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The Oxford Study Bible Study Bible supplemented with commentary from scholars of various religions.

Chapter 31

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1 JACOB learnt that Laban's sons were saying, ‘Jacob has taken everything that our father had, and all his wealth has come from our father's property.’ 2He noticed also that Laban was not so well disposed to him as he had once been. 3The LORD said to Jacob, ‘Go back to the land of your fathers and to your kindred; I shall be with you,’ 4and Jacob sent word to Rachel and Leah to come out to where his flocks were in the country. 5He said to them, ‘I have been noticing that your father is not so friendly to me as once he was. But the God of my father has been with me. 6You yourselves know I have served your father to the best of my ability, 7yet he has cheated me and changed my wages ten times over. But God did not let him do me any harm. 8If your father said, “The spotted ones are to be your wages,” then all the flock bore spotted young; and if he said, “The striped ones are to be your wages,” then all the flock bore striped young. 9It is God who has taken away your father's livestock and given them to me. 10In the season when the flocks were in heat, I had a dream in which I saw that the he-goats which were mating were striped and spotted and dappled. 11The angel of God called to me in the dream, “Jacob!” and I replied, “Here I am!” 12He said, “See what is happening: all the he-goats mating are striped and spotted and dappled, for I have seen all that Laban has been doing to you. 13I am the God of Bethel a 31:13 the God of Bethel: or the God Bethel. where you anointed a sacred pillar and made a vow to me. Now leave this country at once and return to your native land.” ’ 14Rachel and Leah answered him, ‘We no longer have any share in our father's house. 15Does he not look on us as strangers, now that he has sold us and used the money paid for us? 16All the wealth which God has saved from our father's clutches is surely ours and our children's. Now do whatever God has told you to do.’ 17At once Jacob put his sons and his wives on camels, 18and he drove off all the cattle and other livestock which he had acquired in Paddan-aram, to go to his father Isaac in Canaan.

19When Laban had gone to shear his sheep, Rachel stole the household gods belonging to her father. 20Jacob hoodwinked Laban the Aramaean and kept his departure secret; 21he fled with all that he possessed, and soon was over the Euphrates and on the way to the hill-country of Gilead. 22Three days later, when Laban heard that Jacob had fled, 23he took his kinsmen with him and pursued Jacob for seven days until he caught up with him in the hill-country of Gilead. 24But God came to Laban the Aramaean in a dream by night and said to him, ‘Be careful to say nothing to Jacob, not a word.’

25When Laban caught up with him, Jacob had pitched his tent in the hill-country of Gilead, and Laban encamped with his kinsmen in the same hill-country. 26Laban said to Jacob, ‘What have you done? You have deceived me and carried off my daughters as though they were captives taken in war. 27Why did you slip away secretly without telling me? I would have set you on your way with songs and the music of tambourines and harps. 28You did not even let me kiss my daughters and their children. In this you behaved foolishly. 29I have it in my power to harm all of you, but last night the God of your father spoke to me; he told me to be careful to say nothing to you, not one word. 30I expect that really you went away because you were homesick and pining for your father's house; but why did you steal my gods?’

31Jacob answered, ‘I was afraid; I thought you would take your daughters from me by force. 32Whoever is found in possession of your gods shall die for it. In the presence of our kinsmen as witnesses, identify anything I have that is yours, and take it back.’ Jacob did not know that Rachel had stolen the gods. 33Laban went into Jacob's tent and Leah's tent and that of the two slave-girls, but he found nothing. After coming from Leah's tent he went into Rachel's. 34In the mean time Rachel had taken the household gods and put them in the camel-bag and was sitting on them. Laban went through the whole tent but found nothing. 35Rachel said, ‘Do not take it amiss, father, that I cannot rise in your presence: the common lot of woman is upon me.’ So for all his searching, Laban did not find the household gods.

36Jacob heatedly took Laban to task. ‘What have I done wrong?’ he exclaimed. ‘What is my offence, that you have come after me in hot pursuit 37and have gone through all my belongings? Have you found a single article belonging to your household? If so, set it here in front of my kinsmen and yours, and let them decide between the two of us. 38In all the twenty years I have been with you, your ewes and she-goats have never miscarried. I have never eaten rams from your flocks. 39I have never brought to you the carcass of any animal mangled by wild beasts, but I bore the loss myself. You demanded that I should pay compensation for anything stolen by day or by night. 40This was the way of it: the heat wore me down by day and the frost by night; I got no sleep. 41For twenty years I have been in your household. I worked fourteen years for you to win your two daughters and six years for your flocks, and you changed my wages ten times over. 42If the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had not been with me, you would now have sent me away empty-handed. But God saw my labour and my hardships, and last night he delivered his verdict.’

43Laban answered Jacob, ‘The daughters are my daughters, the children are my children, the flocks are my flocks; all you see is mine. But what am I to do now about my daughters and the children they have borne? 44Come, let us make a pact, you and I, and let there be a witness between us.’ 45So Jacob chose a great stone and set it up as a sacred pillar. 46Then he told his kinsmen to gather stones, and they took them and built a cairn, and there beside the cairn they ate together. 47Laban called it Jegar-sahadutha b 31:47 Jegar-sahadutha: Aram. for Cairn of Witness. , and Jacob called it Gal-ed c Gal-ed: Heb. for Cairn of Witness. . 48‘This cairn’, said Laban, ‘is a witness today between you and me.’ That was why it was named Gal-ed; 49it was also named Mizpah d 31:49 Mizpah: that is Watch-tower. , for Laban said, ‘May the LORD watch between you and me when we are absent from one another. 50If you ill-treat my daughters or take other wives besides them, then though no one is there as a witness, God will be the witness between us.’

51Laban said to Jacob, ‘Here is this cairn, and here the pillar which I have set up between us. 52Both cairn and pillar are witnesses that I am not to pass beyond this cairn to your side with evil intent, and you must not pass beyond this cairn and this pillar to my side with evil intent. 53May the God of Abraham and the God of Nahor judge between us e 31:53 between us: so Gk; Heb. adds the God of their father. .’ Jacob swore this oath in the name of the Fear of Isaac, the God of his father. 54He slaughtered an animal for sacrifice there in the hill-country, and summoned his kinsmen to the feast. They ate together and spent the night there.

55 f 31:55 In Heb. 32:1. Laban rose early in the morning, kissed his daughters and their children, gave them his blessing, and then returned to his home.


a 31:13 the God of Bethel: or the God Bethel.

b 31:47 Jegar-sahadutha: Aram. for Cairn of Witness.

c Gal-ed: Heb. for Cairn of Witness.

d 31:49 Mizpah: that is Watch-tower.

e 31:53 between us: so Gk; Heb. adds the God of their father.

f 31:55 In Heb. 32:1.

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