Genesis 24: Isaac and Rebekah

1 Now Abraham was old, well advanced in years. And the Lord had blessed Abraham in all things. 2 And Abraham said to his servant, the oldest of his household, who had charge of all that he had, “Put your hand under my thigh, 3 that I may make you swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and God of the earth, that you will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell, 4 but will go to my country and to my kindred, and take a wife for my son Isaac.”

-A hand under the thigh seems rather, intimate? There are a couple different theories as to what this custom actually was. Many have posited the theory that in this culture, because having children was everything, men would actually swear on their testicles. The literal Hebrew does indicate a hand being placed beneath the thigh/loin region but it is suggested this was done sitting as opposed to how we envision a handshake standing up in our culture. If someone were to allow their hand to be sat on, it was a sign of respect. Some more information on the topic: http://www.gotquestions.org/hand-under-thigh.html . The Canaanites are not yet enemies to Abraham or his descendants as they become to the nation of Israel but Abraham likely said this because he knew the wickedness of their culture and did want that to effect his son and his children. Remember how Lot’s daughters turned out. We don’t know if Lot’s wife was a Canaanite but it seems a likely assumption and his daughters were raised under a Canaanite mother in a severely sinful Canaanite city. We just saw last chapter how peaceful Abraham lived with at least this one Canaanite tribe, the Hittites, so he certainly got along with them but tolerance and cohabitation is not the same thing as allowing another’s values to override your own. This is the same challenge we must fact as Christians. We must tolerate and cohabitate with the world instead of sheltering away but at the same time can never allow the secular culture’s values to corrode our own. It’s a difficult balancing act to be sure, but certainly Christian parents would never want their child to marry an unbeliever. That is not the same if they happen to have unbelieving friends.

5 The servant said to him, “Perhaps the woman may not be willing to follow me to this land. Must I then take your son back to the land from which you came?” 6 Abraham said to him, “See to it that you do not take my son back there. 7 The Lord, the God of heaven, who took me from my father’s house and from the land of my kindred, and who spoke to me and swore to me, ‘To your offspring I will give this land,’ he will send his angel before you, and you shall take a wife for my son from there. 8 But if the woman is not willing to follow you, then you will be free from this oath of mine; only you must not take my son back there.”

-It seems a reasonable question. Imagine if you were a young woman and some random guy came up to you and claimed to be a servant of a very rich man who is seeking a wife for his son, oh its OK…he’s a relative! We have to imagine even in this very different ancient culture, this would be quite bizarre. Abraham remembers what God had said and decides it is best that Isaac never leave this land since he was to inherit it. There was not a command in scripture that Isaac can never leave but Abraham is assuming the inheritance God mentioned would begin and wanted Isaac there to receive it when God acted. It is interesting Abraham either claims or seems to somehow know that God would send an angel to guide the servant to the right woman. We don’t know how he knows this but we also aren’t told about the servant being guided supernaturally either. It seems what Abraham said did not happen. Was Abraham just telling him something to boost his confidence? We Christians sometimes are truly told a few things by God in many ways and we tend to think we have things figured out. Relating to my own missionary experience, I was told to go to Mexico. Upon arriving he, I immediately started making assumptions about what I was going to do here and what the plan was when in actuality, as of this writing, I don’t really know. All I know is to be here, anything else is putting words in God’s mouth. Abraham appears to be drawing some extra conclusions as he had done before and he is going to be wrong again here about Issac. Issac does not receive the promised land. The Israels who fled Egypt do and then only after 40 years in the wilderness. This is why it is so foolish to assume we know what God is going to do. Could Abraham have possibly predicted what would happen?

9 So the servant put his hand under the thigh of Abraham his master and swore to him concerning this matter. 10 Then the servant took ten of his master’s camels and departed, taking all sorts of choice gifts from his master; and he arose and went to Mesopotamia to the city of Nahor.

-Nahor is the name of Abraham’s brother so it seems he and his children developed their own city after leaving Harran. It says the servant went towards Mesopotamia which is in the direction back to Harran when Abraham left his father and started his journey so the city must be somewhere in this area.

11 And he made the camels kneel down outside the city by the well of water at the time of evening, the time when women go out to draw water. 12 And he said, “O Lord, God of my master Abraham, please grant me success today and show steadfast love to my master Abraham. 13 Behold, I am standing by the spring of water, and the daughters of the men of the city are coming out to draw water. 14 Let the young woman to whom I shall say, ‘Please let down your jar that I may drink,’ and who shall say, ‘Drink, and I will water your camels’—let her be the one whom you have appointed for your servant Isaac. By this I shall know that you have shown steadfast love to my master.”

-Its good to see the servant pray to God. We don’t know this servants nationality or anything about him at all so we do not know if this was the first time or if he was a faithful follower like his master. The type of prayer he gives dictating to God should not be a model as Christians today. His prayer does indeed work, but we must remember God is not at our command and will not do what we say when we say it unless it happens to be His will. I believe God grants a little leeway to young believers as this servant seems to be. The servant may or may not be a dedicated believer but to pray in this way shows a lack of understanding. But God is merciful and answers these types of prayers in the early stages. But as a Christian matures, these types of prayers will seldom get answered because God wants to teach us obedience. When we first believe, we need faith. But once we have faith that God can answer prayers, the next step is to be obedient. A few times in my own life, I had a prayer answered like this. Because it has worked before, I often catch myself praying like this often. This is not a good happen to get into. God knows what you need and when you need it. If He wants you to do something specific, He will make sure you know. You do not have to ask for a specific sign.

15 Before he had finished speaking, behold, Rebekah, who was born to Bethuel the son of Milcah, the wife of Nahor, Abraham’s brother, came out with her water jar on her shoulder. 16 The young woman was very attractive in appearance, a maiden whom no man had known. She went down to the spring and filled her jar and came up. 17 Then the servant ran to meet her and said, “Please give me a little water to drink from your jar.” 18 She said, “Drink, my lord.” And she quickly let down her jar upon her hand and gave him a drink. 19 When she had finished giving him a drink, she said, “I will draw water for your camels also, until they have finished drinking.” 20 So she quickly emptied her jar into the trough and ran again to the well to draw water, and she drew for all his camels.

-Based on this account, Rebekah was the first woman he tried his test on and she just so happened to be the right one. Had the servant not asked for a specific sign and just ran up to Rebekah and gave her the ring and bracelets, she still would have been the right one. God did not need to give this servant a sign, God gave Him a sign to reveal Himself and build this servants walk of faith. Everything comes down to God’s relationship with an individual. When in doubt about interpretation and trying to understand God, always look at it from the perspective of God loving people and wanting them to be more like Himself and things will suddenly make perfect sense. We will continue to see this throughout the entire rest of the bible.

21 The man gazed at her in silence to learn whether the Lord had prospered his journey or not. 22 When the camels had finished drinking, the man took a gold ring weighing a half shekel, and two bracelets for her arms weighing ten gold shekels, 23 and said, “Please tell me whose daughter you are. Is there room in your father’s house for us to spend the night?” 24 She said to him, “I am the daughter of Bethuel the son of Milcah, whom she bore to Nahor.” 25 She added, “We have plenty of both straw and fodder, and room to spend the night.” 26 The man bowed his head and worshiped the Lord 27 and said, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who has not forsaken his steadfast love and his faithfulness toward my master. As for me, the Lord has led me in the way to the house of my master’s kinsmen.”

-We can see in this servant’s heart that he believed that God had answered his prayer and led him. His faith is now stronger as a result. What Rebekah did in giving water to each camel does not sound like more than just a nice gesture until you realize how much camels drink. There were 10 camels and each camel can drink up to 40 gallons of water in a single session! This must have taken the better part of a day. And she allowed him to spend the night at her father’s house. What a woman! God certainly prepared her well with an amazing servant’s heart. I love reading about the women in the bible because it always tells me exactly what I should be on the lookout for. Realistically, since there is no mention of a miracle and what it seems to say is to impractical, it seems more likely that the servant had men with him and they all worked together in drawing water. Rebekah said to do it and lead the effort and helped the whole time. This would not be contrary to the account because Rebekah still would have drawn for all the camels as it states, just not literally all of what all 10 could drink, all by herself with no help. How long would that servant and his men have been standing there while Rebekah did this all day by herself struggling? There are times where we can ask reasonable questions regarding what scripture is stating and find another solution so long as it does not contradict what is being said here or in another verifiable account. This also doesn’t change anything with the meaning of the story, it simply clarifies Rebekah is not Supergirl. Placing supernatural ability onto Rebekah WOULD be contradictory to scripture.

28 Then the young woman ran and told her mother’s household about these things. 29 Rebekah had a brother whose name was Laban. Laban ran out toward the man, to the spring. 30 As soon as he saw the ring and the bracelets on his sister’s arms, and heard the words of Rebekah his sister, “Thus the man spoke to me,” he went to the man. And behold, he was standing by the camels at the spring. 31 He said, “Come in, O blessed of the Lord. Why do you stand outside? For I have prepared the house and a place for the camels.”

-We get a confirmation that Nahor’s descendants maintained a faith or at least a bit of fear of God instead of going the ways of the Canaanites. They show the same hospitality that Abraham and Lot showed to their guests of the Lord.

32 So the man came to the house and unharnessed the camels, and gave straw and fodder to the camels, and there was water to wash his feet and the feet of the men who were with him. 33 Then food was set before him to eat. But he said, “I will not eat until I have said what I have to say.” He said, “Speak on.” 34 So he said, “I am Abraham’s servant. 35 The Lord has greatly blessed my master, and he has become great. He has given him flocks and herds, silver and gold, male servants and female servants, camels and donkeys. 36 And Sarah my master’s wife bore a son to my master when she was old, and to him he has given all that he has. 37 My master made me swear, saying, ‘You shall not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, in whose land I dwell, 38 but you shall go to my father’s house and to my clan and take a wife for my son.’ 39 I said to my master, ‘Perhaps the woman will not follow me.’ 40 But he said to me, ‘The Lord, before whom I have walked, will send his angel with you and prosper your way. You shall take a wife for my son from my clan and from my father’s house. 41 Then you will be free from my oath, when you come to my clan. And if they will not give her to you, you will be free from my oath.’ 42 “I came today to the spring and said, ‘O Lord, the God of my master Abraham, if now you are prospering the way that I go, 43 behold, I am standing by the spring of water. Let the virgin who comes out to draw water, to whom I shall say, “Please give me a little water from your jar to drink,” 44 and who will say to me, “Drink, and I will draw for your camels also,” let her be the woman whom the Lord has appointed for my master’s son.’ 45 “Before I had finished speaking in my heart, behold, Rebekah came out with her water jar on her shoulder, and she went down to the spring and drew water. I said to her, ‘Please let me drink.’ 46 She quickly let down her jar from her shoulder and said, ‘Drink, and I will give your camels drink also.’ So I drank, and she gave the camels drink also. 47 Then I asked her, ‘Whose daughter are you?’ She said, ‘The daughter of Bethuel, Nahor’s son, whom Milcah bore to him.’ So I put the ring on her nose and the bracelets on her arms. 48 Then I bowed my head and worshiped the Lord and blessed the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who had led me by the right way to take the daughter of my master’s kinsman for his son.

-I get the impression this servant was excitable and loved to tell stories. He repeats what Abraham said about the Lord sending an angel but does not giver an example so we do not know if he literally saw an angel guiding him or this was simply a manner of speaking, as we Christians often do, when we say “an angel watched over me”, when in fact, we have no idea if an angel really did watch over us. It is certainly possible and something God can do, but we don’t know for sure.

49 Now then, if you are going to show steadfast love and faithfulness to my master, tell me; and if not, tell me, that I may turn to the right hand or to the left.”

-The wording here reminds me of Proverbs 4:27 and Isaiah 30:21. This seems to be a way of speaking in Hebrew about changing one’s mind or course. The servant seems to be saying, “Can I bring back Rebekah as Isaac’s wife or should I look elsewhere?”

50 Then Laban and Bethuel answered and said, “The thing has come from the Lord; we cannot speak to you bad or good. 51 Behold, Rebekah is before you; take her and go, and let her be the wife of your master’s son, as the Lord has spoken.” 52 When Abraham’s servant heard their words, he bowed himself to the earth before the Lord. 53 And the servant brought out jewelry of silver and of gold, and garments, and gave them to Rebekah. He also gave to her brother and to her mother costly ornaments. 54 And he and the men who were with him ate and drank, and they spent the night there. When they arose in the morning, he said, “Send me away to my master.”

-Just because the servant was decorating this woman’s family with costly gifts does not mean that he is bribing them or trying to woo them with wealth. These are simply gifts from Abraham’s household and it is a sign of generosity and respect, not a grand display of wealth. These gifts are being given on behalf of Abraham to show his favor in this action towards her family. Had Abraham been poor, the same would have been done with less elaborate gifts. The point is to give up what one has. We must always remember this when we think we are too poor to afford to be hospitable. Abraham was likely very wealthy, but it probably isn’t as if he could casually surrender these types of gifts all the time.

55 Her brother and her mother said, “Let the young woman remain with us a while, at least ten days; after that she may go.” 56 But he said to them, “Do not delay me, since the Lord has prospered my way. Send me away that I may go to my master.” 57 They said, “Let us call the young woman and ask her.” 58 And they called Rebekah and said to her, “Will you go with this man?” She said, “I will go.” 59 So they sent away Rebekah their sister and her nurse, and Abraham’s servant and his men. 60 And they blessed Rebekah and said to her, “Our sister, may you become thousands of ten thousands, and may your offspring possess the gate of those who hate him!” 61 Then Rebekah and her young women arose and rode on the camels and followed the man. Thus the servant took Rebekah and went his way.

-I guess when you know something is of the Lord there is no reason to delay. It is unclear what this servant’s hurry is as he was not told to rush. Perhaps it was his excitable nature? In either case, Rebekah recognizes that this is a major turning point in her life and knows that this is right. God must have put piece on her heart because even if she was the type wooed by wealth, this is all rather bizarre. I have experienced in my own life a tendency to “hurry up and do God’s will”. I am not sure why unless it is simply a weakness of a lack of patience. It is exciting to know God’s will and be excited for it. It wonderful to know your purpose. Rebekah is finding out her purpose is to be the wife of Isaac, a man she has never met, and all she knows is that he is a relative (her second cousin) from a good household and he appears quite wealthy. This is quite a blessing of a turn in life from being the “water girl”. Perhaps God was rewarding her servant heart with a wonderfully blessed life of abundance.

62 Now Isaac had returned from Beer-lahai-roi and was dwelling in the Negeb. 63 And Isaac went out to meditate in the field toward evening. And he lifted up his eyes and saw, and behold, there were camels coming. 64 And Rebekah lifted up her eyes, and when she saw Isaac, she dismounted from the camel 65 and said to the servant, “Who is that man, walking in the field to meet us?” The servant said, “It is my master.” So she took her veil and covered herself. 66 And the servant told Isaac all the things that he had done. 67 Then Isaac brought her into the tent of Sarah his mother and took Rebekah, and she became his wife, and he loved her. So Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.

-Beer-lahai-roi was the same area where the Lord showed Hagar the well to preserve her and Ishmael’s lives. This was in the Negeb which is the desert in southern Israel so Issac had not strayed outside the promised land. The name Isaac means “laughter” and Rebekah means “ensnarer”. I always remember this story as Isaac loving Rebekah at first site but the account doesn’t say this. It says “she became his wife, and he loved her.” It is not specific as to the timing of “he loved her” and it seems to imply it was something that happened over time not the same day.

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