Jacob Runs Away
31 One day Jacob heard Laban’s sons talking. They said, “Jacob has taken everything our father owned, and in this way he has become rich.” 2 Then Jacob noticed that Laban was not as friendly as he had been before. 3 The Lord said to Jacob, “Go back to the land where your ancestors lived, and I will be with you.”
4 So Jacob told Rachel and Leah to meet him in the field where he kept his flocks. 5 He said to them, “I have seen that your father is not as friendly with me as he used to be, but the God of my father has been with me. 6 You both know that I have worked as hard as I could for your father, 7 but he cheated me and changed my pay ten times. But God has not allowed your father to harm me. 8 When Laban said, ‘You can have all the speckled animals as your pay,’ all the animals gave birth to speckled young ones. But when he said, ‘You can have all the streaked animals as your pay,’ all the flocks gave birth to streaked babies. 9 So God has taken the animals away from your father and has given them to me.
10 “I had a dream during the season when the flocks were mating. I saw that the only male goats who were mating were streaked, speckled, or spotted. 11 The angel of God spoke to me in that dream and said, ‘Jacob!’ I answered, ‘Yes!’ 12 The angel said, ‘Look! Only the streaked, speckled, or spotted male goats are mating. I have seen all the wrong things Laban has been doing to you. 13 I am the God who appeared to you at Bethel, where you poured olive oil on the stone you set up on end and where you made a promise to me. Now I want you to leave here and go back to the land where you were born.’”
14 Rachel and Leah answered Jacob, “Our father has nothing to give us when he dies. 15 He has treated us like strangers. He sold us to you, and then he spent all of the money you paid for us. 16 God took all this wealth from our father, and now it belongs to us and our children. So do whatever God has told you to do.”
17 So Jacob put his children and his wives on camels, 18 and they began their journey back to Isaac, his father, in the land of Canaan. All the flocks of animals that Jacob owned walked ahead of them. He carried everything with him that he had gotten while he lived in Northwest Mesopotamia.
19 While Laban was gone to cut the wool from his sheep, Rachel stole the idols that belonged to him. 20 And Jacob tricked Laban the Aramean by not telling him he was leaving. 21 Jacob and his family left quickly, crossed the Euphrates River, and traveled toward the mountains of Gilead.
22 Three days later Laban learned that Jacob had run away, 23 so he gathered his relatives and began to chase him. After seven days Laban found him in the mountains of Gilead. 24 That night God came to Laban the Aramean in a dream and said, “Be careful! Do not say anything to Jacob, good or bad.”
The Search for the Stolen Idols
25 So Laban caught up with Jacob. Now Jacob had made his camp in the mountains, so Laban and his relatives set up their camp in the mountains of Gilead. 26 Laban said to Jacob, “What have you done? You cheated me and took my daughters as if you had captured them in a war. 27 Why did you run away secretly and trick me? Why didn’t you tell me? Then I could have sent you away with joy and singing and with the music of tambourines and harps. 28 You did not even let me kiss my grandchildren and my daughters good-bye. You were very foolish to do this! 29 I have the power to harm you, but last night the God of your father spoke to me and warned me not to say anything to you, good or bad. 30 I know you want to go back to your home, but why did you steal my idols?”
31 Jacob answered Laban, “I left without telling you, because I was afraid you would take your daughters away from me. 32 If you find anyone here who has taken your idols, that person will be killed! Your relatives will be my witnesses. You may look for anything that belongs to you and take anything that is yours.” (Now Jacob did not know that Rachel had stolen Laban’s idols.)
33 So Laban looked in Jacob’s tent, in Leah’s tent, and in the tent where the two slave women stayed, but he did not find his idols. When he left Leah’s tent, he went into Rachel’s tent. 34 Rachel had hidden the idols inside her camel’s saddle and was sitting on them. Although Laban looked through the whole tent, he did not find them.
35 Rachel said to her father, “Father, don’t be angry with me. I am not able to stand up before you because I am having my monthly period.” So Laban looked through the camp, but he did not find his idols.
36 Then Jacob became very angry and said, “What wrong have I done? What law have I broken to cause you to chase me? 37 You have looked through everything I own, but you have found nothing that belongs to you. If you have found anything, show it to everyone. Put it in front of your relatives and my relatives, and let them decide which one of us is right. 38 I have worked for you now for twenty years. During all that time none of the lambs and kids died during birth, and I have not eaten any of the male sheep from your flocks. 39 Any time an animal was killed by wild beasts, I did not bring it to you, but made up for the loss myself. You made me pay for any animal that was stolen during the day or night. 40 In the daytime the sun took away my strength, and at night I was cold and could not sleep. 41 I worked like a slave for you for twenty years—the first fourteen to get your two daughters and the last six to earn your flocks. During that time you changed my pay ten times. 42 But the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac, was with me. Otherwise, you would have sent me away with nothing. But he saw the trouble I had and the hard work I did, and last night he corrected you.”
Jacob and Laban’s Agreement
43 Laban said to Jacob, “These girls are my daughters. Their children belong to me, and these flocks are mine. Everything you see here belongs to me, but I can do nothing to keep my daughters and their children. 44 Let us make an agreement, and let us set up a pile of stones to remind us of it.”
45 So Jacob took a large rock and set it up on its end. 46 He told his relatives to gather rocks, so they took the rocks and piled them up; then they ate beside the pile. 47 Laban named that place in his language A Pile to Remind Us, and Jacob gave the place the same name in Hebrew.
48 Laban said to Jacob, “This pile of rocks will remind us of the agreement between us.” That is why the place was called A Pile to Remind Us. 49 It was also called Mizpah,[a] because Laban said, “Let the Lord watch over us while we are separated from each other. 50 Remember that God is our witness even if no one else is around us. He will know if you harm my daughters or marry other women. 51 Here is the pile of rocks that I have put between us and here is the rock I set up on end. 52 This pile of rocks and this rock set on end will remind us of our agreement. I will never go past this pile to hurt you, and you must never come to my side of them to hurt me. 53 Let the God of Abraham, who is the God of Nahor and the God of their ancestors, punish either of us if we break this agreement.”
So Jacob made a promise in the name of the God whom his father Isaac worshiped. 54 Then Jacob killed an animal and offered it as a sacrifice on the mountain, and he invited his relatives to share in the meal. After they finished eating, they spent the night on the mountain. 55 Early the next morning Laban kissed his grandchildren and his daughters and blessed them, and then he left to return home.
- 31:49 Mizpah This name sounds like the Hebrew word for “watch.”