The Lord Visits Laban

“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’” (Gen. 31:24).

- Genesis 31:22-32

Laban may have been away when Jacob and his daughters set out for Gilead (Gen. 31:17–21), but their journey does not escape his notice for long. After he becomes aware of his son-in-law’s absence, Laban sets out in hot pursuit and is soon able to get within striking distance of Jacob (vv. 22–23). 

Given what we know about Jacob’s loss of favor in Laban’s eyes (v. 2), it is obvious Laban wants to execute ungodly wrath on his son-in-law. Our Creator’s visit to him in a dream just before he overtakes Jacob makes this even more plain. At the beginning of today’s passage, Laban is warned not to say anything to Jacob, that is, he is told to contradict nothing Isaac’s son says to him (v. 24). Without a doubt, this dream provokes Laban to keep his hands off Jacob in the following verses. Once again, God has intervened in history, keeping His promise to preserve the woman’s seed and crush the Devil (3:15).

The Lord’s speech to Laban restrains his hand, but Jacob’s father-in-law does not soften his heart completely. His dialogue with Jacob reveals his hypocrisy, first and foremost. Laban depicts himself as a wronged father who only desired to send his daughters off well (31:27–28), but this clearly contradicts his true and original intent to harm Jacob and defraud Leah and Rachel (vv. 2, 14–16). The ways in which his transgressions have warped his mind (the noetic effects of sin) are also apparent. Jacob is accused of holding Laban’s daughters as captives (v. 26) when it is Laban who has imprisoned Jacob and his wives for twenty years, unable to count on a steady wage for the labor of Isaac’s son (v. 41). Such muddled thinking and hypocrisy is indicative of those enslaved to sin (Rom. 1:28; 1 Cor. 1:25). 

Lest we also reveal ourselves as those whose thinking has become futile, let us heed John Calvin’s comments on Genesis 31:29. He writes: “The ungodly, even when they have had proof of the power of God, yet do not entirely submit themselves to his authority. Wherefore, when God manifests himself to us, we must also seek from heaven the spirit of meekness, which shall bend and subdue us to obedience unto himself.”

Coram Deo

In Romans 12:2 the apostle Paul exhorts us to “be transformed by the renewal” of our minds. As those called out from the world to be God’s people, the Holy Spirit has indeed transformed our minds so that we may serve Him with all our might. However, there will be times when sin gets the better of us and clouds our thinking; thus, we should never think we are immune to irrational thoughts or behaviors. Spend time in God’s Word that you may think more rightly.

Passages for Further Study

Job 38:1–2, 36
Isa. 26:3–4
Rom. 8:6–7
1 Cor. 2:14–16

First published in Tabletalk Magazine, an outreach of Ligonier. For permissions, view our Copyright Policy.