by Robert Brow    (

Brow Publications, Kingston, Ontario (e-mail: 2004

Introduction | Genesis 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11| 12| 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 | 29 | 30

31 | 32 | 33| 34 | 35 | 36 | 37 | 38 | 39 | 40 | 41| 42 | 43 | 44 | 45 | 46 | 47 | 48 | 49 | 50| PostScriptTable Of Contents:

Genesis 31:1-16  
Genesis 31:17-21  
Genesis 31:22-30  
Genesis 31:30-38  
Genesis 31:38-43  
Genesis 31:44-55  

GENESIS 31:1-16      (Leah and Rachel agree it is time for them to leave their father)

31:1-3   Jacob realized that Laban’s sons had turned against him, and he was in danger of losing his property.  As he was thinking about this, he was told to leave Haran and move back to his own country, and the LORD would be with him.  It is when we face such major, and potentially hazardous changes of direction, that we need the clear encouragement that Jacob received at this time.

 31:4-9   Jacob had the wisdom to invite Leah and Rachel to join him where he was minding his flocks.   He rehearsed how his wages had been changed ten times (see 31:41)  by their father Laban, but God had protected him.  But he still thinks of God as “the God of my father.”   The events of the coming days would bring him into a more personal relationship with God.

 31:10-13   Then he described the encouragement he had received in a dream.   He mentioned his experience at Bethel twenty years before, and now the same God was telling him to return to the land of his birth.     What did his wives think about this dangerous decision?

 31:14‑16   Leah and Rachel agreed that they had been defrauded again and again by their father.  They faced what was involved in breaking with their family in Haran, but they told Jacob to do exactly what God had told him to do.    Jacob had so far behaved as a deceitful ungodly person.  This family conference and his willingness to listen to advice to move in a new direction suggests that Jacob had begun to look to God’s wisdom instead of his own deceitful cleverness.


GENESIS 31:17-21   (Jacob moves his family and  his flocks across the Euphrates)

 31:17-18  The whole family rode on camels, and their livestock had to be herded on foot away from Paddanaram (the area around the city of Haran, 25:20) to move back 500 miles (800 km) south into Canaan.

 31:19   Laban  was evidently an idolater.   And his daughter Rachel decided to steal his household idols (perhaps by way of revenge, or with the aim of weakening him, or because she herself believed she could use their power for herself).    Jacob did not have these idols destroyed till after they had arrived in Canaan (35:2).

 31:20-21  Jacob had given no intimation to Laban that he was leaving, and he was able to move fifty miles, 80 km,  south to the bend of the Euphrates.    There he was able to rent boats and ferry his family, and flocks, and property, safely across the river.   And they began their long journey south towards the hills to the south (Gilead means a mountain range or hill country - later it referred to a specific area of  Transjordan.


GENESIS 31:22-30    (Laban catches up with Jacob, but is warned by God not to harm him)

 31:22-23     Laban did not hear the news of Jacob’s departure for three days.  It would have taken time to organize,  arm, and mount his male relatives (ekhaiv can mean brothers, relatives, fellow countrymen, friends) on fast camels..  By then Jacob and his family and flocks had crossed the Euphrates, and forced marched a hundred miles, 160 km, south into hills.  

 31:24   Having arranged to rent boats to cross the Euphrates,  Laban and his armed men could have retrieved his daughters, brought back the flocks, and killed Jacob as a renegade.  But in a dream God had warned Laban not to harm him (see 31:29).      God can use dreams both to encourage his own servants, and direct and warn those who oppose him (20:3-7; 4:1-7).

 31:25-26   The two encampments were close to each other.  And when they were able to talk, Laban complained that Jacob had deceived him, and taken away his daughters as captives.

 31:27-29   He claimed that if only Jacob had asked he would have sent him away with a festal celebration.  Jacob was only spared because God had intervened to warn against doing him harm.


GENESIS 31:30-38   (Meanwhile Laban had discovered that his family idols had been stolen)

 31:30‑32   But why had Jacob stolen Laban’s household gods?   Jacob did not know Rachel had done this (31:19)  when she hid them under the saddle of her camel.  Jacob was not an idolater himself, and he had said that anyone who had stolen the idols would die.  If Rachel’s deceit had been found out, she would presumably have been killed to satisfy Arab honor.

 31:33-37   As Laban searched for the idols, Rachel excused herself from having to get up by claiming she had her period.   Jacob was able to claim Laban had dishonored him by searching through his property.


 GENESIS 31:38-43    (Jacob rehearses how Laban has changed his wages ten times)

 31:38-41    Jacob  then angrily reminded  Laban of the twenty years of hard faithful service he had given him.   He had served fourteen years for Laban’s two daughters, and six years for his share of the flocks (see 30:32-43), and his wages had been changed ten times.

 31:42   Jacob had been a deceiver, but he now confesses that the God of his grandfather Abraham and father Isaac had certainly intervened to help and protect him (for a first sign of genuine faith, see 31:13).

 31:43   Laban still claimed that all that Jacob had gained in Haran belonged to him.  But he was evidently defeated in the moral argument.


GENESIS 31:44-55    (Laban and Jacob make a solemn peace treaty)

31:44-48   God was on Jacob’s side, and Laban knew  he would become more and more powerful.  Laban’s only hope was to make a solemn peace treaty (as in 21:27-32, 26:27-31).  This was done by setting up a boundary stone,  piling a great heap of rocks around it, and the two tribes gathered to eat around it.  In Aramaic the heap of stones was called jegarsahadutha meaning a heap of witness.   Jacob used the Hebrew name galed also meaning a heap of witness.  This is the first example in the Bible of a differentiation between the Aramaic and Hebrew languages.

 31:49-50   The pillar which Jacob had set up was to be a mizpah which is the Hebrew for outlook point.   By now Laban had learned that it was the LORD’s blessing (not the idols that he worshiped)  that had made him prosperous.   And he now wanted the LORD to watch over the way Jacob treated his daughters.

 31:51-53    The stone pillar Jacob had put up, and the heap of stones around it would now function as a sacred boundary between the Aramaeans (later called Syrians) and the Jewish people to the south.   Admittedly there were often wars between them, but both parties accepted that the God of Abraham and Isaac was accepted as the ultimate Judge between them.

31:54-55   It must have been an awesome scene as animals were butchered and eaten with bread and wine in a solemn sacrificial feast, no doubt with songs and the recitation of poetry, which went on all night.   Early in the morning Laban felt satisfied that there was nothing more he could do to retrieve the situation, his daughters were in God’s hands, and he set out to travel back north to Haran.  Jacob and his father in-law would never meet again.   Laban’s family were connected with the Arameans (Syrians) of Damascus, and for 3,500 years they have been continual enemies of the Jewish people. .    Their language was similar to the Arabic language of the other tribes connected with the Ishmaelites (bene ishmnael) who became the leading tribe of the Arab people.


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