Genesis 24

The Word Made Fresh

1Abraham was an old man now, and the LORD had blessed him in every way. 2He said to his oldest and most trusted servant, who was in charge of all he had, 3“Place your hand beneath my thigh 3and swear to me by the LORD, the God of heaven and earth, that you will not look for a wife for my son among the Canaanites where I live, 4but go to my home country, to my kinfolk. Look for a wife for Isaac there.”

5“If the woman is not willing to come back with me to this place,” the servant asked, “am I to take your son back to your home country?”

6Abraham said, “Absolutely do not take my son back there. 7The LORD, the God of heaven, who called me from the home of my father and the land where I was born, promised me that this land would belong to my offspring. The LORD will send an angel before you and you shall find a wife for my son there. 8If she is not willing to return with you, you are released from your obligation. But under no circumstances are you to take my son there.” 9Then the servant put his hand under Abraham’s thigh and promised to do exactly as told.

10Then the servant left with 10 of Abraham’s camels loaded with an assortment of expensive gifts from his master and set out for Aram-naharaim, to Nahor’s home city.

11When he drew near the city he made the camels kneel by a spring of water. It was nearly evening, the time when the women of the city would come out to draw water. 12He prayed, “LORD, God of my master Abraham, let me be successful today and honor my master. 13Here I am beside the spring, and the daughters of the townsfolk are approaching to draw from it. 14I will say to one of the girls, ‘Please draw me some water to drink from your jar.’ If she says, ‘Of course, and I’ll draw water for your camels also,’ let her be the one you have picked for Isaac, and I will rejoice that you have shown great favor to my master.”

15Before he finished praying, there came Rebekah, daughter of Bethuel son of Milcah, wife of Abraham’s brother Nahor, carrying her jar on her shoulder. 16She was a pretty girl, a virgin who had never been with a man. She went down to the spring, filled her jar, and came back up.

17The servant ran to her. He said, “Please, let me have a drink of water from your jar.” 18“Of course,” she said, and lowered the jar so he could drink. 19After he drank she said, “I’ll draw water for your camels, too, as much as they need.” 20She emptied her water jar into a trough, and went again to draw from the spring, and continued until all the camels were taken care of.

21The servant watched her quietly to see if the LORD had rewarded his journey. 22When the camels finished drinking he took a gold nose-ring that weighed half a shekel, and two bracelets for her arms that weighed ten gold shekels. 23He said, “Tell me whose daughter you are, and does your father have room for us to stay the night?”

24She said, “My father is Bethuel, son of Milcah and Nahor. 25And yes, we have plenty of straw and fodder for the animals and plenty of room for you to stay the night.”

26The servant bowed and worshiped the LORD, 27saying, “Honored is the LORD, the God of my master Abraham. The LORD’s love for my master Abraham is unfailing and has led me all this way straight to the house of my master’s relatives.”

28The girl ran to tell her mother’s household what had happened. 29Rebekah had a brother, Laban, and he ran to meet the man at the spring. 30He saw the nose ring and the arm bracelets, and when he heard his sister tell what the man had said, he left immediately. He found the man standing by his camels at the spring. 31He said, “The LORD has blessed you! Now come! Why stand here? I have made the house ready for you and there is room for your camels as well.”

32So, the servant went to the house, and Laban unloaded the camels and had water brought to wash the servant’s feet as well as the other men who were with him. 33Then he had food brought for them, but the servant said, “I will not eat until I have told why I am here.”

Speak!” Laban said.

34 “I am Abraham’s servant,” he said. 35The LORD has made my master very wealthy, with flocks and herds, silver and gold, male and female slaves, as well as camels and donkeys. 36Sarah, my master’s wife, gave birth to his son when she was old, and my master has bequeathed everything to his son. 37My master made me promise that I would not find a wife for his son from among the women of the Canaanites where we live. 38He said, ‘Go to my father’s house, to my kinfolk, and find a wife for my son.’ 39I said to him, ‘The woman may not wish to return with me.’ 40But he told me, ‘The LORD in whom I live and move, will send an angel with you and give you success, and you will find a wife for my son from among my own kin, my own father’s family. 41Then you will be free from your promise. When you arrive at my ancestral home, if they will not allow her to return with you, even then you will be released from my orders.’

42“So, today I came to the spring of water. I prayed, ‘LORD, God of my master Abraham, please make my journey successful! 43I am standing here by a spring of water. Let it be that the young woman who comes to draw from it, and to whom I say, “Please let me have a drink from your jar,” 44and who replies, “Drink, and I’ll draw water for your camels, too” – let her be the one the LORD has planned for the son of my master.’ 45Before I had even finished my prayer, there was Rebekah with her water jar on her shoulder! She went down to the spring and drew water. I said to her, ‘Please let me have a drink.’ 46Without hesitation she lowered her jar and said ‘Drink, and I’ll water your camels, too.’ So I drank, and she watered the camels. 47I asked her, ‘Whose daughter are you?’ She said, ‘I am the daughter of Bethuel, son of Nahor and Milcah.’ So I put the ring on her nose and the bracelets on her arms. 48I bowed my head and worshiped and thanked the LORD, my master Abraham’s God. God led me straight to the place where I would find the daughter of my master’s relatives for his son. 49Now, tell me whether or not you will be loyal to my master, so that I will know which way to turn.”

50Laban and Bethuel said, “Since this is from the LORD, we have nothing to say about it. 51Here is Rebekah; take her and go and let her marry your master’s son. The LORD has spoken.”

51Abraham’s servant bowed low in obeisance to the LORD. 52Then he brought out silver and gold jewelry and festive garments and gave them to Rebekah and he gave her brother and her mother expensive adornments as well. 54Then he and the men who travelled with him enjoyed the dinner prepared for them, and they spent the night.

The next morning when they arose he said, “Now let me return to my master.”

55Her brother and her mother said, “Let the girl stay here with us for a while longer, at least ten days, and then she can go with you.”

56But he replied, “Don’t hold me up. The LORD has made my search successful. Let me return to my master.”

57They said, “We’ll bring her in and ask her.” 58They summoned Rebekah and said to her, “Will you go with this man?”

“Yes,” she answered.

59So, they released their sister Rebekah and her nurse to go with Abraham’s servant and the men with him, 60and they gave her their approval, saying, “May you, our sister, become the mother of thousands, of millions, and may they own the gates of their enemies.”

61Then Rebekah, along with her servants, mounted the camels and followed the man back along his way, and that is how Abraham’s servant acquired Rebekah.

62In the meantime Isaac had left Beer-sheba and settled in the Negeb. 63He went for a walk in the pastures in the evening and looked up and saw a camel train approaching. 64Rebekah saw Isaac, and quickly dismounted. 65She asked Abraham’s servant, “Who is the man there, walking towards us?”

“It is my master,” the servant replied.

She immediately covered her face with her veil.

66The servant told Isaac all about his journey, and 67Isaac brought Rebekah into his mother Sarah’s tent. He took her for his wife, and he loved her, and was comforted after his mother’s death.

Commentary

1-9: Now that Sarah has died, Abraham decides it is time to find Isaac a wife. Isaac is the only child of Abraham and Sarah, and we wonder if his mother would have let him go while she lived. Abraham summons his eldest servant to give him instructions about how to go about securing a wife for Isaac. Commentators speculate that this might be Eliezer of Damascus, who was mentioned at 15:2 as the apparent heir if Abraham had never had children of his own. It is quite likely that Abraham brought relatives – nieces and nephews and cousins – with him when he migrated from Haran. It is not likely a servant who is not related to him would be the legal heir.

Abraham specified that the prospective bride must not be a Canaanite girl but must come from Abraham’s old country and family; that is, in Haran where his father settled when they migrated from Ur (11:31). In addition, Isaac must not go back there, but must remain in Canaan because that is the land God had promised would belong to Abraham’s descendants.

10-14: The servant takes an impressive assortment of gifts to serve as a bride price and heads to Aram-naharaim in modern day Syria on a tributary of the Euphrates River. The “city of Nahor” is Haran, where Abraham left his brother Nahor and his father Terah. He stops at the well outside the city, a gathering place for all the young girls in town who would have the chore of fetching water. The servant’s prayer is in keeping with common Oriental courtesy: any girl to whom he said “give me a drink of water” would of course offer to water his camels as well. In other words, the servant was planning to pick a girl and was asking God to bless his choice.

15-21: Lo and behold, the first girl to show up was a cutie. She drew water, and the servant ran to meet her. He asked her the question and she responded as he expected any decent girl would. She watered his camels while he watched, wondering if he could really be so lucky.

22-27: He pulls out of his bag a selection of jewelry that could only be interpreted as a bid price for a bride and asks her about her family. When she tells him she is Nahor’s granddaughter he knows he has arrived at the right place, and gives thanks to God.

28-33: He gives her the jewelry and she runs home to tell her family. Her brother Laban sees the gold and heads for the wellspring to meet the man who brought it. He bows and scrapes and urges the servant to come to his house and enjoy their hospitality. They sit down to eat, but the servant insists on telling his errand first.

34-41: He tells them what we read in verses 1-9.

42-44: He tells them what we read in verses 11-14.

45-49: He tells them what we read in verses 15-27, then puts the question to them: can she go with me to marry Isaac, or not?

50-51: Her brother and father speak at the same time: Take her! They seem awfully eager, but then 10½ shekels is a lot of gold.

52-61: The servant bestows gifts on Rebekah, her brother Laban and her mother. Bethuel, Rebekah’s father who was mentioned earlier at the evening meal, is apparently no longer present; no explanation given. We learn now that the servant has not made the trip alone but has an escort with him. They spend the night. The next day Laban and his mother try to persuade him to wait ten days (maybe there will be more gifts forthcoming?), but he refuses. They summon Rebekah, and she agrees to the journey, so they send her off to her new fate with a nurse and a good-bye wave.

62-66: Isaac and Rebekah meet. Their marriage is consummated in his deceased mother’s tent, which apparently is not the same as his father Abraham’s tent. Abraham and Sarah were obviously separated after his willingness to sacrifice Isaac as a burnt offering. Isaac is a wounded soul, grieving for his mother and psychologically scarred from his near-death experience at the hand of his father. He will never be as decisive as his father Abraham, but we will see that Rebekah more than makes up for any shortcomings he has in that department.

Takeaway

Have you begun to wonder where all of this is headed? Can you begin to imagine that everything happening in Genesis is in preparation for what occurs in Matthew?