31 1 Jacob heard the words of Laban’s sons that said, “Jacob has taken everything that was our father’s and from what belonged to our father he made the weight of his wealth.” 2 And Jacob saw that Laban’s face no longer looked on him as he used to.
3 Then YHWH said to Jacob, “Return to the land of your fathers and to your
birth place. I will be with you.”
4 So Jacob sent for Rachel and Leah and called them to the field where his flock was. 5 He said to them, “I see by your father’s face that he has changed toward me. But the God of my father has been with me. 6 You know I have worked for your father with all my strength. 7 Your father tricked and cheated me and changed my wages ten times, yet God did not allow him to harm me. 8 If he said, ‘The speckled ones will be your payment,’ the whole flock bore speckled young. And if he said, ‘The streaked ones will be your payment,’ the entire flock bore streaked young. 9 God has taken your father’s livestock and given them to me. 10 When the animals were in heat, I lifted up my eyes and saw in a dream that the rams mounting the flock were striped, speckled, and spotted. 11 God’s messenger said to me in the dream, ‘Jacob!’ and I said, ‘Here I am.’ 12 He said, ‘Lift up your eyes and see all the rams mounting the flock are striped, speckled, and spotted. I’ve seen all that Laban is doing to you. 13 I am the God who appeared to you at Bethel, where you anointed a pillar, and you vowed a vow to me. Now, rise, leave this country, and return to the land of your birth.’”
14 Rachel and Leah answered him, saying, “Do we still have a share in the inheritance of our father’s house? 15 Have we not been counted by him as strangers? He sold us and has eaten up our purchase-price? 16 Whatever wealth God took from our father is ours and our children’s. So, whatever God said to you, do it.”
17 And Jacob rose and lifted his sons and wives onto the camels. 18 He drove all of his livestock and all of his possessions acquired in Paddan-Aram in a return to Isaac, his father, in the land of Canaan.
19 While Laban was out shearing his sheep, Rachel stole the household gods that belonged to her father. 20 Moreover, Jacob deceived Laban, the Aramean, by not telling him he was fleeing. 21 And Jacob fled, with all that was his. He rose, crossed the River, and set his face toward the hill-country of Gilead.
22 Laban was told on the third day that Jacob had fled. 23 Laban took his tribal-brothers with him, pursued Jacob for seven days, and caught up with him in the highlands of Gilead. 24 God came to Laban the Aramean in a night-dream and said, “Watch out, don’t say anything to Jacob, either good or evil.”
With Jacob’s magical increase, a barrier is set between Jacob and Laban and his sons. Laban is no longer in control of time and material wealth. Still having much, Laban’s family experiences Jacob’s much as having been stolen from them. This zero-sum game is one to which the rich of every generation falls prey.
The decision is made to cut their losses and fire Jacob, send him back to where he came from before he can gain more. How they missed their opportunity to kill him is not explored.
Jacob explains this is because he has been under the protection of G*D, as announced at his dream of a heavenly ramp. That promise did not protect him from having wage games played on him along the way. This same G*D is claimed to be behind the increase in a striped, speckled, and spotted flock. This interpretation of his situation came, again, in a dream.
G*D confirms Laban’s decision that it is time for Jacob to return to Canaan.
To extend the drama, Leah and Rachel raise the practical question of the wealth developed by Laban by selling them to Jacob as wives and exploiting Jacob’s skill as a keeper of livestock. Jacob does not consider this and makes ready to leave with wives and sons and flocks and slaves.
Without Jacob’s awareness, Rachel does find a way to settle up with Laban by taking the figures of Laban’s deities. He will not have access to appeal for good fortune and will fall on hard times. And, perhaps, they will assist her in her desired increase.
Without a word, Jacob and contingent pack their tents and silently steal away. They cross the great river Euphrates flowing from Eden and make it to the high country of Gilead, east of the Jordan River—a miraculous distance in so short a time.
Three days after Jacob fled, Laban found out and began pursuit with his kin, his troops. Even days later, they overtook Jacob in Gilead. That night G*D, still watching out for Jacob, came to Laban in a dream to warn him to not say anything at all to Jacob.
In the silence of this dream’s aftermath, we pause to catch our breath.