Jan. 10 Reading: Genesis 30-31 Commentary

Below is our Genesis 30-31 commentary from our Beginning to End Bible reading program. You can find an email link at the end of this page to share your thoughts or comments with us.

Key Verse(s):

“So Jacob sent and called Rachel and Leah to the field, to his flock and said to them, ‘…the God of my father has been with me. And you know that with all my might I have served your father. Yet your father has deceived me and changed my wages ten times, but God did not allow him to hurt me…God has taken away the livestock of your father and given them to me.” (Gen. 31:4-9)

Genesis 30 – The Children of Jacob

commentaryJacob had come by two wives under less than ideal circumstances. He had wanted to marry Laban’s daughter Rachel but had been tricked by his uncle into marrying the older daughter Leah first. Jacob loved Rachel and did not love Leah (Gen. 29:31). But God was with Leah and allowed her to conceive and have Jacob’s first son, Reuben.

Leah and Rachel are clearly rival sisters. And in ancient times, having a son meant everything to a wife. It connected her to her husband and brought honor to the family. So, if a wife could not have her own children, often times they’d offer their servant or handmaid to the husband to have a surrogate child through them (see Sarah and Hagar with Abraham – Gen. 16).

We see Leah and Rachel’s rivalry play out in Gen. 29:31 – 30:24 as the Bible details their various conceptions. Here is a listing of Jacob’s children from each women he knew. The number listed after their name indicates their birth order.

  1. To Leah – Reuben (1), Simeon (2), Levi (3), Judah (4), Issachar (9), Zebulun (10), Dinah (a daughter – 11)
  2. To Zilpah (Leah’s servant) – Gad (7), Asher (8)
  3. To Bilhah (Rachel’s servant) – Dan (5), Naphtali (6)
  4. To Rebekah – Joseph (12), Benjamin (13 – see Gen. 35:16-20)
Jacob’s Prosperity

God was with Jacob in Laban’s household. In fact, he blessed Laban because of Jacob (v. 27). After having served Laban for many years, Jacob wants to return to his own country.

Laban asks him to stay and take care of his herds. He offers to pay Jacob whatever wages he asks for. This must have made Jacob nervous, seeing that the last time Laban used this language in reference to wages, he tricked Jacob into marrying Leah.

One thing we see from Jacob’s life is his constant desire to manipulate situations. It started at home with his brother Esau and we see it again in Gen. 30 with Laban’s herds. Call it shrewd or deceitful. Either way, Jacob loved to be in control. God would eventually break him and Jacob would give his will wholeheartedly to God.

In this instance though, he devises a plan to make sure that his flocks always breed stronger offspring than Laban’s flocks. One variable in this plan was that Jacob’s flocks would only be of a certain coloration (vv. 32-33). In this way, Laban would be able to conclude if Jacob had stolen any animals from his flocks.

Jacob’s breeding plan works. Verse 43 tells us that he became exceedingly prosperous. But it’s important to note that his breeding plan and the wealth created from it was the result of God’s blessing (see 31:4, 10-13).

Genesis 31 – Jacob Runs Away from Laban

All of Jacob’s prosperity does not sit well with Laban’s sons. They see Jacob’s wealth increasing faster than their father’s wealth and accuse him of being a thief (v. 1). Tensions must have been high as even Jacob notices that Laban’s demeanor towards him has changed (v. 2). 

The Lord spoke to Jacob at this point and told him to return to his homeland. Jacob is more than ready to go, complaining that Laban continued to deceive him over the years by changing his wages ten times. Rachel and Leah also are resentful about how their father had sold them to Jacob in the first place (vv. 14-16). So all parties set out for Jacob’s homeland without notifying Laban that they are leaving.

Before leaving though, Rachel steals the household idols from Laban (v. 19).

Laban Comes After Jacob

After three days, Laban finds out Jacob has left with all his family and possessions. For seven days he pursues them. Along the way he is warned by God in a dream not to speak either good or bad to Jacob (v. 24).

Laban understands why Jacob wants to return to his homeland. He’s sad that he didn’t get to say goodbye to his family. And he wonders why Jacob has stolen his gods?

Jacob knows nothing about what Rachel has done. He allows Laban to search all of his possessions, saying that “…whomever you find your gods, do not let him live” (v. 32). Laban cannot find the idols because Rachel has hid them in the saddle bag on which she sits, using the excuse that she cannot rise in front of Laban because her monthly period is in progress.

Jacob is angry at Laban. He lets loose his frustration, describing all the personal extremes he has suffered, from being cheated into a wife (Leah) to his wages being constantly changed. Jacob believes God has seen his affliction and blessed the labor of his hands (v. v. 42). He further sees God’s vision to Laban as a rebuke for all Laban has done to him.

A Peace Treaty and Goodbyes

Laban relents and agrees to let Jacob go. The two agree to make a covenant as a witness between them. Jacob sets up a stone pillar and they make a heap of stones as a memorial. They have a meal to commemorate their agreement.

What was the agreement exactly? It contained two parts, both spoken by Laban to Jacob:

  1. An admonishment to treat his daughters well and take no other wife (vv. 49-50)
  2. That Laban will not cross the erected pillar to see Jacob with the intent of doing him harm (vv. 51-52)

Jacob offered a sacrifice on the mountain. And after eating and spending the night, both parties go their separate ways.

Questions and Thoughts to Consider from Genesis 30-31:

Have you ever felt unloved?

Have you ever manipulated circumstances to gain an advantage or get what you want?

What are you not letting go of today? Are you willing to let God be the one in control?

What other points would you want to know about in our Genesis 30-31 commentary? Email us here with questions or comments.