Genesis 31


Jacob has spent his entire life surrounded by jealousy. Family dysfunction is everywhere. His sister wives are jealous of one another and in the previous chapter they even bought and sold the affection of their husband. The jealousy is now extending to the rest of the family. Jacob overhears Laban's sons as they discuss Jacob's wealth and he could sense the growing disfavor of his father-in-law Laban. The Lord comes to Jacob and tells him to return home to the land of his fathers and promises to be with him. Jacob gathers his wives, and they have a candid and painful family meeting. He says that he knows that things have changed between him and Laban, but God has been with him. He reminds them that he has served their father well even though their father continually changed his wages. God had protected him and his family. He recounts the ways that God had done these things through all the changes. Jacob will not rob God of the credit and his rightful glory, and he tells his wives about his dream perhaps for the first time. Rachel and Leah lay aside their differences and agree that the way their father had treated them was not right. The wives consent to follow Jacob and obey whatever God has told him. 

The Flight

Laban was away sheep-shearing when Jacob set out with his family. One might be surprised to see the way Rachel behaves as she proclaims that she is ready to obey God one minute and then steals the household gods of her father. Her faith may not be as steady as one might think. Three days passed before Laban learns that Jacob had fled with his goods and his family and Laban wastes no time and immediately pursues Jacob. His pursuit was not to seek reconciliation, he was angry, his household gods had been stolen, and he had gathered a posse of relatives to hunt them down. God intervened by coming to Laban in a dream and warning him not to harm Jacob. 


By the seventh day, Laban overtook Jacob and his caravan. Laban misrepresents himself and speaks as if his intentions were to bless Jacob and give his family a proper send-off. Laban declares that he is in the position of power and could easily harm Jacob but God had come to him in a dream and prevented it. He asks Jacob why he has stolen his household gods. Jacob tells Laban that he did not trust that he would have been allowed to leave peacefully and then recklessly announces that anyone caught with the gods would not live. He does not know that Rachel had stolen them away. Laban searched furiously for the household gods to no avail and Rachel thwarted his efforts by asking him to forgive her for her current condition. At this point, Jacob's anger boils over, and he berates Laban over his behavior and calls him out in front of his family. He reminds Laban how faithfully he has served him for more than twenty years and how Laban had repeatedly treated him unfairly. Jacob tells Laban that no matter what he might say, he was convinced that even now he would take everything from him if it were not for God's intervention. 

Peace Restored

Laban maintained that everything that Jacob had belonged to him but he would not press the issue any further. Laban proposed that the two of them make a covenant together and erect a pillar to commemorate the agreement. It was to serve as a witness that neither one of them would pass that way with the intention to do the other harm. The oath was solemnized in the name of the Lord and Jacob offered a sacrifice to seal the covenant. Jacob prepared a meal and the next day Laban said his goodbyes and headed home.

Things To Consider:

  • Why is jealousy so destructive?
  • How much discord was there for Laban's daughters to be willing to abandon their father?
  • Why do you think Rachel stole the household gods?
  • How had God guided Jacob in the same way that he guides us?
  • What are some ways that anger gets away from us?
  • Why do you think God came to Laban the way he did?
  • How difficult do you think it was to endure Laban's hypocritical remarks in front his kinsmen?
  • Why must we be careful about making vows?
  • How was God sovereign over this dysfunctional family?