Why is Lavan sometimes named as the son of Bethuel his father, and othertimes after his grandfather Nachor?

וַיִּשְׁלַ֤ח יִצְחָק֙ אֶֽת־יַעֲקֹ֔ב וַיֵּ֖לֶךְ פַּדֶּ֣נָֽה אֲרָ֑ם אֶל־לָבָ֤ן בֶּן־בְּתוּאֵל֙ הָֽאֲרַמִּ֔י אֲחִ֣י רִבְקָ֔ה אֵ֥ם יַעֲקֹ֖ב וְעֵשָֽׂו׃

וַיֹּ֣אמֶר לָהֶ֔ם הַיְדַעְתֶּ֖ם אֶת־לָבָ֣ן בֶּן־נָח֑וֹר וַיֹּאמְר֖וּ יָדָֽעְנוּ׃

  • 1
    Not exactly am answer, but he's not the only one. Yehu is usually called ben Nimshi except for one time where he's ben Yehoshafat ben Nimshi (Melachim 2:9:14), and Zechariah is ben Berachyah ben Ido except for one time where he's Zechariah bar Ido (Ezra 5:4). And there may be other examples.
    – Harel13
    Sep 21 at 3:19

1 Answer 1


Ramban in his commentary to that verse offers three explanations:

Lavan was referred to by his paternal grandfather Nachor's name because Nachor held a higher status than Lavan's father Bethuel, as seen later in the agreement made between Yaakov and Lavan, "the G-d of Avraham and the G-d of Nachor" (Bereishis 31, 53). This practice was despite Lavan being the son of Bethuel (Bereishis 28, 5), emphasizing Nachor's prominent role in their family (Bereishis 22, 22).

Additionally, this may be because Bethuel had a tarnished reputation, leading Lavan to prefer associating his lineage exclusively with his paternal grandfather. This is suggested by the order of mention in an earlier verse "Lavan and Bethuel answered" (Bereishis 24, 50), where Lavan precedes his father, indicating Bethuel's diminished significance.

Yaakov's choice of reference could also be a mark of respect to Avraham, as it linked the entire family's lineage to Nachor, Avraham's brother (Bereishis 22, 23), thereby emphasizing their connection to the illustrious Avraham.

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