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The dwindling of Laban’s herd caused his sons to grumble, and Laban wasn’t so happy when he saw Jacob’s face anymore. God told Jacob that he was the God of Beth El, where Jacob anointed a pillar, it now it was time to depart for the land of his father. He told this to Leah and Rachel, and they agreed to depart with Jacob, without telling Laban.

And Rachel decided to grab her fathers idols and take them along with her as a final departing blow. When Laban found out his daughters and his idols were gone, he pursued for a week. During the chase, God tried to warn Laban off attacking Jacob, and Laban said he would consider it.

When Laban caught up to Jacob there were hard questions. Why did he just take off in the middle of the night with his daughters, not even a word of warning. Laban had a big party planned, and Jacob ruined it. But nevertheless, even if Jacob felt he had to go right away because he missed his parents, which was understandable, why did Jacob have to steal his gods as well? That is without excuse.

But Jacob knew nothing of Rachel’s theft, and he bid Laban to search his caravan all he wanted, and death to anyone hiding them.

So Laban searched everyone’s tent, not excepting the tents of Jacob and Leah and Rachel. And they were really in Rachel’s tent. She was sitting on them. And she said, “Forgive me father if I don’t stand up, but I’m having my period right now. You know how it is.”

Periods are double-icky to the biblical patriarchs, and those who first heard this story no doubt chuckled with mirth mixed with revulsion. Rachel was having her period on Laban’s stone gods. Serves him right! It was sufficiently icky to Laban that he never required her to stand up so he could search beneath her.

Now Jacob had finally had enough of Laban, and he let it all pour out. “You’ve searched all my stuff. If you found anything of yours set it here in the open so that all may judge. No? Twenty years I served you, Laban. Not once did I eat one of your rams. If any animal was torn by beasts, I absorbed that loss myself rather than pawn it off back on you, because I took my responsibilities as a shepherd seriously. Through drought and cold sleepless nights I served you without grumbling, even when you changed my salary ten times. Surely if the God of my fathers was not with me I would have nothing now, but he is a God of justice and he preserved me.”

So Laban was moved to release his daughters and animals and create a covenant with Jacob. Jacob agreed never to take another wife than Leah and Rachel, and Laban agreed to stay on the Jordanian side of Mount Gilead. And so ended Jacob’s first extended trip abroad.

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Strangers In Paradise