JACOB IN HARAN -– THE COVENANT AT MIZPAH
[Genesis:29:1-20]; [Genesis:30:25-31]; [Genesis:31:1-24], [Genesis:31:36-55].
"He that worketh deceit shall not dwell within my house: he that telleth lies shall not tarry in my sight" (Psalm 101:7).
I Jacob's Journey to Haran
1. Jacob's arrival at Haran after leaving Bethel, [Genesis:29:1-4]; [Genesis:11:31].
2. Jacob's meeting with Rachel and Laban, his relatives, [Genesis:29:5-14; [Genesis:24:29]; [Genesis:25:20].
3. The contract between Laban and Jacob, [Genesis:29:15-20].
II God's Blessing Given to Jacob
1. God's blessing on Laban because of Jacob, [Genesis:30:25-30]; [Genesis:18:32].
2. Jacob's proposal for an equitable distribution of the cattle, [Genesis:30:31-34].
3. Laban's suspicious attitude toward Jacob, [Genesis:31:1-3].
4. Laban's deception, and the resulting reaction upon the deceiver, [Genesis:31:4-10].
III Jacob's Departure from Haran
1. God's command for Jacob's return to Canaan, [Genesis:31:3], [Genesis:31:11-13].
2. Jacob's family united in purpose, [Genesis:31:14-16]; [Genesis:2:24].
3. The departure unknown to Laban, [Genesis:31:17-21].
4. Laban's vengeful pursuit and God's warning to him, [Genesis:31:22-24], [Genesis:31:29].
IV The Covenant at Mizpah
1. Jacob's defence of his years of faithful servitude, [Genesis:31:35-42].
2. Laban's realisation of Jacob's position, [Genesis:31:43].
3. Their enduring covenant: "The LORD watch between me and thee," [Genesis:31:44-55].
After Jacob's soul renovating experience at Bethel, where he was saved and received God's promise, he resumed his journey to Haran. It was about 450 miles, by air line, from the locality in Canaan where his father lived, to Haran, the place where his other relatives lived.
Abraham had sent his servant to Haran for Isaac's wife. It was northeast of Canaan, to which God had called Abraham, and northwest of the land of Ur, from which he originally came. On his way to the Promised Land, Abraham had stopped at Haran because of the illness and subsequent death of his father, but when he resumed his journey some of the family chose to stay. Jacob, in his time of trouble, was going to these relatives because they had a greater reverence for the God of Abraham than the people living in the land of Canaan, who were idolaters.
Jacob's meeting with Rachel and her father, Laban, is a very touching one indeed. Jacob loved Rachel and agreed to work a seven year term that he might have her for his wife. God blessed him as he fulfilled his part of the contract, and through him also blessed Laban. This, in itself, was a fulfilment of God's original promise to Abraham. God said He would make a great nation out of Abraham's seed, but He also told Abraham that He would bless them who blessed Abraham and his seed, and would curse them who cursed him ([Genesis:12:3]). The history of the children of Abraham, the Jews, who are the natural seed, and of the Christians, who are the spiritual seed, has shown many repetitions of the fulfilment of this promise. Nations have oppressed the Jews only to be defeated and thrown down.
The same is true of individuals today, also. We have often seen the hand of judgement extended towards those who have oppressed and cursed God's people. God takes note of those who bless His people and He reserves a blessing for them, even though they may not be Christians themselves.
In the Word of God, deceit is classed with the basest and vilest evils, and those who resort to it are told that the lake of fire will be their inheritance in eternity (Revelation:21:8). Jacob and his mother used deceit to divert the parental blessing from Esau; and because of their sin, Jacob was forced to leave home and go to a strange land. He suffered much for his lying, and no doubt many times regretted his deed.
But Jacob's punishment for the use of deceit was not confined to his having to leave home. While in Haran he was made the object of another's deceit. It cost him many years of labour, privation, and physical suffering, to say nothing of the lonesomeness occasioned by all those years of separation from his family. He eloquently expressed his sufferings in a conversation with his father in law, Laban, when he said: "In the day the drought consumed me, and the frost by night; and my sleep departed from mine eyes. Thus have I been twenty years in thy house; . . . and thou hast changed my wages ten times" (Genesis:31:40, 41).
The book of Proverbs gives us some enlightening verses on this subject. "Lying lips are abomination to the LORD: but they that deal truly are his delight" (Proverbs:12:22); "A false witness shall not be unpunished, and he that speaketh lies shall not escape" (Proverbs:19:5). These, with other clear and plain statements of Scripture, show us the punishment awaiting the person who forsakes truth, resorting to a lie for his own immediate benefit.
When God saw that Jacob had suffered enough for the sins he committed before meeting God at Bethel, He told him to return to the land of Canaan, promising to be with him on the journey ([Genesis:32:9]). A promise of this kind was essentially necessary for the encouragement of Jacob at this time; and no doubt it was a powerful means of support to him throughout the entire journey, particular so when he heard that his brother Esau was coming to meet him with 400 men in his retinue ([Genesis:33:1).
Because of the craftiness of Laban's dealings and the difficulties Jacob would have to face if Laban knew he was going, Jacob left without telling his father in law. To leave Haran, Jacob had the command of God as his authority, and the approval of his wives for his encouragement and inspiration. God ordained, in the beginning, that a couple should leave the homes of their parents when they were married and become a separate unit; and for this reason alone it was right for Jacob to leave Haran.
Laban followed this party, filled with vengeance, but was warned by God before he overtook them that he should do them no harm. Rachel had stolen her father's idols, probably because she felt they had a certain supernatural power and could reveal to Laban the whereabouts of the party, that he might overtake them quicker. Jacob, who charged his father in law with unjustly accusing them, did not know this theft. In boldness of innocence, Jacob allowed a search and affirmed that if any were found guilty they should die. Fortunately for both Rachel and Jacob the idols were not found; and consequently Rachel was not put to death. Perhaps Jacob never knew that the guilty one was his favourite wife; but in this whole incident we can see the hand of God. Jacob as a defence of his innocence had made the affirmation, and God honoured it; but guilt does not go unpunished, even though man does not know the guilty person. It is significant that Rachel died only a short time after this, and Jacob's vow was fulfilled, even though he probably did not know the reason for her death. "The eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth" (II Chronicles:16:9), and there is nothing that can escape His searching gaze.
The concluding part of the association of Laban and Jacob is a covenant made at Galeed. This is known as the covenant of Mizpah, since that was another name given to the locality. The text of this covenant is used many times when people are separated from those whom they love, as a token of the love and fellowship that binds their hearts together. "The LORD, watch between me and thee, when we are absent one from another." Having reached an agreement between themselves, Laban and Jacob erected a monument of stones and made it their separating line. There could be no crossing of that line to do each other harm or injury for revenge of anything in the past. It was a token between them.
A thought worthy of mention in connection with this covenant at Mizpah is the difference between it and the several other contracts, or agreements, they had made in the previous 20 years. These other contracts were made as man to man; and, as contracts of today, were broken almost as soon as they were made. But on this occasion they realised the seriousness of the agreement and called God to witness between them -- took God into account. Laban had come in contact with Jacob's God and knew He was a God of power, might, and justice. He gave God a place in his life -- at least in the making of this covenant, and perhaps in a greater degree also. This covenant, as far as we know, was never broken or set aside, which shows us again that plans made without the counsel and help of God are sure to be broken, but those made with His help and guidance are sure of success.
1. Why was Jacob fleeing to Haran?
2. How was Laban related to Jacob?
3. Does Jacob’s life at this time show any changes that are due to his meeting with God at Bethel?
4. In what ways were God’s blessings bestowed upon Jacob while he was in Haran?
5. At what other time, and by whom, was a journey made to Laban’s home in Haran?
6. In what way can we say that Jacob’s suffering in Haran was the result of his former conduct?
7. Upon what authority did Jacob leave Haran?
8. How did Jacob’s wives react when he told them he was leaving their native land and country?
9. Did Laban agree at first to Jacob’s leaving?
10. Quote the well known words that form the heart of the covenant at Mizpah.