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Genesis 31:1-21 - Exposition

Jacob's flight from Laban.

I. THE HOMEWARD DESIRE . The longing to revisit Canaan, which six years previously Laban's exactions and Joseph's birth ( Genesis 30:25 ) had combined to inspire within the heart of Jacob, returned upon him with an intensity that could no longer be resisted. Accelerated in its vehemence partly by the interposed delay to which it had been subjected, partly by his further acquaintance with the meanness and craft of his uncle, and partly by his own rapidly- accumulating wealth, it was now brought to a head by—

1. The calumnious remarks of Laban ' s sons . Inheriting the sordid and avaricious nature of their parent, they were filled with envy at the remarkable prosperity which had attended Jacob during the past six years. If good men are sometimes "envious at the foolish," it is not surprising that wicked men should occasionally begrudge the success of saints. Then from sinful desires they passed to wicked thoughts, accusing Jacob of having by superior craft out-maneuvered their designing father, and appropriated the flocks and herds that ought to have been his; which, however, was a manifest exaggeration, since Jacob bad not taken away all their father's "glory," and an unjustifiable calumny, since it was not Jacob's stratagem, but God's blessing, that had multiplied the parti-colored flocks. And lastly, from wicked thoughts they advanced to evil words, not only accusing Jacob in their minds, but openly vilifying him with their tongues, adding to the sin of private slander that of public defamation—conduct which the word of God severely reprehends ( Proverbs 30:10 ; 1 Corinthians 6:10 ; Titus 3:2 ; James 4:11 ).

2. The manifest displeasure of Laban . During the fourteen years that Jacob kept the flocks for Rachel and Leah, Laban regarded him with e vide nt satisfaction; not perhaps for his own sake, but for the unprecedented increase in his (Laban's) pastoral wealth which had taken place under Jacob's fostering care. He was even disposed to be somewhat pious so long as the flocks and herds continued multiplying ( Genesis 30:27 ). But now, when at the end of six years the relative positions of himself and Jacob are reversed,—when Jacob is the rich man and he, comparatively speaking at least, the poor one,—not only does his piety towards God disappear, but his civility towards man does not remain. There are many Labans in the Church, whose religion is but the shadow that waits upon the sun of their prosperity, and many Labans in the world, whose amiability towards others is only the reflection of their complacent feeling towards themselves.

3. The explicit command of God . Twenty years before, at Bethel, God had promised to bring Jacob back again to Canaan, and now he issues formal instructions to his servant to return. As really, though not as visibly and directly, God orders the footsteps of all his children ( Psalms 32:8 ; Psalms 37:23 ). If it is well not to run before God's pro vide nce, as Jacob would have done had he returned to Canaan at the end of the fourteenth year, it is also well not to lag behind when that pro vide nce has been clearly made known. The assurance given to Jacob of guidance on his homeward journey is extended to all who, in their daily goings forth, obey the Divine instructions and follow the Divine leadings.

II. THE CONFERENCE IN THE FIELD .

1. The explanation of Jacob . Three con- trusts complete the sum of Jacob's announcements to his wives. First, between the growing displeasure of Laban their father and the manifest favor of the Elohim of his father ( Genesis 31:5 ); second, between the unwearied duplicity of their father, notwithstanding Jacob's arduous service, and the ever-watchful protection of God against his injurious designs ( Genesis 31:6 , Genesis 31:7 ); and third, between the diminishing herds of Laban and the multiplying flocks of himself, Jacob, both of which were traceable to Divine interposition ( Genesis 31:8 , Genesis 31:10 , Genesis 31:12 ). After enlarging on these contrasts, he informs them of the Divinely-given order to return ( Genesis 31:13 ).

2. The answer of Rachel and Leah . Acknowledging the mean and avaricious spirit of their father, who had not only sold them as slaves, but unjustly deprived them of the portions to which, as the daughters of a chieftain, they were entitled ( Genesis 31:14 , Genesis 31:15 ), they first confess that Jacob's wealth was nothing more than it would have been had they been honorably dowered at the first; second, recognize the hand of God in thus punishing their father and restoring to their husband what was practically his; and, third, encourage him to yield complete and prompt obedience to the Divine commandment ( Genesis 31:16 ).

III. THE HASTY DEPARTURE . In this there were four things discernible.

1. Faith . In setting his face towards Canaan he was acting in obedience to Divine instructions; and respect unto God's commandments is an essential characteristic of living faith.

2. Love . In determining "to go to Isaac his father" he was actuated by a true spirit of filial piety.

3. Wisdom . In stealing away unawares to Laban, while Laban was pro vide ntially detained at the sheep-shearing, there was commendable prudence, which, if possible, a good man should never lack.

4. Sin . Not indeed on Jacob's part, but on that of Rachel, who, taking advantage of her father's absence, carried off his Penates or household images.

Learn—

1. That the love of country and friends is deeply implanted in the human breast.

2. That it is a great trial for worldly men to see good fortune go past their doors.

3. That the love of money, or the greed of gain, is the root of every kind of evil.

4. That the promises of God, however long delayed, are certain of fulfillment.

5. That loving husbands should consult their wives in all important steps in life.

6. That daughters should avoid speaking ill of parents, even should those parents deserve it.

7. That wives should always study to encourage their husbands in doing God's will.

8. That those who flee from oppression should seek for safety in paths of God's appointing.

9. That thriving and prosperous sons should not forget their parents in old age.

10. That daughters should not steal from their fathers, even to the extent of pilfering worthless images.

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