🔼The name Laban: Summary
- From the adjective לבן (laban), white.
🔼The name Laban in the Bible
Laban the man was an Aramean, living in Paddan-aram. He was the son of Bethuel, son of Nahor with Milcah, the brother and niece of Abraham (Genesis 24:29). Laban was also the brother of Rebekah and father of Leah and Rachel, the wives of Jacob.
Laban was obviously the leader of his family when Eliezer, Abraham's chief of staff, came calling about a wife for Isaac and went home with Rebekah (Genesis 24). He was still in control when, years later, Isaac and Rebekah sent their son Jacob over to see about a wife for him (Genesis 28:2). Jacob fell in love with Laban's youngest daughter Rachel and vowed to work for Laban for seven years to pay her off (Genesis 29:18). When the seven years had passed, Laban threw Jacob a wedding feast that was so stimulating that Jacob didn't realize he had married and copulated with Laban's oldest daughter Leah until well after the wedding night (Genesis 29:25). Jacob was understandably disgruntled and Laban generously offered his younger daughter Rachel as well, for the bargain price of an additional seven years of labor (Genesis 29:27).
The relationship between Laban and Jacob remained strained, until Jacob finally exploded and lashed out against his father in law about his propensity for trickery and deceit (Genesis 31:36). Laban finally realized he's been quite a pain all those years, and the two men sealed their covenant of peace with a megalithic monument that Laban called Jegar-sahadutha in Aramaic, and Jacob Galeed (also known as Mizpah) in Hebrew (Genesis 31:47).
🔼Etymology of the name Laban
The name Laban is identical to the word לבן (laban), meaning white:
The verb לבן (laben) means to be or become white. Contrary to modern understandings of white as a symbol, in the Bible white either denotes a blank state (and thus emptiness or stupidity) or the state of greatest resistance to the absorption of light, which comes down to pride, stubbornness and more stupidity. Hence leprosy, or the "white disease" signifies unwarranted pride and arrogance.
Contrary to popular conception, black and white are both dark, but black things absorb light and become hot (or smart), whereas white things reflect light and stay cold (or stupid).
Adjective לבן (laban) means white (i.e. blank, un-written upon: stupid). Noun לבנה (lebanah) refers to the moon. Nouns לבנה (lebonah) and לבונה (lebonah) describe frankincense. Noun לבנה (lebneh) describes the poplar. Noun לבנה (lebenah) means brick, and the denominative verb לבן (laban) means to make bricks.
For a meaning of the name Laban, both NOBSE Study Bible Name List and Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names read White.