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SBL e-journal

Emanuel Tov

(

2023

)

.

Laban Searches for His Stolen Idols – Genesis 31:33

.

TheTorah.com

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https://thetorah.com/article/laban-searches-for-his-stolen-idols-genesis-31-33

APA e-journal

Emanuel Tov

,

,

,

"

Laban Searches for His Stolen Idols – Genesis 31:33

"

TheTorah.com

(

2023

)

.

https://thetorah.com/article/laban-searches-for-his-stolen-idols-genesis-31-33

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Series

Textual Criticism of the Torah: Ten Short Case Studies

Laban Searches for His Stolen Idols – Genesis 31:33

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Laban Searches for His Stolen Idols – Genesis 31:33

When Jacob leaves Haran, Rachel steals her father’s teraphim (idols), without Jacob’s knowledge. When Laban catches up with the fleeing Jacob, and accuses him of stealing his gods, Jacob gives Laban carte blanche to search all of his tents for them. The tension remains until the end, when Laban goes to search Rachel’s tent, but fails to find them because of her ruse.

The text versions differ primarily in the sequence of Laban’s search for his idols in the various people’s tents:

SP

MT (+Pesh)

LXX

בראשית לא:לג ויבא לבן ויחפש באהל יעקב ובאהל לאה ובאהל שתי השפחות ולא מצא ויצא מאהל לאה ויבא באהל רחל׃

בראשית לא:לג וַיָּבֹא לָבָן בְּאֹהֶל יַעֲקֹב וּבְאֹהֶל לֵאָה וּבְאֹהֶל שְׁתֵּי הָאֲמָהֹת וְלֹא מָצָא וַיֵּצֵא מֵאֹהֶל לֵאָה וַיָּבֹא בְּאֹהֶל רָחֵל.

 

Gen 31:33 εἰσελθὼν δὲ Λαβαν ἠρεύνησεν εἰς τὸν οἶκον Λειας καὶ οὐχ εὗρεν· καὶ ἐξελθὼν ἐκ τοῦ οἴκου Λειας ἠρεύνησεν τὸν οἶκον Ιακωβ καὶ ἐν τῷ οἴκῳ τῶν δύο παιδισκῶν καὶ οὐχ εὗρεν. εἰσῆλθεν δὲ καὶ εἰς τὸν οἶκον Ραχηλ.[1]

Gen 31:33 So Laban went and he searched Jacob’s tent and Leah’s tent and the tent of the two slave women; but he did not find (them). Leaving Leah’s tent, he entered Rachel’s tent.

Gen 31:33 So Laban went into Jacob’s tent and Leah’s tent and the tent of the two maidservants; but he did not find (them). Leaving[2] Leah’s tent, he entered Rachel’s tent.

Gen 31:33 And Laban, when he went in, searched in Leia’s dwelling and found nothing. And he went out of Leia’s dwelling and searched in Jakob’s dwelling and in the dwelling of the two maids and found nothing. Then he also entered into Rachel’s dwelling.

SP has some minor differences with MT: the inclusion of the verb “searched,” which also appears in LXX, and a different Hebrew term for maidservant, but the sequence of action is the same. What SP and MT describe is first an overview of Jacob’s tent, before moving to Leah’s tent, and ending with the maidservants’ tents. Then the scene goes back to focus on an incident in the middle of the search, after Leah’s tent is searched and Laban goes to search Rachel’s.[3]

LXX was apparently bothered by this, especially since the summary statement makes no mention of Rachel’s tent, implying that after Leah came the maidservants’ tents, which would mean Rachel’s was last. To deal with this tension, the LXX—or more likely, its Vorlage (Hebrew original)—reorders the sequence, using phrases from the original presentation, placing Leah first, then Jacob’s, then the maidservants’ and finally Rachel’s. This strange order where Leah’s tent was searched first instead of Jacob’s was likely motivated by a desire to leave intact the phrase וַיֵּצֵא מֵאֹהֶל לֵאָה וַיָּבֹא “leaving Leah’s, he entered…,” which reveals a contradiction within MT, SP and the Peshitta.[4]

This revision was not created by the translator: The use of the verb “searched” in SP implies that it must have been in LXX’s Hebrew Vorlage too, and fallen out of MT. Also, the addition of the phrase “and he found nothing” was not necessary to solve the problem of sequence and also likely reflects whatever the translator had in his Hebrew text.[5]

Published

August 24, 2023

|

Last Updated

April 14, 2024

Footnotes

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Prof. Emanuel Tov is J. L. Magnes Professor of Bible (emeritus) in the Dept. of Bible at the Hebrew University, where he received his Ph.D. in Biblical Studies. He was the editor of 33 volumes of Discoveries in the Judean Desert. Among his many publications are, Scribal Practices and Approaches Reflected in the Texts Found in the Judean Desert, Textual Criticism of the Bible: An Introduction, The Biblical Encyclopaedia Library 31 and The Text-Critical Use of the Septuagint in Biblical Research.