The "Religion" of Laban

© 1997 by T.L. Hubeart Jr.

This is a brief outline sketching out the characteristics of Laban, who figures in the biblical narrative from Gen. 24:29 through 31:55. Much more can be drawn out of the relevant chapters of Genesis than this, but these points will give the reader the "key points" to watch for in his or her study of the way Laban treats Jacob. The mention of Laban in the "Haggadah" recited by the Jews at Passover as someone even worse than Pharoah--

"Go forth and ascertain what Laban the Aramite intended to do to Jacob our father. Pharoah decreed destruction only for the males, but Laban intended to eradicate all. . . ."

--is surely not undeserved, given what we read of him here!

Gen. 29:13 (KJV) And it came to pass, when Laban heard the tidings of Jacob his sister's son, that he ran to meet him, and embraced him, and kissed him, and brought him to his house. And he told Laban all these things.

See these chief characteristics in The Religion of Laban:

1) He made a great show of piety because he wanted to be thought religious:

Gen. 24:31 And he said, Come in, thou blessed of the LORD; wherefore standest thou without? for I have prepared the house, and room for the camels.

Gen. 24:50 Then Laban and Bethuel answered and said, The thing proceedeth from the LORD: we cannot speak unto thee bad or good. 51 Behold, Rebekah is before thee, take her, and go, and let her be thy master's son's wife, as the LORD hath spoken.

2) He worshipped other gods and had a superstitious dependence on them:

Gen. 31:19 And Laban went to shear his sheep: and Rachel had stolen the images that were her father's.

Gen. 31:30 And now, though thou wouldest needs be gone, because thou sore longedst after thy father's house, yet wherefore hast thou stolen my gods?

3) He was a cheater--

Gen. 29:23 And it came to pass in the evening, that he took Leah his daughter, and brought her to him; and he went in unto her. 24 And Laban gave unto his daughter Leah Zilpah his maid for an handmaid. 25 And it came to pass, that in the morning, behold, it was Leah: and he said to Laban, What is this thou hast done unto me? did not I serve with thee for Rachel? wherefore then hast thou beguiled me? 26 And Laban said, It must not be so done in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn. 27 Fulfil her week, and we will give thee this also for the service which thou shalt serve with me yet seven other years.

Gen. 31:7 And your father hath deceived me, and changed my wages ten times; but God suffered him not to hurt me.

--as well as an ingrate--

Gen. 31:41 Thus have I been twenty years in thy house; I served thee fourteen years for thy two daughters, and six years for thy cattle: and thou hast changed my wages ten times. 42 Except the God of my father, the God of Abraham, and the fear of Isaac, had been with me, surely thou hadst sent me away now empty. God hath seen mine affliction and the labour of my hands, and rebuked thee yesternight. 43 And Laban answered and said unto Jacob, These daughters are my daughters, and these children are my children, and these cattle are my cattle, and all that thou seest is mine: and what can I do this day unto these my daughters, or unto their children which they have born?

--who was unkind even to his own children:

Gen. 31:15 Are we not counted of him strangers? for he hath sold us, and hath quite devoured also our money.

[Cf. 1 Tim. 5:8 But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.]

4) Jacob knew him to be not above violence to get what he wanted--

Gen. 31:31 (KJS) And Jacob answered and said to Laban, Because I was afraid: for I said, Peradventure thou wouldest take by force thy daughters from me.

5) He showed himself completely incapable of listening to God--

Gen. 24:50 Then Laban and Bethuel answered and said, . . . 51 Behold, Rebekah is before thee, take her, and go, and let her be thy master's son's wife, as the LORD hath spoken. . . . 54 And they did eat and drink, he and the men that were with him, and tarried all night; and they rose up in the morning, and he said, Send me away unto my master. 55 And her brother and her mother said, Let the damsel abide with us a few days, at the least ten; after that she shall go. 56 And he said unto them, Hinder me not, seeing the LORD hath prospered my way; send me away that I may go to my master. 57 And they said, We will call the damsel, and enquire at her mouth. 58 And they called Rebekah, and said unto her, Wilt thou go with this man? And she said, I will go.

Gen. 31:24 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. 25 Then Laban overtook Jacob. Now Jacob had pitched his tent in the mount: and Laban with his brethren pitched in the mount of Gilead. 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.

[Cf. Prov. 10:19--"In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise."]

6) He was totally untrustworthy--

Gen. 31:52 This heap be witness, and this pillar be witness, that I will not pass over this heap to thee, and that thou shalt not pass over this heap and this pillar unto me, for harm.

--and from Jacob's sojourn learned nothing, judging from his obtusely-selfish reaction to Jacob's litany of Laban's abuses.

(See Gen. 31:43 above.)

Return Home