on Genesis 31 :19
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.
on Genesis 31 :19
on Genesis 31 :19