Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Ch. 24. The Story of Rebekah (J)
This chapter, which gives one of the most vivid descriptions of the unchanging features of Oriental life to be found in the O.T., is from J. The narrative falls into four divisions:
(1) 1–9. Abraham’s commission to his servant.
(2) 10–28. The servant and Rebekah at the well.
(3) 29–53. The betrothal of Rebekah.
(4) 54–67. Abraham’s servant brings Rebekah to Isaac.
That the story may figuratively preserve a tradition of the amalgamation of Aramaean clans with the main Hebrew body is quite probable. But the picturesque details of the narrative are drawn from the life, and are evidently based on personal experience.
And Abraham was old, and well stricken in age: and the LORD had blessed Abraham in all things.1–9. Abraham’s Commission to his Servant
1. well stricken in age] Cf. Genesis 18:11. The Hebrew phrase means “going in days,” just as we should say “advanced in years.” Cf. Luke 1:7.
had blessed] Cf. Genesis 24:35.
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:2. his servant, the elder of his house] This servant has very generally been identified with the Eliezer mentioned in Genesis 15:2. The identity is nowhere explicitly stated; but it should be noted that chap. 15 is derived from E, while this chapter comes from J, and the absence of any reference to Eliezer by name need not surprise us.
“The elder of his house,” not necessarily the “eldest” of his house servants, but the one of chief authority and dignity (cf. Genesis 50:7), who, if there was no heir, would succeed to the property.
that ruled over all that he had] i.e. a trusted slave who acted as the steward of Abraham’s property: see note on Genesis 15:4. Cf. the description of Joseph in Genesis 39:4; Genesis 39:22; Psalm 105:21; and of Ziba in 2 Samuel 9:2-13; 2 Samuel 16:1-4.
Put … under my thigh] For this symbolical act, compare the request made by Jacob in Genesis 47:29, where, in the expectation of death, he binds Joseph by the solemn pledge of this sign. Presumably Abraham is expecting his death; and he causes his servant to swear in the most solemn way that he will carry out his master’s wish.
The words “under my thigh” probably contain a survival of a very ancient piece of symbolism. The word “thigh” is rendered “loins” in Genesis 46:26, Exodus 1:5. The phrase here seems to refer to the organs of generation, and also, possibly, to the covenant rite of circumcision. The appeal is made to those who hereafter should be born, on the one hand, to attest the oath, and, on the other, to avenge its violation. Similar symbolic acts have been found to exist among other primitive races. A custom like this long outlives the recollection of its original significance. The ritual remains binding; its purpose may be forgotten.
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:3. the God of heaven … earth] This solemn title of Jehovah as God of the whole universe is more common in later Hebrew writings; cf. Ezra 5:11. This form of adjuration indicates the conviction of the writer that the God of the Hebrews was the God of the whole world, not merely of a particular locality or nation: compare Genesis 18:25. No change of country, no lapse of time, would constitute an exemption from the binding character of the oath.
of the daughters of the Canaanites] The dread of the marriage of an Israelite with a Canaanite which is found here, is also expressed in Genesis 26:34-35, Genesis 27:46; Exodus 34:16; Deuteronomy 7:3; Ezra 9:2. For “Canaanite,” cf. Genesis 10:18-19, Genesis 12:6, Genesis 13:7 (J).
Religious feeling underlies this prohibition. The purity of the Hebrew race is to be maintained. Intermarriage would involve participation in religious rites. Separateness would give a corresponding freedom from moral contamination.
But thou shalt go unto my country, and to my kindred, and take a wife unto my son Isaac.4. my country … kindred] Here, as in Genesis 28:2 (P), the country and kindred of Abraham are to be sought, not in Ur of the Chaldees, but in the land of Haran, or Paddan-aram; cf. Genesis 24:7.
take a wife for my son Isaac] It was customary for the father to select a bride for his son; cf. Genesis 34:4; Jdg 14:2. The same custom prevailed in Babylon, as appears from the Code of Hammurabi, § 155, “if a man betroth a maiden to his son,” &c.
“Marriage between cousins has been and still is particularly common in the East (cp. Genesis 24:4; Genesis 29:19; 1 Kings 14:31; 1 Kings 15:2), and the tie between them is closer and more sacred than that between an ordinary couple” (Burckhardt, Ar. Prov., quoted in Stanley Cook, p. 99).
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?5. bring … again] Here and in Genesis 24:6; Genesis 24:8 and Genesis 22:5 the word “again” is used for “back.” Abraham’s tone is that of a man who is on his death-bed.
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.7. the God of heaven] The LXX adds “and the God of the earth,” from Genesis 24:3. The phrase “the God of heaven” occurs in Ezra 5:12; Nehemiah 1:4-5; Nehemiah 2:4; Jonah 1:9; Tob 5:16.
the land of my nativity] See Genesis 12:1 (J). The land of Haran is clearly intended.
that sware unto me, &c.] The reference is to Genesis 12:7; cf. also Genesis 13:15, Genesis 15:18, Genesis 22:16.
he shall send his angel] It is noteworthy that Abraham does not here speak of Jehovah being present with the servant on his mission. The servant of Abraham will be guided by “the messenger, or angel,” of Abraham’s God. For “the angel of Jehovah” going before His people, cf. Exodus 14:19; Exodus 23:20; Exodus 32:34; Psalm 91:11.
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.8. thou shalt be clear from this my oath] Cf. Genesis 24:41. The word “clear” is used in the sense of “innocent,” or “guiltless,” as in Joshua 2:17, “we will be guiltless of this thine oath.” “Clear” in this sense is old English. Cf. Shakespeare, Macb. i. 7, “… this Duncan … hath been so clear in his great office, that his virtues will plead like angels.”
And the servant put his hand under the thigh of Abraham his master, and sware to him concerning that matter.9. concerning this matter] Lit. “according to this word.”
It has been supposed that the account of Abraham’s death, according to J, followed at this point, and, if so, it was omitted by the compiler, who inserted by preference the account from P, in Genesis 25:7-11. It is pointed out that (1) the oath is administered to the servant, instead of a simple order, in expectation of immediate death, cf. Genesis 47:31; (2) the difficulties in Genesis 24:67 suggest that some alteration of the text has there been made, in order to harmonize the narrative with the subsequent mention of Abraham’s death in chap. 25.
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.10–28. Rebekah at the Well
10. ten camels] The largeness of this retinue is intended (1) to impress strangers with the reality and value of the proposed connexion by marriage: (2) to provide for the adequate means of conveying the bride and her attendant hand-maidens, cf. Genesis 24:61.
having all … hand] R.V. marg. for all the goods of his master were in his hand. See Genesis 25:5. A slightly different turn is given to the sentence by the versions, LXX καὶ ἀπὸ πάντων τῶν ἀγαθῶν τοῦ κυρίου αὐτοῦ, Lat. ex omnibus bonis ejus portans secum.
The servant carried with him gifts for the bride and for her family on behalf of the bridegroom: see Genesis 24:22; Genesis 24:53.
Mesopotamia] Aram-naharaim, that is, Aram of the two rivers. This is the region watered by the Upper Euphrates which appears in the Tel-el-Amarna tablets with the name Naharina, or “the river land.” The termination -aim denotes the dual number; and hence the proposed rendering “Aram of the two rivers.” If so, the two rivers are the Euphrates and its confluent the Habor; not the Tigris and the Euphrates. Another explanation supposes that the two sides of the river Euphrates are implied by the dual. But it is doubtful whether the sound of the dual termination is anything more than an accident: compare other proper names with the same termination, e.g. Ephraim, Mahanaim, Jerusalaim; and see note on Mizraim (= Egypt) in Genesis 10:6.
The name “Mesopotamia” is derived from a later time, and is really applicable to a somewhat different region. For other mention of Mesopotamia, cf. Deuteronomy 23:4; Jdg 3:8; 1 Chronicles 19:6. Instead of Aram-naharaim, P writes Paddan-aram. Cf. Genesis 25:20; Genesis 28:2.
the city of Nahor] The city where Nahor dwelt after Abraham’s departure. The name, not mentioned here, appears as Haran in Genesis 27:43, Genesis 28:10, Genesis 29:4 : cf. Genesis 11:31, Acts 7:2.
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.11. he made the camels to kneel down] Throughout this chapter the camels are made to play a very prominent part. The camels being made to kneel, in order to wait and rest until they are given water, is a common scene in the East.
the time that … to draw water] We have here a familiar scene from Oriental life. The well is outside the gate of the town. It is the women’s duty to draw water: cf. 1 Samuel 9:11; John 4:7. They come when the heat of the day is past.
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.12. O Lord, the God of my master] Referring to Genesis 24:7. The servant, though possibly (Genesis 15:2) a native of Damascus, worships the God of Abraham; cf. Genesis 24:26.
Behold, I stand here by the well of water; and the daughters of the men of the city come out to draw water:13. the fountain of water] Two words are used in this passage which require to be distinguished: (1) “the fountain,” or “spring” (‘ayin), the water of which rises from the ground, or out of the rock; and (2) “the well” (be’êr), as in Genesis 24:11; Genesis 24:20, the tank or cistern, protected with stones, and provided with steps leading down to the actual “fountain” or “spring”; cf. 16. The “well” is the LXX φρέαρ, Lat. puteus: the “fountain” is the LXX πηγή, Lat. fons, cf. Genesis 16:7.
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.14. and let it come to pass] The servant contemplates the possibility of repeated application and failure. The sign for which he makes petition is the voluntary offer on the part of a girl to give water, not only to himself, but also to his camels. This would be no mere formality, but a practical and laborious act of kindness towards a stranger, done probably in the presence of many bystanders and idlers; and therefore making a demand upon energy and moral courage as well as physical strength.
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.15. Rebekah] Here described as the daughter of Bethuel, as in Genesis 24:24; Genesis 24:47; cf. Genesis 22:20-24, Genesis 25:20, Genesis 28:2. The absence, however, of any mention of Bethuel except in Genesis 24:50, and the mention of Rebekah’s mother and her brother Laban as the representatives of the house (Genesis 24:28; Genesis 24:55), have led to the conjecture, that Bethuel was dead, and that his name in Genesis 24:50 is due to a gloss or a textual error.
her pitcher upon her shoulder] Cf. Genesis 21:14; Exodus 12:34; Joshua 4:5. Everything turned upon the girl having a pitcher: hence the mention of this detail.
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.20. trough] There was a separate receptacle, probably of stone, for watering the animals; Rebekah empties the rest of her pitcher into this trough, and probably has to fill it several times in order to give water enough for the 10 camels1.
 Times, p. 4, Aug. 18, 1913, “Studies in the Zoological Gardens, 4.” “However ‘patient of thirst,’ in Thomson’s phrase, the camel may be … it is also true that it drinks inordinate quantities when it gets the chance.… It is recorded that an individual [camel] has drunk as much as 20 gallons at a sitting, a fact which throws new light on the incident of Rebekah at the well. Abraham’s servant … had ten camels, and after he had refreshed himself from Rebekah’s pitcher, ‘she said, I will draw water for thy camels also, until they have done drinking.… And the man, wondering at her, held his peace.…’ As well he might. ‘Until they have done drinking’—the words were written by one who knew camels; and Rebekah’s acts of kindness to the stranger and his beasts were of larger proportions than the casual reader of these days might infer.”
And the man wondering at her held his peace, to wit whether the LORD had made his journey prosperous or not.21. looked stedfastly … his peace] Lat. contemplabatur eam tacitus. The servant was astonished to find that the sign for which he had prayed had been given in the case of the first girl that had come to draw water; hence his look of eagerness, questioning, and silent thought.
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;22. a golden ring] The ring (nezem) was probably a nose-ring, cf. Genesis 24:47. So the Samaritan version here reads “and put it on her nose.” LXX ἐνώτια, Lat. inaures = “earrings.”
See for the nezem Proverbs 11:22, Isaiah 3:21, Ezekiel 16:12, where in each case a nose-jewel is indicated.
half a shekel weight] Heb. beḳa. See Exodus 38:26. Half a shekel weighed one quarter of an ounce. There is only mention of one ring, and this is of light weight. The two bracelets weighed 10 shekels, or 5 ounces. These gifts reward her kindness in a lavish manner, and lead up to the request for a lodging at her home. On the shekel, see Genesis 20:16, Genesis 23:15.
And said, Whose daughter art thou? tell me, I pray thee: is there room in thy father's house for us to lodge in?23. room] Lit. “place” as in Genesis 24:25. Cf. Psalm 31:8, “in a large room” (A.V.) = “in a large place” (R.V.).
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.25. straw and provender] The character of Rebekah comes out in her practical answer. Food and stabling for the 10 camels would be more difficult to find than a lodging for the man. The Latin renders “room to lodge in” somewhat freely by locus spatiosus ad manendum.
And the man bowed down his head, and worshipped the LORD.26. the man bowed his head] Cf. Genesis 24:48, Genesis 43:28 (J). Rebekah’s mention of her family had dispelled the servant’s last doubt; bowing his head he gives praise to Jehovah, the God of Abraham; cf. Genesis 24:12.
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.27. who hath not forsaken his mercy and his truth] For a very similar sentence, cf. Ruth 2:20, “Blessed be he of the Lord who hath not left off his kindness.” The word used here for “mercy” is the same as that rendered “kindness,” Genesis 24:12; Genesis 24:14, and “kindly” in Genesis 24:49. The combination of the Heb. words for “mercy” and “truth” was almost proverbial; cf. Genesis 32:10, Genesis 47:29, “kindly and truly” (J), Psalm 98:3. “Mercy” denotes the goodness, “truth” the fidelity of God, in the fulfilment of His promises.
brethren] i.e. “kindred,” as in Genesis 24:48. See note on Genesis 13:8.
And the damsel ran, and told them of her mother's house these things.28. her mother’s house] Her father probably was dead. The “house” is not the building, but the “household,” cf. Genesis 18:19.
And Rebekah had a brother, and his name was Laban: and Laban ran out unto the man, unto the well.29–53. The Betrothal of Rebekah
29. Laban] Rebekah’s brother Laban (cf. Genesis 25:20, Genesis 28:2, Genesis 29:5) takes the part of the chief representative of Rebekah’s family. Bethuel, their father, is mentioned along with him only in Genesis 24:50; and their mother in Genesis 24:53; Genesis 24:55.
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.30. when he saw the ring] With a slight touch of ironical humour, the first hint is thus given of Laban’s avaricious character. The sight of the gold seems to stimulate his courtesy to the servant.
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.31. thou blessed of the Lord] Cf. Genesis 26:29. Laban’s reference to Jehovah probably implies that he too, as a member of Abraham’s kindred, was a worshipper of Jehovah the God of Abraham.
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.32. the man] i.e. Abraham’s servant; he ungirded his own camels, and Laban gave them straw and fodder. The camel is a most valuable possession, but a delicate animal, needing care and attention.
he gave straw] i.e. Laban.
water] Cf. Genesis 18:4.
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.33. meat] i.e. “food.” See note on Genesis 1:29.
I will not eat] The courtesies of the East would prohibit an enquiry into the stranger’s name before he had partaken of food. The name might possibly reveal relations, e.g. those of blood-feud, which would exclude hospitality.
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.35. hath blessed] Cf. Genesis 24:1. The servant recounts the wealth of Abraham of which we have heard in Genesis 12:16, Genesis 13:2. The servant’s first object is to represent that, from a worldly point of view, a marriage with Abraham’s son would be not only prudent, but desirable.
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.36. unto him hath he given] The servant here states that Abraham has already made over to Isaac the great bulk of his wealth, as is stated in Genesis 25:5. Those who suppose that the mention of Abraham’s death originally occurred after Genesis 24:9, regard this sentence as indicating Abraham’s final disposition of his property.
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:37. And my master made me swear] This and the four following verses recapitulate the substance of Genesis 24:3-8. The dénouement of the story is thus retarded. Similarly in the following vv. (42–48) the suspense caused by the repetition tends to heighten the interest.
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:42. And I came this day] Genesis 24:42-48 recapitulate the substance of 12–27.
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.48. my master’s brother’s daughter] The servant definitely states the relationship of Rebekah; cf. Genesis 22:23. “Brother” may mean “relative” (Genesis 13:8, Genesis 14:14). Those who think Bethuel’s name in this chapter (Genesis 24:15; Genesis 24:24; Genesis 24:47 ) is inserted as a gloss, regard Rebekah as Abraham’s niece, the daughter of Nahor, and refer to Genesis 29:5.
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.49. deal kindly and truly] Lit. “do kindness and truth”; cf. Genesis 47:29. See note on Genesis 24:27.
to the right hand, or to the left] The servant asks for a prompt reply, so that, if his request is refused, he may consider what course next to pursue. For fanciful Rabbinic interpretations of “the right hand and the left,” cf. Calvin’s note, futilis autem argutia quam adducunt quidam Hebraei quod iturus sit ad Lot vel ad Ismael.
Then Laban and Bethuel answered and said, The thing proceedeth from the LORD: we cannot speak unto thee bad or good.50. Laban and Bethuel] The only passage in which, if the text is correct, Bethuel takes a prominent part in the transaction. Even here Laban is mentioned before him. For some reason, Bethuel is in the background: cf. Genesis 29:5. Hence Kittel reads “and his house,” ûbêthô; Holzinger, “and Milcah”: see Genesis 24:53.
from the Lord] It is recognized that Jehovah, the God of the family, has brought this thing to pass.
speak … bad or good] They have no voice. God has settled the matter. To accept will mean a good marriage for Rebekah, but her separation, at a great distance, from her family. To refuse is to reject a chance for her wealth and happiness, as well as to act in apparent opposition to the signs of Jehovah’s will. “Bad and good,” “yes and no,” are evenly balanced. It is a proverbial phrase, cf. Genesis 31:24; Numbers 24:13; 2 Samuel 13:22.
Behold, Rebekah is before thee, take her, and go, and let her be thy master's son's wife, as the LORD hath spoken.51. take … and go] The betrothal is thus summarily settled. The bride is not consulted!
as the Lord hath spoken] Referring to the manner in which the will Jehovah had evidently been made known. Events, not words, had been the means of revelation.
And it came to pass, that, when Abraham's servant heard their words, he worshipped the LORD, bowing himself to the earth.52. bowed himself down] Cf. Genesis 24:26; Genesis 24:48. The servant renders thanks to Jehovah before proceeding to ratify the betrothal.
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.53. jewels … silver … gold … raiment] The word “jewels” in the original is indefinite, and might be rendered “vessels,” as LXX σκεύη and Lat. vasa. The servant’s first act is to ratify the betrothal by making the betrothal gifts to the bride. Oriental custom required that, at the betrothal, gifts should be made to the parents or nearest representative relations of the bride. Mention of marriage gifts (mohar) to the bride’s family is found also in Genesis 34:12; Exodus 22:16-17; Deuteronomy 22:19; 1 Samuel 18:25. The custom must be regarded as a remnant of still earlier times, when the bride was purchased, and the marriage ceremony consisted chiefly of a financial transaction. In this verse, the “precious things,” given by the servant to Rebekah’s brother and mother, constitute the customary mohar to the bride’s family. This custom is also mentioned in the Code of Hammurabi, §§ 159–161.
It is noticeable that the “precious things” are given, not to Rebekah’s father, Bethuel, but to her brother and mother. This is an important point in favour of the view, mentioned above, that Bethuel’s name in Genesis 24:50 is an interpolation (see note on Genesis 24:15).
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.54–67. Abraham’s Servant brings Rebekah to Isaac
55. her brother and her mother] LXX and Lat. read “her brothers and her mother.”
a few days, at the least ten] Heb. “days or ten,” or, as we should say, “a week or ten days”; the word “or” meaning “or rather.” LXX ἡμέρας ὡσεὶ δέκα, Lat. saltem decem dies. The Syriac Peshitto, “a month in days.” A possible conjecture based on these variations is that of Olshausen, “a month of days, or ten.”
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.56. to my master] The servant entreats that there should be no delay. He wishes to return with the bride to his master. Whether this is Abraham or Isaac, is not stated. But, judging from Genesis 24:65, there is ground for the supposition that Isaac is intended.
Otherwise, the servant’s haste may be supposed to have been dictated by a knowledge of Abraham’s failing condition. If so, it is strange that there is no mention of Abraham on the return.
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.59. their sister] Laban is thus referred to as the head of the family; cf. “your daughter” in Genesis 34:8.
her nurse] i.e. her special personal attendant; cf. Genesis 29:24; Genesis 29:29. The name of the nurse appears in Genesis 35:8 as Deborah.
and his men] The servant’s retinue, mentioned in Genesis 24:32; see note on Genesis 24:10.
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.60. And they blessed Rebekah] The farewell blessing and good wishes of the family referred in Oriental fashion to the two objects of desire, (1) that she should be the mother of many descendants; and (2) that they should be victorious over their enemies.
possess the gate of] Cf. Genesis 22:17. “The possessors of the gate” were the controllers of the affairs of the city.
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.61. her damsels] Rebekah took attendants with her besides the nurse mentioned in Genesis 24:59. See note on Genesis 24:10.
And Isaac came from the way of the well Lahairoi; for he dwelt in the south country.62. from the way] The reading of LXX, through the wilderness, is supported by the Samaritan, and gives a good meaning. Isaac had been dwelling in the Negeb, and had now come, “through the wilderness,” to Beer-lahai-roi, to meet the returning messengers. The Hebrew text is probably corrupt. Literally rendered, it runs, “And Isaac came from the coming of the well”; this has been understood to mean “from the direction of the well,” Lat. per viam quae ducit ad puteum. The clause evidently intends to state that the vicinity of Beer-lahai-roi (Genesis 16:14, Genesis 25:11) is the scene of the meeting between Isaac and Rebekah. Conjectural emendations, e.g. “from Beer-sheba to Beer-lahai-roi,” or “from Beer-lahai-roi,” are very doubtful.
in the land of the South] Lit. in the land of the Negeb. See note on Genesis 12:9.
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.63. to meditate] A strange and poetical word to be used in this context. It has given rise to very various renderings: LXX ἀδολεσχῆσαι, Lat. ad meditandum, Aq. ὁμιλῆσαι, Sym. λαλῆσαι, Syr. Pesh. “to walk about” (so Gesenius), with a slight variation of the reading. Rashi says the word means “prayer”; Ibn Ezra, “to walk between the shrubs”; Bötticher, “to fetch brushwood.” Many modern scholars, e.g. Knobel, Ewald, Strack, and Gunkel, render “to wail,” or “lament,” comparing the use of the same word in Psalm 55:2; Psalm 55:17 (“moan”), Psalm 142:2 (“complaint”); and doubtless this rendering has the merit of agreeing with the mention of Isaac’s need of being comforted (Genesis 24:67).
As the servant does not bring Rebekah to Abraham, there is good reason for the conjecture that Abraham’s death had occurred.
And Rebekah lifted up her eyes, and when she saw Isaac, she lighted off the camel.64. lighted off the camel] i.e. she “alighted,” or “leapt down from.” Her action is that of Oriental courtesy: cf. Joshua 15:18; Jdg 1:14; 1 Samuel 25:23; 2 Kings 5:21. See Thomson’s Land and Book, p. 593, “Women frequently refuse to ride in the presence of men; and when a company of them are to pass through a town, they often dismount and walk.”
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.65. It is my master] Referring to Isaac. The expression favours the suggestion that, according to the original version of the story, Abraham’s death had been mentioned after Genesis 24:9 (see note); the servant’s master was no longer Abraham.
took her veil] According to Oriental custom the bride was brought veiled into the presence of the bridegroom: cf. Genesis 29:23; Genesis 29:25.
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.67. into his mother Sarah’s tent] The language of the Heb. text is here very obscure; and the original structure of it has probably been altered. Literally it means “into the tent Sarah his mother,” a grammatical impossibility. It can hardly be questioned that the words “Sarah his mother” are a gloss upon the word “tent,” which has found its way into the text.
The tent would be either Isaac’s, or the chief tent in the women’s quarters. Cf. Genesis 31:33. This would explain the gloss.
after his mother’s death] Once more the text seems to be doubtful. The literal translation of the Heb. is “after his mother”: and the phrase is intolerably harsh. The versions have paraphrased the sentence. LXX καὶ παρεκλήθη Ἰσαὰκ περὶ Σάῤῥας τῆς μητρὸς αὐτοῦ, Lat. ut dolorem qui ex morte matris ejus acciderat temperaret.
The probability is that the text of J ran, “after his father’s death” (’aḥarey môth ’âbîv); but that, as the compiler decided to accept P’s account of Abraham’s death and burial (Genesis 25:7-11), it was necessary to harmonize this passage; and this was done by the substitution of “his mother” (’immô) for “his father’s death” (môth ’âbîv).