Summary: Jacob had lived with and served uncle Laban for twenty years. He soon found out that it was time for him to leave and go back to his home country.

Introduction: Jacob had now lived with and worked for his uncle Laban for 14 years. He had received his rewards, Leah and Rachel plus a servant girl for each and was now the father of at least 12 children (details for these children are found in Genesis 29:31-30:24). He was ready to leave but Laban talked him into staying a little longer. Eventually Jacob knew it was absolutely time to leave—and that’s when things got interesting.

1 The Realization

Text: Genesis 31:1-3, KJV: 1 And he heard the words of Laban's sons, saying, Jacob hath taken away all that was our father's; and of that which was our father's hath he gotten all this glory. 2 And Jacob beheld the countenance of Laban, and, behold, it was not toward him as before. 3 And the LORD said unto Jacob, Return unto the land of thy fathers, and to thy kindred; and I will be with thee.

The beginning of this problem actually had its roots a few years before. Laban had asked Jacob to stay a little longer—after Jacob had stayed with Laban for 14 years already! The details are found in Genesis 30:25-43, where Jacob asked Laban to separate the livestock into “yours” and “mine” and Jacob agreed to care for the animals. So far, so good, right?

But a problem arose when Jacob’s flocks became stronger than Laban’s. Moses wrote of some unusual breeding techniques, using peeled rods placed near watering troughs. Frankly, I had never known anything like this to happen in real life but it seemed to work for Jacob.

And as a result, Laban’s attitude towards Jacob began to change. He saw what was happening, and his sons, to use commonly used phrase of these days, “said the quiet part out loud.” These sons of Laban complained that Jacob had basically stolen all that was Laban’s and was enjoying the glory he had received because of this. This is ironic, because Laban had cheated Jacob years before, agreeing to give him Rachel as a wife but slipping Leah instead—and appealing to an invisible or unwritten law where you had to marry off your daughters in birth order!

Aware of this, Jacob must have been wondering what to do—stay and make the best of it? If he did, what might Laban do this time? Or should he leave? If he did, where would he go? These were the only two choices he had, but either one would be difficult to follow, at best.

Then the LORD spoke to Jacob. One wonders how much and how often Jacob had spoken to or with the LORD since he had left home near Hebron 20 years before. According to some sources, shepherds could be away from home for weeks at a time while tending the flocks, finding grass, water, and safe places from predators. This would have been a great time to learn from the LORD, as well as about Him—after all, Grandfather Abraham was still alive for Jacob’s first 15 years and could have told story after story about God’s provision. But only he knew for sure.

The LORD’s message to Jacob had two parts, then. First, He told Jacob “Go back home”, in so many words. Jacob may have been relieved to hear this but his reactions is not stated. Then the LORD reminded him, “I will be with you”—a repeat of the original promise He had made to Jacob at Bethel so many years before (Genesis 28:10-17). Yes, He had been with Jacob, and reinforced that promise that day.

This was just what Jacob needed to hear. Now he was ready to make his decision.

2 The Revelation

Text, Genesis 31:4-16, KJV: 4 And Jacob sent and called Rachel and Leah to the field unto his flock, 5 And said unto them, I see your father's countenance, that it is not toward me as before; but the God of my father hath been with me. 6 And ye know that with all my power I have served your father. 7 And your father hath deceived me, and changed my wages ten times; but God suffered him not to hurt me. 8 If he said thus, The speckled shall be thy wages; then all the cattle bare speckled: and if he said thus, The ringstraked shall be thy hire; then bare all the cattle ringstraked. 9 Thus God hath taken away the cattle of your father, and given them to me. 10 And it came to pass at the time that the cattle conceived, that I lifted up mine eyes, and saw in a dream, and, behold, the rams which leaped upon the cattle were ringstraked, speckled, and grisled. 11 And the angel of God spake unto me in a dream, saying, Jacob: And I said, Here am I. 12 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. 13 I am the God of Bethel, where thou anointedst the pillar, and where thou vowedst a vow unto me: now arise, get thee out from this land, and return unto the land of thy kindred. 14 And Rachel and Leah answered and said unto him, Is there yet any portion or inheritance for us in our father's house? 15 Are we not counted of him strangers? for he hath sold us, and hath quite devoured also our money. 16 For all the riches which God hath taken from our father, that is ours, and our children's: now then, whatsoever God hath said unto thee, do.

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