The Story of Jacob Preparing to Go Home
AN EXPOSITION OF GENESIS 31:1-18
1 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.
Of all the Old Testament characters, Jacob is one of the more difficult personalities to warm up to. Perhaps that is because so much is known about his private life. There is an old adage that familiarity breeds contempt. There is a lot of truth to that. The more a person is known, the more personal weaknesses are manifested. Jacob had his fair share of weakness beginning with his name, Jacob, which can be translated to mean, “supplanter,” or, “schemer.”
On the day he was born, Jacob was trying to grasp the place of honor of his twin brother Esau. Isaac and Rebekah remembered how, when Esau was born first, Jacob “took hold of Esau’s heel; and his name was called Jacob” (Gen. 31:26). Perhaps Isaac and Rebekah saw the instinctive grasping of the heel of Esau as amusing, and so called the child what they did, but his name proved to be prophetic, for he, with his mother Rebekah, would continue to scheme to advance his cause.
In his maturity, Jacob was encouraged by his mother to deceive Isaac into giving him the double portion of the family, a blessing which should have gone to Esau, according to Jewish custom. When their scheme was exposed, and Esau made it known he would kill his twin brother after the death of their father, Jacob fled to His Uncle Laban.
Surprisingly enough, Jacob, for all of his previous deceitfulness, became a wise and responsible breeder of cattle, and a man of honor. Jacob fled to the land of beginning again, for God is a God of second chances. Therein is hope. No matter what we might have done, if we repent, if we are sorry, if we are willing to change, God’s grace can change us and turn a scoundrel into a saint.
Unfortunately, with success and honor comes new challenges, one of which is to encourage the jealousy of others. When individuals are jealous they tend to become angry without a cause, and to speak about things that may be true, but are unfair. So it happened to Jacob.
When the sons of Laban saw the great wealth that Jacob had acquired through hard work and wisdom, they became angry with him, and in their anger spoke against Jacob. Two charges were leveled against Jacob, neither accusation was fair, or true.
The first accusation made against Jacob, by the children of Laban was that Jacob had taken away all that their father possessed. No, Jacob had taken what his father in law had offered, and multiplied his holdings. But Laban was still a very wealthy man in his own right. The sons of Laban would get a good inheritance, but they wanted more than they deserved. They wanted the wealth of Jacob and thought they were entitled to it.
When people feel entitled to the labor, production, and wealth of others, it creates anger, dark thoughts, and eventually darker actions. Communism is based on the idea of those with needs, taking from those with the ability to create and satisfy those needs. The political slogan, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs,” might have a nice sound, but the concept is evil and immoral.
The wealth a person has created does not belong to others. It might be shared with others, but what a person labors for, and produces, is his own private property.
The sons of Laban would fit well into the modern Communist Party, for they embraced the Socialist ideology. No doubt they would vote in that American political party that wants to take by forced taxation from others the profits of their labor. They would say it was the right thing to do. Jacob was not giving to them a fair share.
The second accusation the sons of Laban talked up among themselves was that Jacob did not deserve what he had. “And of that which was our father’s hath he gotten all this glory.” On July 13, 2012, in an election campaign speech, the 44th president of the United States told an audience in Roanoke, Virginia, “If you’ve got a business—you didn’t built that.” It was a direct assault on business and entrepreneurs.
The emotional sentiment of a globalist, and a socialist, is not new. Even those who have political power, position, and prestige, are driven to want more and more of what others have. Their ideology makes them angry and greedy. But to cover their evil hearts they engage in virtual signaling, and shaming others by declaring that others do not deserve what they have. “Jacob,” said the sons of Laban, “does not deserve all that he has. He got his glory from our father.”
The practical problem with lying tongues, and false accusations, is that people can be persuaded to believe the rhetoric. Laban listened to what his sons were saying, and sided with them against Jacob.
2 And Jacob beheld the countenance of Laban, and, behold, it was not toward him as before.
No doubt Laban sided with his sons against Jacob, not because he actually believed the rhetoric to be true, but because of his own greedy heart. The slander of the sons of Laban provided him with a good excuse to try to confiscate what Jacob had produced; clever words can help justify despicable and reprehensible behavior, as well as a jealous and covetous heart.
As Jacob listened to the false accusations leveled against him, his heart was grieved. A difficult situation was getting worse. What was he to do? What would the LORD have Jacob do? He needed divine guidance, and it came.
3 And the LORD said unto Jacob, Return unto the land of thy fathers, and to thy kindred; and I will be with thee.
Illuminated by the Holy Spirit, the heart of Jacob was suddenly made glad. He knew what to do. So often in a difficult situation, fear and apprehension is compounded, because there is no hope, there is no sense of direction, there is no plan for the future. When this is the situation depression sets in, because the situation is overwhelming and suffocating. But then the counsel of the Lord is sought, and God gives wisdom as to what is to be done.
“Jacob,” said the Lord. “Go home. Go home to your fathers and to your own family. And Jacob, I will be with you.”
God’s solution to a problem is usually very simple. And the Lord’s solution to a situation is generally easy to implement. Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you for my burden is light.”
With gladness in his heart, and a lighter spring to his steps, Jacob made plans to go home, in obedience to the will of the Lord who has a geographical will for every life.
Of course, in order to leave his present situation, Jacob would have to convince his wives, Rachel and Leah. That might be a problem, for, as a rule, ladies do not like to be uprooted, or leave their father if they are close to him. Nevertheless, the wives had to be persuaded. So, Jacob sent and called for Rachel and Leah.
4 And Jacob sent and called Rachel and Leah to the field unto his flock,
Though Leah was legally the first wife of Jacob, she is referred to after Rachel for it was Rachel whom Jacob really loved. Jacob had first met Rachel by a well near Haran in Mesopotamia when he fled from his brother Esau who had vowed to kill him for stealing the family birthright. It was love at first sight. Jacob was willing to do anything to have Rachel, including laboring for seven years for her father in order to marry her (Gen. 29:6-11).
An agreement was reached, and Jacob honored his commitment. But then, on the night of the wedding, Laban deceived Jacob, and so did Leah. Leah, whose name means “wild cow”, was less attractive than Rachael because her eyes were weak or delicate. Perhaps she squinted often in order to focus, and others noticed. If she was to have a husband, it would have to be by trickery, and so it was that on the night of her sister’s wedding, Leah sneaked into the bridal chamber (Gen. 29:16). In the morning the ruse was discovered, and Jacob had to work another seven years for Rachael.
It is not surprising that Rachel is mentioned first, for deceit is not a good basis for a marriage. Not then, and not today.
Once the ladies found Jacob in the field, he had a prepared speech to convince them to leave their father and go home to Bethel with him. Jacob had several persuasive points he wanted to make, and each one was true. Each argument was based on a fact.
The First Argument for Going Home
The Countenance of Laban
5 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.
When a relationship is broken to the point it is irreparable, the first indication is the countenance of a person. Eye contact is lost. Smiles are gone, to be replaced with a scowl, or a passive look of indifference. Physical contact ceases. There is no extension of the hand in friendship, no casual touching, and definitively no loving embraces. Conversation ceases, or continues in short sentences or argumentation and insulting comments. Cruel and crude remarks are not uncommon. The countenance is not as before.
The only comfort a righteous person has when being treated badly is the knowledge that God the Father is still present. His love is unwavering. His care and concern is constant. Though the countenance of others might change, the face of God is still towards His own. He has promised, “I will never leave you, nor forsake you.”
The Second Argument for Going Home
A Faithful Servant and Son in Law
6 And ye know that with all my power I have served your father.
Jacob appeals to his wives to support, and affirm him when he argues, “You know that I have served your father with all my power.” If this is a true statement, and it is, then Jacob would have the moral basis to make his next argument.
The Third Argument for Going Home
Laban is a Deceptive Man
7 And your father hath deceived me, and changed my wages ten times; but God suffered him not to hurt me.
When hearing this argument from Jacob, the temptation comes to laugh out loud. What? Has the deceiver been deceived? A cynic might say that Jacob is reaping what he has sown. He who deceived his twin brother has gotten just what he deserved.
However, a more charitable response might agree that two wrongs do not make a right. If it was wrong for Jacob to deceive Esau, it is wrong of Laban to deceive Jacob. Ten times Laban deceived Jacob by promising him one thing, and then changing his mind. Ten times the wages Laban said he would pay Jacob were changed.
An Illustration of Deception
8 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.
The speckled cattle refer to cattle which are spotted with patches of white. The ringstraked cattle refer to cattle which are striped (with bands).
9 Thus God hath taken away the cattle of your father, and given them to me.
There is a principle found in Jacob’s observation. As the sovereign of the universe, God does take His gifts and redistributes them to others. The principle of redistribution might be permeant, or only for a period of time. The history of Israel reflects how God permanently gave the land of the Canaanites to the Israelites, and then, God temporarily gave the land of the Israelites to the Babylonians, the Medes-Persians, the Greek, the Romans, and the Arabs. In 1948, the temporary redistribution of the land came to an end, and Israel returned home.
As the Lord redistributes land, so He redistributes resources. The abundance of breeding cattle which God did to Laban, He gave to Jacob, for God will have mercy on whom He will have mercy, not only in the matter of salvation, but in the matter of resources.
For many years, the wealth of other nations flowed towards America. Then, following World War II the wealth of America began to be redistributed to the other nations of the globe for a variety of reasons. With the presidential election of 2016, resources have begun to return to America, if only for a little while. But the principle remains. It is the Ruler of the Universe that ultimately determines who gets what. Jacob’s observation is an affirmation of God’s sovereignty, which is one of the Divine attributes.
God’s Presence and Protection
A Dream in the Night
10 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.
11 And the angel of God spake unto me in a dream, saying, Jacob: And I said, Here am I
12 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.
As Jacob continued his persuasive speech to his wives, he wanted to explain how he came to be rich. He attributed the source of his wealth to God, who guided him in a dream. The sons of Laban said that their father had made Jacob wealthy. Jacob said, “No, God made me wealthy because I obeyed his will which was conveyed to me in a dream.”
Specifically, what Jacob did was to claim for his own, the rams and cattle which were ringstaked, speckled, and gristled, or spotted.
In order to understand this dream, Genesis 30 must be read which records the various times when Laban deceived Jacob and would not give him full wages for his labor. On one occasion Laban took from Jacob all “the he goats that were ringstraked and spotted, and all the she goats that were speckled and spotted, and every one that had some white in it, and all the brown among the sheep, and gave them into the hand of his sons” (Gen. 30:35).
What was Jacob to do? In a dream the Lord told Jacob he would give him animals that were ringstraked, speckled, and grisled. In other words, while Laban thought he was taking away from Jacob as many animals as possible, God was going to give Jacob unusual animals, and multiply them. And that is what happened. Animals began to be born that were ringstaked, speckled, and spotted.
The Fourth Argument for Going Home
It is the Will of God
13 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.
Having explained that the source of his wealth was not their father, Laban, but the Lord God, Jacob set forth his final argument. It is the will of God for Jacob and his family to return to the land of his kindred.
The Response of Rachel and Leah
14 And Rachel and Leah answered and said unto him, Is there yet any portion or inheritance for us in our father’s house?
15 Are we not counted of him strangers? For he hath sold us, and hath quite devoured also our money.
16 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.
The four main arguments of Jacob to his wives were persuasive. Rachel and Leah were rational and realistic women. They knew perfectly what their father was like, and what he had done. Laban had preferred his sons over his daughters, and left them no inheritance. Moreover, he had basically sold his daughters, and took their dowry from them.
Rachel and Leah also embraced the principle of divine redistribution of wealth. “God hath taken from our father, that is ours, and our children.” Whatever Jacob wanted to do was fine with them.
17 Then Jacob rose up, and set his sons and his wives upon camels;
18 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 Padan-aram, for to go to Isaac his father in the land of Canaan.
With the support of his wives, Jacob gathered his family, and his wealth, and made plans to return to Isaac his father in the land of Canaan.
There are some practical lessons to be learned from the narrative.
First, the LORD will often over look foolish actins when those actions are rooted in faith. When Jacob received His dream from the LORD as to how his distinct cattle were to become the source of his wealth, Jacob wanted in on the process. Genesis 30:37-39 records what Jacob did.
“And Jacob took him rods of green poplar, and of the hazel and chesnut tree; and pilled white strakes in them, and made the white appear which was in the rods. 38 And he set the rods which he had pilled before the flocks in the gutters in the watering troughs when the flocks came to drink, that they should conceive when they came to drink. 39 And the flocks conceived before the rods, and brought forth cattle ringstraked, speckled, and spotted.”
Later, when he was spiritually more mature, Jacob gave glory to God alone for the wealth he enjoyed, and not to primitive theories of insemination (Gen. 31:11-12).
Second, God has a geographical will for our lives. “Jacob, get thee out from this land, and return unto the land of thy kindred” (Gen. 31:13).
Third, people know when they are being cheated and not treated with respect. The daughter of Laban knew their inheritance was being taken from them in favor of their brothers. It was not right, and they knew it (Gen. 31:14-15). As much as men abuse women in various cultures, they are not ignorant of what is right and what is wrong. They also understand spiritual truths.
Fourth, when others are involved in important events in life, they must be persuaded and not just told what to do without any impute. Men must talk to their wives, and vice versa. Parents must talk to their mature children with respect. Pastors must talk to their people. Leadership is more than simply announcing what is to be done.
Finally, God will bless those who honor Him. The blessing of God might include material prosperity, but spiritual prosperity is much better. It is good to know the LORD God to whom we pray and make our promises, and to whom we present our needs.