Punning Around – Jacob and Laban’s Double Talk in Genesis

Genesis 29-31 is filled with puns. In fact, you could say that the Bible is filled with dad jokes. The problem is that many of these puns are lost in the translation of the text. Scott Noegel addresses some of these puns in the narrative found in Genesis 29-31 in the following article. See: Jacob and Laban’s Double Talk

He writes, “The web of puns and deceptive speech serve a similar literary function. It is through their (Jacob and Laban’s) deceptive words that the characters convey their deceptive intentions and we, as readers, are tricked along with the victims. This enables us to empathize with the deceived and to define the characters’ behavior. Yet, the literary device also belies a theological agenda. Since the narrator/redactor also engages in punning, we must see the word play phenomenon as an authorial tool to force the reader’s participation in the story, a narrative that can be clarified only as it unfolds. All along he reminds his readers through word plays that God repays both deception and acts of kindness in kind. 1


  1. Scott Noegel, “Drinking Feasts and Deceptive Feats: Jacob and Laban’s Double Talk,” in Puns and Pundits: Word Play in the Hebrew Bible and Ancient Near Eastern Literature, CDL Press, Bethesda, Maryland, 2000, p. 179

Further Study

How did Nephi use a pun on his own name?

How does the Book of Mormon use a Hebrew pun on Noah’s name?

Matthew L. Bowen, “And He Was a Young Man”: The Literary Preservation of Alma’s Autobiographical Wordplay.

Matthew L. Bowen, “Most Desirable Above All Things”: Onomastic Play on Mary and Mormon in the Book of Mormon. Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 13 (2015): 27-61.

Matthew L. Bowen, Onomastic Wordplay on Joseph and Benjamin and Gezera Shawa in the Book of Mormon. Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 18 (2016): 255-273.

Robert F. Smith, Puns, Paronomasia, and word-play in the Book of Mormon.

About LDS Scripture Teachings

I write about ways scripture applies in our lives: LDSScriptureTeachings.org
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