Genesis 31:33-55 In making peace, you gain an ally and lose an enemy
Genesis 31:33-55 In making peace, you gain an ally and lose an enemy
So Laban went into Jacob’s tent and into Leah’s tent and into the tent of the two maids, but he did not find them. Then he went out of Leah’s tent and entered Rachel’s tent. 34 Now Rachel had taken the household idols and put them in the camel’s saddle, and she sat on them. And Laban felt through all the tent but did not find them. 35 She said to her father, “Let not my lord be angry that I cannot rise before you, for the manner of women is upon me.” So he searched but did not find the household idols.
36 Then Jacob became angry and contended with Laban; and Jacob said to Laban, “What is my transgression? What is my sin that you have hotly pursued me? 37 Though you have felt through all my goods, what have you found of all your household goods? Set it here before my kinsmen and your kinsmen, that they may decide between us two. 38 These twenty years I have been with you; your ewes and your female goats have not miscarried, nor have I eaten the rams of your flocks. 39 That which was torn of beasts I did not bring to you; I bore the loss of it myself. You required it of my hand whether stolen by day or stolen by night. 40 Thus I was: by day the heat consumed me and the frost by night, and my sleep fled from my eyes. 41 These twenty years I have been in your house; I served you fourteen years for your two daughters and six years for your flock, and you changed my wages ten times. 42 If the God of my father, the God of Abraham, and the fear of Isaac, had not been for me, surely now you would have sent me away empty-handed. God has seen my affliction and the toil of my hands, so He rendered judgment last night.”
43 Then Laban replied to Jacob, “The daughters are my daughters, and the children are my children, and the flocks are my flocks, and all that you see is mine. But what can I do this day to these my daughters or to their children whom they have borne? 44 So now come, let us make a covenant, you and I, and let it be a witness between you and me.”
45 Then Jacob took a stone and set it up as a pillar. 46 Jacob said to his kinsmen, “Gather stones.” So they took stones and made a heap, and they ate there by the heap. 47 Now Laban called it Jegar-sahadutha, but Jacob called it Galeed. 48 Laban said, “This heap is a witness between you and me this day.” Therefore it was named Galeed, 49 and Mizpah, for he said, “May the Lord watch between you and me when we are absent one from the other. 50 If you mistreat my daughters, or if you take wives besides my daughters, although no man is with us, see, God is witness between you and me.” 51 Laban said to Jacob, “Behold this heap and behold the pillar which I have set between you and me. 52 This heap is a witness, and the pillar is a witness, that I will not pass by this heap to you for harm, and you will not pass by this heap and this pillar to me, for harm. 53 The God of Abraham and the God of Nahor, the God of their father, judge between us.” So Jacob swore by the fear of his father Isaac. 54 Then Jacob offered a sacrifice on the mountain, and called his kinsmen to the meal; and they ate the meal and spent the night on the mountain. 55 Early in the morning Laban arose, and kissed his sons and his daughters and blessed them. Then Laban departed and returned to his place.
Laban caught up with Jacob and accused him of taking from him his daughters, children and flock. Intransigent Laban laid claim to his property insisting that he did no wrong despite mounting evidences of his duplicity. Laban, having left without a choice offered a peace pact because God in coming to Laban through a dream has vindicated Jacob. Nevertheless, Jacob showed exceptional fortitude in agreeing to a covenant of peace with Laban. In so doing, he found closure for Haran through peace and forgiveness. And he will begin his life when he return home through forgiveness as well. This time from his estranged brother Esau. Today’s devotion teaches us: In making peace, you gain an ally and lose an enemy.
So Laban went into Jacob’s tent and into Leah’s tent…
This scene testifies to the mistrust that was festering between Jacob’s household and Laban. It has come to a point that Laban distrusted even his own daughters. However, the sentiments between Laban and her daughters were mutual. Rachel has stolen the idol and hidden it as a final retaliation against her father who spoiled her marriage and stole her dowry. Rachel might have gotten her last laugh, but she will die young in childbirth (see Genesis 35:16-18). Jacob’s hasty departure has indeed surfaced the worst in people; for Rachel, her vindictiveness and for Jacob, his impetuousness in the face of accusation that led to a rash vow.
These twenty years I have been with you; your ewes and your female goats have not miscarried.
When Laban could not produce the evidence of the alleged theft, Jacob took the opportunity and berated Laban for what was twenty years of exploitation and oppression. Jacob’s lengthy diatribe summarises twenty years of dedicated and back breaking work under Laban. The point Jacob was trying to make is: he is the honest one, but Laban is crafty and cares about no one other than himself. Jacob has proved the point that his prosperity and Laban’s dream were signs of God’s vindication of him.
So now come, let us make a covenant, you and I, and let it be a witness between you and me.
Laban’s delusion is evident in his grandiose but empty claim to the property (the daughters… the children… the flocks are mine). In the face of mounting evidences of Laban’s duplicity, Laban insisted that he was righteous and did no wrong. In reality, Laban could do nothing against Jacob even if he wanted to, as he would be going against the divine edict (see Genesis 31:29). Motivated by self-preservation, and being convinced of God’s vindication towards Jacob, Laban’s only recourse was to make a peace pact. However, Jacob has no need of a peace treaty since God has vindicated him, and he has nothing to fear. But Jacob, being willing to concur to a covenant with Laban is worthy to be called a son of God (see Matthew 5:9).
Then Jacob took a stone and set it up as a pillar.
The peace treaty was made in the presence of two stone monuments: Now Laban called it Jegar-sahadutha, but Jacob called it Galeed. The provisions of the treaty were the protection of the daughters in a foreign land and tribal boundaries. And they named the place where the covenant took place as Mizpah (May the Lord watch between you and me when we are absent one from the other.) The peace treaty has resulted for future generations a mutual respect of each other’s rights over their respective territories. In the same token, Laban has tacitly acknowledged Jacob as a ruler of a independent social entity of equal status. The offering of a sacrifice seals the treaty as final and breaking it will incur grave consequences for the guilty.
When you make peace, you gain an ally and lose an enemy
Despite Laban’s intransigence in admitting to his baseness, Jacob accepted his invitation to a peace treaty. As one would often make peace with those who see eye to eye on fundamental issues, Jacob displayed exceptional fortitude when he made a friend out of an impenitent foe. The peace treaty benefits all parties and their future generations by way of forgiveness of all debts and wrongdoings. And by laying down fundamental principles, all parties may live in peace and possibly work together on mutually beneficial grounds. Jacob has many commendable characteristics, but one which bodes closest to the divine is fortitude in forgiving the unremorseful. And Jacob’s magnanimity was then matched by the forgiveness of his own brother Esau when he returned home (see Genesis 33:4).
Making peace effectively obligates one’s opponent to the terms of a peaceable and mutually beneficial relationship. In other words, you gain an ally and have one less enemy to contend with. By forgiving your opponents’ wrongdoings you eliminate enemies and make allies out of them. The popular saying, “Keep your friends close but your enemies closer” gives it a whole new meaning. Thus, it is important to win your enemies over for their sakes and for yours. In fact, the distinctive of a blessed man is his ability to live peaceably with all his opponents. Proverbs 16:7 says,
“When a man’s ways are pleasing to the Lord,
He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.”
King David was a quintessential warrior and diplomat. When he was fleeing from king Saul, he went to king of Gath, the Philistine for help (see 1 Samuel 27). Note the Philistines were bitter enemies of Israel in those days. Not only did they shelter David from the wrath of king Saul, they gave him Ziklag, a city in which he lived for a year and four months. Often times, we perceive people from the biased opinions of some who paint them in a bad light because of a few isolated incidents. If they can’t work with them, it doesn’t mean we can’t. Moreover, we all have our idiosyncrasies that do not always rub the right way. And people usually change for the better as they go through various life experiences. Hence, we do not always assume that enemies will remain as enemies forever. If we possess the fortitude to offer an olive branch, the benefits are immense.
Do you have someone whom you have once crossed swords with and have not been in contact since? Take the challenge to reach out and make peace. You may never know what blessing it may bring to them and to you as well. Here are some suggested guidelines as to how you can reach out and make peace.
- You must possess the fortitude to forgive, to make peace and to bless even if you are rejected.
- You must acquire the wisdom to confront and the openness to listen to your opponent.
- You must be truthful and sensitive in revealing your resentments and displeasures without accusing your opponent.
- You and your opponent must come to mutually agreeable terms of relating with each other.
- You must be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.
Dear Lord, I thank you for protecting me from unscrupulous people. Give me the fortitude to forgive and to make peace. Use me to be a blessing to those who are unfriendly and estranged from the community. Grant me the wisdom of a serpent and the innocence of doves. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.