PATRIARCHS AND PROPHETS # 17
Jacob's Flight and Exile
shepherd's life of diligence and care-taking, and his tender compassion for
the helpless creatures entrusted to his charge, have been employed by the
inspired writers to illustrate some of the most precious truths of the gospel.
Christ, in His relation to His people, is compared to a shepherd. After the
Fall He saw His sheep doomed to perish in the dark ways of sin. To save these
wandering ones He left the honors and glories of His Father's house. He says,
"I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away,
and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was
sick." I will "save My flock, and they shall no more be a prey." "Neither
shall the beast of the land devour them." Ezekiel 34:16, 22, 28.
voice is heard calling them to His fold, "a shadow in the daytime from the
heat, and for a place of refuge, and for a covert from storm and from rain."
Isaiah 4:6. His care for the flock is unwearied. He strengthens the weak,
relieves the suffering, gathers the lambs in His arms, and carries them in His
bosom. His sheep love Him. "And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee
from him; for they know not the voice of strangers." John 10:5.
Christ says, "The good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. But he that is
an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf
coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth; and the wolf catcheth them, and
scattereth the sheep. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and
careth not for the sheep. I am the Good Shepherd, and know My sheep, and am
known of Mine." Verses 11-14.
Christ, the Chief Shepherd, has entrusted the care of His flock to His
ministers as undershepherds; and He bids them have the same interest that He
has manifested, and feel the sacred responsibility of the charge He has
entrusted to them. He has solemnly commanded them to be faithful, to feed the
flock, to strengthen the weak, to revive the fainting, and to shield them from
devouring wolves. To save His sheep, Christ laid down His own life; and He
points His shepherds to the love thus manifested, as their example. But "he
that is an hireling, . . . whose own the sheep are not," has no real interest
in the flock. He is laboring merely for gain, and he cares only for himself.
He studies his own profit instead of the interest of his charge; and in time
of peril or danger he will flee, and leave the flock. The apostle Peter
admonishes the undershepherds: "Feed the flock of God which is among you,
taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy
lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as being lords over God's heritage, but
being ensamples to the flock." 1 Peter 5:2, 3. Paul says, "Take heed therefore
unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made
you overseers, to feed the church of God, which He hath purchased with His own
blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in
among you, not sparing the flock." Acts 20:28, 29.
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
care. 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.
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
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.
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 children. 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 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.