GENESIS CHAPTER 31
Jacob observing Laban’s envy, on God’s command and promise, with the consent of his wives, departs secretly, Genesis 31:1-21. Laban pursues him; God in a dream warns him not to treat Jacob ill; he overtakes him on Mount Gilead; taxes him sharply for his secret departure, and with stealing his gods, Genesis 31:23-30. Jacob excuses his departure, Genesis 31:31; denies the taking either gods or aught else that was Laban’s, Genesis 31:32. Laban searches, but finds not, Genesis 31:33-35. Jacob is wroth, and rebukes him vehemently for all he had suffered from him, Genesis 31:36-41. He owns God as his defence in the day of his affliction, Genesis 31:42. They make a covenant, in which Laban obliges Jacob not to hurt his daughters, nor take other wives to them, Genesis 31:44-52. Jacob swears by the fear of Isaac, and offers sacrifice, Genesis 31:53,54. Laban returns to his place, Genesis 31:55.
cir. 1739 These riches, which are called glory, Genesis 45:13 Psalms 49:16 Isaiah 66:12, compared with Isaiah 60:6, because their possessors use to glory in them, and by them gain glory and esteem from others.
And this change of his countenance argued a change in his mind, and prosaged some evil intentions in him towards Jacob.
Rachel is first named here, as also Ruth 4:11, because she was his chief, and, by right, his first and only designed wife. And therefore it is observable, that in the enumeration of Jacob’s wives and children, Genesis 46:1-34,
Leah is only mentioned by her name, Genesis 46:15, but Rachel is called Jacob’s wife, Genesis 46:19, by way of eminency, and in a peculiar manner. In the field they might more freely discourse of their business, and without fear or interruption.
1. Hath blessed me; hath stood constantly by me, when your father hath failed and deceived me. Or,
2. Hath appeared unto me, as Genesis 31:13.
With all my power, both of my mind and body, as I would have done for myself, as became a faithful servant to do.
Ten times, i.e. ofttimes, as that certain number is commonly used, as Leviticus 26:26 Numbers 14:22 1 Samuel 1:8 Job 19:3, &c.
All the cattle. All is here, as oft elsewhere, put for the greater or the better part, as appears from Genesis 31:1,8. Or, for all that Jacob desired to be such.
The ring-straked shall be thy hire; hence it appears that Laban through envy and covetousness did break his agreement made with Jacob, and altered it as he thought meet, and that Jacob patiently yielded to all such changes.
i.e. Were marked with spots, like hail in colour and proportion, as the word signifieth.
Where thou vowedst a vow unto me; of which see Genesis 28:19,20. And this God here mentions to show his acceptance of that action of Jacob’s, his mindfulness even of the past and forgotten services of his people, and his purpose now to fulfil the promise there made to him.
We can expect no further benefit from him, but deceit, and oppression, and injury, and therefore are willing to leave him. This was the fruit of his unnatural and unworthy carriage to them, that it did eat out their natural affection to him.
Are we not confuted of him strangers? as if we had no more right to his estate than strangers? Instead of a good part of his estate, which by the law of God and nature belongs to us, 2 Corinthians 12:14, wherewith he should have endowed us upon our marriage, he hath made sale of us for this fourteen years’ hard service, seeking only his own, not our advantage. He hath not only withheld from us, but spent upon himself, that money which he got by thy care and industry, whereof a considerable part was due in equity to us and to our children.
That is ours; not only by God’s special gift, but by the natural right which children have to a share in his estate, and upon the account of thy faitithful and laborious service.
Quest. 1. What were those teraphim or images?
Answ. They were images made in the shape of men, 1 Samuel 19:13,16, which the Gentiles worshipped as subordinate gods, Genesis 31:30,32, to which they committed the protection of their families, 1 Samuel 19:13, which they used to consult about secret or future things, and from which they received answers about them, Ezekiel 21:21 Zechariah 10:2. Of these see more Jude 17:5 18:14,17, &c.; Hosea 3:4. And these idols Laban worshipped together with the true God.
Quest. 2. Why did Rachel steal them?
Answ. Partly, lest her father by consulting them should discover their flight, and the course which they took; and partly, because she seemed yet to retain a superstitious conceit of them, as may be gathered from Genesis 35:2. Others, because they were pretty and precious things, made of silver and gold, which she took as a part of what was due to her, both as his daughter, and for her husband’s service. Others, that she might remove so great an occasion of her father’s idolatry, and show him the vanity of such gods as might be stolen away.
Heb. Stole away the heart of Laban, to wit, his daughters, his cattle, and his gods, upon which his heart was vehemently set, as Micah’s was, Jude 18:24. But if this had been meant, it had been imputed to Rachel, and not to Jacob, who knew nothing of the gods. Or rather, stole away from the heart, & c., the Hebrew eth being put for meeth, as Genesis 4:1 49:25 1 Kings 8:43, compared with 2 Chronicles 6:33 Micah 3:8, i.e. without the knowledge and consent of Laban, which sense is confirmed by the words next following, and by Genesis 31:26,27, and by the like use of the phrase, 2 Samuel 19:3. Thus he fled, because he knew Laban’s selfish, and unrighteous, and cruel disposition, that he would always hinder him from departing, either by fraudulent pretences or by open force, nor suffer so great a diminution in that estate, which he thought one time or other he might in good measure recover to himself.
The river Euphrates, which lay between Mesopotamia and Chaldea, Genesis 15:18, which for its largeness and famousness is oft called the river emphatically, as Exodus 23:31 Joshua 24:2,3, &c.
And set his face, i.e. resolutely directed his course. See Jeremiah 50:5 Luke 9:51,53.
Mount Gilead, a very high and long mountain beyond Jordan, adjoining to the mountain of Lebanon, at the foot of which there was a large and fruitful country, which from the mountain received the name of Gilead, Deuteronomy 34:1 Jeremiah 8:22 22:6. This mountain is here called Gilead by anticipation, as appears from Genesis 31:48.
That he heard of it no sooner must be ascribed to the great distance which Laban had put between his and Jacob’s flocks, Genesis 30:36, and to the care and art which Jacob used to prevent a sooner discovery.
Neither persuading him by flattering promises and cunning artifices, nor compelling him by threatenings, to return. For so these general words must be limited, as is evident from God’s design in them, and from the following relation. So this is a synecdochical expression.
By force and violence. A false accusation; for they freely consented, Genesis 31:14-16.
To kiss my sons and my daughters, as was usual at the parting of friends. See Poole on "Genesis 29:11". But indeed Jacob took the wisest course for the security of his person and estate, especially having the direction and protection of God in it.
The God of your father, Isaac or Abraham, by which he disowns him for his God, and tacitly reproacheth him with the novelty of his religion, which was first brought in by his father. Compare Genesis 31:53.
Laban could not be so senseless as to take those for true gods which could be stolen away; but he called them gods, because they were the means or representations whereby he worshipped his gods.
Let him not live; I give my consent that he shall die by the hands of justice. A rash and inconsiderate sentence.
The men and women’s tents were distinct and separate. See Genesis 18:2 24:67.
Quest. How could that occasion hinder her from rising up to her father?
Answ. 1. It might be attended in her, as it was and is in some other women, especially in those hot countries, with a great flux of blood, or with more than ordinary infirmity and sickness; and this Laban might know to be usual with her by former observation or information.
2. She offers this as a reason, not why she could not rise up to show a civility to him, but why she could not rise up from his face, or from before him, as the words in the Hebrew sound, i.e. so as to give way to him that he might come and search there for the images; because menstruous women were anciently esteemed polluted, and to pollute the things which they touched or sat upon, as you may see by Leviticus 15:19-22; which law, though it were not yet given and written, yet that, as well as divers other ceremonial rites, might be enjoined by God, and observed by sober heathens at that time, especially by such as were akin to Abraham, as Laban and his family were, who by that means might easily come to the knowledge of such matters. Add to this, one of the seven precepts given to the sons of Noah, was that of uncovering nakedness; which both Jewish and Christian writers take to be a very comprehensive expression, and to include all such things as have a natural turpitude in them, among which this is confessed to be one. And the words thus understood contain a solid and satisfactory reason why Laban should not now come near her, nor search the things which she sat upon, which had been an uncivil and immodest thing.
With so much fury and violence.
Thy she-goats have not cast their young, which thou owest in a great measure to my care and diligence in ordering them, and principally to God’s blessing given to thee for my sake, by thy own confession, Genesis 30:27.
Which was unjust and unreasonable, except where it fell out through the shepherd’s default. See Exodus 22:13.
Quest. How could Jacob pay these losses, seeing he came empty from his father’s house, and got nothing by his service, for the first fourteen years, but his wives?
Answ. Either, 1. He had some supplies sent from his father, though it be not mentioned in this history. Or,
2. He might have some inconsiderable allowances or privileges from Laban, out of which he could easily defray these charges, which because of his great care and watchfulness did but seldom happen. Or,
3. These losses were put to his account, to be satisfied by him as soon as he should be able to do it.
Through my extraordinary thoughtfulness and care about thy cattle, especially in cases of danger.
The fear of Isaac, i.e. the God whom my father Isaac worships with reverence and godly fear, as appears by comparing Genesis 31:53. The act is here put for the object, as it frequently is; and particularly God is called our fear, Isaiah 8:13. And fear is one of God’s names amongst the rabbins. He calls him not Isaac’s God, but his fear, because Isaac was yet alive, and in the state of probation, and served God with fear and trembling: see Genesis 27:33. The Jews observe, that God is not called the God of any particular person, as of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, till after their death.
God hath seen my affliction, with compassion and intention of good to me for it. God’s seeing is oft used for his relieving and helping, as Genesis 16:13 29:32 Exodus 3:7,9. Or, hath showed or proved it, to wit, that he hath seen, & c.: compare Genesis 20:16. Either way it is an ellipsis of the pronoun, which is usual, as appears by comparing 1 Kings 10:7, with 2 Chronicles 9:6 and Psalms 41:9, with John 13:18.
He pretends that to be an act of his natural affection and kindness which was indeed the effect of his fear.
Both to our own consciences of our mutual obligations, and to God against either of us who shall break it, that he may severely punish us for it.
In testimony of his compliance with Laban’s proposal, and his entering into this covenant. See Exodus 24:4.
To wit, afterwards, Genesis 31:54, though it be here mentioned by anticipation.
They did eat there upon the heap, or rather by or beside the heap, as the Hebrew particle al is oft understood, as Psalms 23:2 81:7.
Both names signify the same thing, a heap of witness; only Laban gives the name in the Syrian language; but Jacob, though he had been long conversant in Syria, and understood that language, yet he chose to give it in Hebrew, which was both a secret renouncing of the Syrian manners and religion, together with their language, and an implicit profession of his conjunction with the Hebrews, as in their tongue, so in their religion.
The curse is here understood, as it commonly is, to maintain a greater reverence for oaths, and to beget a greater dread of the curse belonging to the violaters of it.
No man is with us, i.e. here is now no man with us, who when we are parted can witness and judge between us, and punish the transgressor. Or thus, Though now we have many with us, as witnesses of this agreement, yet shortly, when we shall be parted, no man will be with us, to observe and report our actions to the other, or to do the injured person right.
The God of Nahor, the God of their father. He joins idols with the true God, and secretly chargeth the religion of Jacob and Abraham with novelty, and prefers his own as the most ancient religion. See Joshua 24:2. Whence we may learn that antiquity of itself is no certain argument of the true church or religion.
Then Jacob offered sacrifice; either to give God thanks for the great mercies and deliverances vouchsafed to him, or to beg God’s blessing upon the present treaty, and upon their whole family. But it is not so probable that Jacob would choose that time for the offering of sacrifices when Laban was present, whom he could neither honestly admit to them, nor conveniently exclude from them. And therefore, seeing the same Hebrew word signifies killing as well as sacrificing, as appears from Numbers 22:40 1 Samuel 28:24 1 Kings 1:9 2 Chronicles 18:2, &c., I rather understand it of his killing of beasts, in order to a feast which he made for his brethren, whom he called, as it here follows, to eat bread, & c., under which phrase all meats are usually comprehended in Scripture, as hath been already noted, and will appear hereafter. And this practice was usual in those times, to confirm covenants by a feast. See Genesis 26:30.
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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Genesis 31". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
Second Sunday after Epiphany