Understanding Genesis 31:Seeking False Gods
Read the entire chapter 31 of Genesis on your own. You can read a variety of versions, from contemporary English to literal translations. You can download bible apps, websites (blueletterbible.org or biblegateway.com) or buy one from your local bookstore. I will use King James Version because some of the nuances are missing from other translations. When you read the chapter, don’t just read it—study it with questions and try to make sense of it.
God With Jacob
And the LORD said unto Jacob, Return unto the land of thy fathers, and to thy kindred; and I will be with thee. 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. Genesis 31:3,12
Jacob exaggerates or lies to his wives about this reason for leaving. God did tell Jacob to leave and go home, but Jacob feels he needs to convince his wives that it is God’s decision.
Perhaps he needs to convince his wives, that their wealth was from God, instead of his sneaky tricks. Jacob knows their brothers are feeling resentful towards him, and perhaps their marriage is so low that he’s not certain of their loyalty. In 20 years of marriage, there must have been moments of regret on Jacob’s part. Now he’s ready to leave this heathen country, and God encourages him.
How loving is our God, that even when we’re sinners and far from Him, He would comfort and love us. "But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8
And Rachel and Leah answered and said unto him, Is there yet any portion or inheritance for us in our father's house? Are we not counted of him strangers? for he hath sold us, and hath quite devoured also our money. And Laban went to shear his sheep: and Rachel had stolen the images that were her father's. Genesis 31:14-16,19
The images that Rachel stole, were idols made of precious metals. Not only did she want the dowry due toward her and Leah, but she was also, not fully converted toward Jacob’s God.
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. And Laban said to Jacob…And now, though thou wouldest needs be gone, because thou sore longedst after thy father's house, yet wherefore hast thou stolen my gods? Genesis 31:24, 31
God comes to Laban in a dream, and warns Laban not to berate Jacob or flatter him. By flattery, Laban had convinced Jacob to stay twenty years. "And Laban said unto him, I pray thee, if I have found favour in thine eyes, tarry: for I have learned by experience that the LORD hath blessed me for thy sake." Genesis 30:27
His dream must have scared Laban, who was pursuing Jacob with anger and bitterness. Seven days journey, and Laban would not give up pursuing Jacob. His indignation and jealousy drives him to follow Jacob across the desert. But God warns Laban to let Jacob go, and frightened, Laban instead claims to be looking for his stolen idols.
Now, this may be a valid reason, but how bold that Laban who recognized Jacob’s God, would still choose to worship a false idol. "O ye sons of men, how long will ye turn my [God’s] glory into shame? how long will ye love vanity, and seek after leasing [temporary/false things]? Selah." Psalm 4:2 How often we know what is right, but we seek after false lovers, wealth and temporal pursuits. "Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin." James 4:17
Twenty years Jacob spent in this heathen land, but God was with him the entire time. God would have us leave our sinful lives, but He will never force us. Only when Jacob saw the jealousy of Laban and brother-in-laws did he consider leaving. The blessing that Jacob received in Padanaram, was not his wealth. It was realizing that God was still looking after him, even after all the mistakes he had made. "The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee." Jeremiah 31:3
- Understanding Genesis 32: Overcoming Our Guilt
A Bible Study of Genesis 32.