Genesis Overview: Jacob's Flight

a) Jacob's Wealth (30.25-43 in J and E)

This is a continuation from the previous. The major problem arises from inconsistencies and the five different words to describe multi-coloured animals. In spite of inconsistencies, the burden of the narrative is clear.

30.25-30: Legally, if one considers Jacob a slave, then he must abandon his wives and property if he leaves his master, cf. Exodus 21.4-6. At the very least he was a dependent. The situation is complicated by the relationship of the men and Laban's economic gain from Jacob. Laban dumbfounded because he knows his blessing comes from Jacob's God.

30.31-36: "You shall not give me anything" surprises the reader; it may be that Jacob will rescind his initial demand for release if certain conditions are met, and it seems that Jacob does not want a definite wage. In those days the sheep were white, the goats darker, and multi-coloured animals very rare, and rare for unicoloured mothers to have striped or spotted offspring. Jacob appears to be gambling. Although the subsequent way Jacob outwits Laban might be burlesque, it is deadly serious for the two men, Jacob emphasising his honesty in 30.33. Laban agrees but insists on doing the separation and ensuring the two flocks are three days' travel apart, a distance which ultimately worked to his disadvantage.

30.37-43: Once alone with Laban's flocks, Jacob acts through the ancient practice of "frighting" females. 30.40 rather obscure.

b) Jacob's Flight & Contract with Laban (31 in E and J)

Again, this is a J & E continuation in three parts: 1-16; 17-25; 26-55.  All E except J: 1, 3, 18b, 25, 27, 46-52; sources do not always agree. E more likely to comment and justify than J.

31.1-16: Jacob discovers the changed situation (E 31.2) by more hidden means than in J. As Jacob's proposed course was unusual, he checks with his wives. 31.14-16 describes the legal situation as they see it; they have had a raw deal from Laban and are already separated "foreigners". Did Jacob hide important facts from his wives such as the trick with the flocks? Laban is much less at fault in E, cf. 31.7b. 31.12 an "... inept insertion" (p306). The speech ends with an unspoken question to the women.

31.17-24: The departure is mentioned three times. In E Jacob chooses a favourable time. Through the discussion of Rachel's theft, Jacob is innocent. Even in the late royal period there was a struggle against cultic objects (cf. 2 Kings 23.24).

31.25-35: Laban would be the stronger man but for God. In Laban's speech E dominates J. The encounter complicated by the theft; Jacob sentences Rachel to death in 31.32. But, again, the rampaging Laban is almost comic: "The narrator cannot have intended it to be heard without provoking laughter. Israel expressed herself frequently regarding the impotence, even ridiculousness, of idols and their images, most fully in the humorous caricature of idol manufacture in Isa. 44.9 ff." (p309). Rachel rescued herself through presence of mind.

31.36-54: Laban's lack of success turns the tables, cf. 31.36-42 where E exalts Jacob. Laban makes his claim on the basis of an ancient Sadika marriage, cf. Judges 14.2 ff. which disappeared early in the story of Israel. There is a problem with the age of the children, cf. 31.31, 31.41, 29.20, 30.25. "The narrative about Laban's contract with Jacob is based on an ancient aetiological tradition which once circulated by itself ..." (p311). Ultimately, God's warning to Laban (31.24, 29) prevails. The final verses very messy. The meal is sacred, sealed by God; there are two Gods in 31.53.

c) The Angels of Manahim (32.1-2)

This may simply be an aetiological explanation for the naming of Manahim (camp), not necessarily war-like) which becomes so important, cf. 2 Samuel 2.8 ff; 2 Samuel 17.24 ff; 1 Kings 4.14.  It is otherwise totally inscrutable as the angels say nothing, although this may be a sign of Jacob's re-connection with God after his exile with Laban. VR specifies no source.

A massive variety of sources of varying ages makes up the narrative of Jacob, based on a J foundation with its distinctive theological character in spite of lengthy passages where God is absent and his people wilful. Note the two cultic passages, cf. 28.10 ff. and 32.22 ff. where Jacob is directly subject to God.

KC VI/14

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