Laban was the son of Bethuel and the grandson of Nahor, Abraham's brother. He lived in Haran, a city in Mesopotamia (which is today part of Syria) where Nahor remained when Abraham and Lot migrated to Canaan. It was here in Mesopotamia that Laban met Abraham's servant and consented to letting his sister Rebekah return with him to become the wife of Isaac.
The subsequent history of Laban is intimately connected with that of Jacob, Rebekah's son who sought refuge in his house when he fled the wrath of his brother Esau. Laban was quick to welcome Jacob, and after Jacob had spent a month with him, he invited Jacob to live with him permanently, even offering to pay him wages.
Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Leah had weak eyes, but Rachel was lovely in form, and beautiful. Jacob was in love with Rachel and said, "I'll work for you seven years in return for your younger daughter Rachel."
Laban said, "It's better that I give her to you than to some other man. Stay here with me." (Genesis 29:16-19)
Dutifully Jacob served out his seven years, after which Laban showed himself a manipulator who put Jacob's own mastery in deal making in the shade. Instead of giving his younger daughter Rachel to Jacob, he gave him his elder daughter Leah whom Jacob, however, failed to recognize until after the marriage. When Jacob remonstrated with his uncle, Laban agreed to give him his younger daughter on the sole condition that Jacob serve him seven more years.
Another seven years later, after finally receiving the wife whom he sought, Jacob resolved to return to his own home, but Laban, no doubt wishing to retain the profitable services of his nephew, once more prevailed upon Jacob to remain with him. "Name your wages, and I shall pay them," he said.
"Let me go through all your flocks today and remove from them every speckled or spotted sheep, every dark-colored lamb and every spotted or speckled goat. They will be my wages. (Genesis 30:32)
The terms appeared most advantageous to Laban, but he and his sons soon discovered that Jacob had outwitted them in this last agreement, which procured for Jacob a large increase of flocks. He began to resent Jacob, and so did his sons, until one day Jacob decided it was best he left. Knowing that Laban would never consent to letting him go though, he departed in secret with his wives and possessions.
Appraised of Jacob's flight three days later, Laban took off in pursuit after them, wanting specially to reclaim his idols which Rachel had taken with her. He overtook Jacab seven days later, but during the night he was warned in a dream not to harm Jacob. Taking the warning seriously, he did little more than remostrate with Jacob when he met him the following day. "But why did you steal my goods," he asked.
Unaware of his wife's foolishness, Jacob invited Laban to search his tents, promising that he would put to death anyone found in possession of the idols.
Now Rachel had taken the household gods and put them inside her camel's saddle and was sitting on them. Laban searched through everything in the tent but found nothing.
Rachel said to her father, "Don't be angry, my lord, that I cannot stand up in your presence; I'm having my period." So he searched but could not find the household gods.
Laban gave up. The following morning, he returned home - and out of the story forever.