Jacob was in general, a man of devotion and integrity;
yet he had more trouble than any of the patriarchs.
His resolution to return, ver. 1 - 16.
His clandestine departure, ver. 17 - 21.
Laban's pursuit of him in displeasure, ver. 22 - 25.
The hot words that passed between them, ver. 26 - 42.
Their amicable agreement at last, ver. 43 - 55.
1: It should seem they said it in Jacob's hearing. The last
chapter began with Rachel's envying Leah; this begins with
Laban's sons envying Jacob. He has gotten all his glory - And
what was this glory? It was a parcel of brown sheep and speckled goats,
and some camels and asses. Jacob has taken away all that was our
fathers - Not all, sure; what was become of those cattle which were
committed to the custody of Laban's sons, and sent three days
3: The Lord said unto Jacob, Return and I will be with thee - though
Jacob had met with very hard usage, yet he would not quit his place
'till God bid him. He came thither by orders from heaven, and there he
would slay 'till he was ordered back. The direction he had from heaven is
more fully related in the account he gives of it to his wives, where he
tells them of the dream he had about the cattle, and the wonderful
increase of those of his colour; and how the angel of God in that dream
instructed him that it was not by chance, nor by his own policy, that he
obtained that great advantage but by the providence of God, who had taken
notice of the hardships Laban had put upon him, and in performance of
4: And Jacob sent for Rachel and Leah to the field - That he might
discourse with them more privately.
9: God hath taken away the cattle of your father and given them to
me - Thus the righteous God paid Jacob for his hard service out of
Laban's estate; as afterwards he paid the seed of Jacob for their
service of the Egyptians with their spoils.
16: Whereas Jacob looked upon the wealth which God had passed over
from Laban to him as his wages, they look upon it as their
portions; so that both ways God forced Laban to pay his debts, both
to his servant and to his daughters.
19: Laban went to shear his sheep - That part of his flock which was
in the hands of his sons, three days journey off. Now,
It is certain it was lawful for Jacob to leave his service
suddenly: it was not only justified by the particular instructions God gave
him, but warranted by the fundamental law of self - preservation which directs
us, when we are in danger, to shift for our own safety, as far as we can do
it without wronging our consciences.
It was his prudence to steal away unawares to Laban, lest if
Laban had known, he should have hindered him, or plundered him.
It was honestly done to take no more than his own with him, the
cattle of his getting. He took what providence gave him, and would not
take the repair of his damages into his own hands. Yet Rachel was not
so honest as her husband; she stole her father's images, and carried
them away. The Hebrew calls them Teraphim. Some think they were
only little representations of the ancestors of the family in statue or
picture, which Rachel had a particular fondness for, and was desirous to
have with her now she was going into another country. It should rather seem
they were images for a religious use, penates, household gods, either
worshipped, or consulted as oracles; and we are willing to hope, that she
took them away, not out of covetousness much less for her own use, or out of
any superstitious fear lest Laban, by consulting his teraphim, might
know which way they were gone; (Jacob no doubt dwelt with his wives as a
man of knowledge, and they were better taught than so) but with a design
to convince her father of the folly of his regard to those as gods which
could not secure themselves.
23: He took his brethren - That is, his relations, and pursues
Jacob to bring him back into bondage, or, to strip him of what he had.
24: Speak not, either good or bad - That is, say nothing against his
going on with his journey, for the thing proceedeth from the Lord. The same
Hebraism we have, (Ge 24:50). The safety of good men is very much
owing to the hold God has of the consciences of bad men, and the access he
has to them.
27: I might have sent thee away with mirth and with songs, with
tabret and with harp - Not as Rebekah was sent away out of the same
family above one hundred and twenty years before, with prayers and
blessings, but with sport and merriment; which was a sign that religion was
much decayed in the family.
29: It is in the power of my hand to do you hurt - He supposeth that
he had both right on his side, and strength on his side, either to revenge
the wrong, or recover the right. Yet he owns himself under the restraint of
God's power; he durst not injure one of whom he saw to be the particular
care of heaven.
30: Wherefore hast thou stolen my gods? - Foolish man! to call those
his gods that could be stolen! Could he expect protection from them that
could neither resist nor discover their invaders? Happy are they who have
the Lord for their God. Enemies may steal our goods, but not our God.
31: Jacob clears himself by giving the true reason why he went away
unknown to Laban; he feared lest Laban would by force take away
his daughters and so oblige him to continue in his service. As to the
charge of stealing Laban's gods, he pleads not guilty. He not only
did not take them himself, but he did not know that they were taken.
42: Jacob speaks of God as the God of his father, intimating
that he thought himself unworthy to be thus regarded, but was beloved for
his father's sake. He calls him the God of Abraham and the fear of
Isaac: for Abraham was dead, and gone to that world where there is
no fear; but Isaac was yet alive, sanctifying the Lord in his heart as
his fear and his dread.
44: Let us make a covenant - It was made and ratified with great
solemnity, according to the usages of those times.
A pillar was erected, and a heap of stones raised, to perpetuate the
memory of the thing, writing being then not known.
A sacrifice was offered, a sacrifice of peace - offerings.
They did eat bread together, jointly partaking of the feast upon the
sacrifice. This was in token of a hearty reconciliation. Covenants of
friendship were anciently ratified by the parties eating and drinking
They solemnity appealed to God concerning their sincerity herein;
As a witness, (Ge 31:49).
The Lord watch between me and thee - That is, the Lord take cognizance of
every thing that shall be done on either side in violation of this league.
As a judge, The God of Abraham, from whom Jacob was descended,
and The God of Nahor, from whom Laban was descended, the God of
their father, the common ancestor from whom they were both descended,
judge betwixt us. God's relation to them is thus expressed,
to intimate that they worshipped one and the same God, upon which
consideration there ought to be no enmity betwixt them. Those that have
one God should have one heart: God is judge between contending parties, and
he will judge righteously, whoever doth wrong it is at their peril.
They gave a new name to the place, (Ge 31:47,48).
Laban called it in Syriac, and Jacob in Hebrew, The heap of
witness. And (Ge 31:49), it was called
Mizpah, a watch - tower. Posterity being included in the league, care
was taken that thus the memory of it should be preserved. The name
Jacob gave this heap stuck by it, Galeed, not the name Laban
54: And Jacob sware by the fear of his father Isaac - The God whom
his father Isaac feared, who had never served other gods, as
Abraham and Nahor had done.