Genesis (Part 140)

Welcome back to my study/review of Genesis. If you missed the previous parts of this study, you can find them HERE.

Genesis 31: 36-42

36 Then Jacob became angry and berated Laban. Jacob said to Laban, “What is my offense? What is my sin, that you have hotly pursued me? 37 For 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, that they may decide between us two. 38 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. 39 What was torn by wild beasts I did not bring to you. I bore the loss of it myself. From my hand you required it, whether stolen by day or stolen by night. 40 There I was: by day the heat consumed me, and the cold by night, and my sleep fled from my eyes. 41 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. 42 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.”


Jacob is angry. Picking up with Ellicott’s Bible Commentary at verse 31:

(36) Jacob was wroth.—Naturally he regarded the accusation about the teraphim as a mere device for searching his goods, and when nothing was found gave free vent to his indignation.

became angry / was wroth = חָרָה chârâh, khaw-raw’; a primitive root (compare H2787); to glow or grow warm; figuratively (usually) to blaze up, of anger, zeal, jealousy:—be angry, burn, be displeased, × earnestly, fret self, grieve, be (wax) hot, be incensed, kindle, × very, be wroth. See H8474.

I guess the most accurate translation here might be “Jacob was heated.” Continuing on in the text the ESV says he “berated” Laban.

berated = רִיב rîyb, reeb; or רוּב rûwb; a primitive root; properly, to toss, i.e. grapple; mostly figuratively, to wrangle, i.e. hold a controversy; (by implication) to defend:—adversary, chide, complain, contend, debate, × ever, × lay wait, plead, rebuke, strive, × thoroughly.

He then spends the rest of this section laying out twenty (or forty) years worth of grievances against Laban. The Pulpit Commentaries provides a very thorough analysis of this entire section. The latter part of the note focuses in particular on the duration of Jacob’s stay with Laban and provides the scholarly argument that Jacob was with Laban for forty years in Padan-aram rather than the commonly stated twenty year period:

Genesis 31:36-1.31.42

And Jacob was wroth,—literally, and it burned, sc. with indignation (same word as used by Rachel, Genesis 31:35), to Jacob, i.e. he was infuriated at what he believed to be Laban’s unjustifiable insinuation about his lost teraphim—and chode—or contended; the fundamental signification of the root, רוּב or רִיב, being to seize or tear, e.g. the hair, hence to strive with the bands (Deuteronomy 33:7), or with words (Psalms 103:9). The two verbs, וַתִּחַר and וַיָּרֶב, give a vivid representation of the exasperation which Jacob felt—with Laban: and Jacob answered and said to Laban,—in words characterized by “verbosity and self-glorification” (Kalisch), or “acute, sensibility and elevated self-consciousness (Delitzsch, Keil), according as one inclines to an unfavorable or favorable view of Jacob’s character—What is my trespass? what is my sin, that thou hast so hotly pursued after me? The intensity of Jacob’s feeling imparts to his language a rythmical movement, and leads to the selection of poetical forms of expression, such as דָּלַק אַחֲרֵי, to burn after, in the sense of fiercely persecuting, which occurs again only in 1 Samuel 17:53 (vide Gesenius and Furst, sub voce; and cf. Keil, in lose), causing the reader at times to catch “the dance and music of actual verse” (Ewald). Whereas thou hast searched all my stuff,—literally (so. What is my sin) that thou hast felt all my articles (LXX; Kalisch)? the clause being co-ordinate with the preceding; though by others כִּי is taken as equivalent to כַּאֲשֶׁר, quando quidem, since (A.V; Ainsworth), or quando, when (Calvin, Murphy)—what hast thou found of all thy household stuff? set it here Before my brethren and thy brethren (i.e. Laban’s kinsmen who accompanied him, who were also of necessity kinsmen to Jacob), that they may judge betwixt us both—which of us has injured the other. This twenty years have I been with thee (vide infra, vet. 41); thy ewes (רָחֵל, a ewe, whence Rachel) and thy she goats—עֵן a she-goat; cf. Sanscrit, adsha, a he-goat; adsha, a she-goat; Goth; gaitsa; Anglo-Saxon, gat; German, geis; Greek, αἵξ; Turkish, gieik (Gesenius, sub voce)—have not cast their young, and the rams of thy flock have I not eaten. Roberts says that the people of the East do not eat female sheep except when sterile, and that it would be considered folly and prodigality in the extreme to eat that which has the power of producing more. That which was torn of beasts (טְרֵפָה, a coll. fem; from טָרַף, to tear in pieces, meaning that which is torn in pieces, hence cattle destroyed by wild beasts) I brought not unto thee; I bare the loss of it;—אֲחֶטַּנָּה, literally, I made expiation for it, the piel of חָטָא, signifying to make atonement for a thing by sacrifice (Le 1 Samuel 9:15), or by compensation, as here; hence “I bare the loss it” (Rashi, equivalent to cf. Furst), or ἐγὼ ἀπετίννουν (LXX.), or, perhaps, “I will be at the loss of it, or pay it back” (Kalisch)—of my hand didst thou require it,—otherwise, “of my hand require it” (Kalisch)—whether stolen by day, or stolen by night. Without adhering literally to the text, the LXX. give the sense of this and the preceding clause as being, “From my own I paid back the stolen by day and the stolen by night.” Thus I was; (i.eI was in this condition that) in the day the drought consumed me, and the frost by night קֶרַח, ice, so called from its smoothness, hence cold. The alternation of heat and cold in many eastern countries is very great and severely felt by shepherds, travelers, and watchmen, who require to pass the night in the open air, and who in consequence are often obliged to wear clothes lined with skins (of. Psalms 121:6Jeremiah 36:30). “The thermometer at 24° Fahr. at night, a lump of solid ice in our basins in the morning, and then the scorching heat of the day drawing up the moisture, made the neighborhood, convenient as it was, rather a fever-trap, and premonitory symptoms warned us to move”. “The night air at Joaiza was keen and cold; indeed there was a sharp frost, and ice appeared on all the little pools about the camp”. “Does a master reprove his servant for being idle; he will ask, “What can I do? the heat eats me up by day, and the cold eats me up by night'”. And my sleep departed from mine eyes. Syrian shepherds were compelled to watch their flocks often both night and day, and for a whole month together, and repair into long plains and deserts without any shelter; and when reduced to this incessant labor, they were besides chilled by the piercing cold of the morning, and scorched by the succeeding heats of a flaming sun, the opposite action of which often swells and chafes their lips and face”. Thus have I been—literally, this to me (or for myself, vide infra)twenty years in thy house; I served thee fourteen years for thy two daughters, and six years for thy cattle. The majority of expositors understand the twenty years referred to in 1 Samuel 17:38 to be the same as the twenty spoken of here as consisting of fourteen and six. Dr. Kennicott, regarding the twenty years of 1 Samuel 17:38 as having intervened between the fourteen and the six of 1 Samuel 17:41, makes the entire period of Jacob’s sojourn in Padan-aram to have been forty years. In support of this he contends—

(1) that the particle זֶה, twice repeated (in 1 Samuel 17:38 and in 1 Samuel 17:41), may be legitimately rendered, “This (one) twenty years I was with thee” (1 Samuel 17:38), i.e. taking care of thy flocks; and “this for myself (another) twenty years in thy house,” i.e. serving for thy daughters and thy cattle (cf. Exodus 14:20Job 21:23Job 21:25Ecclesiastes 6:5);

(2) that on this hypothesis more time is afforded for the birth of Jacob’s family, viz. twenty-seven years instead of seven; and

(3) that it relieves the narrative of certain grave chronological difficulties in connection with Judah and his family, which, on the supposition of the shorter period, subsequently emerge, such as that Judah and his sons must have been quite children when they married (vide Genesis 38:1-1.38.11). But, on the other hand, in favor of the accepted chronology it may be urged—

(1) that the interposition of a second twenty years in the middle of the first is unnatural;

(2) that, though legitimate, the proposed rendering of זֶה does not at first sight suggest itself as that which Jacob intended;

(3) that it is not impossible for Jacob’s family to have been born in the short space of seven years (vide Genesis 27:1Genesis 30:35);

(4) that in reality the difficulties connected with Judah and his sons are not removed by the hypothesis of a forty years’ sojourn in Padan-aram any more than by a sojourn of only twenty years, since Judah must have married either after the sale of Joseph, in which case only twenty-two years remain for the birth and marriage of Er and Onan, for Pharez and Zarah, Judah’s children by Tamar, to grow to manhood, and for Pharez to have two sons, Hezron and Hamul, before descending to Egypt, unless indeed, as Kurtz supposes, Judah’s grandchildren were born in Egypt; or before the sale of Joseph—indeed, if Hezron and Hamul were born in Canaan, before the birth of Joseph, i.e. while Judah was yet in Padan-aram, which is contrary to the narrative (vide Genesis 38:1Genesis 38:2). For these reasons, though adopted by some excellent authorities (Bishop Horsley, Adam Clarke, ‘Speaker’s Commentary,’ Inglis), the computation of Dr. Kennicott does not appear of sufficient weight to set aside the ordinary reckoning, which is followed by interpreters of equal credit (Keil, Kalisch, Kurtz, Lange, Murphy, Wordsworth). And thou hast changed my wages ten times (vide 1 Samuel 17:7). Except (לוּלֵי, if not, i.e. unless, introducing the protasis of the sentence) the God of my father, the God of Abraham, and the fear of Isaac,—i.e. the object of Isaac’s fear, not “terror”, viz. God; פַּחַד being used metonymically of that which inspires reverence or fear, like σέβας and σέβασμα. The entire clause is a periphrasis for Jehovah of 1 Samuel 17:3, which is usually ascribed to the Jehovist, while the present verse belongs, it is alleged, to the fundamental document—had been with—or, for (cf. Psalms 124:1Psalms 124:2)—me (during the whole period of my sojurn in Padan-aram, but especially during the last six years), surely (כִּי, then, commencing the apodosis) thou hadst sent me away now empty (as by thy stratagem in changing my wages thou didst design; but) God hath seen mine affliction (cf. Genesis 29:32Exodus 3:7and the labor—especially that which is wearisome, from a root signifying to toil with effort so as to become fatiguing (cf. Job 39:11)—of my hands, and rebukedi.e. reproved, sc. thee, as in Genesis 21:25 (LXX; Vulgate, A.V; Calvin, Ainsworth, Lange, Kalisch, and others); or judged, sc. it, i.e. mine affliction, in the sense of pronouncing an opinion or verdict on it, as in 1 Chronicles 12:17 (Keil, Murphy); or proved, sc. it, viz. that he had seen my affliction (Dathius, Poole); or decided, sc. betwixt us, as in 1 Chronicles 12:37 (Furst, Gesenius) thee yester-night.

Ellicott’s Bible Commentary also makes note of the debate over Jacob’s time in Padan-aram in verse 41:

(41) Thus have I been . . . —Heb., This for me twenty years in thy house, but taken in connection with the preceding this, in Genesis 31:38, the meaning is “During the one twenty years that I was with thee, thy ewes, &c.,” upon which follows “During the other twenty years that were for me in thy house, I served thee, &c.” (See Note on Genesis 29:27, and Excursus on the Chronology of Jacob’s Life.)

Verse 42 contains an interesting phrase:

42 If the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had not been on my side, …

Why call God “the Fear of Isaac”? From Ellicott:

(42) The fear of Isaac—That is, the object of Isaac’s worship. The reason given by the Jewish Commentators for this remarkable way of describing the Deity whom Isaac served is that, as his father was still alive, Jacob would have been wanting in reverence, if he had spoken of God as “Isaac’s God,” even though Jehovah had condescended so to call Himself (Genesis 28:13).

Another point here that the verse brings us back to is that Isaac is in fact still alive. Jacob fled from his brother Esau twenty (or forty) years ago, under the belief that his father Isaac likely does not have long to live. Isaac believes himself (or so it seems) to not have long to live and thus starts to hand out deathbed blessings. Rebekah tells Jacob she will let him know when it is safe to return. Clearly after Jacob leaves Isaac experiences a remarkable recovery or at least a remarkable prolonging of his life.

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