What does Genesis 31:22 mean?
ESV: When it was told Laban on the third day that Jacob had fled,
NIV: On the third day Laban was told that Jacob had fled.
NASB: When Laban was informed on the third day that Jacob had fled,
CSB: On the third day Laban was told that Jacob had fled.
NLT: Three days later, Laban was told that Jacob had fled.
KJV: And it was told Laban on the third day that Jacob was fled.
Verse Commentary:
We're not told exactly what Jacob did to deceive Laban about his departure (Genesis 31:20). The deception, most likely, refers to Jacob's leaving without warning, and only when Laban had left the area to shear his sheep (Genesis 31:19). Whatever it was, three days passed before Laban realized Jacob and all he owned were gone. This time delay makes sense—Laban had ordered his sons to take livestock three days away from Jacob (Genesis 30:35–36), specifically as an attempt to further cheat his son-in-law (Genesis 30:31–34). If someone left to tell Laban about Jacob's departure, three days marks the approximate time it would have taken the news to arrive.

Specifically, this verse describes Jacob as having "fled." He was running away—knowing that Laban would not have peaceably let him go. Even Laban's daughters had agreed that their father was no longer worthy of loyalty (Genesis 31:14–16), so the family simply left and began to journey back to Jacob's family in Canaan. As one would expect, however, Laban would come after them.

Verse Context:
Genesis 31:22–42 recounts Laban's pursuit of Jacob and his large company, after learning his son-in-law has left for Canaan without telling him. It takes a week, but Laban catches up. Warned by God in a dream not to say anything to Jacob ''either good or bad,'' Laban instead expresses his hurt to Jacob and accuses him of stealing Laban's house idols. When a search for the idols—cleverly hidden by Rachel without Jacob's knowledge—turns up nothing, Jacob finally expresses all of his complaints about Laban's unfair treatment of him in spite of twenty years of faithful service.
Chapter Summary:
Genesis 31 describes Jacob's difficult separation from Laban, his father-in-law, as well as his boss for twenty years. During that time, Jacob was routinely mistreated and cheated by his master. Commanded by God to return to the land of Canaan, Jacob packs up his wives, children, and all of his possessions and leaves without telling Laban. Laban soon catches up with the large company. Laban and Jacob confront each other bitterly. Eventually, though, they make a covenant of separation and peace.
Chapter Context:
Genesis 30 described the dramatic expansion of Jacob's family and property. Now, after twenty years of working for Laban, the time comes for Jacob to return to his own people. He attempts to sneak away without telling Laban, but Laban soon catches up with him. After bitter confrontations, father and son-in-law make a covenant of separation and peace. Jacob is finally free to begin the next chapter of his life in the Promised Land. First, though, he will need to deal with his brother Esau, whose rage was the main reason Jacob fled in the first place. That encounter is described over the following two chapters.
Book Summary:
The book of Genesis establishes fundamental truths about God. Among these are His role as the Creator, His holiness, His hatred of sin, His love for mankind, and His willingness to provide for our redemption. We learn not only where mankind has come from, but why the world is in its present form. The book also presents the establishment of Israel, God's chosen people. Many of the principles given in other parts of Scripture depend on the basic ideas presented here in the book of Genesis. Within the framework of the Bible, Genesis explains the bare-bones history of the universe leading up to the captivity of Israel in Egypt, setting the stage for the book of Exodus.
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