Jacob Returns to Canaan
Years passed and many sons were born to Jacob and his wives. Then Jacob asked Laban to let him go back to the land of Canaan that he might see his people and dwell in the land where he was born. But Laban did not want him to go for the Lord was blessing Jacob, and by his help the riches of Laban were rapidly increasing.
Jacob told Laban if he would give him some of the cattle to have for his own he would stay and feed his father-in-law's flocks as he had been doing, and Laban agreed to this. Then the flocks were divided between them, but Jacob still fed and cared for the flocks of Laban. Jacob had taken care to select the best of the rams and goats and cattle, so that his own flocks increased very fast, and soon he became a very rich man. He had much cattle, and maidservants, and menservants and camels.
Laban's sons grew jealous of Jacob's prosperity and perhaps were suspicious of the way his flocks were chosen, for they soon began to complain that Jacob had taken away their father's cattle. Laban also grew jealous of Jacob, so much so that Jacob again desired to return to the land from which he had come.
He called his wives to him and said to them: "I see that your father's face is not as kind to me as before. You know I have served your father with all my power and that he has deceived me and changed my wages ten times, therefore I am resolved to flee before his face and return to the land of my birth."
Jacob rose and put his wives and his children on camels and took all his cattle and all the goods which he had gotten and started for the land of Canaan. He had a long journey to make and rivers to cross but he moved steadily forward with his face towards Mount Gilead.
After three days, Laban heard that Jacob had fled. He took his men and pursued Jacob for seven days, and finally overtook him at Mount Gilead. But God had told Laban in a dream by night that he should do Jacob no harm but should let him go to the land of Canaan.
When Laban came to Jacob he said to him: "Why have you stolen away and carried away my daughters as though they were captives taken with the sword? Why did you flee away secretly? I might have sent you away with mirth, and songs and feastings. You did not even allow me to kiss my daughters and in all this you have done very foolishly."
"I did this because I was afraid and I fled for fear that you would take your daughters by force from me and not let me have my cattle and my sons," replied Jacob.
Laban and Jacob agreed not to quarrel because the Lord told them that they should not do so. They agreed to separate peaceably and made a covenant, which was marked by a pillar of stones. Jacob made his men gather stones into a great heap and they made a feast upon it. The name they gave the place where the pillar was set up was Mizpah, which means, "The Lord watch between me and thee when we are absent one from another."
So Laban and Jacob agreed that neither of them should pass this pillar to do the other harm, but in case of strife, when either of them came to the pillar he should pass it in peace.
Early next morning Laban rose up with all his followers and called his sons and his daughters and blessed them, and departed unto his own land.
Jacob now went on his way but he feared that his brother Esau had not forgotten the evil that Jacob had done him and was still angry with him. He sent messengers ahead who told Esau that Jacob was coming and that he had great riches. When the messengers returned they told Jacob: "Your brother Esau is coming to meet you and four hundred men are with him."
Jacob was greatly afraid and told his men to divide the flocks that they had into two bands so that if Esau should come and smite one band, the other band might escape, and he prayed the Lord to deliver him from the hand of his brother Esau.
Jacob decided to send a present to his brother Esau. So he took a great many goats and camels and cattle and gave them to his servants, and divided the drove into several parts. He told his servants who led the foremost part that if they met Esau and he asked them whose cattle they were driving, they were to say they belonged to Jacob and were a present to his brother Esau and that Jacob himself was behind.
He commanded the servants who had the second drove and those who had the third drove and those who had all the other droves that followed to answer in the same way. When the servants with their droves set out to meet Esau, Jacob took his wives and his women servants and his sons and sent them on their journey following the flocks, and Jacob was left alone.
That night a man appeared and wrestled with Jacob till the breaking of the day. The man was an angel sent by the Lord, or he might have been the Lord Himself, but Jacob was alone as he wrestled with the man. The angel could not prevail against Jacob and so he touched the hollow of his thigh, and the thigh was out of joint as he wrestled with him and the angel said: "Let me go for the day breaketh."
"I will not let thee go except thou bless me," answered Jacob. The angel then told Jacob his name should no longer be Jacob but should be Israel for he had become a prince that had power with God and with man. Then the angel blessed him and the next morning Jacob went on his way but ever afterwards he limped because his thigh was out of joint, and the sinews which held it in place had shrunken.
After awhile Jacob met Esau with his four hundred men and he ran and bowed himself to the ground seven times until he came near to his bother. Esau embraced his brother and kissed him and they both wept. Esau was glad to see his brother and was astonished at the great number of cattle that he brought with him. He had long since forgotten the evil that Jacob had done him and was no longer angry with his brother.
"Who are all these with you?" Esau inquired of Jacob. And Jacob told him they were the children which God had given him and his handmaidens and menservants.
Then Esau asked him what was meant by all the droves of cattle which he had met and Jacob told him that they were a present he intended for his brother, that he might find grace in the sight of Esau whom he had wronged twenty years before for it had been that length of time since the two brothers had met.
I have enough, my brother, keep what you have for yourself," replied Esau.
After that the brothers came to an agreement by dividing the land between them so that all their flocks could find plenty of water and plenty of land to feed upon, and each one journeyed on his way. Thus Jacob came again into the land of Canaan, very much richer and very much wiser than he was when he had fled from it twenty years before.