Thursday, November 25, 2010

Genesis 24: A Bride for Isaac

Chapter 24 of Genesis is a beautiful story of how God provided a bride for Isaac.  There is a lot in this chapter.  First, Abraham was getting old, even though God had blessed him in many ways. (v.1)  He realizes that he needs to provide a wife for Isaac, so he instructs his chief servant in these matters.  The servant is possibly Eliezer of Damascus, mentioned in Genesis 15:2.  This loyal servant would probably have become Abraham's heir if Abraham had not had a son.  Abraham says to him, "...Put your hand under my thigh.  I want you to swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and the God of earth, that you will not get a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I am living, but will go to my country and my own relatives and get a wife for my son Isaac." (Genesis 24:2-4 NIV)

The servant, although he is in charge of all Abraham possesses, does not seem to be concerned with his own future.  However, he is anxious to complete his task fully, so he inquires, "What if the woman is unwilling to come back with me to this land?  Shall I then take your son back to the country you came from?" (Genesis 24:5 NIV)

I would like to have seen Abraham's face when he replies, "Make sure that you do not take my son back there" (v.6).  Instead, Abraham reminds the man that God had promised on oath to give the land around them to Abraham's offspring.  Abraham assures the servant that God will send His angel ahead of the servant so that his mission will be a success. (v7)  However, if the woman refused to come back with the servant, the man would be freed from his oath.  In any case, Isaac was definitely not supposed to be brought back to his father's old homeland.  So the servant swore an oath to do as Abraham had requested. (v.8-9)

Abraham allowed the servant to take ten of his camels laden with "...all kinds of good things from his master". (v.10)  He then set out for the town of Nahor, which was in north-west Mesopotamia.  He arrived near evening, and settled his camels near the well outside of the town, expecting that the women would soon arrive to draw water. (v.11)  As he waited, he prayed, "O Lord, God of my master Abraham, give me success today, and show kindness to my master Abraham.  See, I am standing beside this spring, and the daughters of the townspeople are coming out to draw water.  May it be that when I say to a girl, 'Please let down your jar that I may have a drink," and she says, "Drink, and I'll water your camels too" -- let her be the one you have chosen for your servant Isaac.  By this I will know that you have shown kindness to my master." (Genesis 24:12-14 NIV)

This was actually a wise test of the woman's character.  If she was hospitable, it might indicate that she had a kind heart (even towards a stranger) and an industrious nature, which would be a great combination of traits for a wife to possess.  Also, if she was able to water all ten of his camels, she would be someone who was physically strong and healthy as well!   However, God's intervention would be required to have her arrive at the right time and to say and do all of the things involved in the servants 'test'.

As usual, God is far ahead of the rest of us.  Even before the servant finished praying, the bride who God had chosen for Isaac was already arriving at the well.  Not only that, but she was the grand-daughter of Nahor (Abraham's brother) --  Bethuel's daughter, Rebekah.  That, in case you are lost, means that she is Abraham's grand-niece. (v.15)  She was very beautiful as well, and unmarried. (v.16)  The faithful servant hurries to meet her and requests a drink.(v.17)  Verses 18-20 indicate that Rebekah quickly and willingly gave a drink to the servant and volunteered to water his camels as well.  The servant watched without saying a word, waiting to see if she was indeed the one whom God had chosen for Isaac. (v.21)

I wondered just how much a camel might drink.  I read that each was capable of drinking 100 liters in about ten minutes.  That's about 50 (2 liter) soda bottles worth of water apiece!  Remember, there were ten camels in that party.  Since 50 X 10 camels = 500 soda bottles worth of water, well, you get the picture now, right?!  That is an awful lot of trips to the well, Rebekah.  Apparently, the servant was duly impressed as well, for "When the camels had finished drinking, the man took out a gold nose ring weighing a beka and two gold bracelets weighing ten shekels.  Then he asked, 'Whose daughter are you?  Please tell me, is there room in your father's house for us to spend the night?" (Genesis 24:22-23 NIV)

Rebekah replied that she was the daughter of Bethuel, and grand-daughter of Nahor and Milcah.  They not only had room, but would be able to supply straw and fodder for the camels as well. (v.24-25)  Again she displays a generous and hospitable spirit.  At this point the servant can no longer contain his thankfulness.  He bows down and worships, saying "Praise be to the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who has not abandoned his kindness and faithfulness to my master.  As for me, the Lord has led me on the journey to the house of my master's relatives." (Genesis 24:26-27 NIV)

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