GENESIS 31 : A Verse by Verse Study Analysis

 by Erin N. Simon


Genesis 31

Jacob Flees From Laban

 1 Jacob heard that Laban’s sons were saying, “Jacob has taken everything our father owned and has gained all this wealth from what belonged to our father.” 2 And Jacob noticed that Laban’s attitude toward him was not what it had been.

 3 Then the LORD said to Jacob, “Go back to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you.”

 4 So Jacob sent word to Rachel and Leah to come out to the fields where his flocks were. 5He said to them, “I see that your father’s attitude toward me is not what it was before, but the God of my father has been with me. 6 You know that I’ve worked for your father with all my strength, 7 yet your father has cheated me by changing my wages ten times. However, God has not allowed him to harm me. 8 If he said, ‘The speckled ones will be your wages,’ then all the flocks gave birth to speckled young; and if he said, ‘The streaked ones will be your wages,’ then all the flocks bore streaked young. 9 So God has taken away your father’s livestock and has given them to me.

 10 “In breeding season I once had a dream in which I looked up and saw that the male goats mating with the flock were streaked, speckled or spotted. 11 The angel of God said to me in the dream, ‘Jacob.’ I answered, ‘Here I am.’ 12 And he said, ‘Look up and see that all the male goats mating with the flock are streaked, speckled or spotted, for I have seen all that Laban has been doing to you. 13 I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed a pillar and where you made a vow to me. Now leave this land at once and go back to your native land.’”

 14 Then Rachel and Leah replied, “Do we still have any share in the inheritance of our father’s estate? 15 Does he not regard us as foreigners? Not only has he sold us, but he has used up what was paid for us. 16 Surely all the wealth that God took away from our father belongs to us and our children. So do whatever God has told you.”

 17 Then Jacob put his children and his wives on camels, 18 and he drove all his livestock ahead of him, along with all the goods he had accumulated in Paddan Aram,[a] to go to his father Isaac in the land of Canaan.

 19 When Laban had gone to shear his sheep, Rachel stole her father’s household gods. 20Moreover, Jacob deceived Laban the Aramean by not telling him he was running away. 21 So he fled with all he had, crossed the Euphrates River, and headed for the hill country of Gilead.

Laban Pursues Jacob

 22 On the third day Laban was told that Jacob had fled. 23 Taking his relatives with him, he pursued Jacob for seven days and caught up with him in the hill country of Gilead. 24 Then God came to Laban the Aramean in a dream at night and said to him, “Be careful not to say anything to Jacob, either good or bad.”

 25 Jacob had pitched his tent in the hill country of Gilead when Laban overtook him, and Laban and his relatives camped there too. 26 Then Laban said to Jacob, “What have you done? You’ve deceived me, and you’ve carried off my daughters like captives in war. 27 Why did you run off secretly and deceive me? Why didn’t you tell me, so I could send you away with joy and singing to the music of timbrels and harps? 28 You didn’t even let me kiss my grandchildren and my daughters goodbye. You have done a foolish thing. 29 I have the power to harm you; but last night the God of your father said to me, ‘Be careful not to say anything to Jacob, either good or bad.’ 30 Now you have gone off because you longed to return to your father’s household. But why did you steal my gods?”

 31 Jacob answered Laban, “I was afraid, because I thought you would take your daughters away from me by force. 32 But if you find anyone who has your gods, that person 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.

 33 So Laban went into Jacob’s tent and into Leah’s tent and into the tent of the two female servants, but he found nothing. After he came out of Leah’s tent, he entered Rachel’s tent.34 Now Rachel had taken the household gods and put them inside her camel’s saddle and was sitting on them. Laban searched through everything in the tent but found nothing.

 35 Rachel said to her father, “Don’t be angry, my lord, that I cannot stand up in your presence; I’m having my period.” So he searched but could not find the household gods.

 36 Jacob was angry and took Laban to task. “What is my crime?” he asked Laban. “How have I wronged you that you hunt me down? 37 Now that you have searched through all my goods, what have you found that belongs to your household? Put it here in front of your relatives and mine, and let them judge between the two of us.

 38 “I have been with you for twenty years now. Your sheep and goats have not miscarried, nor have I eaten rams from your flocks. 39 I did not bring you animals torn by wild beasts; I bore the loss myself. And you demanded payment from me for whatever was stolen by day or night. 40 This was my situation: The heat consumed me in the daytime and the cold at night, and sleep fled from my eyes. 41 It was like this for the twenty years I was in your household. I worked for you fourteen years for your two daughters and six years for your flocks, and you changed my wages ten times. 42 If the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had not been with me, you would surely have sent me away empty-handed. But God has seen my hardship and the toil of my hands, and last night he rebuked you.”

 43 Laban answered Jacob, “The women are my daughters, the children are my children, and the flocks are my flocks. All you see is mine. Yet what can I do today about these daughters of mine, or about the children they have borne? 44 Come now, let’s make a covenant, you and I, and let it serve as a witness between us.”

 45 So Jacob took a stone and set it up as a pillar. 46 He said to his relatives, “Gather some stones.” So they took stones and piled them in a heap, and they ate there by the heap. 47Laban called it Jegar Sahadutha, and Jacob called it Galeed.[b]

 48 Laban said, “This heap is a witness between you and me today.” That is why it was called Galeed. 49 It was also called Mizpah,[c] because he said, “May the LORD keep watch between you and me when we are away from each other. 50 If you mistreat my daughters or if you take any wives besides my daughters, even though no one is with us, remember that God is a witness between you and me.”

 51 Laban also said to Jacob, “Here is this heap, and here is this pillar I have set up between you and me. 52 This heap is a witness, and this pillar is a witness, that I will not go past this heap to your side to harm you and that you will not go past this heap and pillar to my side to harm me. 53 May the God of Abraham and the God of Nahor, the God of their father, judge between us.”

   So Jacob took an oath in the name of the Fear of his father Isaac. 54 He offered a sacrifice there in the hill country and invited his relatives to a meal. After they had eaten, they spent the night there.

 55 Early the next morning Laban kissed his grandchildren and his daughters and blessed them. Then he left and returned home.[d]


  1. Genesis 31:18 That is, Northwest Mesopotamia
  2. Genesis 31:47 The Aramaic Jegar Sahadutha and the Hebrew Galeed both meanwitness heap.
  3. Genesis 31:49Mizpah means watchtower.
  4. Genesis 31:55 In Hebrew texts this verse (31:55) is numbered 32:1
Bible Verses courtesy of


(Verses 1-2)  Even though in the last chapter Gen 30:27 Laban admits to Jacob that by divination, he learned that God had blessed him because of Jacob, notice his sons are jealous and angry over the accumulation of wealth Jacob has received. Also remember that a deal was struck in the last chapter, one to which Laban hastily agreed because the odds were in his favor regarding giving Jacob all the “blemished” animals. Laban even went so far as to hand pick the perfect ones and put a three day journey between his inventory and Jacob’s. Psalms 37:12 “The wicked plot against the righteous and gnash their teeth at them. If you review your study of chapter Genesis 29:10 by supernatural power, Jacob was able to remove the stone and water Laban’s flock, foreshadowing him being a blessing to Laban and his household. Every dealing Jacob had with Laban was just and fair.

(Verse 3) God tells Jacob it’s time to return to Caanan and reiterates his promises to be with him as he did Abraham.

The Promise to Jacob: Genesis 28:13-15 “I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”

The original Promise to Abraham: Genesis 12:1-3 ” The LORD had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation,  and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

(Verses 4-10) Jacob sent word to Rachel & Leah to come out to the fields where his flocks were in order to have a private word with them. He didn’t want members of Laban’s family to know of God’s instructions to return to Caanan. Last chapter he approached the subject and Laban requested for him to stay awhile longer. It’s important to note that God had told Jacob to move and he was moving. We should always consult God in every endeavor and wait for a response from Him. More importantly, we should take Jacob’s example and move immediately when God tells is to. Jacob goes on to explain to his wives that their father’s attitude is not what it had been toward him due to the hand of God blessing him even though he has been working diligently for him. Keep in mind Jacob is working now as he speaks to his wives because he called them to the field where he was working. 

In verse 7 Jacob complains about Laban changing his wages ten times. This particular verse is significant because the number 10 represents perfection in divine order. Notice it was his wages that was changed ten times and now God had told him it was time to go. Jacob had in a sense paid his debt in the deceit of his brother Esau. Even though God had already given providence to Jacob in the inheritance, it was still wrong to gain it the way he did. Jacob had in a sense worked off his debt and transgression. God has not allowed Laban to harm him because as his word stated to Abraham in Genesis 15:1 “…Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield and your very great reward.” God promises to protect Abram as well as bless him. God had taken Laban’s wealth and given it to Jacob. Ecclesiastes 2:26 “To the person who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God.”

(Verse 10-16) Jacob begins to tell his wives about the dream he had on how he was able to successfully and fairly breed his stock to an abundance. He declares to the wives, the Angel of the Lord (Jesus Christ) told him he had seen all that Laban had done to him unfairly. This explains Jacobs methods used in the last chapter to breed the livestock. The branches were used as symbolism to explain to Jacob God’s intervention and providence (for details please see the Study  Analysis for Genesis Chapter 30) and Jacob used the symbols literally in carrying out the word of God. 

We know that the Angel of the Lord is Jesus Christ because of the Authority in which he spoke to Jacob; and He pointed out that He was the “God of Beth-el” where Jacob anointed the pillar and made a vow to. Genesis 28 :12-13 “He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. There above it stood the LORD, and he said: “I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying.”  God always announces Himself and angels or messengers will always announce themselves and immediately dissuade you from worshiping them.

Rachel & Leah both admit that their father had no inheritance for them nor did he intend on sharing any inheritance because he used the dowry which Jacob had paid him for them. The dowry is usually a portion given to the wife when married. Despite Laban’s wealth he kept theirs.  Proverbs 13:22 states “A good person leaves an inheritance for their children’s children, but a sinner’s wealth is stored up for the righteous. Isn’t this exactly what happened to Laban? The wives both give Jacob their blessing in following God’s course of action.

(Verses 17-21) So the plan to flee from this place is in action now. Jacob loads his family in a caravan along with all he has earned in Paddan Aram to return to Canaan discreetly. When Laban goes to sheer his sheep (which was a 3 day journey from where they lived see Genesis 30:36) Rachel steals Laban’s household gods. Why would Rachel steal Laban’s household gods? Especially if Jacob is highly blessed and favored with the God of his fathers? The answer is found in the book of Jasher chapter 31:37-46And the Lord appeared to Jacob at the expiration of the six years, and said unto him, Arise, go forth out of this land, and return to the land of thy birthplace and I will be with thee. And Jacob rose up at that time and he mounted his children and wives and all belonging to him upon camels, and he went forth to go to the land of Canaan to his father Isaac. And Laban did not know that Jacob had gone from him, for Laban had been that day sheep-shearing. And Rachel stole her father’s images, and she took them and she concealed them upon the camel upon which she sat, and she went on. And this is the manner of the images; in taking a man who is the first born and slaying him and taking the hair off his head, and taking salt and salting the head and anointing it in oil, then taking a small tablet of copper or a tablet of gold and writing the name upon it, and placing the tablet under his tongue, and taking the head with the tablet under the tongue and putting it in the house, and lighting up lights before it and bowing down to it. And at the time when they bow down to it, it speaketh to them in all matters that they ask of it, through the power of the name which is written in it. And some make them in the figures of men, of gold and silver, and go to them in times known to them, and the figures receive the influence of the stars, and tell them future things, and in this manner were the images which Rachel stole from her father. And Rachel stole these images which were her father’s, in order that Laban might not know through them where Jacob had gone. And Laban came home and he asked concerning Jacob and his household, and he was not to be found, and Laban sought his images to know where Jacob had gone, and could not find them, and he went to some other images, and he inquired of them and they told him that Jacob had fled from him to his father’s, to the land of Canaan. And Laban then rose up and he took his brothers and all his servants, and he went forth and pursued Jacob, and he overtook him in mount Gilead. –Courtesy of 

How do we know the particular text in the Lost Book of Jasher is true? Genesis 30:27 Laban admits to using divination via oracles as a means to figure out how Jacob was being blessed! These household gods were used as oracles and Rachel stole them so Laban couldn’t figure out where they had fled to. These oracles that had the influence of the stars were angels (most likely fallen) and would have eternal knowledge giving the information requested to its worshiper. Turns out Laban had multiple means of divination.

(Verses 22-24) It took Laban seven days to find Jacob. That should demonstrate desperateness in his pursuit of him. God had to come to Laban in a dream to warn him not to say anything to Jacob good or bad. David remembers the wonderful works of God and speaks of it in 1 Chronicles 16:22 “Touch not my anointed ones; do my prophets no harm.”

(Verses 25-36) Laban confronts Jacob with a lie. No one pursues anyone with an entire army to simply wish them well. It was because God was Jacob’s shield that Laban did him no harm and admitted so. Jacob who was used to Laban cheating him admitted he thought he would take his daughters whom he worked for by force away from him. As for the stolen gods, Jacob had no knowledge of what his wife did and makes a serious vow of death to whoever took it. Laban searched and searched and Rachel who was as clever as her cousin Rebekah hides it under her camel saddle and blames it on her period. Laban’s search is in vain. 

(Verses 37-44) Anger has gotten the best of Jacob who now confronts Laban for his pursuit of him. Jacob worked 2o years which is the number of expectancy. Twenty years Jacob waited to gain possession of his wives and property. He continues to explain how hard and fair he worked for Laban, never cheating him and in doing that taking losses. Fourteen years worked for both wives and six for the livestock in which his wages were changed 10 times denoting a completeness. Nothing was wanting in this situation which is why God allowed and initiated Jacob’s return home. Notice Laban states in verse 43 that everything Jacob has is his. Fact: the daughters and livestock originated from him. Truth: They all belong to Jacob because the earth and the fullness thereof belong to the LORD! And He gives his blessings to whom he chooses. Psalms 24:1,4 states : “The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god.”

(Verse 45-53) Jacob and Laban decided to make a covenant to serve as a witness between. Jacob took a stone and set it up as a pillar. He told his relatives to gather some stones and pile them in a heap serving as a witness for the LORD to watch between them and for Jacob not to mistreat his daughters. The pillar represents Jesus Christ. Lets look at

Joshua 24:27 “See!” he said to all the people. “This stone will be a witness against us. It has heard all the words the LORD has said to us. It will be a witness against you if you are untrue to your God.”  Notice this was a common practice. Let’s discuss what it represented: first the witnessing and the promise of the pillar: 1 Timothy 3:4-4,15 ” He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect.  (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?);  if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.” Notice that in verse 49-50 he makes Jacob promise not to mistreat his daughters and not take any other wives. The verse in Timothy is regarding the church which spiritually is already prepared even though the pattern of the tabernacle isn’t introduced until Exodus. Also keep in mind Jacob is the father of Isreal who represents the holy nation and the royal priesthood which is basically the congregation. 

Now what did the Pillar represent? What did it mean? 1 Peter 2:4-6 “ As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For in Scripture it says:“See, I lay a stone in Zion,  a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”

  The living stone is Jesus Christ. We are the living stones (based upon the pattern of Christ) hence the heap of stones in Genesis 31 represents the congregation. See how the church is being developed long before the New Testament? Notice in verse 54 of Genesis 31 he offered a sacrifice there. That should indicate to you that the Pillar represented Jesus Christ who is the “Cornerstone” of the church.


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 Erin N. Simon







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