Bible Study Notes
Genesis 31:1 “…heard the words of Laban’s sons…”
Jacob was still looking after Laban’s flocks. He must have heard rumors among the servants he had who had mingled with Laban’s servants. Or someone may have simply told him that they heard Laban’s sons speaking of him. The rumors had a ring of truth as he also noticed Laban’s behavior toward him had changed and not for the better.
3 “…the LORD said to Jacob…”
Jacob wasn’t alone in all of this. God had been watching. The time had come for Jacob to return to Canaan.
4 “…Jacob sent and called Rachel and Leah to the field, to his flock”
Commentaries made discussion regarding Jacob calling his wives to the field. Hard to know the reasons or his thinking, but it seems to me he had decided to leave and was preparing things. His flock was a three day journey from Laban’s. If his wives came to him he could be assured of privacy in speaking with them. Considered that his current location may have been toward Canaan, and bringing the family out to him would have given him a head start. But it appears Rachel went back to the house after speaking with him, so his location may not have been a factor.
7 “…changed my wages ten times…”
Bit of an exaggeration or figure of speech, but it makes a true point. Laban was a selfish man who manipulated people to his advantage.
9 “…God has taken away the livestock of your father…”
Regardless of what Jacob was doing to try to manipulate the content of the flocks and herds, he did at least say that God was in control of it. Hard to know how much he truly trusted God as he was such a schemer. Man uses God to support his actions when he feels they need moral justification. In his defense, God had spoken to him, so I give him the benefit of the doubt.
13 “I am the God of Bethel…”
Reference to God that was personal to Jacob. God could have said the God of Abraham and your father, but He referred to Himself as the one who spoke to Jacob at Bethel. It’s not enough to have parents with a relationship with God. We must have our own with Him.
15-16 “…he has sold us, and also completely consumed our money…all these riches…God has taken…are really ours and our children’s…”
Can’t be sure of the feelings expressed here. They could have just been presenting the situation in a matter-of-fact manner. But I wouldn’t blame them for any hostility toward their father. His actions toward them and their futures were inexcusable. Not sure what the reference to our money is about except to say that Laban received goods and service from Jacob for Rachel and Leah, yet he used it on himself. He didn’t give them anything as an inheritance. A more caring father would have used the benefit he received from his son-in-law in payment for his daughters as a blessing to them. Would have benefited them and not cost him anything extra. That idea seems to be brought out in verse sixteen.
19 “…Rachel had stolen the household idols…”
Commentaries are unsure of what these were exactly and Rachel’s reasons for taking them. Seems the people of God in the Old Testament always had a problem viewing God as the only true god. They continued to have these little idols for some reason, some even to discern what Almighty God wanted. He makes it clear to Moses that He doesn’t need any idol to assist in worship of Himself.
20 “…he did not tell him that he intended to flee”
Don’t blame him. Laban always had an excuse for changing the conditions of the situation in his favor. Best to just get up and get out.
21 “…crossed the river…”
Must have been on the northeast side of the Euphrates.
22 “…on the third day…”
References were made to the fact that Jacob’s flock was three days journey from Laban’s, and that Laban was gone a distance away when Jacob left. He must have been some distance away for it to take three days to get word to him. I don’t see any messenger taking his time to deliver the news unless the message was just made in passing by normal contact.
24 “…God had come to Laban the Syrian in a dream by night…”
God was working both sides. He could have easily controlled the situation from Jacob’s side only, but He showed Himself as God to Laban as well as sovereign over all.
27 “…I might have sent you away with joy…”
Might have, but I doubt it. Laban had proven that he couldn’t be trusted.
29 “It is in my power to do you harm…”
Man always thinks he is something when he is nothing. Our reliance on our perception of our own power is always misplaced.
32 “…Jacob did not know that Rachel had stolen them”
Proverbs says that a virtuous wife’s worth is far above rubies. The heart of her husband can safely trust in her. Women need to understand how very important that is. I’m afraid many today ignore that in exchange for self importance.
34 “…Rachel…sat on them…”
She shows she learned deceitfulness from her father, unfortunately.
36-42 Nice little rant by Jacob, but he spoke the truth.
43 “…my daughters…my children…my flock; all that you see is mine…”
How you take this section depends on whether you give Laban any slack. He could, as one commentary suggested, be showing some heart after Jacob’s rant and be simply stating his relationship to everything. All of these people and things came from me, so how could I do anything evil against them. He could also still be showing his selfish behavior and be trying to save face after Jacob’s rant. I have a right to everything, but I’ll give it up to keep the peace. Conniving people can give the semblance of reason and kindness when it fits their needs. Regardless of Laban’s true feelings on the matter, God had spoken to him, so he was at least wise enough to do as he was told.
53 “The God of Abraham, the God of Nahor, and the God of their father…”
Interesting reference to God going back to before Nahor. Gives credence to the idea that this family had stayed at least somewhat true to Almighty God since the flood. Commentaries also suggested that Laban may have intended three different gods, the one of Abraham, the one of Nahor, and the one used by their fathers. This could be why it states that Jacob swore by the Fear of Isaac, a direct reference to Almighty God.
I hope you enjoy reading and studying His word. May it accomplish what He desires. Please feel free to comment or post questions. Thanks for reading!
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.