Genesis 31: Jacob Leaves Haran; Discord with Laban; Rachel’s Curse; Jacob and Laban’s Pact 

rachel period laban genesis crampsHebrew-English Text

I. Summary

Jacob confirms that Rachel’s and Leah’s loyalty is to him and not their father Laban. In order to avoid Laban, Jacob leaves Haran stealthily with his family, his many possessions, and, unbeknownst to him, the idols Rachel stole. Laban tracks Jacob down, accuses him of stealing the idols, but does not harm him on account of a warning from Yahweh. Jacob condemns whoever stole the idols to death and lambasts Laban. Jacob and Laban make a peace agreement at Mizpeh in Gilead.

II. Photo

Rachel hides her father’s idols under her body: “Let not my lord take it amiss that I cannot rise before you, for the period of women is upon me.” (v. 35)

III. Select Verses

5-9: “I see that your father’s manner toward me is not as it has been in the past. But the God of my father has been with me. As you know, I have served your father with all my might; but your father has cheated me, changing my wages time and again. God, however, would not let him do me harm. If he said thus, ‘The speckled shall be your wages,’ then all the flocks would drop speckled young; and if he said thus, ‘The streaked shall be your wages,’ then all the flocks would drop streaked young. God has taken away your father’s livestock and given it to me.

14: Then Rachel and Leah answered him, saying, “Have we still a share in the inheritance of our father’s house?

24: But God appeared to Laban the Aramean in a dream by night and said to him, “Beware of attempting anything with Jacob, good or bad.”

27-29: Why did you flee in secrecy and mislead me and not tell me? I would have sent you off with festive music, with timbrel and lyre.  You did not even let me kiss my sons and daughters good-by! It was a foolish thing for you to do. I have it in my power to do you harm; but the God of your father said to me last night, ‘Beware of attempting anything with Jacob, good or bad.’

32: But anyone with whom you find your gods shall not remain alive! In the presence of our kinsmen, point out what I have of yours and take it.” Jacob, of course, did not know that Rachel had stolen them.

33-35: So Laban went into Jacob’s tent and Leah’s tent and the tents of the two maidservants; but he did not find them. Leaving Leah’s tent, he entered Rachel’s tent. Rachel, meanwhile, had taken the idols and placed them in the camel cushion and sat on them; and Laban rummaged through the tent without finding them. For she said to her father, “Let not my lord take it amiss that I cannot rise before you, for the period of women is upon me.” Thus he searched, but could not find the household idols.

47-52: Laban named it Yegar-sahadutha, but Jacob named it Gal-ed. And Laban declared, “This mound is a witness between you and me this day.” That is why it was named Gal-ed; And [it was called] Mizpah, because he said, “May the LORD watch between you and me, when we are out of sight of each other. If you ill-treat my daughters or take other wives besides my daughters — though no one else be about, remember, God Himself will be witness between you and me.” And Laban said to Jacob, “Here is this mound and here the pillar which I have set up between you and me: this mound shall be witness and this pillar shall be witness that I am not to cross to you past this mound, and that you are not to cross to me past this mound and this pillar, with hostile intent.

IV. Outline

1-16. Jacob confirms Rachel’s and Leah’s support

    1. Jacob hears Laban’s sons complain about Jacob’s wealth

    2. Jacob notices Laban has changed his demeanor

    3. Yahweh tells Jacob to return his homeland

    4-13. Jacob explains his side of the story to Rachel and Leah: Yahweh appeared to Jacob, told him about the multi-colored animals, and gave him Laban’s flock despite Laban’s lies

14-16. Rachel and Leah side with Jacob, viewing Laban’s wealth as their own

17-18. Jacob sets off with his family and his possessions

19-42. Discord with Laban; Rachel’s curse

19. Laban was gone and Rachel had stolen his idols (terafim)

20. Jacob did not tell Laban he left

21. Jacob had already crossed the Euphrates on his way to Canaan

22-23. Laban finds out and catches up in seven days, in Transjordan

24. Yahweh appears to Laban, warning him about Jacob

25. Laban camps near Jacob

26-30. Laban expresses his frustration and power, relates Yahweh’s message, and asks for his idols back

31-32. Jacob, who does not know about Rachel’s actions, denies the theft and condemns the thief to death

33. Laban searches Jacob’s, Leah’s, Bilhah’s, and Zilpah’s tents

34-35. Laban searches Rachel’s tent, but she sits on the idols and feigns her period so as not to stand up

36-37. Jacob yells at Laban for pursuing him for no reason

38-42. Jacob expresses the commitment he had for Laban, who would not have paid him if not for Yahweh’s intervention

43-54. Jacob and Laban’s pact

43. Laban concedes

44. Laban offers to make a covenant

45-46. Jacob and his people make a mound of stones and eat a meal

47-48. The mound is named “witness heap” by Laban in Aramaic and by Jacob in Hebrew

49-52. The site, named “lookout” (mizpeh), bears witness that Jacob wont marry other wives and Laban won’t cross with ill intent

53. The oath is made with the ancestral deities of Abraham and Nahor

54. Jacob offers a sacrifice, has a meal, and spends the night

V. Comment

No comment today. Stay tuned.

VI. Works Used

(see “Commentaries” page)

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