Thursday, January 6, 2011

Genesis 31:25-35 Laban Unloads on Jacob

"Jacob had pitched his tent in the hill country of Gilead when Laban overtook him, and Laban and his relatives camped there too."  Genesis 31:25 (NIV)  Can you imagine the tense scene that was?  Laban was probably dying to get revenge upon Jacob, but the thought of Jacob's God restrained his hand.  However, Laban did open his mouth and give Jacob a piece of his mind:

"...'What have you done?  You've deceived me, and you've carried off my daughters like captives in war.  Why did you run off secretly and deceive me?  Why didn't you tell me, so that I could send you away with joy and singing to the music of tambourines and harps?  You didn't even let me kiss my grandchildren and my daughters goodbye.  You have done a foolish thing.  I have the power to harm you; but last night the God of your farther said to me, "Be careful not to say anything to Jacob, either good or bad."  Now you have gone off because you longed to return to your father's house.  But why did you steal my gods?' (Genesis 31:25-30 NIV)

Laban's questions reveal his frustration and are also an attempt, no doubt, to look good in front of his relatives.  He does have one point, though.  Jacob did deceive him.  Even Scripture agrees with Jacob about his fleeing being a deception. (see Genesis 31:20)  However, the rest of Laban's statements are a farce.  He claims that he would have thrown a party for the departing family, and kissed them goodbye like a doting father, but somehow his words ring hollow.  I don't believe that Laban would even have let them go if he could have prevented it!  We will see later that Jacob doesn't believe it either.  "I have the power to harm you," cries Laban, yet he and we both realize that Jacob's God is obviously much more powerful than Laban and his relatives.  Laban also tries to make Jacob's departure look like it occurred because Jacob was homesick, rather than any other reason, such as his own continued cheating on Jacob's wages or his changed attitude towards Jacob.

Finally, Laban tops it all off with another accusation -- that Jacob has stolen his gods.  Unknown to Jacob, his wife Rachel really has stolen Laban's gods.  However, Jacob doesn't know this.  It is insulting to have Laban automatically think that Jacob had been the thief.

Jacob admits that he had fled because he was afraid Laban would try to take his wives away from him by force. (v.32)  However, he makes a rash statement:  "...'But if you find anyone who has your gods, he shall not live.  In the presence of our relatives, see for yourself whether there is anything of yours here with me; and if so, take it.'  Now Jacob did not know that Rachel had stolen the gods." (Genesis 31:32 NIV)

I think it is interesting that Jacob calls Laban's relatives "our relatives". (v.32)  With these simple words, Jacob both reminds these relatives that he is 'family' and assures them that he has nothing against them personally.

Laban searched everyone's tents, but found nothing.  Rachel had concealed the 'gods' in her camel's saddle, and was sitting upon it.  She asked Laban's forgiveness for not rising in his presence, claiming to be having her menstrual period.  This claim also conveniently discouraged Laban from searching the saddle.  (v.33-35)  Whether Laban saw through her ruse is unclear, but he left without demanding to search the saddle.

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