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Sunday, February 23, 2020

GENESIS – An Expositional Overview of the Beginning of God’s Revelation: Chapter THIRTY ONE


Contributing commentaries by pastors Sonny Islas, Albert Lopez and James Fire

GENESIS 31 – by James Fire

Introduction: It’s a good thing that the LORD doesn’t treat us the way that we, at times, treat others; because we’re not always as fair and faithful to family and friends as we ought to be, but the LORD is ever faithful and far, far more than fair to us.
There are, however, times when we need to learn valuable lessons in relationships, and so the LORD will deal out to us the same sort of treatment that we deal out to those around us. It’s the same idea as judging – the LORD will judge us with the same standard that we judge others by (MATT 7:1-2). Which is why we should always be merciful, kind, gracious and generous towards others, so that we may reflect our LORD’s character for one; and also that we may receive such blessedness ourselves.

The LORD allowed Laban to manipulate the situation with Jacob where his two daughters were concerned and allowed Jacob to reap the consequences from the same sort of deception and manipulation that he himself had sown with his father Isaac and brother Esau.

But Laban tried to manipulate Jacob further and manage the situation we’re going to read about so that Jacob would come up short and Laban would be left with considerable profits. But the LORD refuses to let this happen, and protects Jacob’s interests and blesses the work of his hands.

It’s good to know that the LORD is involved in the lives of His beloved, watching over them, protecting and providing for them!

GENESIS 31:1-3
And he
 [
Jacob] 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. And Jacob beheld the countenance of Laban, and, behold, it was not toward him as before. And the Lord said unto Jacob, Return unto the land of thy fathers, and to thy kindred; and I will be with thee.

It was the trouble that started brewing back home that led Jacob’s mother, Rebekah to admonish him to hit the road and make for family back East. And now, more than a dozen years later, we’re seeing more trouble starting up here under Uncle Laban’s roof.
Back home the trouble commenced because of some conniving manipulation between Rebekah and her boy Jacob. 

Here we’re seeing that Uncle Laban is trying to manage the situation so that he would come out on top of his nephew Jacob, financially – only the LORD is Jacob’s shield, instructing him in dreams on how to deal with the herds Laban has placed under his care, so that he would prosper financially.

It’s because of this, that Laban’s sons falsely accuse Jacob of theft and Jacob’s Uncle isn’t looking too fondly on him either! It’s at this point that the LORD is telling Jacob that it’s time to go back home! Jacob knows that if he stays, he’s going to get into some hot water pretty quickly. The problem is that back home, Esau is waiting for him! And so, dread fills this young man’s heart. What if his elder brother hasn’t forgiven him, and still intends on killing him? Jacob is caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place!

GENESIS 31:4-7
And Jacob sent and called Rachel and Leah to the field unto his flock, 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. And ye know that with all my power I have served your father. And your father hath deceived me and changed my wages ten times; but God suffered him not to hurt me
.

Jacob has a conversation with his wives, not in their tent, but out in the field, where they can be sure there’s no one eavesdropping in on their private conversation. Jacob testifies that the GOD of Isaac has been with him; further, his wives know of the integrity of their husband as he labored with all his strength for the good of his Uncle, even though Laban tried to cheat him out of his due wages – and yet for all that, Jacob is witness to GOD’s faithfulness as a shield and protector.

Jacob knew of his Uncle’s deceitfulness, but still worked faithfully for him. Very much like the LORD Jesus instructs us:

MATTHEW 5:44
But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you
;

Also from 1st PETER:
1 PETER 2:18-19
18 Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward
[contentious, always taking the opposite side]. 19 For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully.
The LORD is indeed our shield and our protector and guide, that leads us in His light of wisdom and instruction, and this results in His blessings as we follow Him:
PSALM 84:8-12
O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer: give ear, O God of Jacob. Selah. Behold, O God our shield, and look upon the face of thine anointed. 10 For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness. 11 For the Lord God is a sun and shield: the Lord will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly. 12 O Lord of hosts, blessed is the man that trusteth in thee
.
The LORD is standing by His Word to Jacob:
GENESIS 28:15
15 And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of
.

GENESIS 31:8-12
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. Thus God hath taken away the cattle of your father and given them to me. 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
.

The LORD gave the inside scoop to Jacob, letting him know what Laban was up to, but also assured him that however Laban tried to manage the situation, the LORD would turn the tables and see Jacob blessed, not cheated.

GENESIS 31:13-16
13 I am the God of Bethel, where thou anointedst the pillar, and where thou vowedst a vow unto me
(GEN 28): now arise, get thee out from this land, and return unto the land of thy kindred. 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 [probably their bridal dowry]. 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 LORD reminds Jacob of the altar he built, where he worshiped and prayed to Him and how the LORD declared the same blessings to Jacob as He did to Abraham. Jacob no doubt felt some assurance as the LORD directs him to return to his own kindred – including Esau who swore he would kill him.

GENESIS 28:13-15
13 And, behold, the Lord stood above it, and said, I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed; 14 And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed. 15 And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of
.
It’s a greatly encouraging thought to know that even if we might forget a prayer we’ve prayed to the LORD, even years and years ago, the LORD remembers them all, and answers them in His time; but He never forgets or lets slip a single prayer of ours that is after His own heart!

Since Jacob at this point has no land that he can actually call his own, by faith he realizes that his safety against his vengeful brother Esau is secure. GOD cannot lie, and so Jacob understands that his future is also secure. He has sons right now, but they are hardly like “the dust of the Earth” spread forth across the four compass directions.
Even Laban’s own daughters understand that their father is against them and encourage Jacob to obey GOD in all that the LORD commands him. 

When we stand in agreement with righteousness as well as with the righteous, we can expect betrayal and persecution from those who claim to love us, even our own family members. The comfort we have is in knowing that we have an eternal family in Christ, beyond number that we will know and love and fellowship with for all eternity!!

GENESIS 31:17-24
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 Padanaram, for to go to Isaac his father in the land of Canaan
. 19 And Laban went to shear his sheep: and Rachel had stolen the images that were her father's. 20 And Jacob stole away unawares to Laban the Syrian, in that he told him not that he fled. 21 So he fled with all that he had; and he rose up, and passed over the river, and set his face toward the mount Gilead. 22 And it was told Laban on the third day that Jacob was fled. 23 And he took his brethren with him and pursued after him seven days' journey; and they overtook him in the mount Gilead. 24 And God came to Laban the Syrian in a dream by night, and said unto him, Take heed that thou speak not to Jacob either good or bad.

Jacob quietly gathers his family and his belongings and in secret departs the land and he’s gone for three entire days before Laban even realizes what’s happened. As soon as he does, he gathers his kin and they race after Jacob and his family in hot pursuit.
The thing is, Jacob had a lot of family and herds and flocks, some of them very pregnant, to look after, which made travel very slow – it wouldn’t take long for Laban to catch up, even with a three-day head start!

GENESIS 31:25-29
25 Then Laban overtook Jacob. Now Jacob had pitched his tent in the mount: and Laban with his brethren pitched in the mount of Gilead. 26 And Laban said to Jacob, What hast thou done, that thou hast stolen away unawares to me, and carried away my daughters, as captives taken with the sword? 27 Wherefore didst thou flee away secretly, and steal away from me; and didst not tell me, that I might have sent thee away with mirth, and with songs, with tabret, and with harp? 28 And hast not suffered me to kiss my sons and my daughters? thou hast now done foolishly in so doing. 29 It is in the power of my hand to do you hurt: but the God of your father spake unto me yesternight, saying, Take thou heed that thou speak not to Jacob either good or bad
.

We don’t really know what Laban had intended regarding Jacob; we know that he was a covetous man, laying claim to the herds of Jacob’s that GOD blessed and multiplied; we know he wasn’t a godly man, for he kept idols in his home – what mischief did he plan? Would he kill Jacob and reclaim the property that was formerly his, as well as his daughters (as Jacob suspected he would; vs. 31)?

Whatever it was, the LORD forbid him to “speak anything good or bad” concerning Jacob, which would completely negate Laban from going any further than that (including murder)!
Laban claims to have hurt feelings, in Jacob depriving him of the blessing of at least bidding his kin farewell (and it was customary for families to hold a kind of ‘farewell feast’ for family that was moving away), but if he was really offended by this, then why would he disrespect his own daughters by wasting their dowries? Again, we see the LORD overshadowing and protecting His own from any that would seek them harm.

GENESIS 31:30-32
30 And now, though thou wouldest needs be gone, because thou sore longedst after thy father's house, yet wherefore hast thou stolen my gods? 31 And Jacob answered and said to Laban, Because I was afraid: for I said, Peradventure thou wouldest take by force thy daughters from me. 32 With whomsoever thou findest thy gods, let him not live: before our brethren discern thou what is thine with me, and take it to thee. For Jacob knew not that Rachel had stolen them
.

Keep in mind that Jacob knew nothing of these ‘stolen idols’ that Laban accused him of taking; yet Jacob is so convinced of his innocence and the innocence of his family that he allows Laban the right to slay any that did this deed. Why, if Rachel was a godly woman, would she take these idols that belonged to her father? We don’t see any evidence of Rachel being an idol-worshiper previously or hereafter, so why would she do this?

We can only surmise – it’s possible that she wanted them as memento’s from home; or perhaps out of resentment because of the treatment her husband Jacob received from her father, and even his spending of his own daughter’s dowries (vs. 15).

GENESIS 31:33-36
33 And Laban went into Jacob's tent, and into Leah's tent, and into the two maidservants' tents; but he found them not. Then went he out of Leah's tent, and entered into Rachel's tent. 34 Now Rachel had taken the images, and put them in the camel's furniture, and sat upon them. And Laban searched all the tent but found them not. 35 And she said to her father, Let it not displease my lord that I cannot rise up before thee; for the custom of women is upon me. And he searched but found not the images. 36 And Jacob was wroth, and chode with Laban: and Jacob answered and said to Laban, What is my trespass? what is my sin, that thou hast so hotly pursued after me?

GENESIS 31:37-41
37 Whereas thou hast searched all my stuff, what hast thou found of all thy household stuff? set it here before my brethren and thy brethren, that they may judge betwixt us both. 38 This twenty years have I been with thee; thy ewes and thy she goats have not cast their young, and the rams of thy flock have I not eaten. 39 That which was torn of beasts I brought not unto thee; I bare the loss of it; of my hand didst thou require it, whether stolen by day, or stolen by night. 40 Thus I was; in the day the drought consumed me, and the frost by night; and my sleep departed from mine eyes. 41 Thus have I been twenty years in thy house; I served thee fourteen years for thy two daughters, and six years for thy cattle: and thou hast changed my wages ten times
.

Jacob insists on his innocence, on his integrity, his faithfulness in the work, even of his own generosity in allowing himself the loss of his flock which Laban gave him to care for and not asking his Uncle for reimbursement (vs. 39). He maintained a good witness with a sneaky employer for twenty years! Yet, he recognizes that it was more than all of this, that he was blessed, for he confessed that the GOD of Isaac and Abraham is with him:

GENESIS 31:42-49
42 Except the God of my father, the God of Abraham, and the fear of Isaac, had been with me, surely thou hadst sent me away now empty. God hath seen mine affliction and the labour of my hands and rebuked thee yesternight. 43 And Laban answered and said unto Jacob, These daughters are my daughters, and these children are my children, and these cattle are my cattle, and all that thou seest is mine: and what can I do this day unto these my daughters, or unto their children which they have born? 44 Now therefore come thou, let us make a covenant, I and thou; and let it be for a witness between me and thee. 45 And Jacob took a stone and set it up for a pillar. 46 And Jacob said unto his brethren, Gather stones; and they took stones, and made an heap: and they did eat there upon the heap. 47 And Laban called it Jegarsahadutha
[“a heap of stones”]: but Jacob called it Galeed [“witness”; see vs. 50]*. 48 And Laban said, This heap is a witness between me and thee this day. Therefore was the name of it called Galeed; 49 And Mizpah; for he said, The Lord watch between me and thee, when we are absent one from another.

We see another occasion where a witness by way of a pillar or an altar that testified of a major event; in the case of the children of Israel, a kind of truce between the children of Reuben and Gad and the other tribes of Israel:

*JOSHUA 22:33-34
33 And the thing pleased the children of Israel; and the children of Israel blessed God and did not intend to go up against them in battle, to destroy the land wherein the children of Reuben and Gad dwelt. 34 And the children of Reuben and the children of Gad called the altar Ed: for it shall be a witness between us that the Lord is God
.
GENESIS 31:50-55
50 If thou shalt afflict my daughters, or if thou shalt take other wives beside my daughters, no man is with us; see, God is witness betwixt me and thee. 51 And Laban said to Jacob, Behold this heap, and behold this pillar, which I have cast betwixt me and thee: 52 This heap be witness, and this pillar be witness, that I will not pass over this heap to thee, and that thou shalt not pass over this heap and this pillar unto me, for harm. 53 The God of Abraham, and the God of Nahor, the God of their father, judge betwixt us. And Jacob sware by the fear of his father Isaac. 54 Then Jacob offered sacrifice upon the mount and called his brethren to eat bread: and they did eat bread and tarried all night in the mount
[this is the ‘farewell feast’ as mentioned previously]. 55 And early in the morning Laban rose up, and kissed his sons and his daughters, and blessed them: and Laban departed, and returned unto his place.

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