A few times, I've come across this idea that Jacob's two descriptions of the 20 year period he spent in Haran is actually describing two seperate periods of 20 years, to effect of extending his stay in Haran to 40 years. What I'm asking is this: Does the text's language permit such a reading?

Personally doubt this theory's truth as I can't imagine Jacob staying behind an extra 20 years after his second 7 years were up before asking Laban to "Send me on my way."

Two Articles Espousing this View: https://www.academia.edu/78905914/The_Duration_of_Jacobs_Stay_in_Haran


  • Can youadd a link to a source which cites this understanding (and might provide a rationale)?
    – rosends
    Jul 6, 2022 at 16:33
  • the ages of various people from tanach wouldn't necessarily work out with that interpretation. The Torah gives ages for people, and I haven't done all the math/logic but at first glance it doesn't seem like that would work at all. Unless you have a source that works it out for you.
    – Esther
    Jul 6, 2022 at 17:09
  • @rosends I'll edit this post to include a couple of them Jul 6, 2022 at 21:50
  • @Esther I've attached two articles that support this view. Jul 6, 2022 at 22:01
  • The first article fails to take into account that Jacob became wealthy and had servants. So he could afford wet nurses, and servants to take Reuben on a walk. The family of Abraham was very long-lived, Laban included. There is a fourteen year gap, as seen from the timeline of Esau and Yishmael, that our tradition addresses.
    – N.T.
    Jul 11, 2022 at 6:46

1 Answer 1


I personally think the text itself does not work with the opinion you cited for the following reasons:

1). The second mention of 20 years (which is supposed to be 20-40 years) in Genesis 31:41 mentions that Leah and Rachel were part of that set. The story up until now makes it sound that the first reason Jacob even worked for Laban was specifically for Rachel in the first 20 years of being there. I see this as a contradiction.

2). The first set of twenty years: Genesis 31:38 "Already twenty years have I been with you, and your ewes and she goats have not aborted, neither have I eaten the rams of your flocks." These verses are Jaacob's declaration that he didn't steal etc... Does that mean he is only making this claim on first 20 years, but not the second? This would be very odd in my humble opinion.

3). The later verse Genesis 31:41 (mentioned in point 1) seems to include the whole story. The wife switching and working for animals. Why was he there for an additional 20 years?

In Judaism we have another way of making Jacob's lifetime workout, we have a tradition that he spent some time learning Torah in the house of Shem and Eiver (the descendants of Noah) before going to Haran. There are a number of reasons why this is given, but I have not heard the opinion that he worked 40 years for Laban.

I have found some translation of Rashi from Genesis 28:9

Since it says, “the daughter of Ishmael,” do I not know that she was the sister of Nebaioth? But this teaches us that Ishmael died after he had betrothed her to Esau, before her marriage, and her brother Nebaioth gave her hand in marriage. This also teaches us that Jacob was sixty-three years old at that time, for Ishmael was seventy-four years old when Jacob was born. Ishmael was fourteen years older than Isaac, and Isaac was sixty years old when they were born, hence [Ishmael was] seventy-four. He lived one hundred and thirty seven years, as it is stated (above 25:17): “and these are the years of the life of Ishmael,” etc. Consequently, Jacob was sixty-three at Ishmael’s death. We learn from here that he hid for fourteen years in the house of Eber and afterwards went to Haran. [This can be deduced from the fact that] he stayed in Laban’s house before Joseph’s birth only fourteen years, as it is said (below 31:41): “I worked for you fourteen years for your two daughters and six years for your sheep,” and the payment for the sheep took place after Joseph was born, as it is said (below 30:25): “And it came to pass when Rachel had given birth to Joseph, etc.,” and Joseph was thirty years old when he became ruler, and from then until Jacob descended to Egypt were nine years: seven of plenty and two of famine. And Jacob said to Pharaoh (below 47:9): “The days of the years of my sojournings are one hundred and thirty years.” Go forth and figure 14 years before Joseph was born, plus the 30 years of Joseph’s age, plus the 9 years from the time he became ruler until Jacob came. The total is 53. And when he [Jacob] left his father, he was 63, totaling 116. Yet he said [to Pharaoh, “I am] one hundred and thirty years old.” Hence, there are fourteen years missing. Thus, you learn that after he had received the blessings, he hid in the house of Eber for fourteen years. [From Meg. 17:a.] (However, he was not punished [for these fourteen years] because of the merit [of having studied] Torah, for Joseph was separated from his father only twenty-two years, i.e., from age seventeen until age thirty-nine, corresponding to the twenty-two years that Jacob was separated from his father [when] he did not honor him. These are the twenty years in Laban’s house, plus the two years that he spent traveling [home], as it is written (below 33:17): “And he built himself a house, and for his cattle he made booths.” Our Rabbis of Blessed Memory inferred from this verse that he spent eighteen months on the road, for the house was for the rainy season, and the booths were for the summer. And, according to the calculation of the verses, which we calculated above, from the time he left his father until he went down to Egypt, at the age of one hundred and thirty, we find an additional fourteen years, therefore, it is certain that he hid in the house of Eber to learn Torah while on his way to the house of Laban. And because of the merit of the Torah, he was not punished for them [those fourteen years], and Joseph was separated from him for only twenty-two years-measure for measure. The above is from an old Rashi text).

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