So Jacob gathered his wives and children and put them all on camels, and he drove all of his livestock in front of him. He packed all the belongings and wealth he had acquired in Paddan Aram (Haran) with his Uncle and set out for the land of Canaan, to the land of his father Isaac.
And Laban was out sheering his sheep at the time they all left, so Rachel crept into his house and stole her father’s household idols, taking them with her. And Laban never knew that any of them were leaving because Jacob had deceived him by fleeing the land in secret, crossing the Euphrates River and heading to the mountains of Gilead. It wasn’t until three days later that Laban was told of Jacob’s departure and when he found out he `saw red’, and gathered a group of his relatives to set out in a fast and furious pursuit. And he actually caught up with Jacob seven days later near the mountains of Gilead. But before he could do anything rash, YAHUAH appeared to Laban in a dream, warning him to leave Jacob alone and not to do anything horrible to him. So Laban set up his camp not far away from Jacob and then went in for the big confrontation . . .
“What’s the deal skulking off like a gutless sucka in the middle of the night? Dragging my daughters away like prisoners in secret. Why not be a man and tell me you’re leaving instead of deceiving me LIKE A COWARD? We could have feasted together with wine and singing and music, with tambourines and harps playing. I was not even able to kiss my daughters and grandchildren and say good-bye! You have acted so treacherously my boy! I should ‘rip you a new one’ and destroy you . . . But Yahuah, the Alahim of your father Isaac spoke to me last night telling me to leave you alone. Now I can understand that you want to be back in the land of your fathers, but why would you steal my sacred idols that protect the wealth and security of my home, a place I welcomed you in?”
And Jacob responded, “I left without telling you because I was afraid you’d take your daughters back by force, but as for your household idols, I don’t know what you’re talking about. Go and search everyone in our camp and see for yourself. If anyone stole them then let their blood be shed, and while you’re at it, if you find anything else that you think is yours, show it to all of us and you can have it back!”
(Jacob didn’t know it was Rachel who stole the idols.)
THE PERSON WHO HAD THE HOUSEHOLD IDOLS WAS ALSO IN CHARGE OF THE FAMILIES’ WEALTH AND AUTHORITY - THIS WAS MUCH MORE THAN JUST PETTY THEFT - Rachel WAS MAKING A MOVE FOR HER FATHER’S FUTURE INHERITANCE.
Laban went into Jacob’s tent to search there first, then into Leah’s, and then the tents of the two servant-wives, and after he found nothing, he went into Rachel’s tent (who had hidden the idols in her camel’s saddle-bag, which she was sitting on).
When Laban had thoroughly searched her tent he signalled for Rachel to get off her camel, but she said, “I can’t get up right now, it’s ‘that time of the month’.”
So Laban left her alone for fear of becoming `unclean’ and continued his search, but found no household idols.
And Jacob was fed up with this abuse! “WHY ARE YOU SO DESPERATE TO GET ME? CHASING ME THROUGH THE DESERT FOR THREE DAYS LIKE SOME FREAKY MAD MAN. AM I A CRIMINAL? WHAT IS MY CRIME AGAINST YOU? COME ON, WHAT'S MY SIN? YOU HAVE RUMMAGED THROUGH EVERYONE’S STUFF AND WHAT HAVE YOU FOUND? PLEASE . . . SHOW US ALL?
For twenty years I have been with you, looking after your flocks and in all that time none of them ever miscarried. In all those years I never used any of your rams for food and if any of them were killed by wild animals, I never made a big deal about it . . . NO, I TOOK EVERY SINGLE LOSS MYSELF! AND YOU MADE ME PAY FOR EVERY SINGLE STOLEN ANIMAL.
I worked through the scorching heat and through cold and sleepless nights. Yes, for twenty years I slaved in your house! I worked for fourteen years earning your two daughters, and then six more years for your flock. And you changed my wages ten times! Infact if Yahuah wasn’t with me and blessing me, you would have ‘kicked me to the curb’ years ago.
But Yahuah, the Alahim of my fathers has seen your abusive behaviour and my loyal hard work and that is why He appeared to you last night..... and told you off!”
And Laban saw how powerful Jacob’s little `empire’ was becoming and knew he was getting no where with this confrontation so he decided to `sweep it all under the rug’ and instead ensure his future safety, saying “Everything you have, these women, children, flocks..... they’re all from me. But what can I do about any of that now? If you want to feel that way about me after everything then that’s your choice. But let’s call a truce for now and make a Covenant-Agreement to ensure our family’s futures”.
So after cutting up a clean animal, and dividing it they walked between it, and Jacob lifted up a large stone as a witness and all his family grabbed stones and put them into a big pile, then Jacob and Laban sat down and ate a covenant meal. And as a witness of their Covenant-Agreement, Laban called the place Yegar Sahadutha (“witness pile” in Aramaic), and Jacob called it Gilead(“witness pile” in Hebrew). And Laban declared, “This pile of stones will stand as a witness to remind us of the covenant we have both made today.”
And it was also called Mitspah (“watchtower”), for Laban said, “Yahuah will watch us and make sure we both keep this Covenant when we are out of each other’s sight. And if you’re cruel or abusive to either of my daughters or if you marry any other wives, Yahuah will deal with you, for He is the witness of this Covenant between us and LET THIS COVENANT STAND - I will never pass this pile of stones to attack you, and you must never pass these stones or this monument to harm me. I call on Yahuah, the Alahim (mighty one) of your grandfather Abraham and I call on the Alahim (pagan deity) of my grandfather Nahor to judge between us.”
(EVEN THOUGH LABAN HAD BEEN VISITED BY YAHUAH THE NIGHT BEFORE HE STILL STUBBORNLY CLUNG TO HIS FALSE-IDOLS AND PAGAN DEITIES).
So Jacob promised to respect the boundary line and made a burnt offering to Yahuah right there on the mountain and they all feasted in their newly formed Covenant-Agreement. And after they all ate and drank, they spent the night on the mountains of Gilead. And Laban got up early the next morning, kissed his grandchildren and his daughters and spoke blessings over them. Then he went home.
As Jacob started travelling towards Canaan again, messengers of YAHUAH appeared to him and upon seeing them, Jacob said, “This is the camp of Yahuah!”
And he called the place Makanayim (meaning “two houses” - very prophetic). Then he sent servants ahead to his brother Esau, who was living in the region of Seir in the fields of Edom, telling them, “Give this message to my brother Esau: ‘Dear brother, hello, it’s your servant Jacob. I’ve been living with Uncle Laban all these years, and now I own cattle, donkeys, flocks and many servants. I have sent these messengers ahead of me to inform you of my arrival, hoping that you’ll be kind to me for I’m truly sorry for my crimes against you.”
And after delivering the message, the messengers returned to Jacob saying, “We met your brother, Esau, and he is already on his way to meet you with an army of 400 men!”
And Jacob was terrified at their news (because of his deception against his brother 20 years before). So he quickly separated his household (along with the flocks, herds and camels), into two groups, for he thought “If Esau meets one group and attacks it, the other group can still escape.”
Then Jacob spoke to YAHUAH, “O’ Yahuah of my grandfather Abraham, and of my father, Isaac, You Yourself told me to return to the land of my fathers and You promised that You’ll always be with me. I know I am nothing and not worthy of all the kindness and truth you have shown me, your servant. For indeed when I left home and crossed the Jordan River, I had nothing but a walking stick and now my household is big enough to split into two large groups! Please my Master Yahuah, deliver me and rescue me from Esau’s anger. I’m so afraid that he’s coming to slaughter me with my wives and children. But You promised that You’ll always be with me and that You’d multiply my descendants until they became as numerous as the sands on the seashore (too many to count)".
And Jacob stayed where he was for the whole night and then selected these gifts to present to his brother: 200 female goats, 20 male goats, 200 ewes, 20 rams, 30 female camels with their young, 40 cows, 10 bulls, 20 female donkeys, and 10 male donkeys. Then he divided these animals into herds and gave them to different servants, telling them, “Go ahead of me with the animals, but keep some distance between the herds".
And to the men leading the first group he said, “When my brother Esau meets you, he will ask, ‘Whose servants are you? Where are you going? And who owns these flocks?’ And you must reply, ‘They belong to your brother Jacob your servant, and they’re gifts for you Master Esau. Look! He’s coming behind us now.’”
And to the second and third herdsmen and everyone else following behind, Jacob told them, “You must say the same thing to Esau when you meet him and don’t forget to tell him that I’m following right behind you.”
For Jacob thought, “I will try to soften my brother and `butter him up’ with gifts, before he sees me. Then when I see him in person, maybe he’ll be forgiving.” So the gifts were sent on ahead, while Jacob spent the night in the camp.