31 But Jacob learned that Laban’s sons were grumbling, “He owes everything he owns to our father. All his wealth is at our father’s expense.” 2 Soon Jacob noticed a considerable cooling in Laban’s attitude toward him.
3 Jehovah now spoke to Jacob and told him, “Return to the land of your fathers, and to your relatives there; and I will be with you.”
4 So one day Jacob sent for Rachel and Leah to come out to the field where he was with the flocks, 5 to talk things over with them.
“Your father has turned against me,” he told them, “and now the God of my fathers has come and spoken to me. 6 You know how hard I’ve worked for your father, 7 but he has been completely unscrupulous and has broken his wage contract with me again and again and again. But God has not permitted him to do me any harm! 8 For if he said the speckled animals would be mine, then all the flock produced speckled; and when he changed and said I could have the streaked ones, then all the lambs were streaked! 9 In this way God has made me wealthy at your father’s expense.
10 “And at the mating season, I had a dream, and saw that the he-goats mating with the flock were streaked, speckled, and mottled. 11 Then, in my dream, the Angel of God called to me 12 and told me that I should mate the white female goats with streaked, speckled, and mottled male goats.[a] ‘For I have seen all that Laban has done to you,’ the Angel said. 13 ‘I am the God you met at Bethel,’ he continued, ‘the place where you anointed the pillar and made a vow to serve me. Now leave this country and return to the land of your birth.’”
14 Rachel and Leah replied, “That’s fine with us! There’s nothing for us here—none of our father’s wealth will come to us anyway! 15 He has reduced our rights to those of foreign women; he sold us, and what he received for us has disappeared. 16 The riches God has given you from our father were legally ours and our children’s to begin with! So go ahead and do whatever God has told you to.”
17-20 So one day while Laban was out shearing sheep, Jacob set his wives and sons on camels, and fled without telling Laban his intentions. He drove the flocks before him—Jacob’s flocks he had gotten there at Paddan-aram—and took everything he owned and started out to return to his father Isaac in the land of Canaan. 21 So he fled with all of his possessions (and Rachel stole her father’s household gods and took them with her) and crossed the Euphrates River and headed for the territory of Gilead.
22 Laban didn’t learn of their flight for three days. 23 Then, taking several men with him, he set out in hot pursuit and caught up with them seven days later, at Mount Gilead. 24 That night God appeared to Laban in a dream.
“Watch out what you say to Jacob,” he was told. “Don’t give him your blessing and don’t curse him.” 25 Laban finally caught up with Jacob as he was camped at the top of a ridge; Laban, meanwhile, camped below him in the mountains.
26 “What do you mean by sneaking off like this?” Laban demanded. “Are my daughters prisoners, captured in a battle, that you have rushed them away like this? 27 Why didn’t you give me a chance to have a farewell party, with singing and orchestra and harp? 28 Why didn’t you let me kiss my grandchildren and tell them good-bye? This is a strange way to act. 29 I could crush you, but the God of your father appeared to me last night and told me, ‘Be careful not to be too hard on Jacob!’ 30 But see here—though you feel you must go, and long so intensely for your childhood home—why have you stolen my idols?”
31 “I sneaked away because I was afraid,” Jacob answered. “I said to myself, ‘He’ll take his daughters from me by force.’ 32 But as for your household idols, a curse upon anyone who took them. Let him die! If you find a single thing we’ve stolen from you, I swear before all these men, I’ll give it back without question.” For Jacob didn’t know that Rachel had taken them.
33 Laban went first into Jacob’s tent to search there, then into Leah’s, and then searched the two tents of the concubines, but didn’t find them. Finally he went into Rachel’s tent. 34 Rachel, remember, was the one who had stolen the idols; she had stuffed them into her camel saddle and now was sitting on them! So although Laban searched the tents thoroughly, he didn’t find them.
35 “Forgive my not getting up, Father,” Rachel explained, “but I’m having my monthly period.”[b] So Laban didn’t find them.
36-37 Now Jacob got mad. “What did you find?” he demanded of Laban. “What is my crime? You have come rushing after me as though you were chasing a criminal and have searched through everything. Now put everything I stole out here in front of us, before your men and mine, for all to see and to decide whose it is! 38 Twenty years I’ve been with you, and all that time I cared for your ewes and goats so that they produced healthy offspring, and I never touched one ram of yours for food. 39 If any were attacked and killed by wild animals, did I show them to you and ask you to reduce the count of your flock? No, I took the loss. You made me pay for every animal stolen from the flocks, whether I could help it or not.[c] 40 I worked for you through the scorching heat of the day, and through the cold and sleepless nights. 41 Yes, twenty years—fourteen of them earning your two daughters, and six years to get the flock! And you have reduced my wages ten times! 42 In fact, except for the grace of God—the God of my grandfather Abraham, even the glorious God of Isaac, my father—you would have sent me off without a penny to my name. But God has seen your cruelty and my hard work, and that is why he appeared to you last night.”
43 Laban replied, “These women are my daughters, and these children are mine, and these flocks and all that you have—all are mine. So how could I harm my own daughters and grandchildren? 44 Come now and we will sign a peace pact, you and I, and will live by its terms.”
45 So Jacob took a stone and set it up as a monument, 46 and told his men to gather stones and make a heap, and Jacob and Laban ate together beside the pile of rocks. 47-48 They named it “The Witness Pile”—“Jegar-sahadutha,” in Laban’s language, and “Galeed” in Jacob’s.
“This pile of stones will stand as a witness against us if either of us trespasses across this line,[d]” Laban said. 49 So it was also called “The Watchtower” (Mizpah). For Laban said, “May the Lord see to it that we keep this bargain when we are out of each other’s sight. 50 And if you are harsh to my daughters, or take other wives, I won’t know, but God will see it. 51-52 This heap,” Laban continued, “stands between us as a witness of our vows that I will not cross this line to attack you and you will not cross it to attack me. 53 I call upon the God of Abraham and Nahor, and of their father, to destroy either one of us who does.”
So Jacob took oath before the mighty God of his father, Isaac, to respect the boundary line. 54 Then Jacob presented a sacrifice to God there at the top of the mountain, and invited his companions to a feast, and afterwards spent the night with them on the mountain. 55 Laban was up early the next morning and kissed his daughters and grandchildren, and blessed them, and returned home.
- Genesis 31:12 and told me that I should mate the white female goats with streaked, speckled, and mottled male goats, implied; literally, “notice that all the mating males are speckled, streaked, and mottled.”
- Genesis 31:35 but I’m having my monthly period, implied; literally, “The manner of women is upon me.” She was pregnant with Benjamin, but was falsely claiming her menstrual period, which, under the later Mosaic law, caused ceremonial defilement of all that she sat upon. See Leviticus 15.
- Genesis 31:39 stolen . . . whether I could help it or not, literally, “stolen by day or by night.”
- Genesis 31:47 if either of us trespasses across this line, implied.