Jacob flees; Rachel is a thief and liar. Genesis 31

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Jacob and Laban divide the flock.

“Last week, we saw how Jacob used sticks to make Laban’s strongest cattle bear speckled and discolored cattle that, under his agreement with Laban, would become Jacob’s. Now, we will see the aftermath of this shrewdness!”

“Does he get beaten up, Shirlee?” What a hopeful tone! Ginny was really getting vengeful toward Jacob.

“You just wait and see. And stop hoping bad things happen to those chosen by God!”

“But he’s a jerk. And a liar. And a thief.”

“No, he was shrewd,” said John, with a grin.

“Yes, just the way the Greek gods like,” added Mark.

“Enough with your ridiculous Greek ‘gods’, Mark! This is about God and His relationship with a shrewd man He favored, not about made-up children’s stories!” Shirlee opened her large-print Bible. “Now, is everyone finished complaining about Jacob, and comparing the Bible to silly Greek folk tales? Can we see what happened to Jacob now?”

“Yes, Shirlee,” came the kids’ sullen reply.

Laban’s sons were upset that Jacob had so profited while Laban became poorer and poorer. They complained, and Jacob heard about it. Jacob also saw that Laban wasn’t happy to see him, as he had been before. (Genesis 31:1-2)

John had a question. ” ‘Before’ would be when Jacob was the one getting taken to the cleaners, right, Shirlee?”

Shirlee agreed, explaining again how Jacob had contracted for Rachel, worked for Laban seven years, and been given Leah instead — then had to work another seven years to pay for Rachel. Now, the shoe was on the other foot!

“But Jacob had ripped off his own brother, so shouldn’t he have just accepted the payback? You know, karma?” John’s ‘human morality’ and sense of ‘fair play’ was rearing up.

Shirlee was furious. “What are you, a Hindu? There’s no such thing as ‘karma’!”

“Now you did it,” whispered Mark.

“Quiet, you!” Shirlee glared. “I don’t have time to explain that ‘karma’ nonsense right now, but I will make that our subject for next week. You’ll see what a ridiculous, anti-Christian, and truly hateful concept karma is!”

John thought Shirlee was going a bit far. Sure, karma wasn’t a Christian concept, but how could it be hateful? “What’s hateful about ‘you get what you give’?”

“Next time, John. Back to Jacob and Laban for now.” A grumpy Shirlee turned back to her Bible, ending the karma discussion.

Just about this time, as Jacob was realizing that Laban’s whole family hated him, God told Jacob to flee and return to the land of his father. So, Jacob sent for Rachel and Leah, and had them meet him out in the fields with the flocks.

Jacob justified himself to his wives, complaining that while he had served Laban with all his strength for 20 years, Laban had changed his wages ten times, but that God had caused all the strong cattle to be transferred to Jacob’s flocks through stick-based genetic engineering. He then explained how the angel of the Lord had come to him in a dream, telling him to return to his family’s land.

Rachel and Leah, realizing they had no inheritance remaining in their father’s household — since all the wealth had been transferred to their husband, Jacob — agreed that they should all leave.

So, Jacob prepared everyone to move, without telling Laban. While preparations were underway, Rachel went and stole idols belonging to her father, for Laban worshipped false gods (that is, demons).(Genesis 31:3-19)

Ginny looked confused. “So Jacob had pretty much all of Laban’s wealth, right?”

“That’s right! God had made sure of it. That’s payback for Laban breaking his contract with Jacob.”

“So why would Rachel steal the idols?”

“The Bible doesn’t say. Maybe they were valuable.”

“So Rachel was greedy? Jacob had already made her father poor, and Jacob was rich.”

Shirlee pondered for a moment. “It sure looks that way, doesn’t it?”

John spoke up, with his usual complaint. “What’s wrong with these people? I thought they were supposed to be godly, but now this woman is stealing! And stealing idols! From her father, no less!”

“I’m sure she had her reasons, John. Let’s see what happens next!”

Jacob packed up his family and flocks and goods, and fled without telling Laban he was leaving. It took three days before Laban found out. Laban was insulted, and chased after Jacob with his brothers, catching up to him seven days later.

Laban asked Jacob why he had run off, without telling Laban so he could have a going-away party, and why he’d carried off Laban’s daughters and grandchildren like captives, without even letting Laban say goodbye. And even more, maybe Jacob was eager to get to his father’s land, but why did he steal Laban’s gods (idols)?

Jacob, ever the brave soldier of God, told Laban that he had run off because he was afraid.

Mark laughed out loud. “Afraid? Another one? That’s always their excuse!”

“What do you mean, Mark?”

“Well, Abraham claimed his wife was his sister twice, collecting plenty of rent for her as a result, because he was ‘afraid’! Then after Jacob stole his brother’s birthright and blessing, he ran off because he was ‘afraid’!”

“Wouldn’t you be afraid, Mark?”

“If God Himself popped in for tea and told me He was going to protect me and make a great nation of my descendants, no, I would not be afraid. Where is their faith, Shirlee?”

“I really can’t say, Mark. Besides, we’re not talking about Abraham. We’re talking about Jacob. So let’s see what Jacob does now.”

Jacob, knowing that he’d never laid a hand on Laban’s idols, told Laban to search the camp. If he found the idols, then whoever had stolen them would be put to death!

Ginny clapped her hands and sang, “Rachel’s gonna get it, Rachel’s gonna get it! Off with her head!”

Shirlee found this violent streak of Ginny’s a bit disturbing. She had always been so sweet and kind! What could be making her so judgmental and vengeful?

Finding herself inexplicably staring at the padlocked supply closet door, Shirlee shook her head and turned back to her Bible.

So Laban searched Jacob’s tent, and Leah’s, and that of the slavewomen, finding nothing. Next, he went to Rachel’s tent.

Rachel had hidden the idols and was sitting on them. She apologized for not getting up to greet her father, explaining that it was her ‘time of the month’. So Laban didn’t find the idols. (Genesis 31:32-35)

Ginny looked crestfallen. “She got away with it? Nuts!”

“So now she’s a thief and a liar,” added John. “What a great role model! No wonder so many people name their daughters Rachel. Have they never read the Bible?”

“Many haven’t, John. But you are, so you will know about all the people in the Bible. When you have a daughter someday, you can decide to name her after Leah, or someone else that you like better.”

“If they’re all like these great women so far — Eve, who disobeyed direct orders from God; Sarah, who laughed at God’s promises and then lied to Him about it; Rebekah, who conspired to deceive her blind husband; or Rachel, who stole from her father — I think I’ll name my daughter . . . Ginny!”

Ginny clapped her hands. “See, Shirlee? I’m better than the Bible women!”

“This isn’t a contest,” snarled Shirlee. “This is Sunday School.” She turned back to her Bible.

Cowardly Jacob (right) and Laban reconcile. Peter Paul Rubens, 1624. No, Jacob's babies were not blond.

Now Jacob decided to play the victim, yelling at Laban and asking what horrible sin he’d committed against Laban, for him to come chasing after him across the desert. He told Laban to put out whatever of his household things he’d found in searching the camp. Then he laid out his complaints against Laban, about how Laban had changed his wages ten times, and how if God hadn’t watched over him, Laban would have sent him away empty-handed.

Laban responded by pointing out that Jacob’s wives were his daughters, and Jacob’s children were his grandchildren, and how could he harm Jacob when it would harm his daughters and grandchildren? So Laban suggested a covenant between them. Jacob agreed, and they swore never to cross over the pile of rocks they set up toward the other with intent to harm.

“Laban,” muttered John. “It’s not a great name, Shirlee.”

Shirlee looked up from her Bible, puzzled. “What are you talking about, John?”

“Laban. Naming children after someone from the Bible. Laban may have been dishonest with Jacob, but it sure looks like he loved his daughters and grandchildren. After all, he only had to kill Jacob and he could have had all his wealth back; instead, he let Jacob go and take what had once been his, for the love of his daughters.”

“Yes, I guess he did,” said Shirlee. “But does he meet your high standards? Standards none of the Patriarchs seem able to meet?”

“Not really. He did cheat Jacob. But at least he redeemed himself in the end; that’s more than can be said for that craven coward Abraham, who I don’t recall ever showing bravery or concern for someone else, or Jacob, for that matter. Isaac wasn’t terribly brave, just kind of pathetic, really. A placeholder, almost?”

“We’re not done with Jacob yet, so why not withhold judgment until we are?” Shirlee turned the page, just as the church bell rang. “Looks like we’ll be back to Jacob soon, but not right now.” Snapping the Bible shut, Shirlee stood up. “More Jacob next week!”

“Wait, Shirlee! What about karma?”

Halfway to the door, Shirlee stopped and turned to face John. “Yes, karma. We’ll have that discussion first, then more Jacob if we have time. OK?”

“Great, I can’t wait to hear you explain how hateful and evil it is for people to believe they get what they give.”

What John didn’t know was that Shirlee had taken a comparative religions course in college. What she knew about karma was going to shock him.

Find out what Shirlee knows about Karma, by clicking HERE!

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