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 you’d not soon forget, 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 gods?”

Jacob scratched his head. “You’re mistaken. If anyone stole anything of yours, 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. “In view of 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 tents of the maids and other servants.

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

Rachel was sitting on the saddle where the stolen gods were hidden. Laban searched the tent from top to bottom but to no avail.

Rachel said, “Forgive me for not getting up, Dad. It’s that time of the month.”

Laban left her tent and was confronted by Jacob.

“Tell me what I’ve done wrong,” Jacob scolded. “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 a livid Jacob, who continued his tirade.

“For twenty years I have served you. Your flocks and herds never miscarried. I’ve never eaten your rams. Whenever one of yours was torn to shreds by a wild animal, 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. I’d take last night’s rebuke from God to heart if I were you.”

Inspiration: Genesis 31

Fourteen years

“Just because we’re family,” Laban told Jacob, “doesn’t mean you work for free. How shall I pay you?”

“Funny you should ask,” Jacob answered. Laban had two daughters, Leah and Rachel, and although Jacob was embarrassingly aware that he had come without a dowry, his heart belonged to Rachel.

Customarily, the eldest daughter would have been married off first. But in this case, the eldest’s eyes were somewhat zombie-like and unattractive, while Rachel’s sparkled. Rachel was a picture of beauty, grace, and radiance.

“I’ll work for you for seven years for Rachel’s hand in marriage,” Jacob said.

Laban agreed. That would surely give some other suitor ample time to come and take Leah. “It’s better for Rachel to be with you than any other man,” he said.

Jacob stayed with Laban’s household for seven years, watching over his flocks, herds, and lands. Because Jacob loved Rachel, it seemed only a few days had passed.

After completing his part of the promise, Jacob came to Laban to fetch his prize. “My time here is finished, as you know. I’m ready to make Rachel my wife.”

“Very well.” Laban invited everyone within the vicinity to celebrate at the wedding feast. After much dining, singing, and dancing on the first evening, the sun retired. Laban brought his daughter Leah to Jacob, and Jacob, being full of wine, went to bed with her.

In the morning, Jacob realized what had happened. He asked Laban, “Why did you do this to me? I became a seven-year servant for Rachel.”

“You know our custom,” Laban answered. “We give our firstborn to be married first.”

Laban had also become rich while Jacob managed his affairs, so he wasn’t in a hurry to be rid of him. “Finish this week of celebration, and I’ll give you Rachel as a wife also. The only condition is that you serve me for another seven years.”

So Jacob and Leah finished their week of celebration, and Rachel was presented to Jacob as well.

As Jacob began his second stretch of indenture, God saw that Leah was unloved. He therefore gave Leah the ability to become pregnant, while Rachel suffered barrenness. Leah had four sons: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah.

After Judah, Jacob’s visits became infrequent.

Inspiration: Genesis 29

Beauty tips

The land of promise became arid and cracked, and food was in short supply, so Abram decided to move his family into the fertile land of Egypt for a while. When they entered the city, he pulled his wife aside for a briefing.

“It’s no secret that you’re stunningly beautiful,” he said to Sarai. “And when the Egyptians see you, they’ll kill me to get to you.” Then Abram suggested, “Tell them I’m your brother. That should neutralize the threat.”

As Abram predicted, Sarai’s matchless beauty arrested the attention of the people everywhere they went, and word of her fame soon spread to Pharaoh himself. Before long, Sarai found herself standing before the very god of Egypt in his own court.

Sarai became the newest installment in the royal harem, and Pharaoh treated Abram like a brother, giving him sheep, oxen, donkeys, camels, and slaves. Pharaoh, on the other hand, acquired nothing but a God-given illness. Putting two and two together, Pharaoh became wise and confronted Abram on the matter.

“What’s going on?” Pharaoh asked. “Why’d you lie about Sarai being your wife? Thankfully, I never laid a hand on her. Get her out of here so your God will clear the air and restore our health!”

Pharaoh’s officers escorted Abram and Sarai out of Egypt along with all their parting gifts.

Inspiration: Genesis 12