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Book Of Genesis – Lesson #21

Lesson 21:  Genesis 31 and Genesis 32

Read Gen. 31:1-18

After Jacob discovered that Laban and his sons were growing jealous and resentful, the Lord told him that the time had come to return to Canaan. First he called Rachel and Leah and discussed the matter, rehearsing how Laban had cheated him and changed his wages ten times, how God had overruled so that the flocks always bred in his favor, how God had reminded him of the vow he had made twenty years earlier (Gen. 28:20–22), and how the Lord had told him to return to Canaan. His wives agreed that their father had not dealt honestly and that they should leave.

There are several several interesting principles for discerning God’s guidance here. First, Jacob had a desire (Gen. 30:25). Secondly, circumstances necessitated a change of some sort. Thirdly, God’s word came strongly to him. And finally, there was confirming support from his wives, despite their natural ties to Laban.   Note that the Angel of God (Gen. 31:11) is the God of Bethel (Gen. 31:13).

Read Gen. 31:19-35

Before the secret departure, Rachel stole her father’s household idols and hid them in her camel’s saddle. Possession of these household gods implied leadership of the family, and, in the case of a married daughter, assured her husband the right of the father’s property. Since Laban had sons of his own when Jacob fled to Canaan, they alone had the right to their father’s teraphim. Rachel’s theft was therefore a serious matter, aimed at preserving for her husband the chief title to Laban’s estate.

When Laban learned of their departure, he and his men pursued them for seven days’ journey, but the Lord warned him in a dream not to trouble Jacob and his caravan. When he finally overtook them, he only complained that he had been denied the privilege of giving them a royal send-off and that his idols had been stolen.

To the first complaint Jacob answered that he left secretly for fear that Laban take his daughters (Rachel and Leah) from him by force. To the second complaint, he denied having stolen the gods and rashly decreed death for the culprit. Laban made a thorough search of the caravan, but in vain. Rachel was sitting on them and excused herself for not getting off the camel’s saddle to honor her father because it was her menstrual period—or so she said.

Read Gen. 31:36-42

Now it was Jacob’s turn to be angry. He denounced Laban for accusing him of theft and for treating him so unfairly for twenty years, in spite of Jacob’s faithful and generous service. This passage reveals that Jacob was a hard worker and that the blessing of the Lord was upon him in all that he did.

Read Gen. 31:43-55

Laban avoided the issue by lamely protesting that he would not harm his own daughters, grandchildren, or cattle, then suggested that they should make a pact. It was not a gracious, friendly covenant, asking the Lord to watch over them while they were separated. Rather, it was a compact between two cheats, asking the Lord to make sure that they did what was right when they were out of sight from one another! It was, in effect, a nonaggression treaty, but it also charged Jacob not to treat Laban’s daughters harshly nor to marry other wives. Laban called the pillar of stones marking the pact Jegar Sahadutha, an Aramaic expression. Jacob called it Galeed, a Hebrew word. Both words mean “the heap of witness.” Neither man was to pass the stone-heap to attack the other.  It is humorous to note that the “Mizpah Prayer” is used between sweethearts in the modern era, when it was originally used between two men who couldn’t trust each other!

Laban swore by the God of Abraham, the God of Nahor, and the God of their father, Terah. However, since the Hebrew does not have upper and lower case letters, we can’t tell if Laban might have been referring to the pagan gods which these men had worshiped in Ur. Jacob swore by the Fear of his father Isaac—that is, the God whom Isaac feared. Isaac had never been an idolater. Jacob first offered a sacrifice, then made a banquet for all those present and camped all that night on the mountain.

Early in the morning, Laban kissed his grandchildren and daughters goodbye and left for home.

Read Gen. 32:1-12

En route to Canaan, Jacob met a band of angels and called the place Mahanaim (two hosts or double camp). The two camps may be God’s army (Gen. 32:2) and Jacob’s entourage. Or two hosts may be a figurative expression for a great multitude (Gen. 32:10). As Jacob neared the land, he remembered his brother Esau and feared revenge. Would Esau still be angry at the way he had been cheated out of the blessing? First, Jacob sent messengers to Esau with greetings of peace. Then when he heard that Esau was coming to meet him with a band of four hundred men, he was so terrified that he divided his family into two groups, so that if the first group was destroyed, the second could flee.

Jacob’s prayer was born out of a desperate sense of need for divine protection. It was based on the ground of covenant relationship which the Lord had established with him and his forefathers, and it was prayed in humility of spirit. He based his plea on the word of the Lord and claimed the promises of God.

The best prayer comes from a strong inward necessity.

Read Gen. 32:13-21

Jacob next sent three successive droves of animals totaling 580 head as gifts for Esau, hoping to appease him. Esau would get the gift in three installments. Jacob’s maneuvers manifested his mixture of faith and unbelief.

Read Gen. 32:22-32

After sending his immediate family across the stream Jabbok (he will empty), Jacob spent the night alone at Peniel for what was to be one of the great experiences of his life. A Man wrestled with him. That Man was the Angel of Jehovah, the Lord Himself. The Lord put the socket of Jacob’s hip out of joint, causing him to walk with a limp the rest of his life. Although Jacob lost the encounter physically, he won a great spiritual victory. He learned to triumph through defeat and to be strong through weakness. Emptied of self and of confidence in his own cleverness, he confessed he was Jacob, a supplanter, a “con man.” God then changed his name to Israel (variously translated as “God rules,” “one who strives with God,” or “a prince of God”). Jacob called the name of the place Peniel (the face of God) because he realized he had seen the Lord. Gen. 32:32 is still true among Jews today; in that the sciatic nerve, or thigh vein, must be removed from the slaughtered animal before that portion of the animal may be prepared for consumption by orthodox Jews.