On the third day, Laban was told that Jacob had fled. Laban took his brethren with him and pursued after Jacob seven days’ journey; and they overtook him in the mount Gilead.
God came to Laban the Syrian in a dream by night.
God: Take heed that you do speak neither good nor bad to Jacob.
Laban overtook Jacob. Now Jacob had pitched his tent in the mount: and Laban with his brethren also pitched in the mount of Gilead.
Laban (to Jacob): What have you done, that you have stolen away unawares to me, and carried away my daughters, as captives taken with the sword? Why did you flee away secretly and not tell me, that I might have sent you away with joy and with songs and with music of tambourines and harps? And you did not allow me to kiss my daughters, my grandsons and my granddaughters good-bye. You have done foolishly in so doing. It is in the power of my hand to do you hurt: but the God of your father spoke to me yesternight, saying, Take heed that you speak neither good nor bad to Jacob. Though you need to be gone, because you long after your father’s house, why have you stolen my gods?
Jacob: I left secretly because I was afraid that you might take your daughters from me by force. As for your gods, I know nothing of this. With whomever you find them, let him not live. Discern before our brethren what is yours with me and take it.
Jacob did not know that Rachel had stolen the idols
Laban went into Jacob’s tent to search for the stolen idols, and into the two maidservants’ tents (Bilhah’s and Zilpah’s), and into Leah’s tent; but he did not find them. Then he went out of Leah’s tent and entered into Rachel’s tent.
Rachel had taken the images and put them in the camel’s saddle and sat on them. Laban searched all the tent but did not find them.
Rachel (to her father): Let it not displease my lord that I cannot rise up before you; for the custom of women is upon me.
Rachel was saying that she was on her period. Since a man could not touch anything that a woman sat on while she was menstruating without becoming unclean, Laban did not search or even touch the camel’s saddle.
Leviticus 15:25-27 (NKJV)
If a woman has a discharge of blood for many days, other than at the time of her customary impurity, or if it runs beyond her usual time of impurity, all the days of her unclean discharge shall be as the days of her customary impurity. She shall be unclean. Every bed on which she lies all the days of her discharge shall be to her as the bed of her impurity; and whatever she sits on shall be unclean, as the uncleanness of her impurity. Whoever touches those things shall be unclean; he shall wash his clothes and bathe in water, and be unclean until evening.
Laban did not find the images.
Jacob was angry and chided Laban.
Jacob: What is my trespass? What is my sin, that you have so hotly pursued after me? You have searched all my stuff, and what have you found of that belongs to you? Set it here before my brethren and your brethren, that they may judge between us. For twenty years I have been with you. Your ewes and your she goats have not miscarried. And I have not eaten the rams of your flock. That which was torn by beasts I did not bring to you; I bore the loss of it. You required it of my hand, whether stolen by day, or stolen by night.
A general rule among owners and the hired hands who watch over the flocks and herds was this: if an animal was stolen or killed by a beast during the day, the hireling was responsible for the loss. But if it was stolen or torn by night, the hireling was not responsible; the owner suffered the loss. Laban did not honor this rule; he held Jacob responsible for any loss.
The hireling was allowed to eat young rams of the flock. Jacob did not eat the rams.
Jacob (continued): Thus I was; in the day the drought consumed me, and the frost by night; and my sleep departed from my eyes. Thus have I been twenty years in your house; I served you fourteen years for your two daughters, and six years for your cattle: and you have changed my wages ten times. Except the God of my father, the God of Abraham, and the fear of Isaac, had been with me, surely you would have sent me away now empty. God has seen my affliction and the labor of my hands, and rebuked you yesternight.