GENESIS - CHAPTER 31
A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough
Copyright 2000 James Melough
31:1. “And he heard the words of Laban’s sons, saying, Jacob hath taken away all that was our father’s; and of that which was our father’s hath he gotten all his glory.”
Since Laban is the representative of the pride of self-righteousness, and since sons represent the activity of a man’s will, the lesson we may learn in this declaration of Laban’s sons is that the self-righteous man is unwilling to give credit to God. He may profess subjection to God, but the truth is that God is left out of his reckoning, not only in regard to his own life, but in regard to the life of others also.
In spite of the fact that God had clearly wrought a miracle in multiplying the off-color animals by which Jacob had been made rich, the language of self-right-eous pride is “Jacob (not God) hath taken away all that was our father’s....” In addition, the claim that the animals were “our father’s” is the refusal to recognize that it was God Who had given them to Laban in the first instance. Self-righteous pride will give God credit for nothing.
31:2. “And Jacob beheld the countenance of Laban, and, behold, it was not toward him as before.”
There was no love lost between Jacob and Laban at the best, but until the time of Joseph’s birth the working relationship between them remained unbroken. That birth, however, which represents the time when a believer begins to “put on” Christ, changed every thing, and the spiritual lesson is easily read: when a man begins to “put on” Christ there can be no longer any relationship between that man and the pride of self-righteousness. That believer will find indeed that the face of “Laban” is “not toward him as before.”
31:3. “And the Lord said unto Jacob, Return unto the land of thy fathers, and to thy kindred; and I will be with thee.”
In losing the favor of Laban Jacob had lost nothing, and he had gained what was priceless - the favor of God. The man who divorces himself from the pride of self-righteousness will have the same experience.
”Return unto the land of thy fathers.” That land was Canaan, the place of blessing, because it is the place that represents obedience. It is the place where God wanted His people to be, and there can be no blessing when we are anywhere else.
“...and to thy kindred.” He was to enjoy the fellowship of those who were of the same stock as he himself. His kindred were those who were of the line of faith. This is the OT presentation of 2 Cor 6:14-18 “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unright-eousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? and what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? ... come out from among them, and be ye separate ... and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.”
31:4. “And Jacob sent and called Rachel and Leah to the field unto his flock.”
The first step in Jacob’s separation from Laban was taken by his calling Rachel and Leah to the field where his flock was. Since Rachel represents the expression of the spiritual life of his new nature,; and Leah, the expression of the spiritual life of his old nature, the lesson we may learn from this is that the man who would be blessed must have every part of his life separated, not only from self-righteous pride, but from all evil. Since all spiritual activity, good or bad, begins in the mind, Jacob’s calling his wives away from Laban’s house may be the symbolic declaration of what is stated in 2 Co 10:5 “bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” It was the same writer who enjoined the Roman believers “... be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind....” (Ro 12:2). Transformation that doesn’t begin in the mind isn’t transformation at all.
With Jacob the transformation was real. Since Rachel and Leah portray that which is essentially activity of the mind, their being called out “to the field unto his flock” tells us, in symbolic language, that Jacob was being transformed by the renewing of his mind.
Since this flock in the field was Jacob’s, not Laban’s, it may represent a company of believers in the world (the field is the symbol of the world). This continues to emphasize the lesson of separation from self-righteous pride, and from every other form of sin.
31:5. “And said unto them, I see your father’s countenance, that it is not toward me as before; but the God of my father hath been with me.”
We are reminded here that Jacob’s wives had also been Laban’s daughters. Until their marriage to Jacob they had been subject to Laban, and it is apparent that even after their marriages he had retained no small degree of control over them, for since he was Jacob’s master it follows that he was their master also. From this we learn the truth that he who will not be subject to Christ must be subject to Satan.
But the birth of Joseph had brought an abrupt change, and as has been noted already, his birth represents the moment in a believer’s life when he begins to “put on Christ.” It is the presence of Christ that reveals the true character of the old master.
“But the God of my father hath been with me.” God had been with Jacob all the time he spent in Haran, but it is significant that it is not recorded until now after the birth of Joseph, for with that birth came also communion with God. He who has Christ also has God, for Christ is God.
31:6. “And ye know that with all my power I have served your father.”
Only the believer who has been awakened to his error knows just how diligent has been his service to pride and self-righteousness.
”Ye know...” His spiritual life had been aware of it all along, but the spiritual life of his old nature, expressed by Leah, was indifferent, while the spiritual life of his new nature, expressed by Rachel, had been powerless to do anything about it. A man’s spiritual life is subject to his control, and if he places himself in bondage to sin, his spiritual life must endure that same bondage.
31:7. “And your father hath deceived me, and changed my wages ten times; but God suffered him not to hurt me.”
Satan, whom Laban typifies, is the arch deceiver, but it is only the awakened man (sinner and backslidden saint alike) who discovers the full extent of the deceit.
The wages, changed ten times, tell of the endless variety of Satan’s inducements to keep men bound to his service. Whatever man desires, be it wealth, fame, pleasure, Satan will give as wages, but he is under the necessity to keep changing those wages, for the simple reason that none of them can give lasting satisfaction, and as the power of one begins to lose its attraction he must substitute another.
Jacob isn’t the only one whose wages have been changed ten times!
“... but God suffered him not to hurt me.” God all too often finds it necessary to leave His disobed-ient child in the hand of the Deceiver, so that he may learn by bitter experience what he refused to learn by precept. But He watches no less carefully over the disobedient than the obedient child. He may make the Deceiver His instrument of chastisement, but He will not permit the Deceiver to “hurt” one of His own. Job is a case in point, “The Lord said unto Satan, Behold, he is in thine hand; but save his life” (Job 2:6). The Deceiver can’t go beyond what God permits, and He will not permit one of His own to perish.
31:8. “If he said thus, The speckled shall be thy wages; then all the cattle bare speckled: and if he said thus: The ring straked shall be thy hire; then bare all the cattle ringstraked.”
This demonstrates the truth that if God be for us none can be against us. It was God, Who by His own miraculous power, multiplied Jacob’s wealth, and Laban was powerless to do anything to thwart God’s purpose.
It is the same in regard to God’s purposes for His own today: there is no power, human or demonic, that can thwart God in working all things together for our good, (Ro 8:28).
31:9. “Thus God hath taken away the cattle of your father, and given them to me.”
After all the years of his own fruitless effort to outwit Laban, and make himself rich, Jacob had learned the truth of Ps 75:6-7, “For promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south. But God is the judge: He putteth down one, and setteth up another.” (It is significant to note that there are only three compass directions from which promotion doesn’t come. By implication, the north is the direction from which promotion does come; and in this we may learn that God’s dwelling place is not just anywhere in space, but specifically in the northern heavens. This is confirmed by other Scriptures, for example, Isa 14:12 “How art thou fallen from heaven 0, Lucifer, son of the morning.... For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven ... I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north.... I will be like the most High”).
31:10. “And it came to pass at the time that the cattle conceived, that I lifted up mine eyes, and saw in a dream, and, behold, the rams which leaped upon the cattle were ringstraked, speckled, and grisled.”
As has been noted in our study of chapter 30:31- 33, it was by God’s direction that Jacob contracted with Laban to accept the off-color animals for his wages. It is often by means inexplicable to mere human intelligence, that God accomplishes our good, “Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Co 1:25).
31:11. “And the angel of God spake unto me in a dream, saying, Jacob: And I said, Here am I.”
This is the first recorded communication that Jacob had from God since his departure from Bethel, and a comparison of chapters 30:35 and 31:11-13 would seem to indicate that it was given when Joseph was born. We have already noted that Joseph’s birth represents the time when a believer begins to “put on Christ,” that is, when he begins to walk obediently before God. It isn’t difficult to read the spiritual lesson in this. He who would enjoy God’s guidance and blessing must be obedient.
In the angel’s addressing Jacob by name we are reminded that our relationship with God is a very personal thing. “He calleth His own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.... And the sheep follow him: for they know his voice” (Jn 10:3-4).
31:12. “And he said, Lift up now thine eyes, and see, all the rams which leap upon the cattle are ringstraked, speckled, and grisled: for I have seen all that Laban doeth unto thee.”
In Zec 2:8 it is written concerning Israel, “He that toucheth you toucheth the apple of His eye,” and in Mt 25:40 it is written concerning spiritual Israel, the Church, “In as much as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”
”... for I have seen all that Laban doeth unto thee.” Unknown to both Jacob and Laban, the watchful eye of God beheld all that was done, and disobedient though Jacob might have been, the moment he cast himself upon God, God began to avenge him. The wages withheld by Laban were made up in fullest measure. When God gave to Jacob the flocks that had once been Laban’s, He was acting as He did later in regard to the Egyptians’ treatment of Israel, for in Ex 3:9 we read, “Now, therefore, Behold, the cry of the children of Israel is come unto me: and I have also seen the oppression wherewith the Egyptians oppressed them.” On the night when God slew the firstborn of the Egyptians, and delivered His own people, He made sure that all the long-withheld wages were paid in full, for in Ex 12:35 we read, “And the children of Israel did according to the word of Moses; and they demanded (not “borrowed” as in the KJ version) of the Egyptians jewels of silver and jewels of gold, and raiment.... And they spoiled the Egyptians.”
We would save ourselves much needless concern if we simply left our case in God’s hand. He will vindicate His own far better than they ever could.
31:13. “I am the God of Bethel, where thou anointedst the pillar, and where thou vowedst a vow unto me: now arise, get thee out from this land, and return unto the land of thy kindred.”
Since Bethel means house of God this statement declares that God is the God of His own house. He rules it, as He does all things, for the blessing of those who will dwell eternally in that house.
For the significance of Jacob’s having anointed the pillar, and having vowed a vow, see the notes on chapter 28:18. In that chapter we have the record of the covenant that God made with Jacob, and the intervening years have been the witness to God’s faithfulness.
”Get thee out from this land.” Haran, as we have seen, represents the dwelling place of pride and self-righteousness. A believer has no business to be there, and God’s command to Jacob to get out of it should teach us that God is just as displeased today as He was then, when a believer chooses to “dwell” where pride and self-righteousness reign.
”Return unto the land of thy kindred.” Jacob’s kindred were those who were of the household of faith, and their land was Canaan. It was the land God had promised to give them, and in which He had promised to bless them. As the place of God’s appointment for His people it represents the sphere of blessing into which faith brings the believer. It is interesting to note that with the Canaanite trafficker dwelling there, it is synonymous with disobedience. The lesson we may learn from this is that the spiritual Canaanite (one who trafficks in spiritual things for temporal gain) has no business being there, nor does the spiritual Israelite have any business being anywhere else. The unbeliever has no right to be in the place that belongs only to faith, nor does the man of faith have any right to be dwelling in the place that belongs to the ungodly.
“The land of thy kindred” speaks of fellowship, reminding us that believers can’t have true fellowship with any except those who are also believers. We are commanded not to forsake “the assembling of yourselves together” (Heb 10:25).
31:14. “And Rachel and Leah answered and said unto him, Is there yet any portion or inheritance for us in our father’s house?”
It should be noted that here and in verse four Rachel, the younger is mentioned first. Laban, who represents the pride of the natural man’s heart, had put Leah first because she was the firstborn, and represents the natural rather than the spiritual. But God “... taketh away the first (the natural), that He might establish the second (the spiritual).” That which is the expression of the spiritual life of the old nature (Leah) must give place to that which is the expression of the spiritual life of the new (Rachel).
It may seem strange that Leah should also recognize that neither had she any part in Laban’s house, but we must remember that in the case of the obedient believer, the spiritual part of his old nature is under his control, and is capable of knowing intellectually the advantages of the life of faith. (It would appear that the spiritual part of the old nature may have intellectual cognizance of spiritual things, even though it lacks the ability to understand those things on the higher level of the spiritual plane alone. The intellectual and the spiritual are so interrelated that it is difficult, if not impossible, to tell where the one ends and the other begins).
31:15. “Are we not counted of him strangers? for he hath sold us, and hath quite devoured also our money.”
Leah’s correct appraisal of the situation would seem to confirm what has just been discussed in connection with the spiritual part of the old nature. Their marriage to Jacob had broken the tie that had once bound them to Laban, and this reflects the truth that when a believer is obedient to God, every part of his life will become a “stranger” to the control of the old nature.
“And hath sold us.” Laban had literally sold each of them to Jacob in exchange for seven years of service, and they were fully aware that he, Laban, had used them simply as chattels. The obedient believer is equally aware that Satan, the spiritual father to whom he once was bound, had used him also as a mere chattel.
“... and hath ... devoured our money.” What was rightly theirs the conniving Laban had appropriated for himself, leaving them with nothing. A more accurate picture of Satan would be difficult to paint. Those who come to the end of a lifetime spent in his service, discover too late that his wages are death. He is a fortunate man who has his eyes opened in time, and who makes his escape by trusting in Christ.
31:16. “For all the riches which God hath taken from our father, that is ours, and our children’s: now then, whatsoever God hath said unto thee, do.”
Rachel, who represents the expression of the spiritual life of Jacob’s new nature; and Leah, who represents the expression of the spiritual life of his old nature, join in acknowledging that it is God alone Who is to be given the credit for taking from Laban the riches that He (God) had given him, and transferring them to Jacob. It was Laban’s faithless disregard for God that revealed his unfitness to keep those riches, just as it was Jacob’s faith that manifested his fitness to receive them.
This is an OT demonstration of the NT truth that “unto everyone that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath” (Mt 25:29). Faith is the essential that must be possessed if a man would be rich in spiritual things. It is lack of faith that results in the natural man’s eventual loss, not only of his earthly possessions, but what is of more value than the whole world, his soul. The flocks and herds taken from Laban and given to Jacob, represent, of course, spiritual wealth.
“That is ours and our children’s.” Even the old nature recognizes intellectually that faith alone has claim to spiritual enrichment.
“Whatsoever God hath said unto thee, do.” Both wives join in giving this injunction. As has been noted already, the old nature seems to be capable of recognizing the superiority of faith, even while it lacks the power to live the life of faith. Leah joined Rachel in advising Jacob to obey God. There is no other way for man to be blessed.
31:17. “Then Jacob rose up, and set his sons and his wives upon camels.”
We have learned in earlier studies that the ass represents the body as the servant of the old nature. The camel, however, represents the believer’s body carrying out the righteous impulses of the new nature. The body becomes the “camel” instead of the “ass” when the believer heeds the plea of the apostle recorded in Ro 12:1 “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service (spiritual worship).
Since sons represent the activity of a man’s will, as daughters represent its passivity or yieldedness; and the wife represents the expression of the spiritual life, the lesson of Jacob’s setting his sons and wives upon camels isn’t difficult to read. It represents that time in the believer’s life when he presents his body “a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God.” The sons and wives riding on the camels, are the symbolic declaration of the truth that Jacob was now walking in obedience to God, his intellect, emotion and will devoted to His service.
It is not without significance that the sons are mentioned before the wives. The spiritual life can have no control over the “camel” until the believer’s will takes control. It can’t be emphasized too much that the Holy Spirit will not control a man’s life apart from that man’s will.
31:18. “And he carried away all his cattle, and all his goods which he had gotten, the cattle of his getting, which he had gotten in Padan-aram, for to go to Isaac his father in the land of Canaan.”
Jacob’s taking with him all his possessions, as well as wives and children, is designed to teach the lesson that it isn’t sufficient for just part of the life to be brought under God’s control. Someone has very aptly said that if Christ isn’t Lord of all He isn’t Lord at all. Christianity isn’t just for Sunday: it is for every day, and it isn’t just for the religious part of a man’s life: it is for the business life as well as the social. Jacob took everything away from Laban’s control or influence.
Padan-aram meaning their ransom is high, was the name of the general area around Haran. It is known also as Aram-naharaim, meaning highland of, or between, the rivers. Aram itself means exalted, and speakd of pride. The area therefore, may be a picture of this world, the place where man dwells in proud rebellion against God, living his brief day between the two rivers, the one the river of natural life that brings him into this world, and the other, the river of death which carries him out of it.
It is here in this world, the “land between the rivers of life and death,” that God has paid the incalculably high price necessary to ransom the souls of the rebels who sojourn in it for a few brief years. It is here on earth that God showers man with temporal blessings, which yielded back to the Giver to be used for His glory, will be transmuted into spiritual blessings that will endure for ever.
Jacob’s taking with him from Padan-aram to Canaan all his cattle and goods is the typical demonstration of a believer’s taking all his earthly possessions and using them for God’s glory, counting himself to be but the steward to whom they have been committed for a little while, and who must one day render an account of his stewardship.
He is a wise man whose stewardship will prove worthy of the Lord’s commendation “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord” (Mt 25:21). “If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon (riches), who will commit to your trust the true riches?” (Mk 16:11).
“To go to Isaac his father....” Isaac means he shall laugh. Jacob’s going back to Isaac therefore, speaks of his returning to happiness and laughter; and it is significant that there is added “in the land of Canaan.” For the believer, Canaan represents the sphere in which faith dwells. Joy and obedience go together. The one can’t exist without the other.
31:19. “And Laban went to shear his sheep: and Rachel had stolen the images that were her father’s.”
In Scripture, sheep-shearing always seems to have a bad connotation. For example, in Genesis chapter 38, Judah’s sin with Tamar is connected with sheep- shearing. In 1 Samuel chapter 25 we are introduced to the churlish Nabal as he was shearing his sheep, and in Isa 53:7 the Lord’s sufferings are pictured under the figure of a sheep being sheared, “As a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so He openeth not His mouth.”
Laban’s going to shear his sheep therefore, has a bad spiritual connotation. When we remember that men are likened to sheep, e.g., “All we like sheep have gone astray,” and that Laban represents self-righteous pride, the spiritual lesson is easily read. Laban’s sheep would represent those under the control of self-righteous pride, and his shearing them tells us that this pride will always “shear” true righteousness from its slaves.
While Laban (pride) is typically “robbing” others, he himself is suffering loss, for Jacob, through whom he had been enriched, steals away, and in addition “Rachel had stolen the images that were her father’s.”
These images (teraphim) were household gods, and the following note from the Amplified Old Testament is taken by some to explain Rachel’s theft of them, “... the excavated Nuzi tablets ... showed that possession of the father’s household gods played an important role in inheritance.... In the region where Laban lived, a son-in-law who possessed the family images could appear in court and make claim to the estate of his father- in-law.... Since Jacob’s possession of the images implied the right to inheritance of Laban’s wealth, one can understand why Laban organized his hurried expedition to recover the images.” Others, however, have pointed out that later Nuzi tablets do not support this explanation. It may be therefore, that Rachel, having been brought up in this idolatrous home, and in spite of what she may have learned from Jacob about the true God, still entertained at least some belief that these images held some power for good for those possessing them.
It may seem strange that she who represents the expression of Jacob’s new nature should resort to such chicanery, but it must be remembered that the perfection of the new nature is often obscured by the imperfection with which we express its activity. The new nature itself is perfect in every believer because it is the nature of God Himself, but the thoughts, words and deeds by which we express it, will vary from man to man, depending on the individual’s degree of spiritual maturity and obedience. Jacob had not yet learned to place implicit trust in God, and that lack of trust is revealed symbolically in Rachel’s theft of the images. The expression of a man’s spiritual life can’t rise above the level of his spiritual maturity and obedience. Jacob’s being unaware of the theft would teach us perhaps that this type of sin in the believer’s life comes under the category of sins of ignorance, and in this connection it is well to note that in the sacrifices of the Old Testament God made provision for the expiation of such sins, see, for example, Leviticus 4:2. There is a vast difference between sins of ignorance, and sins deliberately committed.
31:20. “And Jacob stole away unawares to Laban the Syrian, in that he told him not that he fled.”
Laban is described here as the “Syrian,” and this continues to emphasize the evil associated with him, for in Scripture Syria meaning exalted, always speaks of man’s proud defiance of God. In Dt 26:5 God commanded the Israelites that the presentation of their firstfruits was to be accompanied by the confession, “A Syrian ready to perish was my father....” As a description of Laban, it is in perfect accord with what we have taken him to represent: self-righteous pride.
Since the term “the Syrian” has an evil connotation, its use here may have a deeper significance than is at first apparent. Clearly Laban had some knowledge of God to begin with, and that knowledge must have increased during the years of Jacob’s sojourn with him, yet there is no evidence that it had produced any change in his life; and now Jacob’s influence is removed, nor is there anything in Scripture to indicate that they ever met again after the parting at Galeed (Gilead).
Were those years of Jacob’s sojourn in Laban’s house years when God was striving to lead Laban to a saving knowledge of Himself? If so, Jacob’s departure marked the end of that striving, and the appellation “the Syrian” may imply that Laban had been abandoned to continue unchecked in his self-chosen path of rebellion against God. God perhaps in this is repeating the warning of Ge 6:3 “My Spirit shall not always strive with man,” and Pr 29:1 “He that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.”
“He told him not that he fled.” The man who ignores the striving of the Holy Spirit is similarly unaware when that striving ceases, leaving him to his fate.
31:21. “So he fled with all that he had; and he rose up, and passed over the river, and set his face toward the mount Gilead.”
The river was the Euphrates, the boundary of Babylon, the land that is synonymous with false religion and enmity against God’s people. Jacob’s crossing marked the completeness of his break with Laban, and points spiritually to the moment when a man makes his escape from the dominion of self-righteous pride and false religion. Abraham had had to cross that river, as must every sinner who would be saved, and every saint who would be obedient to God.
It is emphasized again that he took with him “all that he had.” No part of the believer’s life is to be left in the enemy’s land, or under the enemy’s control.
”Toward mount Gilead.” Gilead means heap of witness: rolling for ever and it is a type of Calvary, the true “heap of witness.” The second meaning rolling for ever declares the nature of that witness. Calvary is the “heap of witness rolling for ever,” for as it was anticipated by eternity past, so will it be remembered by eternity future.
Gilead is also associated with balm, which speaks of healing, for example Jer 8:22 “Is there no balm in Gilead; is there no physician there?” It is only at Calvary that the balm for sin is found. It is only at Calvary that we can meet the Great Physician Who dispenses that balm.
It wasn’t until he came to Gilead that Jacob was finally quit of Laban’s tyranny. It is only at Calvary that sinner and saint alike find the balm for every hurt. It is to Calvary that the sinner must come for pardon and God’s gift of eternal life, and it is to Calvary that the backslidden saint must return for the restoration of his communion and blessing.
31:22. “And it was told Laban on the third day that Jacob was fled.”
It wasn’t until the third day that Laban discovered his loss. Since the third day is always connected with resurrection, the lesson here may be that it won’t be until the resurrection of death that the impenitent sinner will discover fully the terrible loss resulting from his rebellious folly.
31:23. “And he took his brethren with him, and pursued after him seven day’s journey; and they overtook him in the mount Gilead.”
Laban’s pursuit of Jacob pictures the determination of Satan to keep his captives. As Laban “took his brethren with him” so will Satan marshall his legions to prevent the escape of his victims.
Jacob had succeeded in putting seven days journey between him and Laban before the latter overtook him, and in those seven days he had reached the mount Gilead. Seven is the Scriptural number of completeness or perfection, and here it assures us that Jacob had indeed escaped. Laban might overtake Jacob at Gilead, but he was powerless to touch him. Gilead was the place where Laban’s pursuit must end. Calvary is the place where Satan’s pursuit must end.
31:24. “And God came to Laban the Syrian in a dream by night, and said unto him, Take heed that thou speak not to Jacob either good or bad.”
In Haran Laban might cheat Jacob and change his wages ten times, but at Gilead he may not touch him. At Gilead God stands between Jacob and the enemy. Gilead was Jacob’s place of safety. Calvary is man’s place of safety. It is there that God takes up the believer’s cause, and warns the enemy “Take heed that thou speak not ... either good or bad.”
It would seem that Laban may be viewed, not only as a type of Satan, but also as a type of the man who has turned a deaf ear to the entreaties of the Holy Spirit, and who has thereby taken himself beyond the pale of mercy. It is to be noted that he is again described as the Syrian, and the only communication he receives from God is the warning “take heed....”
God’s redeemed of this present age are spiritual Israel, and what was true of the earthly people is true also of the spiritual, “He that toucheth you toucheth the apple (pupil) of His eye” (Zec 2:8).
31:25. “Then Laban overtook Jacob. Now Jacob had pitched his tent in the mount: and Laban with his brethren pitched in the mount Gilead.”
The King James version here is ambiguous, making it appear that Jacob was camped on a mount other than Gilead. The more correct rendering is that of the Amplified Old Testament “Jacob had pitched his tent on the hill, and Laban ... pitched his tents on the same hill of Gilead.”
Both might pitch on the hill of Gilead, but from that hill they were to go two separate roads: Jacob, to Canaan; Laban, back to the obscurity of Haran. It was the same at Calvary. Two malefactors “pitched their tents” on that mount for the last few hours of their earthly lives, but like Jacob and Laban, they left the mount to go two separate ways: one, to eternal life; the other, to eternal death. As Gilead was the watershed that separated the stream of Jacob’s life from that of Laban, so is Calvary the great “watershed” that separates the river of life from the river of death. From Calvary a man can take only one of two roads: the narrow way of faith that leads to heaven, or the broad way of unbelief that leads to hell. Laban is the representative of those who choose the latter.
31:26. “And Laban said to Jacob, What hast thou done, that thou hast stolen away unawares to me, and carried away my daughters, as captives taken with the sword?”
The attitude of self-righteous pride is always the same: it is ever ready to condemn all who are outside its own exclusive circle. It can’t bear to see faith go from under its control.
He called Rachel and Leah “my daughters” as though they were still under his control, refusing to acknowledge that his control over them ended with their marriages to Jacob, the man of faith. His feigned concern is contradicted by their own testimony, “are we not counted of him strangers? for he hath sold us, and hath quite devoured also our money.” Like the one he represents, the tyrant will use any means to keep his one-time slaves. Bondage to pride is not easily broken.
31:27. “Wherefore didst thou flee away secretly, and steal away from me; and didst not tell me, that I might have sent thee away with mirth, and with songs, with tabret, and with harp?”
Laban’s rhetoric was the only expedient left to him in view of God’s warning. There can be little doubt that without that warning he would have employed force to retrieve what he considered his own. It is God’s protecting hand that restrains the power of the Deceiver more often than we are perhaps aware.
The fear that accompanied Jacob in his flight from Laban reminds us that it is sometimes as hard for the saint to give up working for righteousness as it is for the sinner. The believer has already received his righteousness the moment he believed. His good works are not to gain righteousness, but to express his love and gratitude for the righteousness already received.
As for Laban’s expressed regret at not having been permitted to send them away with mirth and songs, it was nothing but hypocritical cant. Laban would no more have sent them away with joy than would the self-righteous pride he represents send away joyfully one who has been its slave.
31:28. “And hast not suffered me to kiss my sons and my daughters? thou hast now done foolishly in so doing.”
Laban’s treatment of Jacob, the husband of his daughters, and father of his grandchildren, is its own testimony to the measure of affection he had for any of them. His past conduct was more convincing than his present hypocrisy. He cared little about any of them except in so far as they might serve his own purposes; and in this we see the character of the one Laban typifies, Satan. When Judas, for example, had served his purpose, he was cast aside, and left to hang himself.
”Thou hast done foolishly.” It should be remembered that Jacob’s departure had been in obedience to God’s command, yet Laban says, “thou hast done foolishly.” This is how unbelief always views obedience to God’s commands. To worldly wisdom the obedience of faith is folly.
31:29. “It is in the power of my hand to do you hurt: but the God of your father spake unto me yesternight, saying, Take heed that thou speak not to Jacob either good or bad.”
It was not in his power to hurt Jacob. God had forbidden him to speak either good or bad to His servant. He might have had that power over those still in his service, but Jacob was no longer his servant. He may have had that power in Haran, but Jacob had left Haran and had come to Gilead. Satan’s power, working through self-righteous pride, which Laban represents, can’t touch the man who has fled to what Gilead represents, Calvary.
In Jn 19:11 the Lord reminded Pilate, “Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above.” Every believer has the same assurance: the enemy has no power, except what God permits. “If God be for us who can be against us?” (Ro 8:31). “For He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor for sake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me” (Heb 13:5-6).
There may be an indirect lesson in Laban’s saying “the God of your father....” Why did he not say “your God”? Is it perhaps, that Jacob’s life in Haran gave little evidence of there being any relationship between him and God? The same may be true of our lives.
31:30. “And now, thou wouldest needs be gone, because thou sore longest after thy father’s house, yet wherefore hast thou stolen my gods?”
Jacob’s longing for his father’s house portrays the state of every spiritual believer’s heart. The spiritual man finds nothing in this world to bring him satisfaction. He longs for his Father’s house. Paul expressed this longing when he wrote, “For I am in a strait betwix two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ: which is far better” (Php 1:23).
The notes on verse nineteen should be read relative to Laban’s concern for the recovery of his images.
31:31. “And Jacob answered and said to Laban, Because I was afraid: for I said, peradventure thou wouldest take by force thy daughters from me.”
Since Jacob didn’t love Leah, we may perhaps, presume that his greatest fear was that he would lose Rachel. Since she represents the expression of the spiritual life of his new nature, his fear translates into the spiritual lesson that the man who has been depending on works for righteousness, has the same fear that in relinquishing that dependence, he may lose his salvation. It takes some longer than others to grasp the truth that we are saved, apart from works, through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and His finished work.
”... take by force.” Until the complete efficacy of Christ’s work is understood, the power of Satan’s lie - that salvation is by faith and works - looms large in many a believer’s mind. There are many living in bondage to the error that if they fail to add good works, their salvation will be taken away.
The believer, however, is saved, eternally, through faith. His salvation can never be taken away. Failure to maintain good works will result in loss of reward at the Bema, not loss of salvation.
31:32. “With whomsoever thou findest thy gods, let him not live: before our brethren discern thou what is thine with me, and take it to thee. For Jacob knew not that Rachel had stolen them.”
31:33. “And Laban went into Jacob’s tent, and into Leah’s tent, and into the two maidservants’ tents; but he found them not. Then went he into Rachel’s tent.”
Laban didn’t find his gods with Leah, Zilpah and Bilhah for the simple reason that these three represent characteristics of the flesh, and since all the gods of the flesh are false, their individual identites are lost among the multitude. The fact that they were in Jacob’s household, but not in his individual tent, declares the truth that a believer may have false gods in his life without his even being aware of it.
It is very different, however, with Rachel, the one who represents the expression of the new life. They were in her tent, but in Laban’s failure to find them is declared the truth that the self-righteous pride which he represents is incapable of discerning a false god even when he is standing in its very presence. Rachel’s knowledge of them, and her efforts to hide them are the declaration of a very different truth. The expression of the believer’s spiritual life has the capacity to discern what unbelief can’t, but even when the believer becomes aware of a false god in his life, his love of it may lead him to try to keep it covered instead of putting it away. How reluctant we are to face the fact that we may love money, pleasure, ease, fame, etc., just as much as does the unbeliever!
31:34. "Now Rachel had taken the images, and put them in the camel's furniture, and sat upon them. And Laban searched all the tent, but found them not."
31:35. “And she said to her father, Let it not displease my lord that I cannot rise up before thee; for the custom of women is upon me. And he searched, but found not the images.
Since there is nothing in Scripture to indicate whether Rachel was lying about her condition, we are without any basis on which to make a judgment, and it isn’t important as far as the spiritual lesson is concerned. What is important is not only the truth already discussed above, but the additional truth being taught in her failure to pay Laban what was apparently customary respect. She who was the representative of the expression of Jacob’s new nature, didn’t yield obeisance to the one who is a type, not only of self-righteous pride, but also of Satan. The lesson is clear. Gilead was the place that marked the end of Jacob’s bondage. Calvary is the place that marks the end of ours.
31:36. “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?
Jacob’s chiding Laban means literally that there was strife or contention between them. Undoubtedly relations between them had never been the best, but even when he discovered how he had been tricked into marriage with Leah, Jacob’s recorded response was only, “What is this thou hast done unto me ... wherefore then hast thou beguiled me?” Then there could be no strife or contention. Jacob was in Laban’s house, and Laban was the master; Jacob, the servant. But now Jacob is at Gilead. The master-servant relationship has been broken. The man who has ended his service to legalistic self-righteous pride, and taken his stand at Calvary is under no necessity to bow to the enemy. The only proper relationship between them must be one of strife and contention.
In Jacob’s case it was ignorance of the whereabouts of the images that prompted his indignant question, “What is my trespass? what is my sin?” The believer’s confidence, however, is based on knowledge, the same knowledge that enabled Paul to ask “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect?” (Ro 8:33).
31:37. “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.”
Unknown to Jacob, Laban’s images were among his stuff. Since Laban represents self-righteous pride, his property, hidden in Rachel’s tent, is the symbolic annunciation of the truth that while there is no sin on the believer, there is sin in him: the old nature is still there. That the images weren’t found, however, tells us that the believer is set, not only before God in all the sinless perfection of Christ, but he stands also before the adversary in the same perfection, for the simple reason that all his sins, those succeeding, as well as those preceding conversion, are blotted out. “The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin,” (l Jn 1:7).
But the presence of the images in Jacob’s camp, though unknown to him, warn us that sin lurks hidden in the saint as well as the sinner.
His confidence that the judgment of the brethren must be in his favor was, as we have seen, the confidence of ignorance. It isn’t the believer’s own imperfect knowledge, but God Himself Who brings him the assurance that, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus” (Ro 8:1).
31:38. “These 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.”
The factors of 20 are 2 x 2 x 5. Two is the number of witness or testimony, and five, of responsibility. These twenty years are the multiplied witness to the truth that Jacob, having fulfilled every responsibility as Laban’s servant, has nothing to show for that service. A man may spend a lifetime in the service of legalistic morality, with the same barren result.
The twenty years were made up of seven served for Leah; an additional seven served for Rachel; and the last six served for the cattle. As we noted in an earlier study, he received Rachel before serving the seven years for her. God is careful, even in the type, to guard against the thought that anyone can earn the spiritual life of which Rachel is the representative expression, see notes on chapters 29 and 30. The fact remains therefore, that the only part of those twenty years that brought Jacob reward were the years at the end when he tended and fed the flocks at God’s direction, accepting as his wages the off-color animals. The only service that will bring eternal reward is that which is rendered in obedience to God.
”The rams of thy flock have I not eaten.” The flesh of the ram of consecration was eaten by Aaron and his sons, Ex 29:32. This speaks of the rich fare enjoyed by those walking in obedience to God. Jacob ate no ram’s flesh during the years of his bondage to Laban. The ram is a type of Christ in the fullness of His consecration to the Father. The priests, feeding on the ram, are a picture of the experience of the spiritual believer feeding on Christ. The man in bondage to self-righteous pride is a stranger to such fare.
31:39. “That which was torn of beasts I brought not unto thee; I bore the loss of it; of my hand didst thou require it, whether stolen by day, or stolen by night.”
The beasts may represent both Satan and the lusts of the flesh through which he works. Since the domestic animals were Laban’s property or wealth, but under Jacob’s care, they appear to represent the works of self-righteous pride. Satan, who deludes men into believing that such works are true righteousness, will at the same time torment his victim by destroying some of those works, using the man’s own fleshly lusts to accomplish that purpose. The righteousnesses thus destroyed are represented by the torn animals (literally torn in pieces).
Laban represents Satan working through self-righteous pride; and his cattle, the things Satan uses to lure men to destruction. In the present context, those things are the self-righteous works by which the deceived man hopes to earn eternal life. It was Jacob’s expectation that some of those cattle placed in his care would be his wages. This pictures the expectation of the man to whom Satan has committed the task of earning eternal life through good works. Satan has as little compassion for his slave’s failures as Laban had for Jacob’s failure to guard every lamb and goat from the attack of the wolf or the lion. Unlike God, Who is “very pitiful, and of tender mercy” (Jas 5:11), Satan is a merciless master.
The animals stolen by day may represent the righteousnesses lost to sins of deliberate commission; and those stolen by night, the righteousnesses lost to sins of accident or ignorance.
31:40. “Thus I was; in the day the drought consumed me, and the frost by night; and my sleep departed from mine eyes.”
This describes the state of the man seeking to be justified by works. He spends his days in a spiritually parched land. The water of the Word brings him no refreshment. His soul is consumed with the drought that accompanies the lack of that spiritual “water.”
“... and the frost by night.” Unlike warmth which nourishes life, frost destroys it. As warmth speaks of love, frost speaks of the absence of love. The blighting cold of the frost is connected with the darkness of night, reminding us that the man seeking justification through works is in spiritual darkness, cut off from the warmth of God’s love by the very self-righteousness in which he takes pride.
“ ... sleep departed from mine eyes.” Sleep speaks of rest. The sleep denied Jacob while he served Laban portrays the truth that peace and rest elude the man who serves self-righteous pride.
31:41. “Thus have I been twenty years in thy house; I have served thee fourteen years for thy two daughters, and six years for thy cattle: and thou hast changed my wages ten times.”
Since the significance of the twenty years of servitude has already been discussed we need not repeat it here.
“Thou hast changed my wages ten times.” Ten and twelve are the two numbers in Scripture connected with government. Ten is related to God as the Governor, while twelve is related to the governed. God gave the ten commandments, and the twelve tribes of Israel were responsible to display to the surrounding nations the results of that government. Obedience brought blessing; disobedience, chastisement.
In the present instance, however, it is Laban who has been governing Jacob’s life, not by an unchangeable holy and just standard, but by one changed ten times to enrich Laban and impoverish Jacob. The man who submits to the government of self-righteous pride will discover when it is eternally too late, that a merciless master has “changed his wages,” leaving him to go out into eternity a spiritual bankrupt.
31:42. “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 my affliction and the labor of my hands, and rebuked thee yesternight.”
A Jacob who has ended his bondage to Laban, and who has taken his stand at the “heap of witness” (Calvary), has confidence, not in himself, as formerly, but in God. And he proceeds to confess that he is one who belongs to the household of faith, for the God he trusts is the God of Abraham, and he claims Abraham (faith) as his father.
The King James version here obscures the meaning: “the fear of Isaac” is more correctly translated “the God Whom Isaac fears.”
Isaac, as we noted in our study of chapter 26, represents the believer’s life lived on the spiritual plane rather than the physical. Jacob’s past life gave little evidence of having been lived on that plane. It had been lived, for the most part, on the lower level of the purely physical, earthly plane. But Jacob had learned the folly of that kind of living, and though he can’t bring himself to say “my God,” his reply indicates that he too, now fears God, and that henceforth his life will manifest that holy fear which is the mark, not of compelled, but of willing obedience.
Now that he has learned to fear God, he loses his fear of Laban, and doesn’t hesitate to declare what he may have suspected for some time, but lacked the courage to state, “surely thou hadst sent me away now empty.” Confidence in God gives a man the courage to face the foe fearlessly.
The knowledge that God had looked upon his affliction and wasted labor, and had taken up his cause, added further courage. God was on his side, and that knowledge emboldened him to declare, “God ... rebuked thee yesternight.” This is the demonstration of the truth of Heb 13:6 “We may boldly say, The Lord is my Helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me,” and of Ro 8:31 “If God be for us who can be against us?”
31:43. “And Laban answered and said unto Jacob, These daughters are my daughters, and these children are my children, and these cattle are my cattle, and all that thou seest is mine: and what can I do this day unto these my daughters, or unto their children which they have born?”
Because of the warning he had been given by God, Laban was afraid to touch Jacob, but he himself was unchanged, and in this we learn the unchanging character of self-righteous pride which he represents, and also of the evil spirit he represents, Satan.
Laban’s claim to everything that God had taken from him and given to Jacob, portrays the rebel heart of the adversary. That pride that led Satan to seek for himself the position that belongs only to God, never changes.
As Laban sought that day to disguise his true nature under the cloak of feigned magnanimity, so today does Satan employ the same disguise. And blinded man, refusing truth, and accepting Satan’s lie that righteousness may be earned by works, barters away his soul, only to discover in a lost eternity that the evil master he had served had nothing to give. As God had deprived Laban of the power to enrich Jacob, so has He deprived Satan of the power to offer man anything good.
Jacob represents the few who have had their eyes opened before it is eternally too late.
31:44. “Now therefore come thou, let us make a covenant, I and thou; and let it be for a witness between me and thee.”
The covenant sealed with the blood of Christ is the witness that the believer is eternally reconciled to God, and will never be separated from Him; but this covenant between Laban and Jacob is the witness that there can never be reconciliation between the
believer and the self-righteous pride which Laban represents. It stands witness to the truth that they are eternally separated.
31:45. “And Jacob took a stone, and set it up for a pillar.”
In chapter 28:18 the stone (type of Christ) set up by Jacob at Bethel had also been his resting place, and there we learned that it portrays Christ, not only as the One in Whom we have found rest, but also as the One in Whom we shall have all the divine promises fulfilled. Here the stone is also a type of Christ, but it portrays Him as the One Who is our Security from the malevolent hatred of Satan, and also from his bondage.
It is significant that it was Jacob, not Laban, who took a stone.” This speaks of his having Christ.
31:46. “And Jacob said unto his brethren, Gather stones; and they took stones, and made an heap: and they did eat there upon the heap.”
I regret that I am unable to see clearly the spiritual meaning here. Certainly the stone (literally the great stone) set up by Jacob is a type of Christ. Since the “brethren” who set up the other stones in a heap beside Jacob’s stone pillar, appear to have been Laban’s sons, they too should represent something evil, but I am unable to see what that evil is. Nor can I discern the spiritual meaning of the heap which they made of the other stones. It may be perhaps, that the cairn made up of their many stones, in contrast to the single stone set up as a sacred pillar by Jacob, represents the many “Christs” claimed by unbelief. To Jacob, the true token of the covenant was the single stone set up as a pillar (type of Christ in resurrection); while to Laban and his sons the true token was the heap made up of their many stones. Unbelief has as many objects of faith as there are unbelieving men: faith has but one, Christ.
”And they did eat there upon (literally, beside) the heap.” Since eating is frequently a type of the Lord’s supper, it may be that that is, in fact, what is being portrayed here. If so, the lesson is clear. Faith and unbelief may appear to be doing the same things (all were eating), but Jacob had his eye on the pillar, while Laban and his sons looked to the multi- stoned heap. The self-righteous unbeliever may be baptized; may eat the Lord’s supper; may do many good works; but it was the Lord Himself Who declared, “Not everyone that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name? and in Thy name have cast out devils? and in Thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Mt 7:21-23).
31:47. “And Laban called it Jegar-sahadutha: but Jacob called it Galeed.”
Laban used the Chaldean; Jacob, the Hebrew name for this “heap of witness,” which is what both names mean. There is just one very slight difference however: Galeed means a heap of witness, but Jegar-sahadutha, simply heap of witness. The “a” is missing. The emphasis upon the two different words certainly must have some significance, and it may be in fact that it is to draw attention to that slight difference in meaning. If so, then it seems to confirm what we have already noted, namely, that Jacob was looking at one stone which he had set up as a pillar, while Laban and his sons were looking at the heap of many stones. Faith has its eye on Christ, while self-righteous pride looks to its own many works.
31:48. “And Laban said, This heap is a witness between me and thee this day. Therefore was the name of it called Galeed.”
Laban may have called it by a Chaldean name, but as we should expect, it was the Hebrew name by which, apparently, it was generally known. Hebrew is the language of faith, and only what is of faith will endure.
This heap of witness emphasized the difference between the two men. Jacob was a man of faith: Laban was not. Jacob would dwell on the south-western side of that heap; Laban, on the northeastern side of it. The south-west speaks of faith’s approach to God; the north-east, of faithless departure from Him. The south is always connected with faith, and the west with approach to God. The north is always connected with intellect, and the east with departure from God. Clearly that heap is a picture of Calvary, the true “heap of witness.” Calvary stands as the eternal dividing point between faith and unbelief.
31:49. “And Mizpah; for he said, The Lord watch between me and thee, when we are absent one from another.”
Mizpah means watchtower, and as the second name for the place that is a type of Calvary, would remind us that it is from that “watchtower” that God looks down on all men, saint and sinner alike. Like the self-righteous moralist he represents, Laban would acknowledge God only when it suited his own purpose. He would walk in independence of God, but still call upon God to protect him from a danger he himself was unable to guard against - a possible attack by Jacob at some future time. In his spiritual blindness the self-righteous moralist fails to realize the significance of Calvary as the true “Mizpah.” It is from that “watchtower” that God, like the father of the prodigal, watches in the hope that the sinner will turn in repentance to receive a free pardon, and the gift of eternal life.
31:50. “If thou shalt afflict my daughters, or if thou shalt take other wives beside my daughters, no man is with us; see, God is witness betwixt me and thee.”
This is the language of self-righteousness. Laban can see only the possibility that Jacob might do wrong, while conveniently ignoring the fact that it was he himself who had afflicted his daughters. Their own testimony regarding him was “Are we not counted of him strangers? for he hath sold us, and hath quite devoured also our money. For all the riches which God hath taken from our father, that is ours and our child-ren’s.”
The self-righteous moralist, like the Laodicean church, knows not that he is “wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” (Re 3:17).
The Pharisees were the “Labans” of Christ’s day. Puffed up with their own self-righteousness, they condemned the Lord Himself. Small wonder, then, that their representative should be so ready to imply latent evil in Jacob.
31:51. “And Laban said to Jacob, Behold this heap, and behold this pillar, which I have cast betwix me and thee;”
Significantly Laban mentions the heap before the pillar, and takes credit for having set up both. The self-righteous moralist will not completely ignore Christ’s work at Calvary, but with him it must take second place to the “heap” of his own good works.
Calvary unites men of faith, but it stands between them and those who are not of faith, just as Galeed stood between Jacob and Laban. And the latter knew not that his own lack of faith had placed him on the side of those who were condemned in God’s sight.
31:52. “This heap be witness, and this pillar be witness, that I will not pass over this heap to thee, and that thou shalt not pass over this heap and this pillar unto me, for harm.”
Laban continues to put the heap before the pillar, and it is no accident that with regard to himself he says “I will not pass over this heap” (the pillar isn’t mentioned), but with regard to Jacob he says, “and thou shalt not pass over this heap and this pillar.”
With the “Labans” the “heap” (good works) is everything, and the pillar (Christ) of little importance, but the “Jacobs” cannot be separated from the pillar: to them Christ is everything.
The emphasis is upon the fact that the passing over was restricted only to what would be “for harm.” The Holy Spirit is a meticulous Penman. There can be no passing from one side of Calvary to the other “for harm.” When the “Jacobs” pass over, it is only to minister Christ, in the hope that those on the condemned side will be awakened and saved. When the “Labans” pass over it can only be for good (they can’t touch those who are Christ’s): they pass over from death to life when they too, see the worth of Calvary.
31:53. “The God of Abraham, and the God of Nahor, the God of their father, judge betwix us. And Jacob sware by the fear of his father Isaac.”
It is significant that Laban calls upon a multitude of gods to judge between him and Jacob. He begins with the true God, the God of Abraham, but adds immediately “the god of Nahor,” whom we have seen to be a type of Satan (see notes on Ge 29:5) so it is unlikely that he worshiped the true God. The Amplified Old Testament rendering of this verse is enlightening: the next clause reads, “and the God (the object of worship) of their father (Terah, an idolater), judge between us. But Jacob swore only by (the one true God) the Dread and Fear of his father Isaac.” Terah also appears to have been an idolater.
This invoking the judgment of several Gods is only what we should expect from Laban in view of what he represents. The man who doesn’t serve the true God serves other gods.
As also might be expected, however, the man of faith swore only by the true God. The God Isaac “feared” (reverenced) was the same God Whom Abraham worshiped. The true God has displaced all others in the life of the believer.
31:54. “Then Jacob offered sacrifice upon the mount, and called his brethren to eat bread: and they did eat bread, and tarried all night in the mount.”
It was Jacob, not Laban, who offered sacrifice (worship), and who spread the feast. Since every sacrifice offered in the Old Testament by men of faith was a type of Christ, we learn that worship is nothing more, but also nothing less, than the presentation of Christ to God. We also learn why it was Jacob who offered the sacrifice. The unbeliever can’t worship. Since he doesn’t have Christ he has nothing to offer that is acceptable to God.
“And called his brethren to eat bread.” These men referred to as “brethren” were only his brothers-in-
law, but it was customary to refer to such as brothers. In Jacob’s spreading a feast for them we have perhaps, a demonstration of the truth that the believer is to act toward the unsaved with the same love he would display toward those who are his brethren. The feast may also be a type of Christ as presented in the Gospel, for the Gospel is essentially an invitation to sinners to receive Christ, that is, to eat the Bread of life. The fact, however, that they ate bread, but then followed Laban back to Haran, is the typical declaration of the truth that they remained unbelievers.
”And tarried all night on the mount.” That night on the mount in the vicinity of the pillar and the heap of stones may represent man’s earthly life. It too is spent in the world’s night time when the Light of the world is absent; and saint and sinner alike, whether they are aware of it or not, spend that “night” in the vicinity of Calvary, the believer seeing it in its true light as a pillar (representing Christ), while unbelief sees it only as a heap of stones (man’s many gods, and good works, instead of Christ).
31:55. “And early in the morning Laban rose up, and kissed his sons and his daughters, and blessed them: and Laban departed, and returned unto his place.”
In Scripture the morning is frequently associated with judgment. It is when the Lord Jesus Christ comes as the Sun of righteousness, Mal 4:2, that earth’s long night will end; but it is at that same time that the nations will be judged, and the unbelievers banished into hell, while the righteous will be invited to enter the millennial kingdom.
Laban’s farewell to all that had once been his, may well be a picture of a still sadder scene - that “morning” when the unbeliever will have to say farewell to all that had once been his on earth, and go for ever beyond the reach of God’s love and mercy.
His blessing them means nothing more than that he wished God to bless them. Many an unsaved parent has had the same desire for his children, even though he himself refuses that blessing.
There is something sad and ominous about the final clause of this verse. It is sad that one who had the privilege of spending twenty years in the company of Jacob-Israel, who had seen God working, who had heard God’s voice, nevertheless passes from the page of sacred history apparently still an unbeliever.
It is ominous that it is said of him that “he returned unto his place.” This puts him in the company of the infamous Judas, of whom it is also written that he went “to his own place.” Satan is another who will “go to his own place.” The lake of fire is his prepared place, Mt 25:41 “everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”
God would have men heed the warning of Laban’s turning his back on Gilead to go “unto his place.” The man who turns his back on Calvary to walk in unbelief, must also go to “his place.” That place is the lake of fire, prepared, not for men, but for the devil and his angels.