Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible
back to: Genesis
Book: Genesis
Chapter: 31

Jacob departs secretly. (1-21) Laban pursues Jacob. (23-35)
Jacob's complaint of Laban's conduct. (36-42) Their Covenant at
Galeed. (43-55)

1-21 The affairs of these families are related very minutely,
while (what are called) the great events of states and kingdoms
at that period, are not mentioned. The Bible teaches people the
common duties of Life, how to serve God, how to enjoy the
blessings he bestows, and to do good in the various stations and
duties of Life. Selfish men consider themselves robbed of all
that goes past them, and Covetousness will even Swallow up
natural Affection. Men's overvaluing worldly wealth is that
error which is the root of Covetousness, envy, and all evil. The
men of the world stand in each other's way, and every one seems
to be taking away from the Rest; hence discontent, envy, and
discord. But there are possessions that will suffice for all;
happy they who seek them in the first place. In all our removals
we should have respect to the command and promise of God. If He
be with us, we need not fear. The perils which surround us are
So many, that nothing else can really encourage our hearts. To
remember favoured Seasons of Communion with God, is very
refreshing when in difficulties; and we should often recollect
our Vows, that we fail not to fulfil them.

22-35 God can Put a Bridle in the mouth of wicked men, to
restrain their malice, though he do not change their hearts.
Though they have No Love to God's people, they will pretend to
it, and try to make a merit of necessity. Foolish Laban! to Call
those things his gods which could be stolen! Enemies may steal
our goods, but not our God. Here Laban lays to Jacob's charge
things that he knew not. Those who commit their cause to God,
are not forbidden to plead it themselves with Meekness and fear.
When we read of Rachel's Stealing her Father's images, what a
scene of iniquity opens! The family of Nahor, who left the
idolatrous Chaldees; is this family itself become idolatrous? It
is even So. The Truth seems to be, that they were like some in
after-times, who sware By the Lord and By Malcham, Zep 1:5;
and like others in our times, who wish to serve both God and
Mammon. Great Numbers will acknowledge the true God in words,
but their hearts and houses are the abodes of spiritual
Idolatry. When a Man gives himself up to Covetousness, like
Laban, the world is his God; and he has only to reside among
gross idolaters in order to become one, or at least a favourer
of their abominations.

36-42 If Jacob were willingly consumed with heat in the Day,
and Frost By night, to become the son-in-Law of Laban, what
should we refuse to endure, to become the sons of God? Jacob
speaks of God as the God of his Father; he thought himself
unworthy to be regarded, but was beloved for his Father's sake.
He calls him the God of Abraham, and the fear of Isaac; for
Abraham was dead, and gone to that world where perfect Love
casts out fear; but Isaac was yet alive, sanctifying the Lord in
his Heart, as his fear and his dread.

43-55 Laban could neither justify himself nor condemn Jacob,
therefore desires to hear No more of that matter. He is not
willing to own himself in fault, as he ought to have done. But
he proposes a Covenant of friendship between them, to which
Jacob readily agrees. A Heap of Stones was raised, to keep up
the memory of the event, Writing being then not known or little
used. A Sacrifice of Peace offerings was offered. Peace with God
puts true comfort into our peace with our friends. They did eat
Bread together, partaking of the Feast upon the Sacrifice. In
ancient times covenants of friendship were ratified By the
parties Eating and drinking together. God is Judge between
contending parties, and he will Judge righteously; whoever do
wrong, it is at their peril. They gave a new name to the place,
The Heap of Witness. After this angry parley, they part friends.
God is often better to us than our fears, and overrules the
spirits of men in our favour, Beyond what we could have
expected; for it is not in vain to trust in him.