Jacob and Laban
written by Moses* in Genesis 29:1-31:55
Jacob Arrives at Laban's Home
1 Jacob continued on his way and went toward the land of the East. 2 Suddenly he came upon a well out in the fields with three flocks of sheep lying around it. The flocks were watered from this well, which had a large stone over the opening. 3 Whenever all the flocks came together there, the shepherds would roll the stone back and water them. Then they would put the stone back in place.
4 Jacob asked the shepherds, “My friends, where are you from?”
“From Haran,” they answered.
5 He asked, “Do you know Laban, grandson of Nahor?”
“Yes, we do,” they answered.
6 “Is he well?” he asked.
“He is well,” they answered. “Look, here comes his daughter Rachel with his flock.”
7 Jacob said, “Since it is still broad daylight and not yet time to bring the flocks in, why don't you water them and take them back to pasture?”
8 They answered, “We can't do that until all the flocks are here and the stone has been rolled back; then we will water the flocks.”
9 While Jacob was still talking with them, Rachel arrived with the flock. 10 When Jacob saw Rachel with his uncle Laban's flock, he went to the well, rolled the stone back, and watered the sheep. 11 Then he kissed her and began to cry for joy. 12 He told her, “I am your father's relative, the son of Rebecca.”
She ran to tell her father; 13 and when he heard the news about his nephew Jacob, he ran to meet him, hugged him and kissed him, and brought him into the house. When Jacob told Laban everything that had happened, 14 Laban said, “Yes, indeed, you are my own flesh and blood.” Jacob stayed there a whole month.
Jacob Serves Laban for Rachel and Leah
15 Laban said to Jacob, “You shouldn't work for me for nothing just because you are my relative. How much pay do you want?” 16 Laban had two daughters; the older was named Leah, and the younger Rachel. 17 Leah had lovely eyes, but Rachel was shapely and beautiful.
18 Jacob was in love with Rachel, so he said, “I will work seven years for you, if you will let me marry Rachel.”
19 Laban answered, “I would rather give her to you than to anyone else; stay here with me.” 20 Jacob worked seven years so that he could have Rachel, and the time seemed like only a few days to him, because he loved her.
21 Then Jacob said to Laban, “The time is up; let me marry your daughter.” 22 So Laban gave a wedding feast and invited everyone. 23 But that night, instead of Rachel, he took Leah to Jacob, and Jacob had intercourse with her. ( 24 Laban gave his slave woman Zilpah to his daughter Leah as her maid.) 25 Not until the next morning did Jacob discover that it was Leah. He went to Laban and said, “Why did you do this to me? I worked to get Rachel. Why have you tricked me?”
26 Laban answered, “It is not the custom here to give the younger daughter in marriage before the older. 27 Wait until the week's marriage celebrations are over, and I will give you Rachel, if you will work for me another seven years.”
28 Jacob agreed, and when the week of marriage celebrations was over, Laban gave him his daughter Rachel as his wife. ( 29 Laban gave his slave woman Bilhah to his daughter Rachel as her maid.) 30 Jacob had intercourse with Rachel also, and he loved her more than Leah. Then he worked for Laban another seven years.
The Children Born to Jacob
31 When the Lord saw that Leah was loved less than Rachel, he made it possible for her to have children, but Rachel remained childless. 32 Leah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She said, “The Lord has seen my trouble, and now my husband will love me”; so she named him Reuben. 33 She became pregnant again and gave birth to another son. She said, “The Lord has given me this son also, because he heard that I was not loved”; so she named him Simeon. 34 Once again she became pregnant and gave birth to another son. She said, “Now my husband will be bound more tightly to me, because I have borne him three sons”; so she named him Levi. 35 Then she became pregnant again and gave birth to another son. She said, “This time I will praise the Lord”; so she named him Judah. Then she stopped having children.
1 But Rachel had not borne Jacob any children, and so she became jealous of her sister and said to Jacob, “Give me children, or I will die.”
2 Jacob became angry with Rachel and said, “I can't take the place of God. He is the one who keeps you from having children.”
3 She said, “Here is my slave Bilhah; sleep with her, so that she can have a child for me. In this way I can become a mother through her.” 4 So she gave Bilhah to her husband, and he had intercourse with her. 5 Bilhah became pregnant and bore Jacob a son. 6 Rachel said, “God has judged in my favor. He has heard my prayer and has given me a son”; so she named him Dan. 7 Bilhah became pregnant again and bore Jacob a second son. 8 Rachel said, “I have fought a hard fight with my sister, but I have won”; so she named him Naphtali.
9 When Leah realized that she had stopped having children, she gave her slave Zilpah to Jacob as his wife. 10 Then Zilpah bore Jacob a son. 11 Leah said, “I have been lucky”; so she named him Gad. 12 Zilpah bore Jacob another son, 13 and Leah said, “How happy I am! Now women will call me happy”; so she named him Asher.
14 During the wheat harvest Reuben went into the fields and found mandrakes, which he brought to his mother Leah. Rachel said to Leah, “Please give me some of your son's mandrakes.”
15 Leah answered, “Isn't it enough that you have taken away my husband? Now you are even trying to take away my son's mandrakes.”
Rachel said, “If you will give me your son's mandrakes, you can sleep with Jacob tonight.”
16 When Jacob came in from the fields in the evening, Leah went out to meet him and said, “You are going to sleep with me tonight, because I have paid for you with my son's mandrakes.” So he had intercourse with her that night.
17 God answered Leah's prayer, and she became pregnant and bore Jacob a fifth son. 18 Leah said, “God has given me my reward, because I gave my slave to my husband”; so she named her son Issachar. 19 Leah became pregnant again and bore Jacob a sixth son. 20 She said, “God has given me a fine gift. Now my husband will accept me, because I have borne him six sons”; so she named him Zebulun. 21 Later she bore a daughter, whom she named Dinah.
22 Then God remembered Rachel; he answered her prayer and made it possible for her to have children. 23 She became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She said, “God has taken away my disgrace by giving me a son. 24 May the Lord give me another son”; so she named him Joseph.
Jacob's Bargain with Laban
25 After the birth of Joseph, Jacob said to Laban, “Let me go, so that I can return home. 26 Give me my wives and children that I have earned by working for you, and I will leave. You know how well I have served you.”
27 Laban said to him, “Let me say this: I have learned by divination that the Lord has blessed me because of you. 28 Name your wages, and I will pay them.”
29 Jacob answered, “You know how I have worked for you and how your flocks have prospered under my care. 30 The little you had before I came has grown enormously, and the Lord has blessed you wherever I went. Now it is time for me to look out for my own interests.”
31 “What shall I pay you?” Laban asked.
Jacob answered, “I don't want any wages. I will continue to take care of your flocks if you agree to this suggestion: 32 Let me go through all your flocks today and take every black lamb and every spotted or speckled young goat. That is all the wages I want. 33 In the future you can easily find out if I have been honest. When you come to check up on my wages, if I have any goat that isn't speckled or spotted or any sheep that isn't black, you will know that it has been stolen.”
34 Laban answered, “Agreed. We will do as you suggest.” 35 But that day Laban removed the male goats that had stripes or spots and all the females that were speckled and spotted or which had white on them; he also removed all the black sheep. He put his sons in charge of them, 36 and then went away from Jacob with this flock as far as he could travel in three days. Jacob took care of the rest of Laban's flocks.
37 Jacob got green branches of poplar, almond, and plane trees and stripped off some of the bark so that the branches had white stripes on them. 38 He placed these branches in front of the flocks at their drinking troughs. He put them there, because the animals mated when they came to drink. 39 So when the goats bred in front of the branches, they produced young that were streaked, speckled, and spotted.
40 Jacob kept the sheep separate from the goats and made them face in the direction of the streaked and black animals of Laban's flock. In this way he built up his own flock and kept it apart from Laban's.
41 When the healthy animals were mating, Jacob put the branches in front of them at the drinking troughs, so that they would breed among the branches. 42 But he did not put the branches in front of the weak animals. Soon Laban had all the weak animals, and Jacob all the healthy ones. 43 In this way Jacob became very wealthy. He had many flocks, slaves, camels, and donkeys.
Jacob Flees from Laban
1 Jacob heard that Laban's sons were saying, “Jacob has taken everything that belonged to our father. He got all his wealth from what our father owned.” 2 He also saw that Laban was no longer as friendly as he had been earlier. 3 Then the Lord said to him, “Go back to the land of your fathers and to your relatives. I will be with you.”
4 So Jacob sent word to Rachel and Leah to meet him in the field where his flocks were. 5 He said to them, “I have noticed that your father is not as friendly toward me as he used to be; but my father's God has been with me. 6 You both know that I have worked for your father with all my strength. 7 Yet he has cheated me and changed my wages ten times. But God did not let him harm me. 8 Whenever Laban said, ‘The speckled goats shall be your wages,’ all the flocks produced speckled young. When he said, ‘The striped goats shall be your wages,’ all the flocks produced striped young. 9 God has taken flocks away from your father and given them to me.
10 “During the breeding season I had a dream, and I saw that the male goats that were mating were striped, spotted, and speckled. 11 The angel of God spoke to me in the dream and said, ‘Jacob!’ ‘Yes,’ I answered. 12 ‘Look,’ he continued, ‘all the male goats that are mating are striped, spotted, and speckled. I am making this happen because I have seen all that Laban is doing to you. 13 I am the God who appeared to you at Bethel, where you dedicated a stone as a memorial by pouring olive oil on it and where you made a vow to me. Now get ready and go back to the land where you were born.’”
14 Rachel and Leah answered Jacob, “There is nothing left for us to inherit from our father. 15 He treats us like foreigners. He sold us, and now he has spent all the money he was paid for us. 16 All this wealth which God has taken from our father belongs to us and to our children. Do whatever God has told you.”
17-18 So Jacob got ready to go back to his father in the land of Canaan. He put his children and his wives on the camels, and drove all his flocks ahead of him, with everything that he had gotten in Mesopotamia. 19 Laban had gone to shear his sheep, and during his absence Rachel stole the household gods that belonged to her father. 20 Jacob deceived Laban by not letting him know that he was leaving. 21 He took everything he owned and left in a hurry. He crossed the Euphrates River and started for the hill country of Gilead.
Laban Pursues Jacob
22 Three days later Laban was told that Jacob had fled. 23 He took his men with him and pursued Jacob for seven days until he caught up with him in the hill country of Gilead. 24 In a dream that night God came to Laban and said to him, “Be careful not to threaten Jacob in any way.” 25 Jacob had set up his camp on a mountain, and Laban set up his camp with his relatives in the hill country of Gilead.
26 Laban said to Jacob, “Why did you deceive me and carry off my daughters like women captured in war? 27 Why did you deceive me and slip away without telling me? If you had told me, I would have sent you on your way with rejoicing and singing to the music of tambourines and harps. 28 You did not even let me kiss my grandchildren and my daughters good-bye. That was a foolish thing to do! 29 I have the power to do you harm, but last night the God of your father warned me not to threaten you in any way. 30 I know that you left because you were so anxious to get back home, but why did you steal my household gods?”
31 Jacob answered, “I was afraid, because I thought that you might take your daughters away from me. 32 But if you find that anyone here has your gods, he will be put to death. Here, with our men as witnesses, look for anything that belongs to you and take what is yours.” Jacob did not know that Rachel had stolen Laban's gods.
33 Laban went and searched Jacob's tent; then he went into Leah's tent, and the tent of the two slave women, but he did not find his gods. Then he went into Rachel's tent. 34 Rachel had taken the household gods and put them in a camel's saddlebag and was sitting on them. Laban searched through the whole tent, but did not find them. 35 Rachel said to her father, “Do not be angry with me, sir, but I am not able to stand up in your presence; I am having my monthly period.” Laban searched but did not find his household gods.
36 Then Jacob lost his temper. “What crime have I committed?” he asked angrily. “What law have I broken that gives you the right to hunt me down? 37 Now that you have searched through all my belongings, what household article have you found that belongs to you? Put it out here where your men and mine can see it, and let them decide which one of us is right. 38 I have been with you now for twenty years; your sheep and your goats have not failed to reproduce, and I have not eaten any rams from your flocks. 39 Whenever a sheep was killed by wild animals, I always bore the loss myself. I didn't take it to you to show that it was not my fault. You demanded that I make good anything that was stolen during the day or during the night. 40 Many times I suffered from the heat during the day and from the cold at night. I was not able to sleep. 41 It was like that for the whole twenty years I was with you. For fourteen years I worked to win your two daughters—and six years for your flocks. And even then, you changed my wages ten times. 42 If the God of my fathers, the God of Abraham and Isaac, had not been with me, you would have already sent me away empty-handed. But God has seen my trouble and the work I have done, and last night he gave his judgment.”
The Agreement between Jacob and Laban
43 Laban answered Jacob, “These young women are my daughters; their children belong to me, and these flocks are mine. In fact, everything you see here belongs to me. But since I can do nothing to keep my daughters and their children, 44 I am ready to make an agreement with you. Let us make a pile of stones to remind us of our agreement.”
45 So Jacob got a stone and set it up as a memorial. 46 He told his men to gather some rocks and pile them up. Then they ate a meal beside the pile of rocks. 47 Laban named it Jegar Sahadutha, while Jacob named it Galeed. 48 Laban said to Jacob, “This pile of rocks will be a reminder for both of us.” That is why that place was named Galeed. 49 Laban also said, “May the Lord keep an eye on us while we are separated from each other.” So the place was also named Mizpah. 50 Laban went on, “If you mistreat my daughters or if you marry other women, even though I don't know about it, remember that God is watching us. 51 Here are the rocks that I have piled up between us, and here is the memorial stone. 52 Both this pile and this memorial stone are reminders. I will never go beyond this pile to attack you, and you must never go beyond it or beyond this memorial stone to attack me. 53 The God of Abraham and the God of Nahor will judge between us.” Then, in the name of the God whom his father Isaac worshiped, Jacob solemnly vowed to keep this promise. 54 He killed an animal, which he offered as a sacrifice on the mountain, and he invited his men to the meal. After they had eaten, they spent the night on the mountain. 55 Early the next morning Laban kissed his grandchildren and his daughters good-bye, and left to go back home.