Genesis 31:36–54

31  36 Jacob was incensed and quarreled with Laban, “What’s my crime and guilt that you’ve hotly raced after me? 37 You’ve felt through all of my belongings, and what have you found from your household? Set it here in front of my kin and yours, and let them decide between us. 38 For twenty years I’ve been under you; your ewes and she-goats have never miscarried, and I have never eaten the rams of your flock. 39 When animals were torn by beasts, I did not bring them to you but bore the loss myself. You would expect recompense from me for any animals stolen during the day or night. 40 Parching heat consumed me during the day and the frost at night; sleep was a stranger to me. 41 It is now twenty years I’ve spent in your household. I worked fourteen years for your two daughters and six years for your flocks, and you changed my wages ten times. 42 Had not the God of my father—the God of Abraham and the Terror of Isaac—been there for me, you would have sent me off empty-handed. God has seen my affliction and the toil of my hands and last night decided in my favor.”
     43 Laban responded and said to Jacob, “The daughters are my daughters; the sons are my sons, and the flocks are my flocks. All you see—it is mine. But for my daughters and the sons they bore, what can I do now? 44 Come, let us cut a covenant, you and me, and let something here be our witness.”
     45 So Jacob took a stone, set it up as a pillar, 46 and said to his relatives, “Gather stones.” So they brought stones, made a mound, and ate there on the mound. 47 Laban called it Yegar-Sahadutha/Mound-Witness, but Jacob called it Gal-Ed/Witness Mound.
     48 Laban said, “Today, this mound is witness between you and me.” Therefore, he, too, named it Gal-Ed. 49 He also called it Mizpah/Lookout-Point, because he said, “May YHWH keep guard between you and me when we are out of each other’s sight. 50 Should you afflict my daughters and should you take wives besides my daughters, though no one else is present, God will see and witness between me and you.”
     51 Laban said to Jacob, “See this mound and the pillar that I’ve set up between you and me. 52 This mound is a witness, and this pillar is a witness that I won’t cross over this mound to you and that you won’t cross over this mound and pillar to me to do harm. 53 May the God of Abraham and the God of Nahor, the gods of their fathers, keep justice between us.” So Jacob swore by the Terror of his father Isaac. 54 Jacob slaughtered a sacrifice-meal on the mountain and called to his kin to eat bread. They ate bread and spent the night on the mountain.

When, through Rachel’s subterfuge, Laban finds no figures of his gods, Jacob remonstrates toward him in poetic form—high language. As he begins to calculate just how long he served Laban, there is a shift to prose. There is now a time put on a generalized sense of a long time—20 years.

In remembering the feebleness of Isaac when Jacob left, Readers might wonder what 20 years have brought the parents of Jacob.

Coming back from those conjectures, we find ourselves in Gilead, a boundary, a place of transition between Abraham and Nahor, Rebekah and Laban. This is a place not unsimilar to the location of Jacob’s first dream, promising protection. We hear Jacob invoking the source of his making it through the last twenty years, even though there is little evidence of his remembering the God of Protection along the way—the G*D of Abraham and the Terror of Isaac (remember his Binding).

“So, Laban, how do your losable little gods look against the God of my ancestors? Don’t talk to me of grievance!”

Laban concedes nothing, claiming his daughters, grandsons, and flocks. Likely remembering YHWH’s warning not to contest with Jacob, he does not press for their return but proposes a treaty.

Jacob sets a ritual in place with stones reminiscent of the stone protecting him at his dream of a heavenly ramp and the stone he removed from a well when meeting Rachel. Everyone begins to gather stones as a commemoration of this pact and a border marker between Jacob and Laban. Laban names the place “Mound of Witness,” in Aramaic, and Jacob does the same in Hebrew.

A second descriptor is used—Mizpah—a point of long-viewing or guarding that both Laban and Jacob will honor the pact made there. Laban names his daughters as part of the pact, and Jacob claims the Terror of Isaac as his pledge.After a sacrifice is made (a speckled sheep?), they eat bread together and sleep in the cool height of Gilead.

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