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Genesis 31:22-55 and 32:1-32
Genesis 30:43 "And the man increased exceedingly, and had much cattle, and maidservants, and menservants, and camels, and asses."
Under the new contract, he was making up for lost time, but Laban didn't see it that way, and finally his evident animosity put an end to Jacob's headlong pursuit of wealth.
Yes, in spite of the fact that he had been honourable in all his dealings, Laban and his sons had convinced themselves that Jacob was cheating them.
Genesis 31:1-2 "And he 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.
As far as Jacob was concerned, this was a disaster, but actually it was only one of those "all things" that "work together for good to them that love God.”
Yes, Laban meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.
Through Laban's ill will, God had interrupted Jacob’s pursuit of material wealth, and once again focussed his heart on home.
V 3 "And the LORD said unto Jacob, Return unto the land of thy fathers, and to thy kindred; and I will be with thee."
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Years ago, his mother had told him to tarry with Laban "-- a few days, until
thy brother's fury turn away;
Consequently, Jacob didn't know whether it was safe to go home or not.
But now the silence had been broken.
Jacob had received official word from God Himself that
it was OK, indeed, necessary that he should return to
And not only did God command Jacob to go, He also assured him that He would be with him.
V 17-19 "Then
Jacob rose up, and set his sons and his wives upon camels;
That's about where we left Jacob in our last lesson.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Returning from the shearing of his flock, which, by the way, had grown quite small of late, Laban discovered that Jacob had left, taking everyone and everything with him.
And to make matters worse, Laban’s household gods, whom he depended on for his prosperity, were missing also.
So, in a fit of rage, and with murder in his eyes, Laban determined to hunt Jacob down.
V 23 "And he
took his brethren with him, and pursued after him seven days' journey; and they
overtook him in the
Across the Euphrates and down into the land of Canaan, Laban had kept up a furious pace, and having travelled about 300 miles, he sighted Jacob's camp in the distance.
Travelling as fast as he could, Jacob had taken 10 days to cover the same distance, while Laban had caught up to him in just 7.
It must have been late in the day when Laban discovered Jacob's camp, so he decided to wait until morning to attack.
V 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."
This was Laban's first encounter with Jacob's God, and it was not a friendly one.
As angry as he was, Laban had enough sense to realize that his household gods were no match for Jacob’s God.
Yes, he was afraid to attack, but he was not about to leave before he had told Jacob exactly what he thought of him.
He could not fight him, but he would do his best to disgrace him before his brethren.
V 25-28 "Then
Laban overtook Jacob. Now Jacob had pitched his tent in the mount: and Laban
with his brethren pitched in the mount of
Having been stripped of his military superiority, Laban resorted to deception and hypocrisy.
Of course everything he said was a lie, but Laban could be very convincing.
He was like those spoken of in Isaiah who said, "We have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood have we hid ourselves."
And then the truth finally came out.
V 29-30 "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.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
James 1:8 says, "A double minded man is unstable in all his ways," and certainly this describes Laban.
He had just admitted that he was powerless before the true and living God, and yet he still refers to his wretched little clay idols as his "gods.”
They were gods that could be stolen and hidden away like so many pots and pans.
They were supposed to have the power to control the wind and the weather, but they could not even cry out to Laban, "Here we are!”
Such ignorance in the heart of an intelligent man is hard to fathom, yet, in our own day, learned professors confidently tell us that creation, with all the intricacies of its DNA makeup, just happened by chance with no creative hand being involved.
Again, I say, how pathetic!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
V 31-35 "And Jacob answered and said
to Laban, Because I was afraid: for I said, Peradventure thou wouldest take by
force thy daughters from me.
Apparently Rachel had learned more than idol worship from her dad.
If the occasion called for it, she could be as deceptive as her father.
So, being unable to find his images, Laban finally had to admit defeat.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
And now it was Jacob’s turn.
Insulted by his uncle, and with his camp in a mess, and his children crying, Jacob let him have both barrels.
V 36-42 "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?
And it was all true.
Jacob had served his uncle well, and owed him absolutely nothing, yet he had been pursued like a criminal.
Did Laban get the point?
No, he didn't!
Controlled by his own covetousness and bitterness, he was beyond all reason.
V 43-44 "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?
This was no covenant of love, but a drawing of the line.
You stay on that side and I'll stay on this side--and that was fine with Jacob.
Yes, they were both happy to see the last of each other.
V 45-47 "And
Jacob took a stone, and set it up for a pillar.
These are the Aramaic and Hebrew forms of the same words, "The heap of witness.”
And yet this pile of stones meant something completely different to each man.
To Laban, it was a boundary and an ultimatum.
V 48-53 "And
Laban said, This heap is a witness between me and thee this day. Therefore was
the name of it called Galeed;
In addition to its other name, Laban called this pillar "Mizpah," which means "watchtower.”
I don't think his meaning was too friendly, for the name "watchtower" probably indicated that this pillar would be a sentry, guarding the boundary.
Nor were Laban's words in V 49 very friendly either.
"The LORD watch between me and thee, when we are absent one from another."
These words are sometimes used at the end of a Christian service as a loving benediction, but that was not their original intent.
They were spoken by a very angry man as a warning, and the real meaning is something like this---I'll not be around anymore, but I'm asking the Lord to keep an eye on you, and make sure you treat my daughters properly, and, also, don't marry other women.
That was the gist of his sentiment, and it was a complete insult.
Jacob had never wanted anyone but Rachel.
It was Laban's schemes, not Jacob's desire for other women, which had led him into polygamy.
And when, in V 52, Laban said, "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," it was meant as a further accusation.
Just the day before, he had fully intended to harm Jacob. And now he accuses his son-in-law of the same treachery.
What a hypocrite!
And all this in spite of the fact that Jacob had always treated him honourably, and Laban couldn't deny it: "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."
However, in spite of Jacob's exemplary record, Laban had pursued him like a thief, and had insulted him before his brethren.
And to cap it all off, he now draws a line between them, supposedly to protect himself from this very dangerous man.
Yes, this pillar was definitely intended as a reproach upon Jacob's character.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
But Jacob didn't dwell on his uncle's reproaches, but instead looked upon this pillar as a blessing from the Lord.
V 54-55 "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.
Instead of becoming bitter, Jacob regarded this pile of stones as a new start.
He entered the Promised Land with a renewed desire to follow his God, while Laban went back to his pagan darkness to nurse his grudge.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Actually, the only sensible thing Laban had done was to take God's warning seriously, and it was a good thing for him that he had.
Jacob’s company of wives and children and domestic servants must have looked very vulnerable, but there was a second company surrounding them that neither of them could see.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
As we begin Chapter 32, Jacob, and, indeed, we ourselves, have a surprise in store.
Genesis 32:1-2 "And Jacob went on his way, and the angels
of God met him.
"Mahanaim" means two companies, and it was in this second company that Jacob's real security lay.
Had Laban attacked him, it would have been his last mistake.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Speaking of God's angels, Hebrews 1:14 says, "Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?"
Usually God's people are unaware of this angelic presence and protection, but sometimes, as in Jacob's case, they do become visible.
John Wesley spent fifty-two years in the saddle, riding through muck and mire, confronting dangers at every turn as he preached revival to his generation.
In those days, highways were dangerous places for a loan man.
Stagecoaches travelled with armed guards, for highway men lurked in the hedgerows, and footpads hid behind trees, waiting a chance to shoot down the unwary wayfarer.
Gallows were a common sight, set up on the highways as a grim reminder to holdup men that they would be hung if caught, tarred, and left to rot as a warning by the way.
John Wesley was riding one day along a lonely stretch of road when he noticed shadowy forms ahead, forms that vanished behind a hedge almost as his eye took them in.
He could not turn back. That was not his way, yet to go on meant danger and possibly death.
There was no hope of human help on that deserted road, so John Wesley prayed.
Almost at once he heard hoof beats coming up behind him, and he turned in his saddle as another traveller rode up alongside.
Wesley gave the newcomer a cheery greeting, then silently, the two spurred on down the path, on past the place where the robbers lay concealed.
Seeing two men instead of one, the robbers let them pass.
Wesley then turned to say something to his companion, only to discover that there was nobody there!
The mysterious rider had vanished into thin air!
John Wesley had received an unusual glimpse of his angel escort along the way.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
So Jacob named the place where he had seen "the angels of God", "two companies," and no doubt remembered God's words--"Return unto the land of thy fathers, and to thy kindred; and I will be with thee."
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
V 3-6 "And
Jacob sent messengers before him to Esau his brother unto the
Apparently, having forgotten all about God's angelic host and their ability to protect him, Jacob began to scheme and plan.
In an attempt to defuse the situation, he sent his men ahead with a flattering message, ending with the words, "and I have sent to tell my lord, that I may find grace in thy sight."
Well, there was no response.
Not a word about the past, not a word about Esau's intention, just his servants’ observations: "He cometh to meet thee, and four hundred men with him."
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Not surprisingly, Jacob was scared to death.
This was the meeting he had been dreading for 20 years, and this time he knew he was in the wrong.
But was it the proper response for someone who had just seen God's angels?
He had recently faced Laban and a company of armed men, and had been unharmed.
Couldn't God's host protect him from Esau now?
The problem was, he couldn't see them.
Unbelief is so deeply entrenched in the human heart that past experiences, even recent ones, don't always translate into faith.
V 7-8 "Then
Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed: and he divided the people that was
with him, and the flocks, and herds, and the camels, into two bands;
Yes, with God's host about him, the best he could hope for was partial victory.
However, to his credit, Jacob did turn to God in prayer, and it was a good prayer.
V 9-12 "And
Jacob said, O God of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac, the LORD
which saidst unto me, Return unto thy country, and to thy kindred, and I will
deal well with thee:
Yes, this was a model prayer, and one we could all learn from.
First, he reminds God of His promises, which, indeed, many godly men have done in the past.
Then he thanked Him for previous blessings, and acknowledges his own unworthiness.
And, finally, he reminds God of the Abrahamic covenant.
V 12 "And thou saidst, I will surely do thee good, and make thy seed as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude."
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
But Jacob was still Jacob, and there was something wrong about his prayer.
After crying for deliverance in a most effective way, he went right back to planning the best way to deliver himself by his own resources.
V 13-23 "And he lodged there that same night; and
took of that which came to his hand a present for Esau his brother;
So the question remains, Was Jacob leaning upon God or upon his own resources?
First he tells God he is afraid of Esau: "I fear him, lest he will come and smite me, and the mother with the children."
Then he tries to appease him with some of his cattle, when it is obvious that Esau could have taken them all.
Had he actually placed more confidence in a few cattle than in Jehovah?
Well, we better not be too hard on Jacob, for we often do the very same thing ourselves.
We simply add prayer to our own arrangements: Lord, please make my plans to turn out all right.
It's a kind of good luck charm to make our schemes successful, but God doesn't work that way.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Yes, Jacob was still a schemer, but not for much longer.
He was about to become a new man, a man that God could work with in the Promised Land.
V 24-32 "And
Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of
This portion of scripture is often explained as Jacob prevailing in prayer, but that is not really the case.
You see, it was not Jacob wrestling with a man, but a man wrestling with Jacob, and that makes all the difference.
Probably, at the beginning of the encounter, Jacob did not realize who he was wrestling.
However, it appears that this man was none other than the pre-incarnate Christ.
At least, upon reflection, Jacob was convinced that he had "-- seen God face to face.”
And, in a sense, this was not the first time that Jacob had met God face to face.
All through his life, God had wrestled with Jacob’s stubborn will, but this time He would overrule him in spite of his schemes.
That night, Jacob wrestled long and hard, for the struggle went on until morning.
Finally, the man rendered him incapable of conflict, but he still held on.
Jacob was a broken man, but as was always characteristic of him, he still wanted God's blessing.
However, this time, Jacob wasn't hanging on to his own plans. He was hanging onto God Himself! "I will not let thee go, except thou bless me."
In response to Jacob's determination, the man asked him what his name was, and he had to admit it was Jacob.
Jacob the "supplanter," Jacob the schemer; that was his name!
Many years ago he had convinced his blind father that he was Esau, but now he owns up to his true name and his true nature.
And it is only as we realize who we really are, and who God really is, that our heavenly Father can work with us.
"And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed."
Yes, God breaks and makes anew.
Not only did God give him a new name, but he took away the old name---"Thy name shall be called no more Jacob."
Yes, God can never get the glory until the flesh is subdued.
So, now, the cheat that had left Canaan, and the schemer that had lived in Haran, entered the Promised Land as God's prince.
Jacob had met God face to face, and he would never walk the same again.
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