On Genesis, Part 35: A Proper Marriage

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On Genesis, Part 35: A Proper Marriage

Discussing Genesis chapter 23 and the cave in Hebron which Abraham had purchased from the Hittites in order to bury his wife, we made an analogy by cross-referencing a statement concerning Abraham, and especially Sarah, which is found in Isaiah chapter 51. Perhaps the analogy was not decent, or appropriate for children, but it is nonetheless true. As it is in Isaiah, we can look at all of our mothers as a figurative pit from which we had emerged, as Sarah was described in that manner. Then we could only pray that our fathers are rocks like Abraham, who seems never to have wavered in his faith, and for that reason alone he was considered righteous by Yahweh God. But that does not mean that a woman is a mere pit, and in the end, as we also continued our analogy of the cave which Abraham had bought, all men also ultimately end up in some sort of pit, or at least, they all return to the dust and ashes from which they were made. However a proper woman is certainly more than a hole, and the grave is also More Than a Hole, at least for the children of Yahweh. So for that reason especially, both our women and our deceased ancestors should be venerated, because Yahweh shall once again raise all of those who have maintained the sanctity of their race out of the pit. It would be appropriate to repeat the analogy when we contrast Jacob and Esau in light of the actions of Rebekah, but perhaps we shall leave it here.

Now, coming to Genesis chapter 24, we have already discussed the first few verses of the chapter, in order to describe what should have been the first example to Esau as well as to all of the future progeny of Isaac. The example made here should have been followed by all of the seed of Abraham and Sarah, if they had indeed venerated and honored their ancestors, since if they seek the righteousness of God they are instructed to “1 … look unto the rock whence ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence ye are digged. 2 Look unto Abraham your father, and unto Sarah that bare you: for I called him alone, and blessed him, and increased him”, as it is written in that chapter of Isaiah. The only way we can look unto them is to examine these accounts and consider the lessons which they offer, and the only way we can honor them is to imitate them, having learned from those lessons. Sarah knew that the son of a bondwoman should not have any shared inheritance with her son, and Abraham knew that Isaac should marry a woman of his own race, a woman who was much more than a mere hole, because thereby a man would only be committing fornication rather than being engaged in a proper marriage.

So once again, in the first four verses of this chapter we read:

1 And Abraham was old, and well stricken in age: and the Lord had blessed Abraham in all things. 2 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: 3 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: 4 But thou shalt go unto my country, and to my kindred, and take a wife unto my son Isaac.

As we had said when we first encountered this passage, we cannot know with certainty whether this servant is still the Eliezer of Damascus who was the steward mentioned in Genesis chapter 15, but it seems plausible since this was a man in whom Abraham had great trust, in spite of the oath he asked him to take. Even an oath is effective only when a man fears God, and many men do not, so they take their oaths and promises lightly, and break them regularly.

As for the instruction to “put … thy hand under my thigh” in order to take this oath, a similar request is found where Jacob had asked Joseph to swear that he would bury him in the cave at Machpelah, in which Abraham and Isaac had been buried. While the Hebrew word ירך or yarek (# 3409) is literally a thigh, as the original Strong’s Concordance also explains, it was also used as a euphemism for the loins. Sometimes the word is translated as loins, which is appropriate in certain contexts. So in Genesis 46:26 we read that “26 All the souls that came with Jacob into Egypt, which came out of his loins, besides Jacob's sons' wives, all the souls were threescore and six;” and there the word for loins is the same word which was translated as thigh here. It was repeated in that same context in Exodus 1:5.

Apparently, the ancient Hebrews esteemed the generative power to have its seat in the thighs or perhaps in the hips of a man. Later, Paul of Tarsus would describe the loins using the Greek word ὀσφῦς on two occasions in Hebrews chapter 7, and in the King James and other versions it is translated as loins, although technically the Greek word describes the hips or the lower back. In similar contexts that same Greek word appears in the Septuagint. So, for example, the word also appears in that context in Acts chapter 2, referring to Yahshua Christ as the fruit of David’s loins, as well as in the Septuagint in Genesis 35:11 where Jacob was told, in part: “and kings shall come out of thy loins”. So here we may conclude that the thighs having been seen as the source of generative power in a man, that Abraham’s having asked his servant to swear on his thigh would be today’s equivalent of swearing on the Bible, since Abraham had promises from God concerning his seed, which would come from his loins, and he was asking his servant to respect and to help him keep those promises. Likewise, later in Genesis, Jacob asked Joseph to make the same sort of oath but for different reasons. Joseph himself had come from those loins.

As a digression, some commentators claim that there is a Greek parallel to this belief in the fact that Dionysius was said to have been born of Zeus after Semele had aborted him, because Zeus saved him by sewing him up in his thigh. While we believe there was a Greek parallel, which is evident in the language used in the Greek scriptures, this particular comparison does not ring true, because Athena was also born of Zeus, but she was said to have come out of his head after Zeus had swallowed her mother. So there it is also evident that the pagan myths glorified cannibalism as well as the idea that a man can give birth to children, among many other sins.

We have already commented on the fact that Abraham despised the idea of mingling his seed with that of the Canaanites, and whether or not he was conscious of the curse of Canaan, in his later inscriptions it is evident that the Assyrian king Tiglath-Pileser III understood the Hittites to have been accursed. So it does seem that the curse of Canaan may have been a cultural memory in Abraham’s time. However more importantly, Abraham had lived among them for at least sixty-two years by this time, and he must have observed their abominable customs, which were later condemned by Yahweh God to the extent that He had commanded Israel to slay all of them man, woman and child.

So now the servant answers:

5 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? 6 And Abraham said unto him, Beware thou that thou bring not my son thither again.

Here it seems that the servant did not want to go without Isaac, just so that he would not have to make the trip twice if he could not procure a wife for Isaac without having Isaac present himself to the parents and the prospective bride. The word thither is an archaic word meaning there, or more precisely, to that place [1]. So Abraham does not want Isaac to go to Haran, but to remain in Canaan, the land of the promises which he had received from Yahweh. We can only conjecture a reason for his apparent trepidation.

So now he explains his reasons to his servant and says:

7 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. 8 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.

The punctuation in the King James Version in verse 7 is unfortunate. What Yahweh had told Abraham ends with the statement that “Unto thy seed will I give this land”. Then where Abraham continues and says “he shall send his angel before thee, and thou shalt take a wife unto my son from thence”, it is Abraham who is reassuring his servant that God would be with him on his journey, so that He could keep His promises to Abraham. The word thence is an archaic term meaning from that place or from there, and here it must refer not to Canaan, but to the land of Abraham’s kindred which was mentioned in the opening words of the passage.

Here Abraham was also confident that Yahweh would indeed provide a wife for Isaac, in spite of the fact that he assured the servant that he would not be held accountable if his kin would not send one, or if the one they provided refused the journey. All of this constitutes a further example of the great faith which Abraham had in his God.

[1 Thither, Vocabulary.com Dictionary, https://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/thither, accessed November 2nd, 2023; 2 ibid., Thence, https://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/thence.]

9 And the servant put his hand under the thigh of Abraham his master, and sware to him concerning that matter.

It is quite evident both here and in the faith which the servant demonstrates on his assigned journey, that Abraham did not conduct himself in absolute privacy. Rather, he must have taken time to teach his servants and show them the reasons for nearly every move which he had made since he left Haran nearly 65 years earlier. As we had noted, if Abraham was 75 when he was called to Canaan, then Sarah was 65, and since Sarah was 127 years old when she died, as it is in Genesis chapter 23, then there were 62 years that she had lived in Canaan. Then Isaac, having been born when Sarah was 90, would have been 37 years old when his mother passed on. But now he is closer to 40 years old when he becomes married to Rebekah, which is attested in Genesis chapter 25. Moving his household around Canaan for 65 years, engaging in battles and the management of his household, Abraham must also have been informing his servants of the reasons for his moves so that they would learn and know of the God who had blessed him and kept him along the way, and in that manner they would also have confidence in that same God, as this servant surely demonstrates, because originally they must have also all been pagan.

So having Abraham’s assurances, the servant agrees with an oath, and immediately he is portrayed as having acted on his agreement:

10 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. 11 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. 12 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.

Surely he took ten camels so that other servants may also accompany him, as it would be dangerous for a man to travel alone, especially with gifts and supplies which would be necessary for the journey. This becomes apparent later in this chapter, and while no specific number is given, it is plausible that he may have travelled with as many as eight other men in his company. From Hebron in Palestine to Haran, the site of which is in modern Turkey about 80 miles north of the Euphrates River, it is about 430 miles on a straight line, and therefore over land it is a journey of at least two weeks by camel, and probably a little longer.

Now not only has the servant exhibited his own faith and obedience to his earthly master, but he even acknowledges the God of his master, by which he also exhibits himself to be a pious and God-fearing man. So he prays also that his own task be made easier:

13 Behold, I stand here by the well of water; and the daughters of the men of the city come out to draw water: 14 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.

The servant has a daunting task, as he is in a land of strangers, he would hardly know who to trust or who to avoid, and here he petitions God for help, also believing that God would prosper his journey on account of the promises which He had made to Abraham. While it is certain that this servant could not have known the name of Yahweh, but only knew Yahweh as Abraham had, as God Almighty, Moses had nevertheless used the name here in his recounting of these events.

There is another aspect of this account which is not so apparent, but which should be mentioned. In the closing verses of Genesis chapter 22, Abraham had somehow received news that his brother Nahor had many children, something which he evidently did not yet have when Abraham had left him in Haran 65 years earlier. There we read, in part: “20 And it came to pass after these things, that it was told Abraham, saying, Behold, Milcah, she hath also born children unto thy brother Nahor”, and then the children are named. Now here in this chapter, it is also apparent that by this time Nahor the brother of Abraham is deceased, as it seems that Rebekah’s father Bethuel is the head of the household in Haran. But for Abraham to have received that news in Genesis chapter 22, he must have sent a post by messenger to Haran. Abraham was in a land of strangers, moving around from place to place and he could not have received that news incidentally. Nobody in Haran could have known that Abraham was in Beersheba before he received the news. But Abraham did know where his brother was, so he must have initiated some contact. Perhaps with that, it is also evident that Bethuel may have even expected a visitation from someone representing Abraham for the very purposes which are described here.

15 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. 16 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.

Here it is evident that perhaps women who were maidens, or even virgins, were accustomed to wearing certain clothing which signified that circumstance, or perhaps married women wore certain clothing which indicated that they were married. For example, in ancient Rome only a married woman could wear a stola, which indicated her marital status [3]. In 2 Samuel chapter 13 we read of Tamar the daughter of David: “18 And she had a garment of divers colours upon her: for with such robes were the king's daughters that were virgins apparelled.” While there is little indication in Scripture that other maidens were dressed in a different fashion than married women, it seems very probable that they had been. There is another custom here which persists through the time of Christ Himself, that women customarily fetched well water for their households, and often even for the flocks. So it is with Rachel in Genesis chapter 29, with the Midianite daughters of Jethro in Exodus chapter 2, and with the Samaritan woman of John chapter 4.

The Hebrew word translated here as virgin is בתולה or bethulah (# 1330), which Strong’s original Concordance defines in part as a “feminine passive participle of an unused root meaning to separate; a virgin (from her privacy) …” The word appears in 50 passages in the Old Testament, and is sometimes translated in the King James Version as maid or maiden (e.g. Exodus 22:15, Judges 19:24). Because it comes from a verb meaning separate, I would rather translate it as maiden, and not virgin, because it more accurately seems to describe a woman who is apart from any husband. Then, considering a proper marriage, which happens upon the act of sexual union as we shall see later in this chapter, a maiden is expected to be a virgin.

So here, and also where the word appears in Leviticus 21:3 and Judges 21:12, for examples, the word is qualified with a further statement that the maiden in question had not yet known a man. In this verse we read that Rebekah was “a virgin, neither had any man known her”, in Leviticus chapter 21:3 we read in part of “a virgin … which hath had no husband”, and in Judges 19:24 we read of “four hundred young virgins, that had known no man by lying with any male”. In each of these cases and others, if bethulah meant virgin by itself, those qualifying clauses would not have been necessary. So bethulah is much better defined as a maiden, and the qualifying clauses, where they are found, are assurances that the woman being described is a proper maiden, which is a virgin, and not one who was promiscuous or who had been harmed by a man in her past and who was merely unmarried. But there are of course other instances where the word appears, where it may be safely inferred that the woman being described was indeed a virgin.

This may seem trite, but in my opinion, it is very important to understand the distinction, because today in our sinful society people frequently believe that there really is such a thing as “premarital sex”, but since a proper marriage occurs only during an act of sexual union, the term is actually an oxymoron. Someone engaged in sexual intercourse is either getting married, staying married, or committing some sin, such as adultery, fornication or sodomy. There are no other choices in the eyes of Yahweh God. The act of sexual intercourse is either within the bounds of a proper marriage, or it is sin.

[3 Stola, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stola, accessed November 2nd, 2023.]

Now Abraham’s servant meets the wife of Isaac:

17 And the servant ran to meet her, and said, Let me, I pray thee, drink a little water of thy pitcher. 18 And she said, Drink, my lord: and she hasted, and let down her pitcher upon her hand, and gave him drink. 19 And when she had done giving him drink, she said, I will draw water for thy camels also, until they have done drinking. 20 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.

Here it seems that the servant may have used a need for water to break the proverbial ice, so to speak, and at the same time, Rebekah’s willingness to help was an exhibit of her own benevolent character. But little did Rebekah know that she was watering the servants and camels which would soon belong to her own husband, and that stands as a good example of the humble master serving his servants. This must have been a good indication that his prayers were answered, but he was not immediately certain:

21 And the man wondering at her held his peace, to wit whether the Lord had made his journey prosperous or not. 22 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; 23 And said, Whose daughter art thou? tell me, I pray thee: is there room in thy father’s house for us to lodge in? 24 And she said unto him, I am the daughter of Bethuel the son of Milcah, which she bare unto Nahor. 25 She said moreover unto him, We have both straw and provender enough, and room to lodge in.

Once again it is apparent that Scripture is written very concisely, as it is recorded that Abraham told his servant only to “go unto my country, and to my kindred” in verse 7, and then in verse 10: “and he arose, and went to Mesopotamia, unto the city of Nahor”. So Abraham must have described the place to which he wanted the servant to go more precisely, and he must have given to him all of these names, the same names of which he must have learned in Hebron, because the man recognized them without question.

We may want to imagine that the bracelets and earring were some sort of betrothal gift, and marked the woman as being betrothed to a husband. While that may seem to be premature at this point, in any case, it was an act of faith in itself for the servant to have given the maiden such valuable gifts at so soon a time. So it seems that from his experience thus far, he was confident in the God of Abraham and his actions demonstrated his faith. That such betrothal gifts were customary in ancient Mesopotamia is evident in the Lipit-Ishtar Lawcode, one of the earliest such codes discovered by archaeologists, which is commonly dated to about 1870-1860 BC, around the very same time as the birth of Isaac. There we read in part, that “29: If a son-in-law has entered the house of his (prospective) father-in-law (and) he made his betrothal (but) afterwards they made him go out (of the house) and gave his wife to his companion, they shall present to him the betrothal-gifts which he brought (and) that wife may not marry his companion.” [4] Much of that law code is lost, and that is the only surviving law mentioning such gifts.

In laws from the Middle Assyrian period, which began in the 14th century BC, we read: “42: If a seignior poured oil on the head of a(nother) seignior's daughter on a holiday or brought betrothal-presents on a festival, they shall not make any return (of the gifts).” Then, in another example which we recently cited in a different context: “43: If the seignior [the prospective father-in-law] either poured oil on (her) head or brought betrothal-presents (and) the son to whom he assigned the wife either died or fled, he may give (her) to whichever he wishes of his remaining sons from the oldest son to the youngest son who is at least ten years old.” [5] The word seignior used in those translations had at one time referred to a feudal lord of a manor, which describes a head of household. Here, Abraham’s servant would be acting in that same capacity as an agent on Abraham’s behalf.

In Ezekiel chapter 16, Yahweh makes an analogy of how He had married to Himself the children of Israel, and He said in part: “9 Then washed I thee with water; yea, I throughly washed away thy blood from thee, and I anointed thee with oil. 10 I clothed thee also with broidered work, and shod thee with badgers' skin, and I girded thee about with fine linen, and I covered thee with silk. 11 I decked thee also with ornaments, and I put bracelets upon thy hands, and a chain on thy neck. 12 And I put a jewel on thy forehead, and earrings in thine ears, and a beautiful crown upon thine head. 13 Thus wast thou decked with gold and silver; and thy raiment was of fine linen, and silk, and broidered work; thou didst eat fine flour, and honey, and oil: and thou wast exceeding beautiful, and thou didst prosper into a kingdom.” So all these things are gifts of betrothal which Yahweh allegorically describes as giving to His bride, Israel.

[4 Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament 3rd edition, James Pritchard, editor, 1969, Harvard University Press, p. 160; 5 ibid., pp. 183-184.]

Now that the servant has realized that his initial prayer was answered, and that he has indeed met the woman for whom he was sent, he prays honoring Yahweh:

26 And the man bowed down his head, and worshipped the Lord. 27 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. 28 And the damsel ran, and told them of her mother’s house these things.

Rebekah must have observed the prayer of the servant, and it seems to have made an impression upon her, parts of which she must have understood. The Hebrew name רבקה, Ribqah or Ribeqah (# 7259), is said in the original Strong’s Concordance to mean fettering, “from an unused root probably meaning to clog by tying up the fetlock”, which is the joint near the bottom of a quadruped’s leg, such as a horse or camel, which resembles the human ankle. Gesenius defines the root, רבק or ribeq, from an Arabic term, a method which is not always trustworthy, as a verb, “an unused root … to tie firmly, to bind fast, especially an animal”, and for that reason, from a related Arabic term, he defines the name to mean “’a rope with a noose,’ not unfit as the name of a girl who ensnares men by her beauty” [6]. The Brown, Driver, Briggs lexicon does not offer a definition for the name, but it does have an entry for the root word which agrees with and perhaps even copied Gesenius, citing the same Arabic word and defining it as “tie fast”. But there they also add another derived form, ריבקא or ribeqa, and define it as “stall”. [7]

So with this information, we would discard the definition found in Strong’s, which is clog, and also the definition found in Gesenius, which is noose, and prefer to define the name Rebekah as binder. So we read the name רבקה as a verb, רבק, which evidently means to tie fast, and the final ה as a suffix, which is fully acceptable. Then having done that, we read at one resource which describes Hebrew suffixes that “The suffix ה (He) turns a word into a noun and also sometimes means ‘of her’.” Then it proceeds by stating that “The presence of this letter at the end of a verb turns the word into a noun…” and it continues with an example. [8]

Long after Rebekah was married to Isaac, and bore to him Jacob and Esau, she certainly did act as a binder as she ensured that the seed of the promise would remain holy unto Yahweh by seeing that Jacob had received the inheritance in the place of Esau, who was a “fornicator” and a “profane person”, as Paul of Tarsus would later describe him in chapter 12 of his epistle to the Hebrews. Rebekah acted as a binder by ensuring that Jacob received the promises given to Abraham, and also that Jacob would have a proper marriage, and in that aspect she certainly lived up to her name. For Isaac, Rebekah certainly was the tie that binds.

[6 Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament, translated by Samuel Prideaux Tregelles, Baker Books, 1979, p. 755; 7 The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon, Hendrickson Publishers, 2021, p. 918; 8 Common Hebrew Prefixes and Suffixes, Discover the Holy Language, https://objectivetranslation.home.blog/common-hebrew-prefixes-and-suffixes/, accessed November 3rd, 2023.]

So Rebekah’s family responds to her account of the encounter with the servant of Abraham, and now her brother Laban does indeed seem to have responded in a manner which indicates that he may have been anticipating such a visit:

29 And Rebekah had a brother, and his name was Laban: and Laban ran out unto the man, unto the well. 30 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. 31 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.

The Hebrew name לבן or Laban (# 3837) means white, and it is the same as the word from which Lebanon is derived, describing white, or usually snow-topped, mountains. Later, it is his daughters Leah and Rachel who are married to Jacob.

Where Laban is portrayed as having used the phrase “blessed of Yahweh” here, we do not know how much, if anything, Abraham had related to Nahor concerning his God before he departed from Haran, whom Abraham knew only as “God Almighty”. Perhaps Abraham, as we have opined that he must have already written to Haran, may have also explained his good fate to his kindred in letters. In any event, Laban seems to have greeted Abraham’s servant in the name of the God of Abraham, as Moses implies here. But as we have already noted, it is apparent that Moses had often put the name Yahweh into the mouths of the people about whom he had written here, rather than using the generic title God, since he was writing for the sake of the children of Israel, and not as a some sort of worldly historian.

32 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. 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.

The way this is written, it seems that a stable for animals was part of the house, or immediately attached to the house, something which was evidently common among the common folk in ancient cities. For example, in the laws of the Middle Assyrian period we read: “4: [If a seignior] sold [either an ox or] an ass or a horse or any beast not [his own which] was stabled in his house [as a pledge], he shall give [a beast like it in value], (but) he need not return the money. If [he did not give] a beast, he shall forfeit [his money]; the owner of the property whose [beast] was stabled [in the seignior's house] shall seize his beast, while the receiver [of] the beast [shall be reimbursed] for his money by the seller.” [9]

[9 Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, p. 187.]

While we may think that the substance of Laban’s greeting should have set Abraham’s servant at ease, he still seems to have trepidation over whether or not his proposal would be accepted, so he requests to explain it first, before accepting any hospitality, and his request was granted:

34 And he said, I am Abraham’s servant. 35 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. 36 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.

Perhaps this alone may have persuaded Rebekah’s family that Abraham had the blessings of God, or if they had heard something about the God of Abraham from their father Nahor, it would have served to corroborate the account of the circumstances in which Abraham was found. Now the servant begins to recall what happened when Abraham sent him on this journey:

37 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:

Rebekah being present here, she certainly would have heard and remembered these words, if she did not already know that the Canaanites were an accursed people. Haran was not far west of the center of the future Canaanite kingdom of the Mitanni, which was substantially Hurrian, or Horite in nature. Then on the west of Haran were the Hittites, another branch of the Canaanites. To the south were populations of these tribes along with the Sidonians and other Canaanite tribes. Later, Rebekah acted against her own son Esau for the express reason that he had taken wives of the Canaanites.

The servant continues his rather concise recollection of Abraham’s instructions, evidently seeking to make an impression upon the menfolk of the significance of his visit, since he himself sincerely desires its success:

38 But thou shalt go unto my father’s house, and to my kindred, and take a wife unto my son. 39 And I said unto my master, Peradventure the woman will not follow me. 40 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: 41 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.

Now Abraham’s servant also recalls the events of his arrival in Haran which were already described here, but the repetition seems to be necessary in order to also impress upon the reader the significance of the event, how it had all come together in such an unexpected manner, that it should be fully evident that the hand of Yahweh must have been moving all of the different pieces on the chessboard at once in order to assure the outcome which He Himself had desired. So he continues:

42 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: 43 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; 44 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. 45 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. 46 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. 47 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. 48 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.

Bethuel, the father of Rebekah, was actually Abraham’s nephew, so Rebekah and Isaac are one generation removed from being first cousins. The Hebrew word for brother, אח or ach (# 251), was used to describe other familial male relations, such as uncles or nephews. The laws later given at Sinai do not forbid the marriage of first cousins, and this marriage is one step removed from that. Now Abraham’s servant makes a plea begging for the success of his journey:

49 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.

So Laban responds, and it also becomes apparent that his father, Bethuel, is now present. This is the only time that the presence of Bethuel is mentioned, and we shall avoid adding any conjecture which attempts to explain why Laban is mentioned first here before his father:

50 Then Laban and Bethuel answered and said, The thing proceedeth from the Lord: we cannot speak unto thee bad or good. 51 Behold, Rebekah is before thee, take her, and go, and let her be thy master’s son’s wife, as the Lord hath spoken. 52 And it came to pass, that, when Abraham’s servant heard their words, he worshipped the Lord, bowing himself to the earth.

Here it is apparent that Bethuel and Laban had believed the account of Abraham’s servant to the point that they also understood that the unfolding of the events which were described was truly providential, and their answer, “The thing proceedeth from the Lord: we cannot speak unto thee bad or good”, seems to speak to the power of God and recognize that the matter is beyond their ability to judge, acknowledging that it is the will of God.

Now, as Yahweh had also described of Israel in Ezekiel chapter 16, which we have cited earlier, the servant presents additional betrothal gifts, as was the custom in ancient Mesopotamia, and since the menfolk have agreed to the marriage:

53 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. 54 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. 55 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.

Here it is evident that no harm was intended, however it is natural that Rebekah would have been missed by her family. But anything can happen in ten days, and the servant was once again facing a long journey home. So he begged them to let him depart, once again invoking the God of Abraham:

56 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. 57 And they said, We will call the damsel, and inquire at her mouth. 58 And they called Rebekah, and said unto her, Wilt thou go with this man? And she said, I will go. 59 And they sent away Rebekah their sister, and her nurse, and Abraham’s servant, and his men. 60 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.

The blessing may have been common, however curses foreboding an opposite fate are much more frequently found in ancient inscriptions. In any event, the blessing would indeed come to pass, as Rebekah would now have a part in the fate reflected in the promises to Abraham which would be inherited by Isaac.

61 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.

Where it speaks in reference to the servant and says “and his men” in verse 59 and “the men that were with him” earlier, in verse 54, we see that the servant was indeed accompanied by others, and as we had explained earlier, as many as eight other men may have been with him. We made that conclusion because perhaps a camel was reserved for Rebekah. But perhaps the number of the men was less, or some of the men went on foot, and their number could have been greater. Unless there are more camels obtained in Haran which are not noted, some men would have to travel on foot because now Rebekah was accompanied by a nurse, and evidently also other maidservants of her own. But if that is the case, traveling on foot would have slowed the journey considerably.

As we have explained, the accounts are written concisely, so neither do we know how Isaac had known to visit his father in Hebron at this very time, but it does seem that Abraham must have summoned Isaac by way of a messenger, so that Isaac knew to come.

62 And Isaac came from the way of the well Lahairoi; for he dwelt in the south country.

As we had explained discussing Genesis chapter 23, where Abraham had buried Sarah near Hebron, we do not know why he had moved from Beersheba. But it is to Hebron that Isaac must have been beckoned by his father. We have also already explained that the well Lahairoi is the same place as the Beerlahairoi of Genesis chapter 16, where Hagar was addressed by Yahweh after she had fled from the face of Sarah.

63 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. 64 And Rebekah lifted up her eyes, and when she saw Isaac, she lighted off the camel. 65 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. 66 And the servant told Isaac all things that he had done.

The verb translated as meditate here, שוח or suwach (# 7742), only appears here in Scripture. I would agree with Gesenius in part, that it is actually the same word as שיח or siyach (# 7878) in spite of the contrary evidence he provided from certain late translations where it was evidently translated as speak here in this passage. In the Septuagint, the verb שוח here is translated with a Greek verb, ἀδολεσχέω, which is also meditate in other passages. So we would assert that שוח is a scribal error for שיח, a word which means meditate as שיח is translated into Greek elsewhere, for example in Psalm 119 where we read “15 I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways.”

The answer of the servant, “It is thy master”, describes a relationship between a husband and wife in a proper marriage, as it is in Genesis chapter 3, where Yahweh God had told Eve that “16 … thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.” In chapter 3 of his first epistle, the apostle Peter had commended Sarah herself for having acknowledged this proper marriage relationship, where he had written in part “6 Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord…”, a reference to her words in Genesis 18:12 where she laughed at the thought of having a son and said “After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?”

[10 Gesenius, p. 785.]

Perhaps the initial encounter between Rebekah and Isaac sparked an immediate romance, and now the marriage is quickly consummated:

67 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.

Here it is evident, because the tent of Sarah was still standing, that Abraham was still in Hebron, and perhaps he had already lent Isaac use of this tent as a lodging for the very purpose of consummating his marriage. The marriage was indeed consummated in Sarah’s tent. But in that tent, it is evident that there was no city clerk issuing a license, no pastor, no judge, no altar, no vows taken, no courtship, and Isaac himself is never recorded as having given to Rebekah any gifts or diamond rings. Isaac is not even recorded as having made any vow. The only agreement made was the explanation of events related by Abraham’s servant, and the words of Rebekah’s menfolk who are recorded as having said “Behold, Rebekah is before thee, take her, and go, and let her be thy master’s son’s wife, as the Lord hath spoken.” We probably should not even mention the fact that Rebekah had just gotten off a camel after a long ride and many days on the road.

So without all worldly trappings and free of any of the many burdensome and sacrilegious doctrines of men, this is what constitutes a proper marriage, and especially in the eyes of Yahweh God since he married a woman of his own race. But this was also an ideal marriage, as Isaac lived the balance of his entire life having had only one wife, and apparently he died having been fully satisfied with that, even though he also had never worn a wedding ring. Yahweh makes a marriage, the sexual union consummates the marriage, and everything else is an unnecessary burden.

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