February 19, 2019

A Heap of Accountability

Genesis 31:22–55

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22 When it was told Laban on the third day that Jacob had fled, 23 he took his kinsmen with him and pursued him for seven days and followed close after him into the hill country of Gilead. 24 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.”

25 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. 26 And Laban said to Jacob, “What have you done, that you have tricked me and driven away my daughters like captives of the sword? 27 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? 28 And why did you not permit me to kiss my sons and my daughters farewell? Now you have done foolishly. 29 It is in my power to do you harm. But the God of your1 father spoke to me last night, saying, ‘Be careful not to say anything to Jacob, either good or bad.’ 30 And now you have gone away because you longed greatly for your father's house, but why did you steal my gods?” 31 Jacob answered and said to Laban, “Because I was afraid, for I thought that you would take your daughters from me by force. 32 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.

33 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. 34 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. 35 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.

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.”

43 Then Laban answered and said to Jacob, “The daughters are my daughters, the children are my children, the flocks are my flocks, and all that you see is mine. But what can I do this day for these my daughters or for their children whom they have borne? 44 Come now, let us make a covenant, you and I. And let it be a witness between you and me.” 45 So Jacob took a stone and set it up as a pillar. 46 And Jacob said to his kinsmen, “Gather stones.” And they took stones and made a heap, and they ate there by the heap. 47 Laban called it Jegar-sahadutha,2 but Jacob called it Galeed.3 48 Laban said, “This heap is a witness between you and me today.” Therefore he named it Galeed, 49 and Mizpah,4 for he said, “The LORD watch between you and me, when we are out of one another's sight. 50 If you oppress my daughters, or if you take wives besides my daughters, although no one is with us, see, God is witness between you and me.”

51 Then Laban said to Jacob, “See this heap and the pillar, which I have set between you and me. 52 This heap is a witness, and the pillar is a witness, that I will not pass over this heap to you, and you will not pass over this heap and this pillar to me, to do harm. 53 The God of Abraham and the God of Nahor, the God of their father, judge between us.” So Jacob swore by the Fear of his father Isaac, 54 and Jacob offered a sacrifice in the hill country and called his kinsmen to eat bread. They ate bread and spent the night in the hill country.

55  Early in the morning Laban arose and kissed his grandchildren and his daughters and blessed them. Then Laban departed and returned home.


[1] 31:29 The Hebrew for your is plural here
[2] 31:47 Aramaic the heap of witness
[3] 31:47 Hebrew the heap of witness
[4] 31:49 Mizpah means watchpost

A Heap of Accountability

Key Verse | Genesis 31:48-49

Laban said, "This heap is a witness between you and me today." Therefore he named it Galeed, and Mizpah, for he said, "The LORD watch between you and me, when we are out of one another's sight."

Bio | Cristyn Smith

Howdy (that's Texan for "hello")! Cristyn, here. For the first 36 years, 11 months, and 361 days of my life, I lived in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. BUT for 3 months and 2 days now, my family and I have called the coolness of Colorado Springs, Colorado, our home. My husband, Quentin, and I have been married for nearly four years and have a 17-month-old daughter. As a family, we enjoy exploring our new home by taking long walks outside, hanging out with family that now lives just up the road, and searching for Colorado wildlife.

Central Truth

God does not agree to protect us because we build pillars out of stones as a reminder. He protects us because He loves us and because He is for us. He will fulfill the plans He has for us.

Devotional | Genesis 31:22–55

Three days passed before Laban received the news that Jacob had gathered all that he had and fled, returning to the land of Canaan. Laban saw Jacob's fleeing as deception, choosing to believe that he was guilty...

Three days passed before Laban received the news that Jacob had gathered all that he had and fled, returning to the land of Canaan. Laban saw Jacob's fleeing as deception, choosing to believe that he was guilty until proven innocent. But for Jacob, he felt he had done more than enough during his time with Laban. Jacob felt that, in the midst of his actions, he was actually innocent until proven guilty.

Here we have a situation in which two men see things completely differently. Both felt betrayed and deceived, and both believed that the other "owed" them something. Laban felt robbed of his children, grandchildren, and livestock and betrayed by Jacob's fleeing without notification. Jacob felt that he had given more than enough of his time in serving Laban and his land, only to be deceived in having his wages changed ten different times.

I wonder what went through Laban's mind when Jacob freely expressed his frustration and discontent toward him? In one moment Laban is lashing out at Jacob, being mindful not to "harm" him in accordance with the vision he received from the Lord the night before. But in the next instance, Laban is asking Jacob to establish a peace treaty between them, and they build a heap of stones to mark the spot in which God would hold them accountable to not invade one another's land.

According to Dr. Thomas L. Constable's Bible study notes, the heap of stones that Laban and Jacob built was referred to as Galeed or "witness heap." It was also known as "Mizpah blessing." Mizpah means "watchtower" or "outlook point." In other words, agreeing to disagree, two men from two different lands and two different perspectives found a way to trust that God would protect them from the other. Can you imagine if with every disagreement we had with another person we had to build a heap of stones in order to maintain accountability that we would not bring harm to them or them to us? We might be tripping on stones everywhere we go.

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Discussion Questions

1. Is there someone in your life with whom you completely disagree on any given topic? If so, who and why?

2. Would building "Galeeds" and "Mizpahs" help hold you accountable to not cross a line in which you may bring harm to another (even in the words you use toward them)?

3. Do you trust that God is who He says He is and that He will protect you and guide you in situations when you believe someone may intend to harm you?

4. If you don't trust God to protect you, why not? Who can you talk to today to gain a better understanding of the God who loves you and is for you?

10 Comments available

Yolanda Escobar about 5 hours ago

It was a great confrontation there , but God’s hand was there being faithful in his promises, also for Rachel reach mercy in spite of her idolatry. but She payed the greatest consequence because in spite of being loved by her husband and having fathered a great man Jose and Efrain. The blessing of disdain came from the unloved Leah in conceiving Judah from whom our redeemer comes in Grace.

CATRICE HINES about 5 hours ago

Interesting passage… Listened to it 3-4 times and the phrase that caught my attention was “changed wages”…hmmmmm. It’s where I am right now in my life and this reminded me that I have to still trust God even when it doesn’t seem right and I don’t understand the pathway.

Still Believing God

Erin Hobbs about 5 hours ago

O, the timely Word. Thinking back to this weekend’s message about loving our enemies. I put my hope in man, and then make sure everyone knows my disappointment in them when they hurt me or let me down, feeling my self-entitlement to harm them by avoiding and straight up slander. Titus 3.

Thankful for the gift of community who is in the fray with me and that whole keep the circle around yourself thing. A new practice for me in the last couple years. Proverbs 16:7 - when a man’s ways are pleasing to the Lord, he makes even his enemies live at peace with him. He does this even when our ways aren’t pleasing to Him… grace.

Hesed. Faithful love to an unfaithful (and deceptive) people …like Jacob. And me.

greg jones about 5 hours ago

I can’t imagine…yes I can, Jacob’s life without Labans influence in it. It’s like imagining Jacobs sons lives without the influence of Joseph in them.

If you can find a reason for the Laban in your life you’re likely to later see opportunities to be a Jacob in somebody else’s life.

Michael Scaman about 5 hours ago

Robbed of his children I can understand. Laban was also robbed of his idols.

It’s sad that Laban had idols and was quite concerned about giving them up. Sadder still that Rachel wanted to keep them as well.

Ronnie Oldfield about 9 hours ago

Thanks for a great start to my day Cristyn. Laban uses a debate technique to turn the focus to paint Jacob as the villain.

28 And why did you not permit me to kiss my sons and my daughters farewell?

Laban, the loving and doting father and grandfather who didn’t realize Jacob had packed up (which should have been quite the task) and left until three more days.

As one who can maintain shallow, arms length relationships, I can be a Laban. Not willing to dig deeply into life together, yet being surprised when important news and events in lives pass me by.

My best testimony is a life lived as I struggle well. closely sharing life with others who are strengthened as they see me struggle well and vice versa.

Thanks Crystin

Sue Bohlin about 12 hours ago

Heyyyy Cristyn! I’m sure you are doing a bang-up job of bringing Texas culture to Colorado! Miss you!

Interesting contrast in today’s reading of two kinds of deities. Laban is dealing with a man blessed by the one true God, but he has a false god who can be lost or stolen. What kind of god is that?

Hope Harris about 12 hours ago

This slower reading of Genesis is putting together some things I have known within Jewish culture the Mizpah coin and its origins.

From the my experience a Mizpah coin is given as a sign of God watching over two people who have a close emotional bond such as lovers, or close friends. Verse 49 is inscribed on the coin and traditionally the two parties wear it around their necks while they are apart. It is a prayer of God’s protection in the relationship.

Here we see the heap of rocks establish an agreement and physical boundary between Jacob and Laban. It establishes a physical sign of God watching over the two parties.

Jacob and Laban were relatives with a rocky relationship. The landmark is God’s protection of Jacob and his family.

Lindsey Driscoll about 13 hours ago

Q1 - Sometimes in the context of community I can disagree with someones opinion of something that is not a biblical issue but more a choice of free will (ie: is this safe or not). I am reminded today that my identity does not lie in wether or not someone agrees with a minor choice I make as I follow the Lord. Verse 32:53 says “May the God of Abraham…judge between us.” When I disagree on non sin issues with a community member, the Lord gets to judge my heart, to show me What my part is. I can remember that we may disagree on small things or make different decisions about things, but we are to be in complete unity on the truth of God’s word.

Hugh Stephenson about 13 hours ago

I am reflecting on the “Mizpah Blessing”.

It would be quite interesting to have Jacob and Laban do a re:gen inventory.

In doing an inventory two of the six areas to cover are “Harms to Me” and “Harms by Me”. Would it not be interesting to compare Laban’s and Jacob’s?

They don’t trust each other, and they don’t trust God. Laban is still relying on idols and divination even though he has seen Yahweh’s deeds and even heard Him. Jacob has the promise, the blessing AND God promising him protection.

Hearing His voice and seeing His faithfulness always makes me wonder “What does it take for these people?” Right about then God holds a mirror up to me says the same thing.

It seems God constantly tests me so that I can see His promises are true and my heart will turn to Him, (Proverbs 17:3, Romans 5:3-5, James 1:2-4).

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