Jacob stays in Laban’s household for 20 years. And Laban proves to be even more of a deceiver and manipulator than Jacob. Not just with tricking Jacob into marrying Leah, but he uses Jacob to make himself wealthy. Jacob has been given a taste of his own medicine. He is able to see how greatly he hurt his brother Esau with his deception. Maybe this is a lesson that Jacob needed to learn before he would be able to return home…
But Jacob soon learned that Laban’s sons were grumbling about him. “Jacob has robbed our father of everything!” they said. “He has gained all his wealth at our father’s expense.” 2 And Jacob began to notice a change in Laban’s attitude toward him.
3 Then the Lord said to Jacob, “Return to the land of your father and grandfather and to your relatives there, and I will be with you.”
4 So Jacob called Rachel and Leah out to the field where he was watching his flock. 5 He said to them, “I have noticed that your father’s attitude toward me has changed. But the God of my father has been with me. 6 You know how hard I have worked for your father, 7 but he has cheated me, changing my wages ten times. But God has not allowed him to do me any harm. 8 For if he said, ‘The speckled animals will be your wages,’ the whole flock began to produce speckled young. And when he changed his mind and said, ‘The striped animals will be your wages,’ then the whole flock produced striped young. 9 In this way, God has taken your father’s animals and given them to me.
10 “One time during the mating season, I had a dream and saw that the male goats mating with the females were streaked, speckled, and spotted. 11 Then in my dream, the angel of God said to me, ‘Jacob!’ And I replied, ‘Yes, here I am.’
12 “The angel said, ‘Look up, and you will see that only the streaked, speckled, and spotted males are mating with the females of your flock. For I have seen how Laban has treated you. 13 I am the God who appeared to you at Bethel, the place where you anointed the pillar of stone and made your vow to me. Now get ready and leave this country and return to the land of your birth.’ ”
14 Rachel and Leah responded, “That’s fine with us! We won’t inherit any of our father’s wealth anyway. 15 He has reduced our rights to those of foreign women. And after he sold us, he wasted the money you paid him for us. 16 All the wealth God has given you from our father legally belongs to us and our children. So go ahead and do whatever God has told you.”
17 So Jacob put his wives and children on camels, 18 and he drove all his livestock in front of him. He packed all the belongings he had acquired in Paddan-aram and set out for the land of Canaan, where his father, Isaac, lived. 19 At the time they left, Laban was some distance away, shearing his sheep. Rachel stole her father’s household idols and took them with her. 20 Jacob outwitted Laban the Aramean, for they set out secretly and never told Laban they were leaving. 21 So Jacob took all his possessions with him and crossed the Euphrates River, heading for the hill country of Gilead.
To Think About…
So while Jacob and Laban were both doing their best to manipulate the situation to their own advantage, God was working behind the scenes. Jacob believed that he had finally outsmarted Laban and won, but he discovers that it was God who was truly in control and the reason for Jacob’s wealth.
Rachel and Leah agree with Jacob that it is in all their best interest to finally leave and be independent of Laban.
Rachel’s stealing of her father’s household gods is a strange incident, but in those times the acquiring of these family idols signified the head of the family, which customarily would be inherited by the firstborn. It is ironic that the younger sibling again claims something that is not her right to claim according to the customs back then.
As Jacob started on his way again, angels of God came to meet him. 2 When Jacob saw them, he exclaimed, “This is God’s camp!” So he named the place Mahanaim.
3 Then Jacob sent messengers ahead to his brother, Esau, who was living in the region of Seir in the land of Edom. 4 He told them, “Give this message to my master Esau: ‘Humble greetings from your servant Jacob. Until now I have been living with Uncle Laban, 5 and now I own cattle, donkeys, flocks of sheep and goats, and many servants, both men and women. I have sent these messengers to inform my lord of my coming, hoping that you will be friendly to me.’ ”
6 After delivering the message, the messengers returned to Jacob and reported, “We met your brother, Esau, and he is already on his way to meet you—with an army of 400 men!” 7 Jacob was terrified at the news. He divided his household, along with the flocks and herds and camels, into two groups. 8 He thought, “If Esau meets one group and attacks it, perhaps the other group can escape.”
9 Then Jacob prayed, “O God of my grandfather Abraham, and God of my father, Isaac—O Lord, you told me, ‘Return to your own land and to your relatives.’ And you promised me, ‘I will treat you kindly.’ 10 I am not worthy of all the unfailing love and faithfulness you have shown to me, your servant. When I left home and crossed the Jordan River, I owned nothing except a walking stick. Now my household fills two large camps! 11 O Lord, please rescue me from the hand of my brother, Esau. I am afraid that he is coming to attack me, along with my wives and children. 12 But you promised me, ‘I will surely treat you kindly, and I will multiply your descendants until they become as numerous as the sands along the seashore—too many to count.’ ”
To Think About…
Jacob knows that returning means that he will finally have to face his brother, Esau. What he doesn’t know is whether or not his brother still wants to kill him. From the look of things in verse 6, it doesn’t look too promising for Jacob.
Finally, Jacob does what he should have done 20 years ago… turn to God for help. In verses 9-12, we have a sincere, heartfelt prayer asking God to save him while acknowledging that it’s not what he deserves.
Why do you think it takes us so long to realize we need to turn to God?
Why do you think it is often hard to see what God is doing in our lives?
What is Jacob’s story teaching you about living by faith?