Don Isaac Abravanel (1437-1508) was a preeminent Jewish thinker, scholar, and prolific Biblical
commentator. In Genesis chapter 31, we read about Rachel swiping Laban’s idols. Her inexcusable deed
raises a red flag, prompting Bible students to question: What could Rachel possibly have been thinking?

“Now Laban was gone to shear his sheep. And Rachel stole the
teraphim that were her father’s.”

It certainly vexed Abravanel, leading him to ask: What tempted Rachel? Did she want to ween Laban
from his idolatrous folly? If so, how naive? What would be the likelihood that an old man set in his
primitive ways could be cured by a young daughter? Besides, who would stop Laban from acquiring new
gods? Finally, Abravanel raises the possibility that Rachel desired to serve idols, as her father. Answering
his own ridiculous thought, Abravanel says emphatically – God forbid. No way would Rachel stoop so

Jacob clearly had no inkling that Rachel pilfered the teraphim, otherwise he wouldn’t have issued a
death warrant for the offender. The patriarch tells Laban: “With whomsoever you find your gods, he
shall not live…”

Here is Abravanel’s response. At best, Rachel viewed her father’s teraphim as a type of talisman. That is,
of course she understood that the figurine couldn’t speak, but maybe it somehow inspired Laban, and
spurred him to greater awareness. In our context, Abravanel suggests that maybe Rachel thought that
when Jacob exited with his wives and children, Laban would run to his idols, talk to them, in hopes of
gaining insight. Laban would take hold of the teraphim, pensively inquiring of them: “Tell me. Where did
Jacob lead my daughters and grandchildren? Which way did they go? What route did they take etc.?”

In sum, Rachel hedged her bet and sought to improve Jacob’s run for freedom. Since Rachel worried
that Laban would consult his teraphim, as means to figuring out Jacob’s best escape route, she stole her
father’s idols. The blow to Laban would blunt his powers of concentration, and ultimately thwart his
chances to apprehend the fugitives.