A Question I Was Asked:

In Genesis 31, Why Did Rachel Steal Her Father's Idols?

In Genesis 31, why did Rachel steal her father's idols? Was she an idol-worshipper?

UK Apologetics Reply:

Okay, let us look at this:

When Laban had gone to shear his sheep, Rachel stole her father's household gods. (Genesis 31:19).

The Bible text doesn't shed too much light on Rachel's motivation. It only states that she stole the idols. There are a few theories regarding why Rachel stole her father Laban's idols.

1. She was an idolator (idol-worshipper) herself.

2. She disapproved of her father's (Laban's) idol worship and wanted to help prevent it.

However, just maybe the following verses give us more of a clue:

Moreover, Jacob deceived Laban the Aramean by not telling him he was running away. So he fled with all he had, crossed the Euphrates River, and headed for the hill country of Gilead. (Verses 20-21).

So Jacob had deceived Laban and fled the scene. One reason that the idol worshippers kept these idols apparently was that they believed they could reveal secrets and coming events. It is, therefore, quite possible that Rachel took these images so that Laban could not appeal to them to reveal where she and Jacob had gone. This idea is backed up by some comments which can be attributed to the modern (and frankly dubious) Book of Jasher, however, since it is questionable that this book is anything like the original book of Jasher as mentioned in Scripture (2 Samuel 1:18), we cannot attach too much authority to it. Nevertheless, this seems feasible.

When Jacob and Rachel tried to quietly move away from Laban to Jacob's homeland, Laban pursued them with a band of men. Having caught up with Jacob, Laban accused him of stealing his household idols. Jacob, entirely unaware that Rachel had stolen the idols, declared,

"Anyone with whom you find your gods shall not live. In the presence of our kinsmen point out what I have that is yours, and take it." (Genesis 31:32).

This of course, was a very unwise comment from Jacob, who had much to learn at this stage of his life. As we know, the incident finally ended relatively peacefully without any loss of life (read the rest of Genesis 31 for the details).

The Bible mentions several people who possessed teraphim, or household idols. These images were used as some sort of talisman to bring a blessing, or maybe to reveal secret knowledge to a household. At least two women married to men of God kept family idols, Rachel and Michal. It might come as a surprise to some to learn that the wives of certain men of God in the Old Testament had some links to idolatry but we must understand that some of these people, especially Rachel, were simply the products of societies in which such practices were pretty common. As a daughter of Saul, and living more specifically under the old covenant, Michal is probably harder to excuse in this matter. In time, one believes that Rachel would have moved away from this as Jacob's walk with God became stronger.

Robin A. Brace. October 19th, 2015.