Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Genesis 31:25-35 comments: the search

25 ¶  Then Laban overtook Jacob. Now Jacob had pitched his tent in the mount: and Laban with his brethren pitched in the mount of Gilead. 26  And Laban said to Jacob, What hast thou done, that thou hast stolen away unawares to me, and carried away my daughters, as captives taken with the sword? 27  Wherefore didst thou flee away secretly, and steal away from me; and didst not tell me, that I might have sent thee away with mirth, and with songs, with tabret, and with harp? 28  And hast not suffered me to kiss my sons and my daughters? thou hast now done foolishly in so doing. 29  It is in the power of my hand to do you hurt: but the God of your father spake unto me yesternight, saying, Take thou heed that thou speak not to Jacob either good or bad. 30  And now, though thou wouldest needs be gone, because thou sore longedst after thy father’s house, yet wherefore hast thou stolen my gods? 31  And Jacob answered and said to Laban, Because I was afraid: for I said, Peradventure thou wouldest take by force thy daughters from me. 32  With whomsoever thou findest thy gods, let him not live: before our brethren discern thou what is thine with me, and take it to thee. For Jacob knew not that Rachel had stolen them. 33  And Laban went into Jacob’s tent, and into Leah’s tent, and into the two maidservants’ tents; but he found them not. Then went he out of Leah’s tent, and entered into Rachel’s tent. 34  Now Rachel had taken the images, and put them in the camel’s furniture, and sat upon them. And Laban searched all the tent, but found them not. 35  And she said to her father, Let it not displease my lord that I cannot rise up before thee; for the custom of women is upon me. And he searched, but found not the images.

Having caught up with Jacob, Laban confronts him. Laban accuses Jacob of running off with HIS daughters like captives taken in war. He makes it sound like he would have been okay with their leaving and would have thrown them a party. A tabret is a musical instrument. See the context? The same word is translated in some places as a timbrel. This is like a tambourine today. Jacob has denied Laban the privilege of kissing his children and grandchildren goodbye, Laban complains. Then, while he admits that he has the power to hurt Jacob, presumably to kill him, take his goods, and return his daughters and grandchildren to his control, that the God of Jacob’s father warned him not to do so, as we have seen.

In verse 30, Laban brings up the accusation that Jacob has stolen his household gods, the images that Rachel had stolen as per verse 19. These gods, these idols, as I noted before, were particular to Laban’s family worship and their theft was a great wrong done to him, in the context of the culture of the ancient world. This is how degenerate the ancient world had become since the time of Noah, worship perhaps brought with his wife or children from the pre-Flood world, perhaps.

Jacob replies, justifying his actions based on his fear of Laban, and acknowledging the severity of the crime of stealing Laban’s household gods and not knowing that it was Rachel who stole them, and promises that whomever stole them will die.

He tells Laban that anything he finds that belongs to him, to take it. Laban does a search but cannot find the images. Rachel has hidden them in the equipment on which she sits, which belongs on her camel. She is sitting on that in the tent. She makes the excuse that she cannot get up because she is in her monthly period. This excuse is accepted and, of course, no one would have suspected that one of Laban’s daughters stole the family images. A woman in the ancient world, when married, left her family worship and that would mean the family images, as well. She was to embrace fully the religion of her husband’s family although she had no part in its inheritance except through her eldest son. Rachel, like many Christians today, cannot let go of the idols in which they place their trust.

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