Leaving Laban (Genesis 31)
Jacob Jets (verses 1-21)
Jacob has acquired wonderful wealth and it has come at a great loss to Laban. However, he begins to sense the danger from the heightened tension with Laban and his relatives. Divine blessing often results in problematic scenarios in a hostile world. Prior to this point, it seems Jacob was experiencing a sense of ease and comfort that encouraged him to settle down for longer than he ever should have. In the same way, a similar sense of ease and comfort for us can also cause us to pretend that this world is our home. In those situations, God often interferes with our comfort to help us keep the proper focus. God is clearly the One controlling the circumstances of Jacob’s life (v. 3).
Jacob summoned Rachel and Leah to test the waters with them and see if they will follow him, or stay with their father and family. He relayed to them the attitude alteration in Laban (v. 5), he reminded them of his long and faithful service to their father (v. 6), he recalled Laban’s numerous attempts to deceive (v. 7), and he revisited (three times) the blessing and protection of God (vv. 5, 7, 9). Jacob’s argument is essentially this: God is with me, and Laban is a liar and a cheater. Rachel and Leah are in complete agreement with the plan to go, since Laban has already squandered their inheritance and treated them as foreigners.
Even though Laban had cheated and changed the deal time after time, God had frustrated his schemes, protected Jacob, and even blessed him through it all. God even revealed to Jacob in a dream that He was the One causing the successful breeding that favored Jacob, and He was the One providing protection from Laban’s attempts to take advantage of him. We are too prone to take the credit that God alone deserves! (Psalm 127:1)
Accusation and Altercation (verses 22-35)
As soon as Laban hears the news of their departure, he is off to find them. His fury was dispelled in a dream when God warned him to be careful how he treats Jacob. After a week, he catches up to them and accuses Jacob of carrying away his daughters like captives (v. 26). The one thing Laban is confused about, though, is why they would have stolen his idols. Jacob explains that it was the fear that Laban would take his daughters that led him to leave secretly, but with regard to the idols, that the person who had them should die. The situation grows tense as each tent is searched, especially as Rachel’s tent is approached. They are not found in Rachel’s tent…because she is hiding them. She is a true child of her father, the deceiver. Rachel proves to be a fitting wife for the deceiving Jacob, and the fitting daughter of cheating Laban.
Contention and Covenant (verses 36-55)
In response to Laban’s accusations and failed attempts at finding the idols, Jacob fires off machine-gun-like contentions (vv. 38-41). All of the frustrations he had already shared with his wives regarding Laban, he now puts on the table before Laban himself. Jacob had been faithful all the years that he had been with Laban, and Laban had only cheated and deceived him over and over again. But he assures Laban that God had rendered judgment on his behalf (v. 42).
As a result of the contention, a peace treaty is sought by Laban (though he is arrogant in his approach, claiming that all is his anyway). Jacob accepts the proposal for peace, and while Laban mentions the god of Nahor (i.e. the generic gods of culture), Jacob calls on the God of Isaac and Abraham (i.e. the almighty God of Scripture) (v. 53). This is a good reminder to us that when we call on God, it is not enough to call on some vague, generic being, but the real, personal God who has revealed Himself in the Bible.
- In Genesis 15:13-16, God had spoken to Abraham about the exile and exodus that his descendants would experience. On a small scale, Jacob’s escape from Laban’s laborious demands foreshadows the deliverance from the bondage of Egypt that Israel would experience later on. And that great Exodus from Egypt was symbolic of an even greater deliverance when Christ would come and deliver His people from slavery to sin. Have you experienced this deliverance from the bondage of sin’s power and punishment? Have you turned to Christ in faith and repentance and been delivered from the slavery of condemnation as a result of sin? The blessing of forgiveness and life flows through Christ alone. He is our true Exodus out of sin!