Jacob’s Flight from Laban

1 Jacob heard that Laban’s sons were complaining,1Jacob has taken everything that belonged to our father! He has gotten rich2 at our father’s expense!3 2 When Jacob saw the look on Laban’s face, he could tell his attitude toward him had changed.4

3 The Lord said to Jacob, “Return to the land of your fathers5 and to your relatives. I will be with you.”6 4 So Jacob sent a message for Rachel and Leah7 to come to the field8 where his flocks were.9 5 There he said to them, “I can tell that your father’s attitude toward me has changed,10 but the God of my father has been with me. 6 You know that I’ve worked for your father as hard as I could,11 7 but your father has humiliated12 me and changed my wages ten times. But God has not permitted him to do me any harm. 8 If he said,13The speckled animals14 will be your wage,’ then the entire flock gave birth to speckled offspring. But if he said, ‘The streaked animals will be your wage,’ then the entire flock gave birth to streaked offspring. 9 In this way God has snatched away your father’s livestock and given them to me.

10Once15 during breeding season I saw16 in a dream that the male goats mating with17 the flock were streaked, speckled, and spotted. 11 In the dream the angel of God said to me, ‘Jacob!’ ‘Here I am!’ I replied. 12 Then he said, ‘Observe18 that all the male goats mating with19 the flock are streaked, speckled, or spotted, for I have observed all that Laban has done to you. 13 I am the God of Bethel,20 where you anointed21 the sacred stone and made a vow to me.22 Now leave this land immediately23 and return to your native land.’

14 Then Rachel and Leah replied to him, “Do we still have any portion or inheritance24 in our father’s house? 15 Hasn’t he treated us like foreigners? He not only sold us, but completely wasted25 the money paid for us!26 16 Surely all the wealth that God snatched away from our father belongs to us and to our children. So now do everything God has told you.”

17 So Jacob immediately put his children and his wives on the camels.27 18 He took28 away all the livestock he had acquired in Paddan Aram and all his moveable property that he had accumulated. Then he set out toward the land of Canaan to return to his father Isaac.29

19 While Laban had gone to shear his sheep,30 Rachel stole the household idols31 that belonged to her father. 20 Jacob also deceived32 Laban the Aramean by not telling him that he was leaving.33 21 He left34 with all he owned. He quickly crossed35 the Euphrates River36 and headed for37 the hill country of Gilead.

22 Three days later Laban discovered Jacob had left.38 23 So he took his relatives39 with him and pursued Jacob40 for seven days.41 He caught up with42 him in the hill country of Gilead. 24 But God came to Laban the Aramean in a dream at night and warned him,43 “Be careful44 that you neither bless nor curse Jacob.”45

25 Laban overtook Jacob, and when Jacob pitched his tent in the hill country of Gilead, Laban and his relatives set up camp there too.46 26 What have you done?” Laban demanded of Jacob. “You’ve deceived me47 and carried away my daughters as if they were captives of war!48 27 Why did you run away secretly49 and deceive me?50 Why didn’t you tell me so I could send you off with a celebration complete with singing, tambourines, and harps?51 28 You didn’t even allow me to kiss my daughters and my grandchildren52 good-bye. You have acted foolishly! 29 I have53 the power to do you harm, but the God of your father told me last night, ‘Be careful54 that you neither bless nor curse Jacob.’55 30 Now I understand that56 you have gone away57 because you longed desperately58 for your father’s house. Yet why did you steal my gods?59

31I left secretly because I was afraid!”60 Jacob replied to Laban. “I thought61 you might take your daughters away from me by force.62 32 Whoever has taken your gods will be put to death!63 In the presence of our relatives64 identify whatever is yours and take it.”65 (Now Jacob did not know that Rachel had stolen them.)66

33 So Laban entered Jacob’s tent, and Leah’s tent, and the tent of the two female servants, but he did not find the idols.67 Then he left Leah’s tent and entered Rachel’s.68 34 (Now Rachel had taken the idols and put them inside her camel’s saddle69 and sat on them.)70 Laban searched the whole tent, but did not find them.71 35 Rachel72 said to her father, “Don’t be angry,73 my lord. I cannot stand up74 in your presence because I am having my period.”75 So he searched thoroughly,76 but did not find the idols.

36 Jacob became angry77 and argued with Laban. “What did I do wrong?” he demanded of Laban.78What sin of mine prompted you to chase after me in hot pursuit?79 37 When you searched through all my goods, did you find anything that belonged to you?80 Set it here before my relatives and yours,81 and let them settle the dispute between the two of us!82

38I have been with you for the past twenty years. Your ewes and female goats have not miscarried, nor have I eaten rams from your flocks. 39 Animals torn by wild beasts I never brought to you; I always absorbed the loss myself.83 You always made me pay for every missing animal,84 whether it was taken by day or at night. 40 I was consumed by scorching heat85 during the day and by piercing cold86 at night, and I went without sleep.87 41 This was my lot88 for twenty years in your house: I worked like a slave89 for you – fourteen years for your two daughters and six years for your flocks, but you changed my wages ten times! 42 If the God of my father – the God of Abraham, the one whom Isaac fears90had not been with me, you would certainly have sent me away empty-handed! But God saw how I was oppressed and how hard I worked,91 and he rebuked you last night.”

43 Laban replied92 to Jacob, “These women93 are my daughters, these children are my grandchildren,94 and these flocks are my flocks. All that you see belongs to me. But how can I harm these daughters of mine today95 or the children to whom they have given birth? 44 So now, come, let’s make a formal agreement,96 you and I, and it will be97 proof that we have made peace.”98

45 So Jacob took a stone and set it up as a memorial pillar. 46 Then he99 said to his relatives, “Gather stones.” So they brought stones and put them in a pile.100 They ate there by the pile of stones. 47 Laban called it Jegar Sahadutha,101 but Jacob called it Galeed.102

48 Laban said, “This pile of stones is a witness of our agreement103 today.” That is why it was called Galeed. 49 It was also called Mizpah104 because he said, “May the Lord watch105 between us106 when we are out of sight of one another.107 50 If you mistreat my daughters or if you take wives besides my daughters, although no one else is with us, realize108 that God is witness to your actions.”109

51Here is this pile of stones and this pillar I have set up between me and you,” Laban said to Jacob.110 52 This pile of stones and the pillar are reminders that I will not pass beyond this pile to come to harm you and that you will not pass beyond this pile and this pillar to come to harm me.111 53 May the God of Abraham and the god of Nahor,112 the gods of their father, judge between us.” Jacob took an oath by the God whom his father Isaac feared.113 54 Then Jacob offered a sacrifice114 on the mountain and invited his relatives to eat the meal.115 They ate the meal and spent the night on the mountain.

55 116 Early in the morning Laban kissed117 his grandchildren118 and his daughters goodbye and blessed them. Then Laban left and returned home.119

131:1tn Heb “and he heard the words of the sons of Laban, saying.” 231:1sn The Hebrew word translated “gotten rich” (כָּבוֹד, cavod) has the basic idea of “weight.” If one is heavy with possessions, then that one is wealthy (13:2). Abraham, Jacob, and Joseph all became wealthy when they left the promised land. Jacob’s wealth foreshadows what will happen to Israel when they leave the land of Egypt (Exod 12:35-38). 331:1tn Heb “and from that which belonged to our father he has gained all this wealth.” 431:2tn Heb “and Jacob saw the face of Laban, and look, he was not with him as formerly.” Jacob knew from the expression on Laban’s face that his attitude toward him had changed – Jacob had become persona non grata. 531:3tn Or perhaps “ancestors” (so NRSV), although the only “ancestors” Jacob had there were his grandfather Abraham and his father Isaac. 631:3sn I will be with you. Though Laban was no longer “with him,” the Lord promised to be. 731:4tn Heb “sent and called for Rachel and for Leah.” Jacob did not go in person, but probably sent a servant with a message for his wives to meet him in the field. 831:4tn Heb “the field.” The word is an adverbial accusative, indicating that this is where Jacob wanted them to meet him. The words “to come to” are supplied in the translation for clarification and stylistic reasons. 931:4tn Heb “to his flock.” 1031:5tn Heb “I see the face of your father, that he is not toward me as formerly.” 1131:6tn Heb “with all my strength.” 1231:7tn This rare verb means “to make a fool of” someone. It involves deceiving someone so that their public reputation suffers (see Exod 8:25). 1331:8tn In the protasis (“if” section) of this conditional clause, the imperfect verbal form has a customary nuance – whatever he would say worked to Jacob’s benefit. 1431:8tn Heb “speckled” (twice this verse). The word “animals” (after the first occurrence of “speckled”) and “offspring” (after the second) have been supplied in the translation for stylistic reasons. The same two terms (“animals” and “offspring”) have been supplied after the two occurrences of “streaked” later in this verse. 1531:10tn The sentence begins with the temporal indicator, “and it happened at the time of.” 1631:10tn Heb “in the time of the breeding of the flock I lifted up my eyes and I saw.” 1731:10tn Heb “going up on,” that is, mounting for intercourse. 1831:12tn Heb “lift up (now) your eyes and see.” 1931:12tn Heb “going up on,” that is, mounting for intercourse. 2031:13map For location see Map4-G4; Map5-C1; Map6-E3; Map7-D1; Map8-G3. 2131:13sn You anointed the sacred stone. In Gen 28:18 the text simply reported that Jacob poured oil on top of the stone. Now that pouring is interpreted by the Lord as an anointing. Jacob had consecrated the place. 2231:13sn And made a vow to me. The second clause reminds Jacob of the vow he made to the Lord when he anointed the stone (Gen 28:20-22). God is now going to take him back to the land, and so he will have to fulfill his vow. 2331:13tn Heb “arise, leave!” The first imperative draws attention to the need for immediate action.sn Leave this land immediately. The decision to leave was a wise one in view of the changed attitude in Laban and his sons. But more than that, it was the will of God. Jacob needed to respond to God’s call – the circumstances simply made it easier. 2431:14tn The two nouns may form a hendiadys, meaning “a share in the inheritance” or “a portion to inherit.” 2531:15tn Heb “and he devoured, even devouring.” The infinitive absolute (following the finite verb here) is used for emphasis.sn He sold us and…wasted our money. The precise nature of Rachel’s and Leah’s complaint is not entirely clear. Since Jacob had to work to pay for them, they probably mean that their father has cheated Jacob and therefore cheated them as well. See M. Burrows, “The Complaint of Laban’s Daughters,” JAOS 57 (1937): 250-76. 2631:15tn Heb “our money.” The word “money” is used figuratively here; it means the price paid for Leah and Rachel. A literal translation (“our money”) makes it sound as if Laban wasted money that belonged to Rachel and Leah, rather than the money paid for them. 2731:17tn Heb “and Jacob arose and he lifted up his sons and his wives on to the camels.” 2831:18tn Heb “drove,” but this is subject to misunderstanding in contemporary English. 2931:18tn Heb “and he led away all his cattle and all his moveable property which he acquired, the cattle he obtained, which he acquired in Paddan Aram to go to Isaac his father to the land of Canaan.” 3031:19tn This disjunctive clause (note the pattern conjunction + subject + verb) introduces a new scene. In the English translation it may be subordinated to the following clause. 3131:19tn Or “household gods.” Some translations merely transliterate the Hebrew term תְּרָפִים (tÿrafim) as “teraphim,” which apparently refers to household idols. Some contend that possession of these idols guaranteed the right of inheritance, but it is more likely that they were viewed simply as protective deities. See M. Greenberg, “Another Look at Rachel’s Theft of the Teraphim,” JBL 81 (1962): 239-48. 3231:20tn Heb “stole the heart of,” an expression which apparently means “to deceive.” The repetition of the verb “to steal” shows that Jacob and Rachel are kindred spirits. Any thought that Laban would have resigned himself to their departure was now out of the question. 3331:20tn Heb “fleeing,” which reflects Jacob’s viewpoint. 3431:21tn Heb “and he fled.” 3531:21tn Heb “he arose and crossed.” The first verb emphasizes that he wasted no time in getting across. 3631:21tn Heb “the river”; the referent (the Euphrates) has been specified in the translation for clarity. 3731:21tn Heb “he set his face.” 3831:22tn Heb “and it was told to Laban on the third day that Jacob had fled.” 3931:23tn Heb “his brothers.” 4031:23tn Heb “him”; the referent (Jacob) has been specified in the translation for clarity. 4131:23tn Heb “and he pursued after him a journey of seven days.” 4231:23tn Heb “drew close to.” 4331:24tn Heb “said to him.” 4431:24tn Heb “watch yourself,” which is a warning to be on guard against doing something that is inappropriate. 4531:24tn Heb “lest you speak with Jacob from good to evil.” The precise meaning of the expression, which occurs only here and in v. 29, is uncertain. Since Laban proceeded to speak to Jacob at length, it cannot mean to maintain silence. Nor does it seem to be a prohibition against criticism (see vv. 26-30). Most likely it refers to a formal pronouncement, whether it be a blessing or a curse. Laban was to avoid saying anything to Jacob that would be intended to enhance him or to harm him. 4631:25tn Heb “and Jacob pitched his tent in the hill country, and Laban pitched with his brothers in the hill country of Gilead.” The juxtaposition of disjunctive clauses (note the pattern conjunction + subject + verb in both clauses) indicates synchronism of action. 4731:26tn Heb “and you have stolen my heart.” This expression apparently means “to deceive” (see v. 20). 4831:26tn Heb “and you have led away my daughters like captives of a sword.” 4931:27tn Heb “Why did you hide in order to flee?” The verb “hide” and the infinitive “to flee” form a hendiadys, the infinitive becoming the main verb and the other the adverb: “flee secretly.” 5031:27tn Heb “and steal me.” 5131:27tn Heb “And [why did] you not tell me so I could send you off with joy and with songs, with a tambourine and with a harp?” 5231:28tn Heb “my sons and my daughters.” Here “sons” refers to “grandsons,” and has been translated “grandchildren” since at least one granddaughter, Dinah, was involved. The order has been reversed in the translation for stylistic reasons. 5331:29tn Heb “there is to my hand.” 5431:29tn Heb “watch yourself,” which is a warning to be on guard against doing something that is inappropriate. 5531:29tn Heb “from speaking with Jacob from good to evil.” The precise meaning of the expression, which occurs only here and in v. 24, is uncertain. See the note on the same phrase in v. 24. 5631:30tn Heb “and now.” The words “I understand that” have been supplied in the translation for clarity and for stylistic reasons. 5731:30tn The infinitive absolute appears before the perfect verbal form to emphasize the certainty of the action. 5831:30tn The infinitive absolute appears before the perfect verbal form to emphasize the degree of emotion involved. 5931:30sn Yet why did you steal my gods? This last sentence is dropped into the speech rather suddenly. See C. Mabee, “Jacob and Laban: The Structure of Judicial Proceedings,” VT 30 (1980): 192-207, and G. W. Coats, “Self-Abasement and Insult Formulas,” JBL 91 (1972): 90-92. 6031:31tn Heb “and Jacob answered and said to Laban, ‘Because I was afraid.’” This statement is a not a response to the question about Laban’s household gods that immediately precedes, but to the earlier question about Jacob’s motivation for leaving so quickly and secretly (see v. 27). For this reason the words “I left secretly” are supplied in the translation to indicate the connection to Laban’s earlier question in v. 27. Additionally the order of the introductory clause and the direct discourse have been rearranged in the translation for stylistic reasons. 6131:31tn Heb “for I said.” 6231:31tn Heb “lest you steal your daughters from with me.” 6331:32tn Heb “With whomever you find your gods, he will not live.” 6431:32tn Heb “brothers.” 6531:32tn Heb “recognize for yourself what is with me and take for yourself.” 6631:32tn The disjunctive clause (introduced here by a vav [ו] conjunction) provides supplemental material that is important to the story. Since this material is parenthetical in nature, it has been placed in parentheses in the translation. 6731:33tn No direct object is specified for the verb “find” in the Hebrew text. The words “the idols” have been supplied in the translation for clarification. 6831:33tn Heb “and he went out from the tent of Leah and went into the tent of Rachel.” 6931:34tn The “camel’s saddle” was probably some sort of basket-saddle, a cushioned saddle with a basket bound on. Cf. NAB “inside a camel cushion.” 7031:34tn The disjunctive clause (introduced by a vav [ו] conjunction) provides another parenthetical statement necessary to the storyline. 7131:34tn The word “them” has been supplied in the translation for clarification. 7231:35tn Heb “she”; the referent (Rachel) has been specified in the translation for clarity. 7331:35tn Heb “let it not be hot in the eyes of my lord.” This idiom refers to anger, in this case as a result of Rachel’s failure to stand in the presence of her father as a sign of respect. 7431:35tn Heb “I am unable to rise.” 7531:35tn Heb “the way of women is to me.” This idiom refers to a woman’s menstrual period. 7631:35tn The word “thoroughly” is not in the Hebrew text, but is implied. 7731:36tn Heb “it was hot to Jacob.” This idiom refers to anger. 7831:36tn Heb “and Jacob answered and said to Laban, ‘What is my sin?’” The proper name “Jacob” has been replaced by the pronoun (“he”) in the translation and the order of the introductory clause and direct discourse rearranged for stylistic reasons. 7931:36tn Heb “What is my sin that you have hotly pursued after me.” The Hebrew verb translated “pursue hotly” is used elsewhere of soldiers chasing defeated enemies (1 Sam 17:53). 8031:37tn Heb “what did you find from all the goods of your house?” 8131:37tn Heb “your relatives.” The word “relatives” has not been repeated in the translation here for stylistic reasons. 8231:37tn Heb “that they may decide between us two.” 8331:39tn The imperfect verbal form indicates that this was a customary or typical action. 8431:39tn Heb “from my hand you exacted it.” The imperfect verbal form again indicates that this was a customary or typical action. The words “for every missing animal” are supplied in the translation for clarity; the following clause in Hebrew, “stolen by day or stolen by night,” probably means “stolen by wild beasts” and refers to the same animals “torn by wild beasts” in the previous clause, although it may refer to animals stolen by people. The translation used here, “missing,” is ambiguous enough to cover either eventuality. 8531:40tn Or “by drought.” 8631:40tn Heb “frost, ice,” though when contrasted with the חֹרֶב (khorev, “drought, parching heat”) of the day, “piercing cold” is more appropriate as a contrast. 8731:40tn Heb “and my sleep fled from my eyes.” 8831:41tn Heb “this to me.” 8931:41tn Heb “served you,” but in this accusatory context the meaning is more “worked like a slave.” 9031:42tn Heb “the fear of Isaac,” that is, the one whom Isaac feared and respected. For further discussion of this title see M. Malul, “More on pahad yitschaq (Gen. 31:42,53) and the Oath by the Thigh,” VT 35 (1985): 192-200. 9131:42tn Heb “My oppression and the work of my hands God saw.” 9231:43tn Heb “answered and said.” 9331:43tn Heb “daughters.” 9431:43tn Heb “children.” 9531:43tn Heb “but to my daughters what can I do to these today?” 9631:44tn Heb “cut a covenant.” 9731:44tn The verb הָיָה (hayah) followed by the preposition לְ (lÿ) means “become.” 9831:44tn Heb “and it will become a witness between me and you.” 9931:46tn Heb “Jacob”; the proper name has been replaced by the pronoun (“he”) in the translation for stylistic reasons. 10031:46sn The Hebrew word for “pile” is גַּל (gal), which sounds like the name “Galeed” (גַּלְעֵד, galed). See v. 48. 10131:47sn Jegar Sahadutha. Laban the Aramean gave the place an Aramaic name which means “witness pile” or “the pile is a witness.” 10231:47sn Galeed also means “witness pile” or “the pile is a witness,” but this name is Canaanite or Western Semitic and closer to later Hebrew. Jacob, though certainly capable of speaking Aramaic, here prefers to use the western dialect. 10331:48tn Heb “a witness between me and you.” 10431:49tn Heb “and Mizpah.” 10531:49sn The name Mizpah (מִצְפָּה, mitspah), which means “watchpost,” sounds like the verb translated “may he watch” (יִצֶף, yitsef). Neither Laban nor Jacob felt safe with each other, and so they agreed to go their separate ways, trusting the Lord to keep watch at the border. Jacob did not need this treaty, but Laban, perhaps because he had lost his household gods, felt he did. 10631:49tn Heb “between me and you.” 10731:49tn Heb “for we will be hidden, each man from his neighbor.” 10831:50tn Heb “see.” 10931:50tn Heb “between me and you.” 11031:51tn Heb “and Laban said to Jacob, ‘Behold this heap and behold the pillar which I have set between men and you.’” The order of the introductory clause and the direct discourse has been rearranged in the translation for stylistic reasons. 11131:52tn Heb “This pile is a witness and the pillar is a witness, if I go past this pile to you and if you go past this pile and this pillar to me for harm.” 11231:53tn The God of Abraham and the god of Nahor. The Hebrew verb translated “judge” is plural, suggesting that Laban has more than one “god” in mind. The Samaritan Pentateuch and the LXX, apparently in an effort to make the statement monotheistic, have a singular verb. In this case one could translate, “May the God of Abraham and the God of Nahor, the God of their father, judge between us.” However, Laban had a polytheistic world view, as evidenced by his possession of household idols (cf. 31:19). The translation uses “God” when referring to Abraham’s God, for Genesis makes it clear that Abraham worshiped the one true God. It employs “god” when referring to Nahor’s god, for in the Hebrew text Laban refers to a different god here, probably one of the local deities. 11331:53tn Heb “by the fear of his father Isaac.” See the note on the word “fears” in v. 42. 11431:54tn The construction is a cognate accusative with the verb, expressing a specific sacrifice. 11531:54tn Heb “bread, food.” Presumably this was a type of peace offering, where the person bringing the offering ate the animal being sacrificed. 11631:55sn Beginning with 31:55, the verse numbers in the English Bible through 32:32 differ by one from the verse numbers in the Hebrew text (BHS), with 31:55 ET = 32:1 HT, 32:1 ET = 32:2 HT, etc., through 32:32 ET = 32:33 HT. From 33:1 the verse numbers in the ET and HT are again the same. 11731:55tn Heb “and Laban got up early in the morning and he kissed.” 11831:55tn Heb “his sons.” 11931:55tn Heb “to his place.”