Genesis 31:31 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Genesis 31:31, NIV: "Jacob answered Laban, 'I was afraid, because I thought you would take your daughters away from me by force."

Genesis 31:31, ESV: "Jacob answered and said to Laban, “Because I was afraid, for I thought that you would take your daughters from me by force."

Genesis 31:31, KJV: "And Jacob answered and said to Laban, Because I was afraid: for I said, Peradventure thou wouldest take by force thy daughters from me."

Genesis 31:31, NASB: "Then Jacob replied to Laban, 'Because I was afraid, for I thought that you would take your daughters from me by force."

Genesis 31:31, NLT: "'I rushed away because I was afraid,' Jacob answered. 'I thought you would take your daughters from me by force."

Genesis 31:31, CSB: "Jacob answered, "I was afraid, for I thought you would take your daughters from me by force."

What does Genesis 31:31 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

After pursuing Jacob for a week, Laban has finally caught up to his fleeing son-in-law and angrily unloaded all of his accusations. Most serious of these is that Jacob stole Laban's house gods. These were small idols that might have been seen as protection totems, or even as a way to prove one's right to claim an inheritance. What Jacob does not know is that the idols were stolen, by his beloved wife, Rachel (Genesis 31:19). Given Jacob's response, it's crystal clear that he was oblivious to her theft.

Here, Jacob responds to Laban's confrontation. He explains why he didn't tell Laban before he left; his motivation for tricking his father-in-law to try to get away without Laban knowing. In short, Jacob was afraid Laban would tear Rachel and Leah away from him by force. In other words, Jacob believed he had a better chance of keeping his wives and children by sneaking away than by openly telling Laban he was going.

Coming at this point in the story of Genesis, Jacob's point resonates with the reader. We have seen Laban continually cheat, lie, manipulate, and threaten (Genesis 29:20–28; 30:31–36). Legally speaking, in that era, it's also possible that Laban had legal footing to claim that everything belonging to Jacob—who'd lived as an indentured servant for years—was actually Laban's property.

Jacob will rashly answer Laban's accusation about stealing the house gods in the following verse.