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Genesis 31, Jacob leaves Laban

Discussion in '2000-02 Archive' started by Helen, Jul 4, 2002.

  1. Helen

    Helen <img src =/Helen2.gif>

    Aug 29, 2001
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    One reason for the idea that Jacob may have been using the peeled sticks as an appeal to God rather than something occultic is present at the beginning of chapter 31: God tells Jacob to go back to the land of his fathers and that God will be with him. At this same time, the Bible mentions that Jacob has noticed that Laban's attitude toward him had changed and that Laban's sons were getting jealous of Jacob's prosperity.

    And again, when Jacob explains the situation to his wives, he credits God completely and gives no credit to his peeled sticks!

    Rachel and Leah agree with Jacob, mentioning they are as good as disinherited by him, and that they will go with him willingly.

    Jacob could have been up front with Laban and simply told him he was leaving. Instead, he again resorts to deception, stealing off with his wives, children, and all his possessions. In the meantime, Rachel has gone into her father's house and stolen his idols (his household gods) to take with them. This is interesting on Rachel's part because while Jacob is getting closer to God, Rachel is obviously not following him. She may be trying to live with one foot in both worlds; the Bible does not say.

    It's three days before Laban finds out Jacob and company are gone, and he sets out after him, taking "his relatives" with him, probably meaning all the fighting men of his household. However God warns Laban not to do anything GOOD OR BAD to Jacob. Laban is not to do anything good either! In other words, Jacob is entirely in God's hands, both for blessing and for discipline.

    When Laban confronts Jacob with the deception of leaving the way he did as well as the theft of the household gods, Jacob admits he was afraid of Laban and specifically that Laban would take his wives from him. Not knowing Rachel has the idols, however, he disavows the theft. But he tells Laban to feel free to look for them.

    Laban does. When he gets to Rachel, she has learned how to deceive successfully from both her father and her husband! Laban finds her sitting on a camel saddle (in which were the idols) begging his favor, but she cannot get up as she is having her monthly period! This was considered 'unclean' even before the law was given to Moses, so Laban respects her by staying away from her.

    After Laban's fruitless search, Jacob blows up at him, reciting the past injustices and the wage changes. Again, however, Jacob credits God with his success even in Laban's employ, "If the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had not been with me, you would surely have sent me away empty-handed. But God has seen my hardship and the tolil of my hands, and last night he rebuked you."

    Laban with absolute gall then tells Jacob that the women are his daughters, the children his grandchildren, and all the flocks and herds his! "All you see is mine" he tells Jacob!

    And then (and I imagine him throwing his hands up in the air) he says "But what can I do?" Is Jacob supposed to feel sorry for him at this? I don't know. But Laban suggests a covenant between them and Jacob agrees. They pile some stones (a large pile with large stones would have been the custom) as a 'witness heap' which Laban calls Jegar Sahuduthy, which is Aramaic for 'witness heap' and Jacob called it "Galeed" which is Hebrew for the same thing.

    Laban then says the witness heap is also "Mizpah", or a "watchtower," and recites the words which Christians often mistake as a blessing! "May the Lord keep watch between you and me when we are away from each other." Look at the next sentence and you will see a little more of the original meaning: "If you mistreat my daughters or if you take any wives besides my daughters, even though no one is with us, remember that God is a witness between you and me."

    These words are meant as a warning and almost a curse. A modern idea would be, "Watch out you don't make one false step because I am calling on God Himself to watch and judge you if you do!"

    Nevertheless, Jacob agrees, and the sacrifice and covenant meal are done with relatives as witnesses.

    Chapter 21 ends with "Early the next morning Laban kissed his grandchildren and his daughters and blessed them. Then he left and returned home."


    Doing this as an edit:

    Thinking a little more about a couple of things in this chapter. Jacob lied to Laban because he was afraid. I recall the verse in 1 John that says perfect love casts out fear. Jacob still had a lot to learn about God, I think. He knew God was watching out for him, but it seems he was afraid to put his whole trust in God. That's a lot like many Christians today! Pray for miracles and then try to help God along (Sarah and Rachel come to mind!). We sure are not fast learners as a human race, are we?

    And then I was thinking again: fear is the reason most people lie. There are a group of 'worse' lies, I think, where they are designed to be manipulative and thus deceive someone for the purposes of the person doing the lying gaining something. But aside from manipulative lying (think politics, big business, etc. as well as individually), aren't most lies, especially on a personal level, the result of fear? Still thinking about this...

    [ July 04, 2002, 02:46 PM: Message edited by: Helen ]
  2. Clint Kritzer

    Clint Kritzer Active Member
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    Oct 10, 2001
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