The Story of Patriarchs and Prophets
by Ellen G. White
Chapter 17: Jacob's Flight and Exile
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All who regard as an unwelcome task the care and burdens
that fall to the lot of the faithful shepherd, are reproved by the
apostle: "Not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre,
but of a ready mind." 1 Peter 5:2. All such unfaithful servants
the Chief Shepherd would willingly release. The church of Christ
has been purchased with His blood, and every shepherd should
realize that the sheep under his care cost an infinite sacrifice. He
should regard them each as of priceless worth, and should be
unwearied in his efforts to keep them in a healthy, flourishing
condition. The shepherd who is imbued with the spirit of Christ
will imitate His self-denying example, constantly laboring for
the welfare of his charge; and the flock will prosper under his
All will be called to render a strict account of their ministry.
The Master will demand of every shepherd, "Where is the flock
that was given thee, thy beautiful flock?" Jeremiah 13:20. He
that is found faithful, will receive a rich reward. "When the Chief
Shepherd shall appear," says the apostle, "ye shall receive a crown
of glory that fadeth not away." 1 Peter 5:4.
When Jacob, growing weary of Laban's service, proposed to
return to Canaan, he said to his father-in-law, "Send me away,
that I may go unto mine own place, and to my country. Give me
my wives and my children, for whom I have served thee, and let
me go: for thou knowest my service which I have done thee."
But Laban urged him to remain, declaring, "I have learned by
experience that the Lord hath blessed me for thy sake." He saw
that his property was increasing under the care of his son-in-law.
Said Jacob, "It was little which thou hadst before I came, and
it is now increased unto a multitude." But as time passed on,
Laban became envious of the greater prosperity of Jacob, who
"increased exceedingly, and had much cattle, and maidservants,
and menservants, and camels, and asses." Laban's sons shared
their father's jealousy, and their malicious speeches came to
Jacob's ears: He "hath taken away all that was our father's, and of
that which was our father's hath he gotten all this glory. And [p. 193] Jacob beheld the countenance of Laban, and, behold, it was not
toward him as before."
Jacob would have left his crafty kinsman long before but for
the fear of encountering Esau. Now he felt that he was in danger
from the sons of Laban, who, looking upon his wealth as their
own, might endeavor to secure it by violence. He was in great
perplexity and distress, not knowing which way to turn. But
mindful of the gracious Bethel promise, he carried his case to
God, and sought direction from Him. In a dream his prayer was
answered: "Return unto the land of thy fathers, and to thy
kindred; and I will be with thee."
Laban's absence afforded opportunity for departure. The flocks
and herds were speedily gathered and sent forward, and with his
wives, children, and servants, Jacob crossed the Euphrates, urging
his way toward Gilead, on the borders of Canaan. After three
days Laban learned of their flight, and set forth in pursuit,
overtaking the company on the seventh day of their journey. He was
hot with anger, and bent on forcing them to return, which he
doubted not he could do, since his band was much the stronger.
The fugitives were indeed in great peril.
That he did not carry out his hostile purpose was due to the
fact that God Himself had interposed for the protection of His
servant. "It is in the power of my hand to do you hurt," said
Laban, "but the God of your father spake unto me yesternight,
saying, Take thou heed that thou speak not to Jacob either good
or bad;" that is, he should not force him to return, or urge him
by flattering inducements.
Laban had withheld the marriage dowry of his daughters and
had ever treated Jacob with craft and harshness; but with
characteristic dissimulation he now reproached him for his secret
departure, which had given the father no opportunity to make a
parting feast or even to bid farewell to his daughters and their
In reply Jacob plainly set forth Laban's selfish and grasping
policy, and appealed to him as a witness to his own faithfulness
and honesty. "Except the God of my father, the God of Abraham,
and the fear of Isaac, had been with me," said Jacob, "surely
thou hadst sent me away now empty. God hath seen mine affliction,
and the labor of my hands, and rebuked thee yesternight."
Laban could not deny the facts brought forward, and he now [p. 194] proposed to enter into a covenant of peace. Jacob consented to the
proposal, and a pile of stones was erected as a token of the
compact. To this pillar Laban gave the name Mizpah, "watchtower,"
saying, "The Lord watch between me and thee, when we are
absent one from another."
"And Laban said to Jacob, Behold this heap, and behold this
pillar, which I have cast betwixt me and thee; this heap be
witness, and this pillar be witness, that I will not pass over this heap
to thee, and that thou shalt not pass over this heap and this pillar
unto me, for harm. The God of Abraham, and the God of Nahor,
the God of their father, judge betwixt us. And Jacob sware by
the fear of his father Isaac." To confirm the treaty, the parties
held a feast. The night was spent in friendly communing; and
at the dawn of day, Laban and his company departed. With this
separation ceased all trace of connection between the children of
Abraham and the dwellers in Mesopotamia.
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