Jacob Encounters Laban

I. Jacob prepares to leave Haran (Genesis 30:25-43). 

A. Laban has essentially become a pagan mystic (30:27).

1. Laban has “learned by experience.”

a. The Hebrew word is NACHASH.
b. The translation should be: “learned by divination”.

2. Laban quickly agrees to the “wages” proposed by Jacob (33-36).

a. The entire herd now belonged to Laban (29-30).
b. Jacob would NOT keep ANY current animals for himself.
c. None of the current animals would be used for breeding.
d. Only “spotted” and “speckled” and “grizzled” animals Later born to the flock would be Jacob’s “wages”.
e. The flocks would be separated so that no “spotted” (etc.) cattle could breed into the “white” cattle.
f. This “bargain” was very favorable to Laban (34-36).
1) Laban would lose nothing now his.
2) Jacob was unlikely to acquire much at all.

3. Jacob notes, “my righteousness shall answer”, when he leaves (33).

B. Jacob “increased exceedingly, and had much cattle, and maidservants, and menservants, and camels, and asses” – all in six (6) years.

1. Laban’s heart was deceitful, not Jacob’s (31:7).

a. God knew the heart of Laban (31:7 and 12).
b. God took away the wealth of Laban (31:8-9).

2. Jacob’s methodology with breeding is God-directed (31:7-13).

a. God gave Jacob prophetic insight (31:10-12).
b. God knew which animals were heterozygous (possessing two different forms of a particular gene), and not homozygous (possessing two identical forms of a particular gene, one inherited from each parent) – Jacob did not.
c. God controlled the genetic breeding – Jacob did not.
d. Jacob merely followed what “techniques” he had developed in the field – God did the “combinations” as promised.
1) The manipulation was probably to increase the breeding instinct and induce copulation.
2) The manipulation “selected” the stronger over the weaker.
3) God was providing the “increase” (1 Corinthians 3:6-7).

II. Jacob leaves Haran and confronts Laban (Genesis 31:13-55).

A. God reveals Himself to Jacob and commands a return.

1. God identifies Himself as the “God of Bethel” (31:13).

2. God reminds Jacob of his earlier vow (28:20).

3. God commands Jacob to return to the “land of your kindred”.

B. Jacob now assembles his family and estate and begins his journey.

1. Jacob has rehearsed the previous events with his wives (31:1-12).

2. Rachel and Leah recognize Laban’s deceit and support Jacob.

a. Laban had treated them as “strangers” (31:15).
b. Laban had taken their “riches” and used them for himself (31:16).

3. Jacob now leaves with all his family and wealth (31:17-21).

4. Rachel stole the “images” from Laban as they left (31:19).

a. These are TERAPHIM = small idols and household deities.
b. Rachel’s motivation is unclear, but was both wrong and dangerous to the entire household.

C. Laban pursues Jacob with all his “brethren” to mount Gilead (31:22-23).

1. Laban was notified after Jacob had been gone three days (31:22).

2. Laban’s entourage pursued hard after Jacob for seven days (31:23).

3. Laban is warned by God in a dream (31:24).

a. Laban is called a “Syrian” (always used negatively in the Scripture).
b. Laban is warned not to do “good or bad” to Jacob.
1) Essentially, say nothing to Jacob at all
2) There is to be no “impact” from or by Laban to Jacob.

III. The “Image” debate and the “Mizpah” witness (31:25-55)

A. Laban (after God’s warning) can only “accuse” Jacob.

1. Laban’s hypocritical speech of feigned concern for his daughters is nothing but a lie.

a. He complained that he would have sent them away with joy.
b. He knew (as did everyone) that this was a lie.
c. He was afraid of God’s warning.

2. Rachel had endangered the entire household (31:29-35).

a. Laban “could” (except for God’s warning) hurt them.
b. Laban whines “why have you stolen my gods?” (vs 30)
c. Jacob (completely innocent) offers full access (vs 31-32).
d. All are searched and nothing is found.
1) Jacob may never have found out about Rachel.
2) Rachel’s deception works, but she is compromised.
3) Rachel reflects position of some Christians

B. Jacob now rebukes Laban in front of all the “brethren” (31:36-42).

1. Jacob declares his (real) innocence to all.

2. Jacob rehearses all the wrong Laban has done to him.

a. Twenty years of wrongful service
b. Faithful service in the highest degree
1) Perfect care of the flock
2) Deaths by wild animals born by Jacob
3) Hard labor in the field while Laban enjoyed the tent
c. Fourteen years for the wives
d. Six years for the animals
e. Laban has cheated him 10 times.

3. God had protected and provided for Jacob in spite of Laban.

C. Laban tries to divert by denial of the claims and charges.

1. Laban realized he was in the wrong.

2. Laban, a self-seeking hypocrite, cannot admit wrong.

3. Laban cannot repent or make public acknowledgment of guilt.

4. Laban must try to shift blame or shift attention.

D. Laban proposes a formal covenant between himself and Jacob (31:43-53).

1. Jacob and his family set up “stones” as a pillar.

2. This pillar becomes the “Witness” between them.

a. “Mizpah” is the Hebrew equivalent of “witness”.
b. “Galeed” and “Jegarsahadutha” are formal names.

3. This becomes the boundary of their territory (31:51-52).

4. The “witness” by Laban is a pagan “warning”, not a blessing.

a. The God (Elohim) of Abraham may be YAWAH.
b. The God(s) of Nahor is the household god.
c. The God(s) of their father is also a household god.

5. Jacob swears by “the fear of his father Isaac”.

6. Jacob then offers a sacrifice and calls for a formal meal.

7. Laban spends the night, leaves in the morning, and is never heard from again.

The Patriarchs
ch. 30-31


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