Bethuel

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Bethuel (בתואל – Hebrew for “house of God”), in the Hebrew Bible, was an Aramean man,[1] the youngest son of Nahor and Milcah,[2] the nephew of Abraham, and the father of Laban and Rebecca.[3]

Bethuel was also a town in the territory of the tribe of Simeon, west of the Dead Sea.[4] Some scholars[5] identify it with Bethul[6] and Bethel in southern Judah,[7] to which David gives booty.[8]

Hebrew Bible[edit]

The man Bethuel appears nine times in nine verses in the Hebrew Bible, all in Genesis. Adherents of the documentary hypothesis often attribute most of these verses to the Jahwist source,[9] and the remainder to the priestly source.[10]

Bethuel lived in Padan-aram,[11] and is described as "Aramaean", although his Chaldean background is also indicated, as a descendant of Terah. Bethuel's uncle Abraham sent his senior servant to Padan-aram to find a wife for his son Isaac.[12] By the well outside the city of Nahor, in Aram-naharaim, the servant met Bethuel’s daughter Rebekah.[13] The servant told Rebekah’s household his good fortune in meeting Bethuel’s daughter, Abraham’s relative.[14] Laban and Bethuel answered, “The matter was decreed by the LORD; we cannot speak to you bad or good. Here is Rebekah before you; take her and go, and let her be a wife to your master’s son, as the LORD has spoken.”[15]

After meeting Abraham’s servant, Rebekah “ran and told all this to her mother’s household”,[16] that Rebekah’s “brother and her mother said, ‘Let the maiden remain with us some ten days’”,[17] and that “they sent off their sister Rebekah and her nurse along with Abraham’s servant and his men. And they blessed Rebekah and said to her, ‘O sister! May you grow into thousands of myriads.”[18] Some scholars thus hypothesize that mention of Bethuel in Gen. 24:50 was a late addition to the preexisting story. Other scholars argue that these texts indicate that Bethuel was somehow incapacitated. Other scholars attribute the emphasis on the mother's role to a matrilineal family structure.

A generation later, Isaac sent Jacob back to Padan-aram to take a wife from among Bethuel’s granddaughters, rather than from among the Canaanites.[19]

Family tree[edit]

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Terah
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Abraham
 
Sarah
 
 
 
 
 
Nahor
 
 
 
 
 
Haran
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Milcah
 
Lot
 
Iscah
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
7 sons
 
Bethuel
 
1st daughter
 
 
 
 
 
2nd daughter
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Isaac
 
Rebecca
 
 
 
 
 
 
Laban
 
Moabites
 
Ammonites
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Esau
 
Jacob
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Rachel
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Bilhah
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Edomites
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Zilpah
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Leah
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
1. Reuben
2. Simeon
3. Levi
4. Judah
9. Issachar
10. Zebulun
11. Dinah
 
7. Gad
8. Asher
 
5. Dan
6. Naphtali
 
12. Joseph
13. Benjamin
 
 
 

Rabbinic interpretation[edit]

In the Talmud, Rabbi Isaac called Bethuel a wicked man.[20] The midrash identified Bethuel as a king.[21]

In the Talmud, Rab in the name of Rabbi Reuben b. Estrobile cited Laban’s and Bethuel’s response to Abraham’s servant that “The matter was decreed by the Lord”[22] as a proof text for the proposition that God destines a woman and a man for each other in marriage.[23] Rabbi Joshua b. Rabbi Nehemiah in the name of Rabbi Hanina b. Isaac said that the decree with regard to Rebekah that Laban and Bethuel acknowledged came from Mount Moriah.[24]

Noting that Genesis 24:55 reports that the next day, Rebekah’s “brother and her mother said, ‘Let the maiden remain with us some ten days’” (Gen. 24:55), the Rabbis asked: “Where was Bethuel?” The midrash concluded that Bethuel wished to hinder Rebekah’s marriage, and so he was smitten during the night. (Genesis Rabbah 60:12.) The Rabbis said that Abraham’s servant did not disclose Bethuel’s fate to Isaac.[25]

In his retelling of the story, Josephus reported that Rebekah told Abraham’s servant, “my father was Bethuel, but he is dead; and Laban is my brother; and, together with my mother, takes care of all our family affairs, and is the guardian of my virginity.”[26]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Gen. 28:5
  2. ^ Gen. 22:21-22
  3. ^ Gen. 22:23; Gen. 28:5.
  4. ^ 1 Chron. 4:30.
  5. ^ e.g. Albright
  6. ^ Josh. 19:4
  7. ^ Josh. 8:17; 12:16
  8. ^ 1 Sam. 30:26-27.
  9. ^ E.g., Richard Elliott Friedman The Bible with Sources Revealed, 66, 68, 69. New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 2003; Genesis with sources highlighted, at Wikisource
  10. ^ E.g., Friedman at 71, 76.
  11. ^ Gen. 25:20.
  12. ^ Gen. 24:2-4.
  13. ^ Gen. 24:10-15.
  14. ^ Gen. 24:47-48.
  15. ^ Gen. 24:50-51.
  16. ^ Gen. 24:28
  17. ^ Gen. 24:55
  18. ^ Gen. 24:59-60.
  19. ^ Gen. 28:1-2.
  20. ^ Babylonian Talmud Yevamot 64a; see also Genesis Rabbah 60:12 (wicked); 63:4 (a rogue); Leviticus Rabbah 23:1 (a deceiver); Song of Songs Rabbah 2:4 (a trickster); Zohar 1:136b (sinful); Rashi to Gen. 25:20 (wicked).
  21. ^ Numbers Rabbah 14:11.
  22. ^ Genesis 24:50-51
  23. ^ Babylonian Talmud Mo'ed Katan 18b; see also Genesis Rabbah 68:3.
  24. ^ Genesis Rabbah 60:10.
  25. ^ Genesis Rabbah 60:15.
  26. ^ Antiquities 1:16:2:248.