26 And Laban said to Jacob, What hast thou done, that thou hast stolen away unawares to me, and carried away my daughters, as captives taken with the sword? 27 Wherefore didst thou flee away secretly, and steal away from me; and didst not tell me, that I might have sent thee away with mirth, and with songs, with tabret, and with harp? 28 And hast not suffered me to kiss my sons and my daughters? thou hast now done foolishly in so doing. 29 It is in the power of my hand to do you hurt: but the God of your father spake unto me yesternight, saying, Take thou heed that thou speak not to Jacob either good or bad. 31 And Jacob answered and said to Laban, Because I was afraid: for I said, Peradventure thou wouldest take by force thy daughters from me.
In these first verses Laban sets out a strong case that Jacob has behaved in a way that is consistent with a liar and a thief. Why did you steal away so secretly? Why have you carried away my daughters as if they were captives? Certainly, Jacob’s behavior is that of one who is trying to hide something.
But people do not hide only because they are guilty of some crime. They hide because of fear. In some cases, that might be a fear of their guilt being exposed, but in other cases it is only a fear of the other person harming them. And as it turns out, that is exactly Jacob’s situation. He comes clean with exactly what his fear was: that if he was forthright about his intentions, Laban would wrest his household from him by force.
Fortunately, God had intervened to calm this volatile situation. The expression God said to Laban, repeated now in verse 29, is commonly translated as “from good to bad,” and it is a Hebrew expression that means to not try to turn or prevent another. Thus, Jacob was emboldened to be forthright by the knowledge that God had commanded Laban to not do the very thing that Jacob had been so afraid of.