The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Genesis 31

Gen 31:1

Gen 31: "Jacob found himself being treated with the duplicity that he manifested in the matter of the family blessing granted by Isaac (Gen 27). A family council was held in the home of Laban, Jacob's father in law. There had come a change in the heart of Laban towards Jacob, and jealousy in his sons brought about a crisis in the life of Jacob. There was a rising hostility toward him, and Jacob realised that as he had fled from the home of his family in Canaan, now he would have to flee from the home of his wives in Haran. The narrative reveals: [1] A change in the attitude of Laban toward Jacob: vv 1,2. [2] Jacob discloses his plan to his wives: vv 3-13. [3] The ready response of Jacob's wives: vv 14-16. [4] Jacob steals away secretly: vv 17-21. [5] Laban pursues Jacob: vv 22-24. [6] The investigation: vv 25-35. [7] The covenant at Gilead: vv 36-55.

"Notice Jacob's recognition of the Hand of Providence in his life, for he tells his wives of the guidance he has received (see refs in vv 5,7,42), and the intervention of the divine dream (v 11). As father, Laban had ignored his true responsibilities to his daughters. They gave expression to the mercenary meanness of their father (v 15), which rankled long in their minds, and had destroyed any love they once had for him. Family life is best when based upon the Word and Purpose of Yahweh. Yahweh presided over the whole scene between Laban (the man of sin) and Jacob (the man of faith), and ultimately delivered the man of faith, so that Jacob and his family could leave to journey home to the Land of Promise" (GEM).

Gen 31:3

I WILL BE WITH YOU: Important: This does not exclude trials: notice what more befalls Jacob in later years (Ber 43:55).

Gen 31:7

TEN TIMES: Figuratively, "constantly, over and over" (cp Num 14:22; Job 19:3).

Gen 31:13

Jacob waited and served Laban with patience and faith for 20 years, until God tells him to leave. Jacob has conquered his impatience and tendency to deception.

I AM THE GOD OF BETHEL: The angel of God (v 11) calls himself "God" (cp Psa 97:7 with Heb 1:6; Gen 32:30 with Hos 12:3,4; Exo 3:1-6 with Act 7:38).

Gen 31:15

DOES HE NOT REGARD US AS FOREIGNERS? NOT ONLY HAS HE SOLD US...: Laban their father had not treated his daughters as children, nor even as freeborn persons; but as if they were foreigners that he had taken in war, or bought from others; or at least, that they were born bondmaids in his house, and therefore he had a right to sell them as he had.

'He hath sold us' -- Laban had sold his daughters to Jacob for fourteen years service, as if they had been his slaves, instead of giving dowries with them as his children.

BUT HE HAS USED UP WHAT WAS PAID FOR US: The benefit, or profit, which Laban had received by the service of Jacob, he spent it on himself and his sons, and there was nothing left for his daughters.

Gen 31:19

HOUSEHOLD GODS (IMAGES): "Teraphim" (AV mg). These supposedly insured one's inheritance (WBD; Str Scr 79): cp v 14.

Gen 31:23

HIS RELATIVES (BRETHREN): Allies to help Laban regain his property -- the teraphim.

Gen 31:29

Thus Laban broke strict command (of v 24), but he obeyed its intent (ie no violence). Common oriental lax interpretation: LB 369.

Gen 31:32

HE SHALL NOT LIVE: Jacob's rashness again costs him, in the early death of Rachel -- at the birth of Benjamin (Gen 35:8,19; 48:7). Even with great riches, there is still no peace for Jacob.

Gen 31:38

Jacob had borne trials placed on him by God, learning patience in the process. Cp David's words: 2Sa 16:12. Jacob: "wandering Aramean, and he went down into Egypt with a few people and lived there and became a great nation, powerful and numerous" (Deu 26:5).

Gen 31:42

THE FEAR OF ISAAC: Sig profound reverence, to acknowledge God's greatness: Pro 28:14; Jer 2:19; Hos 3:5.

Gen 31:44

This covenant involved a sacrifice and a meal (v 45). Perhaps related to the ritual of the covenant-victim: see Lesson, Covenant-victim, the.

Gen 31:52

AND THAT YOU WILL NOT GO PAST THIS HEAP AND PILLAR TO MY SIDE TO HARM ME: Laban's main concern seems to be to prevent Jacob and his daughters from claiming any of his possessions (thru having the teraphim). To this end Laban makes the covenant and Jacob agrees to it -- although, of course, not knowing that Rachel had the teraphim. Jacob was very interested in the land of promise and, had he known about the teraphim, he would prob have been too godly even to concern himself with the possibility of inheriting any of Laban's land. Another possibility is that after Jacob's lengthy self-vindication of vv 38-42 Laban was afraid that, if he (Jacob) returned, he would plot vengeance against him in retaliation for Laban's treatment of him.

Gen 31:53

THE GOD OF THEIR FATHER: So the "God" of Terah was the God of Abraham, despite Jos 24:2!
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