Summary: Laban confronts Jacob after God tells him to leave and go to Canaan. We learn how God peels away the flesh and transforms us with His character through the confrontation between Laban and Jacob.
I don’t like confrontation - especially with people who I know have ulterior motives and are trying to trip me up and get the best of me. I get obsessed about it - and it makes my stomach churn. I’m sure Jacob was feeling some of those feelings as he thought about Laban - who at every turn cheated Jacob. But instead of confronting him, Jacob decides that his best option is simply to leave. Sometimes that is our best option as well.
If you are in a situation that you are not going to be able to change - perhaps in a church where you just don’t agree with the leadership - sometimes its better to switch than fight. So Jacob takes his family and leaves for home. What he doesn’t know is that confrontation is going to happen anyway.
No matter how Laban tried to get the best of Jacob - because God was on his side, everything he did prospered. Once Laban tips his hand to Jacob - that he fully intends to take everything by force and leave Jacob with nothing - Jacob realizes that it’s time to leave.
Laban is Jacob unredeemed. It’s as if God is showing Jacob what he would have turned into had he not given his life to the Lord. What a great mirror and encouragement to Jacob to see how God was shaping his character.
Verses 1 - 3
Laban’s sons were obviously jealous of Jacob’s prosperity. What they said simply wasn’t true - but a false allegation, made strongly enough, can seem true - or you can make yourself believe it in order to justify just about any action.
That poison reached Laban, who started treating Jacob badly.
Prior to this - in all the times that Laban tried to or actually cheated Jacob, God did not tell him to leave - and Jacob stayed put. Now God says "its time to go."
There really is a time to stick out bad situations, even if it seems you are being treated unfairly - and there are times to pack up and leave. The difference isn’t the situation, but God’s direction. So that really should encourage us to pray for that leading all the time!
Verses 4 - 9
So Jacob calls his wives to a secret conclave out in the field - away from prying ears and eyes. It seems that Laban had done more than was recorded - and kept changing the terms of their agreement so it would benefit Laban.
Notice the patience that has been worked into Jacob.
Verses 10 - 14
Jacob relates just how God told him to leave. Notice - God points out that He is the source of Jacob’s prosperity. God did it because He saw what Laban was doing. God sees the injustice - but He prospered Jacob within a bad situation - why? Because at Bethel Jacob gave his life to the Lord - and it was that relationship that allowed God to bless him.
God sees the hurt the world, the enemy, and other people do to us. If we have a relationship with His Son Jesus Christ, then God will make us prosper in difficult times as well.
It will be like Jacob’s son Joseph will say:
Genesis 50:20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.
And much later, the Apostle Paul:
Philippians 4:12-13 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
The secret is reliance on God’s provision - not the world or it’s illusory riches. Possessions and trickery were all that Laban had. Jacob had God and nothing else mattered.
Verses 14 - 16
Laban has cheated his own daughters as well. Jacob didn’t have a bride price for them, so he worked it off over 14 years - but apparently Laban took that away from them as well.
Notice that they said "he treats us as foreigners." As long as Laban had them, he treated them with disdain. The moment he risks losing them suddenly he is father of the year.
The world is that way too. It will eat you up and spit you out as long as you are captive to its ways. Once you proclaim your freedom in Christ and don’t model your life any more after worldly patterns - suddenly you are wanted. It’s all a trick.
Verses 17 - 18
So basically they just pack up and leave. I guess it was good after all that Laban put three days journey between them. He did it in order to cheat Jacob - but it turns out for Jacob’s good.