Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Genesis 31: Steal Your Wife and Go Home

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Jacob Flees from Laban (v. 1-55)

Jacob heard Laban's sons complaining that he is getting all of Laban's wealth and he decides it is time to gather up all of his stuff and move back to the Canaanite lands. Also God tells him to leave town. He tells his wives this and says the reason is that Laban kept changing his wages. He explains that God has seen fit to give him all of the flock because Laban mistreats him.

Well that is a bit of revisionist history, isn't it? In the last chapter Jacob manipulated a fair deal into something that was wildly in his favor. Now Laban and his sons are pissed because Jacob is getting all of the upside of their work. Instead of realizing his greed is a large factor in the current situation, Jacob just plays the victim.

Guzik seems to be as forgetful as Jacob here. He says
It wasn’t that Jacob had taken anything belonging to Laban. Rather, it was that his wealth was increasing in proportion to Laban’s wealth. The problem wasn’t that Jacob stole, it was that Laban’s sons were filled with envy.
This is perhaps technically true, Jacob hasn't stolen anything from Laban, but he has manipulated a deal to be greatly in his favor. To be fair, the deal was set up in a strange way by Laban in an attempt to take advantage of Jacob, so it's not like he's on some moral high ground either, but Jacob stooped to his level.

So Jacob gathered his family and livestock and started travelling while Laban was shearing his sheep (apparently a day or so travel away). After 3 days Laban realized what happened and pursued, it took him 7 days to catch up. He asked why Jacob had fled in secret and didn't let him wish his daughters and grandchildren farewell.

Nobody in these stories is the slightest bit self-aware.

At the beginning of the trip, Rachel had stolen a god from Laban. He asked about it and Jacob said he was free to search for it, but he didn't find it because Rachel hid it in her saddle bag and then told everyone she was on her period, so obviously they didn't look that hard around her.

I was surprised that nothing more came of the God that Rachel stole. Perhaps it will come back in a future chapter.

Guzik has some interesting conjecture as to why Rachel stole the idols
Rachel took her father’s household idols (teraphim). She may have wanted them because perhaps she worshipped these idols and did not want to be without them. Perhaps she did not want her father to inquire of them, using them as tools of divination to catch them (as he may have previously done, Genesis 30:27). Or perhaps it was because such idols were often used as deeds to property and she thought this she was taking her “inheritance.”

Jacob and Laban argue some more, each talking about how badly they've been wronged, then they make a pact to not attack each other in the future.

Again, neither character has any self-awareness. They both talk about how they have been wronged but never seem to realize how badly they are treating the other one. 


  1. I realize that life was more brutal and pragmatic in ancient times, but JEEZ! Couldn't God have found some slightly more principled people to establish a covenant with?


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