Genesis 31:36-55

36 Then Jacob was angry and rebuked Laban, and Jacob answered and said to Laban: “What is my trespass? What is my sin, that you have so hotly pursued me?

37 Although you have searched all my things, what part of your household things have you found? Set it here before my brethren and your brethren, that they may judge between us both!

38 These twenty years I have been with you; your ewes and your female goats have not miscarried their young, and I have not eaten the rams of your flock.

39 That which was torn by beasts I did not bring to you; I bore the loss of it. You required it from my hand, whether stolen by day or stolen by night.

40 There I was! In the day the drought consumed me, and the frost by night, and my sleep departed from my eyes.

41 Thus I have been in your house twenty years; I served you fourteen years for your two daughters, and six years for your flock, and you have changed my wages ten times.

42 Unless the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had been with me, surely now you would have sent me away empty-handed. God has seen my affliction and the labor of my hands, and rebuked you last night.”

43 And Laban answered and said to Jacob, “These daughters are my daughters, and these children are my children, and this flock is my flock; all that you see is mine. But what can I do this day to these my daughters or to their children whom they have borne?

44 Now therefore, come, let us make a covenant, you and I, and let it be a witness between you and me.”

45 So Jacob took a stone and set it up as a pillar.

46 Then Jacob said to his brethren, “Gather stones.” And they took stones and made a heap, and they ate there on the heap.

47 Laban called it Jegar Sahadutha, but Jacob called it Galeed.

48 And Laban said, “This heap is a witness between you and me this day.” Therefore its name was called Galeed,

49 also Mizpah, because he said, “May the Lord watch between you and me when we are absent one from another.

50 If you afflict my daughters, or if you take other wives besides my daughters, although no man is with us—see, God is witness between you and me!”

51 Then Laban said to Jacob, “Here is this heap and here is this pillar, which I have placed between you and me.

52 This heap is a witness, and this pillar is a witness, that I will not pass beyond this heap to you, and you will not pass beyond this heap and this pillar to me, for harm.

53 The God of Abraham, the God of Nahor, and the God of their father judge between us.” And Jacob swore by the Fear of his father Isaac.

54 Then Jacob offered a sacrifice on the mountain, and called his brethren to eat bread. And they ate bread and stayed all night on the mountain.

55 And early in the morning Laban arose, and kissed his sons and daughters and blessed them. Then Laban departed and returned to his place.

Six years [Jacob] had served [Laban] “in relation to his cattle”; that is, the cattle were not a price paid by Laban, but rather the result of God’s blessings on his labors. Because of Jacob’s faithful attention to the cattle when they were young, none had ever been lost by miscarriage—a frequent occurrence under less careful shepherds. Jacob had never even used any of Laban’s animals for his own food while caring for them, although this was considered the right of every shepherd. Furthermore, in a day when wild animals were a real danger to the flocks, Jacob had himself borne the cost of any losses due to this cause. It was customary that, when a shepherd brought a torn animal to his master, this was regarded as evidence that he had defended the sheep and had driven the beast away, that he had done all he could to save it; under these circumstances, the master bore the lose, rather than the shepherd. Jacob, however, had borne all the losses himself, evidently by replacing lost animals from Laban’s flock with animals from his own flocks.

He had given faithful service in the highest degree, through intense heat and intense cold, often spending sleepless nights in caring for the flocks. With all of this, Laban had no less than ten times changed his agreement with Jacob as to his payment, each time trying to prevent Jacob from prospering and trying to secure all he gains for himself. And finally, Laban was fully intending to send Jacob away completely empty-handed—if indeed he would even spare his life. — Morris, page 488


Jacob’s increasing prosperity had been due to the Lord’s blessings, and now God had confirmed all this by His sharp rebuke to Laban the night before. Jacob pointed out that the God who had protected and intervened for him was the God who had led Abraham away from Haran in the first place and (lest Laban should suggest that he also served the God of Abraham) was the God whom Isaac (who had never set foot in Haran) had served with reverential fear. — Morris, page 489


Laban, continuing [his] diversionary tactic, took the initiative in proposing the terms of the covenant after the pillar was erected. Implying that Jacob was the one not to be trusted, he demanded certain restrictions on his activities. Jacob must not afflict his daughters (Jacob had always treated them with kindness and consideration, and Laban had no cause to think that he ever would do otherwise); neither must he ever take any wives other than Laban’s daughters (Jacob had only wanted Rachel in the first place, but had been forced into a bigamous relationship by Laban’s own deception); finally, after Jacob had become strong in the land of Canaan (as Laban realized he inevitably would, under God’s blessing), he must not come back to Haran bent on revenge against Laban (Laban knew Jacob was not a vindictive man and would never think of such a thing, but he got a measure of vicarious satisfaction by imputing his own base motives to Jacob in this way). In return, Laban would promise not to come any further into Canaan to hurt Jacob (he no doubt would have, if he could, but knew God would not allow it; so he might as well appear noble by promising this restraint). Laban then also called the heap of stones “Mizpah” (meaning “watch tower:”), denoting it as a sort of sentry guarding the boundary between Laban’s sphere of activities and Jacob’s sphere of activities. — Morris, page 490


The two men then make a covenant of peace, the “witness” to which they establish by making a mound of stones which Laban calls in Aramaic (his native tongue) Jegar-sahadutha (“a witness-mound”) and Jacob [calls it the same thing] in Hebrew (his own native tongue) Galeed. — Wechsler, page 238

There are various views on the actual oath sworn over the altar. The words “the God of their father” isn’t in some manuscripts. Laban may have meant “God of Abraham” and “God of Nahor” to refer to two separate deities. Morris takes this basic view.

Laban concluded his wordy proposal by invoking the names of “the God of Abraham and the God of Nahor, the God of their father.” The word used here, of course, is “Elohim,” which is basically a plural noun and can be used, when justified in the context, to mean “gods.” This was most probably Laban’s intent. The “God of Nahor” was probably Laban’s idol. The term “God of their father” probably referred to both “gods,” or else perhaps was an attempt to try to identify Laban’s “god” with the true God of Abraham.

Jacob, rather than trying to clear up Laban’s theological confusion, simply made his own oath in the name of the God who had been the “Fear of his father Isaac.” — Morris, page 491

It’s also possible that Laban, by the phrase ” the God of Abraham and the God of Nahor, the God of their father” wasn’t referring to the true God at all but to the false “god” or “gods” (the word can be plural in context) that Terah, Nahor, and Abraham worshiped when they were pagans in Haran, and that Laban still worshiped. Laban seems to be calling on his god to judge between him and Jacob, while Jacob replied by calling on the true God to be the judge. Each man swore by their own deities.

Laban did stick around long enough to say goodbye to his daughters and grandchildren in the morning before heading for home. This is the last time he appears in Scripture.

This entry was posted in Genesis. Bookmark the permalink.