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31:19 What is the significance of Rachels theft? Why did she steal her fathers teraphim?

Introduction: There has been a lot of conjecture over the years as to why Rachel would seal her fathers gods when she left his land with her husband, Jacob. The ideas range from her trying to secure some portion of the inheritance that Jacob was promised to still holding the pantheistic ways of her father and carrying them for protection or even to aide in having children. Some of the assertions seem to make sense while others seem to be stretching a bit. I dont think we will ever really know why she took them, but like Davis, I think its possible that there were more than simply one reason. Love of Woman and Love of God: The Case of Jacob: In this article Kass recognizes a few of the other theories of why Rachel would have stolen her fathers gods, but seems to settle on the idea that Rachel still held to them. One of the theories he recognizes is that Rachel was trying to cleanse her fathers house of the idols since she has come to know the truth about God from Jacob. Kass asserts that this didnt explain why she kept the idols close to her while traveling rather than just disposing of them. Another theory that Kass recognizes is that Rachel was trying to deny her father the power of his gods when he pursued them. Kass then discounts this theory by stating the Rachel would not only have to hold to the power of these idols, but would also be doubting the power of Jacobs God to keep them safe. Kass then seems to contradict himself by asserting that Rachel may have taken the teraphim because she still ascribes to her fathers gods and this is why she keeps them so close to her while on their journey. Kass even defends his stance against the belief of other commentators that she was showing contempt for the teraphim by sitting on them in her menstral condition by asserting that she was most likely lying about being in her way of women to keep her father from checking her camel. On one hand Kass seems to discount the idea of Rachel holding to the old gods but his very view seems to be that she did still hold to them. Rachels Theft of the Teraphim: Her Struggle for Family Primacy Ktziah begins much like the previous source, by introducing the passage and several opinions about why Rachel might have stolen her fathers idols. Among those, he adds that she may have stolen them to establish Jacob as the head of the family. While Ktziah refutes this as being her intent, he does use the same established customs to assert his opinion. This author and several others have established that the teraphim were that part of the inheritance that would go the principle heir of the estate. In essence, the holder of the teraphim would be the leader of the family unit.

Once he establishes that idea, Ktziah asserts that Rachel stole the teraphim so that her son would become the principle heir of Jacob and she would ensure that she was the favored wife. He follows this ideology insisting that this was the reason for the strife between the sons and their tribes all the way up through David and Saul. He also hints that this transgression and the curse of Jacob upon the one who would be found with the teraphim as a possible reason for her death and burial on the road. This view would not only contribute to Rachel the belief in these idols, but also Jacob. Another Look at Rachels Theft of the Teraphim In this article Greenberg also takes the stance that Rachel stole the teraphim to secure Jacobs status as the head of the family. That is; the paterfamilias of Labans family. He bases his comments on the same Nuzi tablets as many of the other commentators, but he does draw one distinction. Greenberg argues that the theft of Labans gods was not to ensure the inheritance he was due; for according to Greenbergs understanding of the Nuzi tablet, the possession of the house gods did not establish inheritance, but rather the title of paterfamilias. Greenberg argues that Josephs claim was still valid even if Laban had a natural son. According to the custom of the times Jacob would still get an equal share with Labans son, but the gods and the title of paterfamilias would go to the natural son. This is was Greenberg believes Rachel was trying to secure for Jacob by stealing the teraphim. My View I have to say that my view more closely aligns with that of Davis. There are many possibilities as to why Rachel would have stolen the gods of her father, but I dont think its prudent to limit to only one purpose. I doubt that she stole them to establish Jacob as the head of the family. This would entail Jacob agreeing to use the idols for this purpose and endanger the promise from God. Granted, Jacob was seen many times to be cunning, but something about this just doesnt feel right. For one, Jacob seemed to know nothing about the idols and if this were the case I would think Rachel would have made this clear at some point. I also dont believe the idea was to advance the status of her son for the same reasons. I do however think its possible that Rachel still held to her fathers gods to some extent and kept them close to her for protection and took them to provide blessing to her family. I also believe its more than likely that she lied to Laban about being in her menstrual cycle to keep him from discovering the idols and was in no way defiling them in her mind. Is it possible that the teraphim had something to do with how her life ended and the fact that her body never made it to the patriarchal burial plot? I think its entirely possible. It brings to mind Achan from Joshua chapter 6 who took some of the devoted things and was condemned by God to die.

Works Cited
Davis, John J. Paradise to Prison: studies in genesis. Salem, WI: Sheffield Publishing Company, 1975. Greenberg, Moshe. Another Look at Rachel's Theft of the Teraphim. Journal of Biblical Literature (The Society of Biblical Literature) 81, no. 3 (September 1962): 239-248. Kass, Leon R. Love of woman and love of God: The case of Jacob. Commentary (Commentary) 107, no. 3 (March 1999): 46-54. Spanier, Ktziah. Rachel's Theft of the Teraphim: Her Struggle for Family Primacy. Vetus Testamentum (Brill) 42, no. 3 (July 1992): 404-412.