That Signal Moment

When you see the mess you've made of things.

Genesis 31:22-35 (ESV)

When it was told Laban on the third day that Jacob had fled, he took his kinsmen with him and pursued him for seven days and followed close after him into the hill country of Gilead. But God came to Laban the Aramean in a dream by night and said to him, “Be careful not to say anything to Jacob, either good or bad.”

And Laban overtook Jacob. Now Jacob had pitched his tent in the hill country, and Laban with his kinsmen pitched tents in the hill country of Gilead. And Laban said to Jacob, “What have you done, that you have tricked me and driven away my daughters like captives of the sword? Why did you flee secretly and trick me, and did not tell me, so that I might have sent you away with mirth and songs, with tambourine and lyre? And why did you not permit me to kiss my sons and my daughters farewell? Now you have done foolishly. It is in my power to do you harm. But the God of your father spoke to me last night, saying, ‘Be careful not to say anything to Jacob, either good or bad.’ And now you have gone away because you longed greatly for your father's house, but why did you steal my gods?” Jacob answered and said to Laban, “Because I was afraid, for I thought that you would take your daughters from me by force. 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.” Now Jacob did not know that Rachel had stolen them.

So Laban went into Jacob's tent and into Leah's tent and into the tent of the two female servants, but he did not find them. And he went out of Leah's tent and entered Rachel's. Now Rachel had taken the household gods and put them in the camel's saddle and sat on them. Laban felt all about the tent, but did not find them. And 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.

While the text doesn’t explicitly say this, it looks like Laban knows Rachel’s lying. He made a big show of making an exhaustive search – even feeling around the tents. He knows his gods are there somewhere. Now he’s in the last tent, where he does not want to find them. If he checks under Rachel, the outcome is unthinkable. Did Laban notice a look of fear in her eyes? When? Is this why he saved Rachel’s tent for last? In any case, he seems to have decided to just let it go.

It also looks like Jacob puzzles this out while he’s watching Laban search. He will later do something about it (in 35:4). That action makes most sense in this context.

If so, this is a signal moment for Jacob. When the light bulb comes on, and he sees Laban on the brink of finding the gods in Rachel’s tent, his eyes, and his attitude, are opened. The holy clue-bat strikes again. His decision to take off without saying goodbye is looking dumber by the second.

His signature deceitfulness is getting slammed.


Jacob is learning the sinner’s motto – “I am a mess.” We all get this, but can use an occasional reminder.

Ask God to remind you – if you dare.


The weekly study guides, which include discussion questions, are available for download here:

https://www.ailbe.org/resources/itemlist/category/91-deep-studies

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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