Genesis 31: Don’t Mess With Women on Their Periods

After 20 years in his father-in-law Laban’s service, under instruction from God, Jacob wants to return to his father, Isaac, and his homeland. Because God had been looking after Jacob and cheerfully reversing Laban’s attempts to cheat Jacob, Laban’s attitude toward his son-in-law had cooled. Laban didn’t like Jacob; Laban’s sons didn’t like Jacob.

Because Laban has a habit of putting several years’ worth of obstacles and random women in his way, Jacob is going to leave as surreptitiously as possible.

“Moreover, Jacob outwitted La′ban the A·ra·mae′an, for he had not told him that he was running away.” – Genesis 31:20

Well, “outwitted” is probably putting it a bit strong.

“Now La′ban had gone to shear his sheep, and Rachel stole the teraphim statues that belonged to her father.” – Genesis 31:19

On their way out, Jacob’s beloved wife Rachel steals her father Laban’s idols. These were extremely important; it’s thought that they represented the estate and whoever owned them could lay claim to it. Quite why she took them isn’t terribly clear.

“On the third day, La′ban was told that Jacob had run away. So he took his brothers with him and pursued him for a journey of seven days and caught up with him in the mountainous region of Gil′e·ad”. – Genesis 31:22,23

The idols were so important that Laban chased after Jacob (who had a 3 day headstart) for 7 days.

“Then God came to La′ban the A·ra·mae′an in a dream by night and said to him: “Be careful about what you say to Jacob, either good or bad.” ”- Genesis 31:24

They were so important that Laban ignored a warning from Almighty God himself to basically leave Jacob well alone.

“It is in my power to do harm to you.” – Genesis 31:29a

They were so important that Laban was ready to kill Jacob to retrieve them.

“Anyone with whom you find your gods will not live. Before our brothers, examine what I have, and take what is yours.” But Jacob did not know that Rachel had stolen them.” – Genesis 31:32

Jacob, who knew nothing of the theft, suggests that Laban search the entire camp so that he can kill the thief. This seems like an entirely reasonable suggestion to Laban; the idols were so important that he would kill whoever stole his belongings.

“So La′ban went into the tent of Jacob and into the tent of Le′ah and into the tent of the two slave girls, but did not find them. Then he came out of Le′ah’s tent and went into Rachel’s tent. Meanwhile, Rachel had taken the teraphim statues and put them in the woman’s saddle basket of the camel, and she was sitting on them.”- Genesis 31:33-34a

He finally storms into Rachel’s tent where she’s put them in a saddle bag which she is sitting on.

He searches Rachel’s tent. He comes to the saddle bags that Rachel is sitting on. She doesn’t get up.

Here is a man who has stormed across country for seven days. Here is a man who has defied the advice of God. Here is a man who is prepared to kill whoever stole his belongings.

“Then she said to her father: “Do not be angry, my lord, because I am not able to get up before you, for the customary thing with women is upon me.” ” – Genesis 31:35a

More colloquially: “Pardon me, but I’m on my period and I’m not moving.”

“So La′ban searched through the whole tent but did not find them. … So he searched on carefully but did not find the teraphim statues.” – Genesis 31:34b, 35b

Here is a man who has stormed across country for seven days. Here is a man who has defied the advice of God. Here is a man who is prepared to kill whoever stole his belongings.

“Then La′ban departed and returned home.” – Genesis 31:55

Here is a man who knows not to argue with a woman on her period.

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