word “if ” occurs twice, pointing, as we may suppose, to the idea, may God so punish thee.—(Luther: How can this fellow (Laban) so name the thing?)

Eighth Section, Genesis 31:55 to Genesis 32:2. Starke: Jacob has just escaped the persecutions of his unjust father-in-law, when he began to fear that he should meet a fiercer enemy in his brother Esau. Hence God confirms him in his faith, opens his eyes, etc.—It is the office of the angels to guard the saints. (Two conjectures as to the double camp: one that some of the angels went before Jacob, others followed him; the other that it is the angel camp and the encampment of Jacob.)—(Why the angels are called hosts: 1. From their multitude; 2. their order; 3. their power for the protection of the saints, and the resistance and punishment of the wicked; 4. from their rendering a cheerful obedience as became a warlike host.—Calwer Handbuch: The same as Genesis 28:0 Probably here as there an inward vision (Psalms 34:7).—Schröder: Jacob’s hard service, his departure with wealth, and the persecution of Laban, prefigure the future of Israel in Egypt.—(Val. Herberger.) Whosoever walks in his way, diligent in his pursuits, may at all times say with St. Paul: “He shall never be forsaken.”—The invisible world was disclosed to him, because anxiety and fear fill the visible world.—Luther: The angels. In heaven their office is to sing Glory to God in the Highest; on the earth, to watch, to guide, to war.

 

Genesis 31:6; Genesis 31:6.—The full form of the pronoun, see Green’s Grammar, 71, (2.)—A. G.

Genesis 31:7; Genesis 31:7.—הֵתֶל, Hiphil from תָּלַל; see Green’s Grammar, 142, (3.)—A. G.

Genesis 31:10; Genesis 31:10.—Heb., Beruddim, spotted with hail. Our word, grizzled, is from the French, grêle, hail, and thus a literal translation of the Hebrew.—A. G.

Genesis 31:15; Genesis 31:15.—The Hebrew form, the absolute infinitive after the finite verb, denotes continuance of the action.—He has constantly devoured.—A. G.

Genesis 31:19; Genesis 31:19.—תְּרָפִים. The word occurs fifteen times in the Old Testament; three times in this chapter, and nowhere else in the Pentateuch. It is always in the plural. It means, perhaps, to live well, or to nourish. In two passages (Judges 17:0. and 18., and Hosea 3:4), they are six times associated with the ephod. The use of them in the worship of God, is denounced as idolatry (1 Samuel 15:23), and hence they are classed with the idols put away by Josiah, 2 Kings 23:0. Murphy—A. G.

Genesis 31:29; Genesis 31:29.—Heb., There is to God my hand.—A. G.

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Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Genesis 31". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lcc/genesis-31.html. 1857-84.