Bible Readings for January 30th
Jacob’s time living with Laban has been a terrible experience. At every turn, Laban has lied to Jacob and cheated him out of what he promised to Jacob, first by giving Jacob Leah instead of Rachel as a wife and second by stealing Jacob’s wages of the striped, spotted, and mottled animals. Jacob had found a technique to breed more of those animals through peeling sticks in Genesis 30, and now, at the beginning of Genesis 31, we find that Laban’s sons have begun to turn against Jacob and his family because Jacob has become too rich.
It is no small relief, then, that Yahweh’s call for Jacob to leave Laban and return to Canaan finally comes in Genesis 31:3: “Return to the land of your fathers and to your kindred, and I will be with you.” After serving Laban for twenty years (Gen. 31:41), Jacob will at last return to the land that God had promised to Jacob’s grandfather Abraham, to his father, Isaac, to Jacob, and to Jacob’s offspring.
At the outset of Jacob’s return journey home, we gain two glimpses that help us to understand God’s perspective regarding the relationship between Jacob and Laban. First, when Jacob is explaining to his wives the reasons that they need to leave their father’s house to go with him back to the land of Canaan, Jacob tells them about the vision he had from God, which seems to be the fuller account of the vision where Yahweh told Jacob to return to the land of Canaan in Genesis 31:3.
In this vision, God tells Jacob that he himself has made all the goats to be striped, spotted, and mottled—that is, the kind of goats that Jacob could claim as his own, according to the agreement he struck with Laban in Genesis 30:31–34—and God explains that he did this because “I have seen all that Laban is doing to you” (Gen. 31:12). Through this turbulent time, God has been preserving and blessing and flourishing Jacob. God was not compelled to bring forth spotted or speckled sheep by Jacob’s breeding practices; rather, God graciously blessed Jacob to protect him from Laban’s dishonesty.
The second glimpse we get into God’s perspective comes when Laban pursues Jacob to find his stolen household gods and to bid farewell to his daughters and his grandchildren. God comes to Laban in a dream, saying, “Be careful not to say anything to Jacob, either good or bad” (Gen. 31:24).
In this warning, we are reminded that God swore a covenant with Jacob and that Isaac prophesied that God would bless those who blessed Jacob and curse those who cursed Jacob (Gen. 27:29). The dishonesty and treachery of a man like Laban is nothing in comparison with the power and wisdom of God to bring salvation to the world through the offspring of Jacob.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.