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Genesis  ◦   Chapter 31

1Jacob heard that Laban’s sons were becoming resentful and complaining about him. They were saying, “Jacob has used our father. Everything Jacob has, he has gotten from our father; he has taken our father’s wealth to enrich himself.” 2And Jacob noticed that Laban’s once positive attitude toward him had changed.

3It was then that the Lord said to Jacob, “Go back to your father’s land and to your relatives. Don’t be afraid to go home, for I will be with you.”

4So Jacob sent word for Rachel and Leah to meet him out in the pasture where he was tending the flocks. 5He said to them, “Your father’s attitude toward me has changed, but the God of my father watches out for me and supports me. 6You know how hard I have worked for your father, 7yet your father has tried to cheat me by changing the terms of my wages ten times. But God has not allowed his actions to harm me. 8If your father said, ‘The speckled offspring will be your wages,’ then all the flocks gave birth to speckled young; but when he changed the terms and said, ‘The streaked offspring will be your wages,’ then all the flocks birthed streaked young. 9In this way God has given me flocks from your father’s.

10“I know this, because once, during breeding season, I had a dream in which I saw the male goats mating with the flock that was streaked, speckled or spotted. 11The angel of God spoke to me in the dream and said, ‘Jacob.’ I answered, ‘Yes, here I am.’ 12Then he told me, ‘Look closely and you will see that all the male goats are mating with the flock that is streaked, speckled or spotted, for I have seen what Laban has been doing to you. 13I am the same God you met at Bethel, where you dedicated a pillar and committed yourself to me. It’s time for you to leave this land, so gather your things and return to the land of your birth.’”

14Rachel and Leah replied, “Our father has made it clear that we are no longer part of his household. We have no inheritance from him, and 15he treats us as if we are foreigners rather than family. Not only did he sell us, but he spent the money he got for us on himself. 16All the wealth God has given you from our father is rightfully ours and our children’s. So, do whatever God has told you.”

17Then Jacob put his wives and children on camels, 18drove his flocks and herds ahead of him, gathered all the goods he had accumulated while in Paddan Aram, and set off to go to his father Isaac in Canaan.

19While Laban was out sheering sheep, Rachel stole the figurines of the family’s fertility gods that her father kept.20Jacob concealed his plans from Laban the Aramean and left secretly in order to escape him. 21He fled with all he had and crossed the Euphrates River, and he traveled toward the hill country of Gilead.

22Three days later, Laban was told that Jacob had fled. 23Laban gathered his kinsmen, and once they set out, they traveled for seven days, catching up with Jacob in the hill country of Gilead. 24God came to Laban the Aramean in a dream that night and warned him, “Watch what you say to Jacob; be sure you don’t tempt him to return with you by either threats or rewards.”

25When Laban finally caught up with Jacob, Jacob had set up camp in the hill country of Gilead. So Laban and his kinsmen pitched their tents nearby. 26Then Laban confronted Jacob, “Why have you concealed your plans from me and snuck off with my daughters like they are some captives in war? 27Why did you deceive me and run away secretly? If you would have told me, I would have sent you off joyfully and had a grand celebration with singing and with harps and tambourines. 28You didn’t even give me a change to kiss my grandchildren and daughters goodbye. You have acted foolishly. 29Look at these men of mine! I have the power to destroy you or force you to return; but last night the God of your fathers warned me, saying, ‘Watch what you say to Jacob; be sure you don’t tempt him to return with you by either threats or rewards.’ 30I understand you have left because you long to return to your homeland and your father’s house. But why did you steal my family’s gods?”

31Jacob answered, “I left without telling you, because I was afraid you would not let me go and would forcibly hold your daughters as a means to try to make me stay. 32But no one here has stolen your family gods; in fact, if you find anyone with them, that person can pay with their life. Go ahead, and in the presence of our relatives search everything and confirm for yourself that there is nothing here that belongs to you. If you find anything of yours, then take it.” Now Jacob had no idea that Rachel had stolen the family gods.

33So Laban searched Jacob’s tent and Leah’s tent, and the tent of the two maidservants, but he found nothing that belonged to him. After searching Leah’s tent, he searched Rachel’s tent. 34But Rachel had hidden the family gods inside her camel’s saddle and was sitting on them. After a thorough search of everything in the tents, Laban found nothing that belonged to him.

35When he came out of Rachel’s tent, she said to her father, “Father, don’t be upset with me for not standing in your presence, but I am having my monthly period.” In accord with local custom, he would not defile himself by searching beneath her. So he searched the entire camp but could not find his family’s gods.

36Jacob was angry at Laban’s allegations and confronted him, saying, “How have I wronged you? What crime have I committed that you hunt me down like some common thief? 37You have searched all my goods, and what have you found that belongs to you? Come on, lay it out here in front of your relatives and let them decide which of us is in the right.

38“I have served you for twenty years, and during that time your sheep and goats did not miscarry. I never once used one of your rams for food. 39Whenever an animal was killed by wild beasts, I didn’t bring the carcass to you but took responsibility and bore the loss myself. And you demanded I pay for every animal stolen, whether stolen during the day or night. 40I was drained by the scorching heat during the day but was so cold at night I couldn’t sleep. 41I have slaved away like this for twenty years, serving your house. I worked fourteen years to earn your daughters and another six for your flocks. And you changed my wages ten times! 42If it wasn’t for the God of my fathers, and if the God of Abraham and the Awesome God of Isaac had not been with me, you would have sent me away with nothing. But God has seen how you have sought to take advantage of my hard work, and that is why he rebuked you last night.”

43Laban, trying to look good, answered Jacob, “Your wives are my daughters, and their children are rightfully mine – as well as all the flocks. Everything you have is rightfully mine! But who am I to take these daughters from you today, or the children they have borne? I would never consider such a thing. 44Come, let’s make a formal agreement and it will stand as evidence that we have settled things between us.”

45So Jacob took a stone and set it up as a memorial stone, 46and then instructed his relatives, “Gather some stones.” So they gathered stones and piled them up, and shared a meal together by the pile of stones. 47Laban called it Jegar Sahadutha (which means ’witness pile’ in Aramaic), while Jacob called it Galeed (which also means ’witness pile,’ in Hebrew).

48Then Laban said, “This pile of stones is a reminder of the agreement we have made today.” That is why it was called Galeed. 49It was also called Mizpah (which means ’watchtower'), because Laban said, “May God keep watch over us to ensure we fulfill our agreement after we depart from each other. 50If you mistreat my daughters or take wives other than my daughters, know that God sees what we do, even if I don’t find out about it.”

51Laban also said to Jacob, “See this pile of stones and this memorial stone that I have set up between us? 52This pile and this memorial stone are reminders to mark our agreement that I will never go past this pile to harm you and you will never go past this pile or memorial stone to harm me. 53May the gods of our ancestors – the God of your grandfather Abraham and the god of my grandfather Nahor – judge between us.”

So Jacob made a solemn vow in the name of the Awesome God of his father Isaac to respect the boundary.
54Jacob then offered a sacrifice there in the hill country and invited his relatives to share a meal. After they had eaten, they spent the night there.

55Early the next morning Laban kissed his grandchildren and his daughters goodbye and gave them his blessing. Then he left and returned home.