A Selfish Pursuit — Genesis Chapter 31
This blog post will cover the devotionals #139-142 for Genesis Chapter 31.
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 Genesis 31:1-13
When Laban’s sons realized how Jacob’s flock was increasing and how it was affecting Laban’s flock (based on the terms they’d agreed upon), they didn’t view it as God’s hand, but that Jacob was taking advantage of Laban and stealing his wealth for himself. Laban himself was looking at him differently and Jacob felt it. God told Jacob that it was time to go home, and that He would go with him. Jacob called his wives to the field to explain what was happening, and how God had blessed his flock, despite how Laban didn’t keep his word concerning which flocks would be his. For example, if Laban said that Jacob’s wages would be all the speckled cattle, then the cattle would begin baring speckled cattle. Then Laban would see how that was benefiting Jacob, so he’d change his wages to be all the striped cattle. Then all the cattle birthed striped cattle. This is how it went for six years, and Laban kept changing it because he saw how it was affecting himself. In fact, he changed it ten times, which was another form of deception because, like he’d done with Rachel, he promised Jacob something specific for his work, and he changed it to meet his own selfish desires. God noted how Laban was cheating Jacob and, thus, He blessed Jacob and would cause all the animals born to match the current pattern that Laban swore would be Jacob’s. He even gave Jacob a dream to reveal this to him. In his dream, God came to him as the God of Bethel (which is where Jacob had the dream about the ladder and had anointed the pillar twenty years before, making a vow to God). From that point, He repeated His call to Jacob to leave Laban’s area and return to his father’s homeland. Ecclesiastes 4:1, 4 says, “So I returned, and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun: and see the tears of the oppressed, and that they had no comforter; and their oppressors had power on their side, but they had no comforter. Again, I considered all travail, and every right work—that for this a man is envied by his neighbor. This is also vanity and vexation of spirit.” The oppressed is tried and the oppressor is jealous of the success of the work of the righteous. This was the case of Laban and Jacob.
 Genesis 31:14-35
When weighing their options, Jacob’s wives realized that there was nothing worth staying home for. They recognized that their father had basically sold them for his own benefit and had eaten up all their wealth, and how God was working to bring back from Laban their provision for their own children. They agreed with Jacob that he should follow God’s direction. So, without telling Laban they were leaving, Jacob loaded his wives and children onto camels, took all his wealth and cattle, and departed for Canaan to find his father, Isaac. We’ll exactly see why Jacob chose to depart unannounced, but it has to do with what Genesis 2:24 and Matthew 19:5, 6 say. “Therefore, a man must leave his father and mother, and must cleave to his wife: and they must be one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let no man separate.” If they’d left after getting married, a lot of trouble would’ve been avoided by Jacob’s family. This is what would’ve happened if Laban hadn’t switched Rachel and Leah. Jacob had already worked his seven years for his wife, and they could’ve departed as soon as they were married. Because of what happened with Leah, he couldn’t leave right away (only because he promised to work another seven years for Rachel, which he could’ve refused to do, while demanding to also have Rachel). Yet, after he’d finished his fourteenth year of work, he had another opportunity to leave, but when Laban had asked him to stay longer, he decided to stay another six years to gain cattle. Boundaries are so important to have between a married couple and their parents. Jacob learned that the hard / long way. Before they left, Rachel took the opportunity, while her father was gone shearing his sheep, to steal his idols. Laban was informed after three days that Jacob had run away with his family, so he took his family and chased after them for seven days, where they caught up in mount Gilead. God gave Laban a dream that night, saying that he must speak neutrally to Jacob. The reason He did this was because Laban had intended to force Jacob to return with his family, cattle, and belongings. God was telling him that he couldn’t speak bad (treat him with force) nor good (try to entice him) to accomplish his goal. When Laban caught up to him, he asked: “What have you done, that you have run away behind my back, and took my daughters away like captives taken at sword-point? Why did you run away from me secretly, and did not tell me, so I could have sent you away with mirth and songs, tabret and harp? And you have not allowed me to kiss my sons and daughters? You have now done foolishly by doing that. It is in my power to hurt you: but the God of your father spoke to me last night, saying, ‘Take heed that you speak neither good nor bad to Jacob.’ And now, though you need to go because you have longed for your father’s house, why did you steal my idols?” Jacob responded saying that he was afraid in case Laban might take his daughters (Jacob’s wives) away from him by force. Jacob also stated that whoever stole Laban’s gods should be put to death (he didn’t know Rachel had stolen them). He told Laban to search in front of all of them to find his belongings and retrieve them for himself. Laban searched Jacob’s tent, Leah’s tent, and maidservants’ tents without success. He went next to Rachel’s tent. Rachel had hidden the idols in the camel’s furniture and then sat on them. As he was searching her tent, she asked if she could remain seated, as she was menstruating at that time. Laban never found the idols. Rachel had done something that put her own life, and that of her family, at risk—and for no good reason. I wonder if this has something to do with why her children’s lines weren’t the one to produce Jesus.
 Genesis 31:36-42
After Laban ceased his search for his idols, Jacob was angry and reprimanded him, saying, “Laban, what is my trespass? What is my sin, that you have so hotly pursued me? As for you searching all of my things, what have you found of your own belongings? Set it here before both our people, so they may judge between us.” Then he proceeded to lay before Laban all the wrong he’d done to Jacob: “I have been with you these twenty years; your ewes and she goats have not miscarried, and I have not eaten the rams of your flock. I did not bring those that were torn apart by beasts to you; I suffered the loss of it—you required me to cover the cost of the loss, whether it was stolen by day or night. That is how I was; the drought consumed me by day, and the frost by night; and my eyes lost sleep. I have been that way for twenty years in your house; I served you for fourteen years for your two daughters, and six years for your cattle: and you have changed my wages ten times. If it were not that the God of my father, the God of Abraham, and the fear of Isaac, had been with me, you would have surely sent me away now with nothing. God has seen my affliction and the labor of my hands and rebuked you last night.” Jacob had been the chief shepherd—responsible for ensuring their safety from bold predators and dishonest shepherds hoping to enlarge their own flocks, as well as intense temperature and weather elements that could prevent them for thriving or even surviving. The chief shepherd had other shepherds under him, which were considered servants, and he had to make sure they did their job very well when he wasn’t there himself (he was there himself for those harsh dry and cold seasons), and if there were mistakes or losses, the chief shepherd was responsible for it. If he’d cared only for his wages, he would’ve only cared for himself and thus, failed to be a worthy chief shepherd. However, this wasn’t the case, as Jacob was a faithful shepherd for Laban's flocks. This is a direct parallel of Christ, the true Chief Shepherd, who left His Father’s house to care for His sheep when they weren’t flourishing, when the hired shepherds (who should’ve felt the same responsibility and care for the flock) fled for fear of wolves and lacked the care and ability to protect and guide the sheep.
 Genesis 31:36-55
It’s interesting how Laban came all haughty to Jacob, acting like he had the right to punish him for what he’d supposedly done wrong to him, and it got turned around on him. Jacob had every excuse and right to leave and had done nothing (towards Laban) to deserve all Laban had done to him. In fact, he’d done the opposite in blessing him with his faithful service for twenty years. Jacob called him to allow both of their households to judge who was in the wrong—and the evidence was stacked high against Laban, and nothing could be shown against Jacob. Romans 8:31, 33 says: “If God is for us, who can be against us? Who will accuse God’s elect? It is God that justifies.” Laban had no ground to stand on but to seek for a covenant with Jacob. When Jacob had shown all the wrong that Laban had done to him, Laban said that Jacob’s family was his children and grandchildren, and that the cattle and everything else was his also, so he did have an interest in their welfare. He then proceeded to request that a covenant be made between them as proof of their promises to each other. They made a stone heap, ate on it, and called it three different names: Jegarsahadutha (meaning ‘heap of testimony’), Galeed (which means ‘witness’), and Mizpah (meaning ‘watch tower’), since Laban wanted God to be a witness between them while apart, to ensure his daughters wouldn’t be treated poorly, and that Jacob would have no other wives. Laban knew polygamy was wrong, and that it was his own doing that brought both of his daughters into a disturbed family relationship. Now that they were going to be separated from him by a long distance, he hoped to somehow protect their interests and any remaining hope of happiness by not having other wives added to the mix. The heap was also a reminder that they wouldn’t pass it to do ill to each other—and that Abraham’s God would be the judge between them. Jacob swore by it and sacrificed there, and they all ate. The next morning, Laban kissed and blessed his children and returned home.