Jacob, having now fathered a son, Joseph, *by Rachel*, felt the need to return to his homeland of Canaan, from where he’d fled to Haran (in Mesopotamia) many years ago. Jacob apprised his father-in-law (who was his uncle too), Laban, of his feelings.
“Let me go, please, uncle” said Jacob, “I laboured in your fields for fourteen years as part of the bargain we made so I that I might take Rachel to wife, and Leah too. After helping make you rich, it’s time I made myself rich too.”
“Leave if you must, nephew. I’ll be sorry to see you go for you’ve been a good worker, and have contributed greatly to making me rich. What would you like me to pay you?”
“You needn’t pay me anything, uncle. But, if you wouldn’t mind, could you give me those of your lambs that are black, and those of your goats that are brindled and spotted. I would like to breed them with each other so that I increase my own flocks, and so become more rich that I am now.”
“Please do take my black lambs and brindled and spotted goats, nephew. It’s the least I can do for you,”
As a result of breeding Laban’s black lambs with the brindled and spotted goats, Jacob did indeed became rich. Not only his flocks of newly-bred sheep, but also his slaves camels and donkeys became the envy of Laban and of Laban’s sons – an envy that soon turned into resentment.
Laban and his sons – particularly the sons – began doing nasty things to Jacob, like catching jackals and releasing them among Jacob’s sheep, where they caused mayhem; or they stuck out a leg when walking near Jacob, for Jacob to trip over and fall; or they threw large pebbles against Jacob’s tent as he slept at night. Jacob expressed his frustrations to Rachel and Leah who listened sympathetically.
“We are on your side, not Father’s” they said to Jacob.
“I’m rich enough now” said Jacob, “It’s time now for us to leave Haran for my native Canaan.”
“How about your brother, Esau, the one you had to flee from?” said Rachel and Leah, “If he sees you in Canaan won’t he tear you to pieces and feed your body to the wild animals as you’d told us he’d threatened to do?”
“It’s been twenty years since I saw Esau. I expect he’s not as hot-headed now. However, your father and brothers are making life so difficult for me here, that I’m prepared to risk meeting Esau.”
Jacob went to Laban and told him he was now leaving for Canaan for good.
“Goodbye nephew” said Laban, and stuck out his hand for Jacob to shake.
“Goodbye uncle” said Jacob as he took Laban’s hand, “it just remains for me to fetch Rachel and Leah and the children, and we’ll be on our way.”
“I think there’s a misunderstanding” said Laban, “I understood you were returning to Canaan alone.”
“You understood wrong, uncle. You didn’t really expect me to abandon my wives and children, did you?”
“What I expected you to do is neither here nor there. Rachel, Leah, and the children are staying here with me in Haran. That’s all there is to it.”
“If they can’t come with me, I’m not leaving.”
That night, when everyone was sleeping, Jacob gathered together Rachel, Leah, the children, his slaves, flocks and possessions, and they stole silently away from Haran. Laban, learning the next morning that Jacob had escaped with Rachel and Leah and their children, called his sons and they set off in pursuit. It took several days for them to track Jacob down, which they did in the hill-country of Gilead.
Seeing there could be violence, God, who had never ceased looking out for the welfare of Jacob, visited Laban in a dream, and made it clear that Jacob and his family were not to be harmed, and must be allowed to proceed to Canaan.
The upshot, after some harsh words between Laban and Jacob, followed by a reconciliation of sorts, was that Laban returned to Haran empty-handed, and that Jacob and his family went on to Canaan.
Source: Genesis 30, 25-43; 31, 1-55