Richard Agee

Genesis 30:25-chapter 31: Laban and Ya’akov’s final covenant

Richard AgeeWhy is this dissertation of ancient livestock breeding techniques recorded? How does Ya’akov’s faith in and obedience to God come through? How does Laban learn to fear God?

It’s obvious that this story was important to Laban, Jacob, Rachel and Leah but we wonder how this story was relevant to our lives and experience.

There are six years in between the end of Gen. 30 and the beginning of Gen. 31. Ya’akov had finished his 14 years of service for his wives and he wanted to go back to his home but Laban convinced Ya’akov to stay with him because he had ascertained that he was receiving a blessing because Ya’akov was with him. God took Ya’akov from “rags to riches” in just six years.

So Laban and Ya’akov agreed that Ya’akov’s wages for staying with him was that Ya’akov would keep “all the speckled and spotted sheep and every black one among the lambs and the spotted and speckled among the goats; and such shall be my wages.” (Gen. 30:32) After this, Ya’akov and Laban separated themselves by a distance of three days’, to keep Ya’akov’s motley sheep and goats separate from Labaan’s pure sheep and goats, but Ya’akov continued to work for Laban by feeding the rest of Laban’s flocks.

Then we read in Gen. 30:37-43 about what some might consider Ya’akov’s very unusual animal husbandry technique. As a results of this, Ya’akov’s “became exceedingly prosperous, and had large flocks and female and male servants and camels and donkeys.” (Gen.30:43)

Eventually, Laban’s sons and Laban himself noticed Ya’akov’s increasing prosperity and Laban’s shrinking wealth. This change in fortunes soured Laban’s heart towards Ya’akov. It was in the midst of this tension that God told Ya’aov, “Return to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you.”

Ya’akov tells his wives Leah and Rachel,”You know that I have served your father with all my strength. Yet your father has cheated me and changed my wages ten times; however, God did not allow him to hurt me.” (Gen. 31:6-7) We don’t know when or how his wages were changed 10 times, because these 10 wage disputes are not recorded in the scripture. Ya’akov also tells his wives about a dream God showed him. God showed Ya’akov that God was behind the increase in Ya’akov’s speckled flocks and the decrease in Laban’s flocks. God witnessed all of Laban’s trickery and was protecting Ya’akov from it. We should not be worried about “obeying” God but we should simply respond to what God shows us and act on it. The obedience follows naturally.

The wives agree with Ya’akov that it was time for them to move to the Promised Land. Laban did not respect his daughter’s and they didn’t have any inheritance from him. Ya’akov and his entire household simply picked up and left Paddan-aram.

When Laban went to shear his flocks, Rachel stole Laban’s household gods. We don’t know Rachel’s motive, there are all sorts of speculations but nothing is written. Three days after Ya’akov fled, Laban discovered that they were all gone. It took Laban seven days to catch up with Ya’akov.

This parallels the events of the Exodus when Moses and the children of Israel had left Egypt. It took three days for Pharaoh to realize that the children of Israel were not returning and it took Pharaoh a total of seven days to chase them down and catch up to them at Gilead.

God gave Laban a terrible dream and a stern warning not to speak to Ya’akov either a blessing or a curse. Laban tells Ya’akov that he has power to harm Ya’akov but God specifically showed him that he could not touch him.

Laban then asks Ya’akov, “Now you have indeed gone away because you longed greatly for your father’s house; but why did you steal my gods?” (Gen. 31:29) The word gods here is the Hebrew word אֱלֹהִים ’elohim (Strong’s lexicon No. H430). The word ’elohim is a plural form of אֵלֶּה ’elah (H428), the root of אֵל ’eyl, which means power or strength, or אול ’ol (root of H193 and H197), which means in front of or leader.

Ya’akov admits that he was very concerned that Laban would take away his wives, children and everything he had if he were to leave so that is why he simply fled. Ya’akov then says to Laban, “The one with whom you find your gods shall not live….”

This was a very dangerous statement on Ya’akov’s part. Ya’akov didn’t know that Rachel had these gods and Rachel was able to out-maneuver Laban and hid the gods from him.

When Laban didn’t find any stolen items, Ya’akov was enraged at Laban and unloaded the entire 20 year history of their relationship which mainly consisted of all the slights and abuses Laban inflicted on Ya’akov during the entire time he lived in Aram. Ya’akov then tells Laban, “If the God of my father, the God of Abraham, and the fear of Isaac, had not been for me, surely now you would have sent me away empty-handed. God has seen my affliction and the toil of my hands, so He rendered judgment last night.” In other words, the dream God gave to Laban was God’s vindication of Ya’akov. God had judged between the two of them in Ya’akov’s favor.

Why does Ya’akov say, “the fear of Isaac” instead of the “God of Isaac.” God’s relationship with Abraham was a very friendly relationship but God’s relationship with Isaac was based on fear, going all the way back to the “binding.”

Laban decides he wants to make a covenant with Ya’akov and they gather some stones together. “Now Laban called it Jegar-sahadutha, but Jacob called it Galeed (Gilead).” (Gen.31:47) Both names mean “heap of stones,” or “memorial stones.” They made a covenant and neither of them would cross over that spot. Laban was forbidden from entering the land of Canaan. The name Mizpah means “watch tower” a place to keep watch.  A biblical covenant always culminated in a meal.

At the beginning of this reading, Ya’akov was the one who was scared but by the end of this reading, it’s Laban that is acting in fear. This was done by God to bring about His will in this world. When we are in a trial, we should ask God for the answers to the source and purpose of the trial. We often blame the devil whenever something difficult happens to us but nothing can come upon us without God’s permission. These are not just stories, they show us what God had in mind, not only for the people acting out the story but are also mini-prophesies of the future.

Reader: Jeff. Speaker: Richard Agee. Summary: Tammy.

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