1. TRYING TO LEAVE LABAN
a. In what manner did Jacob feel compelled to depart from Padan-aram—and what was Laban’s reaction? Genesis 31:20–23.
“The flocks and herds were speedily gathered and sent forward, and with his wives, children, and servants, Jacob crossed the Euphrates, urging his way toward Gilead, on the borders of Canaan. After three days Laban learned of their flight, and set forth in pursuit, overtaking the company on the seventh day of their journey. He was hot with anger, and bent on forcing them to return, which he doubted not he could do, since his band was much the stronger.”—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 193.
b. What restrained Laban from harming Jacob—yet, as an idol worshiper, what was his emphasis when they met? Genesis 31:24–30.
“That [Laban] did not carry out his hostile purpose was due to the fact that God Himself had interposed for the protection of His servant. . . .
“Laban . . . had ever treated Jacob with craft and harshness; but with characteristic dissimulation he now reproached him for his secret departure.”—Ibid.
2. LEARNING TO SAFEGUARD THE FAMILY
a. Why can we be emboldened by Jacob’s hatred of idolatry—and warned by Rachel’s hidden sin that must have surely been affecting the family? Genesis 31:31–35; Proverbs 15:3.
“The very spirit of heathen idolatry is rife today, though under the influence of science and education it has assumed a more refined and attractive form. Every day adds sorrowful evidence that faith in the sure word of prophecy is fast decreasing, and that in its stead superstition and satanic witchery are captivating the minds of men. All who do not earnestly search the Scriptures and submit every desire and purpose of life to that unerring test, all who do not seek God in prayer for a knowledge of His will, will surely wander from the right path and fall under the deception of Satan.”—Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 192.
“Do nothing before strangers that you would not do before your father and mother, or that you would be ashamed of before Christ and the holy angels. . . .
“Beware; for you can do nothing that is not open to the eyes of angels and of God. You cannot do an evil work and others not be affected by it. While your course of action reveals what kind of material is used in your own character building, it also has a powerful influence over others.”—Ibid., pp. 398, 399.
b. How did Jacob summarize his life with selfish Laban—and what was the only response Laban could provide? Genesis 31:36–42, 44, 48–50.
“Laban could not deny the facts brought forward, and he now proposed to enter into a covenant of peace.”—Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 193, 194.
“Laban understood the wrong of polygamy, although it was alone through his artifice that Jacob had taken two wives. He well knew that it was the jealousy of Leah and Rachel that led them to give their maids to Jacob, which confused the family relation, and increased the unhappiness of his daughters. And now as his daughters are journeying at a great distance from him, and their interest is to be entirely separate from his own, he would guard as far as possible their happiness. Laban would not have Jacob bring still greater unhappiness upon himself and upon Leah and Rachel, by taking other wives.”—Spiritual Gifts, vol. 3, p. 126.
3. FACING THE NEXT STEP
a. How did Jacob close his experience in Padan-aram? Genesis 31:51–55.
“To confirm the treaty, the parties held a feast. The night was spent in friendly communing; and at the dawn of day, Laban and his company departed. With this separation ceased all trace of connection between the children of Abraham and the dwellers in Mesopotamia.”—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 194.
b. What is encouraging about the welcome blessing that came to Jacob as he began the journey toward his homeland? Genesis 32:1, 2.
“Though Jacob had left Padan-aram in obedience to the divine direction, it was not without many misgivings that he retraced the road which he had trodden as a fugitive twenty years before. His sin in the deception of his father was ever before him. He knew that his long exile was the direct result of that sin, and he pondered over these things day and night, the reproaches of an accusing conscience making his journey very sad. . . .
“As he drew nearer his journey’s end, the thought of Esau brought many a troubled foreboding. After the flight of Jacob, Esau had regarded himself as the sole heir of their father’s possessions. The news of Jacob’s return would excite the fear that he was coming to claim the inheritance. Esau was now able to do his brother great injury, if so disposed, and he might be moved to violence against him, not only by the desire for revenge, but in order to secure undisturbed possession of the wealth which he had so long looked upon as his own.
“Again the Lord granted Jacob a token of the divine care. As he traveled southward from Mount Gilead, two hosts of heavenly angels seemed to encompass him behind and before, advancing with his company, as if for their protection. Jacob remembered the vision at Bethel so long before, and his burdened heart grew lighter at this evidence that the divine messengers who had brought him hope and courage at his flight from Canaan were to be the guardians of his return. And he said, ‘This is God’s host: and he called the name of that place Mahanaim’—‘two hosts, or, camps.”—Ibid., p. 195.
4. CAUSE FOR CONCERN
a. What wise precaution did Jacob take for his safety? Genesis 32:3–5.
“Jacob felt that he had something to do to secure his own safety. He therefore dispatched messengers with a conciliatory greeting to his brother. He instructed them as to the exact words in which they were to address Esau. It had been foretold before the birth of the two brothers that the elder should serve the younger, and, lest the memory of this should be a cause of bitterness, Jacob told the servants they were sent to ‘my lord Esau;’ when brought before him, they were to refer to their master as ‘thy servant Jacob;’ and to remove the fear that he was returning, a destitute wanderer, to claim the paternal inheritance, Jacob was careful to state in his message, ‘I have oxen, and asses, flocks, and menservants, and womenservants: and I have sent to tell my lord, that I may find grace in thy sight’ [Genesis 32:5].”—Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 195, 196.
“[Jacob] did not claim the precedence for himself, but courteously addressed his brother as a superior, hoping thus to appease the anger which his former course had excited.”—The Signs of the Times, November 20, 1879.
b. Despite Jacob’s tact, how did the messengers respond? Genesis 32:6.
“The servants returned with the tidings that Esau was approaching with four hundred men, and no response was sent to the friendly message.”—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 196.
c. Describe Jacob’s situation at this point. Genesis 32:7, 8.
“[Jacob] could not go back, and he feared to advance. His company, unarmed and defenseless, were wholly unprepared for a hostile encounter. He accordingly divided them into two bands, so that if one should be attacked, the other might have an opportunity to escape.”—Ibid.
5. THE GUILTY IN NEED OF HOPE
a. Like Job, what type of experience was Jacob now undergoing? Job 7:6, 20.
“It was in a lonely, mountainous region, the haunt of wild beasts and the lurking place of robbers and murderers. Solitary and unprotected, Jacob bowed in deep distress upon the earth. It was midnight. All that made life dear to him were at a distance, exposed to danger and death. Bitterest of all was the thought that it was his own sin which had brought this peril upon the innocent.”—Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 196, 197.
b. Describe the natural condition of every one of us—and explain our only hope. Isaiah 1:5, 6, 18–20.
“By nature we are alienated from God. The Holy Spirit describes our condition in such words as these: ‘Dead in trespasses and sins;’ ‘the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint;’ ‘no soundness in it.’ We are held fast in the snare of Satan, ‘taken captive by him at his will.’ Ephesians 2:1; Isaiah 1:5, 6; 2 Timothy 2:26. God desires to heal us, to set us free. But since this requires an entire transformation, a renewing of our whole nature, we must yield ourselves wholly to Him.
“The warfare against self is the greatest battle that was ever fought. The yielding of self, surrendering all to the will of God, requires a struggle; but the soul must submit to God before it can be renewed in holiness.”—Steps to Christ, p. 43.
PERSONAL REVIEW QUESTIONS
1. Regardless of his words, why was Laban angered by Jacob’s departure?
2. What evil habits had Rachel evidently learned from her father?
3. How did the Lord comfort Jacob in his stressful hour of departure?
4. What attitude change did Jacob realize he needed in approaching Esau?
5. When remorse accompanies problems, where only can we look for help?