Friday, August 19, 2011

Genesis Chapter 24 ~ Isaac Marries Rebekah

Genesis Chapter 24

Abraham was old and the LORD blessed him in everything, and he had his oldest household servant who was in charge of everything he had put his hand under his “thigh” (Gen. 24:2) and swear an oath to take a wife for Isaac from his family, not the Canaanites. The reason I put thigh in parenthesis is because it is probably a euphemism for Abraham's private parts; the literal translation is, "those coming out of his body." (yereko). I'm not pointing this out because it's gross, but because it's important. This is an oath that his servant would take, not by merely putting his hand under Abraham's leg, but a much more personal area (see Gen. 46:26, Ex. 1:5, and Josh. 8:30 as examples where children are described to come from a man's "thigh" as well). This is also what Jacob would do later in Genesis 47:29. If you or I had to swear an oath by putting our hand there we would probably take it pretty seriously, and one thing is for sure; we wouldn't forget what we swore! There may be something more to this having to do with fertility and the burden of prolonging the lineage of his family (Abraham was old here, and later Jacob would be too), or even the covenant as this is the place where the covenant sign is marked through circumcision. I'll leave that speculation to you and the commentaries. On with the story...

His servant doubted that a woman would follow him back to Canaan, but Abraham said the LORD would send His angel before him, but if the woman won’t follow him back he would be free from his oath. So the servant put his hand under Abraham’s “thigh” and swore to him that he would do this (Gen. 24:9).

The servant set out with 10 camels and he took many gifts and they went to Mesopotamia (or Aram Naharaim) to the city of Abraham’s brother Nahor. It’s becoming more clear now why Nahor’s family line was laid out for us in Genesis 22. That lineage was laid out to show where Isaac's wife would come from. The servant made the camels kneel outside the city by a well in the evening (that’s when the women went to draw water). And there he prayed to God:

“O LORD, God of my master Abraham, please grant me success today and show steadfast love to my master Abraham. Behold, I am standing by the spring of water, and the daughters of the men of the city are coming out to draw water. 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.” (Gen. 24:12-14)

Nahor and Milcah’s granddaughter, by Bethuel, Rebekah, came out to get water while he was still praying. She was very attractive and a virgin. She filled her jar with water and came back up. The servant did just as he prayed saying, “Please give me a little water to drink from your jar.” (Gen. 24:17) She told him to drink and drew water for his camels too (Gen. 24:19), and he watched her to see if the LORD had prospered him by bringing Rebekah as a wife for Isaac. He then gave her gifts and asked her who her father was, and he asked if they could stay with her father for the night. She said she was Bethuel’s daughter who is the son of Nahor and Milcah and that they definitely had a place he could stay the night.

So the servant bowed his head and worshiped the LORD:

"The man bowed his head and worshiped the LORD 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.'" (Gen. 24:26-27)

Her brother Laban ran out to Abraham’s servant and invited him in saying, “Come in, O blessed of the LORD…” (Gen. 24:30) He went and they gave a full display of hospitality to him and his camels, but Abraham’s servant wouldn’t eat until he said what he had to say. So he told them about Abraham and how the LORD had blessed him with wealth, but also a son, Isaac, by Sarah. He then told them how he swore to Abraham that he would find Isaac a wife from his family. He told them how he had prayed to the LORD for a the woman to do certain things, and that Rebekah seemed to be the perfect fulfillment of what he swore to find, and a specific answer to his prayers. He also described his reaction:

“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. 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.” (Gen. 24:48-49)

Abraham’s servant clearly did not boast in himself in finding Rebekah, but clearly boasted in God and how He provided all along the way. Her brother, Laban, and her father, Bethuel, gave her to Abraham’s servant to be Isaac’s wife saying to let it be as the LORD has spoken. (Gen. 24:50-51) This elicited worship to God again from the servant, and he brought out more jewelry and garments and gave them to Rebekah. He also gave costly ornaments to Laban and her mom (who is not named here). So they celebrated.

When morning came the servant asked to be sent back to Abraham with Rebekah, and Laban and her mom asked that she remain for 10 days and then she could go. He asked them not to delay him though, and they asked Rebekah how she felt about it, and she said she was willing to leave, so they sent her with her nurse, Abraham’s servant and his men, and they blessed Rebekah and said, “Our sister may you become thousands of ten thousands, and may your offspring possess the gate of those who hate him!” (Gen. 24:60) So they went away.

Isaac had returned from Beer-lahai-roi and was dwelling in the Negeb (Remember back to Gen. 16:14? This is the place where the well named Beer-lahai-roi, meaning "The well of the Living One who sees me" that Hagar went to, is located). Note that he is about 37 years old. He was born when Sarah was 90 (Gen. 17:17; 21:5) and Sarah just died at age 127 (Gen. 23:1).

Isaac went out to meditate in the field toward evening, and as he lifted up his eyes he saw camels coming. Rebekah saw him and asked who he was, and Abraham's servant said it was Isaac, so she covered herself with a veil. The servant told Isaac everything that took place, and Isaac brought her into the tent of his mother, Sarah, and took her, and she became his wife, and he loved her. He was comforted after his mother’s death in his marriage to Rebekah.

Notice first that this is the longest chapter in Genesis, and what does it focus on? Marriage! (Victor Hamilton, 138) This is an important marriage, because it is the second phase of God's fulfilling of His covenant with Abraham made back in Genesis 12. This is the second marriage that we see in the Bible (I'll write a little more about the nature of marriage later today).

The main thing I'd like to draw out is not necessarily the faithfulness of Abraham or his servant, not the hospitality of Rebekah's family, not Abraham's servants prophesying and powerful prayer, and not Rebekah's humility to go with a stranger to marry a man she never knew. Did you notice the activity of God in this passage? Yes, the people were faithful and largely displayed honorable character, but this is a picture of God at work. Abraham's servant realized it to the point that he gives all the recognition and glory to God alone for leading him to Rebekah. Yahweh did not abandon his creation after Genesis 1-2, and He never abandons His chosen people. Likewise, God did not make a covenant with Abraham to give him countless children and to bless the world through them only to let him and other men fulfill it by their own means. God will fulfill His covenant. He is trustworthy. He is faithful. He is a promise-keeper. He is sufficient to be relied upon. Even though Sarah died in the last chapter, and we have yet to see God's promised Messiah, here we see that the hope in the certain promise of a Messiah carries on as Isaac marries Rebekah. By God's power, strength, and grace the beat goes on.

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