Genesis 31:19


King James Version (KJV)

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

American King James Version (AKJV)

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

American Standard Version (ASV)

Now Laban was gone to shear his sheep: and Rachel stole the teraphim that were her father's.

Basic English Translation (BBE)

Now Laban had gone to see to the cutting of the wool of his sheep; so Rachel secretly took the images of the gods of her father's house.

Webster's Revision

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

World English Bible

Now Laban had gone to shear his sheep: and Rachel stole the teraphim that were her father's.

English Revised Version (ERV)

Now Laban was gone to shear his sheep: and Rachel stole the teraphim that were her father's.

Clarke's Genesis 31:19 Bible Commentary

Laban went to shear his sheep - Laban had gone; and this was a favorable time not only to take his images, but to return to Canaan without being perceived.

Rachel had stolen the images - תרפים teraphim. What the teraphim were is utterly unknown. In Genesis 31:30 they are termed אלהי elohai, gods; and to some it appears very likely that they were a sort of images devoted to superstitious purposes, not considered as gods, but as representatives of certain Divine attributes, Dr. Shuckford supposes them to be a sort of tiles, on which the names or figures of their ancestors were engraven. Theodoret, in his 89th question, calls them idols; and says that Rachel, who was a type of the true Church, stole them from her father that he might be delivered from idolatry. R. S. Jarchi gives nearly the same reason.

The Targum of Jonathan ben Uzziel gives a strange turn to the whole passage. "And Rachel stole the images of her father: for they had murdered a man, who was a first-born son; and having cut off his head, they embalmed it with salt and spices, and they wrote divinations upon a plate of gold, and put it under his tongue; and placed it against the wall, and it conversed with them, and Laban worshipped it. And Jacob stole the science of Laban the Syrian, that it might not discover his departure." If the word be derived from רפא mo rapha, to heal or restore, then the teraphim may be considered as a sort of talismans, kept for the purpose of averting and curing diseases; and probably were kept by Laban for the same purpose that the Romans kept their lares and penates. It is however possible that תרפים teraphim is the same as שרפים seraphim, the ת tau and ש sin being changed, which is very frequent in the Syrian or Chaldee language; and we know that Laban was an Aramean or Syrian. Fire has been considered from the earliest ages as a symbol of the Deity; and as the word seraphim comes from שרף saraph, to burn, it has been conjectured that the teraphim of Laban were luminous forms, prepared of burnished brass, etc., which he might imagine a proper medium of communication between God and his worshippers. Mr. Parkhurst has observed that the teraphim were in use among believers and unbelievers. Among the former, see this chapter; for he denies that Laban was an idolater. See also Judges 17:5;Judges 18:14, Judges 18:18, Judges 18:20; 1 Samuel 19:13, 1 Samuel 19:16. Among the latter, see 2 Kings 23:24; Ezekiel 21:21; Zechariah 10:2. Compare 1 Samuel 15:23, and Hosea 3:4. These are all the places in which the original word is found.

The Persian translator seems to have considered these teraphim as tables or instruments that served for purposes of judicial astrology, and hence translates the word asterlabha, astrolabes. As the astrolabe was an instrument with which they took the altitude of the pole-star, the sun, etc., it might, in the notion of the Persian translator, imply tables, etc., by which the culminating of particular stars might be determined, and the whole serve for purposes of judicial astrology. Now as many who have professed themselves to be believers in Christianity, have nevertheless addicted themselves to judicial astrology, we might suppose such a thing in this case, and still consider Laban as no idolater. If the Persian translator has not hit on the true meaning, he has formed the most likely conjecture.

Wesley's Genesis 31:19 Bible Commentary

31:19 Laban went to shear his sheep — That part of his flock which was in the hands of his sons, three days journey off. Now, (1.) It is certain it was lawful for Jacob to leave his service suddenly: it was not only justified by the particular instructions God gave him, but warranted by the fundamental law of self-preservation which directs us, when we are in danger, to shift for our own safety, as far as we can do it without wronging our consciences. (2.) It was his prudence to steal away unawares to Laban, lest if Laban had known, he should have hindered him, or plundered him. (3.) It was honestly done to take no more than his own with him, the cattle of his getting. He took what providence gave him, and would not take the repair of his damages into his own hands. Yet Rachel was not so honest as her husband; she stole her father's images, and carried them away. The Hebrew calls them Teraphim. Some think they were only little representations of the ancestors of the family in statue or picture, which Rachel had a particular fondness for, and was desirous to have with her now she was going into another country. It should rather seem they were images for a religious use, penates, household gods, either worshipped, or consulted as oracles; and we are willing to hope, that she took them away, not out of covetousness much less for her own use, or out of any superstitious fear lest Laban, by consulting his teraphim, might know which way they were gone; (Jacob no doubt dwelt with his wives as a man of knowledge, and they were better taught than so) but with a design to convince her father of the folly of his regard to those as gods which could not secure themselves.

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