And Abraham was old, and well stricken in age: and the LORD had blessed Abraham in all things.
Abraham binds the chief servant of his house to seek a wife for his son Isaac among his kindred. The first movement in this matrimonial arrangement is on the part of the father, who does not consult his son, but the chief manager of his household affairs. Abraham is now a hundred and forty years of age, and Sarah has been three years dead. Isaac seems to have been of an easy, sedate turn of mind, and was not in circumstances to choose a partner for life such as his father would approve. The promise of a numerous offspring by the son of Sarah is before the mind of the patriarch. All these considerations impel him to look out for a suitable wife for his son, and the blessing of the Lord encourages him to proceed. The person whom Abraham intrusted with this delicate task has a threefold designation. First, he is "his servant" or minister. Secondly, he is the old man, ancient, or elder of his house. Here the term "elder" approaches its official signification. In early times age was taken into account, along with good conduct and aptitude, as the qualification for services of trust. Thirdly, he "ruled over all that he had." He was therefore a master as well as a minister. If this be Eliezer of mascus Genesis 15:2, he was the steward of Abraham before the birth of Ishmael fifty-four Years ago. "Under my thigh." The thigh was the seat of generative power, and the region of sacramental consecration, and to put the hand under the thigh was to acknowledge and pledge obedience to him who requires the oath.
And Abraham said unto his eldest servant of his house, that ruled over all that he had, Put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh:
And I will make thee swear by the LORD, the God of heaven, and the God of the earth, that thou shalt not take a wife unto my son of the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell:
The appeal is to God as "Yahweh, God of heaven and God of the earth." Yahweh is the personal name of God, which is properly used by those who are in fellowship with him. He is the Author of all being, and therefore of heaven and earth; and hence the arbiter of the destiny of the oath-taker, both in spiritual and material things, both in this life and in what is to come. "Not of the daughters of the Kenaanite," a race sinking fast into ungodliness and unrighteousness, doomed to extirpation, to whom the promised seed is to succeed. The kindred of Abraham were Shemites, Hebrews, and still retained some knowledge of the true God, and some reverence for him and his will. The experienced elder of Abraham's house does not wish to bind himself by an oath to what it may be impossible to fulfill. He makes the supposition of the unwillingness of the bride whom he may select, and obtains a quittance from his oath in that ease. The patriarch, however, charges him not to bring his son back to the land of his fathers, and expresses his confidence in the God of promise, that he will direct his servant to the suitable wife for his son. "His angel" Genesis 16:7. This is the Lord in the function of an angel or messenger opening the way for the servant of Abraham. He does not make any appearance to the servant, though a superintending Providence is strikingly displayed in the whole affair. The faithful elder now understands and takes the required oath.
But thou shalt go unto my country, and to my kindred, and take a wife unto my son Isaac.
And the servant said unto him, Peradventure the woman will not be willing to follow me unto this land: must I needs bring thy son again unto the land from whence thou camest?
And Abraham said unto him, Beware thou that thou bring not my son thither again.
The LORD God of heaven, which took me from my father's house, and from the land of my kindred, and which spake unto me, and that sware unto me, saying, Unto thy seed will I give this land; he shall send his angel before thee, and thou shalt take a wife unto my son from thence.
And if the woman will not be willing to follow thee, then thou shalt be clear from this my oath: only bring not my son thither again.
And the servant put his hand under the thigh of Abraham his master, and sware to him concerning that matter.
And the servant took ten camels of the camels of his master, and departed; for all the goods of his master were in his hand: and he arose, and went to Mesopotamia, unto the city of Nahor.
He proceeds on his journey. "Took ten camels." These are designed for conducting the bride and her companions home to his master. "All the best belonging to his master in his hand." This refers to the presents for the bride and her friends, and to the accommodations for her comfort on the journey. "Aram-Naharaim." Aram was an extensive area, embracing not only the country west of the Frat and north of Palestine, but the northern part of Mesopotamia, or the country between the Frat and the Dijlah. The latter region is for the sake of distinction called Aram of the two rivers. It did not include the southern part of Mesopotamia, which was called Shinar Genesis 11:2, and probably extended only to the Chaboras, Khabour. The part of it in which Haran was situated was called Padan-aram Genesis 28:2. "The city of Nahor." It is probable that Nahor accompanied his father, Terah, to Haran Genesis 11:31. If not, he must have followed him very soon.
And he made his camels to kneel down without the city by a well of water at the time of the evening, even the time that women go out to draw water.
Made the camels kneel, - for repose. "The time when the maidens that draw water come out." The evening was the cool part of the day. The simple maidens of primitive days attended personally to domestic affairs. The experienced steward might therefore naturally expect to see the high-born damsels of the land at the public well, which had probably given rise to the neighboring town. The prayer of the aged servant is conceived in a spirit of earnest, childlike faith. The matter in hand is of extraordinary importance. A wife is to be found for the heir of promise. This was a special concern of God, and so the single-hearted follower of Abraham makes it. He takes upon himself the choice of a maiden among those that come to draw, to whom he will make the request of a particular act of kindness to a stranger, and he prays God that the intended bride may be known by a ready compliance with his request. The three qualifications, then, in the mind of the venerable domestic for a bride for his master's son, are a pleasing exterior, a kindly disposition, and the approval of God.
And he said, O LORD God of my master Abraham, I pray thee, send me good speed this day, and shew kindness unto my master Abraham.
Behold, I stand here by the well of water; and the daughters of the men of the city come out to draw water:
And let it come to pass, that the damsel to whom I shall say, Let down thy pitcher, I pray thee, that I may drink; and she shall say, Drink, and I will give thy camels drink also: let the same be she that thou hast appointed for thy servant Isaac; and thereby shall I know that thou hast shewed kindness unto my master.
And it came to pass, before he had done speaking, that, behold, Rebekah came out, who was born to Bethuel, son of Milcah, the wife of Nahor, Abraham's brother, with her pitcher upon her shoulder.
The answer is immediate and direct. "He had not yet done speaking," when the answer came. A damsel "very fair to look upon," satisfying the taste of the old man, appears. He thereupon prefers his request, with which she promptly complies. The old man waits in wonder and silence to see if the Lord's approval will follow.
And the damsel was very fair to look upon, a virgin, neither had any man known her: and she went down to the well, and filled her pitcher, and came up.
And the servant ran to meet her, and said, Let me, I pray thee, drink a little water of thy pitcher.
And she said, Drink, my lord: and she hasted, and let down her pitcher upon her hand, and gave him drink.
And when she had done giving him drink, she said, I will draw water for thy camels also, until they have done drinking.
And she hasted, and emptied her pitcher into the trough, and ran again unto the well to draw water, and drew for all his camels.
And the man wondering at her held his peace, to wit whether the LORD had made his journey prosperous or not.
And it came to pass, as the camels had done drinking, that the man took a golden earring of half a shekel weight, and two bracelets for her hands of ten shekels weight of gold;
Rebekah makes herself known in reply to his inquiries. "A ring of gold." The single ring was worn in the nose, the side cartilage of which was pierced for the purpose. This is a custom of the East. "A beka" was half a shekel, somewhat less than a quarter of an ounce. "Ten of gold in weight." Ten bekas would be about two ounces and a quarter. If shekels, however, be understood, the weight will be double. These were merely a reward for her kindness and courtesy to a stranger. Two questions are now asked by the stranger - the one relating to her kindred, and the other to the means and the inclination they had to entertain a stranger, when inns were not yet in existence. She announces herself to be the daughter of his master's nephew, and assures him of the requisite accommodation.
And said, Whose daughter art thou? tell me, I pray thee: is there room in thy father's house for us to lodge in?
And she said unto him, I am the daughter of Bethuel the son of Milcah, which she bare unto Nahor.
She said moreover unto him, We have both straw and provender enough, and room to lodge in.
And the man bowed down his head, and worshipped the LORD.
Bowed his head and worshipped. - The bowing of the head and of the body are here combined to indicate the aged servant's deep thankfulness for the guidance of the Lord. The utterance of the mouth accompanies the external gesture of reverence. "Her mother's house;" those who were in the department of the females. We may imagine with what excitement and alacrity Rebekah would communicate the extraordinary intelligence.
And he said, Blessed be the LORD God of my master Abraham, who hath not left destitute my master of his mercy and his truth: I being in the way, the LORD led me to the house of my master's brethren.
And the damsel ran, and told them of her mother's house these things.
And Rebekah had a brother, and his name was Laban: and Laban ran out unto the man, unto the well.
The reception of Abraham's servant. Laban now comes on the scene. He is ready to run with his sister to find the man, and invite him, as a matter of course, to his father's house. "When he saw the ring." The presents to his sister assure him that this is the envoy of some man of wealth and position. "Thou blessed of the Lord." The name of Yahweh was evidently not unfamiliar to Laban's ears. He calls this stranger "blessed of Yahweh," on account of his language, demeanor, and manifest prosperity. The knowledge and worship of the living God, the God of truth and mercy, was still retained in the family of Nahor. Being warmly invited, the man enters the house. "And he ungirded the camels." Laban is the actor here, and in the following duties of hospitality. "The men's feet that were with him." It comes out here, incidentally, as it was reasonable to infer from the number of camels, that Abraham's steward had a retinue of servants with him. The crowning act of an Eastern reception is the presenting of food. But the faithful servant must deliver his message before partaking of the friendly meal.
The servant's errand is told. He explains his business in a singularly artless and pleasing manner. He then leaves the matter in the hands of the family. "Given unto him all that he hath." His children by Hagar and Keturah were dismissed with portions during his life, and the main bulk of his property was conveyed to Isaac.
And it came to pass, when he saw the earring and bracelets upon his sister's hands, and when he heard the words of Rebekah his sister, saying, Thus spake the man unto me; that he came unto the man; and, behold, he stood by the camels at the well.
And he said, Come in, thou blessed of the LORD; wherefore standest thou without? for I have prepared the house, and room for the camels.
And the man came into the house: and he ungirded his camels, and gave straw and provender for the camels, and water to wash his feet, and the men's feet that were with him.
And there was set meat before him to eat: but he said, I will not eat, until I have told mine errand. And he said, Speak on.
And he said, I am Abraham's servant.
And the LORD hath blessed my master greatly; and he is become great: and he hath given him flocks, and herds, and silver, and gold, and menservants, and maidservants, and camels, and asses.
And Sarah my master's wife bare a son to my master when she was old: and unto him hath he given all that he hath.
And my master made me swear, saying, Thou shalt not take a wife to my son of the daughters of the Canaanites, in whose land I dwell:
But thou shalt go unto my father's house, and to my kindred, and take a wife unto my son.
And I said unto my master, Peradventure the woman will not follow me.
And he said unto me, The LORD, before whom I walk, will send his angel with thee, and prosper thy way; and thou shalt take a wife for my son of my kindred, and of my father's house:
Then shalt thou be clear from this my oath, when thou comest to my kindred; and if they give not thee one, thou shalt be clear from my oath.
And I came this day unto the well, and said, O LORD God of my master Abraham, if now thou do prosper my way which I go:
Behold, I stand by the well of water; and it shall come to pass, that when the virgin cometh forth to draw water, and I say to her, Give me, I pray thee, a little water of thy pitcher to drink;
And she say to me, Both drink thou, and I will also draw for thy camels: let the same be the woman whom the LORD hath appointed out for my master's son.
And before I had done speaking in mine heart, behold, Rebekah came forth with her pitcher on her shoulder; and she went down unto the well, and drew water: and I said unto her, Let me drink, I pray thee.
And she made haste, and let down her pitcher from her shoulder, and said, Drink, and I will give thy camels drink also: so I drank, and she made the camels drink also.
And I asked her, and said, Whose daughter art thou? And she said, The daughter of Bethuel, Nahor's son, whom Milcah bare unto him: and I put the earring upon her face, and the bracelets upon her hands.
And I bowed down my head, and worshipped the LORD, and blessed the LORD God of my master Abraham, which had led me in the right way to take my master's brother's daughter unto his son.
And now if ye will deal kindly and truly with my master, tell me: and if not, tell me; that I may turn to the right hand, or to the left.
Then Laban and Bethuel answered and said, The thing proceedeth from the LORD: we cannot speak unto thee bad or good.
The servant's return with Rebekah. So plain an interposition of Providence admits of no refusal on the part of those who revere the Lord. Bethuel now appears as a concurring party. Laban, as the full brother of Rebekah, has a voice in the disposal of her hand; but the father only has the power to ratify the contract. The patriarch's servant first bows in acknowledgment to the Lord, who had now manifested his approval of the choice he had made, and then proceeds to distribute costly gifts to the bride, and to her brother and mother. Now at length the thankful guest partakes of the fare set before him along with his entertainers, and after the night's repose requests to be dismissed. "A few days;" perhaps a week or ten days. The mother and brother naturally plead for a little time to prepare for parting with Rebekah. They could not expect the servant, however, to stay months.
"Inquire at her mouth." This is the only free choice in the matter that seems to be given to Rebekah. Her consent may have been modestly indicated, before her family ratified the contract. It is plain, however, that it was thought proper that the parents should receive and decide upon a proposal of marriage. The extent to which the maiden's inclinations would be consulted would depend very much on the custom of the country, and the intelligence and good feeling of the parents. In later times the custom became very arbitrary. Rebekah's decision shows that she concurred in the consent of her relatives. "And her nurse." Her name, we learn afterward Genesis 35:8, was Deborah. The nurse accompanied the bride as her confidential adviser and faithful attendant, and died in her service; a beautiful trait of ancient manners. The blessing consists in a boundless offspring, and the upper hand over their enemies. These are indicative of a thin population, and a comparatively rude state of society. "And her damsels." We here learn, again, incidentally, that Rebekah had more female attendants than her nurse.
Behold, Rebekah is before thee, take her, and go, and let her be thy master's son's wife, as the LORD hath spoken.
And it came to pass, that, when Abraham's servant heard their words, he worshipped the LORD, bowing himself to the earth.
And the servant brought forth jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment, and gave them to Rebekah: he gave also to her brother and to her mother precious things.
And they did eat and drink, he and the men that were with him, and tarried all night; and they rose up in the morning, and he said, Send me away unto my master.
And her brother and her mother said, Let the damsel abide with us a few days, at the least ten; after that she shall go.
And he said unto them, Hinder me not, seeing the LORD hath prospered my way; send me away that I may go to my master.
And they said, We will call the damsel, and inquire at her mouth.
And they called Rebekah, and said unto her, Wilt thou go with this man? And she said, I will go.
And they sent away Rebekah their sister, and her nurse, and Abraham's servant, and his men.
And they blessed Rebekah, and said unto her, Thou art our sister, be thou the mother of thousands of millions, and let thy seed possess the gate of those which hate them.
And Rebekah arose, and her damsels, and they rode upon the camels, and followed the man: and the servant took Rebekah, and went his way.
And Isaac came from the way of the well Lahairoi; for he dwelt in the south country.
Isaac receives his bride. He had been at Beer-lahai-roi, the scene of the interview of Hagar with the angel of the Lord - a spot calculated to awaken thoughts of an overruling Providence. "To meditate." This is a characteristic of Isaac's retiring, contemplative mood. Abraham was the active, authoritative father; Isaac was the passive, submissive son. To meditate was to hold converse with his own thoughts, to ponder on the import of that never-to-be-forgotten scene when he was laid on the altar by a father's hand, and a ram caught in the thicket became his substitute, and to pour out his soul unto the God of his salvation. In this hour of his grave reflection comes his destined bride with her faithful escort upon his view. Rebekah lights off the camel. Doubtless the conversation by the way with the elder of Abraham's house had made her aware of their approach to the residence of her future husband.
She concludes at once that this must be he, and, alighting, asks if it be. On being informed by the servant that this is his young master, she puts on the veil, which covers the head, and hangs down gracefully both behind and before. The aged servant reports the success of his mission, and presents Rebekah. Isaac brings his cousin's daughter into the apartments formerly occupied by his mother, and accepts her as his wife. The formalities of the interview, and of her presentation to Abraham as his daughter-in-law, are all untold. "And he loved her." This is the first mention of the social affections. It comes in probably because Isaac had not before seen his bride, and now felt his heart drawn toward her, when she was presented to his view. All things were evidently done in the fear of God, as became those who were to be the progenitors of the seed of promise. We have here a description of the primeval marriage. It is a simple taking of a woman for a wife before all witnesses, and with suitable feelings and expression of reverence toward God, and of desire for his blessing. It is a pure and holy relation, reaching back into the realms of innocence, and fit to be the emblem of the humble, confiding, affectionate union between the Lord and his people.
- The Death of Abraham
1. קטוּרה qeṭûrâh, "Qeturah, incense."
2. זמרן zı̂mrān, "Zimran, celebrated in song." יקשׁן yāqshān, "Joqshan, fowler." מדן medān, "Medan, judge." מדין mı̂dyān, "Midian, one who measures." לאבק yı̂shbāq, "Jishbaq, he leaves." שׁוּח shûach, "Shuach, pit."
3. לטוּשׁם leṭûshı̂ym, "Letushim, hammered, sharpened." לאמים le'umı̂ym, "Leummim, peoples."
4. עיפה ‛êypâh, "'Ephah, darkness." עפר ‛êper, "'Epher, dust." אבידע 'ǎbı̂ydā‛, "Abida', father of knowledge." אלדעה 'eldā‛âh, "Elda'ah, knowing?"
Another family is born to Abraham by Keturah, and portioned off, after which he dies and is buried.
And Isaac went out to meditate in the field at the eventide: and he lifted up his eyes, and saw, and, behold, the camels were coming.
And Rebekah lifted up her eyes, and when she saw Isaac, she lighted off the camel.
For she had said unto the servant, What man is this that walketh in the field to meet us? And the servant had said, It is my master: therefore she took a vail, and covered herself.
And the servant told Isaac all things that he had done.
And Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah's tent, and took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her: and Isaac was comforted after his mother's death.