The setting of this passage is the end of the story of Jacob fleeing from his brother Esau because, fourteen years earlier, he had "stolen" the birthright from his older brother. For the past fourteen years Jacob has been living "up north" in Haran (Paddam Aram) with his uncle Laban, working off seven years each for Leah, whom he was tricked into marrying, and Rachel, whom he had met at the well when he first came to town. Now, after marrying both sisters and having all his flocks increase, much to the anger of his uncle Laban and Laban's sons, Jacob was fleeing from Haran at God's command.
It's been three days since Jacob fled south from Haran with all his children and wives on camels and all his flocks. They've crossed the Euphrates river and are southeast of the Sea of Galilee in a fertile hilly region. It's there that Laban finally caught up with them and says what is recorded in Gen. 31:27: "Why 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 tambourines and harps?"
Why was Laban not singing? His grandchildren and daughters were "carried off...like captives in war." He wanted to kiss his grandchildren and daughters good-bye. There was no reason to be happy, to rejoice with singing.
Is there an application for us? Singing is a way to show happiness. The music and singing of Haran was accompanied by tambourines and harps. Is anyone happy? Let him sing! (James 5:13)