Schemer vs. Schemer

Posted: June 14, 2018 in Genesis, Uncategorized

Genesis 30:25 – 31:55, “Schemer vs. Schemer”

After purchasing the birthright of Esau and deceiving his father Isaac to receive the covenant blessing, Jacob fled for his life to his uncle Laban in Padan Aram (Syria). As he left, he formally received his father’s blessing as well as a vision from the Lord, being promised by God Himself that God would never leave him & would bring Jacob back to the land of Canaan. Upon arriving in Syria, Jacob experienced love at first sight with Laban’s younger daughter Rachel, whom Laban gave as a wife – but only after tricking Jacob into marrying the older daughter Leah. The two sisters were unequally loved, and tried to win Jacob’s affection through a bizarre battle of childbirth. Eventually, Jacob has a huge family with four wives, and though dysfunctional, it was the foundation of the nation of Israel. The Messianic promise was alive and well, despite the manipulations of men.

The narrator of Genesis picks up at this point, with Jacob and his family now ready to depart for home. The years in Syria were filled with hard lessons for this heel-catching schemer Jacob, and the lessons weren’t yet done. He would go a few more rounds with his father-in-law, but in the end Jacob would learn the best lesson of all: to trust God as his provider. God had brought him to this point, and God would take him home. God’s word was always true, and God’s ways are always good! How we respond to God’s ways is up to us.

Genesis 30:25–43 – Scheming for the Sheep

  • Jacob’s offer & Laban’s deceit (25-36)

25 And it came to pass, when Rachel had borne Joseph, that Jacob said to Laban, “Send me away, that I may go to my own place and to my country. 26 Give me my wives and my children for whom I have served you, and let me go; for you know my service which I have done for you.”

  1. 14 years had passed. It was time to go home. Jacob’s leaving was connected to Joseph’s birth. Once Rachel bore children of her own, it was apparently a sign to Jacob.
  2. My own place…my country” – it wasn’t Syria! Jacob had lived in Padan Aram for many years, but it wasn’t his home.
    1. Neither is this world our We are here, temporarily – ultimately in preparation for our heavenly home with Jesus. The moment we lose that perspective is the moment we get into trouble.

27 And Laban said to him, “Please stay, if I have found favor in your eyes, for I have learned by experience that the LORD has blessed me for your sake.” 28 Then he said, “Name me your wages, and I will give it.”

  1. Laban knew he had a good thing! His son-in-law was a better ranch-hand than any other, and Laban’s own wealthy had grown by leaps & bounds while Jacob was with him. Jacob had done his work well, and he had the promise of God’s blessing upon him, so Laban had reaped some of the benefits. This wasn’t something he wanted to give up easily!
  2. So why ask Jacob to stay, only to turn around and ask him his price? Perhaps because Laban (1) believed that Jacob was determined, and (2) he thought he could weasel his way out of it. Laban had always been a conniver, and it’s likely that the wheels in his head were turning to see what benefit he could gain from this.
  3. BTW – NKJV translates that Laban knew the Lord’s blessing “by experience,” but NASB, ESV & others translate this as “by divination.” The NKJV isn’t necessarily wrong, in that it was experience; it was just pagan Question: Why does Laban use the Divine Name in reference to the practice? IOW, how could Laban know through pagan divination anything about YHWH the true God? The Bible doesn’t say. Laban was not a worshipper of YHWH (as will become apparent in Ch 31), but even pagans sometimes understand some true aspects about the true God. [i.e. Balaam, Num 22-24] Just because someone can speak some truth about God doesn’t mean that everything he/she speaks about God is truth. We’ve got to be willing to look at their fruit & take all questions of doctrine back to the Scripture.

29 So Jacob said to him, “You know how I have served you and how your livestock has been with me. 30 For what you had before I came was little, and it has increased to a great amount; the LORD has blessed you since my coming. And now, when shall I also provide for my own house?” 31 So he said, “What shall I give you?” And Jacob said, “You shall not give me anything. If you will do this thing for me, I will again feed and keep your flocks: 32 Let me pass through all your flock today, removing from there all the speckled and spotted sheep, and all the brown ones among the lambs, and the spotted and speckled among the goats; and these shall be my wages. 33 So my righteousness will answer for me in time to come, when the subject of my wages comes before you: every one that is not speckled and spotted among the goats, and brown among the lambs, will be considered stolen, if it is with me.”

  1. Jacob’s offer was good: God had already abundantly blessed Laban. According to Jacob’s plan, Jacob would continue to work for Laban, and God would continue to bless Laban. It would be from out of this increase that Laban would acquire his future wealth. Jacob would take the ‘imperfect’ livestock for himself. It was a generous offer, in which both men would be blessed – a win-win.
    1. The best agreements aren’t compromises; they are mutually beneficial. Compromises are inherently lose-lose; it takes creative solutions to find win-win. That being said, the very best agreements are the ones in which God is glorified. Occasionally, that might require us taking a loss. But a loss for Jesus isn’t a loss at all; it is a sacrifice of praise.
  2. Not only was there benefit; there was also accountability. Jacob didn’t propose this & simply say “Trust me.” He suggested a method by which Laban could ensure that Jacob followed his end of the agreement.
    1. Accountability ensures integrity, and Christians should always act with integrity. We ought to be able to live our lives as openly as possible – especially with those to whom we are responsible. We ought to be the most trustworthy employees on the payroll or the most honest of contractors. Anything less brings shame on the name of Christ – and that includes the work of pastors as well as anyone else.
  3. From a business perspective, all of this sounded great to Laban. From a theological perspective, this required tremendous faith in the Lord…which apparently was growing in Jacob. After all, Jacob had no assurance that the livestock would breed speckled or spotted – he had no idea how long it might take to gather enough animals in order to have freedom to leave. The only hope Jacob had in any of this was the provision of God…and that hope was well-placed!
    1. Keep in mind, this is not the health/wealth gospel. This isn’t name-it-and-claim-it prosperity. This is simple trust in God. This was the equivalent of Jacob trusting God for his daily bread, just as Jesus commanded us to pray today. God can be trusted with our physical provision. We don’t expect Him to make us rich for our selfish egos; we simply trust Him to give us our food and clothing in line with His care for us as His children.

34 And Laban said, “Oh, that it were according to your word!” 35 So he removed that day the male goats that were speckled and spotted, all the female goats that were speckled and spotted, every one that had some white in it, and all the brown ones among the lambs, and gave them into the hand of his sons. 36 Then he put three days’ journey between himself and Jacob, and Jacob fed the rest of Laban’s flocks.

  1. Laban recognized a good deal when he saw it, and quickly agreed! Jacob’s wealth wouldn’t cost Laban a dime. Laban’s flocks would (ideally) continue to increase, and Jacob would receive a small percentage of that increase.
  2. Even so, that wasn’t enough. Not content to let things lie, Laban twisted things to his own favor, his sons being in full conspiracy with him. He took away any existing livestock that might potentially contribute to the gene pool of the future generations. Like redheaded parents tend to have redheaded children, so would spotted sheep bear spotted sheep. Laban’s plan was to stealthily remove the existing sheep and send them to his sons far away. That left Jacob with nothing from which to start.
  3. The act of splitting out the livestock may not have been specified in the terms, but it was a violation of the spirit. It was deceit, plain and simple. It was one more shot against his son-in-law.
  4. Question: What would you do when faced with similar deceit? Would you demand retribution – back out of the deal – take him to court? Or would you trust the Lord? What did Jacob do? Verse 37…
  • Jacob’s selective breeding (37-43)

37 Now Jacob took for himself rods of green poplar and of the almond and chestnut trees, peeled white strips in them, and exposed the white which was in the rods. 38 And the rods which he had peeled, he set before the flocks in the gutters, in the watering troughs where the flocks came to drink, so that they should conceive when they came to drink.

  1. If Jacob was upset, his temper was not recorded in the Scripture (at least, not yet). Jacob did not let Laban’s deceit change the deal; Jacob simply adapted as necessary, trusting the Lord to provide for him & taking proactive steps in that direction. It’s not that Jacob did nothing; but (as will be made clear later on) what Jacob did was done in light of God’s provision and sovereignty.
    1. Sometimes courts and other authorities are needed, but in all things we need to remember that God is our defense. Even when we call upon the courts, our trust isn’t in the court; it ought to be in God.
  2. Interesting play on words in verse 37. The word for “white” in Hebrew is “laban,” (לָבָן). When Jacob “exposed the white which was in the rods,” it was as if he was exposing Laban himself. Jacob used Laban’s own tactics against him, although ultimately Jacob’s trust was in the Lord God.

39 So the flocks conceived before the rods, and the flocks brought forth streaked, speckled, and spotted. 40 Then Jacob separated the lambs, and made the flocks face toward the streaked and all the brown in the flock of Laban; but he put his own flocks by themselves and did not put them with Laban’s flock. 41 And it came to pass, whenever the stronger livestock conceived, that Jacob placed the rods before the eyes of the livestock in the gutters, that they might conceive among the rods. 42 But when the flocks were feeble, he did not put them in; so the feebler were Laban’s and the stronger Jacob’s.

  1. The whole practice has nothing to do with true animal husbandry & everything to do with superstition. The book of Genesis is not commending this as a scientific practice, nor commands animal breeders to do the same for similar results; it simply records what it was that Jacob did according to the cultural understanding he had at the time. 
  2. The amazing thing is, even in all of the superstition, God still chose to bless him! Jacob didn’t need to have a precise scientific understanding of genetic engineering; he simply did what he thought needed to be done and trusted God for the results. God met Jacob where he was. Grace!
  3. Note that Jacob still had an eye for himself in this. He specifically bred the stronger animals for himself, and left the weaker animals for Laban. Was this spite or justice? It’s difficult to say without more information…perhaps it’s better to assume the best.

43 Thus the man became exceedingly prosperous, and had large flocks, female and male servants, and camels and donkeys.

  1. The end result: Jacob became rich! The Hebrew idiom is interesting, in that the text basically says that “broke through (increased) exceedingly exceedingly,” with great emphasis. This was more than simply a good breeding season; this was a massive supernatural windfall!

Genesis 31 – The Chase and Covenant

  • Leaving Laban (1-21)

1 Now Jacob heard the words of Laban’s sons, saying, “Jacob has taken away all that was our father’s, and from what was our father’s he has acquired all this wealth.” 2 And Jacob saw the countenance of Laban, and indeed it was not favorable toward him as before.

  1. Hypocritical complaint! The sons had been a part of the deceit in the first place. They simply complained that they hadn’t had the benefit they expected.
  2. Also a big change from Laban. Back in 30:27, he was practically begging Jacob to stay because Jacob was a blessing. Laban thought differently now.

3 Then the LORD said to Jacob, “Return to the land of your fathers and to your family, and I will be with you.”

  1. If Jacob doubted the writing on the wall, he received confirmation from the Lord. God gave him very specific instructions to leave.
  2. This was part of God’s covenant promise to Jacob. Genesis 28:13–15, “(13) And behold, the LORD stood above it and said: “I am the LORD God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and your descendants. (14) Also your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth; you shall spread abroad to the west and the east, to the north and the south; and in you and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed. (15) Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have spoken to you.”” Notice the specific promise to be with Jacob & return him to the land. What God promised to do in Ch 28 is about to be fulfilled in Ch 31. God was good to His word!
    1. He always is! Jesus said He would be with us always, even to the end of the age – God never leaves us nor forsakes us – the Holy Spirit permanently indwells us as His temple, being the seal of our salvation. The Triune God promised to be with us, and He is – ever good to His word!
    2. Do you believe it? Sometimes Christians get the idea that God has forgotten them or (worse) abandoned them. Perish the thought! If you are a born-again Christian, God cannot forget you, and will never abandon you. You are His child, born of the Holy Spirit, given the Spirit of adoption. You are a co-heir with Christ Jesus, destined to receive of His inheritance. Trust the promise of God’s presence!

4 So Jacob sent and called Rachel and Leah to the field, to his flock, 5 and said to them, “I see your father’s countenance, that it is not favorable toward me as before; but the God of my father has been with me. 6 And you know that with all my might I have served your father. 7 Yet your father has deceived me and changed my wages ten times, but God did not allow him to hurt me. 8 If he said thus: ‘The speckled shall be your wages,’ then all the flocks bore speckled. And if he said thus: ‘The streaked shall be your wages,’ then all the flocks bore streaked. 9 So God has taken away the livestock of your father and given them to me. 10 “And it happened, at the time when the flocks conceived, that I lifted my eyes and saw in a dream, and behold, the rams which leaped upon the flocks were streaked, speckled, and gray-spotted. 11 Then the Angel of God spoke to me in a dream, saying, ‘Jacob.’ And I said, ‘Here I am.’ 12 And He said, ‘Lift your eyes now and see, all the rams which leap on the flocks are streaked, speckled, and gray-spotted; for I have seen all that Laban is doing to you. 13 I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed the pillar and where you made a vow to Me. Now arise, get out of this land, and return to the land of your family.’ ”

  1. Jacob made the case to his wives. There was a potential of a divided loyalty, and Jacob needed to ensure they agreed with him. Over the previous 20 years, he experienced much division simply between the two sisters…he wasn’t sure how they would react in regards to their father!
  2. Jacob recounts the facts clearly, showing how their father had consistently wronged him (and them), but how God consistently protected him. Over & over, Jacob gives credit to God for provision and protection – and it was right to do so. God had been faithful, so Jacob gave God the glory. (Are we so quick to recognize the hand of God in our lives?)
  3. It was also God who directed him. In addition to the word spoken by YHWH to Jacob, Jacob also received a dream. Among the provision of livestock (wealth) God had given him was an angel of God. Although not specifically named as the Angel of YHWH, this angel spoke the words of God in the 1st God had seen him, and God was specifically telling him to leave.
  4. Question: Why did God refer to Himself as “the God of Bethel,” instead of by His covenant name YHWH? Answer: This was how Jacob knew Him. Remember that Jacob worshipped God half-heartedly, having promised a future vow to worship God if God brought him back to the land of his fathers. Genesis 28:18–22, “(18) Then Jacob rose early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put at his head, set it up as a pillar, and poured oil on top of it. (19) And he called the name of that place Bethel; but the name of that city had been Luz previously. (20) Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, (21) so that I come back to my father’s house in peace, then the LORD shall be my God. (22) And this stone which I have set as a pillar shall be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You.””  Jacob had made a conditional promise, but it was a promise nonetheless. God not only reminded Jacob of Jacob’s promise, but God also spoke to Jacob in a way that Jacob would understand. This is grace.
    1. This is gospel! How is it that God approaches us? In a way we can understand: in the person of Jesus Christ. We cannot fathom the all-holy, all-knowing, ever-present God – there is no way we can approach Him on our own. But He can approach us. And He did!

14 Then Rachel and Leah answered and said to him, “Is there still any portion or inheritance for us in our father’s house? 15 Are we not considered strangers by him? For he has sold us, and also completely consumed our money. 16 For all these riches which God has taken from our father are really ours and our children’s; now then, whatever God has said to you, do it.”

  1. Wives agree. There’s a mixture of selfish and spiritual reasons.
  2. So Jacob had perceived it was time to go, God had twice told him to go, and Jacob’s wives confirmed that they were willing to go…Jacob went. Verse 17…

17 Then Jacob rose and set his sons and his wives on camels. 18 And he carried away all his livestock and all his possessions which he had gained, his acquired livestock which he had gained in Padan Aram, to go to his father Isaac in the land of Canaan. 19 Now Laban had gone to shear his sheep, and Rachel had stolen the household idols that were her father’s.

  1. Jacob took it all! He had arrived in Padam Aram with a single staff; he left with four wives, eleven sons, at least one daughter, and a ton of animals and other possessions.
  2. Unbeknownst to Jacob, he also took a few other items that were unplanned. “Rachel had stolen the household idols that were her father’s.” These are the “teraphim,” (תְּרָפִים), small idols of some sort thought to bring protection to the family. Some believe these were passed from head-of-house to head-of-house in terms of the inheritance, but there is no doubt they signified superstitious protection. This is why Laban is later so upset. To Laban, this meant he & his remaining wealth was vulnerable. Jacob had already received much of what was his, and perhaps this meant Jacob would come back for the rest. As for Rachel, the idols seem to have represented that which she believed her father had stolen from her – that which supposedly rightfully belonged to her.
  3. Whatever the meaning of the idols, they were still idols. They had no business being among purported worshippers of YHWH. (We are called to be separate from the world!)

20 And Jacob stole away, unknown to Laban the Syrian, in that he did not tell him that he intended to flee. 21 So he fled with all that he had. He arose and crossed the river, and headed toward the mountains of Gilead.

  1. Jacob left, and he was right to leave…but he didn’t leave rightly. He “stole away,” which could literally be translated, “And he stole, Jacob, the heart of Laban the Aramean (Syrian)…” This was a harmful act – something not done out of love, but out of fear. It was the right action, taken in the wrong way.
  2. What could he have done? He could have been open & honest, and trusted God to be his defense.
  • Laban’s pursuit (22-42)

22 And Laban was told on the third day that Jacob had fled. 23 Then he took his brethren with him and pursued him for seven days’ journey, and he overtook him in the mountains of Gilead.

  1. Jacob had a three day head-start, and it’s possible that Laban was far off – perhaps the three days’ journey that had lay between Jacob & Laban’s sons. That’s why it took an additional week for his quickly-formed posse to catch up to the slow-travelling band of Hebrews.
  2. Jacob had nearly made it home, being that he was “in the mountains of Gilead” when Laban finally overtook him.

24 But God had come to Laban the Syrian in a dream by night, and said to him, “Be careful that you speak to Jacob neither good nor bad.” 25 So Laban overtook Jacob. Now Jacob had pitched his tent in the mountains, and Laban with his brethren pitched in the mountains of Gilead.

  1. God warned Laban to speak cautiously, though it’s questionable how well Laban obeyed the warning. Laban certainly felt free to criticize Jacob even while quoting God’s warning. Perhaps the warning wasn’t so much against Laban’s speech, but against a potential curse. Remember that Jacob was the recipient of the Abrahamic covenant with God. If Laban had cursed Jacob, Laban would himself be cursed. Laban was a scoundrel, but God was mercifully protecting him from future harm.
  2. How many times did God give us mercy before we came to faith in Jesus? 

26 And Laban said to Jacob: “What have you done, that you have stolen away unknown to me, and carried away my daughters like captives taken with the sword? 27 Why did you flee away secretly, and steal away from me, and not tell me; for I might have sent you away with joy and songs, with timbrel and harp? 28 And you did not allow me to kiss my sons and my daughters. Now you have done foolishly in so doing. 29 It is in my power to do you harm, but the God of your father spoke to me last night, saying, ‘Be careful that you speak to Jacob neither good nor bad.’ 30 And now you have surely gone because you greatly long for your father’s house, but why did you steal my gods?”

  1. Laban basically accused Jacob of acting like a criminal. In a sense, Jacob had been a thief, as he stole the heart of Laban (vs 20), but he hadn’t been a kidnapping terrorist as made out by his father-in-law. True to form, Laban exaggerated the sins of others, while denying his own – even claiming that Jacob’s departure could have been joyful with songs and blessing (highly doubtful!). Bottom line: Laban was a hypocrite, through & through.
  2. Even so, Laban heeded the warning of God, but he wasn’t happy about it. He flat out tells Jacob that he had the right to go to war with him & destroy him, but the only thing stopping Laban from doing it was God’s intervention.
  3. Almost as an afterthought, he accuses Jacob of stealing his gods (the teraphim idols). The question is logical: “If you’re a worshipper of YHWH, then what are you doing stealing my idols?”
    1. Ever get a similar question? “If you’re a Christian, what are you doing with ____?” Obviously Jacob wasn’t at fault in this case, but we often are. Be careful of your witness! 
  4. Note: Laban was still an idolater; he wasn’t a worshipper of YHWH God. Even after recognizing YHWH’s blessing through Jacob (30:27), and after receiving a specific spoken word from YHWH in a dream (31:24), Laban still worshipped idols.
    1. People can receive all kinds of mercy from God and still end up rejecting Him. That’s not God’s fault; it’s theirs. Jesus has reached out to them & made provision for them, just like Jesus had made provision for every human being on planet earth. When someone dies without Jesus, it’s not Jesus’ fault – it’s their own.

31 Then Jacob answered and said to Laban, “Because I was afraid, for I said, ‘Perhaps you would take your daughters from me by force.’ 32 With whomever you find your gods, do not let him live. In the presence of our brethren, identify what I have of yours and take it with you.” For Jacob did not know that Rachel had stolen them.

  1. From the perspective of men, Jacob had a logical reason for his stealthy flight: fear. Jacob knew Laban wouldn’t have sent him out with song & dance – there had been the opportunity for that long ago, and Laban didn’t do it.
  2. From the perspective of faith, Jacob acted entirely irrationally. God had promised to protect him; Jacob had no reason to be afraid! If God is for us, who can be against us? (Rom 8:31)
    1. Faith is trusting the promises of God, period.
  3. As to the charge regarding theft of the teraphim, this was something unknown to Jacob and he made a terribly rash promise: death to the one who stole the idols. Of course Jacob’s honor was at stake, but this wasn’t justice; it was (literally) overkill. Surely someone could be punished for the theft, without it being the death sentence. If Jacob had known it was Rachel, there is no chance at all he would have agreed to such a thing. 

33 And Laban went into Jacob’s tent, into Leah’s tent, and into the two maids’ tents, but he did not find them. Then he went out of Leah’s tent and entered Rachel’s tent. 34 Now Rachel had taken the household idols, put them in the camel’s saddle, and sat on them. And Laban searched all about the tent but did not find them. 35 And she said to her father, “Let it not displease my lord that I cannot rise before you, for the manner of women is with me.” And he searched but did not find the household idols.

  1. Rachel deceived her father (having learned from the best), as well as her husband. Was her act justified? It saved her life, but it was done without righteousness. No doubt everyone was in the wrong: Laban, for his repeated acts of deception that drove them to this point – Jacob, for his rash over-the-top vow – Rachel, for the initial theft, and her lie of coverup. It was just a bad situation overall.
    1. What do we do in bad situations? Stop making them worse. 1st rule of holes: stop digging. Confess & repent! (1 John 1:9)

36 Then Jacob was angry and rebuked Laban, and Jacob answered and said to Laban: “What is my trespass? What is my sin, that you have so hotly pursued me? 37 Although you have searched all my things, what part of your household things have you found? Set it here before my brethren and your brethren, that they may judge between us both! 38 These twenty years I have been with you; your ewes and your female goats have not miscarried their young, and I have not eaten the rams of your flock. 39 That which was torn by beasts I did not bring to you; I bore the loss of it. You required it from my hand, whether stolen by day or stolen by night. 40 There I was! In the day the drought consumed me, and the frost by night, and my sleep departed from my eyes. 41 Thus I have been in your house twenty years; I served you fourteen years for your two daughters, and six years for your flock, and you have changed my wages ten times.

  1. Jacob’s fuse blew! He let Laban have it for 20 years’ worth of deceit and mistreatment. From the time of his marriages, Jacob had endured lie after lie from Laban, even taking financial hits for things that weren’t Jacob’s fault. He labored harder for his father-in-law than any hired hand, yet was never once appreciated in sincerity. Should Jacob have lost his temper? Probably not – but it’s difficult to see how he can be blamed for doing so.
  2. The good news in all of this: Jacob had learned to work with integrity, despite the deceit and manipulations of others. He was a different man than when he first arrived in Padan Aram. In the past, he had schemed his way to the top; now he simply worked hard and trusted the Lord.
  3. The better news: Jacob ultimately credited God for his blessing. Verse 42…

42 Unless the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had been with me, surely now you would have sent me away empty-handed. God has seen my affliction and the labor of my hands, and rebuked you last night.”

  1. Once again, it was God who protected Jacob & God who provided for Jacob. God knew his needs, his afflictions, and his hard work. God watched over Jacob every minute of every day, just as God promised He would…and Jacob finally realized it for himself. He may have made a conditional promise to God, but God had made an unconditional promise to him!
    1. Jesus has made unconditional promises to us! He is our Savior, no matter what! His forgiveness is not something He takes back. He is our protection & provision. He sees us and knows our need – our greatest need being deliverance from sin. 
  2. Who is God? To Jacob, He is “the God of my father, the God of Abraham, and the Fear of Isaac.” The first two descriptions are clear, being perhaps repetitive. It’s the third description that stands out: “the Fear of Isaac.” “Fear” is exactly as it says in the original language: fear, dread, terror, trembling. The God before whom Isaac trembled was the God who cared for Jacob.
    1. We don’t often think of trembling in terror before Almighty God, but we should. Proverbs 9:10, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” This is a good fear!
  • Covenant of witness (43-55)

43 And Laban answered and said to Jacob, “These daughters are my daughters, and these children are my children, and this flock is my flock; all that you see is mine. But what can I do this day to these my daughters or to their children whom they have borne? 44 Now therefore, come, let us make a covenant, you and I, and let it be a witness between you and me.”

  1. What Laban said is both true & false. Yes, these children (technically grandchildren) were his, but they were no longer his, due to the marriage covenant. Likewise with the flocks. They had been his, but his own agreement transferred ownership. Laban had no proper fear of the Lord, so he continued to look to his own selfish interests.
  2. With all of this animosity, why make a covenant with Jacob? This wasn’t to be a covenant of mutual blessing; this was to be a formalized contract as to how the two of them moved forward. This was to be more or less a restraining order or terms of separation.

45 So Jacob took a stone and set it up as a pillar. 46 Then Jacob said to his brethren, “Gather stones.” And they took stones and made a heap, and they ate there on the heap. 47 Laban called it Jegar Sahadutha, but Jacob called it Galeed. 48 And Laban said, “This heap is a witness between you and me this day.” Therefore its name was called Galeed,

  1. Covenants weren’t always made with pen & paper at the time (or stone tablets, as the case may be), but there were still to be physical reminders of the agreement. Two were set up here: a single stone pillar erected by Jacob, and a heap/pile of various stones put up by Laban’s other sons. Anyone coming back to this spot would immediately see the stones, and wonder the reason for their arrangement. If the traveler had come from either Jacob or Laban, they would instantly know they had come too far.
  2. The idea of “witness” plays heavily, being repeatedly requested by Laban, and the various stones were named as witnesses in two different languages. Why the emphasis on witnesses? Because they were required to establish a matter as legal and valid. Two arrangements of rocks = two witnesses.
    1. All covenants have witnesses: ways to remember what the covenant means. What are ours? The two ordinances given us by the Lord Jesus: baptism and communion.
  3. “Witness” wasn’t the only name or intent that Laban had for the stones. Verse 49…

49 also Mizpah, because he said, “May the LORD watch between you and me when we are absent one from another. 50 If you afflict my daughters, or if you take other wives besides my daughters, although no man is with us—see, God is witness between you and me!”

  1. Mizpah = “watchtower, lookout.” Laban certainly has gall! He does not worship the Lord YHWH, but he is willing to call upon YHWH to serve as an overseer for Jacob, guarding against any potential sin Jacob might commit against his wives. Laban was the one who made Jacob commit polygamy to begin with, but now Laban demands absolute faithfulness to these wives alone. Of course, Jacob had no plans to take other wives, and God never at all commands multiple marriages (one man + one woman, for life), but Laban was attempting to make himself appear more righteous than he was.

51 Then Laban said to Jacob, “Here is this heap and here is this pillar, which I have placed between you and me. 52 This heap is a witness, and this pillar is a witness, that I will not pass beyond this heap to you, and you will not pass beyond this heap and this pillar to me, for harm. 53 The God of Abraham, the God of Nahor, and the God of their father judge between us.” …

  1. Finally, the stones were to serve as boundaries. Laban pretends as if he was the one deceived by Jacob, wronged by his son-in-law, and needs protection against any future crimes. He acts as if Jacob is the one who needs to be exiled. As Shakespeare might have written of him, “The man doth protest too much!”
  2. Laban goes so far as to swear by the God he does not worship. He never once says, “My God” or “the God of my father,” but almost treats the God of Abraham as different than the God of Nahor – who likely worshipped the same God when originally called out of Ur of the Chaldees.
    1. Unbelievers are happy to call upon God when it suits their liking. They won’t worship Him, but they like to use His words when it fits their purposes. God knows the difference.

… And Jacob swore by the Fear of his father Isaac. 54 Then Jacob offered a sacrifice on the mountain, and called his brethren to eat bread. And they ate bread and stayed all night on the mountain.

  1. Unlike Laban, Jacob swore by the God he knew (at least, in part).
  2. He swore, and he gave a sacrifice. Words mean little without worship.

55 And early in the morning Laban arose, and kissed his sons and daughters and blessed them. Then Laban departed and returned to his place.

Conclusion:

Jacob ended his time in Padan Aram much like he began: on the run. This time however, he was (mostly) in the right, seeing the hand of God upon his life. Where Jacob was justified, it was the times he did things the right way, trusting Almighty God as his Defender & Provider. When Jacob took matters into his own hands, that was when he got into trouble.

As believers in Jesus, we have none other than Almighty God as our Defender & Provider! Trust Him to do His part – trust Him to keep His promises. When you act, do things the right way with integrity, giving glory to God. All the rest can be left in His hands.

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