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Son of Bathuel, the Syrian (Gen. xxviii, 5; cf. xxv, 20); grandson of Nachor, Abraham's brother (xxii, 20, 23); cf. xxiv, 5, where he is called "son of Nachor"; brother of Rebecca (xxiv, 29, 55; xxv, 20; xxvii, 43; xxviii, 5); uncle of Jacob (xxviii, 2; xxix, 10) and also his father-in-law (xxix, 25; xxx, 25; xxxi, 20; cf. xxix, 12, 15; xiii, 8, where he is called his "brother"); the father of Lia and Rachel (xxix, 16) and of several sons (xxx, 35; xxxi, 1). Laban's home was in Haran (xxvii, 43; xxix, 4), the city of Nachor (xxiv, 10), in Mesopotamia of Syria (xxviii, 2, 5) where Nachor, his grandfather, remained when Abraham and Lot migrated to Chanaan (xi, 31; xii, 4). Hence Laban is also called "the Syrian" or "Aramæan" (xxv, 20; xxvi, 20, 24; Heb.). It was here in Mesopotamia that Laban met Abraham's servant and consented to Rebecca's departure to become the wife of Isaac (xxiv, 29, sqq.) (see ). The subsequent history of Laban is intimately connected with that of Jacob, his sister's son (Gen., xxix, 10-xxxi, 55) (see ). The latter having arrived in Haran was met by Rachel who notified her father Laban of his brother's (sic) arrival. Laban goes forth to meet Jacob and offers him the hospitality of his home (xxix, 10-14). After a month's time Laban invites his nephew to remain permanently with him, even allowing him to fix his own wages. Jacob agrees to work seven years for his uncle, and his wages were to be the hand of Rachel, Laban's younger daughter (xxix, 14-18). These terms appeared satisfactory to Laban, who, at the end of seven years, prepared the marriage feast, but, instead of giving his younger daughter Rachel to Jacob, he gave him his elder daughter Lia whom Jacob, however, failed to recognize until after the marriage (xxix, 18-24). When Jacob remonstrated with his uncle, Laban agreed to give him his younger daughter on the sole condition that Jacob serve him seven more years. Jacob agreed to this, and at the end of seven years Laban gives his younger daughter Rachel to Jacob (xxix, 24-29).
Having received the wife whom he sought, Jacob resolved to return to his own home, but Laban, wishing to retain the profitable services of his nephew, once more prevailed upon Jacob to remain with him (xxx, 25-28). The terms stipulated by Jacob this time appeared most advantageous to Laban, but he and his sons soon discovered that Jacob had outwitted them in this last agreement, which procured for Jacob a large increase of flocks (xxx, 29-43). Laban and his sons then began to despise Jacob, who, noticing their change of attitude towards him, and dissatisfied with the treatment accorded him by his uncle, who had changed his wages ten times, secretly departed together with his wives and possessions (xxxi, 1-20). Three days later, Laban, apprised of Jacob's flight, and having remarked the loss of his idols, which Rachel had taken with her, goes in pursuit of the fugitives. After seven days Laban overtakes Jacob near the mount of Galaad, but during the night he is warned in a dream not to inflict any harm on Jacob (xxxi, 21-25). The next day Laban meets Jacob and remonstrates with him on his ungrateful and foolish action, accusing him at the same time of taking his idols (xxxi, 25-31). Laban is then invited by Jacob to search for his idols, and when he fails to find them, thanks to Rachel's shrewdness, he is vigorously upbraided by Jacob (xxxi, 31-42). Laban and Jacob then enter into an agreement whereby Jacob is not to harm Laban's daughters, and neither party is to pass with hostile intent the limits set by a heap of stones called "the witness heap". Laban then takes leave of his sons and daughters and returns home, never to be heard of again in history (xxxi, 42-55).
FRANCIS X.E. ALBERT