We have seen how God has blessed Jacob and he has now amassed great wealth of his own. Laban has shown himself to be unjust, deceitful, and greedy. He continually changed the contractual agreements between himself and Jacob ten times (v7), and now we can see his attitude is changing once again towards Jacob, presumably one of jealousy as he sees his livestock dwindling while Jacob’s increases (v8-9).
Now the time is right, God speaks to Jacob and instructs him to return to the land of his fathers, with a promise that ‘I will be with you’ (v3).
- Why does Jacob need to know that God will be with him?
Laban is not going to react favourably when Jacob marches off back to his own land with all of Laban’s livestock. Despite all the agreements he had with Jacob, and the (20) years he had worked for him, Laban still thought he had a legal claim / right to both the livestock and over his daughters (v43).
However, Jacob doesn’t decide to return to Canaan and command his wives to tag along. Instead, he was careful to obtain their wholehearted agreement, reminding them of how God had blessed him (v7b-9), and how in a dream, God had told him to return to his homeland (v10-13).
So they leave, not openly, but covertly, denying Laban the right to a proper good bye (v20-21; 27). Unknown to Jacob however, Rachel has stolen her father’s household gods 9v19). The ‘household gods’ (teraphim) were probably small figurines (they could fit inside a camel’s saddle – v34), and if sons were later born to Laban, each would have an equal share of Laban’s estate. But one son (the first born) would be given the household gods, which signified headship of the family. While it is unclear at this stage why Rachel has acted in the way she did, she continues her deceitfulness by lying to her father (v35).
I am struck here by the thought that Rachel’s sin is ‘covered by blood’, and leave you to think about this analogy further. As a result, Laban has no grounds to take action against Jacob, and as he has already be warned by God in a dream (v24), he instead establishes a covenant before returning to his home.
Thus another piece of the ‘puzzle’ that will become Israel has been put in place.
* * *
Heavenly Father; Thank you that I can see from this account of your dealings with Jacob, that although sometimes life can go in strange directions involving strange events, you are
Look how he has gone from stealing his brother’s blessing, to saying to God “I am not always in control and you always have a plan, and you will always be with me. To your praise and glory. Amen