Laban was Jacob’s maternal uncle. He was also Leah’s and Rachel’s father that is, Jacob’s father-in-law.
Laban spent the better part of twenty years trying to outwit his son-in-law Jacob—a man whose name was a Hebrew idiom for “the deceiver.” Laban had a natural talent for shrewdness. Long before Jacob was born, his grandfather Abraham sent a servant in search of a wife for Isaac. When the servant happened upon Laban’s sister and presented her with fine jewelry, Laban took one look, saw his opportunity, and adopted the persona of an accommodating host.
Laban helped to arrange his sister’s marriage and received some “costly gifts” for doing so (Genesis 24:53). Laban’s cunning reached new heights when Jacob arrived, shortly after stealing the birthright from his brother Esau. Jacob fell in love with Laban’s youngest daughter, Rachel, and offered to serve Laban for seven years in exchange for Rachel’s hand in marriage.
On the wedding night, Laban managed to switch brides—Jacob awoke the next morning to see Jacob’s oldest daughter, Leah, not Rachel, lying next to him! Laban agreed to let Jacob marry Rachel, too, but only after extracting the promise of another seven years of labour.
Laban, Jacob’s deceitful father-in-law’s life is a reminder that people tend to reap what they sow. Not only did the con man get conned in the end, but Laban’s daughter Rachel inherited her father’s talent for deception and turned it against him.
Laban got years of cheap labor out of Jacob (and changed his wages several times, according to Jacob), but Jacob managed to enrich himself at Laban’s expense.
Laban was not just Jacob’s father-in-law, he was also Jacob’s uncle.
Laban’s sister Rebekah was Jacob’s mother. In other words, Leah and Rachel were Jacob’s cousins. Such incestuous marriages (in the modern view) were not unheard of in the ancient Near East.