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Genesis 31:1-21

Context
Jacob’s Flight from Laban

31:1 Jacob heard that Laban’s sons were complaining, 1  “Jacob has taken everything that belonged to our father! He has gotten rich 2  at our father’s expense!” 3  31:2 When Jacob saw the look on Laban’s face, he could tell his attitude toward him had changed. 4 

31:3 The Lord said to Jacob, “Return to the land of your fathers 5  and to your relatives. I will be with you.” 6  31:4 So Jacob sent a message for Rachel and Leah 7  to come to the field 8  where his flocks were. 9  31:5 There he said to them, “I can tell that your father’s attitude toward me has changed, 10  but the God of my father has been with me. 31:6 You know that I’ve worked for your father as hard as I could, 11  31:7 but your father has humiliated 12  me and changed my wages ten times. But God has not permitted him to do me any harm. 31:8 If he said, 13  ‘The speckled animals 14  will be your wage,’ then the entire flock gave birth to speckled offspring. But if he said, ‘The streaked animals will be your wage,’ then the entire flock gave birth to streaked offspring. 31:9 In this way God has snatched away your father’s livestock and given them to me.

31:10 “Once 15  during breeding season I saw 16  in a dream that the male goats mating with 17  the flock were streaked, speckled, and spotted. 31:11 In the dream the angel of God said to me, ‘Jacob!’ ‘Here I am!’ I replied. 31:12 Then he said, ‘Observe 18  that all the male goats mating with 19  the flock are streaked, speckled, or spotted, for I have observed all that Laban has done to you. 31:13 I am the God of Bethel, 20  where you anointed 21  the sacred stone and made a vow to me. 22  Now leave this land immediately 23  and return to your native land.’”

31:14 Then Rachel and Leah replied to him, “Do we still have any portion or inheritance 24  in our father’s house? 31:15 Hasn’t he treated us like foreigners? He not only sold us, but completely wasted 25  the money paid for us! 26  31:16 Surely all the wealth that God snatched away from our father belongs to us and to our children. So now do everything God has told you.”

31:17 So Jacob immediately put his children and his wives on the camels. 27  31:18 He took 28  away all the livestock he had acquired in Paddan Aram and all his moveable property that he had accumulated. Then he set out toward the land of Canaan to return to his father Isaac. 29 

31:19 While Laban had gone to shear his sheep, 30  Rachel stole the household idols 31  that belonged to her father. 31:20 Jacob also deceived 32  Laban the Aramean by not telling him that he was leaving. 33  31:21 He left 34  with all he owned. He quickly crossed 35  the Euphrates River 36  and headed for 37  the hill country of Gilead.

1 tn Heb “and he heard the words of the sons of Laban, saying.”

2 sn The Hebrew word translated “gotten rich” (כָּבוֹד, cavod) has the basic idea of “weight.” If one is heavy with possessions, then that one is wealthy (13:2). Abraham, Jacob, and Joseph all became wealthy when they left the promised land. Jacob’s wealth foreshadows what will happen to Israel when they leave the land of Egypt (Exod 12:35-38).

3 tn Heb “and from that which belonged to our father he has gained all this wealth.”

4 tn Heb “and Jacob saw the face of Laban, and look, he was not with him as formerly.” Jacob knew from the expression on Laban’s face that his attitude toward him had changed – Jacob had become persona non grata.

5 tn Or perhaps “ancestors” (so NRSV), although the only “ancestors” Jacob had there were his grandfather Abraham and his father Isaac.

6 sn I will be with you. Though Laban was no longer “with him,” the Lord promised to be.

7 tn Heb “sent and called for Rachel and for Leah.” Jacob did not go in person, but probably sent a servant with a message for his wives to meet him in the field.

8 tn Heb “the field.” The word is an adverbial accusative, indicating that this is where Jacob wanted them to meet him. The words “to come to” are supplied in the translation for clarification and stylistic reasons.

9 tn Heb “to his flock.”

10 tn Heb “I see the face of your father, that he is not toward me as formerly.”

11 tn Heb “with all my strength.”

12 tn This rare verb means “to make a fool of” someone. It involves deceiving someone so that their public reputation suffers (see Exod 8:25).

13 tn In the protasis (“if” section) of this conditional clause, the imperfect verbal form has a customary nuance – whatever he would say worked to Jacob’s benefit.

14 tn Heb “speckled” (twice this verse). The word “animals” (after the first occurrence of “speckled”) and “offspring” (after the second) have been supplied in the translation for stylistic reasons. The same two terms (“animals” and “offspring”) have been supplied after the two occurrences of “streaked” later in this verse.

15 tn The sentence begins with the temporal indicator, “and it happened at the time of.”

16 tn Heb “in the time of the breeding of the flock I lifted up my eyes and I saw.”

17 tn Heb “going up on,” that is, mounting for intercourse.

18 tn Heb “lift up (now) your eyes and see.”

19 tn Heb “going up on,” that is, mounting for intercourse.

20 map For location see Map4 G4; Map5 C1; Map6 E3; Map7 D1; Map8 G3.

21 sn You anointed the sacred stone. In Gen 28:18 the text simply reported that Jacob poured oil on top of the stone. Now that pouring is interpreted by the Lord as an anointing. Jacob had consecrated the place.

22 sn And made a vow to me. The second clause reminds Jacob of the vow he made to the Lord when he anointed the stone (Gen 28:20-22). God is now going to take him back to the land, and so he will have to fulfill his vow.

23 tn Heb “arise, leave!” The first imperative draws attention to the need for immediate action.

sn Leave this land immediately. The decision to leave was a wise one in view of the changed attitude in Laban and his sons. But more than that, it was the will of God. Jacob needed to respond to God’s call – the circumstances simply made it easier.

24 tn The two nouns may form a hendiadys, meaning “a share in the inheritance” or “a portion to inherit.”

25 tn Heb “and he devoured, even devouring.” The infinitive absolute (following the finite verb here) is used for emphasis.

sn He sold us and…wasted our money. The precise nature of Rachel’s and Leah’s complaint is not entirely clear. Since Jacob had to work to pay for them, they probably mean that their father has cheated Jacob and therefore cheated them as well. See M. Burrows, “The Complaint of Laban’s Daughters,” JAOS 57 (1937): 250-76.

26 tn Heb “our money.” The word “money” is used figuratively here; it means the price paid for Leah and Rachel. A literal translation (“our money”) makes it sound as if Laban wasted money that belonged to Rachel and Leah, rather than the money paid for them.

27 tn Heb “and Jacob arose and he lifted up his sons and his wives on to the camels.”

28 tn Heb “drove,” but this is subject to misunderstanding in contemporary English.

29 tn Heb “and he led away all his cattle and all his moveable property which he acquired, the cattle he obtained, which he acquired in Paddan Aram to go to Isaac his father to the land of Canaan.”

30 tn This disjunctive clause (note the pattern conjunction + subject + verb) introduces a new scene. In the English translation it may be subordinated to the following clause.

31 tn Or “household gods.” Some translations merely transliterate the Hebrew term תְּרָפִים (tÿrafim) as “teraphim,” which apparently refers to household idols. Some contend that possession of these idols guaranteed the right of inheritance, but it is more likely that they were viewed simply as protective deities. See M. Greenberg, “Another Look at Rachel’s Theft of the Teraphim,” JBL 81 (1962): 239-48.

32 tn Heb “stole the heart of,” an expression which apparently means “to deceive.” The repetition of the verb “to steal” shows that Jacob and Rachel are kindred spirits. Any thought that Laban would have resigned himself to their departure was now out of the question.

33 tn Heb “fleeing,” which reflects Jacob’s viewpoint.

34 tn Heb “and he fled.”

35 tn Heb “he arose and crossed.” The first verb emphasizes that he wasted no time in getting across.

36 tn Heb “the river”; the referent (the Euphrates) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

37 tn Heb “he set his face.”



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