“Jacob heard that Laban’s sons were saying, ‘Jacob has taken everything our father owned and has gained all this wealth from what belonged to our father.’ And Jacob noticed that Laban’s attitude toward him was not what it had been” (Genesis 31:1-2).
In the last chapter we saw how Jacob had become very wealthy as a result of God’s blessing on his life (see Genesis 30:43). But even though there were three days’ traveling distance separating Laban and Jacob, word somehow got back to Jacob that Laban’s sons were not very happy about the way that God had prospered him.
But how did Jacob get this information without the benefit of modern day communication methods like mobile phones or text messaging? Well, Jacob probably received this tip from a passing caravan or another family member who passed this news along while traveling. These were common avenues for news and information in those days, but however it happened, Jacob eventually found out that his in-laws didn’t appreciate the fact that things were going so well for him.
The reason for their unhappiness is seen in verse one: “Jacob has robbed our father of everything! …He has gained all his wealth at our father’s expense” (NLT). But in reality, this was far from the truth because Laban and Jacob had an agreement that gave Jacob complete ownership of any livestock that were born with special markings.
Laban quickly accepted this agreement because it seemed to favor him, but things had actually worked out better for Jacob than Laban and his sons had expected. Now that Jacob’s wealth was increasing faster than Laban’s wealth, his sons no longer saw this agreement as an honest business deal- they now saw Jacob as someone who was “stealing” from their father. Of course, this sort of thing can also happen to anyone who is motivated by the same attitude of envy or jealousy that Laban’s sons were. That’s because an envious or jealous attitude tends to distort someone’s ability to see the truth.
Unfortunately, this rumor was also backed up by Jacob’s personal experience: “Jacob also noticed that Laban was not as friendly as he had been before” (Genesis 31:2 CEV). So Jacob knew that there was a problem with Laban too. You see, Jacob had a good working relationship with Laban as long as Laban was the one who was making a profit from their agreement. But now that God was blessing Jacob and helping him to build up some money and property, their relationship was not so good any more- and that’s when God stepped in to give Jacob some new instructions.
“Then the Lord said to Jacob, ‘Go back to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you'” (Genesis 31:3).
So now the time had come for God to make good on the promises that He given to Jacob and bring him back home. But first it was time for a little family meeting…
“So Jacob sent word to Rachel and Leah to come out to the fields where his flocks were. He said to them, ‘I see that your father’s attitude toward me is not what it was before, but the God of my father has been with me. You know that I’ve worked for your father with all my strength, yet your father has cheated me by changing my wages ten times.'”
“‘However, God has not allowed him to harm me. If he said, ‘The speckled ones will be your wages,’ then all the flocks gave birth to speckled young; and if he said, ‘The streaked ones will be your wages,’ then all the flocks bore streaked young. So God has taken away your father’s livestock and has given them to me.'”
“‘In breeding season I once had a dream in which I looked up and saw that the male goats mating with the flock were streaked, speckled or spotted. The angel of God said to me in the dream, ‘Jacob.’ I answered, ‘Here I am.’ And he said, ‘Look up and see that all the male goats mating with the flock are streaked, speckled or spotted, for I have seen all that Laban has been doing to you. I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed a pillar and where you made a vow to me. Now leave this land at once and go back to your native land'” (Genesis 31:4-13).
This was a smart move on Jacob’s part. First, notice that Jacob called Leah and Rachel “out to the fields” to speak with him. That provided Jacob with the ability to talk with Leah and Rachel privately without the distraction of anything else that was going on back home.
Next, Jacob knew that a return to the home of his ancestors would involve some big sacrifices for his family. Remember that a move back home for Jacob meant that Leah and Rachel would have to give up the place that they had both called “home” throughout their lives. It also meant uprooting their children and going to a foreign land where nothing was familiar.
So instead of “surprising” his family with this news, Jacob made sure that Leah and Rachel were on board with God’s direction first.
“‘…I have seen that your father isn’t as friendly to me as he was before, but the God of my father has been with me. You know that I have worked as hard as I could for your father. Your father has cheated me. He has changed my wages ten times. But God hasn’t let him harm me'” (Genesis 31:5-7 GW).
When we read that Laban changed Jacob’s wages “ten times,” it didn’t mean that Laban had given Jacob ten pay increases- it meant that Laban kept changing the rules of their working agreement. You see, Laban’s agreement with Jacob said that Jacob could have all the livestock that were born with special markings- the speckled, spotted, and streaked animals. But once Laban realized that Jacob was beginning to profit from this arrangement, it seems that he decided to go back on his promise. Instead of letting Jacob have all of the off-colored animals or animals with markings (as they originally agreed to do), Laban apparently told Jacob that he could only have the speckled animals. Then he changed his mind and told Jacob that he could only have the animals that were born with striped markings.
But in the end, that didn’t matter very much because God was watching out for Jacob the entire time: “Whenever he said, ‘The speckled ones will be your wages,’ all the flocks gave birth to speckled young. And whenever he said, ‘The striped ones will be your wages,’ all the flocks gave birth to striped young. So God has taken away your father’s livestock and has given them to me'” (Genesis 31:8-9 GW).
Unfortunately, Jacob’s experience with Laban is not very unusual, even for people today. You see, it’s not uncommon for workers to find an employer who acts unfairly or tries to go back on an agreement, just as Laban did with Jacob. If you happen to find yourself in a similar situation, you can learn something important from this incident with Laban. For example, did you notice that Jacob didn’t grumble or complain about how unfairly Laban was treating him? Instead, Jacob decided to work hard, mind his own business, and patiently wait for God to take care of the situation. Then he remembered to give God the credit when God protected him and came through for him. In this way, Jacob lived out the words of Psalm 118:6: “The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?”
So how did Leah and Rachel respond to all this? Well, we’ll get that answer next.
“(Leah and Rachel said,) ‘Do we still have any share in the inheritance of our father’s estate? Does he not regard us as foreigners? Not only has he sold us, but he has used up what was paid for us. Surely all the wealth that God took away from our father belongs to us and our children. So do whatever God has told you'” (Genesis 31:14-16).
It’s sad to say, but it looks like Laban simply used his two daughters to get years and years of free work out of Jacob- or at least that’s how they seemed to feel abput it. In fact, Leah and Rachel’s relationship with their father Laban had gotten so bad that they felt like strangers in their own family. And as far as Jacob’s earnings were concerned, well, Leah and Rachel’s opinion was that God had simply restored those things that they should have received anyway.
Jacob’s wives then gave him some very good advice: “‘…do whatever God has told you'” (Genesis 31:16b). This is the first time that Rachel and Leah had agreed on anything as far as we can tell, and this involved a lot more than just saying, “OK.” You see, when they said, “…do whatever God has told you,” it meant that Rachel and Leah would have to move their children, farm animals, maids, ranch workers, and everything else they had to an unfamiliar place that was hundreds of miles away.
But more importantly, Leah and Rachel knew that if God told Jacob to do something, then they had to do it- even if it meant packing up everything and leaving the only home they’d ever known. So Leah and Rachel definitely did the right thing; they supported Jacob and encouraged him to follow God’s direction.
“Then Jacob put his children and his wives on camels, and he drove all his livestock ahead of him, along with all the goods he had accumulated in Paddan Aram, to go to his father Isaac in the land of Canaan” (Genesis 31:17-18).
So Jacob packed up and started off on a journey to return to his childhood home along with his wives, children, servants, and their entire herd of livestock. Although Jacob was probably hauling a lot of stuff back home, notice that this passage specifically tells us that Jacob only packed “…all the belongings he had acquired in Paddan-aram…” (NLT). This meant that Jacob didn’t leave with anything that belonged to his father in law Laban- or so he thought.
“While Laban had gone to shear his sheep, Rachel stole the household idols that belonged to her father…” (Genesis 31:19 NET).
These “household idols” (also known as teraphim) were small figurines that were shaped like female goddesses. These little idols were supposed to serve three basic purposes:
- They were thought to bring good luck to the person who owned them.
- They were supposedly able to help someone tell the future or discover secret information (also known as “divination”).
- They were also used to help establish property ownership. Anyone who had possession of these idols could claim the right to any inherited property.
So why would Rachel steal these things from her father before she left? Well, maybe Rachel believed that these idols really did have some kind of ability to help Laban find Jacob after they had left. Or perhaps she wanted to get back at her father for using up her share of his estate (see Genesis 31:14-15). This also leads into another possibility: since Laban made Rachel and Leah feel like they were no longer part of the family, Rachel may have stolen these idols so she could use them later on to claim a portion of her father’s property after his death. But whatever her actual reason for stealing these household idols, Rachel’s theft is going to eventualy cause a lot of trouble for Jacob later on.
“Moreover, Jacob deceived Laban the Aramean by not telling him he was running away. So he fled with all he had, and crossing the River, he headed for the hill country of Gilead” (Genesis 31:20-21).
It seems that Jacob somehow realized that Laban was not going to simply let him walk away and go back home, especially since Laban was under the impression that Jacob had stolen from him in some way (see Genesis 31:1). So it probably seemed like a good idea for Jacob to leave quietly without saying anything.
The problem is that we’re told that “…Jacob deceived Laban the Aramean by not telling him he was running away” (emphasis added). This tells us that Jacob was doing God’s will in leaving to go back home, but he wasn’t doing God’s will in God’s way. Since Jacob was known as a follower of God, this act of deception served to misrepresent God because God doesn’t deceive people. This reminds us that it’s not enough to simply do what God wants us to do- we have to do what God says in a way that honors Him as well.
“So (Jacob) left in a hurry with all that belonged to him. He crossed the Euphrates River and went toward the mountains of Gilead” (Genesis 31:21 GW).
So Jacob left Laban and took off with everything he had on this return trip back home- but there was a powerful and dangerous enemy waiting for him ahead. That enemy was Jacob’s brother Esau.
Now you may remember that Jacob had tricked his father out of giving the family inheritance to his brother Esau about twenty years prior to the events that we see here Genesis chapter 31. That made Esau so angry that he threatened to kill Jacob and that’s why Jacob had to go and stay with his uncle Laban in the first place. While this enabled Jacob to escape his brother’s plan to take his life, it had also given Esau an additional twenty years to let his anger towards Jacob grow- and who knew how he might respond once he found out that Jacob was back in town again.
And if that wasn’t bad enough, there was a second enemy who was fast approaching Jacob from behind- and it was an enemy that Jacob knew all too well…
“On the third day Laban was told that Jacob had fled. Taking his relatives with him, he pursued Jacob for seven days and caught up with him in the hill country of Gilead” (Genesis 31:22-23).
As part of their labor agreement, Laban made sure to keep a three day separation between Jacob and himself. This meant that it would have taken Laban at least three days just to get back to the place where Jacob had originally started. But even though Jacob had a three day head start before Laban even knew he was gone, Laban chased him and caught up with him in only seven days.
To get an idea of just how fast Laban was moving, we simply need to look at the distance that he covered in those seven days of travel. First, Laban had a three day journey just to get back to Jacob’s original starting point, a distance of about 50-60 miles (80-130km). Laban then had to travel for an additional 300 miles (483 km) to reach the hill country of Gilead. That means that Laban covered a total distance of about 350-400 miles (563-644 km) in just seven days before finally catching up with Jacob. That represented some pretty good speed in those days.
But why would Laban go to such efforts to find Jacob? Well, Laban’s reasons for chasing down Jacob are going to become clear very soon.
So what kind of attitude do you think Laban had towards Jacob as he approached Jacob’s camp? Do you think that Laban had been chasing Jacob at top speed for hundreds of miles just to say goodbye? Or did he have something else in mind? And why would Laban bring a posse of relatives (Genesis 31:23) along with him?
Well, it’s clear that Laban wanted to prevent Jacob from leaving, or perhaps do something even worse. But when God told Jacob to return to the land of his ancestors, He didn’t just tell Jacob what to do and then leave him alone to fend for himself. God also stepped in to protect Jacob from anyone who may have wanted to interfere…
“Then God came to Laban the Aramean in a dream at night and said to him, ‘Be careful not to say anything to Jacob, either good or bad.’ Jacob had pitched his tent in the hill country of Gilead when Laban overtook him, and Laban and his relatives camped there too” (Genesis 31:24).
If we could rephrase God’s message to Laban in these verses, we might say that God told him, “Don’t try to stop Jacob from going forward and don’t try to talk him into going back.” You see, God protected Jacob by making it clear to Laban that he was forbidden to get involved in anything that Jacob was doing. And while Laban didn’t seem to have much of a relationship with God, he apparently knew enough to know that he had better do what God told him to do.
“Then Laban said to Jacob, ‘What have you done? You’ve deceived me, and you’ve carried off my daughters like captives in war. Why did you run off secretly and deceive me? Why didn’t you tell me, so I could send you away with joy and singing to the music of tambourines and harps? You didn’t even let me kiss my grandchildren and my daughters good-by. You have done a foolish thing'” (Genesis 31:26-28).
If we are to take Laban at his word in these verses, we could say that he wanted Jacob to believe that he went on this 350-400 mile high-speed chase for two reasons:
- Jacob left before Laban could give him a going-away party complete with a band playing music.
- He wanted to make Jacob feel guilty because Jacob had prevented him from saying good-bye to his daughters and grandchildren.
Unfortunately, Laban probably wasn’t being very honest about his real motivations and we’ll look at some more realistic possibilities for his behavior next.
Although Laban tried to portray himself as an innocent victim of Jacob’s decision to leave without any notice, the actual truth was probably very different. For instance, it’s unlikely that Laban chased Jacob at top speed for hundreds of miles just to say goodbye. A more likely explanation is that God’s warning to Laban had prevented him from saying and doing the things that he really wanted to do once he caught up with Jacob. And what was it that Laban really wanted to do? Well, here’s the answer…
“I have the power to harm you; but last night the God of your father said to me, ‘Be careful not to say anything to Jacob, either good or bad'” (Genesis 31:29).
In saying, “I have the power to harm you…” Laban provides us an important clue that illustrates his real attitude towards Jacob. The most likely explanation for Laban’s behavior is that he had originally intended to do some major damage to Jacob once he caught up with him but God had restrained him from taking any action. You see, if Laban had spoken to Jacob “for good” then he might have somehow talked Jacob into turning around and going back with him. If he had spoken to Jacob “for bad” (which appears to be what he really had in mind) then Jacob may have gotten hurt or even killed.
Since Laban believed that everything Jacob owned really belonged to him anyway (more on that later), he may have talked himself into believing that Jacob was actually some kind of thief. That would have provided him with the necessary justification to take action against Jacob or even kill him if necessary. But God didn’t want Laban to hurt Jacob or try to talk him into making a U-turn. Instead, God wanted Jacob to go back to the land that He promised to give him.
Now there’s a pretty good chance that Jacob, Leah, and Rachel weren’t buying into Laban’s claim that he wanted to throw a going-away party and have a chance to say goodbye to Jacob and his family before they left. So Laban decided to try another approach…
“‘Now you have gone off because you longed to return to your father’s house. But why did you steal my gods?'” (Genesis 31:30).
So Laban basically said to Jacob, “Look, I can understand that you want to go back home but why did you go and steal my household idols?” Now you might remember that these “gods” that Laban was speaking of were small figurines that were supposed to bring good luck, tell the future, and establish property rights. But Jacob knew that he didn’t steal anything from Laban- and he was willing to prove it…
“Then Jacob answered and said to Laban, ‘Because I was afraid, for I said, ‘Perhaps you would take your daughters from me by force.’ With whomever you find your gods, do not let him live. In the presence of our brethren, identify what I have of yours and take it with you.’ For Jacob did not know that Rachel had stolen them” (Genesis 31:31-32).
So Jacob gave his side of the story and invited Laban to go on a search mission. Laban then took Jacob up on his offer and went right to work…
“And Laban went into Jacob’s tent, into Leah’s tent, and into the two maids’ tents, but he did not find them. Then he went out of Leah’s tent and entered Rachel’s tent. Now Rachel had taken the household idols, put them in the camel’s saddle, and sat on them.
And Laban searched all about the tent but did not find them. And she said to her father, ‘Let it not displease my lord that I cannot rise before you, for the manner of women is with me.’ And he searched but did not find the household idols” (Genesis 31:33-35 NKJV).
In those days, a camel’s saddle pack could also be used as a kind of cushion and that’s where Rachel had hidden these household idols that she had stolen from her father.
Now it appears that there was at least one thing that Rachel had learned from her father Laban, and that was how to deceive someone and get away with it. You see, when Laban showed up in Rachel’s tent to search through her stuff, she knew that he would expect her to follow the custom of that time that required a child to stand up in the presence of his or her father.
But Rachel also knew that once she got up to greet her father, Laban would then take that opportunity to look through the saddle bag that she had been sitting on- the exact place where she had been hiding these stolen idols. So how could she get around this problem? Easy- she basically said, “Dad, please don’t get mad but I’m having my period and I can’t get up.” That was enough to trick Laban into searching everywhere except the place where these “gods” were actually hidden.
Of course, this whole idea is actually kind of funny when you really think about it. After all, what kind of actual “god” would allow itself to be stolen? What kind of genuine “god” would permit itself to be stuffed inside a bag? What real “god” would let someone sit on top of it? But these were the kinds of “gods” or idols that Laban believed in.
So Laban didn’t find anything during his search of Jacob’s belongings and that gave Jacob an opportunity to tell Laban exactly how he felt…
“Then Jacob was angry and rebuked Laban, and Jacob answered and said to Laban: ‘What is my trespass? What is my sin, that you have so hotly pursued me?
Although you have searched all my things, what part of your household things have you found? Set it here before my brethren and your brethren, that they may judge between us both! These twenty years I have been with you; your ewes and your female goats have not miscarried their young, and I have not eaten the rams of your flock'” (Genesis 31:36-38).
Laban had treated Jacob unfairly for a long, long time and now it was time for Jacob to respond- and he did it by rebuking (or expressing his strong disapproval) of the way that Laban had acted towards him…
- Verse 36: “What have I done that was so wrong that you had to chase me for hundreds of miles?”
- Verse 37: “You wanted to look through all my stuff? OK. Did you find anything that belonged to you? Why don’t you put it out here in front of both our families so everyone can see it and decide?”
- Verse 38: “In all the years that I watched over your flocks, none of the females miscarried and I never butchered any of the males so that I could grill some steaks for myself.”
But Jacob wasn’t finished yet…
“‘That which was torn by beasts I did not bring to you; I bore the loss of it. You required it from my hand, whether stolen by day or stolen by night'” (Genesis 31:39).
Back in those days, a shepherd was responsible for any animal that was lost from their herd. But there was one big exception to this rule. You see, it had always been accepted that a shepherd could bring the mutilated body of a sheep or goat to the owner of a herd to serve as evidence that he or she was brave enough to try and save that animal from a predator. If that happened, then the shepherd would not have to pay for that lost animal.
But Jacob said that he never exercised that right. Instead, he paid for any animal that was lost from Laban’s herd whether he was responsible or not. In fact, Jacob said, “You required it from my hand…” which seems to imply that Laban made him pay for everything, even for those losses that weren’t Jacob’s fault.
But Jacob still wasn’t done and he’ll have plenty more to say to Laban next.
The life of an Old Testament era shepherd could often be very difficult. For instance, a shepherd was expected to work outdoors in all kinds of weather conditions. Those conditions included extreme heat and cold, and that was something that Jacob wanted to make sure that Laban was aware of…
“This was my situation: The heat consumed me in the daytime and the cold at night, and sleep fled from my eyes. It was like this for the twenty years I was in your household” (Genesis 31:40-41a).
It didn’t matter if it was brutally hot during the day or so cold at night that he couldn’t sleep- Jacob was still there, doing his job for Laban year after year. So what was Laban’s attitude towards all of Jacob’s hard work? Well, here’s the answer…
“I worked for you fourteen years for your two daughters and six years for your flocks, and you changed my wages ten times” (Genesis 31:41b).
When Jacob told Laban that he had “changed my wages ten times,” he didn’t mean that Laban had given him ten salary increases- he meant that Laban kept changing the rules of their labor agreement. Whenever it began to look as if Jacob would benefit from his agreement with Laban, Laban went back and changed the terms of their deal. In fact, the truth is that Laban would have sent Jacob back home with nothing at all- except for one thing…
“If the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had not been with me, you would surely have sent me away empty-handed. But God has seen my hardship and the toil of my hands, and last night he rebuked you” (Genesis 31:42).
Jacob worked hard to achieve what he had, but he also knew that God was the One who was really responsible for his success. Because of this, Jacob made certain to give God the credit for protecting him and providing for him. You see, Jacob understood something that would later be written down for us in the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy:
“If you start thinking to yourselves, ‘I did all this. And all by myself. I’m rich. It’s all mine!’—well, think again. Remember that God, your God, gave you the strength to produce all this wealth so as to confirm the covenant that he promised to your ancestors—as it is today” (Deuteronomy 8:17-18 MSG).
So how did Laban respond to everything Jacob said? Well, Laban responded in pretty much the same way that you would expect him to respond- and we’ll look at that next.
It’s clear that Laban treated Jacob in a very unfair way by changing the terms of their work agreement whenever it seemed that Jacob might benefit from it. But Laban had an explanation that seemed totally reasonable- at least to him…
“Laban answered Jacob, ‘The women are my daughters, the children are my children, and the flocks are my flocks. All you see is mine. Yet what can I do today about these daughters of mine, or about the children they have borne?'” (Genesis 31:43).
Despite their agreement, Laban actually believed that everything Jacob had still belonged to him. So it seems that Laban justified his decision to treat Jacob unfairly by simply assuming that everything Jacob had (even his wives and children) really belonged to him anyway. By using this reasoning, Laban must have convinced himself that it was OK to do whatever he wanted with “his” property- and that included trying to cheat Jacob out of those things that he had received under their agreement.
But there was one thing that Laban didn’t anticipate- God had stepped in to protect Jacob and prevent Laban from doing anything to hurt Jacob or stop him from leaving. That left Laban with very few alternatives for dealing with Jacob once he caught up with him. So in order to make the best of a bad situation (from Laban’s point of view), he decided to propose a truce…
“‘Now therefore, come, let us make a covenant, you and I, and let it be a witness between you and me.’ So Jacob took a stone and set it up as a pillar. Then Jacob said to his brethren, ‘Gather stones.’ And they took stones and made a heap, and they ate there on the heap. Laban called it Jegar Sahadutha, but Jacob called it Galeed.
And Laban said, ‘This heap is a witness between you and me this day.’ Therefore its name was called Galeed, also Mizpah, because he said, ‘May the Lord watch between you and me when we are absent one from another'” (Genesis 31:44-49 NKJV).
If we wanted to use a 21st century term to describe this agreement, we could say that Jacob and Laban agreed to compromise by setting up a “mutual non-aggression” treaty. The heap of stones they set up would then serve as what we might call a “de-militarized zone” today. This DMZ was called Jegar Sahadutha by Laban in Aramaic and Galeed by Jacob in Hebrew. These were two different terms that both meant the same thing: “heap of witness.”
We’ll see why this “heap of witness” was so important next.
“It was also called Mizpah, because he said, ‘May the Lord keep watch between you and me when we are away from each other'” (Genesis 31:49).
The word “Mizpah” as seen in the verse quoted above is a word that means “watchpost.” Now if you happen to be shopping online for some Christian merchandise, you might come across a piece of jewelry that’s known as a “Mizpah charm” or “Mizpah coin.” This piece of jewelry comes in two parts that are designed to fit together as one. It also comes with an inscription that’s taken from the verse that’s quoted above: “May the Lord keep watch between you and me when we are away from each other.”
A Mizpah charm is put together in such a way that one person can keep half of it and give the other half to a loved one who is far away. The idea is that this charm will help to remind that loved one that God is watching over that person whenever you are apart from him or her.
Now the idea behind a Mizpah coin is really nice, except for one not-so-little problem. The problem is that this verse has nothing to with mutual love. It actually has to do with mutual distrust. You see, the real idea behind, “May the Lord keep watch between you and me when we are away from each other” is this: Laban and Jacob were basically saying to each other:“You are such a devious person that I pray that God Himself will keep a watch on you when I’m not personally around to watch you for myself.” So much for mutual love and affection, huh?
In speaking about this agreement between Laban and Jacob, one commentator says, “In effect, the pillar of Mizpah meant, ‘If you come over on my side of this line, …I’ll kill you.’ The covenant breaker would need God to take care of him, because the other would shoot to kill.'” (1) So it’s clear that there wasn’t very much love going on between Laban and Jacob.
So why would Laban propose this truce? Well, Laban probably wanted this deal because he still suspected that Jacob had his household idols even though he couldn’t find them during his search. Those household idols would have given Jacob the right to Laban’s property if he ever decided to come back. But now that this agreement was in place, Jacob wasn’t allowed to cross the line into Laban’s territory anymore. And as far as Jacob was concerned, this deal meant that he would never had to deal with Laban ever again.
(1) Dr. Donald Barnhouse, Genesis Vol 2 p 110 quoted in Wilmington’s Guide To The Bible p 51
“(Laban said), ‘ If you mistreat my daughters or if you take any wives besides my daughters, even though no one is with us, remember that God is a witness between you and me.’
Laban also said to Jacob, ‘Here is this heap, and here is this pillar I have set up between you and me. This heap is a witness, and this pillar is a witness, that I will not go past this heap to your side to harm you and that you will not go past this heap and pillar to my side to harm me. May the God of Abraham and the God of Nahor, the God of their father, judge between us.’
So Jacob took an oath in the name of the Fear of his father Isaac. He offered a sacrifice there in the hill country and invited his relatives to a meal. After they had eaten, they spent the night there. Early the next morning Laban kissed his grandchildren and his daughters and blessed them. Then he left and returned home” (Genesis 31:50-55).
This is the last time that we will ever hear from Laban again within the pages of the Bible. But even though Laban is a fairly minor character within the Scriptures, his life provides us with a meaningful illustration that is important for us to remember today. You see, Laban serves as a good example of the kind of person who may seem to be religious on the outside, but is really just someone who puts himself and his own desires ahead of everyone and everything else.
Whenever Laban saw an opportunity to maneuver a situation to serve his own best interest, he took advantage of it without regard to any promises he may have made or who might be hurt by his actions. In short, Laban’s whole attitude was probably best summed up by the phrase, “What’s in it for me?”
So Laban has now completed his time on the Biblical stage and will never be heard from again. All that’s left of Laban now is his bad reputation as a cheater, scammer, con artist, and selfish person. And so the question for people reading this chapter today is this: when your time on earth is over, how do you want to be remembered? Do you want to be remembered as someone who sacrificed to help others, someone who kept his or her promises, and someone who lived a life that honored God?
Or -like Laban- would you prefer to be remembered in some other way?