Witness pile

“Are you quite finished?” Laban asked after quite the tongue-lashing from his rogue hand. “Your wives are my daughters. Their maids are my property. Your children are my children. Everything in this camp belongs to me.”

Then Laban’s face softened. “But,” he said, giving Jacob’s shoulder a friendly tap, “what can I do? I’ve met my match. Let’s make a promise between us.”

“Gather stones,” Jacob said to his children as he removed a boulder from the side of the hill and rolled it into the middle of the camp. Reuben and his brothers brought stones and made a pile near where Jacob set the boulder.

Laban and Jacob called the place The Witness Pile, each in his own tongue. Laban called it “Jegarsahadutha” in Aramaic, and Jacob called it “Galeed” in Hebrew. They called the boulder “Mizpah,” Watchpost.

Laban said, “God’s watching you and me when we’re apart. If you hurt my daughters or take other wives, God sees what you’ve done. This pile of stones and this boulder are a boundary. Neither you nor I will cross them to do the other harm. As these stones are a witness, may God be the judge.”

Jacob swore by his father’s faith and offered a sacrifice on top of the hill, and everyone from both camps threw an all-night party.

In the morning, Laban got up and loaded his camels, kissed his daughters and grandchildren goodbye, and blessed them. He and his entourage left for Haran.

When Jacob and his family left to continue their journey south to Canaan, he met a company of angels on the way. He named that area “Mahanaim,” Two Camps 

Inspiration: Genesis 31, 32

Hidden idols

After giving a three-day head start, a servant broke the news to Laban that Jacob and his caravan had gone. Laban enlisted some of his close family members to help him give chase. After seven days, they caught up with them in the hills of Gilead.

The night before he was to confront Jacob, God visited Laban in a dream.

“Don’t speak good or evil to Jacob,” God said.

In the morning, Laban caught up with Jacob and his camp and said, “Why’d you steal my daughters as if they were spoils of war? Why’d you sneak away behind my back? I would have thrown you a ‘going away’ party with music and dancing. You didn’t even let me say goodbye to my daughters and sons. I came to take back what is mine and teach you a lesson, but the God of Isaac told me not to speak good or evil to you. Why’d you leave like that?”

“I was afraid,” Jacob answered. “I thought you’d keep your daughters from me, using violence if necessary.”

“That’s understandable,” Laban said. “But regardless of how badly you’re ready to go home, why’d you steal my teraphim?”

Jacob scratched his head. “You’re mistaken. If anyone stole anything of yours, then I’ll have them put to death.”

Jacob took a couple of steps back and raised his voice so that the entire camp could hear. “Given all these witnesses, show me what I have that belongs to you.”

Laban began a search through Jacob’s camp. He went first into Leah’s tent, turning over pillows and blankets, rummaging through baskets and satchels. Finding nothing, he searched the shelters of the maids and other servants.

“Excuse me,” Laban said, as he entered Rachel’s tent.

Rachel was sitting on the camel furniture where the terephim were hidden. Laban searched the tent from top to bottom but to no avail.

Rachel said, “Forgive me for not getting up, Father. I’m having my blood.”

Laban waved her off, distracted by the task at hand. When he exited Rachel’s tent, he was confronted by an impatient Jacob.

“Tell me what I’ve done wrong,” Jacob scolded Laban. “Give me some justification for coming out here to give me more trouble. You’ve searched my camp and have come up empty.”

Laban stood speechless before Jacob, who wasn’t finished with his tirade.

“For twenty years I have served you. Your flocks and herds never miscarried. I’ve never eaten your rams. Whenever one of your animals was torn to shreds by a wild creature, I took the loss from my stock. I slaved through heat and cold and sleepless nights for twenty long years, fourteen years for your daughters and six years for your livestock, and at every turn, you changed the condition of payment. If God hadn’t been with me, I’d have lost everything by now. So if I were you, I’d take last night’s divine rebuke to heart!”

Inspiration: Genesis 31 

Incestuous lot

Lot was afraid to stay too long in Zoar, so he and his daughters settled in a cave in the hill country.

“Father’s old,” the older daughter said to her sister. “Consider the fact that we’re hiding out in a cave. No man will come and take us for wives.”

The older daughter said, “Let’s get him drunk and sleep with him. This way we can keep our family tree going.”

That night, they served their father more wine than usual, and when he was barely conscious, the older daughter went to bed with him. Lot never knew a thing.

The next day, she said to the younger daughter, “It’s your turn tonight.” Again they served too much wine, and Lot became very drunk. The younger daughter went in and had sex with him. Once again, Lot knew nothing about it.

Both daughters conceived sons with their father. Moab, the patriarch of Moabites, was born of the older daughter, and Ben-Ammi, the patriarch of Ammonites, was born of the younger.

Inspiration: Genesis 19

Fiery end

The two visiting angels asked Lot, “What other family do you have in Sodom? Round everyone up and get out of here. We’re on a mission from God to annihilate the whole place.”

Lot ran to the houses of his future sons-in-law by the light of a pale moon and warned them about what was about to happen. They thought he was joking and didn’t pay any attention to him.

The next morning, the angels jostled Lot from sleep and said, “Wake up! Take your wife and daughters and go, unless you want to die with the wicked.”

Lot was moving too slowly, and his wife was frantic, trying to pack everything they owned.

“There’s no time for any of this!” the angels beckoned. “It’s now or never.”

The angels literally took Lot and his immediate family by the wrists and forced them out of the city.

“What about my sons-in-law?” Lot protested.

“They’re toast. Now, run for your lives and don’t look back,” they warned with a stern countenance. “Don’t stop anywhere in the plains. Run until you reach the hill country or you’ll be swept into oblivion.”

Lot argued, “Please, masters, you’ve shown favorable kindness by saving my family and me, but I can’t go to the hills. I wouldn’t survive a week in the wild.” Lot motioned over to the other side of Gomorrah and said, “Look, that small town is close enough to escape God’s wrath.”

“Fine,” one of the angels answered. “I’ll spare this small area for your sake, but hurry. I can’t bring down fire until you get there.”

Lot, his wife, and his daughters arrived at Bela by daybreak. (Afterward, the town was renamed Zoar, or “Little.”)

As fire rained from the sky over Sodom, Gomorrah, and the rest of the plains, Lot’s wife, who was straggling behind, turned to look at the devastation behind them. At that moment, her body changed into a salt mound.

Meanwhile that morning, Abraham exited his tent at Mamre Oaks and stood on the road where he and the Master had spoken before. Looking out to the southeast, he saw smoke rising like a smoldering fire pit from the sear-marked plains of Jordan.

Inspiration: Genesis 19

Welcoming committee

The two angels arrived at Sodom during the night and encountered a man sitting at the city gate.

When Lot saw the two men approaching, he bowed low to the ground. “Please, masters,” he said. “Come stay the night with your servant and wash your feet. You can get up early and be on your way if you wish.”

“No,” they said. “We’ll spend the night on the market square.”

Lot knew better than to let the men fend for themselves in Sodom after dark, so he pressed them until they relented and followed him home. He presented a feast before his guests, and seeing from their manner that they were righteous and noble, he served bread made without yeast to symbolize the purity of their assembly.

As they were turning in for the night, they heard the shouting of an approaching mob. All the men of Sodom, young and old, surrounded every side of Lot’s house and began rattling the walls.

“Where are your guests?” one of the Sodomites shouted. “Bring them out so we can give them a proper welcome.”

A roar of laughter followed, and the banging grew louder.

Lot went outside and latched the door behind him. He said, “Please, brothers, curb your evil for one night.”

The men advanced at the threshold and Lot’s back pressed hard against the door.

“I have two daughters,” he suggested in a panic. “They’re virgins, and you can do whatever you want with them. Please spare my guests, whom I have sworn to protect.”

One of the Sodomites reached and grabbed Lot by the nape of his neck. “Down, dog!” he said.

Lot faltered, and his knees crunched on the solid ground.

Another Sodomite chimed in. “This man came to Sodom as an outsider, and now he’s playing magistrate.”

Then another, “Suppose we tie you up naked and invent new ways to violate your laws.” And yet another, “That’ll teach him to judge us by his high moral standard.”

The crowd pressed harder, some clamoring for Lot’s tunic and others shaking the latch of the door.

Suddenly, the angels appeared from inside and pulled Lot back into the house and barred the door. Those who were clawing at the threshold were struck blind and could no longer find the latch.

Amid the deafening silence that followed, the mob dispersed in confusion, assisting the blind men back to their sordid dens.

Inspiration: Genesis 19