Jacob fled from Laban secretly. Laban caught up with him in Genesis 31:

25 Jacob had pitched his tent in the hill country of Gilead when Laban overtook him, and Laban and his relatives camped there too. 26Then Laban said to Jacob, “What have you done? You’ve deceived me, and you’ve carried off my daughters like captives in war. 27Why did you run off secretly and deceive me? Why didn’t you tell me, so I could send you away with joy and singing to the music of timbrels and harps? 28You didn’t even let me kiss my grandchildren and my daughters goodbye. You have done a foolish thing. 29I have the power to harm you; but last night the God of your father said to me, ‘Be careful not to say anything to Jacob, either good or bad.’ 30Now you have gone off because you longed to return to your father’s household. But why did you steal my gods?”

God told Laban not to say anything to Jacob. Did God mean that literally?

  • You've been misled by the translation. The KJV and YLT make it clear that Laban is to speak neither good things nor bad things, but he is not prohibited from speaking facts.
    – Nigel J
    Aug 17, 2021 at 6:52

1 Answer 1


The question falsely represents what God told Laban. God did not tell him not to talk to Jacob. God told Laban not to say either good or bad to him. Laban was neither to praise Jacob, nor to rebuke him. He had to remain neutral.

And God came to Laban the Syrian in a dream by night, and said unto him, Take heed that thou speak not to Jacob either good or bad. (Genesis 31:24, KJV)

This same idea of speaking either "bad or good" comes up in Laban's earlier experience when, as Rebekah was requested for Isaac, he answered Abraham's servant.

Then Laban and Bethuel answered and said, The thing proceedeth from the LORD: we cannot speak unto thee bad or good. (Genesis 24:50, KJV)

Speaking does not mean one is speaking either bad or good. If one speaks neither in favor nor against, neither in praise nor in criticism, then neutrality remains.

The record shows that Laban seems to have complied with God's command, speaking neither good nor bad of Jacob--though he did seem to complain a bit about his own lost opportunity to say goodbye. Let God be the judge for whether or not that failed to comply with either the letter or the spirit of His command.

  • Good answer. +1.
    – Dottard
    Aug 16, 2021 at 21:55
  • @NigelJ I agree that the translation was the source. However, whether or not the translation was the source of the misrepresentation, the fact remains that the misrepresentation was real. It does, of course, show some color to downvote the truth.
    – Polyhat
    Aug 17, 2021 at 13:07

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