So then god said to Jacob, why don't you go back to your home now? I'm sure Esau isn't mad anymore. I'll be with you. It'll be fine.
So he met with his two wives out in the fields and told them that their father was acting funny. He told them he'd worked for a long time and their father hadn't given him a fair shake. But he figured he was still okay because he was being watched over by god, and that god made it so that if Laban told him to take the speckled offspring all the offspring that year were speckled.
So that's a bit contradictory. I mean, in the last chapter Jacob did some mystical genetics meddling to make sure he got all the offspring. Now he tells his wives that it was god that made his flock so large. Now he tells them that god took away their father's flock and gave it to him. History being rewritten as we read.
Boy, Jacob was on a tear in this sililoquy. He goes on to say that he once had this dream during breeding season where he saw speckled goats mating with the flock, and that in the dream god pointed this out to him and said, look at all the speckled males mating in the flock. God then told him to leave and go back to his native land.
Rachel and Leah listened to this and told him that they no longer have any share in their inheritance anyway. They reasoned that since the dowry for their marriage was paid in manhours, all the wealth that Jacob had accumulated was owed to them.
Then they said: "So do whatever God has told you." Since it's in our best interest.
So Jacob got everyone together, his two wives, two maidservants, twelve children, and however many manservants he had, and, driving the livestock ahead of them, left. Before this, Rachel waited until her father went out shearing and stole all his household gods. For some reason. I imagine her snickering when she does it.
Three days after their departure Laban noticed they were gone. Hey I need to borrow a cup of sugar. . . where IS everyone?!? He gathered his relatives and went after Jacob. But god came to him in a dream in transit and told him, don't say anything to Jacob! Good or bad! Ah, the specificity.
Well, Laban caught up with Jacob in Gilead, which is some beautiful grazing land north of the Dead Sea. Laban, completely disregarding what god told him, because Laban had had his own gods stolen from him, told Jacob off.
What? What is this? You left without a word! Boy are you shifty! This is half my family you have with you, I wanted to say goodbye! You know, I'd knock you flat but that scary god of yours told me last night not to. But you know, I noticed all my household idols are missing. Coincidence? Do you have them?
Jacob, not knowing what Rachel had done, told Laban he didn't have his stupid gods. And that they were ugly anyway. He said, go on and look for them here, if you love them so much why don't you marry them?
So Laban looked through everyone's tents. When he got to Rachel's tent she was sitting on her camel's saddle, probably trying to look nonchalant. The idols were in the saddle. She said, oh, daddy! How good to see you! I would get up to hug you but you know, I'm on my period. (Geeze I wish I'd made that last bit up.) So Laban didn't find his household gods. Wonder how hard they were to come by.
Jacob was pretty steamed. Didn't find them did you?!? You should know I'm not a common theif! I'm an uncommon theif! Are you happy?
Boy this next soliloquy is great, he went on to tell Laban, oh I've worked for you for TWENTY YEEEEARS! And you've changed my wages TEEEEEENNNNNN TIIIIIIMMMEEESS! And I've never eaten rams from your flock! And you always wanted me to cover for anything that was stolen, and I DID!
Laban answered evenly, yeah, but everything that surrounds you is mine. Seriously. My daughters, my grandchildren, my flocks, my camels. . . probably my tents and tent poles. Everything you have is what you've taken from me. You owe your wealth to me and your own avarice, not god.
Which is true.
But Laban didn't want any trouble, after all. They made a covenant there, in front of a pile of rocks. That he would not follow any farther, that they would not harm each other. I think that Laban realizes finally that if his daughters have a shrewd husband they'll probably do well in life. He left the next morning after giving half his family a kiss and a hug.
I think it's understated here how desolate it might be for someone to leave without saying goodbye. I think of Laban as this wily kind of snarky uncle. But good natured. And he is shocked and hurt when that many people leave unannounced. And it's Jacob's fault. But he must realize eventually that he brought some of it on himself, being wily, and he now must come to terms with the fact that he was okay with Jacob marrying his daughters even though one day he knew they must all leave, probably for good. No wonder he kept cheating and hemming and hawing on the subject. He's human.
Jacob should have been a little less of a bastard about things, though, that much is obvious. He's a coward that only stands up when his back is against the wall. And his head is getting bigger now he thinks he has god on his side.