“Isaac took Rebekah the daughter of B’tu’el the Aramean…, the sister of Laban the Aramean, to be his wife” (Gen. 25:19-20).
Now there was a place called Aram and people from there were Arameans. But one wonders whether the Torah is merely giving is a geography lesson.
Think for a moment about the statement in the Haggadah, Arami oved avi, which literally means, “My father was a wandering Aramean” (Deut. 26:5).
Some of the sages thought the words meant, “An Aramean (Laban) wanted to destroy my father (Jacob)”, but this is rather difficult grammatically.
The German Jewish commentator Benno Jacob had a different theory, that “Aramean” indicates a human type in the same way that “Canaanite” means a merchant and “Ishmaelite” is a caravan trader.
What does “Aramean” connote according to Benno Jacob?
A shepherd. “My father was a wandering Aramean” thus means, “My ancestor (Abraham?) was a nomadic shepherd”.
Along the same lines, Rabbi Shlomo Riskin links “Aramean” with ramai, a deceiver, a point already made by Sforno on Gen. 31:20.
The Aramean Laban, who was Rebekah’s brother and Jacob’s father-in-law, was certainly a deceitful man. Rebekah came from a family for whom honesty was not the best policy, and her son Jacob learned to his cost that Laban had made deceit into an art form.