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Jacob's Feud with Laban | Genesis 31

In chapter 30 we read about all of the children Jacob had with his 4 wives, and the story behind how each one was conceived. And these weren’t just any old children, this was a special family. In fact, if you make it to heaven you’ll see the names of these children on the gates of New Jerusalem every time you enter that heavenly city. And when you see their names high above those gates, you’ll be reminded of their beginnings because each child’s name has a meaning, and the meaning was connected to the events of this family drama, the drama of the birth of the kingdom of Israel.

And at the close of chapter 30 we discovered how Jacob got the upper hand in a business deal he made with Laban concerning who gets what cattle. In chapter 31 we’ll see the fallout from that deal and how that will effect the relationship between Jacob and his father-in-law Laban.

Like always, there will be some significant spiritual, moral, and prophetic lessons in our reading today as well.


Genesis 31:1 And he heard the words of Laban's sons, saying, Jacob hath taken away all that was our father's; and of that which was our father's hath he gotten all this glory.

Wasn’t true. None of Jacob’s riches came from Laban, they came from God’s blessings, as we will find out. In fact, it was Jacob who made Laban wealthy.

Genesis 31:2 And Jacob beheld the countenance of Laban, and, behold, it was not toward him as before.

Apparently he was normally upbeat and friendly towards Jacob, even though he was of the greedy sort. But now that Jacob outwitted him to this extent, Laban no doubt feels like Jacob disgraced him. Laban’s behavior sort of reminds of a corrupt mob boss.

Genesis 31:3 And the LORD said unto Jacob, Return unto the land of thy fathers, and to thy kindred; and I will be with thee.

Time to go back home. No doubt, Jacob didn’t mind being gone for the first 7 years, and maybe not so upset about staying almost 20 years. If you remember, Esau was pretty hot about Jacob taking the birthright and blessing, and he wanted to kill him. These years away from home provided a nice cool down period. Time can heal lots of things.

Genesis 31:4 And Jacob sent and called Rachel and Leah to the field unto his flock,

Genesis 31:5 And said unto them, I see your father's countenance, that it is not toward me as before; but the God of my father hath been with me.

No doubt Laban was pretty upset about the cattle incident, where Jacob outsmarted him and came out with more and stronger cattle than he. But it was a fair deal. More than fair considering all the wealth that Jacob had brought to Laban through hard work and the blessings of God. But Jacob knows something is up, and fears something bad might happen between him and Laban.

Genesis 31:6 And ye know that with all my power I have served your father.

Genesis 31:7 And your father hath deceived me, and changed my wages ten times; but God suffered him not to hurt me.

Again, Laban was corrupt, greedy, and only really cared about acquiring wealth to himself. That’s the whole reason he took Jacob in in the first place. He saw Jacob as someone who could make him rich. Despite all this Jacob submitted to his uncle’s authority anyway and kept working hard and putting his whole heart into it, even though Laban continually defrauded him. We should do the same to those whom we serve, good or bad.

As it is written:

“Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God: And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ. But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons.” -Colossians 3:22-25

Human nature would tell us, “I’m not going to work hard for that greedy old bastard. I’ll show him. If he doesn’t pay me well then he will get what he pays for.” And it’s tempting to try and even the score ourselves, but we must not give in to that temptation. We must always guard our reputation and keep our good name. Had Jacob decided to right the wrong himself by stealing from Laban or not serving him with all his power, then Jacob could not depart holding onto the higher moral ground with his integrity still intact.

That’s so important. We are first and foremost servants of God. What we do reflects upon Him, so we need to always keep that in mind. Because if we take matters into our own hands, we can inadvertently damage the reputation of the God we serve.

Genesis 31:8 If he said thus, The speckled shall be thy wages; then all the cattle bare speckled: and if he said thus, The ringstraked shall be thy hire; then bare all the cattle ringstraked.

Genesis 31:9 Thus God hath taken away the cattle of your father, and given them to me.

Notice it wasn’t Jacob who took the cattle away from Laban, it was Almighty God.

You know I can’t help but think of America today and all of the unfair and corrupt trade deals that other nations have made with us. Canada, Mexico, China, Europe, you name it. Everyone around the world has been getting rich off of the blessings bestowed upon America, much like how Laban was with Jacob. For many years now they’ve taken advantage of our hard working Christian peoples who keep this country going. But now, with our new President, things are starting to change. No longer are they so easily taking advantage of us anymore.

Hey if God can right a wrong with His covenant people back then, then who is to say He is doing the same today?

Genesis 31:10 And it came to pass at the time that the cattle conceived, that I lifted up mine eyes, and saw in a dream, and, behold, the rams which leaped upon the cattle were ringstraked, speckled, and grisled.

Genesis 31:11 And the angel of God spake unto me in a dream, saying, Jacob: And I said, Here am I.

Genesis 31:12 And he said, Lift up now thine eyes, and see, all the rams which leap upon the cattle are ringstraked, speckled, and grisled: for I have seen all that Laban doeth unto thee.

Work hard, don’t complain, and God will even the score. He sees what is going on in your life, and he knows how people are taking advantage of His Christian peoples. Trust Him.

Genesis 31:13 I am the God of Bethel, where thou anointedst the pillar, and where thou vowedst a vow unto me: now arise, get thee out from this land, and return unto the land of thy kindred.

Genesis 31:14 And Rachel and Leah answered and said unto him, Is there yet any portion or inheritance for us in our father's house?

Genesis 31:15 Are we not counted of him strangers? for he hath sold us, and hath quite devoured also our money.

It appears as though it was customary for the father to leave his daughters some kind of inheritance. Laban must not have done this. Looks like he treated his daughters the same as he treated Jacob – just tools to build up his own wealth.

Genesis 31:16 For all the riches which God hath taken from our father, that is ours, and our children's: now then, whatsoever God hath said unto thee, do.

In other words, they are agreeing to leave their father and go with Jacob.

Genesis 31:17 Then Jacob rose up, and set his sons and his wives upon camels;

Genesis 31:18 And he carried away all his cattle, and all his goods which he had gotten, the cattle of his getting, which he had gotten in Padanaram, for to go to Isaac his father in the land of Canaan.

Genesis 31:19 And Laban went to shear his sheep: and Rachel had stolen the images that were her father's.

Genesis 31:20 And Jacob stole away unawares to Laban the Syrian, in that he told him not that he fled.

Genesis 31:21 So he fled with all that he had; and he rose up, and passed over the river, and set his face toward the mount Gilead.

Jacob left without telling Laban.

Genesis 31:22 And it was told Laban on the third day that Jacob was fled.

Genesis 31:23 And he took his brethren with him, and pursued after him seven days' journey; and they overtook him in the mount Gilead.

Genesis 31:24 And God came to Laban the Syrian in a dream by night, and said unto him, Take heed that thou speak not to Jacob either good or bad.

Interesting how God sometimes talks directly to men who were not in covenant with him, most often to warn them not to hurt His people in any way. What do we have to be afraid of with a God like this? Just trust Him?

Genesis 31:25 Then Laban overtook Jacob. Now Jacob had pitched his tent in the mount: and Laban with his brethren pitched in the mount of Gilead.

Genesis 31:26 And Laban said to Jacob, What hast thou done, that thou hast stolen away unawares to me, and carried away my daughters, as captives taken with the sword?

Genesis 31:27 Wherefore didst thou flee away secretly, and steal away from me; and didst not tell me, that I might have sent thee away with mirth, and with songs, with tabret, and with harp?

Genesis 31:28 And hast not suffered me to kiss my sons and my daughters? thou hast now done foolishly in so doing.

Laban did not want Jacob to go. I doubt he would have so eagerly sent Jacob away with a party. This is the sort of thing hypocrites do.

Genesis 31:29 It is in the power of my hand to do you hurt: but the God of your father spake unto me yesternight, saying, Take thou heed that thou speak not to Jacob either good or bad.

No doubt Laban had more strength in numbers and could have physically defeated Jacob.

Genesis 31:30 And now, though thou wouldest needs be gone, because thou sore longedst after thy father's house, yet wherefore hast thou stolen my gods?

Laban basically says, okay, I can understand why you wanted to leave, you miss your family; but why did you have to steal my precious idols?

Genesis 31:31 And Jacob answered and said to Laban, Because I was afraid: for I said, Peradventure thou wouldest take by force thy daughters from me.

Nice honest answer. That must sound reasonable to Laban. Remember, Jacob observed a drastic change in Laban’s countenance towards him. Before murdering his brother, Cain’s countenance changed as well.

“And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering: But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell. And the LORD said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him. And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.” -Genesis 4:4-8

You can discern many things from a person’s countenance.

Genesis 31:32 With whomsoever thou findest thy gods, let him not live: before our brethren discern thou what is thine with me, and take it to thee. For Jacob knew not that Rachel had stolen them.

Genesis 31:33 And Laban went into Jacob's tent, and into Leah's tent, and into the two maidservants' tents; but he found them not. Then went he out of Leah's tent, and entered into Rachel's tent.

Genesis 31:34 Now Rachel had taken the images, and put them in the camel's furniture, and sat upon them. And Laban searched all the tent, but found them not.

Genesis 31:35 And she said to her father, Let it not displease my lord that I cannot rise up before thee; for the custom of women is upon me. And he searched, but found not the images.

Rachel tells her father that she is having her monthly menstral cycle and gets away with stealing the idols. My guess is she probably wanted to melt them down for the precious metal, and no doubt justified stealing them because her father stole their inheritance.

Genesis 31:36 And Jacob was wroth, and chode with Laban: and Jacob answered and said to Laban, What is my trespass? what is my sin, that thou hast so hotly pursued after me?

Genesis 31:37 Whereas thou hast searched all my stuff, what hast thou found of all thy household stuff? set it here before my brethren and thy brethren, that they may judge betwixt us both.

Genesis 31:38 This twenty years have I been with thee; thy ewes and thy she goats have not cast their young, and the rams of thy flock have I not eaten.

Genesis 31:39 That which was torn of beasts I brought not unto thee; I bare the loss of it; of my hand didst thou require it, whether stolen by day, or stolen by night.

Genesis 31:40 Thus I was; in the day the drought consumed me, and the frost by night; and my sleep departed from mine eyes.

Genesis 31:41 Thus have I been twenty years in thy house; I served thee fourteen years for thy two daughters, and six years for thy cattle: and thou hast changed my wages ten times.

Genesis 31:42 Except the God of my father, the God of Abraham, and the fear of Isaac, had been with me, surely thou hadst sent me away now empty. God hath seen mine affliction and the labour of my hands, and rebuked thee yesternight.

Jacob is really mad. He basically tells Laban, after all these years serving you honestly why would I steal some stupid little metal idols!

Genesis 31:43 And Laban answered and said unto Jacob, These daughters are my daughters, and these children are my children, and these cattle are my cattle, and all that thou seest is mine: and what can I do this day unto these my daughters, or unto their children which they have born?

In other words, Laban says, “I wouldn’t have hurt any of you, you’re my family.”

Genesis 31:44 Now therefore come thou, let us make a covenant, I and thou; and let it be for a witness between me and thee.

This relationship between Jacob and Laban was so badly damaged that now there was only one positive thing left to do, to make a peace treaty.

Genesis 31:45 And Jacob took a stone, and set it up for a pillar.

Genesis 31:46 And Jacob said unto his brethren, Gather stones; and they took stones, and made an heap: and they did eat there upon the heap.

Interesting, part of making a covenant was having a meal together. The peace agreement between God and sinners includes a meal as well, that one is often referred to as the Last Supper or Holy Communion.

Genesis 31:47 And Laban called it Jegarsahadutha: but Jacob called it Galeed.

Both words basically mean the same thing – A heap of stones.

Genesis 31:48 And Laban said, This heap is a witness between me and thee this day. Therefore was the name of it called Galeed;

Genesis 31:49 And Mizpah; for he said, The LORD watch between me and thee, when we are absent one from another.

Genesis 31:50 If thou shalt afflict my daughters, or if thou shalt take other wives beside my daughters, no man is with us; see, God is witness betwixt me and thee.

Genesis 31:51 And Laban said to Jacob, Behold this heap, and behold this pillar, which I have cast betwixt me and thee;

Genesis 31:52 This heap be witness, and this pillar be witness, that I will not pass over this heap to thee, and that thou shalt not pass over this heap and this pillar unto me, for harm.

Symbolic of a wall separating the two from harming one another.

Genesis 31:53 The God of Abraham, and the God of Nahor, the God of their father, judge betwixt us. And Jacob sware by the fear of his father Isaac.

Genesis 31:54 Then Jacob offered sacrifice upon the mount, and called his brethren to eat bread: and they did eat bread, and tarried all night in the mount.

Genesis 31:55 And early in the morning Laban rose up, and kissed his sons and his daughters, and blessed them: and Laban departed, and returned unto his place.


Much better outcome than what could have been had God not intervened. Had He not, it is likely that Laban would have killed Jacob and taken his daughters back along with everything that Jacob possessed. But now after many years of putting his trust in God and enduring the fraudulent dealings of Laban, Jacob is free, wealthy, and ready to expand his kingdom. However, there are still many more challenges ahead for God’s people, as we will see in the coming chapters.
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