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Padan-aram, Paddan-aram, Padan, or Paddan, in the Hebrew Bible, refers to the plain or field of Aram-Naharaim, or the plain of the highlands, that part of Aram that lay in the Euphrates River valley. The name thus may correspond to the Hebrew “sedeh Aram,” or “field of Aram.” (Rashi to Gen. 25:20; e.g., Hos. 12:13.)
In the Hebrew Bible
Padan-aram or Padan appears 11 times in 11 verses in the Hebrew Bible, all in Genesis. Adherents of the documentary hypothesis often attribute most of these verses to the priestly source (E.g., Richard Elliott Friedman. The Bible with Sources Revealed, 71, 76, 82, 109, 113. New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 2003; Genesis with sources highlighted, at Wikisource), and the remainder to a later redactor. (Friedman at 87, 89.)
Abraham’s nephew Bethuel, son of Nahor and Milcah, and father of Laban and Rebekah, lived in Padan-aram. (Gen. 25:20.) Isaac and Rebekah sent Jacob there, away from Esau, to take refuge, and to marry a niece of Rebekah, a daughter of Laban, rather than a Canaanite, or daughters of Ishmael, as Esau had done. (Gen. 28:1-2.) There Jacob worked for Laban, fathered eleven sons and a daughter, Dinah, (Gen. 35:22-26; 46:15), and amassed livestock and wealth. (Gen. 31:18.) From there, Jacob went to the Land of Israel and Shechem. (Gen. 33:18.)
In Rabbinic Interpretation
In the midrash, Rabbi Isaac taught that the people of Padan-aram were rogues and Rebekah was like a lily among the thorns. (Genesis Rabbah 63:4 see also Leviticus Rabbah 23:1 (deceivers); Song of Songs Rabbah 2:4 (tricksters); Zohar, Bereshit 1:136b (wicked); Rashi to (Rashi to Gen. 25:20 (wicked).) Rabbi Isaac thus considered Rebekah’s sojourn in Padan-aram as emblematic of Israel’s among the nations. (Zohar, Bereshit 1:137a.)