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Portrait of a Villain
Laban the Aramean in Rabbinic Literature

Authors:  Zetterholm K.
Year: 2002
ISBN: 978-90-429-1033-1
Pages: X-214 p.
Price: 34 EURO

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This book attempts to answer the question of why Laban the Aramean, a rather harmless character as presented in the biblical text, is generally portrayed in rabbinic literature as a major enemy of Jacob and Israel. It is argued that the portrait of Laban as a villain developed as a result of rabbinic hermeneutics, and that the characteristics which are attributed to him in rabbinic literature were not arbitrarily chosen due to a particular interest in his person or a wish to endow him with a certain set of negative characteristics. It rather derives from interaction between the rabbis and the biblical text in a process where the rabbis filled in gaps that they perceived in the biblical text and explained inconsistencies with material provided by the Bible itself and by material taken from their ideological code. The book draws attention to the role that exegesis of the Bible played in the formation of the opinions and world view of the rabbis as well as the inseparability of exegesis and ideology.

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