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Genesis 31

Jacob runs away to Canaan

1 Jacob heard Laban's sons saying, ‘Jacob has taken everything that our father had. He has got rich from things belonging to our father.’ 2 And Jacob saw that Laban was not as nice to him as he had been before.

31:2Laban does not want Jacob to leave because Jacob has God's blessing.

3 Then the LORD said to Jacob ‘Go back to the land where your fathers lived. Go back to your relatives. I will be with you.’ 4 Jacob sent someone to go to Rachel and Leah. Jacob said that they must come to the field where he was. He was with his animals. 5 Jacob said to Rachel and Leah, ‘Your father is not as nice to me now, as he was before. I have seen that he is not so nice. But the God of my father has been with me. 6 You know how I have worked for your father. I have worked as well as I can. 7 But your father has changed what I receive in return for working. He changed it many times. But God has not let him hurt me. 8 Sometimes Laban said, “The animals with different colours on their skin will be your payment.” Then the animals gave birth to young ones with different colours on their skins. Sometimes he said, “The animals with marks on them will be your payment.” Then the animals gave birth to young ones with marks on them. 9 In this way God took your father's animals, and gave them to me. 10 I had a dream. It was at the time when the animals became pregnant. I looked up. I saw that the male animals had different colours on their skin. 11 The angel of God spoke to me in the dream. He said “Jacob.” I replied, “Yes.” 12 And the angel said, “Look up. See all the male animals have different colours on their skin. I have seen the bad things that Laban has done to you. 13 I am the God who appeared to you at Bethel. This is where you poured oil on the stone. And this is where you made a promise to me. Now leave this land. Go back to the land where your father lived.” ’ 14 Then Rachel and Leah replied, ‘We no longer have any part of our father's inheritance. 15 He thinks of us as foreign people. He sold us. Then he used what he received for us on himself.’

31:15‘He sold us’ means that Laban gave Leah and Rachel to Jacob in return for Jacob's work.

16 They said, ‘Everything that God took from our father belongs to us, and to our children. So you must do what God tells you.’

17 So Jacob put his children and wives on camels. 18 He took all his animals, and everything that he had got in Paddan Aram. He left to go to his father Isaac. He left to go to the land of Canaan. 19 Before they left, Laban went to cut wool from his sheep. While he was gone, Rachel took his household gods.

31:19Wool grows on the back of a sheep. It is the coat from the animal.
31:19The household gods are small gods that someone made out of wood or metal. Laban worshipped these gods.

20 Jacob did not tell Laban the Aramean that he was going away. 21 So Jacob ran away. He took everything that he had. He went across the river. He went towards the hill country of Gilead.

22 After 3 days, someone told Laban that Jacob had run away with his family. 23 Laban took his relatives and followed Jacob. He followed him for 7 days, and then he found him. He found him in the hill country of Gilead. 24 Then God came to Laban the Aramean. He appeared to him in a dream at night. God said to Laban, ‘Be careful what you say to Jacob. Do not say that you will do anything to him.’

25 Jacob had put up his tent in the hill country of Gilead. And Laban found him. So Laban and his relatives also put up their tents in this place. 26 Laban said to Jacob, ‘What have you done? You have deceived me. And you have taken my daughters as if you caught them in a war. 27 Why did you keep it a secret that you were leaving? You deceived me. Why did you not tell me that you were leaving? I would have sent you away with joy and singing to music. 28 You did not even let me kiss my grandchildren goodbye. Or let me kiss my daughters goodbye. What you have done is not right. 29 I have the power to hurt you. But last night the God of your father came to me. He said, “Be careful what you say to Jacob. Do not say that you will do anything to him.” 30 I know that you want to return to your father's house. But why did you take my gods?’ 31 Jacob replied, ‘I was afraid. I thought that you would try to stop me. And I thought that you would try to take your daughters away from me. 32 But if you find your gods with anyone here, that person will die. While our relatives watch, you may look for anything that belongs to you. If you find anything then take it.’ Jacob did not know that Rachel had taken her father's gods.

33 So Laban went into Jacob's tent. Then he went into Leah's tent. He also went into the female servants' tent. But he did not find anything. When he left Leah's tent, he went into Rachel's tent. 34 Rachel had taken the household gods. She put them inside the seat that she sat on to ride her camel. Then she sat on them. Laban looked through everything in the tent. But he did not find the gods. 35 When he went into Rachel's tent, she said, ‘Do not be angry with me my lord. I cannot stand up in front of you. It is the time of my monthly blood loss.’ So, Laban looked for the gods, but he did not find them.

31:35In Old Testament times, when a woman had her monthly blood loss, she was ‘unclean’. And anything that she sat on was unclean. (It tells us this in Leviticus 15:20.)
31:35Rachel was lying about the household gods. She had stolen them.

36 Then Jacob became angry with Laban. He asked him ‘What have I done wrong? What have I done against you? Why have you followed me? 37 Now you have looked through everything that I have. And what have you found that belongs to you? If you have found anything, put it in front of your relatives and mine. Let them say which one of us is right. 38 I have worked for you for 20 years. Your animals have all given birth to young ones. I have not eaten any of your male animals. 39 I did not bring you animals killed by wild animals. I paid you for them. You said that I must pay for any animals that someone took in the day or night.’

40 Jacob said, ‘This is what it was like to work for you: I could not get away from the heat of the sun in the day. It felt like it was eating me. And the night-time was so cold that I could not sleep. 41 It was like this for 20 years. That is the time that I have been working for you, in your household. I worked for 14 years to pay you for your daughters. Then I worked for 6 years for your animals. And you changed what I received from you many times. 42 The God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac was with me. If he were not, then you would have sent me away with nothing. But God has seen what you have done to me. He has seen how I have worked for you. And last night he told you that he knew what you had done.’

31:42The God of my father, the God of Abraham, and the Fear of Isaac are all names for God. God is very powerful and has authority over everything. Fear means to know that.

43 Laban replied ‘These women are my daughters. Their children are my children. The animals are my animals. But what can I do today about my daughters or about their children? 44 Let us make a promise between you and me. And let it show what has happened between us.’ 45 So Jacob took a large stone and made it stand up. 46 He said to his relatives, ‘Go and get some stones.’ So they went and got some stones. They put them together on the ground. Then they all ate a meal together, near the heap of stones.

31:46When people made a promise, they often ate a meal together.

47 Laban called the place Jegar Sahadutha. Jacob called it Galeed.

31:47Jegar Sahadutha are Aramaic words. Galeed is a Hebrew word. Both mean that the stones showed that people made a promise there.

48 Laban said ‘These stones show that we made a promise today.’ That is why Jacob called that place Galeed. 49 That place also had the name ‘Mizpah’. That was because Laban said ‘May the LORD watch you and me when we are away from each other. 50 Remember that God is watching you. If you do wrong to my daughters, God will see it. And if you marry any other women, remember this. God is watching you. Even if no one else is with you, God will know.’

51 Laban also said ‘I have set this stone up. And I have set the heap of stones by it. They are between you and me. 52 I will not go past the stones to your side to hurt you. And you must not go past them to my side to hurt me. The stones will show where we can go. 53 Let the God of Abraham, the God of Nahor, the God of their father say who is right between us.’ So Jacob made a promise in the name of God. 54 He offered a sacrifice to God in the hill country. He asked his relatives to eat a meal with him. After they had eaten, they stayed the night there.

55 Early the next morning, Laban woke. He kissed his grandchildren. And he kissed his daughters. He blessed them. Then he left and went back to his home.

31:55Jacob ran away from Laban because he was afraid. But God had already told Jacob that he would be with him (verse 3).
31:55Jacob should have put his trust in God. He should have told Laban that he was leaving. And he should have trusted God to keep him safe.