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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature


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(Hebrew Laban', לָבָן , white, as frequently; comp. Simonis, Onon. V. T. p. 100; Septuag. Λάβαν, but Λοβόν in Deuteronomy 1:1; Josephus Λάβανος , Ant. i, 16, 2), the name of a man and also of a place.

1. An Aramwean herd-owner in Mesopotamia, son of Bethuel (Genesis 28:5), and kinsman of Abraham (Genesis 24:15; Genesis 24:29), being a grandson (בֵּן, not simply "son," as usual; see Gesenius, Thesaur. p. 216) of Nahor (Genesis 29:5). During the lifetime of his father, and by his own consent, his sister Rebekah was married to Isaac in Palestine (Genesis 24:50 sq.). B.C. 2024. (See REBEKAH).

Jacob, one of the sons by this marriage, on leaving home through fear of Esau, complied with his parents' wishes by contracting a still closer affinity with the family of his uncle Laban, and while seeking the hand of his daughter Rachel at the price of seven years' toil, was eventually compelled by Laban's artifice to marry first his oldest daughter, Leah (Genesis 29). B.C. 1927-1920. (See JACOB).

When Jacob, having fulfilled the additional seven years' service thus imposed upon him, and six years more under a contract to take care of his cattle (in which time he managed to repay his overreaching uncle by a less culpable stratagem), was returning by stealth across the Euphrates, Laban pursued him with intentions that were only diverted by a preternatural dream, and, overtaking him at Mt. Gilead, charged him with the abduction of his daughters and the theft of his household gods, which Rachel had clandestinely carried off, and now concealed by a trick characteristic of her family, but was at length pacified, and formed a solemn treaty of amity with Jacob that should mutually bind their posterity (Genesis 30, 31). B.C. 1907. Niemeyer (Charakt. ii, 246) has represented Laban in a very odious light, but his conduct appears to have been in keeping with the customs of the times, and, indeed, of nomades in all ages, and compares not unfavorably with that of Jacob himself. (See Kitto, Daily Illustra. vol. i; Abulfeda, Anteislam, ed. Fleischer, p. 25; Hitzig, Geschichte Israel [Lpz. 1869], p. 40, 49 sq.; Ewald, History of Israel [transl. London, 1869], i, 346 sq.) Winer, ii, 1 sq. " The mere possession of teraphim, which the Jews at no time consistently condemned (comp. Judges 17, 18; 1 Samuel 19:13; Hosea 3:4), does not prove Laban to have been an idolater; but that he must have been so appears with some probability from 31:53 ('the gods of Nahor'), and from the expression נַחִשְׁתַּי, in 30:27; A. V., 'I have learnt by experience,' but properly ' I have divined' or 'learnt by an augury' (comp. 14, 15; 1 Kings 20:33), showing that he was addicted to pagan superstitions."

2. A city in the Arabian desert, on the route of the Israelites (Deuteronomy i, 1); probably identical with their twenty-first station, LIBNAH (Numbers 33:20). Knobel's objections (Erklar. ad loc.) to this identification, that no discourses of Moses at Libnah are recorded, and that the Israelites did not return to that place after reaching Kadesh, are neither of them relevant. He prefers the Itauara of ancient notice (Notit. Dignit. i, 78 sq.; ltauarra of the Peutinger Table, 9:e; Avapa of Ptolemy, 5:17, 5), between Petra and Aela, as having the signification white in Arabic (Steph. Byz. s.v.).

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Laban'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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