With its descriptions of animal husbandry and strange rituals this passage leaves many scratching their heads. But we are not left in the dark about what God is revealing about himself. The following section (31:1-55) is something of an interpretive key as Jacob recounts the events. Taken together, we are given a glimpse into the deep mysteries of God’s hidden providence guiding all things toward his desired end and the grace by which he saves sinners.
Back in the desert – at the place Jacob named Bethel – God promised to bless Jacob with children and property. However, God did not promise to shield Jacob from conflict. After 14 years of service in Laban’s household, Jacob had been kept from building any significant personal wealth. He still had no flocks of his own. Laban had been a tight-fisted task master. However, through Leah and Rachel, God was blessing Jacob with children. Now, in this passage, we see how God worked to bless Jacob with property and keep the promise he had made at Bethel.
What we see in Jacob’s life up to this point is a sort of preview of redemptive history. Jacob’s exile in Mesopotamia prefigures Israel’s slavery in Egypt. And just as Jacob’s family multiplied in exile so too would God’s people during their exile in Egpyt. Just as Jacob would prosper to the point that Laban felt plundered so too would God cause the Egyptians to heap much wealth upon the departing Israelites. All of this, we are told, is because “the Lord had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians” (Exodus 12:36). The Lord’s favor is another way of referring to his grace. And it is upon God’s grace that our salvation rests entirely. Jesus Christ, the ultimate Israel, was called out of Egypt (Matthew 2:15) and has purchased the spiritual exodus out of sin’s slavery for all of his people. By his death and resurrection, Jesus Christ has accomplished our spiritual exodus and is, even now, leading us toward that everlasting Land of Promise.