Jacob departed and crossed the Euphrates, and set his face toward Gilead, for the holy spirit revealed to him that God would bring help there to his children in the days of Jephthah. Meantime the shepherds of Haran observed that the well, which had been filled to overflowing since the arrival of Jacob in their place, ran dry suddenly. For three days they watched and waited, in the hope that the waters would return in the same abundance as before. Disappointed, they finally told Laban of the misfortune, and he divined at once that Jacob had departed thence, for he knew that the blessing had been conferred upon Haran only for the sake of his son-in-law's merits.
On the morrow Laban rose early, assembled all the people of the city, and pursued Jacob with the intention of killing him when he overtook him. But the archangel Michael appeared unto him, and bade him take heed unto himself, that he do not the least unto Jacob, else would he suffer death himself. This message from heaven came to Laban during the night, for when, in extraordinary cases, God finds it necessary to reveal Himself unto the heathen, He does it only in the dark, clandestinely as it were, while He shows Himself to the prophets of the Jews openly, during daylight.
Laban accomplished the journey in one day for which Jacob had taken seven, and he overtook him at the mountain of Gilead. When he came upon Jacob, he found him in the act of praying and giving praise unto God. Immediately Laban fell to remonstrating with his son-in-law for having stolen away unawares to him. He showed his true character when he said, "It is in the power of my hand to do thee hurt, but the God of thy father spake unto me yesternight, saying, Take heed to thyself that thou speak not to Jacob either good or bad." That is the way of the wicked, they boast of the evil they can do. Laban wanted to let Jacob know that only the dream warning him against doing aught that was harmful to Jacob prevented him from carrying out the wicked design he had formed against him.
Laban continued to take Jacob to task, and he concluded with the words, "And now, though thou wouldst needs be gone, because thou sore longedst after thy father's house, yet wherefore hast thou stolen my gods?" When he pronounced the last words, his grandchildren interrupted him, saying, "We are ashamed of thee, grandfather, that in thy old age thou shouldst use such words as 'my gods.' " Laban searched all the tents for his idols, going first to the tent of Jacob, which was Rachel's at the same time, for Jacob always dwelt with his favorite wife. Finding nothing, he went thence to Leah's tent, and to the tents of the two handmaids, and, noticing that Rachel was feeling about here and there, his suspicions were aroused, and he entered her tent a second time. He would now have found what he was looking for, if a miracle had not come to pass. The teraphim were transformed into drinking vessels, and Laban had to desist from his fruitless search.
Now Jacob, who did not know that Rachel had stolen her father's teraphim in order to turn him aside from his idolatrous ways, was wroth with Laban, and began to chide with him. In the quarrel between them, Jacob's noble character manifested itself. Notwithstanding his excitement, he did not suffer a single unbecoming word to escape him. He only reminded Laban of the loyalty and devotion with which he had served him, doing for him what none other would or could have done. He said: "I dealt wrongfully with the lion, for God had appointed of Laban's sheep for the lion's daily sustenance, and I deprived him thereof. Could another shepherd have done thus? Yes, the people abused me, calling me robber and sneak thief, for they thought that only by stealing by day and stealing by night could I replace the animals torn by wild beasts. And as to my honesty," he continued, "is it likely there is another son-in-law who, having lived with his father-in-law, hath not taken some little thing from the household of his father-in-law, a knife, or other trifle? But thou hast felt about all my stuff, what hast thou found of all thy household stuff? Not so much as a needle or a nail."
In his indignation, and conscious of his innocence, Jacob exclaimed, "With whomsoever thou findest thy gods, he shall not live," words which contained a curse--the thief was cursed with premature death, and therefore Rachel had to die in giving birth to Benjamin. Indeed, the curse would have taken effect at once, had it not been the wish of God that Rachel should bear Jacob his youngest son.
After the quarrel, the two men made a treaty, and with his gigantic strength Jacob set up a huge rock as a memorial, and a heap of stones as a sign of their covenant. In this matter Jacob followed the example of his fathers, who likewise had covenanted with heathen nations, Abraham with the Jebusites, and Isaac with the Philistines. Therefore Jacob did not hesitate to make a treaty with the Arameans. Jacob summoned his sons, calling them brethren, for they were his peers in piety and strength, and he bade them cast up heaps of stones. Thereupon he swore unto his father-in-law that he would take no wives beside his four daughters, either while they were alive or after their death, and Laban, on his part, swore that he would not pass over the heaps or over the pillar unto Jacob with hostile intent, and he took the oath by the God of Abraham, and the God of Nahor, while Jacob made mention of the Fear of Isaac. He refrained from using the term "the God of Isaac," because God never unites His name with that of a living person, for the reason that so long as a man has not ended his years, no trust may be put in him, lest he be seduced by the evil inclination. It is true, when He appeared unto Jacob at Beth-el, God called Himself "the God of Isaac." There was a reason for the unusual phrase. Being blind, Isaac led a retired life, within his tent, and the evil inclination had no power over him any more. But though God had full confidence in Isaac, yet Jacob could not venture to couple the name of God with the name of a living man, wherefore he took his oath by "the Fear of Isaac."
Early in the morning after the day of covenanting, Laban rose up, and kissed his grandchildren and his daughters, and blessed them. But these acts and words of his did not come from the heart; in his innermost thoughts he regretted that Jacob and his family and his substance had escaped him. His true feelings he betrayed in the message which he sent to Esau at once upon his return to Haran, by the hand of his son Beor and ten companions of his son. The message read: "Hast thou heard what Jacob thy brother has done unto me, who first came to me naked and bare, and I went to meet him, and took him to my house with honor, and brought him up, and gave him my two daughters for wives, and also two of my maids? And God blessed him on my account, and he increased abundantly, and had sons and daughters and maidservants, and also an uncommon stock of flocks and herds, camels and asses, also silver and gold in abundance. But when he saw that his wealth increased, he left me while I went to shear my sheep, and he rose up and fled in secrecy. And he put his wives and children upon camels, and he led away all his cattle and substance which he acquired in my land, and he resolved to go to his father Isaac, to the land of Canaan. And he did not suffer me to kiss my sons and daughters, and he carried away my daughters as captives of the sword, and he also stole my gods, and he fled. And now I have left him in the mountain of the brook of Jabbok, he and all belonging to him, not a jot of his substance is lacking. If it be thy wish to go to him, go, and there wilt thou find him, and thou canst do unto him as thy soul desireth."
Jacob had no need to fear either Laban or Esau, for on his journey he was accompanied by two angel hosts, one going with him from Haran to the borders of the Holy Land, where he was received by the other host, the angels of Palestine. Each of these hosts consisted of no less than six hundred thousand angels, and when he beheld them, Jacob said: "Ye belong neither to the host of Esau, who is preparing to go out to war against me, nor the host of Laban, who is about to pursue me again. Ye are the hosts of the holy angels sent by the Lord." And he gave the name Mahanaim, Double-Host, to the spot on which the second army relieved the first.