Son of Bethuel, grandnephew of Abraham, and maternal uncle and father in-law of Jacob. His home being in Aram-naharaim (Mesopotamia; Gen. xxiv. 10), otherwise known as Padan-aram (ib. xxviii. 5), he is called "the Aramean" (ib. xxv. 20, xxxi. 20, 24 [A. V. "Syrian"]). Mention is first made of him on the occasion of the marriage of his sister Rebekah. Attracted by the ring and bracelets which Eliezer had given her, Laban comes out to meet him, brings him into the house, and takes the lead in the negotiations concerning the departure of Rebekah. The name "Bethuel" is mentioned only once, and even then after "Laban" (ib. xxiv. 29-32, 50, 53, 55; see Bethuel). More fully detailed are Laban's dealings with Jacob, in Gen. xxix. 13-29, xxx. 27-xxxii. 9 (see Jacob, Biblical Data).
Laban is identified by the Rabbis with Beor, Balaam's father, and with Chushan-rishathaim (Judges iii. 8), the last name being interpreted as "perpetrator of two evils" (Sanh. 105a; comp. Targ. pseudo-Jonathan to Num. xxii. 5). R. Joshua b. Levi, however, identifies Laban with Kemuel (Gen. xxii. 21), the latter name being interpreted as, "who stood up against God's people" (; Gen. R. lvii. 4). The name "Laban" is interpreted as "glowing with wickedness" (ib. lx. 8), and the surname "Arammi" (= "the Aramean"; see Laban, Biblical Data) as an anagram of "ramma'ah" (= "impostor"; ib. lxx. 17). Laban is called also "the master of impostors" (ib. lxxv. 6). When he saw the bracelets on Rebekah's arms (Gen. xxiv. 30) he determined to kill Eliezer; but the latter, divining his intention, pronounced the Sacred Name, by which he caused camels to remain suspended in the air above the well. This and Eliezer's resemblance to Abraham made Laban believe that Eliezer was Abraham. Laban therefore invited him to enter the house (Midr. Abkir, in Yalḳ., Gen. 109; comp. Midr. Hagadah on Gen. xxiv. 23).Laban and Jacob.
Laban's answering before his father shows that he was impudent (Leḳaḥ Ṭob to Gen. xxiv. 50). His promptness in meeting Jacob (Gen. xxix. 13) was due to his eagerness for wealth; for he thought that if Eliezer, a servant of Abraham, brought with him ten camels loaded with the goods of his master, Jacob, being Abraham's grandson, would certainly bring still greater riches. He consequently ran to meet Jacob, and, seeing the latter without camels, thought that perhaps he had gems about his person or in his mouth. He therefore hugged and kissed him (Gen. R. lxx. 13; comp. Midr. Hagadah, l.c.). Disappointed at not finding anything valuable, Laban said to Jacob: "I had the intention to make thee my king; but, as thou possessest nothing, thou art nothing more than a simple relative of mine" (Gen. R. l.c.; comp. Gen. xxix. 14).
Before Jacob's arrival Laban's flocks were scanty, as they had always decreased through pestilence (Pirḳe R.El. xxxvi.). When Jacob had completed his seven years of service, Laban assembled his countrymen and consulted them as to the best means to retain him; "for," said he, "ye know that formerly we had a scarcity of water, and it is only through this righteous man that we are now blessed with an abundance of it." His countrymen advised him to substitute Leah for Rachel (Targ. pseudo-Jonathan and Yerushalmi to Gen. xxix. 22; Gen. R. lxx. 17). Laban took pledges of his countrymen that they would not divulge his design, and then pawned the pledges for wine which he served to their owners, who were his guests. Laban took the precaution to extinguish the light in the banqueting-room, lest Jacob should at once see that it was Leah. On Jacob inquiring the reason, Laban answered that it was a custom of his country. The guests, drunk with wine, sang "ha Lia" (= "she is Leah"); but Jacob did not understand the real meaning of the exclamation (Gen. R. l.c.; "Sefer ha-Yashar," section "Wayeẓe"). According to Pirḳe R. El. (l.c.), Bilhah and Zilpah were daughters of Laban by his concubines (comp. Gen. R. lxxiv. 11).
Having been informed of Jacob's flight, Laban assembled, besides his family, all the strong men of his city, with whom he pursued Jacob. Michael then drew his sword and ran after Laban to kill him, but only warned him not to speak to Jacob either good or evil (Pirḳe R. El. l.c.). The question which suggests itself, why, if Laban had sons (Gen. xxx. 35, xxxi. 1), did he send Rachel to keep his flocks (ib. xxix. 7-10), is explained in the Midrash by the fact that he had no sons before Jacob's arrival, and that it was because of his association with the latter that God gave him sons (Gen. R. lxx. 17; Num. R. xx. 16). According to the "Sefer ha-Yashar" (l.c.), Laban had three sons, Beor (comp. Num. R. l.c.), Alub, and Murash, whom his wife Adinah bore. It was Beor, according to the same authority, who was sent by his father to inform Esau of Jacob's departure and to urge him to pursue his brother (see Jacob).
2. A place in the wilderness, mentioned only once (Deut. i. 1), with Paran, Tophel, and Hazeroth. In the Septuagint the name is written Λοβóν, giving the Hebrew vocalization (comp. = Σóδομ). Modern scholars have endeavored to identify it with Libnah. Sifre (Deut. 1), followed by the three Targumim and Rashi, interprets the words as "the calumny of the white thing," in reference to the complaint of the Israelites concerning the manna, which was white (Num. xi. 6, xxi. 5).