Genesis 31


Laban and his sons envy Jacob, 1, 2;

on which he is commanded by the Lord to return to his own country, 3.

Having called his wives together, he lays before them a detailed

statement of his situation in reference to their father, 4-5;

the services he had rendered him, 6;

the various attempts made by Laban to defraud him of his hire, 7;

how, by God's providence, his evil designs had been counteracted,


and then informs them that he is now called to return to his

own country, 13.

To the proposal of an immediate departure, Leah and Rachel

agree; and strengthen the propriety of the measure by

additional reasons, 14-16;

on which Jacob collects all his family, his flocks and his goods,

and prepares for his departure, 17, 18.

Laban having gone to shear his sheep, Rachel secretes his images, 19.

Jacob and his family, unknown to Laban, take their departure, 20, 21.

On the third day Laban is informed of their flight, 22;

and pursues them to Mount Gilead, 23.

God appears to Laban in a dream, and warns him not to molest Jacob,


He comes up with Jacob at Mount Gilead, 25;

reproaches him with his clandestine departure, 26-29;

and charges him with having stolen his gods, 30.

Jacob vindicates himself, and protests his innocence in the

matter of the theft, 31, 32.

Laban makes a general search for his images in Jacob's, Leah's,

Bilhah's, and Zilpah's tents; and not finding them, proceeds to

examine Rachel's, 33.

Rachel, having hidden them among the camel's furniture, sat

upon them, 34;

and making a delicate excuse for not rising up, Laban desists

from farther search, 35.

Jacob, ignorant of Rachel's theft, reproaches Laban for his

suspicions, 36, 37;

enumerates his long and faithful services, his fatigues, and

Laban's injustice, 38-41;

and shows that it was owing to God's goodness alone that he

had any property, 42.

Laban is moderated, and proposes a covenant, 43, 44.

Jacob sets up a stone, and the rest bring stones and make a heap,

which Laban calleth Jegar-Sahadutha, and Jacob Galeed, 45-47.

They make a covenant, and confirm it by an oath, 48-53.

Jacob offers a sacrifice; they eat together; and Laban and his

companions, having lodged in the mount all night, take a friendly

leave of Jacob and his family next morning, and depart, 54, 55.


Verse 1. And he heard the words of Laban's sons] The

multiplication of Jacob's cattle, and the decrease and degeneracy

of those of Laban, were sufficient to arouse the jealousy of

Laban's sons. This, with Laban's unfair treatment, and the

direction he received from God, determined him to return to his

own country.

Hath he gotten all this glory.] All these riches, this wealth,

or property. The original word signifies both to be rich and

to be heavy; and perhaps for this simple reason, that riches ever

bring with them heavy weight and burden of cares and anxieties.

Verse 3. And the Lord said unto Jacob, Return-and I will be

with thee.] I will take the same care of thee in thy return, as I

took of thee on thy way to this place. The Targum reads, My WORD

shall be for thy help, see Ge 15:1. A promise of this kind was

essentially necessary for the encouragement of Jacob, especially

at this time; and no doubt it was a powerful means of support to

him through the whole journey; and it was particularly so when he

heard that his brother was coming to meet him, with four hundred

men in his retinue, Ge 32:6. At that time he went and pleaded

the very words of this promise with God, Ge 32:9.

Verse 4. Jacob sent and called Rachel and Leah] He had probably

been at some considerable distance with the flocks; and for the

greater secrecy, he rather sends for them to the field, to consult

them on this most momentous affair, than visit them in their

tents, where probably some of the family of Laban might overhear

their conversation, though Laban himself was at the time three

days' journey off. It is possible that Jacob shore his sheep at

the same time; and that he sent for his wives and household

furniture to erect tents on the spot, that they might partake of

the festivities usual on such occasions. Thus they might all

depart without being suspected.

Verse 7. Changed my wages ten times] There is a strange

diversity among the ancient versions, and ancient and modern

interpreters, on the meaning of these words. The Hebrew is

asereth monim, which Aquila translates δεκααριθμους ten

numbers; Symmachus, δεκακιςαριτμω, ten times in number; the

Septuagint δεκααμνων, ten lambs, with which Origen appears to

agree. St. Augustine thinks that by ten lambs five years' wages is

meant: that Laban had withheld from him all the party-coloured

lambs which had been brought forth for five years, and because the

ewes brought forth lambs twice in the year, bis gravidae pecudes,

therefore the number ten is used, Jacob having been defrauded of

his part of the produce of ten births. It is supposed that the

Septuagint use lambs for years, as Virgil does aristas.

En unquam patrios longo post tempore fines,

Pauperis et tuguri congestum cespite culmen,

Post aliquot mea regna videns mirabor aristas?

Virg. Ec. i., ver. 68.

Thus inadequately translated by DRYDEN:��

O must the wretched exiles ever mourn;

Nor, after length of rolling years, return?

Are we condemn'd by Fate's unjust decree,

No more our harvests and our homes to see?

Or shall we mount again the rural throng,

And rule the country, kingdoms once our own?

Here aristas, which signifies ears of corn, is put for harvest,

harvest for autumn, and autumn for years. After all, it is most

natural to suppose that Jacob uses the word ten times for an

indefinite number, which we might safely translate frequently; and

that it means an indefinite number in other parts of the sacred

writings, is evident from Le 26:26:

TEN women shall bake your bread in one oven. Ec 7:19:

Wisdom strengtheneth the wise more than TEN mighty men the city.

Nu 14:22:

Because all these men have tempted me now these TEN times.

Job 19:3:

These TEN times have ye reproached me. Zec 8:23:

In those days-TEN men shall take hold of the skirt of him that

is a Jew. Re 2:10:

Ye shall have tribulation TEN days.

Verse 11. The angel of God spake unto me in a dream] It is

strange that we had not heard of this dream before; and yet it

seems to have taken place before the cattle brought forth,

immediately after the bargain between him and Laban. If we follow

the Samaritan the difficulty is at once removed, for it gives us

the whole of this dream after Ge 30:36 of the preceding chapter,

Verse 12. Grisled] beruddim; barad

signifies hail, and the meaning must be, they had white spots on

them similar to hail. Our word grisled comes from the old French,

gresl�, hail, now written gr�le; hence gresl�, grisled, spotted

with white upon a dark ground.

Verse 15. Are we not counted of him strangers?] Rachel and Leah,

who well knew the disposition of their father, gave him here his

true character. He has treated us as strangers-as slaves whom he

had a right to dispose of as he pleased; in consequence, he hath

sold us-disposed of us on the mere principle of gaining by the


And hath quite devoured also our money.] Has applied to his

own use the profits of the sale, and has allowed us neither

portion nor inheritance.

Verse 19. Laban went to shear his sheep] Laban had gone; and

this was a favourable time not only to take his images, but to

return to Canaan without being perceived.

Rachel had stolen the images] teraphim. What the

teraphim were is utterly unknown. In Ge 31:30 they are termed

elohai, gods; and to some it appears very likely that they

were a sort of images devoted to superstitious purposes, not

considered as gods, but as representatives of certain Divine

attributes, Dr. Shuckford supposes them to be a sort of tiles, on

which the names or figures of their ancestors were engraven.

Theodoret, in his 89th question, calls them idols; and says that

Rachel, who was a type of the true Church, stole them from her

father that he might be delivered from idolatry. R. S. Jarchi

gives nearly the same reason.

The Targum of Jonathan ben Uzziel gives a strange turn to the

whole passage. "And Rachel stole the images of her father: for

they had murdered a man, who was a first-born son; and having cut

off his head, they embalmed it with salt and spices, and they

wrote divinations upon a plate of gold, and put it under his

tongue; and placed it against the wall, and it conversed with

them, and Laban worshipped it. And Jacob stole the science of

Laban the Syrian, that it might not discover his departure."

If the word be derived from rapha, to heal or restore,

then the teraphim may be considered as a sort of talismans, kept

for the purpose of averting and curing diseases; and probably were

kept by Laban for the same purpose that the Romans kept their

lares and penates. It is however possible that teraphim

is the same as seraphim, the tau and sin

being changed, which is very frequent in the Syrian or Chaldee

language; and we know that Laban was an Aramean or Syrian. FIRE

has been considered from the earliest ages as a symbol of the

Deity; and as the word seraphim comes from saraph, to burn,

it has been conjectured that the teraphim of Laban were luminous

forms, prepared of burnished brass, &c., which he might imagine a

proper medium of communication between God and his worshippers.

Mr. Parkhurst has observed that the teraphim were in use among

believers and unbelievers. Among the former, see this chapter;

for he denies that Laban was an idolater. See also

Jud 17:5;18:14,18,20; 1Sa 19:13,16. Among the latter, see

2Ki 23:24; Eze 21:21; Zec 10:2. Compare 1Sa 15:23, and

Ho 3:4. These are all the places in which the original word is


The Persian translator seems to have considered these teraphim

as tables or instruments that served for purposes of judicial

astrology, and hence translates the word [Persian] asterlabha,

astrolabes. As the astrolabe was an instrument with which they

took the altitude of the pole-star, the sun, &c., it might, in the

notion of the Persian translator, imply tables, &c., by which the

culminating of particular stars might be determined, and the whole

serve for purposes of judicial astrology. Now as many who have

professed themselves to be believers in Christianity, have

nevertheless addicted themselves to judicial astrology, we might

suppose such a thing in this case, and still consider Laban as no

idolater. If the Persian translator has not hit on the true

meaning, he has formed the most likely conjecture.

Verse 21. Passed over the river] The Euphrates, as the Targum

properly notices. But how could he pass such a river with his

flocks, &c.? This difficulty does not seem to have struck critics

in general. The rabbins felt it, and assert that God wrought a

miracle for Jacob on this occasion, and that he passed over dry

shod. As we know not in what other way he could pass, it is

prudent to refer it to the power of God, which accompanied him

through the whole of his journey. There might, however, have been

fords well known to both Jacob and Laban, by which they might

readily pass.

The mount Gilead.] What the ancient name of this mountain was,

we know not; but it is likely that it had not the name of Gilead

till after the transaction mentioned Ge 31:47. The mountains of

Gilead were eastward of the country possessed by the tribes of

Reuben and Gad; and extended from Mount Hermon to the mountains of

Moab.-Calmet. It is joined to Mount Libanus, and includes the

mountainous region called in the New Testament Trachonitis.-Dodd.

Verse 24. And God came to Laban] God's caution to Laban was of

high importance to Jacob-Take heed that thou speak not to Jacob

either good or bad; or rather, as is the literal meaning of the

Hebrew, mittob ad ra, from good to evil; for had

he neither spoken good nor evil to Jacob, they could have had no

intercourse at all. The original is, therefore, peculiarly

appropriate; for when people meet, the language at first is the

language of friendship; the command therefore implies, "Do not

begin with Peace be unto thee, and then proceed to injurious

language and acts of violence." If this Divine direction were

attended to, how many of those affairs of honour, so termed, which

commence with, "I hope you are well"-"I am infinitely glad to see

you"-"I am happy to see you well," &c., and end with small swords

and pistol bullets, would be prevented! Where God and true

religion act, all is fair, kind, honest, and upright; but where

these are not consulted, all is hollow, deceitful, or malicious.

Beware of unmeaning compliments, and particularly of saying what

thy heart feels not. God hates a hypocrite and a deceiver.

Verse 27. I might have sent thee away with mirth] ,

besimchah, with rejoicing, making a feast or entertainment on

the occasion; and with songs, beshirim, odes either in the

praise of God, or to commemorate the splendid acts of their

ancestors; with tabret, bethoph, the tympanum used in

the east to the present day, and there called [Arabic] diff, a

thin broad wooden hoop, with parchment extended over one end of

it, to which are attached small pieces of brass, tin, &c., which

make a jingling noise; it is held in the air with one hand, and

beat on with the fingers of the other. It appears to have been

precisely the same with that which is called the tambourine and

which is frequently to be met with in our streets. And with harp,

bekinnor, a sort of stringed instrument, a lute or harp;

probably the same as the Greek κινυρα kinura, a harp; the name

being evidently borrowed from the Hebrew. These four things seem

to include all that was used in those primitive times, as

expressive of gladness and satisfaction on the most joyous


Verse 29. It is in the power of my hand to do you hurt]

Literally, My hand is unto God to do you evil, i.e., I have vowed

to God that I will punish thee for thy flight, and the stealing of

my teraphim; but the God of YOUR father has prevented me from

doing it. It is a singular instance that the plural pronoun, when

addressing an individual, should be twice used in this place-the

God of your father, abichem, for abicha, thy


Verse 32. Let him not live] It appears that anciently theft was

punished by death; and we know that the patriarchs had the power

of life and death in their hands. But previously to the law, the

punishment of death was scarcely ever inflicted but for murder.

The rabbins consider that this was an imprecation used by Jacob,

as if he had said, Let God take away the life of the person who

has stolen them! And that this was answered shortly after in the

death of Rachel, Ge 35:16-19.

Verse 35. The custom of women is upon me.] This she knew must be

a satisfactory reason to her father; for if the teraphim were used

to any religious purpose, and they seem to have been used in this

way, as Laban calls them his gods, he therefore could not suspect

that a woman in such a situation, whose touch was considered as

defiling, would have sat upon articles that were either the

objects of his adoration, or used for any sacred purpose. The

stratagem succeeded to her wish, and Laban departed without

suspicion. It seems very natural to suppose that Rachel did

believe that by the use of these teraphim Laban could find out

their flight, and the direction they took, and therefore she stole

them; and having stolen them she was afraid to acknowledge the

theft, and probably might think that they might be of some use to

herself. Therefore, for these reasons, she brought them away.

Verse 36. And Jacob was wroth, and chode with Laban] The

expostulation of Jacob with Laban, and their consequent agreement,

are told in this place with great spirit and dignity. Jacob was

conscious that though he had made use of cunning to increase his

flocks, yet Laban had been on the whole a great gainer by his

services. He had served him at least twenty years, fourteen for

Rachel and Leah, and six for the cattle; and some suppose he had

served him twenty years besides the above, which is not unlikely:

see the remarks at the conclusion of this chapter.

See Clarke on Ge 31:55

Forty or even twenty years of a man's life, devoted to incessant

labour and constantly exposed to all the inclemencies of the

weather, (see Ge 31:40,) deserve more than an ordinary reward.

Laban's constitutional sin was covetousness, and it was an easily

besetting sin; for it appears to have governed all his conduct,

and to have rendered him regardless of the interests of his

children, so long as he could secure his own. That he had

frequently falsified his agreement with Jacob, though the

particulars are not specified, we have already had reason to

conjecture from Ge 31:7, and with this Jacob charges his

father-in-law, in the most positive manner, Ge 31:41. Perhaps

some previous unfair transactions of this kind were the cause why

Jacob was led to adopt the expedient of outwitting Laban in the

case of the spotted, spangled, ring-streaked, and grisled cattle.

This if it did take place, though it cannot justify the measure,

is some palliation of it; and almost the whole of Jacob's conduct,

as far as relates to Laban, can be better excused than his

injuring Laban's breed, by leaving him none but the weak,

unhealthy, and degenerated cattle.

Verse 39. That which was torn-of my hand didst thou require it]

This more particularly marks the covetous and rigorous disposition

of Laban; for the law of God required that what had been torn by

beasts the shepherd should not be obliged to make good,

Ex 22:10,13. And it is very likely that this law was in force

from the earliest times.

Verse 40. In the day the drought consumed me, and the frost by

night] The being exposed to the heat by day, and frost by

night, is made part of the heaviest punishment of Promethus by






AEschyl. Prom. Vinc., v. 22.

Opposed to the sun's most fervid beam,

The hue of beauty changed; till parch'd by heat

The night with spangled stole shall hide its light

From thee rejoicing, but again the sun

Chases the hoar frost from thy harass'd form.

J. B. B. C.

Verse 41. Twenty years] See the remarks at the end.

See Clarke on Ge 31:55.

Verse 42. The fear of Isaac] It is strange that Jacob should

say, the GOD of Abraham and the FEAR of Isaac, when both words are

meant of the same Being. The reason perhaps was this; Abraham was

long since dead, and God was his unalienable portion for ever.

Isaac was yet alive in a state of probation, living in the fear of

God, not exempt from the danger of falling; therefore God is said

to be his fear��not only the object of his religious worship in a

general way, but that holy and just God before whom he was still

working out his salvation with fear and trembling��fear lest he

should fall, and trembling lest he should offend.

Verse 46. Made a heap] gal, translated heap, signifies

properly a round heap; and this heap was probably made for the

double purpose of an altar and a table, and Jacob's stone or

pillar was set on it for the purpose of a memorial.

Verse 47. Laban called it Jegar-sahadutha] yegar

sahadutha, the heap or round heap of witness; but Jacob called it

galed, which signifies the same thing. The first is pure

Chaldee, the second pure Hebrew. agar signifies to

collect, hence yegar and ogar, a collection or

heap made up of gathered stones; and hence also egora, an

altar, used frequently by the Chaldee paraphrast. See

1Ki 12:33; Jud 6:31; 2Ki 21:3; Jer 17:1. See

Castel's Lexicon. From this example we may infer that the

Chaldee language was nearly coequal with the Hebrew. A gloss made

by St. Jerome, and which was probably only entered by him in his

margin as a note, has crept into the text of the Vulgate. It is

found in every copy of this version, and is as follows: Uterque

juxta proprietatem linguae suae, Each according to the idiom of

his own tongue.

Verse 48. See Clarke on Ge 31:49.

Verse 48. - 49. I think these two verses are badly divided, and

should be read thus:��

Ver. 48. And Laban said, This heap is a witness between me and

thee this day.

Ver. 49. Therefore was the name of it called Galeed and Mizpah;

for he said, The Lord watch between me and thee, when we are

absent one from another.

Mizpah] mitspah signifies a watch-tower; and Laban

supposes that in consequence of the consecration of the place, and

the covenant now solemnly made and ratified, that God would take

possession of this heap, and stand on it as on a watch-tower, to

prevent either of them from trenching on the conditions of their


Verse 50. No man is with us] Though all were present at the

sacrifice offered, yet it appears that in making the contract

Jacob and Laban withdrew, and transacted the business in private,

calling on God to witness it.

Jacob had already four wives; but Laban feared that he might

take others, whose children would naturally come in for a share of

the inheritance to the prejudice of his daughters and

grandchildren. Though the Koran allows a man to have four wives if

he can maintain them, yet we learn that in many cases where a man

takes a wife, the parents or relatives of the woman stipulate that

the man is not to take another during the lifetime of that one

whom he now espouses; and notwithstanding the permission of the

Koran, he is obliged to fulfil this agreement.

Verse 51. And Laban said to Jacob-behold this pillar, which I

have cast betwixt me and thee] But this pillar, not cast but set

up, was certainly set up by Jacob; for in Ge 31:45 we read,

And Jacob took a stone, and set it up for a pillar: it is

therefore for the honour of one Hebrew and one Samaritan MS. that

they have preserved the true reading in Ge 31:51,

yaritha, THOU hast set up.-Kennicott. Instead of either of the

above readings the Samaritan text has [Samaritan] yarata, The

pillar which thou SEEST betwixt me and thee.

Verse 53. The God of their father] As Laban certainly speaks of

the true God here, with what propriety can he say that this God

was the God of Terah, the father of Abraham and Nahor? It is

certain that Terah was an idolater; of this we have the most

positive proof, Jos 24:2. Because the clause is not in the

Septuagint, and is besides wanting in some MSS., Dr. Kennicott

considers it an interpolation. But there is no need of having

recourse to this expedient if we adopt the reading abichem,

YOUR father, for abihem, THEIR father, which is

supported by several of Kennicott's and De Rossi's MSS., and is

precisely the same form made use of by Laban, Ge 31:29, when

addressing Jacob, and appears to me to be used here in the same

way; for he there most manifestly uses the plural pronoun, when

speaking only to Jacob himself. It is therefore to be considered

as a form of speech peculiar to Laban; at least we have two

instances of his use of it in this chapter.

Jacob sware by the fear of his father Isaac.]

See Clarke on Ge 31:42.

Verse 54. Offered sacrifice upon the mount] It is very likely

that Laban joined in this solemn religious rite, and that, having

offered the blood and fat to God, they feasted upon the sacrifice.

Verse 55. Kissed his sons and his daughters] That is, his

grandchildren, Jacob's eleven sons with Dinah their sister, and

their mothers Leah and Rachel. All these he calls his children,

Ge 31:43.

And blessed them-prayed heartily for their prosperity, though we

find from Ge 31:29 that he came having bound himself by a vow to

God to do them some injury. Thus God turned his intended curse

into a blessing.

THE most important topics in this chapter have already been

considered in the notes, and to those the reader is referred.

Jacob's character we have already seen, and hitherto have met in

it little to admire; but we shall soon find a blessed change both

in his mind and in his conduct. Laban's character appears in

almost every instance to disadvantage; he does not seem to be what

we commonly term a wicked man, but he was certainly both weak and

covetous; and covetousness extinguished in him, as it does in

all its votaries, the principles of righteousness and benevolence,

and the very charities of human life. Provided he could get an

increase of property, he regarded not who was wronged or who

suffered. In this case he hid himself even from his own bowels,

and cared not that his own children should lack even the

necessaries of life, provided he could increase his own store! How

watchful should we be against this destructive, unnatural, and

degrading vice! It is impossible for a man who loves money to

love either God or man; and consequently he must be in the broad

way that leads to destruction.

For the difficulties in the chronology of Jacob's sojourning in

Padan-aram, I beg leave to refer to the following remarks.

Remarks upon Ge 31:38, &c., relative to the time spent by

Jacob in the service of his father-in-law Laban, in Mesopotamia;

from Dr. Kennicott.

"If every reading which introduces but a single difficulty

demands our attention, much greater must that demand be when

several difficulties are caused by any one mistake, or any one

mistranslation. Of this nature is the passage before us, which

therefore shall be here considered more fully, especially as I

have not already submitted to the learned any remarks upon this

subject. Jacob's age at the time of his going to Laban, has (till

very lately) been fixed, perhaps universally, at seventy-seven

years. But I think it has been shown by the learned Mr. Skinner,

in an excellent dissertation, (4to. 1765,) that the number

seventy-seven cannot here be right.

"Jacob was one hundred and thirty when he went down (with

sixty-six persons) into Egypt. Joseph had then been governor

ten years; and when made governor was thirty; therefore Jacob

could not be more than ninety at the birth of Joseph. Now, upon

supposition that Jacob was seventy-seven at going to Laban, and

that he had no son till he was eighty-five, and that he, with

eleven sons, left Laban at ninety-seven, there will follow these

amongst other strange consequences which are enumerated by Mr.

Skinner page 11, &c.:

1. Though Isaac and Esau married at forty, Jacob goes at

seventy-seven to look for a wife, and agrees to marry her seven

years after.

2. Issachar is born after the affair of the mandrakes, which

Reuben finds and brings home when he (Reuben) was about four years

old; that is, if Issachar was born before Joseph, agreeably to

Ge 30:18,25.

3. Judah begets Er at thirteen; for in the first of the

following tables Judah is born in Jacob's year eighty-eight, and

Er in one hundred and two.

4. Er marries at nine, and is destroyed for profligacy. Er,

born one hundred and two, marries in one hundred and eleven. See

also Ge 38:7.

5. Onan marries at eight; for Onan, born in one hundred and

three, marries in one hundred and eleven.

6. Shelah, being grown at ten, ought to be married; for Shelah,

born in one hundred and four, is marriageable, but not married to

Tamar in one hundred and fourteen. See Ge 38:14.

7. Pharez kept from marrying while young, yet has a son at

thirteen; for Pharez, born in one hundred and fifteen, had two

sons at going to Egypt in one hundred and thirty.

8. Esau goes to Ishmael and marries his daughter, after Jacob

went to Laban at seventy-seven; though Ishmael died when Jacob was


9. If Jacob had no son till he was eighty-five, and if Joseph

was born when his father was ninety, then the eleven sons and

Dinah were born in five years.

Lastly, if Jacob had no son till eighty-five, and he went to

Egypt at one hundred and thirty, with sixty-six persons, only

forty-five years are allowed for his family; whereas the larger

sum of sixty-five years seems necessary for the births of so many

children and grandchildren. On this subject Le Clerc has

pronounced, Hisce in rebus occurrunt nodi, quos nemo hactenus

solvit; neque porro, ut opinor, solvet. There are difficulties

here which have never been explained, and in my opinion never can

be explained. But upon the single principle of Mr. Skinner, that

Jacob went to Laban at fifty-seven, (instead of seventy-seven,)

these difficulties are solved. And it only remains to wish that

some authority may be found to support this conjecture, thus

strongly founded on the exigentia loci. The common opinion is

formed by reckoning back from the age of Joseph, when governor of

Egypt, to the time of his birth, and from the twenty years which

Jacob was with Laban. This number, Mr. Skinner thinks, was

originally forty; and I think that the Hebrew text as it now

stands confirms the conjecture, and furnishes the very authority

which is so much wanted.

"After Jacob had served Laban fourteen years for his two wives,

where was Jacob to reside? Esau was still living; and Jacob might

well be afraid of returning to him, till more years of absence had

disarmed his resentment; and had the death of Esau happened, Jacob

would then have been secure. But let us also remember that Isaac

was still alive, and that Esau had determined to kill Jacob

whenever their father should die. It would therefore be no wonder

if Jacob should have desired to continue longer in Haran. And to

carry this point more effectually, he might offer to take care of

Laban's cattle, and to live in his neighbourhood, upon such terms

of advantage to Laban as could not easily be withstood. Lastly,

when the good effects to Laban from this connection had been

experienced, without profit, nay with some losses, to Jacob, for

twenty years, Jacob might naturally grow tired of thus assisting

Laban without providing for his own growing family. Accordingly we

find that Jacob covenants with Laban for six years of more close

attendance and service in Laban's own house, for which the wages

were expressly settled. Agreeable to the preceding possibilities

seems to have been the fact, Jacob living in Haran forty years,

and in this manner:-

14 years in Laban's house, a covenant servant

������for his wives.

20 in Laban's neighbourhood, as a friend.

6 in Laban's house, a covenant servant

������for cattle.



"Now the twenty concurrent years of neighbourly assistance, and

the disjointed twenty of covenant service, seem both of them

distinguished in the history itself. For upon Laban's pursuit of

Jacob he mentions twenty years twice; which two sets of twenty, if

really different, make forty. Each mention of the twenty years is

introduced with the word zeh, which word, when repeated, is

used by way of distinction; as when we say, this and that, the one

or the other. Thus, Ex 14:20:

So that the one came not near the other. Ec 6:5:

This hath more rest than the other. And with the two words at a

great distance, Job 21:23:

One dieth; Job 21:25; and

another dieth, &c. So here, in Ge 31:38, Jacob says to Laban,

zeh esrim shanah anochi immach, during the

ONE set of twenty years I was with thee, &c.; meaning the time in

which he lived, not in Laban's house, but in his neighbourhood;

not as a servant, but a friend; after he had served in Laban's

house fourteen years for his daughters, and before he served six

years for his cattle. But then, as to the other twenty, he tells

Laban, at Ge 31:41, varying the phrase very remarkably

zeh li esrim shanah bebeithecha abadticha,

during the other twenty years ( li) FOR MYSELF (for my own

benefit) IN THY HOUSE; I served thee fourteen years, and six

years, &c. And during this last period, though only six years,

he charges Laban with changing his wages ten times. So that Jacob

insists upon having well earned his wages through the twenty years

when he served for hire; but he makes a far greater merit of

having, for another twenty years, assisted him without wages, and

even with some losses; and therefore, with particular propriety,

he reminds Laban of that set of twenty years in the first place.

The following Tables, taken chiefly from Mr. Skinner, will

greatly elucidate the true chronology of Jacob:

TABLE 1.-On Jacob's being at Haran only twenty years.

0 Jacob (and Esau) born.

40 Esau marries two wives, Hittites...........Ge 26:34.

63 Ishmael dies, aged 137.....................Ge 25:17.

77 Jacob goes to Haran.

84 marries Leah and Rachel.................Ge 29:20,21,27,28.

85 REUBEN born of Leah *

86 SIMEON do. �*.....................Ge 29:32-35.

87 LEVI do. �*

88 JUDAH do. *

89 Dan born of Bilhah *

Naphtali do. �

Gad born of Zilpah �*

Asher do. � ...............Ge 30:6-24.

ISSACHAR born of Leah �*

ZEBULUN and Dinah do. �

91 JOSEPH born of Rachel *

97 Jacob returns from Haran.

98 dwells in Succoth.

99 comes to Shalem, and continues there eight years.

101 Judah marries Shuah's daughter.

102 Er born,-103 Onan,-104 Shelah.

106 Shechemites destroyed by Simeon and Levi.

107 BENJAMIN is born, and Rachel dies.

108 Joseph sold when seventeen.................Ge 37:2.

111 Tamar married to Er, and immediately afterwards to Onan.

114 Tamar's incest with Judah.

115 Pharez and Zarah born to Judah.

120 Isaac dies, aged 180.......................Ge 35:28.

121 Joseph is made governor of Egypt...........Ge 41:46.

130 Jacob goes into Egypt............................Ge 47:9.

147 and dies................................Ge 47:28; 49:33.

TABLE II.-On Jacob's being at Haran forty years.

0 Jacob (and Esau) born.

40 Esau marries two wives, Hittites...........Ge 26:34.

1 57 Jacob goes to Haran.

4 58 Esau goes to Ishmael, and marries his daughter.Ge 28:9.

y 63 Ishmael dies, aged 137...................Ge 25:17.

e 64 Jacob marries Leah and Rachel.................Ge 29:20,21,27,28.

a 65 Reuben born of Leah *

r 66 Simeon do. �*...................Ge 29:32-35.

s 67 Levi do. �*

68 Judah do. *

s Rachel, not bearing, gives Bilhah *

v 69 Dan born of Bilhah �

c 71 Naphtali do. �

Leah, not bearing, gives Zilpah �

2 �*...Ge 30:6-24.

0 72 Gad born of Zilpah �*

y 74 Asher do. �

r 78 Reuben at 13 finds the mandrakes �

s 79 Issachar born of Leah �

- 81 Zebulun do. 82 Dinah *

a 86 Judah at 18 marries Shuah's daughter.***

s 87 Er born,-88 Onan,-89 Shelah.

s 91 Joseph born of Rachel.


6 ..................years service for cattle.

97 Jacob comes from Haran to Succoth and Shalem.

Dinah defiled, and the Shechemites destroyed.

98 Benjamin is born, and Rachel dies.

103 Beriah, fourth son of Asher, born.

105 Tamar married to Er-106 to Onan.

108 Joseph, at seventeen, is carried into Egypt..Ge 37:2.

109 Shelah, at twenty, not given to Tamar.

110 Pharez and Zarah born of Tamar, by Judah.

120 Isaac dies, aged 180.....................Ge 35:28.

121 Joseph, at thirty, governor of Egypt.....Ge 41:46.

123 Beriah, at twenty, marries.

125 Heber-127 Malchiel-born to Beriah.

128 Pharez, at eighteen, marries.

129 Hezron-130 Hamul-born to Pharez.

130 Benjamin, at thirty-two, has ten sons.

Jacob goes to Egypt...........................Ge 47:9.

147 ����� and dies............................Ge 47:28; 49:33.

*** Not placed in order of time, Ge 38.

57-71 = 14 years' service.

72-91 = 20 years' assistance.

"Our translation now is, Ge 31:38: 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. Ge 31:39.

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.Ge 31:40.

Thus I was; in the day the drought consumed me, and the frost by

night; and my sleep departed from mine eyes.Ge 31:41. 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.

"The alteration here recommended is this, Ge 31:38: DURING THE

ONE TWENTY YEARS I WAS WITH THEE; thy ewes and thy she-goats have

not cast their young, and the rams, &c., &c.Ge 31:41. DURING THE


same distinction is expressed in Ge 30:29:

Thou knowest how I have served thee, and how thy cattle was with

me; i.e., how I behaved during the time I was with thee as thy

servant, and how thy cattle fared during the time they were with

me as thy friend.

"It must not be omitted that Archbishop Usher and Bishop Lloyd

ascribe sons to Jacob very soon after his coming to Laban; nay,

assert that he was married almost as soon as he came to Haran,

instead of waiting seven years, as he most evidently did. And Mr.

Jackson allows that some of the sons of Benjamin, who are

expressly numbered as going into Egypt with Jacob, might be born

in Egypt! From such distresses, and such contradictions, does the

distinction of two sets of twenty years happily deliver us,"

Hoc temporis intervallo nemo concipere poterit

tot res contingere potuisse. SPINOSA.

In such a short space of time, it is impossible that so many

transactions could have taken place.

I shall leave this subject with chronologers and critics, and

shall not attempt to decide on either opinion. That of Dr.

Kennicott I think the most likely, and to it I have adapted the

chronology in those cases to which it relates; but there are

difficulties in both cases. See Clarke on Ge 38:1.

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