June 4, 2015

Commentary on the Book of Genesis

By: Tom Lowe

 

PART: III HISTORY OF ISAAC AND JACOB (Gen. 25:19-36:43)

 

Topic #D:  JACOB'S RETURN TO CANAAN. (Gen. 31:1-33:17)                

 

 


Lesson III.D.3: Jacob Rebukes Laban. (Gen. 31:36-42)

 

 

Genesis 31:36-42 (KJV)

 

36 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?

37 Whereas thou hast searched all my stuff, what hast thou found of all thy household stuff? set it here before my brethren and thy brethren, that they may judge betwixt us both.

38 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.

39 That which was torn of beasts I brought not unto thee; I bare the loss of it; of my hand didst thou require it, whether stolen by day, or stolen by night.

40 Thus I was; in the day the drought consumed me, and the frost by night; and my sleep departed from mine eyes.

41 Thus have I been twenty years in thy house; I served thee fourteen years for thy two daughters, and six years for thy cattle: and thou hast changed my wages ten times.

42 Except the God of my father, the God of Abraham, and the fear of Isaac, had been with me, surely thou hadst sent me away now empty. God hath seen mine affliction and the labour of my hands, and rebuked thee yesternight.

 

 

 

Introduction

 

For years Jacob had been building up resentments against his uncle.  There is no record that he had ever vented these grudges before, but now, his patience exhausted, he turned on Laban in a rage.  He looked at his ramsacked camp, at the frightened faces of his children, and Laban’s armed men, and he gave Laban a piece of his mind.  Grudges he had been nursing for years came spilling out.

 

 

 

Commentary

 

36 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?

 

Irritated because his accusation seemed unfounded, Laban’s anger faded.  Now it was Jacob’s turn; now he became enraged and began to upbraid his father-in-law, demanding an explanation for his actions.  Laban had accused him of theft but had produced no evidence.  “And Jacob was wroth, and chode with Laban.” The word “wroth” means “to be burnt”; the word “chode” comes from a root meaning “to seize” or “to tear.” Jacob, burning with anger, was ready to tear somebody up. 

 

“What is my trespass? what is my sin, that thou hast so hotly pursued after me?” He was angry at being “hotly pursued” by Laban.

 

 

37 Whereas thou hast searched all my stuff, what hast thou found of all thy household stuff? set it here before my brethren and thy brethren, that they may judge betwixt us both.

 

“Whereas thou hast searched all my stuff, what hast thou found of all thy household stuff?” Watching his devious father-in-law arrogantly search through all the family’s personal possessions made Jacob angry, and rightly so; and feelings were now released from his heart that had been buried there for twenty years.  Jacob spoke openly of Laban’s underhanded practices, how he had deceived Jacob, given him the hardest work, and changed his wages many times (v. 41).

 

“Set it here before my brethren and thy brethren, that they may judge betwixt us both.” Rachel’s theft and dishonest cover-up had precipitated a major conflict between her father and her husband which could only be resolved by judicial inquiry before witnesses.

 

 

38 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.

 

“I have slaved for you for twenty years.  I have not eaten your food, and the rams of thy flock have I not eaten.” Middle Eastern people seldom kill the females for food, with the exception of those that are barren. 

 

 

39 That which was torn of beasts I brought not unto thee; I bare the loss of it; of my hand didst thou require it, whether stolen by day, or stolen by night.

 

“There was never a lamb or a kid, a sheep or a goat that fell afoul of a wild beast but that I, personally, made good the loss.  In twenty years you have never lost so much as a single lamb.” According to Hammurabi’s laws, a shepherd who presented the remnants as evidence was not liable for the losses Jacob describes.

 

 

40 Thus I was; in the day the drought consumed me, and the frost by night; and my sleep departed from mine eyes.

 

“I have borne the burden and heat of the day, the cold and frost of night.  And you come here and treat me like a criminal and accuse me of stealing your household gods!”

 

“Frost by night” is how Jacob scribes the weather and night—he must guard the sheep regardless of the temperature.  Hot as the days are in the Middle East, it often becomes very cold when the sun goes down.

 

 

41 Thus have I been twenty years in thy house; I served thee fourteen years for thy two daughters, and six years for thy cattle: and thou hast changed my wages ten times.

 

He was angry at being foully cheated by Laban.  “You have ‘changed my wages ten times!’  ‘Ten times’ you have tried to cheat me!” Jacob accused Laban of continual dishonesty and ill treatment toward him.  In contrast to Jacob’s diligent and abundant service, Laban had been exploitive and oppressive.

 

God had blessed Laban because of Jacob, but Laban had never thanked either the Lord or Jacob, nor had He repaid Jacob for the animals he replaced at his own expense (v.39).

 

Now here is something I find very intriguing.  Here is the man who is clever, who thought that he could get by with sin, but God didn’t let him get by with it because God has made it very clear that whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also reap.  Jacob refused submission to God at home; so he had to submit to his uncle.  Jacob came to receive a wife in dignity, but he was made a servant because God respects the rights of the firstborn.  Jacob had deceived his father; so he was deceived by his father-in-law.  Jacob, the younger, became as the older.  Then he found out that he was given the older when he thought he was getting the younger.  He revealed a mercenary spirit that displayed itself in the way he got the birthright, allowing his mother to cover his hands with the skins of kids of goats.  Later on, we will see that his own sons will deceive him in very much the same way.  They killed a goat and in its blood they dipped Joseph’s coat of many colors.  He deceived his father about being the favorite son, and he will be deceived about his favorite son, Joseph.  “WHATSOEVER A MAN SOWS THAT SHALL HE ALSO REAP.”

 

 

42 Except the God of my father, the God of Abraham, and the fear of Isaac, had been with me, surely thou hadst sent me away now empty. God hath seen mine affliction and the labour of my hands, and rebuked thee yesternight.

 

“Had it not been for the fact that God, my God, the living God, stood between you and me last night even now you would do me harm.” Only the provident mercies of the God of Jacob’s fathers had brought him through, and what was more, God had rebuked Laban in the recent dream. Jacob certainly laid it on the line.

 

But the most important thing in Jacob’s speech was the way he gave honor to the Lord: “Unless the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac[1], had been with me, surely now you would have sent me away empty-handed.  [Laban would have dismissed Jacob, not with festive music (v. 27), but with less consideration than was due to a slave (Deuteronomym:15:13[2]).]. “God has seen mine affliction and the labor of my hands, and rebuked you last night” (v. 42, NKJV).  What a testimony from a man who was inclined to give in to others and do what he was told?

 

Well, Jacob lost his temper and, as usually happens in such cases, he lost his testimony along with it.  Laban went back to Padan-aram, forever embittered, convinced he had been cheated, deeply resentful against the only believer he had ever known.  Such is the price of a lost temper and of paying a person back with a taste of his own medicine

 

Notice, Jacob speaks of God as the God of his father, intimating that he thought himself unworthy to be regarded in the same way, but was beloved of God for his father’s sake.  He calls Him “the God of Abraham, and the fear of Isaac”; for Abraham was dead, and gone to that world where perfect love casts out fear; but Isaac was still alive, sanctifying the Lord in his heart, as “his fear and his dread.”

 

If Jacob was willingly consumed with heat in the day and “frost by night,” to become the son-in-law of Laban, what should we be willing to endure if we are to become the sons of God? 

 

Jacob has had his day in court.  He has vented his grievances.  Now he is going to leave Laban.  They bid each other good-bye and make a contract—that’s the next lesson.

 

 

End Notes:

 

[1] The title “Fear of Isaac” is another divine name, signifying Jacob’s identification of the God who caused Isaac to reverence Him.  The Hebrew word simply means “terror, dread,” and therefore “the God that Isaac feared.” it suggests that others ought to fear Him as well.  (See Genesis 15:1; 27:33; 28:17.)

[2] (Deuteronomy 15:13, NKJV) “And when you send him away free from you, you shall not let him go away empty-handed.”

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