Jacob And Laban's Witness Heap
After twenty years with Laban, Jacob decided that it was time to return home. It seemed apparent that the growing hostility toward him there was becoming no less dangerous than what he might find back home with Esau (see Blessing The Favorites and Cain and Esau).
"31:1 And he heard the words of Laban's sons, saying, Jacob hath taken away all that was our father's; and of that which was our father's hath he gotten all this glory. 31:2 And Jacob beheld the countenance of Laban, and, behold, it was not toward him as before.
"This heap is a witness between me and thee this day"
While Laban was away tending to other business, Jacob, typical of his maneuvering character, took the opportunity to leave without even telling Laban.
"31:19 And Laban went to shear his sheep: and Rachel had stolen the images that were her father's. 31:20 And Jacob stole away unawares to Laban the Syrian [see Syria], in that he told him not that he fled. 31:21 So he fled with all that he had; and he rose up, and passed over the river, and set his face toward the mount Gilead." (Genesis 31:19-21 KJV)
When Laban returned home and found Jacob's family and flocks gone, he set off after him - to which the LORD warned Laban not to try to harm Jacob.
"31:22 And it was told Laban on the third day that Jacob was fled. 31:23 And he took his brethren with him, and pursued after him seven days' journey; and they overtook him in the mount Gilead.
The pursuit was not just after what belonged to Jacob. Unknowing to Jacob, Rachel had stolen her father's household idols - a violation of at least two of the LORD's Commandments i.e. theft and having false gods. Laban's search did not locate them, which means that Rachel kept them, at least for some time, afterward.
"31:29 It is in the power of my hand to do you hurt: but the God of your father [see 'The God Of The Old Testament'] spake unto me yesternight, saying, Take thou heed that thou speak not to Jacob either good or bad. 31:30 And now, though thou wouldest needs be gone, because thou sore longedst after thy father's house, yet wherefore hast thou stolen my gods?
Jacob and Laban's final parting then occurred with an agreement between them that they never again meet or cross into the other's territory - unless in peace i.e. "31:52 This heap be witness, and this pillar be witness, that I will not pass over this heap to thee, and that thou shalt not pass over this heap and this pillar unto me, for harm" (Genesis 31:52 KJV). The willingness of peace on Laban's part may well have been based upon his awareness that the LORD would defend Jacob if he tried to harm him, or if Laban tried to recover his daughters and grandchildren (see Jacob's Family) or the flocks and herds that now were the property of Jacob (see Jacob's Ringstreaked, Speckled And Spotted). The place of their agreement meant witness heap in both of their languages; Laban called it Jegarsahadutha (in Aramaic), while Jacob called it Galeed (in Hebrew).
"31:43 And Laban answered and said unto Jacob, These daughters are my daughters, and these children are my children, and these cattle are my cattle, and all that thou seest is mine: and what can I do this day unto these my daughters, or unto their children which they have born? 31:44 Now therefore come thou, let us make a covenant [see also Covenant and Testament], I and thou; and let it be for a witness between me and thee.
Fact Finder: Why is the use or possession of idols regarded as "spiritual adultery"?