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Laban says in Genesis 31:50 NKJV

50 If you afflict my daughters, or if you take other wives besides my daughters, although no man is with us—see, God is witness between you and me!

If I were to read this from the perspective of the modern world, I can appreciate Laban looking out for his daughters and not wanting Jacob to be with other women. However, I see in Genesis men with many wives such as Abraham who had three wives: Sarah, Hagar, and Keturah.

Genesis 11:29 NKJV

29 Then Abram and Nahor took wives: the name of Abram’s wife was Sarai, and the name of Nahor’s wife, Milcah, the daughter of Haran the father of Milcah and the father of Iscah.

Genesis 16:3 NKJV

3 Then Sarai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar her maid, the Egyptian, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan.

Genesis 25:1 NKJV

Abraham again took a wife, and her name was Keturah.

Solomon is also said to of had 1,000 wives and concubines.

1 Kings 11:3 NKJV

3 And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines; and his wives turned away his heart.

So with this previous information from Genesis and 1 Kings, Laban's words seem a bit odder to me. So, why did Laban tell Jacob to have no other wives?

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Laban wanted Jacob to have an exclusive relationship of legal marriage with his daughters only. But in fact he provided to additional women to Jacob as concubines. Also, the OP is mistaken if it presumes that Abraham had many wives simultaneously. As Sarah's slave, Hagar was not his legal wife, just as Bilhah and Zilpah were not the legal wives of Jacob. Moreover Abraham married Keturah only after Sarah had died. Reading the last verse of Gen. 24 together with the verse of Gen. 25, we find:

[Isaac] took Rebekah as his wife. Isaac loved her and found solace after the death of his mother. Abraham took another wife, whose name was Keturah.

Hagar, on the other hand, is said to have acted as a "wife" but her status was that of a concubine, for she remained Sarah's slave. (Genesis 25:12) Her position was the same as Bilhah and Zilpah, the slaves of Rachel and Leah, who were Jacob's concubines even though they too were called "wives" (Genesis 30:9, Genesis 30:4).

Thus Laban's action in insisting that Jacob marry only his daughters demanded a similar standard to that of Abraham - who did not actually marry Hagar and married Ketubah only after Sarah died. Abraham did not have more than one legal wife at the same time.

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  • Ahh. I missed that point. I appreciate the answer.
    – Jason_
    Jan 11 at 17:24
  • That makes sense for Abraham. What about someone like Solomon who is said to have had 700 wives? It just feels a bit odd that Laban would restrict Jacob, unless there was some benefit to him doing so, seeing as it was not uncommon to have more than one wife.
    – Jason_
    Jan 11 at 21:28
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Laban chased after Jacob, but was he after his two daughters or his missing household gods? Laban couldn't retrieve his household gods, and he had been warned not to say anything to Jacob, either good or bad. Therefore he made a treaty with Jacob, described in Genesis 31:51-53, a serious oath defining a boundary that Jacob would not cross to harm him.

The household gods that Laban in concern, was likely served as titles of ownership to his property and inheritance. If Jacob married other wives and bore sons, his property would risk passing over to other clans if other sons of Jacob claimed his property by the lost household gods. As a precaution, he made a treaty with Jacob under oath to make sure Jacob would not claim his property, even after he showed up his household gods. It was a double precaution his property would not fall into other clans by prohibiting Jacob married other wives.

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