Genesis 24:2
And Abraham said to his oldest servant of his house, that ruled over all that he had, Put, I pray you, your hand under my thigh:
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(2) Unto his eldest servant of his house.—Heb., his servant, the elder of his house. It is the name of an office; and though one holding so confidential a post would be a man of ripe years, yet it is not probable that Abraham would send any one who was not still vigorous on so distant a journey. Eliezer of Damascus had held a similar office fifty-five years previously (Genesis 15:2), but this was probably a younger man.

Put . . . thy hand under my thigh.—As Jacob requires that Joseph should swear to him in the same manner (Genesis 47:29), this form of oath was evidently regarded as a very solemn one. The meaning of it has been much discussed, but we find the thigh in Genesis 46:26, Exodus 1:5—in both which places it is rendered loins—used as the source of posterity. Probably, therefore, as Tuch argues, it is an euphemistic manner of describing the circumcised member, which was to be touched by the hand placed beneath the thigh; and thus the oath was really by the holy covenant between Abraham and God, of which circumcision was the symbol.

Beware thou that thou bring not my son thither again.—The betrothal of Isaac and Rebekah is told with the utmost exactness of detail, because it contained two principles of primary importance to Abraham’s posterity: the first, that they were not to allow themselves to be merged among the Canaanites, but remain a distinct people; for this intermarriage with women of their own race was only a means to an end, and not a binding law, to be observed for its own sake. And secondly, that under no circumstances might they return to Mesopotamia, but must cling devotedly to the land of which God had promised them the possession. We learn from Genesis 24:8 that this second point was regarded by Abraham as even more important than the first; and with reason. For the race might remain distinct even if Isaac took a woman of Palestine to wife, though there would be the risk of religious deterioration; but if they returned to Padanaram they were certain to be absorbed, and could look for no higher lot than that attained to by Laban’s descendants.

Land of my kindred.—Rather, of my nativity; and so in Genesis 24:4. (See Note on Genesis 12:1.) It is a different word from that rightly translated kindred in Genesis 24:38. Jewish interpreters say that by his father’s house here, and by his country in Genesis 24:4, Abraham meant Charran: but by his birthplace he meant Ur of the Chaldees. If, therefore, the servant failed in obtaining a wife at Charran, he was to continue his journey to Ur, where Abraham, doubtless, had many relatives.

Genesis 24:2. His eldest servant — Probably Eliezer of Damascus. Abraham spake of him, sixty years before this, as the steward of his house. He was, therefore, far advanced in years; and he appears, in this chapter, to have been a person of singular wisdom and piety. Thy hand under my thigh — A ceremony used in swearing by inferiors toward superiors, as a testimony of subjection, and a promise of faithful service; see also Genesis 47:29.24:1-9 The effect of good example, good teaching, and the worship of God in a family, will generally appear in the piety, faithfulness, prudence, and affection of the servants. To live in such families, or to have such servants, both are blessings from God which should be highly valued, and thankfully acknowledged. But no concern in life is of greater importance to ourselves, to others, or to the church of God, than marriage. It therefore ought always to be undertaken with much care and prudence, especially with reference to the will of God, and with prayer for his direction and blessing. Where good parents are not consulted and regarded, the blessing of God cannot be expected. Parents, in disposing of their children, should carefully consult the welfare of their souls, and their furtherance in the way to heaven. Observe the charge Abraham gave to a good servant, one whose conduct, faithfulness, and affection, to him and his family, he had long known. Observe also, that Abraham remembers that God had wonderfully brought him out of the land of his birth, by the call of his grace; and therefore doubts not but He will prosper his care, not to bring his son thither again. God will cause that to end in our comfort, in which we sincerely aim at his glory.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.2. said unto his eldest servant—Abraham being too old, and as the heir of the promise not being at liberty to make even a temporary visit to his native land, was obliged to intrust this delicate mission to Eliezer, whom, although putting entire confidence in him, he on this occasion bound by a solemn oath. A pastoral chief in the present day would follow the same course if he could not go himself. His eldest servant of his house; viz. Eliezer, Genesis 15:2. This ceremony was used in swearing, as now, so anciently in the eastern parts, as Genesis 47:29, either as a testimony of subjection, and promise of faithful service, for this rite was used only by inferiors towards superiors; or, as some think, with respect to the blessed Seed, Christ, who was to come out of Abraham’s thigh, as the phrase is, Genesis 46:26, because this rite was used only to believers. And Abraham said unto his eldest servant of his house,.... To Eliezer his servant, according to the Targum of Jonathan, and as is generally thought; and who may well be called an old servant, and his oldest servant, since he must have lived with him fifty years and upwards; one may trace him near sixty years in Abraham's family, and it is highly probable he lived much longer; he was his servant when he had the vision between the pieces, Genesis 15:2; and then he was the steward of his house, and bid fair to be his heir; which was some time before Hagar was given to Abraham; and Ishmael his son by Hagar was fourteen years of age when Isaac was born, and he was now forty years old, which make fifty five years, or thereabout. Bishop Usher places the vision of the pieces in A. M. 2092, and the marriage of Isaac in 2148, some fifty six years from each other; and so long Eliezer, if he is the servant here meant, must have been in Abraham's family, and how much longer cannot with certainty be said:

that ruled over all that he had; had the care and management of his house, and the affairs of it under him; this agrees with the character of Eliezer in Genesis 15:2,

put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh: as a token of his subjection to him as a servant, and of his readiness, willingness, and fidelity to execute any commands he should lay upon him, and in order to take an oath, as appears by what follows; for it seems this rite was used in swearing, and is still used in India, as Aben Ezra affirms; and some say among the Ethiopians. The Jewish writers are pretty much of opinion that respect is had to the covenant of circumcision, by which Abraham made his servant to swear, which is not likely: rather respect is had to his seed, the promised Messiah, that should spring from his thigh, by whom the adjuration was made, as follows: though Dr. Clayton (k) thinks this is no other than an equivalent term for approaching in an humble servile manner, and means no more than "come near me", and I will make thee swear; and that, as a respectable method of approach with the Egyptian, as Herodotus (l) relates, was by bowing the body reciprocally when they met, and saluted one another, and by carrying their hands to each other's knee; so some such like ceremony as embracing the knee, and putting the hand under or round the thigh, might be used by servants when they approached their masters; but it should be observed, that this same rite or ceremony was required of Joseph, governor of Egypt, by his father Jacob; see Genesis 47:29.

(k) Chronology of the Hebrew Bible, p. 130, 131. (l) Euterpe sive, l. 2.

And Abraham said unto his eldest servant of his house, that ruled over all that he had, {a} Put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh:

(a) Which ceremony declared, the servants obedience towards his master, and the master's power over the servant.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
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.Verses 2-4. - And Abraham said auto his eldest servant of his house, that ruled over all that he had, - literally, to his servant, the old man, ancient or elder, of his house, the ruler over all which (sc. belonged) to him. The term זָקֵן (an old man) is in most languages employed as a title of honor, - cf. sheikh, senatus, γέρων, presbyter, signor, seigneur, senor, sir (Gesenius, p. 252), - and is probably to be so understood here. Eliezer of Damascus, upwards of half a century previous regarded as heir presumptive to Abraham's house (Genesis 15:2), is commonly considered the official meant, though the point is of no importance - Put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh: and I will make thee swear. This ancient form of adjuration, which is mentioned again only in chap. 47:29, and to which nothing analogous can elsewhere be discovered, - the practice alleged to exist among the modern Egyptian Bedouins of placing the hand upon the membrum virile in solemn forms of asseveration not forming an exact parallel, was probably originated by the patriarch. The thigh, as the source of posterity (cf. Genesis 35:11; Genesis 46:26; Exodus 1:5), has been regarded as pointing to Abraham's future descendants (Keil, Kalisch, Lange), and in particular to Christ, the promised seed (Theodoret, Jerome, Augustine, Luther, Ainsworth, Bush, Wordsworth), and the oath to be equivalent to a swearing by him that was to come. By others the thigh has been viewed as euphemistically put for the generative organ, upon which the sign of circumcision was placed, and the oath as an adjuration by the sign of the covenant (Jonathan, Jarchi, Tuch). A third interpretation considers the thigh as symbolizing lordship or authority, and the placing of the hand under it as tantamount to an oath of fealty and allegiance to a superior (Aben Ezra, Rosenmüller, Calvin, Murphy). Other explanations are modifications of the above. By the Lord (Jehovah; since the marriage to which this solemn adjuration was preliminary was not an ordinary alliance, such as might have taken place under the providence of Elohim, but the wedding of the heir of the promise), the God of heaven, and the God of the earth (a clause defining Jehovah as the supreme Lord of the universe, and therefore as the sole Arbiter of human destiny), that thou shalt not take a wife unto my son - not investing him with authority to provide a wife for Isaac in the event of death carrying him (Abraham) off before his son's marriage, but simply explaining the negative side of the commission with which he was about to be entrusted. If it evinced Isaac's gentle disposition and submissive piety, that though forty years of age he neither thought of marriage, but mourned in devout contemplation for his mother (,Lange), nor offered resistance to his father s proposal, but suffered himself to be governed by a servant (Calvin), it was also quite in accordance with ancient practice that parents should dispose of their children in marriage (cf. Genesis 28:2) - of the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell. Being prompted to this partly by that jealousy with which all pastoral tribes of Shemitie origin have been accustomed to guard the purity of their race by intermarriage (Dykes; cf. Thomson, 'Land and Book,' p. 591), and partly no doubt by his perception of the growing licentiousness of the Canaanites, as well as his knowledge of their predicted doom, though chiefly, it is probable, by a desire to preserve the purity of the promised seed. Intermarriage with the Canaanites was afterwards forbidden by the Mosaic legislation (Exodus 34:16; Deuteronomy 7:3). But (literally, for, i.e. the former thing must not be done because this must be done) thou shalt go unto my country (not Ur of the Chaldees, but the region beyond the Euphrates generally), and to my kindred, and take a wife unto my son Isaac. Though enforced by religious considerations, this injunction to bring none but a relative for Isaac's bride "was in no sense a departure from established usages and social laws in regard to marriage" ('Land and Book,' p. 591). He then went to the Hittites, the lords and possessors of the city and its vicinity at that time, to procure from them "a possession of a burying-place." The negotiations were carried on in the most formal style, in a public assembly "of the people of the land," i.e., of natives (Genesis 23:7), in the gate of the city (Genesis 23:10). As a foreigner and sojourner, Abraham presented his request in the most courteous manner to all the citizens ("all that went in at the gate," Genesis 23:10, Genesis 23:18; a phrase interchangeable with "all that went out at the gate," Genesis 34:24, and those who "go out and in," Jeremiah 17:19). The citizens with the greatest readiness and respect offered "the prince of God," i.e., the man exalted by God to the rank of a prince, "the choice" (מבחר, i.e., the most select) of their graves for his use (Genesis 23:6). But Abraham asked them to request Ephron, who, to judge from the expression "his city" in Genesis 23:10, was then ruler of the city, to give him for a possession the cave of Machpelah, at the end of his field, of which he was the owner, "for full silver," i.e., for its full worth. Ephron thereupon offered to make him a present of both field and cave. This was a turn in the affair which is still customary in the East; the design, so far as it is seriously meant at all, being either to obtain a present in return which will abundantly compensate for the value of the gift, or, what is still more frequently the case, to preclude any abatement in the price to be asked. The same design is evident in the peculiar form in which Ephron stated the price, in reply to Abraham's repeated declaration that he was determined to buy the piece of land: "a piece of land of 400 shekels of silver, what is that between me and thee" (Genesis 23:15)? Abraham understood it so (ישׁמע Genesis 23:16), and weighed him the price demanded. The shekel of silver "current with the merchant," i.e., the shekel which passed in trade as of standard weight, was 274 Parisian grains, so that the price of the piece of land was 52, 10s.; a very considerable amount for that time.
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