Now Rachel had taken the household idols,
put them in the camel’s saddle, and sat on them.
And Laban searched all about the tent but did not find them.
And she said to her father,
“Let it not displease my lord that I cannot rise before you,
for the manner of women is with me.”
And he searched but did not find the household idols.
So after seven days Laban and his posse overtake Jacob at a town called Gilead in Northern Canaan.
After scolding Jacob for not allowing him to throw a farewell party and give his daughters and grandchildren a proper goodbye, Laban gets right down to what’s really on his mind.
“Why did you steal my gods?”
Jacob is incensed.
He tells Laban that not only is he more than welcome to his household gods, but that the person who stole them will be executed.
Now Rachel is in deep stew, and she knows it.
She decides to hide the family idols by sitting on them.
While Laban is searching Rachel’s tent, Rachel tells her father that she can’t move because she’s on her monthly cycle.
Laban doesn’t demand she stand up.
Why do you think this is?
It’s probably not for the reason you think it is.
It has nothing to do with Laban being sensitive and respectful towards Rachel’s current condition.
No, here we get another interesting snapshot into the mind of an ancient Middle Easterner.
500 years before Moses will be given instructions concerning ritual purity, the idea of a woman being unclean and able to transmit that uncleanness was already prevalent in the culture at that time.
In other words, Laban was afraid of becoming impure by coming into contact with Rachel or the cushion she was sitting on.
Laban also probably assumed that Rachel would never do something so sacrilegious as intentionally transmit her uncleanness to the family gods.
What’s interesting is that this scene of a woman sitting on a bunch of pagan gods during her menstrual period is a subtle indication of the Torah’s contempt for false gods.