Genesis 31

Jacob runs away from Laban

1 Jacob heard that Laban's sons were complaining about him. They were saying, ‘Jacob has taken everything that belonged to our father. He has taken things from our father and he has become rich himself.’

2 And Jacob could see that Laban was not as nice to him as he had been before.

3 Then the Lord said to Jacob ‘Go back to the land where your father and grandfather lived. Go back to your relatives. I will be with you there.’ 4 Jacob sent a message to Rachel and Leah. He said that they must come to the field where he was taking care of his animals. 5 Jacob said to Rachel and Leah, ‘I see that your father is not as nice to me now, as he was before. But the God of my father has been with me. 6 You know that I have worked very hard for your father. I have worked as well as I can. 7 But your father has cheated me many times. He has changed what I receive for my work at least 10 times. But God has not let him hurt me. 8 Sometimes Laban said, “I will pay you with the animals that have different colours on their skin.” If he said that, all the animals gave birth to babies with different colours on their skins. Sometimes he said, “I will pay you with the animals that have marks on them.” Then all the animals would give birth to babies with marks on them. 9 In this way God took away your father's animals, and he gave them to me.

10 One night I had a dream. It was at the time when the animals were becoming pregnant. In the dream, I saw that the male goats had marks and different colours on their skin. 11 The angel of God spoke to me in the dream. He said, “Jacob.” I replied, “Yes, here I am.” 12 The angel said, “Look carefully. See all the male goats that are having sex with the female goats. They all have marks and different colours on their skin. I am helping you because I have seen the bad things that Laban has done to you. 13 I am the God who appeared to you at Bethel. That is where you poured oil on the special stone and you made a promise to me. Now I am telling you to leave this land. Go back to the land where you were born.” ’

14 When Jacob told that to Rachel and Leah, they replied, ‘Our father will not give us anything more when he dies. 15 He now thinks of us as if we are foreign people. You worked hard for him so that we could become your wives. He has cheated us as well as you! 16 So everything that God has taken away from our father really belongs to us, and to our children. So you must do everything that God has told you to do.’

17 So Jacob put his children and wives on his camels. 18 He put together all his animals, and everything that he had received in Paddan Aram. He took them with him to go to the land of Canaan. He left to go to back to his father Isaac. 19 Before they left, Laban had gone to cut the wool from his sheep. While he was away from the house, Rachel took the idols that Laban worshipped in his house.

31:19These idols were small gods that someone made from wood or metal. Laban worshipped these gods.

20 Jacob deceived Laban the Aramean. He did not tell Laban that he was going away. 21 Jacob went away quickly and he took all his things. He went across the Euphrates river. He went towards the hill country of Gilead.

22 After three days, someone told Laban that Jacob had gone away. 23 So Laban took his relatives with him and he followed Jacob. After seven days he found him in the hill country of Gilead. 24 Then God appeared to Laban the Aramean in a dream at night. God warned him, ‘Be careful what you say to Jacob. Do not say anything good or bad against him.’

25 Jacob had put up his tent in the hill country of Gilead. That is where Laban found him. So Laban and his relatives also put up their tents in that place. 26 Laban said to Jacob, ‘Why did you do that? You have deceived me. You have taken my daughters away as if you had caught them in a war. 27 Why did you go away secretly? Yes, you have deceived me. You should have told me that you were leaving. Then I would have prepared a big meal. We would have been happy together, with songs and music. 28 But you did not even let me say “goodbye” to my daughters or my grandchildren. What you have done is not right. 29 I have the power to hurt you. But last night the God of your father appeared to me. He told me, “Be careful what you say to Jacob. Do not say anything good or bad against him.” 30 I know that you want very much to return to your father's house. That is why you have left my home. But why did you take my idols?’

31 Jacob replied, ‘I left secretly because I was afraid. I thought that you might fight me to take your daughters away from me. 32 But if you find your idols with anyone here, that person must 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 idols.

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 the idols. When he left Leah's tent, he went into Rachel's tent. 34 Rachel had taken the idols and she had put them inside her camel's seat. Now she sat on them. Laban looked everywhere in Rachel's tent but he did not find the idols. 35 Rachel said to him, ‘Do not be angry with me, sir. I cannot stand up in front of you. It is the time of my monthly blood loss.’ So, Laban looked everywhere for the idols, 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. See Leviticus 15:20.

36 Then Jacob became angry and he quarrelled with Laban. He asked Laban, ‘What have I done wrong? What sin have I done against you so that you had to catch me? 37 Now you have looked through everything that I have. Did you find anything that belongs to you? If you have found anything, put it here in the open. Then your relatives and my relatives can see it. Our relatives can decide which of us is right, you or me!’

38 Jacob continued to say to Laban, ‘I have worked for you for 20 years. Your female sheep and goats have all safely given birth to young ones. I have not taken any of your male animals as food for myself. 39 If wild animals attacked your sheep or goats, I did not show them to you. I myself paid you for them. If any animal was lost, in the day time or at night, you said that I must pay you for it. 40 This is what it was like to work for you: I worked in the strong heat of the sun in the day. I had pain from the cold at night. I could not always sleep. 41 It was like this for 20 years as I worked like a slave for you. I worked for 14 years to pay you for your two daughters. Then I worked for six years for your sheep and goats. You changed what you paid me at least 10 times! 42 The God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac was with me. If he had not helped me, then you would have sent me away with nothing. But God has seen what you have done to hurt me. He has seen how hard I have worked for you. So last night he told you that you had done wrong.’

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.

43 Laban replied to Jacob, ‘These women are my daughters. Their children are my grandchildren. The animals are my animals. Everything that you have with you here belongs to me. But there is nothing that I can do today about my daughters or about their children. 44 So we should be friends. Let us make an agreement together. It will show that we have agreed to be friends.’

45 So Jacob took a large stone and made it stand up in the ground. 46 He said to his relatives, ‘Go and get some stones.’ So they brought some stones and 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 that 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 an agreement there.

48 Laban said, ‘These stones show that we have made an agreement today.’ That is why the place was called Galeed. 49 The place was also called ‘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 sees you, God will know.’

51 Laban also said, ‘I have put this special stone here, and the heap of stones near it. They stand there between your land and my land. 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. 53 Let the God of Abraham, Nahor, and their ancestors decide if one of us is guilty.’

So Jacob made a promise in the name of the God that his father Isaac worshipped. 54 He offered a sacrifice to God there 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 got up to return home. He kissed his grandchildren and his daughters. He said ‘goodbye’ and he blessed them. Then he left and he 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. Jacob should have trusted God to keep him safe.