Why the Rechabites moved to Jerusalem (Jer 35:11-35:11)

“But when King Nebuchadnezzar

Of Babylon

Came up against the land,

We said.

‘Come!

Let us go to Jerusalem!

They feared

The army of the Chaldeans.

They feared

The army of the Arameans.’

This is why

We are living in Jerusalem.”

How then did they end up in the city of Jerusalem? Their explanation was simple. With the coming of King Nebuchadnezzar (605-562 BCE) of Babylon, they moved to safety in or around Jerusalem. They feared for their lives because of the Babylonian invasion with their Chaldean and Aramean troops. Thus they took refuge in Jerusalem. Obviously, they were a little out of place there with their strange life style ways.

Laban pursues Jacob (Gen 31:22-Gen 31:42)

“On the third day Laban was told that Jacob had fled.  So he took his kinsmen with him and pursued him for seven days until he caught up with him in the hill country of Gilead.  But God came to Laban the Aramean in a dream by night, and said to him, ‘Take heed that you say not a word to Jacob, either good or bad.’”

Three days after Jacob had left, Laban found out about his departure and spent seven days chasing him until he caught up with him at Gilead, the hill country east of the Jordan.  However, God appeared to him in a dream and told not to say a good or bad word to Jacob.

“Laban overtook Jacob. Now Jacob had pitched his tent in the hill country, and Laban with his kinsmen encamped in the hill country of Gilead.  Laban said to Jacob, ‘What have you done?  You have deceived me, and carried away my daughters like captives of the sword.  Why did you flee secretly and deceive me and not tell me?  I would have sent you away with mirth and songs, with tambourine and lyre.  Why did you not permit me to kiss my sons and my daughters farewell?  What you have done is foolish.  It is in my power to do you harm.  But the God of your father spoke to me last night, saying, ‘take heed that you speak to Jacob neither good nor bad.’  Even though you had to go because you longed greatly for your father’s house, but why did you steal my gods?’  Jacob answered Laban, ‘Because I was afraid, for I thought that you would take your daughters from me by force.  But anyone with whom you find your gods shall not live. In the presence of our kinsmen, point out what I have that is yours, and take it.’ Jacob did not know that Rachel had stolen the gods.”

Nevertheless, Laban went to Jacob and accused him of stealing his daughters.  Why are you sneaking away when I would have sent you away with mirth and songs, with tambourine and lyre.’  Laban called Jacob foolish and asked why he had stolen his gods.  Jacob responded that he feared that Laban would take his daughters by force. He also said that whoever stole his gods will not live, since Jacob did not know that Rachel took the gods.

“So Laban went into Jacob’s tent, and into Leah’s tent, and into the tent of the two maids, but he did not find them.  He went out of Leah’s tent, and entered Rachel’s tent.  Now Rachel had taken the household gods and put them in the camel’s saddle, and sat upon them.  Laban felt all about in the tent, but did not find them.  She said to her father, ‘Let not my lord be angry that I cannot rise before you, for the way of women is upon me.’ So he searched, but did not find the household gods.

Laban searched the tents and could not find them because Rachel had put them in the saddle of the camel that she was sitting on.  She said that she could not get off the camel because ‘the way of women is upon me.’

“Then Jacob became angry, and upbraided Laban.  Jacob said to Laban, ‘What is my offense? What is my sin, that you have hotly pursued me?  Although you have felt through all my goods, what have you found of all your household goods?  Set it here before my kinsmen and your kinsmen, so that they may decide between us two.  These twenty years I have been with you.  Your ewes and your female goats have not miscarried, and I have not eaten the rams of your flocks.  That which was torn by wild beasts I did not bring to you.  I bore the loss of it myself.  Of my hand you required it, whether stolen by day or stolen by night.  It was like this with me.  By day the heat consumed me, and the cold by night, and my sleep fled from my eyes.  These twenty years I have been in your house.   I served you fourteen years for your two daughters, and six years for your flock, and you have changed my wages ten times.  If the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had not been on my side, surely now you would have sent me away empty-handed.  God saw my affliction and the labor of my hands, and rebuked you last night.’”

Then Jacob became angry towards Laban and let him know that he was not pleased.  Laban had searched all his goods and found nothing.  Jacob had worked for Laban, day and night, over 20 years, to gain his daughters and his flock, as Laban changed his wages ten times.  Jacob justified his leaving by talking about the 20 years he had spent there working for Laban.  God was on his side. ‘If the God of Abraham and Isaac had not been on my side, surely you would have sent me away empty- handed.’

The flight of Jacob (Gen 31:1-31:21)

“Now Jacob heard that the sons of Laban were saying, ‘Jacob has taken all that was our father’s wealth.  He has gained all this wealth from what belonged to our father.’  Jacob saw that Laban did not regard him as favorably as he did before.  Then Yahweh said to Jacob, ‘Return to the land of your ancestors and to your kindred, and I will be with you.’  So Jacob sent and called Rachel and Leah into the field where his flock was, and said to them, ‘I see that your father does not regard me as favorably as he did before.  But the God of my father has been with me.  You know that I have served your father with all my strength.  Yet your father has cheated me and changed my wages ten times, but God did not permit him to harm me.  If he said, `The speckled shall be your wages,’ then all the flock bore speckled.  If he said, `The striped shall be your wages,’ then all the flock bore striped.  Thus God has taken away the livestock of your father, and given them to me.”

The sons of Laban were mad that Jacob had taken all the wealth of Laban and even Laban was looking less favorable towards him.  Yahweh appeared to Jacob and told him to return to the land of his ancestors because Yahweh would be with him.  Jacob called his two wives into the field and said that their father had been unfair to him, since their father had changed his wages ten times.  God has taken away Laban’s livestock and given it to Jacob with all the speckled and stripped animals.

“During the mating of the flock, I once had a dream in which I looked up and saw that the male goats that leaped upon the flock were striped, spotted, and mottled.  Then the angel of God said to me in the dream, `Jacob,’ and I said, `Here I am!’  He said, `Look up and see that all the goats that leap upon the flock are striped, speckled, and mottled.   I have seen all that Laban is doing to you.  I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed a pillar and made a vow to me.  Now leave this land at once, and return to the land of your birth.’  Then Rachel and Leah answered him, ‘Is there any portion or inheritance left to us in our father’s house?  Are we not regarded by him as foreigners?  He has sold us, and he has been using up the money given for us.  All the property that God has taken away from our father belongs to us and to our children.  Now then, do whatever God has said to you.’”

Jacob told of his dream about the male speckled goats that were attacking the rest of the flock.  Then the angel of God appeared to him and said that he was the God of Bethel, where he made a pillar and vow. Jacob responded with the common theme response ‘Here I am.’  Then God told him to leave this land at once and return to the land of his birth.  Both Rachel and Leah, although they legally were part of Laban’s property, agreed to do whatever God wanted.  They also felt mistreated by their father.

“So Jacob arose, and set his children and his wives on camels.  He drove away all his livestock, all the property that he had gained, the livestock in his possession that he had acquired in Paddan-aram, to go to his father Isaac in the land of Canaan.  Now Laban had gone to shear his sheep, and Rachel stole her father’s household gods. Jacob deceived Laban the Aramean, in that he did not tell him that he intended to flee.  He fled with all that he had, staring out he crossed the Euphrates, and set his face toward the hill country of Gilead.”

Thus, Jacob got his children, his wives, and all his property and livestock to go back to the land of Canaan and his father Isaac.  For some reason, Rachel stole her father’s household gods.  Obviously they were not monotheists. Jacob did not tell Laban that he was leaving at he set out crossing the Euphrates River.

Jacob arrives at Haran (Gen 29:1-29:14)

 “Then Jacob went on his journey, and came to the land of the people of the east.  As he looked, he saw a well in the field, and three flocks of sheep lying beside it.  For out of that well the flocks were watered.  The stone on the well’s mouth was large, and when all the flocks were gathered there, the shepherds would roll the stone from the mouth of the well, and water the sheep, and put the stone back in its place upon the mouth of the well.”

This Yahweh tradition continues as Jacob traveled further until he came upon ‘the people of the east’ at a well that had a stone on top of it with three flocks of sheep around it.  This phrase ‘people of the east’ refers to Arameans, somewhere in Syria.  The shepherds would roll the stone off the top of the well to water the sheep.  Then put it back when they were done.

“Jacob said to them, ‘My brothers, where do you come from?’ They said, ‘We are from Haran.’  He said to them, ‘Do you know Laban son of Nahor?’ They said, ‘We do.’  He said to them, ‘Is it well with him?’  ‘Yes,’ they replied.  ‘Here is his daughter Rachel coming with the sheep.’  He said, ‘Look, it is still broad daylight.  It is not time for the animals to be gathered together.  Water the sheep, and go, pasture them.’  But they said, ‘We cannot until all the flocks are gathered together, and the stone is rolled from the mouth of the well.  Then we water the sheep.’  While he was still speaking with them, Rachel came with her father’s sheep.  She kept them.  Now when Jacob saw Rachel, the daughter of his mother’s brother Laban, and the sheep of his mother’s brother Laban, Jacob went up and rolled the stone from the well’s mouth, and watered the flock of his mother’s brother Laban.  Then Jacob kissed Rachel, and wept aloud.  Jacob told Rachel that he was her father’s kinsman, and that he was Rebekah’s son.  So she ran and told her father.  When Laban heard the news about his sister’s son Jacob, he ran to meet him.  He embraced him and kissed him, and brought him to his house.  Jacob told Laban all these things, and Laban said to him, ‘Surely you are my bone and my flesh!’  He stayed with him a month.”

Jacob asked them where they were from and they responded, Haran.  Then he asked if they knew Laban, the son of Nahor.  They answered that they did and said that his daughter Rachel was coming with the sheep, because Rachel was in charge of her father’s sheep.  The stone could not be rolled off until all the sheep were gathered there. Jacob then rolled the stone off the well, kissed Rachel, and wept.  He explained to Rachel that he was related to her father since he was Rebekah’s son, the brother of her father.  They ran to tell Laban, but he came running out to greet them, embraced them, and brought them to his house.  Laban said, ‘Surely you are my bone and my flesh,’ and Jacob stayed a month.