Genesis 24:33
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.
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(33) I will not eat, until I have told mine errand.—Two points in Oriental manners are here brought into view: the first, that hospitality, so necessary in a country where there are no inns, was, and still is, a religion to the Bedouin; the second, that consequently he will concede anything rather than have his hospitality refused. Aware of this feeling, Abraham’s servant will not partake of Laban’s bread and salt until he has told his request. After he had become Laban’s guest, Laban would have been free to do as he liked; but he must now grant what is asked, or the stranger would decline to enter his dwelling.

Mr. Fraser (Historical Description of Afghanistan Genesis 11 p. 424: Edinburgh, 1834) and Ferrier (L’Af ghanistan, Genesis 11, p. 119: ed. 1842) mention a remarkable custom connected with Afghan hospitality which admirably illustrates the behaviour of Abraham’s servant. It is called menawâti, from two words signifying I am come in. Any one who has a favour to ask goes to the tent or house of the person from whom he expects it, but refuses to sit on his carpet or partake of his food until he has granted the required boon. And custom makes it a point of honour to concede it, if it be in the power of the person thus appealed to.

Genesis 24:33. I will not eat till I have told my errand — What a fine picture of diligence and zeal for a master’s service is this! How worthy to be imitated by all servants! Though it was after a long journey, and much fatigue, yet so impatient is he to do his master’s business, that he will not eat till he has proceeded in it.

24:29-53 The making up of the marriage between Isaac and Rebekah is told very particularly. We are to notice God's providence in the common events of human life, and in them to exercise prudence and other graces. Laban went to ask Abraham's servant in, but not till he saw the ear-ring, and bracelet upon his sister's hands. We know Laban's character, by his conduct afterwards, and may think that he would not have been so free to entertain him, if he had not hoped to be well rewarded for it. The servant was intent upon his business. Though he was come off a journey, and come to a good house, he would not eat till he had told his errand. The doing our work, and the fulfilling our trusts, either for God or man, should be preferred by us before our food: it was our Saviour's meat and drink, Joh 4:34. He tells them the charge his master had given him, with the reason of it. He relates what had happened at the well, to further the proposal, plainly showing the finger of God in it. Those events which to us seem the effect of choice, contrivance, or chance, are appointed out of God. This hinders not, but rather encourages the use of all proper means. They freely and cheerfully close with the proposal; and any matter is likely to be comfortable, when it proceeds from the Lord. Abraham's servant thankfully acknowledges the good success he had met with. He was a humble man, and humble men are not ashamed to own their situation in life, whatever it may be. All our temporal concerns are sweet if intermixed with godliness.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.

Verse 34-49

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.

32-49. the man came into the house, &c.—What a beautiful picture of piety, fidelity, and disinterestedness in a servant! He declined all attention to his own comforts till he had told his name and his errand. No text from Poole on this verse.

And there was set meat before them to eat,.... By the order of Bethuel or Laban, or both; or, "afterwards was set" (l); that is after care had been taken the camels, then food being provided was set before the men to refresh them:

but he said, I will not eat until I have told mine errand; or, "spoke my words" (m); delivered the message he was sent with, and declared the business he came about; which shows him to be a diligent faithful servant, who had his master's interest at heart, and preferred it to his necessary food:

and he said; either Bethuel or Laban, for both were present, to whom the servant directed his discourse, Genesis 24:47; perhaps Laban spoke in the name of his father, and bid him

speak on; go on with his discourse until he had said all he had to say, signifying that they were ready to give attention to him.

(l) "post appositum", Drusius, Schmidt. (m) "donec loquar sermones meos", V. L. "vel mea verba", Pagninus, Montanus, Piscator.

And there was set meat before him to eat: but he said, I {q} will not eat, until I have told mine errand. And he said, Speak on.

(q) The faithfulness that servants owe to their masters, causes them to prefer their masters business before their own needs.

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.

Verse 33. - And there was set - appositus eat (Vulgate); i.e. if the first word be taken, as in the Keri, as the hophal of שׂוּם; but if the Kethib be preferred, then וַיַּישֶׂם is the fur. Kal of יָשַׂם, signifying, "and he set;" παρέθηκεν (LXX.) - meat before him to eat (the crowning act of an Oriental reception): but he said, I will not eat, until I have told mine errand. Oriental politeness deferred the interrogation of a guest till after he had supped ('Odyss.' 3:69); but Abraham's servant hastened to communicate the nature of his message before partaking of the offered hospitality - an instance of self-forgetful zeal of which Christ was the highest example (vide Mark 6:31; John 4:34). And he (i.e. Laban) said, Speak on. Genesis 24:33As soon as Laban her brother had seen the splendid presents and heard her account, he hurried out to the stranger at the well, to bring him to the house with his attendants and animals, and to show to him the customary hospitality of the East. The fact that Laban addressed him as the blessed of Jehovah (Genesis 24:31), may be explained from the words of the servant, who had called his master's God Jehovah. The servant discharged his commission before he partook of the food set before him (the Kethibh ויישׂם in Genesis 24:33 is the imperf. Kal of ישׂם equals שׂוּם); and commencing with his master's possessions and family affairs, he described with the greatest minuteness his search for a wife, and the success which he had thus far met with, and then (in Genesis 24:49) pressed his suit thus: "And now, if he will show kindness and truth to my lord, tell me; and if not, tell me; that I may turn to the right hand or to the left," sc., to seek in other families a wife for Isaac.
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