Instead of stealing Lavan's idols (Bereshis 31:19), why didn't she merely destroy them?

  • It would take too long or it would be too hard or it would be too noticable. How would a woman destroy solid iron idols back then? Dec 12, 2014 at 17:18
  • @ShmuelBrin they were solid iron?
    – user6641
    Dec 12, 2014 at 17:35
  • or rock. I don't know, but it could be Dec 12, 2014 at 18:40
  • Besides the problem of diposing of the evidence and the lack of time to do so, perhaps there is a "theological" reason for not destroying them. This is from logic on how people regarded idols (as I understand it). It could be that as long as they existed, one could not replace them. If they were destroyed, the "connection" to the deity is destroyed and one can then create a new idol and the "god" could manifest in it. Since it is a theological manifestation, perhaps the deity could not withdraw from the original as long as it exists. Dec 12, 2014 at 18:53
  • Nechama Leibovitz says: Yet, Ramban claims that the teraphim were not idols, but came to take on the importance of gods in the eyes of Lavan. Ramban's opinion reflects a number of commentators, including Ibn Ezra and Rashbam, who identify the teraphim as astrological instruments that have the power to provide information about the future. This opinion is based on a number of Biblical sources...... If they were not idols, maybe they need not have been destroyed. Dec 13, 2014 at 18:43

5 Answers 5

  1. As pointed out (in name of Ramban), they were not necessarily idols, so didn't have to be destroyed. This still leaves the question of why would she need them in her possession.

  2. Some sources(eg. 1) note that she might have been waiting for a better chance to get rid of them (throw into the dead sea), since burying them was not a good option (it might cause the land to be more fruitful, thus people would benefit from Avoda Zara), similar to the comments mentioning that there might have been a technical problem with demolishing them.

  3. I recall seeing answers (if someone could verify this with valid sources - גם ברוך יהיה) on a deeper level, that she had wanted to use them for worshiping Hashem. Since this is the method of spirituality she is familiar with she wanted to sanctify it and use it for higher means, rather than destroying it completely. This can be taken further to an abstract level of "being on top" of the idols and controlling them for the good that can come out of them.


Rabbi Kahn, in this lecture notes the possibility that Rachel viewed this item as perhaps having the power to assist in pregnancy/reproduction, perhaps similar to the mandrakes she bartered with Leah for.


Josephus says:

τοὺς δὲ τύπους ἐπεφέρετο τῶν θεῶν ἡ Ῥαχήλα καταφρονεῖν μὲν τῆς τοιαύτης τιμῆς τῶν θεῶν διδάξαντος αὐτὴν Ἰακώβου, ἵνα δ᾽ εἰ καταληφθεῖεν ὑπὸ τοῦ πατρὸς αὐτῆς διωχθέντες ἔχοι τούτοις προσφυγοῦσα συγγνώμης τυγχάνειν..

In William Whiston's translation:

the reason why Rachel took the images of the gods, although Jacob had taught her to scorn the worship of such gods, was that if they were followed and caught by her father, she could use these images to obtain his pardon.


The terafim represented that part of Lavan's psyche that he had invested in them. Had Rachel destroyed the terafim she would have destroyed the opportunity to ever again meaningfully communicate with her father.

Because she stole part of his soul she became inexorably bound to him and was unable to exist as Binyamin's mother, remaining Lavan's daughter in her death.

  • 1
    is there a source for this?
    – gt6989b
    Nov 1, 2018 at 17:28

Bechor Shor in his commentary writes:

שהיו מדברים ואומרים על ידי מכשפות ולכך חמדתן רחל

That they [the teraphim] would speak and talk via witchcraft and therefore Rachel desired them.

Thus, Rachel did not destroy the teraphim because the whole reason she stole them was that she wanted them for herself.

  • A similar view is expressed by S.D. Luzzatto: sefaria.org.il/…
    – user19234
    Nov 27, 2022 at 21:19

You must log in to answer this question.