Jacob Flees Laban

Genesis 31:1-32:3

As Jacob’s wealth increases, Laban’s sons become jealous of their cousin. Jacob realizes the climate is turning against him and tells his wives it is time to leave, with or without Laban’s permission. Through his conversation with them, we learn that Laban has changed the terms of their deal repeatedly over the past six years.

 

Jacob also tells his wives of his dream that an angel of God appeared to him among the flock, telling him it is time to return to his homeland. As the Israel Bible points out, God implies that He will only remain with Jacob if he returns to the Holy Land, and will no longer protect him in Laban’s house. Rachel and Leah encourage their husband to do what he thinks is best, since they, too, have no place in their father’s home anymore.

 

As Jacob gathers his family and his flock and prepares to leave while Laban is away, Rachel steals her father’s idols without anyone’s knowledge.

 

When Laban realizes his nephew, daughters and grandchildren are gone, he pursues them, overtaking them after seven days. Before Laban confronts Jacob, however, God appears to Laban in a dream, warning him to speak neither good nor ill to his nephew.

 

Laban does confront Jacob, crying foul over their escape without saying goodbye. He acknowledges that God has warned him not to do anything to Jacob, but asks why Jacob would have stooped so low as to take Laban’s household gods with him. Jacob, not knowing what Rachel had done, hotly denies Laban’s accusations, encouraging him to search the camp. Rachel sits on the idols to hide them, and Laban’s search ends fruitlessly. In anger, Jacob decries all the injustice he has suffered over the years at Laban’s hand, but Laban insists that as father to Jacob’s wives, he remains patriarch of the family. He demands a covenant between them. The two men set up a pile of stones as a monument to the covenant, and Laban calls God as witness should harm come to his daughters in Jacob’s care. Jacob sets the monument as a border, which they each commit not to cross.

 

Laban departs in the morning, and Jacob sees a camp of angels approaching in greeting. He recognizes the site as holy, calling it Mahanaim, or “two camps” — one of man and one of God.

 

Virtual Classroom Discussion

Why do you think Rachel stole the idols from her father?

Comments ( 7 )

The comments below do not necessarily reflect the beliefs and opinions of The Israel Bible™.

  • She was the one that was " the seed of Laban" and endangered in this way the whole household. Laban only trusted his gods which you can see. Rachel thinking of the journey before her was afraid like the former Ja’aocv in his staying over at Beit El. But now Ja'acov trusted HaShem , something Rachel also had to learn. But first of all she showed a good pupil of Laban and stole the idols, trusting what you could see: the outside of things of wood and/or stone.

  • … I am forced to think this way …

  • Thank you all. She probably was trying to protect Yaakov and his family from what Laban might do to harm them with his mighty ones (gods). I forced to think this way because the prophet Jeremiah reveals (talks of) Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted. And then Yahweh in reply tells her that for her work she shall be rewarded, her children would return from exile. See Jeremiah 31:15-16.

  • I think that Rachel took the idols because she wasn't able or ready to put her trust in an "invisible" God having been raised in a household with idolatry. It's clear that Ya'acov didn't know what she did and it never comes up again.
    *
    Our Torah studies have questioned the results of her actions over the years with some possible things being her barrenness or her death in childbirth, but there's nothing conclusive to pin those things on for sure. I believe that Ya'acov will call on everyone to cleanse themselves of any idols before they re-enter the Land and I hope that was the place she left them – OUTSIDE the Land!
    Baruch Hashem.

    • There is no specific mention in Scripture of a reason for Rachael's actions regarding the idols. Certainly, SueJean's observation is quite viable. Yet, I think this chapter does give us another reason.
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      To Laban, these idols were very valuable, at least as a personal treasure. They may well have also had the value as Sheila says. If so, personal power and prosperity was associated with the idols.
      *
      With that in mind, consider the sister's response to Jacob regarding departure. In vv. 14-16, they say their inheritance has been squandered by their father, and are counted as strangers, Verse 16 is the tell-tale clue to Rachael's actions. It says, "For all the riches which God hath taken away from our father, that is ours and our children’s. Now then, whatsoever God hath said unto thee, do".
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      I see bitterness and resentment in both sisters. I see two women whose father dealt very deviously with them, their husband, and their children. I see Rachael acting for her and Leah to leave one last "parting shot" to make sure their father reaps the reward of their displeasure–deprive him of something of personal value.

  • Sheila

    Laban spoke of them as his ‘gods’ v30. They also had great meaning for the heirs. KJV bible comment—- ‘according to ancient law around Haran,the sons particularly the eldest had the privilege of inheriting the family gods as well as the property that went with them’. Perhaps Rachel stole them to lay claim to the inheritance as she still hung on to the pagan religion of the household —- another thought —- to ridicule her fathers beliefs as V15 indicates she did not respect him inthe way he treated her and Leah as outsiders —- ‘he has sold us and spent our money’

  • Jesse

    The household idols in those days would indicate who the head of the household was and who would petition these gods for blessing and favor. Thus, Rachel believed that Jacob was deserving of being head over the household, even over Laban. It’s ironic that these gods could not prevent their capture, nor could they prevent being sat upon.

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