After working for Laban fourteen years, Jacob was ready to establish his independence. Laban recognized that God had blessed him because of Jacob and was reluctant to let him leave. Jacob agreed to remain if Laban would allow him to take the off-colored sheep and goats for his pay, leaving the white ones for Laban.
This was agreeable to Laban, but before Jacob could remove his share of the flocks, Laban went ahead of him and removed them and gave them to his sons.
God allowed Laban’s remaining white flocks to produce more off-colored animals than white ones in order for Jacob’s flocks to increase while Laban’s flocks decreased. This was a step toward keeping His promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
After a period of six years, Laban’s sons began to complain that Jacob had taken away all that was their father’s. Jacob realized that it was time for him to leave because Laban’s countenance “was not favorable toward him as before.” Jacob’s wives also felt like strangers in their father’s house.
Laban received the news three days after Jacob had fled. He pursued for seven days before coming upon Jacob. God had warned Laban in a dream not to harm Jacob.
During their confrontation, Jacob explained how he had worked twenty years for Laban. During that time, Laban had prospered, but had changed his wages numerous times. He was now ready to return home to his father’s house.
Jacob and Laban piled a heap of stones and agreed to a covenant that neither of them would cross to the other side to harm the other. Early the next morning Laban kissed his daughters and grandchildren goodbye and blessed them. He then returned home and Jacob continued toward Canaan.
As Jacob left a dangerous confrontation with his father-in-law, Laban, he faced returning to his homeland where his brother, Esau had vowed to kill him. This required a large measure of humility, penitence and careful planning on the part of Jacob.
Jacob sent goodwill messengers to Esau to prepare the way for him to meet his brother. Their report distressed him even greater. Esau was coming to meet him and had four hundred men with him. That sounded like war!
As he prayed to God for safety, Jacob reminded God of His promise. He then divided his group into two companies. Perhaps if one was attacked, the other could escape.
In seeking peace, it was customary to send a gift of appeasement to the offended person. Jacob’s gift was huge. It consisted of various groups of animals totaling more than five hundred fifty.
Angels of God had met Jacob earlier as he had begun his journey. That night was a sleepless night for him for he wrestled with a man until daybreak. This man was the manifestation of God, possibly even the Son of God. Jacob was informed that, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob but Israel, for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.”
As they continued their journey, they saw Esau in the distance with his four hundred men. Instead of attacking Jacob, Esau ran to him and kissed him—a gracious greeting for a long-departed brother. Time had healed his wounds and instead of seeking revenge, he forgave.
Jacob had prepared for the worse, but received the better. Esau had prospered during their twenty-year separation and refused Jacob’s gift. Upon Jacob’s insistence, he eventually accepted the animals.
After returning to Canaan, Jacob purchased a parcel of land from Hamor and settled with his family in Shechem. “Then he erected an altar there…” When we move to another location, we should follow Jacob’s example and seek a place to worship God.