JACOB IN HARAN --- THE COVENANT AT MIZPAH
[Genesis:29:1-20]; [Matthew:30:25-34]; [Genesis:31:1-24], [Genesis:31:36-55].
"The meek will he guide in judgment: and the meek will he teach his way" (Psalm 25:9).
Jacob's Arrival in Haran
After meeting with God at Bethel, Jacob proceeded on his journey. He walked over desert country for many miles, probably hardly meeting anyone; but one day he noticed a well, around which were three flocks of sheep. He knew by this that he was coming to a settlement where he would meet people.
Wells were very important in the dry, eastern country. Neither men nor animals can live without water; nor will crops grow, no matter how fertile the soil may be. It was very difficult to dig the wells through the rock in early times; and as they had to go deep to find water, the wells were of great value. They were often used as landmarks ([Genesis:25:11]; [Joshua:18:15]), and it was considered a special blessing when the Children of Israel were given possession of wells they had not dug when they came into the Promised Land ([Deuteronomy:6:11]). Sometimes there were serious quarrels over the ownership of wells.
In later life Jacob dug a well, too, which bore his name. It was on the rim of that well that Jesus sat when He talked with the woman of Samaria, many years later. It is still in existence, and we are told it is about nine feet across and 105 feet deep.
Jacob's Meeting with Rachel
When Jacob came to the well he inquired of the shepherds waiting there if anyone knew his Uncle Laban. He was told they did, and that Laban's daughter, Rachel, was coming to the well with her father's sheep. When she came Jacob helped her by rolling away the stone, which covered the mouth of the well to keep out the dirt and to keep men and animals from accidental falling in. When he had watered the sheep, he told her who he was; and she ran to tell her father that her cousin had come from a far country to visit them. It is very probable that Laban had never seen his sister Rebekah since the day she rode away with Abraham's servant to become Isaac's wife, and he was very happy to see her son and learn of her welfare.
After Jacob had lived with Laban for a month and had worked for him, he was offered wages for what he was doing. Jacob wanted Rachel for his wife; so he told Laban he would work seven years for her. The Scripture says that the seven years "seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her."
It is not hard for us to do things for the people we love. How much greater should be our love for God, and how earnestly we should try to do His work! We often see people who say they love the Lord with all their hearts, but they are always making excuses when asked to do something for Him. Jesus said to some people who claimed to love Him, ”Why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?" (Luke:6:46). We can prove our love for Jesus by a wholehearted devotion to His service; and we can find in the Word of God what that service is: "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me" (Matthew:25:40).
Although Jacob's stay in Haran had a good beginning, all did not remain pleasant. Laban did not keep his promises, and he deceived Jacob often, changing his wages ten times. Jacob worked hard trying to please his father in law, tending his flocks and herds in the wilderness. He was hot and thirsty in the daytime, and often was cold at night and could not sleep. If wild animals came in the night and killed a sheep or goat, Jacob took the loss himself.
Laban would make a bargain with Jacob about which cattle he could have (which was always the smaller share); then God would bless Jacob, and his share would turn out to be the greater. Then Laban would reverse his bargain in order to win for himself the most; and God would again bless Jacob so he would be the winner.
Through twenty years Jacob served Laban -- first for his two wives, then for his cattle. Because of God's care over him, he had eleven sons and great herds and flocks that he could call his own, and he decided to return to his homeland. Laban didn't want to let him go, because Laban knew that God had also blessed him because of Jacob, and he had gained much wealth through Jacob's service.
God's Watchful Eye
Jacob suffered because of Laban's deceit, and thus learned how Esau must have felt when he lost the birthright and blessing through Jacob's scheming. God must have considered that Jacob had now suffered enough, so He appeared to him again in a dream and told him to return to his kindred. God said He had been watching all the time, and had seen the things Laban had done. Sometimes we may go through trials when it seems the Lord has forsaken us, but He has promised He will never leave nor forsake His own. He watches over His children; and when He sees we have been tried enough, He makes a way out and rewards us for standing true.
The Lord said to Jacob, "I am the God of Bethel." That was important, because it was at Bethel that God had promised to bring Jacob again to his father's house. Jacob had vowed a vow there, and had kept his vow through the years, and now God was ready to help him return home.
Jacob told his wives what the Lord had said, and they agreed that he had well earned all that he claimed; and if God wanted them to leave Haran, they were ready to go. Laban had refused even to consider Jacob's departure; but one day while he was away shearing sheep, Jacob took all that belonged to him and started on the long journey home. When Laban was told about it three days later, he was very angry, and with some of his men started in hot pursuit. They rode for seven days before they overtook Jacob's party, and he was planning how he could get even with Jacob. But God was taking care of His child. He warned Laban in a dream to be very careful what he said to Jacob. Laban had enough respect for God to listen and to heed the warning. By the time he caught up with his son in law he was able to control himself and speak reasonably.
Laban's Covenant with Jacob
Jacob was displeased that he had followed him as though he were a thief. He explained that he had worked hard for all the things he claimed, and had gotten them honestly according to Laban's terms. Laban finally consented to relinquish what he thought were his rights, and he made a covenant with Jacob to which he asked God to witness. This was the first time Laban had ever taken God into consideration in his bargaining with Jacob, and this was the first covenant that stood. If we ask God's counsel in our affairs, and follow His guidance, we can expect to prosper. Too many times when we pray we are not so much asking God's will as His approval of our desires. "Keep therefore the words of this covenant, and do them, that ye may prosper in all that ye do" (Deuteronomy:29:9).
From this occasion we get the beautiful invocation often used when dear friends part: "The LORD watch between me and thee, when we are absent one from another." It is called "Mispah," the name of the place where the covenant was made.
It was the custom in those days to seal an agreement by having a feast. Jacob offered a sacrifice and called all his brethren together to eat. The next morning Laban said good bye to his children and returned home.
1. What relation was Jacob to Laban?
2. How long did Jacob serve Laban?
3. Was the blessing of the Lord still following Jacob?
4. How many times did Laban change Jacob's wages?
5. In Genesis:31:13 the Lord remembers Jacob’s vow. Do you think the Lord takes note of our vows?