Keil and Delitzsch OT Commentary
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.The Flight. - Through some angry remarks of Laban's sons with reference to his growing wealth, and the evident change in the feelings of Laban himself towards him (Genesis 31:1, Genesis 31:2), Jacob was inwardly prepared for the termination of his present connection with Laban; and at the same time he received instructions from Jehovah, to return to his home, together with a promise of divine protection. In consequence of this, he sent for Rachel and Leah to come to him in the field, and explained to them (Genesis 31:4-13), how their father's disposition had changed towards him, and how he had deceived him in spite of the service he had forced out of him, and had altered his wages ten times; but that the God of his father had stood by him, and had transferred to him their father's cattle, and now at length had directed him to return to his home.
And Jacob beheld the countenance of Laban, and, behold, it was not toward him as before.
And the LORD said unto Jacob, Return unto the land of thy fathers, and to thy kindred; and I will be with thee.
And Jacob sent and called Rachel and Leah to the field unto his flock,
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.
And ye know that with all my power I have served your father.אתּנה: the original form of the abbreviated אתּן, which is merely copied from the Pentateuch in Exodus 13:11, Exodus 13:20; Exodus 34:17.
And your father hath deceived me, and changed my wages ten times; but God suffered him not to hurt me.
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.
Thus God hath taken away the cattle of your father, and given them to me.אביכם: for אביכן as in Genesis 32:16, etc. - "Ten times:" i.e., as often as possible, the ten as a round number expressing the idea of completeness. From the statement that Laban had changed his wages ten times, it is evident that when Laban observed, that among his sheep and goats, of one colour only, a large number of mottled young were born, he made repeated attempts to limit the original stipulation by changing the rule as to the colour of the young, and so diminishing Jacob's wages. But when Jacob passes over his own stratagem in silence, and represents all that he aimed at and secured by crafty means as the fruit of God's blessing, this differs no doubt from the account in Genesis 30. It is not a contradiction, however, pointing to a difference in the sources of the two chapters, but merely a difference founded upon actual fact, viz., the fact that Jacob did not tell the whole truth to his wives. Moreover self-help and divine help do not exclude one another. Hence his account of the dream, in which he saw that the rams that leaped upon the cattle were all of various colours, and heard the voice of the angel of God calling his attention to what had been seen, in the words, "I have seen all that Laban hath done to thee," may contain actual truth; and the dream may be regarded as a divine revelation, which was either sent to explain to him now, at the end of the sixth year, "that it was not his stratagem, but the providence of God which had prevented him from falling a victim to Laban's avarice, and had brought him such wealth" (Delitzsch); or, if the dream occurred at an earlier period, was meant to teach him, that "the help of God, without any such self-help, could procure him justice and safety in spite of Laban's selfish covetousness" (Kurtz). It is very difficult to decide between these two interpretations. As Jehovah's instructions to him to return were not given till the end of his period of service, and Jacob connects them so closely with the vision of the rams that they seem contemporaneous, Delitzsch's view appears to deserve the preference. But the עשׂה in Genesis 31:12, "all that Laban is doing to thee," does not exactly suit this meaning; and we should rather expect to find עשׂה used at the end of the time of service. The participle rather favours Kurtz's view, that Jacob had the vision of the rams and the explanation from the angel at the beginning of the last six years of service, but that in his communication to his wives, in which there was no necessity to preserve a strict continuity or distinction of time, he connected it with the divine instructions to return to his home, which he received at the end of his time of service. But if we decide in favour of this view, we have no further guarantee for the objective reality of the vision of the rams, since nothing is said about it in the historical account, and it is nowhere stated that the wealth obtained by Jacob's craftiness was the result of the divine blessing. The attempt so unmistakeably apparent in Jacob's whole conversation with his wives, to place his dealing with Laban in the most favourable light for himself, excites the suspicion, that the vision of which he spoke was nothing more than a natural dream, the materials being supplied by the three thoughts that were most frequently in his mind, by night as well as by day, viz., (1) his own schemes and their success; (2) the promise received at Bethel; (3) the wish to justify his actions to his own conscience; and that these were wrought up by an excited imagination into a visionary dream, of the divine origin of which Jacob himself may not have had the slightest doubt. - In Genesis 31:13 האל has the article in the construct state, contrary to the ordinary rule; cf. Ges. 110, 2b; Ewald, 290.
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.
And the angel of God spake unto me in a dream, saying, Jacob: And I said, Here am I.
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.
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.
And Rachel and Leah answered and said unto him, Is there yet any portion or inheritance for us in our father's house?The two wives naturally agreed with their husband, and declared that they had no longer any part or inheritance in their father's house. For he had not treated them as daughters, but sold them like strangers, i.e., servants. "And he has even constantly eaten our money," i.e., consumed the property brought to him by our service. The inf. abs. אכול after the finite verb expresses the continuation of the act, and is intensified by גם "yes, even." כּי in Genesis 31:16 signifies "so that," as in Deuteronomy 14:24; Job 10:6.
Are we not counted of him strangers? for he hath sold us, and hath quite devoured also our money.
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.
Then Jacob rose up, and set his sons and his wives upon camels;Then Jacob rose up, and set his sons and his wives upon camels; Jacob then set out with his children and wives, and all the property that he had acquired in Padan-Aram, to return to his father in Canaan; whilst Laban had gone to the sheep-shearing, which kept him some time from his home on account of the size of his flock. Rachel took advantage of her father's absence to rob him of his teraphim (penates), probably small images of household gods in human form, which were worshipped as givers of earthly prosperity, and also consulted as oracles (see my Archologie, 90).
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.
And Laban went to shear his sheep: and Rachel had stolen the images that were her father's.
And Jacob stole away unawares to Laban the Syrian, in that he told him not that he fled."Thus Jacob deceived Laban the Syrian, in that he told him not that he fled;" - לב גּנב to steal the heart (as the seat of the understanding), like κλέπτειν νοο͂ν, and גּנב with the simple accus. pers., Genesis 31:27, like κλεπτειν τίνα, signifies to take the knowledge of anything away from a person, to deceive him; - "and passed over the river (Euphrates), and took the direction to the mountains of Gilead."
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.
And it was told Laban on the third day that Jacob was fled.Laban's Pursuit, Reconciliation, and Covenant with Jacob. - As Laban was not told till the third day after the flight, though he pursued the fugitives with his brethren, i.e., his nearest relations, he did not overtake Jacob for seven days, by which time he had reached the mountains of Gilead (Genesis 31:22-24). The night before he overtook them, he was warned by God in a dream, "not to speak to Jacob from good to bad," i.e., not to say anything decisive and emphatic for the purpose of altering what had already occurred (vid., Genesis 31:29, and the note on Genesis 24:50). Hence he confined himself, when they met, "to bitter reproaches combining paternal feeling on the one hand with hypocrisy on the other;" in which he told them that he had the power to do them harm, if God had not forbidden him, and charged them with stealing his gods (the teraphim).
And he took his brethren with him, and pursued after him seven days' journey; and they overtook him in the mount Gilead.
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.
Then Laban overtook Jacob. Now Jacob had pitched his tent in the mount: and Laban with his brethren pitched in the mount of Gilead.
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?"Like sword-booty;" i.e., like prisoners of war (2 Kings 6:22) carried away unwillingly and by force.
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?"So I might have conducted thee with mirth and songs, with tabret and harp," i.e., have sent thee away with a parting feast.
And hast not suffered me to kiss my sons and my daughters? thou hast now done foolishly in so doing.עשׂו: an old form of the infinitive for עשׂות as in Genesis 48:11; Genesis 50:20.
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.ידי לאל ישׁ: "there is to God my hand" (Micah 2:1; cf. Deuteronomy 28:32; Nehemiah 5:5), i.e., my hand serves me as God (Habakkuk 1:11; Job 12:6), a proverbial expression for "the power lies in my hand."
And now, though thou wouldest needs be gone, because thou sore longedst after thy father's house, yet wherefore hast thou stolen my gods?"And now thou art gone (for, if thou art gone), because thou longedst after thy father's house, why hast thou stolen my gods?" The meaning is this: even if thy secret departure can be explained, thy stealing of my gods cannot.
And Jacob answered and said to Laban, Because I was afraid: for I said, Peradventure thou wouldest take by force thy daughters from me.The first, Jacob met by pleading his fear lest Laban should take away his daughters (keep them back by force). "For I:said:" equivalent to "for I thought." But Jacob knew nothing of the theft; hence he declared, that with whomsoever he might find the gods he should be put to death, and told Laban to make the strictest search among all the things that he had with him. "Before our brethren," i.e., the relations who had come with Laban, as being impartial witnesses (cf. Genesis 31:37); not, as Knobel thinks, before Jacob's horde of male and female slaves, of women and of children.
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.
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.Laban looked through all the tents, but did not find his teraphim; for Rachel had put them in the saddle of her camel and was sitting upon them, and excused herself to her lord (Adonai, Genesis 31:35), on the ground that the custom of women was upon her. "The camel's furniture," i.e., the saddle (not "the camel's litter:" Luther), here the woman's riding saddle, which had a comfortable seat formed of carpets on the top of the packsaddle. The fact that Laban passed over Rachel's seat because of her pretended condition, does not presuppose the Levitical law in Leviticus 15:19., according to which, any one who touched the couch or seat of such a woman was rendered unclean. For, in the first place, the view which lies at the foundation of this law was much older than the laws of Moses, and is met with among many other nations (cf. Bhr, Symbolik ii. 466, etc.); consequently Laban might refrain from making further examination, less from fear of defilement, than because he regarded it as impossible that any one with the custom of women upon her should sit upon his gods.
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.
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.
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?As Laban found nothing, Jacob grew angry, and pointed out the injustice of his hot pursuit and his search among all his things, but more especially the harsh treatment he had received from him in return for the unselfish and self-denying services that he had rendered him for twenty years. Acute sensibility and elevated self-consciousness give to Jacob's words a rhythmical movement and a poetical form. Hence such expressions as אחרי דּלק "hotly pursued," which is only met with in 1 Samuel 17:53; אחטּנּה for אחטּאנּה "I had to atone for it," i.e., to bear the loss; "the Fear of Isaac," used as a name for God, פּחד, σέβας equals σέβασμα, the object of Isaac's fear or sacred awe.
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.
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.
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.
Thus I was; in the day the drought consumed me, and the frost by night; and my sleep departed from mine eyes."I have been; by day (i.e., I have been in this condition, that by day) heat has consumed (prostrated) me, and cold by night" - for it is well known, that in the East the cold by night corresponds to the heat by day; the hotter the day the colder the night, as a rule.
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.
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."Except the God of my father...had been for me, surely thou wouldst now have sent me away empty. God has seen mine affliction and the labour of my hands, and last night He judged it." By the warning given to Laban, God pronounced sentence upon the matter between Jacob and Laban, condemning the course which Laban had pursued, and still intended to pursue, towards Jacob; but not on that account sanctioning all that Jacob had done to increase his own possessions, still less confirming Jacob's assertion that the vision mentioned by Jacob (Genesis 31:11, Genesis 31:12) was a revelation from God. But as Jacob had only met cunning with cunning, deceit with deceit, Laban had no right to punish him for what he had done. Some excuse may indeed be found for Jacob's conduct in the heartless treatment he received from Laban, but the fact that God defended him from Laban's revenge did not prove it to be right. He had not acted upon the rule laid down in Proverbs 20:22 (cf. Romans 12:17; 1 Thessalonians 5:15).
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?These words of Jacob "cut Laban to the heart with their truth, so that he turned round, offered his hand, and proposed a covenant." Jacob proceeded at once to give a practical proof of his assent to this proposal of his father-in-law, by erecting a stone as a memorial, and calling upon his relations also ("his brethren," as in Genesis 31:23, by whom Laban and the relations who came with him are intended, as Genesis 31:54 shows) to gather stones into a heap, which formed a table, as is briefly observed in Genesis 31:46, for the covenant meal (Genesis 31:54). This stone-heap was called Jegar-Sahadutha by Laban, and Galeed by Jacob (the former is the Chaldee, the latter the Hebrew; they have both the same meaning, viz., "heaps of witness"),
(Note: These words are the oldest proof, that in the native country of the patriarchs, Mesopotamia, Aramaean or Chaldaean was spoken, and Hebrew in Jacob's native country, Canaan; from which we may conclude that Abraham's family first acquired the Hebrew in Canaan from the Canaanites (Phoenicians).)
because, as Laban, who spoke first, as being the elder, explained, the heap was to be a "witness between him and Jacob." The historian then adds this explanation: "therefore they called his name Gal'ed," and immediately afterwards introduces a second name, which the heap received from words that were spoken by Laban at the conclusion of the covenant (Genesis 31:49): "And Mizpah," i.e., watch, watch-place (sc., he called it), "for he (Laban) said, Jehovah watch between me and thee; for we are hidden from one another (from the face of one another), if thou shalt oppress my daughters, and if thou shalt take wives to my daughters! No man is with us, behold God is witness between me and thee!" (Genesis 31:49, Genesis 31:50). After these words of Laban, which are introduced parenthetically,
(Note: There can be no doubt that Genesis 31:49 and Genesis 31:50 bear the marks of a subsequent insertion. But there is nothing in the nature of this interpolation to indicate a compilation of the history from different sources. That Laban, when making this covenant, should have spoken of the future treatment of his daughters, is a thing so natural, that there would have been something strange in the omission. And it is not less suitable to the circumstances, that he calls upon the God of Jacob, i.e., Jehovah, to watch in this affair. And apart from the use of the name Jehovah, which is perfectly suitable here, there is nothing whatever to point to a different source; to say nothing of the fact that the critics themselves cannot agree as to the nature of the source supposed.)
and in which he enjoined upon Jacob fidelity to his daughters, the formation of the covenant of reconciliation and peace between them is first described, according to which, neither of them (sive ego sive tu, as in Exodus 19:13) was to pass the stone-heap and memorial-stone with a hostile intention towards the other. Of this the memorial was to serve as a witness, and the God of Abraham and the God of Nahor, the God of their father (Terah), would be umpire between them. To this covenant, in which Laban, according to his polytheistic views, placed the God of Abraham upon the same level with the God of Nahor and Terah, Jacob swore by "the Fear of Isaac" (Genesis 31:42), the God who was worshipped by his father with sacred awe. He then offered sacrifices upon the mountain, and invited his relations to eat, i.e., to partake of a sacrificial meal, and seal the covenant by a feast of love.
The geographical names Gilead and Ramath-mizpeh (Joshua 13:26), also Mizpeh-Gilead (Judges 11:29), sound so obviously like Gal'ed and Mizpah, that they are no doubt connected, and owe their origin to the monument erected by Jacob and Laban; so that it was by prolepsis that the scene of this occurrence was called "the mountains of Gilead" in Genesis 31:21, Genesis 31:23, Genesis 31:25. By the mount or mountains of Gilead we are not to understand the mountain range to the south of the Jabbok (Zerka), the present Jebel Jelaad, or Jebel es Salt. The name Gilead has a much more comprehensive signification in the Old Testament; and the mountains to the south of the Jabbok are called in Deuteronomy 3:12 the half of Mount Gilead; the mountains to the north of the Jabbok, the Jebel-Ajlun, forming the other half. In this chapter the name is used in the broader sense, and refers primarily to the northern half of the mountains (above the Jabbok); for Jacob did not cross the Jabbok till afterwards (Genesis 32:23-24). There is nothing in the names Ramath-mizpeh, which Ramoth in Gilead bears in Joshua 13:26, and Mizpeh-Gilead, which it bears in Judges 11:29, to compel us to place Laban's meeting with Jacob in the southern portion of the mountains of Gilead. For even if this city is to be found in the modern Salt, and was called Ramath-mizpeh from the even recorded here, all that can be inferred from that is, that the tradition of Laban's covenant with Jacob was associated in later ages with Ramoth in Gilead, without the correctness of the association being thereby established.
Now therefore come thou, let us make a covenant, I and thou; and let it be for a witness between me and thee.
And Jacob took a stone, and set it up for a pillar.
And Jacob said unto his brethren, Gather stones; and they took stones, and made an heap: and they did eat there upon the heap.
And Laban called it Jegarsahadutha: but Jacob called it Galeed.
And Laban said, This heap is a witness between me and thee this day. Therefore was the name of it called Galeed;
And Mizpah; for he said, The LORD watch between me and thee, when we are absent one from another.
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.
And Laban said to Jacob, Behold this heap, and behold this pillar, which I have cast betwixt me and thee;
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.
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.
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.
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.