Genesis 31

 

1 "And he heard the words of Laban's sons, saying, Jacob hath taken away all that

was our father's; and of that which was our father's hath he gotten all this glory."

And he - Jacob had now served twenty years with Laban, and must accordingly have

been in his ninety-seventh or seventy-seventh year (see ch.. 27:1) - heard the words

of Laban's sons, - who were not at this time only small youths about fourteen years

of age (Delitzsch), since they were capable of being entrusted with their father's

flocks (ch. 30:35) - saying (probably in a conversation which had been over. heard

by Jacob), Jacob hath taken away (by fraud is what they meant, an opinion in which

Kalisch agrees; but it is not quite certain that Jacob was guilty of dishonesty in

acting as he did) all that was our father's; - this was a manifest exaggeration;

sed hoe morbo laborant sordidi et nimium tenaces, ut sibi ereptum esse putent

quicquid non ingurgitant (Calvin) - and of that which was our father's hath he

gotten (literally, made, in the sense of acquiring, as in ch. 12:5; I Samuel 14:48)

all this glory. כָּבוד (from כָּבַד, to be heavy, hence to be great in the sense of

honored, and also to be abundant) signifies either glory, splendor, renown, δόξα -

doxa - glory (Septuagint), as in Job 14:21; or, what seems the preferable meaning

here, wealth, riches, facultates (Vulgate), as in Psalm 49:13; Nahum 2:10. The

two ideas appear to be combined in II Corinthians 4:17; βάρος δόξης - baros

doxaes - weight; burden of glory.

             

2 "And Jacob beheld the countenance of Laban, and, behold, it was not toward

him as before."  And Jacob beheld the countenance of Laban, and, Behold, it

(i.e. either Laban or his countenance) was not toward him (literally, with him)

as before - literally, as yesterday and the day before. The evident change in

Laban's disposition, which had previously been friendly, was obviously

employed by God to direct Jacob's mind to the propriety of returning to the land

of his inheritance; and the inclination thus started in his soul was further strengthened

and confirmed by a revelation which probably soon after, if not the night following,

was sent for his direction.

 

3 "And the LORD said unto Jacob, Return unto the land of thy fathers, and to

thy kindred; and I will be with thee."  And the Lord - Jehovah; since the entire

journey to Padan-aram had been conducted under His special care, see ch. 28:15

(Hengstenberg), and not because the first three verses of this chapter have been

inserted or modified by the Jehovist (Tuch, Block, et al.) - said unto Jacob, probably

in a dream (compare vs. 5, 10-11). Return unto the land of thy fathers (i.e. Canaan),

and to thy kindred; and I will be with thee. So Jehovah had promised at Bethel

twenty years before (ibid.).

 

4 "And Jacob sent and called Rachel and Leah to the field unto his flock,"

And Jacob sent - being unwilling to approach the house lest Laban should

discover his design (Rosenmüller) - and called Rachel and Leah - Rachel may

be placed first as the beloved wife of Jacob (Wordsworth, Lange), scarcely as the

principal wife in comparison with Leah, who was adventitia (Rosenmüller; compare

v. 14) - to the field unto his flock. The expression "his flock" indicates that Jacob

had abandoned Laban's sheep and taken possession of those which belonged to

himself - probably in preparation for his departure.

 

5 "And said unto them, I see your father's countenance, that it is not toward me

as before; but the God of my father hath been with me."  And said unto them,

I see your father's countenance, that it is not toward me as before (see above);

but the God of my father - literally, and the Elohim of my father, the term Elohim

employed by Jacob not being due to "the vagueness of the religious knowledge"

possessed by his wives (Hengstenberg), but to a desire on his own part either to

distinguish the God of his father from the gods of the nations, or the idols which

Laban worshipped ('Speaker s Commentary'), or perhaps, while using an

expression exactly equivalent to Jehovah, to bring out a contrast between

the Divine favor and that of Laban (Quarry) - hath been with me - literally,

was with me; not the night before simply, but during the past six years, as he

explains in v. 7.

 

6 "And ye know that with all my power I have served your father."

The term Jacob here uses for power is derived from an unused onomatopoetic

root, signifying to pant, and hence to exert one's strength. If, therefore, the

assertion now made to his wives was not an unblushing falsehood, Jacob could

not have been the monster of craft and deception depicted by some (Kalisch);

while, if it was, it must have required considerable effrontery to appeal to his

wives' knowledge for a confirmation of what they knew to be a deliberate untruth.

The hypothesis that Jacob first acquired his great wealth by "consummate cunning,"

and then piously "abused the authority of God in covering or justifying them"

(Kalisch), presupposes on the part of Jacob a degree of wickedness inconceivable

in one who had enjoyed the sublime theophany of Bethel.

 

7 "And your father hath deceived me, and changed my wages ten times;

but God suffered him not to hurt me."  And your father hath deceived me, -

הֵתֵל, the hiph. of תָּלַל, means to rob or plunder (Furst), or to cause to fall,

as in the cognate languages, whence to deceive (Gesenius) - and changed my

wages ten times; - i.e. many times, as in Numbers 14:22; Job 19:3 (Rosenmüller,

Bush, Kalisch, Lange); as often as possible, the number ten expressing the idea

of completeness (Keil, Murphy) - but God (Elohim, Jacob purposing to say that

he had been protected, not by human stratagem, but by Divine interposition)

suffered him not to hurt me - literally, to do evil to me. The verb here construed

with עִמָּד = עִם is sometimes followed by עַל  (I Kings 17:20), and sometimes

by בְּ  (I Chronicles 16:22).

 

8 "If he said thus, The speckled shall be thy wages; then all the cattle bare

speckled: and if he said thus, The ringstraked shall be thy hire; then bare all

the cattle ringstraked."  If he (i.e. Laban) said thus, The speckled shall be thy

wages; - by the original contract Jacob had been promised all the parti-colored

animals (ch. 30:32);" here it seems as if Laban, struck with the remarkable increase

of these, took the earliest opportunity of so modifying the original stipulation as

to limit Jacob's portion to one sort only, viz. the speckled. Yet this dishonorable

breach of faith on the part of Laban was of no avail; for, when the next lambing

season came - then (it was discovered that) all the cattle bare speckled: and if he

said thus (changing the sort of animals assigned to his son-in-law), The ringstraked

shall be thy hire (the result was as before); then bare all the cattle ringstraked.

 

9 "Thus God hath taken away the cattle of your father, and given them to me."

Thus - literally, and (as the result of this) - God hath taken away the cattle of your

father, and given them to me. In ascribing to God what he had himself effected

by (so-called) fraud, this language of Jacob appears to some inexcusable (Kalisch);

in passing over his own stratagem in silence Jacob has been charged with not

telling the whole truth to his wives (Keil). A more charitable consideration of

Jacob's statement, however, discerns in it an evidence of his piety, which

recognized and gratefully acknowledged that not his own "consummate cunning,"

but Jehovah s watchful care had enabled him to outwit the dishonest craft of Laban

(Rosenmüller, Ainsworth, Bush, Candlish, Murphy).

 

10 "And it came to pass at the time that the cattle conceived, that I lifted up

mine eyes, and saw in a dream, and, behold, the rams which leaped upon the

cattle were ringstraked, speckled, and grisled."  And it came to pass at the time

that the cattle conceived (this obviously goes back to the commencement of the

six years' service), that I lifted up mine eyes, and saw in a dream, and, behold,

the rams - עַתֻּדים, he-goats, from an unused root, to be ready, perhaps because

ready and prompt for fighting (Gesenius, sub voce) - which leaped (literally,

going up) upon the cattle were ringstraked, speckled, and grisled. The grisled

(beruddim, from barad, to scatter hail) were spotted animals, as if they had been

sprinkled with hail, not a fifth sort in addition to the four already mentioned

(Rosenmüller), but the same as the teluim of ch. 30:35 (Kalisch). Wordsworth

observes that the English term grisled, from the French word grele, hail, is a

literal translation of the Hebrew. Gesenius connects with the Hebrew root the

words πάρδος - pardos - leopard (so called from its spots), and the French broder,

to embroider. The Septuagint understood the עַתֻּדים to include both sheep and

goats, and translate οἱ τράγοι καὶ οἱ κριοὶ ἀναβαίντες ἐπὶ τὰ πρόβατα καὶ τὰς αἰγας -

hoi tragoi kai hoi krioi anabaintes epi ta probate kai tas aigas - the male goats

which leaped on the flock were streaked, speckled and grizzled.

 

11 "And the angel of God spake unto me in a dream, saying, Jacob: And

I said, Here am I."  And the angel of God - literally, the angel (or Maleach)

of Elohim, i.e. of the God who was with me and protecting me, though himself

continuing unseen - spake unto me in a dream, saying, Jacob: And I said, Here

am I (see ch. 20:1, 11).

 

12 “And he said, Lift up now thine eyes, and see, all the rams which leap upon

the cattle are ringstraked, speckled, and grisled: for I have seen all that Laban

doeth unto thee.”  And he said, Lift up now thine eyes, and see, all the rams which

leap upon the cattle are ringstraked, speckled, and grisled. Since all the parti-colored

animals had already been removed (ch. 30:35), this vision must have been intended to

assure him that the flocks would produce speckled and spotted progeny all the same as

if the ringstraked and grisled rams and he-goats had not been removed from their midst.

To insist upon a contradiction between this account of the increase of Jacob's flocks

and that mentioned in ch. 30:37 is to forget that both may be true. Equally arbitrary

does it seem to be to accuse Jacob of fraud in adopting the artifice of the pilled rods

(Kalisch). Without resorting to the supposition that he acted under God s guidance

(Wordsworth), we may believe that the dream suggested the expedient referred to,

in which some see Jacob's unbelief and impatience (Kurtz, Gosman in Lange), and

others a praiseworthy instance of self-help (Keil). For I have seen all that Laban

doeth unto thee. If the preceding clause appears to imply that the vision was sent

to Jacob at the beginning of the six years' service, the present clause scents to point

to the end of that period as the date of its occurrence; in which case it would require

to be understood as a Divine intimation to Jacob that his immense wealth was not

to be ascribed to the success of his own stratagem, but to the blessing of God

(Delitzsch). The difficulty of harmonizing the two views has led to the suggestion

that Jacob here mixes the accounts of two different visions accorded to him, at the

commencement and at the close of the period of servitude (Nachmanides,

Rosenmüller, Kurtz,- ' Speaker's Commentary,' Murphy, Candlish).

 

13 “I am the God of Bethel, where thou anointedst the pillar, and where thou

vowedst a vow unto me: now arise, get thee out from this land, and return

unto the land of thy kindred.”  I am the God of Bethel, - the angel here identifies

himself with Jehovah (see ch. 28:13). Contrary to usual custom, הָאֵל, though in the

construct, state, has the article (see Ewald, ' Hebrews Synt.,' § 290) - where thou

anointedst the pillar, and where thou vowedst a vow unto me: now arise, get thee

out from this land, and return unto the land of thy kindred - i.e. to the land of

Canaan, which was Jacob's true inheritance.

 

14 “And Rachel and Leah answered and said unto him, Is there yet any portion

or inheritance for us in our father's house?  15 Are we not counted of him

strangers? for he hath sold us, and hath quite devoured also our money.

16 For all the riches which God hath taken from our father, that is ours,

and our children's: now then, whatsoever God hath said unto thee, do.”

And Rachel and Leah (see on v. 4) answered and said unto him (Kalisch

overdoes his attempt to blacken Jacob's character and whitewash Laban's

when he says that Rachel and Leah were so entirely under their husband s

influence that they spoke about their father "with severity and boldness

bordering on disrespect." It rather seems to speak badly for Laban that his

daughters eventually rose in protest against his heartless cruelty and insatiable

greed), Is there yet any portion or inheritance for us in our father's house? The

interrogative particle indicates a spirited inquiry, to which a negative response is

anticipated (compare ch. 30:2; see Ewald, ' Hebrews Synt.,' § 324). Kalisch obviously

regards it as preposterous that Rachel and Leah should have expected anything, since

"married daughters in the East never had any such claim where there were sons."

But Laban had not treated Jacob's wives even as daughters. Are we not counted

of him strangers? for he hath sold us (however much they loved Jacob they could

not but resent the mercenary meanness of Laban, by which they, the free-born

daughters of a chieftain, had been sold as common serfs), and hath quits devoured

also our money - literally, and hath eaten up, yes, even eating up, our money, the

infinitive abstract, אָול, after the finite verb, expressing the continuance (Keil)

and intensity (Kalisch) of the action (see Ewald, 'Hebrews Synt.,' § 280). For –

כִּי is by some interpreters rendered but (Jarchi), so that (Keil), indeed (Kalisch),

though there is no sufficient reason for departing from the usual meaning "for"

(Rosenmüller) - all the riches which God hath taken from our father, - thus

Rachel and Leah also recognize the hand of God (Elohim) in Jacob's unusual

prosperity - that is ours, and our children's (Rachel and Leah mean to say that

what Jacob had acquired by his six years of service with their father was no more

than would have naturally belonged to him had they obtained their portions at the

first): now then, Whatsoever God hath said unto thee, do. It is clear that, equally

with himself, they were prepared for breaking off connection with their father Laban.

 

17 “Then Jacob rose up, and set his sons and his wives upon camels;  18 And he

carried away all his cattle, and all his goods which he had gotten, the cattle of

his getting, which he had gotten in Padanaram, for to go to Isaac his father in

the land of Canaan.”  Then (literally, and) Jacob rose up (expressive of the vigor

and alacrity with which, having obtained the concurrence of his wives, Jacob set

about fulfilling the Divine instructions), and set his sons - his children, as in v. 1,

here;  ch. 32:12, including Dinah, if by this time she had been born (see ch. 30:21) –

and his wives upon camels. Since neither were able to undertake a journey to Canaan

on foot, his oldest son being not more than thirteen years of age and his youngest not

more than six. On the camel, see ch. 12:16. And he carried away - the verb נָהֵג,

to pant, which is specially used of those who are exhausted by running (Gesenins,

sub voce – see more), may perhaps indicate the haste with which Jacob acted –

all his cattle, - Mikneh, literally, possession, from kanah, to procure, always used

of cattle, the chief wealth of a nomad (compare ch. 13:2; 26:14) - and all his goods

which he had gotten, - Recush, literally, acquisition, hence substance, wealth in

general, from racash, to acquire (see ch. 14:11, 16, 21; 15:14), which, however,

is more specifically described as - the cattle of his getting, which he had gotten

(both of the above verbs, kanah and racash, being now employed) in (i.e. during his

stay in) Padan-aram, for to go to Issac his father in the land of Canaan.

 

19 “And Laban went to shear his sheep: and Rachel had stolen the images that

were her father's.”  And Laban went - or, Now Laban had gone, probably to the

other station, which was three days journey from Jacob's flocks (see ch. 30:36; and

compare ch. 31:22) - to shear his sheep. In this work he would probably be detained

several days, the time of shearing being commonly regarded as a festal season

(compare ch. 38:12; I Samuel 25:4; II Samuel 13:23), at which friendly entertainments

were given. Whether Jacob's absence from the festivities is to be explained by the

dissension existing between him and Laban, which either caused him to be uninvited

or led him to decline the invitation (Kurtz), or by the supposition that he had first gone

and subsequently left the banquet (Lange), the fact that Laban was so engaged afforded

Jacob the opportunity he desired for making his escape. And Rachel had stolen (or,

"and Rachel stole," availing herself likewise of the opportunity presented by her

father's absence) the images that were her father's. The teraphim, from an unused

root, taraph, signifying to live comfortably, like the Sanscrit trip, Greek τρέφειν

trephein - Arabic tarafa (Gesenius, Furst, sub voce - see more), appear to have

been small human figures (compare v. 34), though the image in I Samuel 19:13

must have been nearly life-size, or at least a full-sized bust, sometimes made of

silver (Judges 17:4), though commonly constructed of wood (I Samuel 19:13-16);

they were worshipped as gods (εἰδωλα, Septuagint; see, Vulgate, compare here,

v.30), consulted for oracles (Ezekiel 21:26; Zechariah 10:2), and believed to be the

custodians and promoters of human happiness (Judges 18:24). Probably derived

from the Aramaeans (Furst, Kurtz), or the Chaldeans (Ezekiel 21:21, Kalisch,

Wordsworth), the worship of teraphim was subsequently denounced as idolatrous

(I Samuel 15:23; II Kings 13:24). Compare with Rachel's act that ascribed to AEneas: -

 

"Effigies sacrae divum, Phrygiique Penates,

Quos mecum a Troja, mediisque ex ignibus urbis,"

Extuleram"

 

(Virg., 'AEn.,' 3. 148-150). Rachel's motive for abstracting her father's teraphim

has been variously ascribed to a desire to prevent her father from discovering, by

inquiring at his gods, the direction of their flight (Aben Ezra, Rosenmüller), to

protect herself, in case, of being overtaken, by an appeal to her father s gods

(Josephus), to draw her father from the practice of idolatry (Bazil, Gregory,

Nazisnzen, Theodoret), to obtain children for herself through their assistance

(Lengerke, Gerlach), to preserve a memorial of her ancestors, whose pictures

these teraphim were (Lightfoot); but was probably due to avarice, if the images

were made of precious metals (Pererius), or to a taint of superstition which still

adhered to her otherwise religious nature (Chrysostom, Calvin, 'Speaker's

Commentary ), causing her to look to these idols for protection (Kalisch, Murphy)

or consultation (Wordsworth) on her journey.

 

 

Teraphim (v. 19)

 

 “Rachel had stolen the images that were her father’s.” This the first direct

mention of images in connection with worship, though tradition speaks of

Nimrod as an idolater (compare Joshua 24:2). Laban calls them his gods (v. 30);

yet he and his family knew the Lord. His use of them was A CORRUPTION

OF WORSHIP.

 

  • THE IMAGES. Teraphim. Had some resemblance to the human form

(I Samuel 19:13). Of different sizes and materials. The manner of their

use not very clear, but used in some way for worship. Apparently not as

intentional rebellion against God. Rather as a help to worship Him, but a

help chosen in self-will. It was the error forbidden in the second

commandment; a departure from the way of Abel, Noah, Abraham; the

device of a soul out of harmony with spiritual things, and unable to realize

God’s presence in worship (compare Exodus 32:4; Judges 8:27; 17:3;

I Kings 12:28). We live in midst of things claiming attention.  (Never

before in history has this been so true as in this 21st century! – CY – 2018)

Necessities of life compel it. And the good effect of diligence is quickly

felt. This not evil, but becomes a snare unless spiritual life vigorous

(Matthew 13:22; I Corinthians 7:29-31). The habit of looking

earthward grows. The walk with God becomes less close. Then unreality

in worship. Then the attempt by material aids to reconcile worship with an

unchanged life. Hence, in the old time, teraphim; in our days, will worship.

 

  • THE EFFECT OF THIS ON THE MORAL CHARACTER AND ON

THE SPIRITUAL LIFE; exemplified in Laban. Compare him as presented

in Genesis 24 with what he now appears. There he is hospitable, frank, and

liberal; here he is sordid, ungenerous, deceitful even to his own nephew.

There he acknowledges the Lord as the Guide of actions (ch. 34:50-51);

here he speaks of “the God of your father,” and of “my gods.”

The love of wealth had made God no longer first in his thoughts

(compare Psalm 10:4; Philippians 3:19). Thus worship became a thing of

times and seasons, a thing separate from daily life, and therefore possessing

no influence on daily life. So in the Christian Church great attention to

external aids and extravagant symbolism were the resources of a pervading

spirit less spiritual than in times before; and these too often were as clouds

hiding the face of God.

 

  • RACHEL’S ACT. She stole her father’s teraphim. Why? Some have thought

to wean her father from them. More probably wished to make use of them.

Rachel had not escaped her father’s influence. Hence the want of a submissive

spirit (compare ch. 30:1 with I Samuel 1:11). The evil spread in Jacob’s

household (ch. 35:2). Thus the necessity for making a stand against it

(Joshua 14:23).

 

  • THE LESSON FOR OUR TIMES. The second commandment meets

a real danger in every age — of leaning upon secondary means in religious

service. Teraphim no longer tempt us. But amid whirl of active life, there is

a danger of leaning too much on outward impressions for spiritual life; of

cultivating the emotions in place of spiritual earnestness (Psalm 130:6;

Matthew 11:12); of putting religious services (I Samuel 15:22-23) or

work (Matthew 7:22) in place of WALKING WITH GOD!   Amid much

apparent religious activity the striving against self (Luke 9:23) and growth

in grace may become languid (I John 5:21).

 

20 “And Jacob stole away unawares to Laban the Syrian, in that he told him

not that he fled.”  And Jacob stole away unawares to Laban the Syrian, - literally,

stole the heart of Laban the Syrian, he deceived his mind and intelligence, like

κλέπτειν νόον, Hom., ' II.,' 14. 227 (compare vs. 26-27); hence - ἔκρυψε – ekrupse –

deceive (Septuagint); so Calvin, Rosenmüller, Keil, Gesenius, and others. Lange

fancifully understands by the heart of Laban which Jacob stole either Laban's

daughters or his favorite Rachel.  Gerlach contrasts Jacob's stealing with that

of Rachel, in which Jacob, had no part. The exact import of Jacob s stealing is

declared by the words that follow - in that he told him not (Lunge and Bush

interpret הִגֹּיִד impersonally, as signifying in that or because it was not told;

but in this among expositors they stand alone) that he fled.

 

21 “So he fled with all that he had; and he rose up, and passed over the river, and

set his face toward the mount Gilead.”  So (literally, and) he fled with (literally, and)

all that he had; and he rose up, and passed over the river, - i.e. the Euphrates, which

was called by preeminence the river (compare I Kings 4:21; Ezra 4:10, 16) - and set

his face toward the mount Gilead. גִּלְעַד, according to Gesenius, "the hard, stony

region," from an unused quadrilateral root, signifying to be hard, though, according

to the historian (by a slight change in the punctuation), "The hill, or heap of witness,"

from the transaction recorded in vs. 45-47, which name it here proleptically receives,

was not the mountain-range to the south of the Jabbok, now styled Jebel Jilad

(Gesenius), Jebel-as-Salt (Robinson), Jebel-osha (Tristram), since Jacob had not

yet crossed the river, but that upon its northern bank, called Jebel Ajlun, and

 situated near Mahanaim (Delitzsch, Keil, Kalisch, Porter).

 

 

Jacob’s Flight from Laban (vs. 1-21)

 

  • THE HOMEWARD DESIRE. The longing to revisit Canaan, which six

years previously Laban’s exactions and Joseph’s birth (ch.30:25)

had combined to inspire within the heart of Jacob, returned upon him with

an intensity that could no longer be resisted. Accelerated in its vehemence

partly by the interposed delay to which it had been subjected, partly by his

further acquaintance with the meanness and craft of his uncle, and partly by

his own rapidly- accumulating wealth, it was now brought to a head by:

 

Ø      The calumnious remarks of Labans sons. Inheriting the sordid and

avaricious nature of their parent, they were filled with envy at the

remarkable prosperity which had attended Jacob during the past six years.

If good men are sometimes “envious at the foolish,” it is not surprising that

wicked men should occasionally begrudge the success of saints. Then from

sinful desires they passed to wicked thoughts, accusing Jacob of having by

superior craft out-maneuvered their designing father, and appropriated the

flocks and herds that ought to have been his; which, however, was a

manifest exaggeration, since Jacob had not taken away all their father’s

glory,” and an unjustifiable calumny, since it was not Jacob’s stratagem,

but God’s blessing, that had multiplied the parti-colored flocks. And lastly,

from wicked thoughts they advanced to evil words, not only accusing

Jacob in their minds, but openly vilifying him with their tongues, adding to

the sin of private slander that of public defamation — conduct which the

word of God severely reprehends (Proverbs 30:10; I Corinthians 6:10;

Titus 3:2; James 4:11).

              

Ø      The manifest displeasure of Laban. During the fourteen years that Jacob

kept the flocks for Rachel and Leah, Laban regarded him with evident

satisfaction; not perhaps for his own sake, but for the unprecedented

increase in his (Laban’s) pastoral wealth which had taken place under

Jacob’s fostering care. He was even disposed to be somewhat pious so

long as the flocks and herds continued multiplying (ch. 30:27). But

now, when at the end of six years the relative positions of himself and

Jacob are reversed, — when Jacob is the rich man and he, comparatively

speaking at least, the poor one, — not only does his piety towards God

disappear, but his civility towards man does not remain. There are many

Labans in the Church, whose religion is but the shadow that waits upon the

sun of their prosperity, and many Labans in the world, whose amiability

towards others is only the reflection of their complacent feeling towards

themselves.

 

Ø      The explicit command of God. Twenty years before, at Bethel, God had

promised to bring Jacob back again to Canaan, and now He issues formal

instructions to His servant to return. As really, though not as visibly and

directly, God orders the footsteps of all His children (Psalm 32:8;

37:23). If it is well not to run before God’s providence, as Jacob would

have done had he returned to Canaan at the end of the fourteenth year, it is

also well not to lag behind when that providence has been clearly made

known. The assurance given to Jacob of guidance on his homeward

journey is extended to all who, in their daily goings forth:

 

o        obey the Divine instructions and

o        follow the Divine leadings.

 

  • THE CONFERENCE IN THE FIELD.

 

Ø      The explanation of Jacob. Three contrasts complete the sum of

Jacob’s announcements to his wives.

 

o       First, between the growing displeasure of Laban their father

and the manifest favor of the Elohim of his father (v. 5);

o       second, between the unwearied duplicity of their father,

notwithstanding Jacob’s arduous service, and the ever-

watchful protectionof God against his injurious designs

(vs. 6-7); and,

o       third, between the diminishing herds of Laban and the

multiplying flocks of himself, Jacob, both of which were

traceable to Divine interposition (vs. 8, 10, 12).

 

After enlarging on these contrasts, he informs them of the Divinely-

given order to return (v. 13).

 

Ø      The answer of Rachel and Leah. Acknowledging the mean and

avaricious spirit of their father, who had not only sold them as slaves,

but unjustly deprived them of the portions to which, as the daughters

of a chieftain, they were entitled (vs. 14-15):

 

o       they first confess that Jacob’s wealth was nothing more

than it would have been had they been honorably dowered

at the first;

o       second, they recognize the hand of God in thus punishing

their father and restoring to their husband what was

practically his; and,

o       third, encourage him to yield complete and prompt

obedience to the Divine commandment (v. 16).

 

  • THE HASTY DEPARTURE. In this there were four things

discernible.

 

Ø      Faith. In setting his face towards Canaan he was acting in obedience to

Divine instructions; and respect unto God’s commandments is an

essential characteristic of living faith.

 

Ø      In determining “to go to Isaac his father” he was actuated by a

true spirit of filial piety.

 

Ø      Wisdom. In stealing away unawares to Laban, while Laban was

providentially detained at the sheep-shearing, there was commendable

prudence, which, if possible, a good man should never lack.

 

Ø      Sin. Not indeed on Jacob’s part, but on that of Rachel, who, taking

advantage of her father’s absence, carried off his Penates or

household images.

 

  • LEARN:

 

1. That the love of country and friends is deeply implanted in the human breast.

2. That it is a great trial for worldly men to see good fortune go past their doors.

3. That the love of money, or the greed of gain, is the root of every kind of evil.

4. That the promises of God, however long delayed, are certain of fulfillment.

5. That loving husbands should consult their wives in all important steps in life.

6. That daughters should avoid speaking ill of parents, even should those parents

    deserve it.

7. That wives should always encourage their husbands in doing GOD’S WILL!

8. That those who flee from oppression should seek for safety in paths of

    God’s appointing.

9. That thriving and prosperous sons should not forget their parents in old age.

10. That daughters should not steal from their fathers, even to the extent of

      pilfering worthless images.

 

 

 

The Separation from Laban (vs. 20-21)

 

“And Jacob stole away unawares to Laban the Syrian,  A great lesson

on:

 

  • THE EVIL OF DISSIMULATION.

 

Ø      Hatred and wrong are the fruits of crafty ways.

Ø      Family dissensions occur where the things of this world

are uppermost.

Ø      Separations which are made in the spirit of dependence

on God rend no true bond, but rather strengthen affection.

 

  • THE FORBEARANCE OF GOD. There is no justification of Laban,

however much imperfection was in Jacob; yet the shield of Divine patience

and mercy was thrown over the man who vowed the vow of service, in whom

His grace would yet be abundantly revealed. Laban’s action was controlled

by God. He forbad the evil design. He stilleth the enemy and the avenger.

Take thou heed that thou speak not to Jacob either good or bad” (v. 29).

“Touch not mine anointed,” (I Chronicles 16:22)  When we are doing

God’s work and walking towards His chosen end we may leave it with

Him to speak with those who would hinder or harm us.  (“When a

man’s ways please the Lord, He maketh even his enemies to be at

peace with him.”  - Proverbs 16:7).

 

22 “And it was told Laban on the third day that Jacob was fled.  23 And he took

his brethren with him, and pursued after him seven days' journey; and they

overtook him in the mount Gilead.”  And it was told Laban on the third day

i.e. the third after Jacob's departure, the distance between the two sheep-stations

being a three days' journey (see ch. 30:36) - that Jacob was fled. And he took his

brethren - i.e. his kinsmen, or nearest relations (compare ch. 13:8; ch. 29:15) –

with him, and pursued after him (Jacob) seven days' journey (literally, a way

of seven days); and they overtook him in the mount Gilead. The distance between

Padan-aram and mount Gilead was a little over 300 miles, to perform which Jacob

must at least have taken ten days, though Laban, who was less encumbered than his

son-in-law, accomplished it in seven, which might easily be done by traveling from

forty to forty-five miles a day, by no means a great feat for a camel.

 

24  And God came to Laban the Syrian in a dream by night, and said unto him,

Take heed that thou speak not to Jacob either good or bad.  25 Then Laban

overtook Jacob. Now Jacob had pitched his tent in the mount: and Laban with

his brethren pitched in the mount of Gilead.”  And God - Elohim is here employed,

neither because the section belongs to the fundamental document (Tuch, Bleek,

Colenso, et alii), nor because, though Laban had an outward acquaintance with

Jehovah (see v. 49), his real religious knowledge did not extend beyond Elohim

(Hengstenberg), but simply because the historian wished to characterize the

interposition which arrested Laban in his wrath as supernatural (Quarry) –

came to Laban the Syrian in a dream by night, - (compare ch. 20:3; Job 33:15;

Matthew 1:20). This celestial visitation occurred the night before the fugitives

were overtaken (see v. 29). Its intention was to guard Jacob, according to the

promise of ch. 28:15, against Laban's resentment - and (accordingly God)

said unto him, Take heed - literally, take heed for thyself, the verb being

followed by an ethical dative, as in ch. 12:1; 21:16, q.v. - that thou speak not to

Jacob - literally, lest the, speak with Jacob; μή ποτε λαλήσυς μετὰ Ἰακὼβ – mae

pote lalaesus meta Iakob – don’t speak to Jacob either good or bad -  (Septuagint)

either good or bad. Literally, from good to bad, meaning that on meeting with

Jacob he should not pass from peaceful greetings to bitter reproaches (Bush, Lunge),

or say anything emphatic and decisive for the purpose of reversing what had

occurred (Keil); or, perhaps more simply, say anything acrimonious or violent

against Jacob (Rosenmüller, Murphy), the expression being a proverbial phrase

for opposition or interference (Kalisch). (Compare ch. 24:50; II Samuel 13:23).

Then (literally, and) Laban overtook Jacob. Now (literally, and) Jacob had

pitched his tent - this was done by means of pins driven into the ground, the

verb תָּקַע signifying to fasten, or fix anything by driving (compare Judges 4:21;

Isaiah 22:23, 25) - in the mount (v. 21): and Laban with his brethren (kinsmen)

pitched - his tent; not ἔστησε τοὺς ἀδελφοὺς (Septuagint) - in the mount of Gilead

(ibid.).

 

26 And Laban said to Jacob, What hast thou done, that thou hast stolen away

unawares to me, and carried away my daughters, as captives taken with the

sword?  27 Wherefore didst thou flee away secretly, and steal away from me;

and didst not tell me, that I might have sent thee away with mirth, and with

songs, with tabret, and with harp?  28 And hast not suffered me to kiss my sons

and my daughters? thou hast now done foolishly in so doing.  29 It is in the

power of my hand to do you hurt: but the God of your father spake unto me

yesternight, saying, Take thou heed that thou speak not to Jacob either good

or bad.  30 And now, though thou wouldest needs be gone, because thou sore

longedst after thy father's house, yet wherefore hast thou stolen my gods?”

And Laban (assuming a tone of injured innocence) said to Jacob, What hast

thou done, that thou hast stolen away unawares to me, - literally, and (meaning,

in that) thou hast stolen my heart (see v. 20; and compare v. 27) - and carried away

(see v. 18) my daughters, as captives taken with the sword? Literally, as captives

of the sword, i.e. invitis parentibus (Rosenmüller); language which, if not

hypocritical on Laban's part, was certainly exaggerated, since he had already

evinced the strength of his parental affection by selling his daughters to Jacob;

and besides, so far as it concerned either Jacob or his wives, it was quite untrue,

Rachel and Leah having voluntarily accompanied their husband in his flight.

Wherefore didst thou flee away secretly, - literally, wherefore didst thou hide

thyself to flee away; חָבַא (niph.), with an inf. following, corresponding to the

similar construction in Greek of λανθάνεινlanthanein – unawares - with a

participle and being correctly rendered in English by an adverb (see Gesenius,

'Gram.,' § 142) - and steal away from me (literally, and steal me, ut supra);

and didst not tell me, that I might (literally, and I would) have sent thee away

with mirth, and with songs, - in Oriental countries those about to make a long

journey are still sent away cantionibus et musicorum instrumentorum concentu

(Rosenmüller) - with tabret, - the toph was a drum or timbrel, consisting of a

wooden circle covered with membrane, and furnished with brass bells (like the

modern tambourine), which Oriental women beat when dancing (compare

Exodus 15:20; Judges 11:34; Jeremiah 31:4) - and with harp! For a description

of the kinnor see ch. 4:21. And hast not suffered me to kiss my sons (i.e. the

children of Leah and Rachel) and my daughters! It is perhaps judging Laban

too severely to pronounce this complete hypocrisy and cant (Alford, Bush,

Candlish, Gerlach), but equally wide of the truth is it to see in Laban's conduct

nothing but generosity of feeling (Kalisch); probably there was a mixture of both

paternal affection and crafty dissimulation (Delitzsch). Thou hast now done

foolishly in so doing. The charge of folly in Old Testament Scriptures commonly

carries with it an imputation of wrong-doing (compare I Samuel 13:13; II Samuel

14:10). It is in the power of my hand - so the phrase יָדִי יֶשׁ־לְאֵל (compare

Deuteronomy 28:32; Nehemiah 5:5; Micah 2:1) is rendered by competent

authorities (Gesenius, Furst, Rosenmüller, Kalisch, Murphy, et alii), with

which agree ἰσχύει ἡ χειρ μου ischuei hae cheir mou – power of my h and –

(Septuagint), and valet manus men (Vulgate), though the translation "My hand

is for God," i.e. my hand serves me as God (compare Job 12:6; Hebrews 1:11),

is by some preferred (Keil, Knobel, Jacobus) - to do you hurt: but the God of

your father - the use of this expression can be rightly regarded neither as a

proof of Elohistic authorship (Tuch, Bleek, Colenso, Davidson) nor as a sign

of Laban's spiritual degeneracy (Hengstenberg, Wordsworth), since it is practically

equivalent to Jehovah (see ch. 28:13), but is probably to be viewed as a play upon

the sound and sense of the preceding clause, as thus: - "It is in the El of my hand

to do you evil, but the Elohim of your father spake to me." Another instance of

this play upon the sound and sense is to be found in vs. 19-20 - "Rachel stole

the teraphim that were her father's; and Jacob stole the heart of Laban the Syrian"

(compare Quarry on Genesis, p. 498) - spake unto me yester night, saying, Take

thou heed that thou speak not to Jacob - literally, guard or keep thee for thyself

(the pleon, pron. being added as in v. 24) from speaking with Jacob - either

good or bad (ibid.). And now, though thou wouldest needs be gone (literally,

going thou didst go - thou hast indeed gone), because thou sore longedst after

thy father's house (literally, because desiring thou didst desire. The verb כָּסַפ,

to be pale (whence כֶּסֶפ, silver, so called from its pale color), expresses the idea

of pining away and languishing through strong inward longing), yet wherefore

hast thou stolen my gods? Laban had probably gone to consult his teraphim and

so discovered their loss. Augustine calls attention to this as the first Scripture

reference to heathen gods, and Calvin probably supplies the right explanation

of the sense in which they were so styled by Laban, non quia deitatem illie

putaret esse inclusam, sed quia in honorem deorum imagines illas colebat;

vel potius quod Deo sacra facturus, vertebat se ad illas imagines (compare

Exodus 32:4; I Kings 12:28). "This complaint of Laban, that his "gods were

stolen, showeth the vanity of such idolatry" (Ainsworth). Compare Judges 6:31;

16:24; Jeremiah 10:5,11,15.

 

31"And Jacob answered and said to Laban, Because I was afraid: for I said,

Peradventure thou wouldest take by force thy daughters from me.  32 With

whomsoever thou findest thy gods, let him not live: before our brethren discern

thou what is thine with me, and take it to thee. For Jacob knew not that Rachel

had stolen them."  And Jacob answered - "in an able and powerful speech"

(Kalisch) - and said to Laban (replying to his first interrogation as to why Jacob

had stolen away unawares), Because I was afraid: for I said (to myself),

Peradventure (literally, lest, i.e. I must depart without informing thee lest)

thou wouldest (or shoudest) take by force - the verb signifies to strip off as skin

from flesh (see Micah 3:2), and hence to forcibly remove - thy daughters from me

(after which, in response to Laban's question about his stolen gods, he proceeds).

With whomsoever thou findest thy gods, let him not live. If Jacob meant he shall

not live, but I will slay him with mine own hand (Aben Ezra), let God destroy him

(Abarbanel), I give him up to thee to put to death (Rosenmüller), let him instantly

die (Drusius), he was guilty of great unadvisedness in speech. Accordingly, the

import of his words has been mollified by regarding them simply as a prediction,

"he will not live," i.e. he will die before his time (Jonathan), a prediction which,

the Rabbins note, was fulfilled in Rachel (see ch. 35:16, 18); or by connecting

them with clause following, "he will not live before our brethren," i.e. let him be

henceforth cut off from the society of his kinsmen (Septuagint, Bush). Yet, even

as thus explained, the language of Jacob was precipitats, since he ought first to have

inquired at his wives and children before pronouncing so emphatically on a matter

of which he was entirely ignorant (Calvin). Before our brethren - not Jacob's sons,

but Laban's kinsmen (v. 23) - discern thou - literally, examine closely for thyself,

the hiph. of נָכַר (to be strange) meaning to press strongly into a thing, i.e. to perceive

it by finding out its distinguishing characteristics (see Furst, sub voce) - what is thine

with me, and take it to thee. For (literally, and) Jacob knew not that Rachel had

stolen them - otherwise he would have spoken with less heat and more caution.

 

33 “And Laban went into Jacob's tent, and into Leah's tent, and into the two

maidservants' tents; but he found them not. Then went he out of Leah's tent,

and entered into Rachel's tent.”  And Laban went into Jacob's teut, and into

Leah's tent, and into the two maid-servants' tents; - the clause affords an

interesting glimpse into the manners of the times, showing that not only husbands

and wives, but also wives among themselves, possessed separate establishments) –

but he found them not. Then went he out of Leah's tent (he probably commenced

with Jacob's and those of the hand-maids, and afterwards passed into Leah's), and

entered into Rachel's tent - last, because she was the favorite. Compare ch. 33:2,

in which a similar partiality towards Rachel is exhibited by Jacob.

 

34 “Now Rachel had taken the images and put them in the camel’s furniture,

and sat upon them.  And Laban searched all the tent, but found them not.”

Now Rachel had taken the images (teraphim), and put them in the camel's furniture, -

the camel's furniture was not stramenta cameli (Vulgate), "the camel's straw" (Luther),

but the camel's saddle (Septuagint, Onkelos, Syriac, Calvin, Rosenmüller, Keil,

and others), here called כּר, from כָּרַר, an unused root signifying either to go

round in a circle, hence to run (Gesenius), or to be firmly wound together, hence

to be puffed up as a bolster (Furst). The woman's riding-saddle was commonly

made of wicker-work and had the appearance of a basket or cradle. It was usually

covered with carpet, and protected against wind, rain, and sun by means of a

canopy and curtains, while light was admitted by openings in the side. "That

which is now customary among the Arabs consists of a large closed basket-work,

with a place for sitting and reclining, and a window at the side; one of this kind

hangs on each side of the camel" (Gerlach) - and sat upon them. "To us the picture

of Rachel seated upon the camel furniture is true to life, for we have often seen its

counterpart. The saddle-bags and cushions which were to be set upon the camel

lay piled on the floor, while she sat upon them (Van Lennep, quoted by Inglis,

p. 254). And Laban searched - the word means to feel out or explore with the

hands (ch.  27:12; Job 12:25) - all the tent, but found them not.

 

35 “And she said to her father, Let it not displease my lord that I cannot rise

up before thee; for the custom of women is upon me. And he searched, but

found not the images.” And she said to her father, - "covering theft by subtlety

and untruth" (Kalisch), and thus proving herself a true daughter of Laban, as well

as showing with how much imperfection her religious character was taintedLet

 it not displease my lord - literally, let it not burn with anger (יִחַר, from חָרָה, to glow,

to burn) in the eyes of my lord (Adoni) - that I cannot rise up before thee; - Oriental

politeness required children to rise up in the presence of their parents (see Leviticus

19:32; and compare I Kings 2:19). Hence Rachel's apology was not unnecessary –

for the custom of women - (literally, the way of women; a periphrasis for

menstruation (compare ch. 18:11) which, under the law, required females, as

ceremonially unclean, to be put apart (Leviticus 15:19). That, prior to the law,

this particular statute concerning women was in force among the Aramaeans

appears from the present instance; and that it was not exclusively Jewish, but

shared in by other nations of antiquity, is the opinion of the best authorities

(see Kurtz, 'History of the Old Covenant,' § 79; 'Sacrificial Worship of the

Old Testament,' § 213; Keil in loco; both of whom quote Bahr's 'Symbolik

of the Mosaic Cultus,' 2. 466). Roberts mentions that under similar circumstances

with Rachel no one in India goes to the temple or any religious ceremony

('Oriental Illustrations,' p. 37) - is upon me. It is just possible Rachel may have

been speaking the exact truth, though the probability is she was guilty of fabrication.

And he searched (everywhere except among the camel's furniture, partly from fear

of defilement, but chiefly as regarding it impossible that Rachel in her then state

would sit upon his gods), but found not the images (teraphim). The three times

repeated phrase "he found not," emphasizes the completeness, of Laban's deception.

 

36 “And Jacob was wroth, and chode with Laban: and Jacob answered and said

to Laban, What is my trespass? what is my sin, that thou hast so hotly pursued

after me?  37 Whereas thou hast searched all my stuff, what hast thou found of

all thy household stuff? set it here before my brethren and thy brethren, that

they may judge betwixt us both.  38  This twenty years have I been with thee;

thy ewes and thy she goats have not cast their young, and the rams of thy flock

have I not eaten.  39 That which was torn of beasts I brought not unto thee;

I bare the loss of it; of my hand didst thou require it, whether stolen by day,

or stolen by night.  40  Thus I was; in the day the drought consumed me, and

the frost by night; and my sleep departed from mine eyes.  41 Thus have I been

twenty years in thy house; I served thee fourteen years for thy two daughters,

and six years for thy cattle: and thou hast changed my wages ten times.

42 Except the God of my father, the God of Abraham, and the fear of Isaac,

had been with me, surely thou hadst sent me away now empty. God hath seen

mine affliction and the labor of my hands, and rebuked thee yesternight.”

And Jacob was wroth, - literally, and it burned, sc. with indignation (same word

as used by Rachel, v. 35), to Jacob, i.e. he was infuriated at what he believed to be

Laban's unjustifiable insinuation about his lost teraphim - and chode - or contended;

the fundamental signification of the root, רוּב or רִיב, being to seize or tear, e.g.

the hair, hence to strive with the bands (Deuteronomy 33:7), or with words

(Psalm 103:9). The two verbs, וַתִּחַר and וַיָּרֶב, give a vivid representation of

the exasperation which Jacob felt - with Laban: and Jacob answered and said

to Laban, - in words characterized by "verbosity and self-glorification" (Kalisch),

or "acute, sensibility and elevated self-consciousness (Delitzsch, Keil), according

as one inclines to an unfavorable or favorable view of Jacob's character - What is

my trespass? what is my sin, that thou hast so hotly pursued after me? The intensity

of Jacob s feeling imparts to his language a rythmical movement, and leads to the

selection of poetical forms of expression, such as דָּלַק אַחֲרֵי, to burn after, in the

sense of fiercely persecuting, which occurs again only in I Samuel 17:53, causing

the reader at times to catch "the dance and music of actual verse" (Ewald). Whereas

thou hast searched all my stuff, - literally (so. What is my sin) that thou hast felt all

my articles (Septuagint, Kalisch)? the clause being co-ordinate with the preceding;

though by others כִּי is taken as equivalent to כַּאֲשֶׁר, quando quidem, since

(Authorized Version, Ainsworth), or quando, when (Calvin, Murphy) - what hast

thou found of all thy household stuff? set it here before my brethren and thy

brethren (i.e. Laban's kinsmen who accompanied him, who were also of necessity

kinsmen to Jacob), that they may judge betwixt us both - which of us has injured

the other. This twenty years have I been with thee (see v. 41); thy ewes (רָחֵל, a ewe,

whence Rachel) and thy she goats - עֵן a she-goat; compare Sanscrit, adsha, a

he-goat; adsha, a she-goat; Goth., gaitsa; Anglo-Saxon, gat; German, geis;

Greek, αἵξ - haix; Turkish, gieik (Gesenius, sub voce) - have not cast their young,

and the rams of thy flock have I not eaten. Roberts says that the people of the East

do not eat female sheep except when sterile, and that it would be considered folly

and prodigality in the extreme to eat that which has the power of producing more

(see 'Oriental Illustrations,' p. 37). That which was torn of beasts (טְרֵפָה, a coll. fem.,

from טָרַפ, to tear in pieces, meaning that which is torn in pieces, hence cattle

destroyed by wild beasts) I brought not unto thee; I bare the loss of it; - אֲחֶטַּנָּה,

literally, I made expiation for it, the piel of חָטָא, signifying to make atonement

for a thing by sacrifice (Leviticus 9:15), or by compensation, as here; hence

"I bare the loss it" (Rashi, equivalent to compareFurst), or ἐγὼ ἀπετίννουν –

ego apetinnoun (LXX.), or, perhaps, "I will be at the loss of it, or pay it back"

(Kalisch) - of my hand didst thou require it, - otherwise, "of my hand require it"

(Kalisch) - whether stolen by day, or stolen by night. Without adhering literally

to the text, the Septuagint gives the sense of this and the preceding clause as being,

"From my own I paid back the stolen by day and the stolen by night." Thus I was;

(i.e. I was in this condition that) in the day the drought consumed me, and the frost

by night קֶרַח, ice, so called from its smoothness, hence cold. The alternation of heat

and cold in many eastern countries is very great and severely felt by shepherds,

travelers, and watchmen, who require to pass the night in the open air, and who

in consequence are often obliged to wear clothes lined with skins (compare

Psalm 121:6; Jeremiah 36:30). "The thermometer at 24° Fahr. at night, a lump

of solid ice in our basins in the morning, and then the scorching heat of the day

drawing up the moisture, made the neighborhood, convenient as it was, rather

a fever-trap, and premonitory symptoms warned us to move" (Tristram, 'The

Land of Moab,' p. 217). "The night air at Joaiza was keen and cold; indeed

there was a sharp frost, and ice appeared on all the little pools about the camp"

(Thomson, 'The Land and the Book,' p. 364). "Does a master reprove his servant

for being idle; he will ask, "What can I do? the heat eats me up by day, and the

cold eats me up by night'" (Roberts 'Oriental Illustrations,' p. 37; cf. Paxton's

'Illustrations,' vol. 1. p. 30). And my sleep departed from mine eyes. Syrian

shepherds were compelled to watch their flocks often both night and day, and for

a whole month together, and repair into long plains and deserts without any shelter;

and when reduced to this incessant labor, they were besides chilled by the piercing

cold of the morning, and scorched by the succeeding heats of a flaming sun, the

opposite action of which often swells and chafes their lips and face" (Paxton's

'Illustrations of Scripture,' vol. 1. p. 30). Thus have I been - literally, this to me

(or for myself) - twenty years in thy house; I served thee fourteen years for thy

two daughters, and six years for thy cattle. The majority of expositors understand

the twenty years referred to in v. 38 to be the same as the twenty spoken of here as

consisting of fourteen and six. Dr. Kennicott, regarding the twenty years of v. 38 as

having intervened between the fourteen and the six of v. 41, makes the entire period

of Jacob's sojourn in Padan-aram to have been forty years. In support of this he

contends :

 

(1) that the particle זֶה, twice repeated (in v. 38 and in v. 41), may be legitimately

rendered, "This (one) twenty years I was with thee" (v. 38), i.e. taking care of thy

flocks; and "this for myself (another) twenty years in thy house," i.e. serving for thy

daughters and thy cattle (compare Exodus 14:20; Job 21:23, 25; Ecclesiastes 6:5);

 

(2) that on this hypothesis more time is afforded for the birth of Jacob's family,

viz. twenty-seven years instead of seven; and

 

(3) that it relieves the narrative of certain grave chronological difficulties in

connection with Judah and his family, which, on the supposition of the shorter

period, subsequently emerge, such as that Judah and his sons must have been quite

children when they married (see ch. 38:1-11). But, on the other hand, in favor of

the accepted chronology it may be urged:

 

  1. that the interposition of a second twenty years in the middle of the first is

unnatural;

  1. that, though legitimate, the proposed rendering of זֶה does not at first

sight suggest itself as that which Jacob intended;

  1. that it is not impossible for Jacob's family to have been born in the

short space of seven years (see ch. 27:1; 30:35);

  1. that in reality the difficulties connected with Judah and his sons are

not removed by the hypothesis of a forty years' sojourn in Padan-aram

any more than by a sojourn of only twenty years, since Judah must have

married either after the sale of Joseph, in which case only twenty-two

years remain for the birth and marriage of Er and Onan, for Pharez and

Zarah, Judah's children by Tamar, to grow to manhood, and for Pharez

to have two sons, Hezron and Hamul, before descending to Egypt, unless

indeed, as Kurtz supposes, Judah's grandchildren were born in Egypt; or

before the sale of Joseph - indeed, if Hezron and Hamul were born in

'Speaker's Commentary,' Inglis), the computation of Dr. Kennicott does not

appear of sufficient weight to set aside the ordinary reckoning, which is

followed by interpreters of equal credit (Keil, Kalisch, Kurtz, Lange,

Canaan, before the birth of Joseph, i.e. while Judah was yet in Padan-aram,

which is contrary to the narrative (see Genesis 38:1- 2). For these reasons,

though adopted by some excellent authorities (Bishop Horsley, Adam Clarke,

Murphy, Wordsworth).

 

And thou hast changed my wages ten times (see v. 7). Except (לוּלֵי, if not, i.e.

unless, introducing the protasis of the sentence) the God of my father, the God

of Abraham, and the fear of Isaac, - i.e. the object of Isaac's fear, not "terror"

(Oort and Kuenen, see 'The Bible for Young People,' vol. 1. p. 243), viz. God;

פַּחַד being used metonymically of that which inspires reverence or fear, like

σέβαςsebas – awe; reverence, worship, respect, astonishment, wonder,

majesty,pride, glory and σέβασμα – sebasma – object of awe. The entire clause

is a periphrasis for Jehovah of v. 3, which is usually ascribed to the Jehovist,

while the present verse belongs, it is alleged, to the fundamental document –

had been with - or, for (compare Psalm 124:1-2) - me (during the whole period

of my sojurn in Padan-aram, but especially during the last six years), surely (כִּי,

then, commencing the apodosis) thou hadst sent me away now empty (as by thy

stratagem in changing my wages thou didst design; but) God hath seen mine

affliction (compare ch. 29:32; Exodus 3:7) and the labor - especially that which

is wearisome, from a root signifying to toil with effort so as to become fatiguing

(compare Job 39:11) - of my hands, and rebuked - i.e. reproved thee, as in ch. 21:25

(Septuagint, Vulgate, Authorizwd Version, Calvin, Ainsworth, Lange, Kalisch, and

others); or judged, sc. it, i.e. mine affliction, in the sense of pronouncing an opinion

or verdict on it, as in I Chronicles 12:17 (Keil, Murphy); or proved, sc. it, viz. that

He had seen my affliction (Dathius, Peele); or decided betwixt us, as in v. 37 (Furst,

Gesenius) thee yester-night.

 

43 “And Laban answered and said unto Jacob, These daughters are my daughters,

and these children are my children, and these cattle are my cattle, and all that

thou seest is mine: and what can I do this day unto these my daughters, or unto

their children which they have born?  44 Now therefore come thou, let us make

a covenant, I and thou; and let it be for a witness between me and thee.”

And Laban answered and said unto Jacob, - neither receiving Jacob's torrent of

invective with affected meekness (Candlish), nor proving himself to be completely

reformed by the angry recriminations of his "callous and hardened son-in-law

(Kalisch); but perhaps simply owning the truth of Jacob's wants, and recognizing

that he had no just ground of complaint (Calvin), as well as touched in his paternal

affections by the sight of his daughters, from whom he felt that he was about to part

for ever. These daughters - literally, the daughters (there) - are my daughters, and

these (literally, the) children are my children, and these (literally, the) cattle are

my cattle; and all that thou seest is mine. Not as reminding Jacob that he had

still a legal claim to his (Jacob's) wives and possessions (Candlish), or at least

possessions (Kalisch), though prepared to waive it, but rather as acknowledging

that in doing injury to Jacob he would only be proceeding against his own flesh

and blood (Calvin, Rosenmüller, Gerlach, Alford). And what can I do this day

unto these my daughters, - literally, and as for (or to) my daughters, what can

I do to these this day? The Septuagint, connecting "and to my daughters" with

what precedes, reads, καὶ πάντα ὅσα σὺ ὁρᾷς ἐμά ἐσι καὶ τῶν θυγατέρων μου

kai panta hosa su horas ema esi kai ton thugateron mou - and all that you see is

mine: and what can I do this day to these my daughters, or unto their children

which they have born? - i.e. why should I do anything unto them? An ego in

viscera mea saervirem (Calvin). Now therefore literally, and now, νῦν οὖν –

nun oun – now come (Septuagint) - come thou, - לְכָה, imperfect of יָלַך- age,

go to, come now (compare ch. 19:32) - let us make a covenant, - literally,

let us cut a covenant, an expression which, according to partitionists (Tuch,

Stahelin, Delitzsch, et alii), is not used by the Elohist until after Exodus 14:8;

and yet by all such authorities the present verse is assigned to the Elohist

(compare Keil's 'Introduction,' part 1. § 2, div. 1. § 27) - I and thou; and let it

be for a witness between me and thee.

 

 

 

Laban’s Pursuit of Jacob (vs. 22-44)

 

  • THE HOSTILE PREPARATION. Learning of his son-in-law’s

departure, Laban at once determines on pursuit; not alone for the purpose

of recovering his household gods, but chiefly with the view of wreaking his

pent-up vengeance on Jacob, whom he now regarded as the spoiler of his

fortunes, and if possible to capture and detain the much-coveted flocks and

herds which he considered had been practically stolen by his nephew.

Mustering his kinsmen by either force or fraud, — by command enjoining

those belonging to his household, and by misrepresentation probably

beguiling such as were independent of his authority, he loses not a

moment, but starts upon the trail of the fugitives. Worldly men are seldom

slow in seeking to repair their lost fortunes, and angry men are seldom

laggard in exacting revenge, it is only God’s vengeance that is slow-footed.

 

  • THE DIVINE INTERPOSITION. Six days the wrathful Laban follows

in pursuit of Jacob, and now the distance of one day is all that parts him

from the fugitives. In a dream by night he is warned by Elohim to speak

neither good nor bad to Jacob. The incident reminds us of the Divine

superintendence of mundane affairs in general, and of God’s care for His

people in particular; of the access which God ever has to the minds of His

dependent creatures, and of the many different ways in which He can

communicate His will; of His ability at all times to restrain the wrath of

wicked men, and check the hands of evil-doers, who meditate the spoiling

of His Church or the persecution of His saints.

 

  • THE STORMY INTERVIEW.

 

Ø      The pompous harangue of Laban. Laban gives way to:

 

o        Passionate reproach; charging Jacob with having clandestinely

departed from his service and violently carried off his daughters,

in the first of which Jacob did nothing wrong, while the second

was a pure exaggeration (v. 16).

 

o        Hypocritical affection; declaring that Jacob, had he, Laban, only

known, might have been sent away with public demonstrations of

rejoicing, while Rachel and Leah might have carried with them a

parent’s kiss, if not a father’s blessing. But if Jacob’s leave-taking

would in any way have excited Laban’s jubilation, it is doubtful if

this would not have been traceable less to Laban’s regard for his

son-in-law than to Laban’s anxiety about his flocks, which, in the

absence of the spoiler, he might hope would become prolific as

before; while as for Laban’s love for his daughters, one might

fairly claim indemnity for suspecting an affection so recent in its

origin, and so palpably contradicted by his previous behavior.

 

o        Boastful assertion; passing on, like all weak natures who love to be

considered formidable, to brag about his power to inflict injury on

Jacob (v. 29), and to hint that he only forbears to do so out of respect

for God, who had appeared to him on the previous night.

 

o        Direct accusation; ere he closes his oration, deliberately impeaching

Jacob with having abstracted his teraphim.

 

Ø      The ingenuous response of Jacob. In this are discernible virtues worthy

of imitation, if also infirmities deserving reprobation. If Jacob’s candor

in declaring the reasons of his flight (v. 31) and willingness to restore to

Laban whatever property belonged to him (v. 32) are examples to be

copied, on the other hand, the over-confident assertion that no one had

Laban’s gods, and the over-hasty imprecation on any who should be

found possessing them, are not to be commended.

 

  • THE FRUITLESS SEARCH.

 

Ø      The missing gods. On the nature, probable origin, and uses of the

teraphim see Exposition, v. 19. The existence of these silver or wooden

images in Laban’s tent was a proof of the religious declension, if not

complete apostasy, of this branch of the family of Terah. Scripture never

represents idolatry as an upward effort of the human heart, as a further

development in the onward evolution of the soul (Sir J. Lubbock on the

‘Origin of Civilisation,’ p. 256); but always as a deterioration, or a

retrogression, or a falling away of the human spirit from its rightful

allegiance. The loss of Laban’s manufactured deities was a ridiculous

commentary on the folly of worshipping or trusting in a god that could be

stolen — a complete reductio ad absurdum of the whole superstructure of

idolatry (compare I Kings 18. 27; Psalm 115:4-8; Isaiah 44:19; 46:6-7;

Jeremiah 10:5).

 

Ø      The anxious devotee. Invited by Jacob to make a search for his lost

teraphim, Laban begins with Jacob’s tent, then with the tents of Bilhah and

Zilpah, after which he passes into Leah’s, and finally comes to Rachel’s;

but everywhere his efforts to recover his gods are defeated. What a

spectacle of infinite humor, if it were not rather of ineffable sadness — a

man seeking for his lost gods! The gospel presents us with the opposite

picturethe ever-present God seeking for his lost children.

 

Ø      The lying daughter. If the conduct of Rachel in carrying off the images

of her father was open to serious question (see Exposition, v. 19), her

behavior towards her father in the tent was utterly inexcusable. Even if she

spoke the truth in describing her condition, she was guilty of bare-faced

deception. This particular passage in-Rachel’s history is painfully

suggestive of the disastrous results of worldliness and irreligion in the

training of children. Laban’s craft and Laban’s superstition had both been

factors in Rachel’s education.

 

Ø      The deceived parent. Worse than being disappointed in his gods, Laban

was dishonored by his daughter. But what else could he expect? Laban was

only reaping as he had sowed. Marvelous and appropriate are God’s

providential retributions.  (I recommend #1246 – this website

Proverbs ch14 v14 – Spurgeon Sermon – How a Man’s Conduct Comes Home to Him

CY – 2018)

 

  • THE PASSIONATE INVECTIVE. It was now Jacob’s turn to pour

out the vials of his wrath upon Laban, and certainly it burned all the hotter

because of its previous suppression.

 

1. He upbraids Laban with the unreasonableness of his persecution (v. 36).

2. He taunts Laban with the fruitlessness of his search (v. 37).

3. He reminds Laban of the faithful service he had given for twenty years

    (vs. 38-41).

4. He recalls the crafty attempts to defraud him of which Laban had been

    guilty (v. 41).

5. He assures Laban that it was God’s gracious care, and neither his

    honesty nor affection, that had prevented him from being that day a poor

    man instead of a rich emir (v. 42).

6. He somewhat fiercely bids Laban accept the rebuke which God had

    addressed to him the previous night.

 

  • THE AMICABLE SETTLEMENT. Doubtless much to Jacob’s

surprise, the wrath of Laban all at once subsided, and a proposal came

from him to bury past animosities, to strike a covenant of friendship with

one another, and to part in peace. The seven days’ journey, affording time

for reflection; the Divine interposition, inspiring him with fear; the

mortification resulting from his fruitless search, convincing him that he had

really overstepped the bounds of moderation in accusing Jacob; the voice

of conscience within his breast re-echoing the words of Jacob, and

declaring them to be true; and perhaps the sight of his daughters at last

touching a chord in the old man’s heart; — all these may have contributed

to this unexpected collapse in Laban; but whether or not, Jacob, as became

him, cordially assented to the proposition.

 

  • LESSONS:

 

1. The reality of God’s care for His people — illustrated by the appearances

     of Elohim to Jacob and to Laban.

2. The miserable outcome of a worldly life — exemplified in Laban.

3. The efficacy of a soft answer in turning away wrath — proved by

    Jacob’s first response.  (Proverbs 15:1)

4. The difficulty of restraining angry speech within just bounds —

    exemplified by both.

5. The folly of idolatry, as seen in Laban s lost teraphim.

6. The evil fruits of bad parental training, as they appear in Rachel.

7. The proper way of ending quarrels — exhibited by Laban and Jacob in

     their covenant agreement.

 

45 “And Jacob took a stone, and set it up for a pillar.”  Or Matzebah, as a

memorial or witness of the covenant about to be formed (v. 52); a different

transaction from the piling of the stone-heap next referred to (compare ch.28:18;

Joshua 24:27).

 

46 “And Jacob said unto his brethren, Gather stones; and they took stones,

and made an heap: and they did eat there upon the heap.”  And Jacob said unto

his brethren, - Laban's kinsmen and his own (see v. 37) - Gather stones; and they

took stones, and made an heap: - Gal, from Galal, to roll, to move in a circle,

probably signified a circular cairn, to be used not as a seat (Gerlach), but as an

altar (v. 54), a witness (v. 48), and a table (v. 54), since it is added - and they

did eat there - not immediately (Lange), but afterwards, on the conclusion of

the covenant (v. 54) - upon the heap.

 

47 “And Laban called it Jegarsahadutha: but Jacob called it Galeed.”

And Laban called it Jegarsahadutha: - A Chaldaic term signifying

"Heap of testimony," βουνὸς τῆς μαρτυρίας  - bounos taes marturias –

(Septuagint); tumulum testis (Vulgate) - but Jacob called it Galeed

compounded of Gal and 'ed and meaning, like the corresponding Aramaic

term used' by Laban, "Heap of witness," βουνὸς μάρτυςbounos martus

(Septuagint); acervum testimonii (Vulgate). "It is scarcely possible to doubt,"

says Kalisch, "that an important historical fact," relating to the primitive

language of the patriarchs, "is concealed in this part of the narrative;" but

whether that fact was that Aramaic, Syriac, or Chaldee was the mother-tongue

of the family of Nahor, while Hebrew was acquired by Abraham in Canaan

(Block, Delitzsch, Keil), or that Laban had deviated from the original speech

of his ancestors (Jerome, Augustine), or that' Laban and Jacob both used the

same language with some growing dialectic differences (Gosman in Lange, Inglis),

Laban simply on this occasion giving the heap a name which would be known to

the inhabitants of the district (Wordsworth), seems impossible to determine with

certainty. The most that can be reasonably inferred from the term Jegar-sahadutha

is that Aramaic was the language of Mesopotamia (Rosenmüller); besides this

expression there is no other evidence that Laban and Jacob conversed in different

dialects; while it is certain that the word Mizpah, which was probably also spoken

by Laban, is not Chaldee or Aramaic but Hebrew.

 

48“And Laban said, This heap is a witness between me and thee this day. Therefore

was the name of it called Galeed;  49And Mizpah; for he said, The LORD watch

between me and thee, when we are absent one from another.  50 If thou shalt afflict

my daughters, or if thou shalt take other wives beside my daughters, no man is

with us; see, God is witness betwixt me and thee.”  And Laban said, This heap is a

witness between me and thee this day. The historian adding - Therefore was the name

of it called (originally by Jacob, and afterwards by the Israelites from this transaction)

Galeed (see on v. 21). The stony character of the regon may have suggested the

designation. And Mizpah; - watchtower from Tsaphah, to watch. Mizpah afterwards

became the site of a town in the district of Gilead (Judges 10:17;  11:11, 19, 34);

which received its name, as the historian intimates, from the pile of witness erected

by Laban and his kinsmen, and was later celebrated as the residence of Jephthah

(ibid. ch. 11:34) and the seat of the sanctuary (ibid. v. 11). Ewald supposes that the

mound (Galeed) and the watch tower (Mispah) were different objects, and that the

meaning of the (so-called) legend is that, while the former (the mountain) was piled

up by Jacob and his people, the latter (now the city and fortress of Mizpah on one

of the heights of Gilead) was constructed by Laban and his followers (vide 'History

of Israel,' vol. 1. p. 347); but the "grotesqusnesa" of this interpretation of the

Hebrew story is its best refutation - for he (i.e. Laban) said, The Lord - Jehovah;

a proof that vs. 49-50 are a Jehovistic interpolation (Tuch, Bleek, Colenso, Kalisch);

an indication of their being a subsequent insertion, though not warranting the

inference that the entire history is a complication (Keil); a sign that henceforth

Laban regarded Jehovah as the representative of his rights (Lange); but probably

only a token that Laban, recognizing Jehovah as the only name that would bind

the conscience of Jacob (Hengstenberg, Quarry), had for the moment adopted

Jacob's theology ('Speaker's Commentary'), but only in self-defense (Wordsworth) –

watch between me and thee, when we are absent one from another - literally,

a man from his companion. If thou shalt afflict my daughters, or if thou shalt

take other wives beside my daughters (Laban's concern for his daughters, though

hitherto not conspicuous, may, in the hour of parting from them, have been real:

his language shows that he was not quite at ease as to Jacob's integrity. Perhaps

the remembrance that he had been the cause of Jacob's taking two wives made

him anxious to secure that Jacob should not improve upon his evil instructions),

no man is with us; - either then they stood apart from Laban's clan followers

(Inglis); or his meaning was that when widely separated there would be no one

to judge betwixt them, or perhaps even to observe them (Rosenmüller), but –

see, God (Elohim in contrast to man) is witness betwixt me and thee.

 

51 “And Laban said to Jacob, Behold this heap, and behold this pillar, which I

have cast betwixt me and thee;  52This heap be witness, and this pillar be witness,

that I will not pass over this heap to thee, and that thou shalt not pass over this

heap and this pillar unto me, for harm.  53 The God of Abraham, and the God

of Nahor, the God of their father, judge betwixt us. And Jacob sware by the fear

of his father Isaac.”  And Laban said to Jacob, - according to Ewald the last narrator

has transposed the names of Laban and Jacob (see 'History of Israel,' vol. 1. p. 346) –

Behold this heap, and behold this pillar, which I have cast (same word as in v. 45.

The Arabic version and Samaritan text read yaritha, thou hast erected, instead of

yarithi, I have erected or cast up) betwixt me and thee; this heap be witness, and

this pillar be witness, that (literally, if, here = that) I will not pass over this heap

to thee, and that thou shalt not pass over this heap and this pillar (Laban bound

himself never to pass over the heap which he had erected as his witness; whereas

Jacob was required to swear that he would never cross the pillar and the pile, both

of which were witnesses for him) unto me, for harm. The emphatic word closes

the sentence. The God of Abraham, and the God of Nahor, the God of their father,

judge - the verb is plural, either because Laban regarded the Elohim of Nahor as

different from the Elohim of Abraham (Rosenmüller, Keil, Kalisch, Wordsworth,

'Speaker's Commentary'), or because, though acknowledging only one Elohim,

he viewed him as maintaining several and distinct relations to the persons named

 - betwixt us. Laban here invokes his own hereditary Elohim, the Elohim of

Abraham's father, to guard his rights and interests under the newly-formed covenant;

while Jacob in his adjuration appeals to the Elohim of Abraham's son. And Jacob

sware by the fear of his father Isaac (see above, v. 42).

 

54 “Then Jacob offered sacrifice upon the mount, and called his brethren to

eat bread: and they did eat bread, and tarried all night in the mount.”

Then Jacob offered sacrifice - literally, slew a slaying, in ratification of the

covenant - upon the mount, and called his brethren (Laban's followers, who

may have withdrawn to a distance during the interview) to eat bread. The

sacrificial meal afterwards became an integral part of the Hebrew ritual

(Exodus 24:3-8;  29:27-28; Leviticus 10:14-15). And they did eat bread,

and tarried all night in the mount.

 

55 “And early in the morning Laban rose up, and kissed his sons and his

daughters, and blessed them: and Laban departed, and returned unto his place.”

And early in the morning Laban rose up, and kissed his sons and his daughters, -

i.e. Rachel and Leah and their children. It does not appear that Laban kissed Jacob

on taking final leave of him as he did on first meeting him (ch. 29:13) - and blessed

them (compare ch.24:60; 28:1): and Laban departed, and returned unto his place

Padan-aram (compare ch. 18:33; 30:25).

 

 

 

Galeed and Mizpah, or the Covenant of Peace (vs. 45-55)

 

  • THE COVENANT MEMORIALS.

 

Ø      The pillar of remembrance. The erection of the stone slab appears to

have been the act of Jacob alone, and to have been designed to

commemorate the important transaction about to be entered into with

Laban. It is well to keep note of those engagements we make with our

fellow-men in order to their punctual fulfillment; much more of those we

make with God. It does not appear that any name was given to the column,

and this may have been because it was intended chiefly for himself.

 

Ø      The pile of witness. This was the work both of Laban and Jacob, which

they conjointly performed through the instrumentality of their brethren; and

being of the nature of a public monument, it was further characterized by a

name — Laban calling it Jegar-sahadutha, and Jacob styling it Galeed, both

expressions signifying heap of witness, and perhaps both of them naming it

Mizpah, or watchtower, from the nature of the oath which they both took

on the occasion. Men who are truly sincere in their covenant engagements

are never afraid to bind themselves by public attestations of their good

faith, though it is certain that of all men these least require to be so bound.

 

  • THE COVENANT WORDS.

 

Ø      The solemn engagements. On the one hand Laban undertakes never to

pass the stone heap on Gilead to do injury to Jacob — not mentioning the

pillar, which was purely of Jacob’s construction, and therefore supposed to

have a religious significance solely for Jacob; and on the other hand Jacob

records his vow never to cross the pillar and the pile to inflict wrong on

Laban, and in addition, as Laban might be injured in his daughters without

crossing the forbidden line, never to afflict Rachel and Leah by taking other

wives besides them; The engagement on both sides is to abstain from doing

injury of any sort to each other; and to this all men are bound by both

natural and revealed religion without the formality of an oath; and much

more than other men, are Christians taken bound by God’s grace and

Christ’s blood to live peaceably with all men and be at peace amongst

themselves.

 

Ø      The impressive oaths. If it is dubious whether Laban appealed to God or

only to the stone-heap to witness his sincerity in promising not to harm

Jacob, it is certain that he appealed to God to keep a strict eye on Jacob

(v. 49), and in a semi-superstitious way united the God of Abraham and

the God of Nahor, the God of their fathers, to judge between them. Jacob

does not mention either pile or pillar, but swears by the fear of his father

Isaac.

 

  • THE COVENANT ACTIONS.

 

Ø      The sacrifice. The offering of sacrifice was essential to the formation of

a covenant. As between God and man, it virtually proclaimed that God

could enter into amicable relations with sinful man only on the basis of an

atonement. As between man and man, it was equivalent to an

acknowledgment by the covenanting parties that both required to be

covered with the blood of propitiation. That Jacob, and not Laban, offered

sacrifice intimates that these truths were already in some degree

appreciated by Jacob, though possibly they were not understood by Laban.

 

Ø      The feast. In making this feast Jacob may only have been following the

example of his father Isaac, who similarly entertained Abimelech and his

statesmen at Beersheba on the occasion’ of the treaty which was there

formed between them; but the sacrificial feast afterwards became an

important element in the Mosaic cultus, and was designed to express the

idea of house and table fellowship between the covenanting parties.

 

  • THE COVENANT RESULTS.

 

Ø      The kiss of reconciliation. It is not certain that Laban kissed Jacob when

he prepared for his departure in the morning; perhaps that was too much to

expect; but he kissed Rachel and Leah and their children. It was a sign of

forgiveness not alone to them, but through them also to Jacob.

 

Ø      The paternal benediction. Laban, whose better nature appears to have

returned as the result of the covenant, or of the feast, or of the

contemplated parting with his daughters, poured out his feelings in a

farewell blessing on their heads. It is the last we hear or see of Laban in the

Scripture narrative. Let us hope it was the revival of early kindness and

piety in the old man’s heart.

 

 

 

Final Covenant between Jacob and Laban (vs. 51-55)

 

  • ENTIRE SEPARATION FROM TEMPTATION IS THE ONLY

SAFETY. Very imperfect knowledge in the Mesopotamian family.

Rachel’s theft of the household gods a sign of both moral and spiritual

deficiency. The religion of Jacob and his descendants must be preserved

from contamination. Intercourse with the unenlightened and unsanctified,

though necessary for a time and in some degree, must not be suffered to

obscure the higher light, or surround us with practical entanglements which

hinder our faithfulness to God.

 

  • WHEREVER THE SPIRITUAL LIFE IS FEEBLE IT IS WELL

THAT THERE SHOULD BE SOLEMN PUBLIC ACTS OF

COVENANT AND TESTIMONY. We want the Galeed and the Mizpah,

the heap of witness and the watch-tower of faith. Many united together in

the covenant, and thus became witnesses in whose presence the oath was

taken. We are helped to faithfulness by the publicity of our vows. But the

higher the spiritual life, the less we shall call in material things to support it.

Jacob with Laban is not the true Jacob. All dependence upon the symbol

and rite is more or less compromise.

 

  • THE CONTACT OF THE HIGHER FORM OF RELIGION WITH

THE LOWER ONE, OF THE MEANS OF PREPARING THE WORLD

FOR THE TRUTH. Laban and his family are types of the lower order of

religious knowledge and life. The covenant between the father-in-law and

son-in-law in the name of the God of Abraham and the God of Nahor

points to a rising light in the Mesopotamian family. We may be sure that

the influence of Christianity will be supreme wherever it is brought face to

face with men’s religions. That influence may be embodied in matters of

common life, in covenants between man and man, in laws and commercial

regulations and social arrangements.

 

  • THE SEED OF THE DIVINE LIFE IS PLANTED IN THE SOIL OF

NATURE, BUT REVEALS ITS SUPERIORITY TO NATURE BY

BRINGING ALL THINGS AND MEN INTO SUBJECTION TO

ITSELF. Jacob, Rachel, and afterwards Joseph, present to the Spirit of

God elements of character which require both elevation and renovation.

The grace is given. On a natural foundation inherited from others God

rears by His grace a lofty structure. The crafty and the thoughtful are often

nearly allied. It is one of the spiritual dangers to which specially energetic

and subtle minds are exposed, that they may so easily fall into an abuse of

their superior mental quickness to the injury of their moral purity and

simplicity. Jacob and Laban making their covenant together, and erecting

their witnessing monuments, are another illustration of the homage which

even very imperfect characters pay to the God of truth. They appeal to

Him, and they do so in the presence of a world which they know will justify

God, and not the sinner. The God of Abraham, the God of Nahor, the God

of Isaac, judged between them. Jacob offered sacrifice upon the mount,

and invited his brethren to a sacrificial banquet; and it was in that

atmosphere of mingled reverence for God and human affection that the heir

of the covenant bade farewell to all that held him in restraint and set his

face once more towards the land of promise.

 

 

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