Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
And Abraham was old, and well stricken in age: and the LORD had blessed Abraham in all things.Rebekah the Farseeing
I. In the case of Sarah the real drama opens with married life. In the case of Rebekah it opens with the proposal of marriage. The offer comes from Isaac. When she sees the servant approaching she has no idea of his errand. But Rebekah has a wonderful talisman against such surprise—an astonishing power of putting herself instantaneously in the place of those to whom she is speaking.
II. There is a peculiarity about Rebekah's sympathetic insight. It is not only manifested to things near, but to things at a distance. I would call her a farseeing woman, by which I mean a woman with an insight into the future. What she sees is a vision of the coming will of God. From a worldly standpoint she could do better than marry Isaac. If Rebekah's insight had been limited to the things around her she would have rejected the suit of Isaac. To unite with a worshipper of another God was the revulsion of her soul, so from Rebekah's gaze all Hittite offers fade, and the figure of the Hebrew Isaac stands triumphant.
III. The heart of Isaac had been overshadowed by the death of Sarah. Rebekah crept into the vacant spot, and rekindled the ashes in the scene of the vanished fire. Then comes the actual motherhood of Rebekah. Two sons are born—Esau and Jacob. Esau was the natural heir to the birthright and the blessing. In the ordinary course of things he would be both monarch and priest of the Clan. But now there comes into play the extraordinary foresight of this woman Rebekah. With the eye of an eagle she watches the youth of her two boys. She finds that the first-born is utterly unfit for the great destiny that is before him. She sees that Jacob and not Esau is the man for his father's priesthood. Might not Isaac be made to ordain God's man instead of his own? Rebekah fell by fanaticism for God. She never dreamed that she was working for any end but the cause of Providence.
—G. Matheson, Representative Women of the Bible, p. 79.
References.—XXIV. 1.—G. Woolnough, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xiv. p. 366. XXIV. 5-8.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxiv. No. 2047. XXIV. 12.—T. L. Cuyler, Christian World Pulpit, 1890, p. 174.
The Choked Wells
I. The wells of our father may get choked. There are some wells where men were drinking when the world was young, and spite of all the ages they are still fresh, and the dripping bucket plashed in them this day. Such was the well of Jacob, for example, and Jesus, weary with His journey, drank of that, though Jacob had been sleeping in his grave for centuries; and the traveller still slakes his thirst there. But the common fate of wells is not like that. Time, changing environment, or even malicious mischief, silts them up. Perhaps the most signal instance of that choking the world has ever seen was the law of Moses in the time of Christ. Once, in the golden days of Israel, the law of Moses had been a well of water. Then came the Pharisees and Jewish lawyers, and buried God's simple law in such a mass of learned human folly, poured such a cargo of sand upon the spring, that the wells were choked, and the waters that their fathers drank were lost. And have we not found the same thing in the Gospel? Take the great central doctrine of the sacrifice on Calvary. It was the gladdest news that ever cheered the world, that Jesus died on Calvary for men. But by and by that well got silted up. It became filled with intolerable views of God. It was buried under degrading views of man. The well was choked.
II. We must each dig for ourselves to reach the water. One great blight upon the Church today is just that men and women will not dig. They are either content to accept their father's creed, or they are content, on the strength of arguments a child could answer, to cast it overboard. You can always tell when a man has been digging for himself by the freshness, the individuality of his religion. The humblest souls, if they have dug for themselves, and by their own search have found the water, will have a note in their music that was never heard before, and some discovery of God that is their own.
III. Our discovered wells were named long since. When Isaac dug his well at Gerar men had forgotten about the wells of Abraham. But the day came when Isaac named his wells. And when the neighbours gathered and asked him what the names were, they found they were the names that had been given by Abraham. The wells were not new. They were but rediscovered. I never dig but a new well is found. And we think at first these wells are all our own. But the day comes when we find it is not so. They are the very waters our fathers drank; but the toil and effort, the struggle and the prayer that it took us to reach them, made them so fresh to us that we thought they were a new thing in the world.
—G. H. Morrison, Flood-Tide, p. 148.
References.—XXIV. 23.—A. Mursell, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxii. p. 195. XXIV. 27.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—Genesis, p. 173. XXIV. 40.—H. J. Buxton, Common Life Religion, p. 258. XXIV. 49.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxvii. No. 2231. XXIV. 55.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xiii. No. 772.
Love and Courtship
So much of life's weal or woe is determined by a well-advised or ill-advised love and courtship that the question cannot be approached with too serious and sympathetic attention.
I. Parental and Friendly Interest in the Love Affairs of Young People.—Nothing is more delightful, and delightfully instructive, in this idyllic tale, than the loving sympathy Abraham and Eliezer showed in the matrimonial concerns of Isaac. Look how excellently Abraham behaved himself in such a matter! He was deeply and tenderly interested that Isaac should secure a wife who would be a benediction to him. That is the right spirit. Let all parents and older friends note it and emulate it.
II. A Wife sought among the People of God.—Beware of alliances with those who are morally Canaanites and Philistines! Seek a wife, a husband, among the people of God. The perils of a godless home are of all perils the most to be dreaded. Seek God's guidance and sojourn amid what is godly.
III. Confidence in Divine Guidance Amid Love and Courtship.—Abraham never wavered in his faith that God would direct Isaac's future. He argued from God's care of his past interest to God's care of his son's future interests. Parents may be sure that, if they be believers, the God who has guided them will guide their children, His 'Angel' shall be sent to further their love and their courtship.
IV. Qualities which Promise Happiness.—When Eliezer met Rebekah in her remote home he discovered features of her personality and character which foretold that she would make a suitable wife for his master's son. And amid many qualities these are well worthy to be noted. She was a domesticated woman. When she appeared upon the scene she had 'her pitcher upon her shoulder'. And she used it. There is a danger today of Rebekah being minus her pitcher and of her not using it though she may be possessed of it. Rebekah was a woman of a kindly disposition. The spirit of genial courtesy possessed her. A sweet, kind, generous spirit is a powerful factor in the happiness of wedded life. Rebekah and Isaac were both graced with filial devotion. Rebekah was a devoted daughter. And as for Isaac he is, as a son, beyond all praise. It is such daughters who make faithful and loving wives. It is such sons who are afterwards devoted and affectionate husbands.
V. True Love Irradiated this Ancient Courtship. —'He loved her' is the finale of the romantic and tender story. No qualities, however good or noble, can supersede the necessity of deep and strong mutual affection. The love of Isaac and Rebekah is an essential guarantee of happy married life.
—Dinsdale T. Young, Messages for Home and Life, p. 75.
References.—XXIV. 58.—C. D. Bell, The Name Above Every Name, p. 137. W. H. Aitken, Mission Sermons, (3rd Series), p. 51. XXIV. 63.—J. Aspinall, Parish Sermons (1st Series), p. 216. Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, p. 228. XXIV. 67.—Bishop Thorold, The Yoke of Christ, p. 247. XXIV.—F. W. Robertson, Notes on Genesis, p. 68. W. H. Buxton, Penny Pulpit, No. 834. T. Guthrie, Studies of Character from the Old Testament, p. 61. XXV. 8.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture —Genesis, p. 180. J. Parker, Adam, Noah, and Abraham, p. 191. A. Maclaren, Christ in the Heart, p. 117. XXV. 11.—Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, p. 48. F. W. Farrar, The Fall of Man, p. 228. XXV. 27.—L. D. Bevan, Penny Pulpit, No. 574. XXV. 27-34.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, p. 192. XXV. 29-34.—C. Kingsley, The Gospel of the Pentateuch, p. 72.
The Attraction of the Present
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:
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.
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.
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.
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;
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.