New European Commentary

 

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Deeper Commentary

24:1 Abraham was old, and well stricken in age. Yahweh had blessed Abraham in all things- The promised blessings referred to the things of the Kingdom and the Lord Jesus, but Abraham had a primary experience of these blessings in his secular life; we too experience the Kingdom blessings "now but not yet". Peter interprets the blessing as the forgiveness of sins (Acts 3:25,26). The stress on their material blessings therefore points forward to our spiritual riches of blessing in Christ. Even earlier in Abraham's life, "Abram was very rich in cattle, in silver  and in gold" (Gen. 13:1). Other references to Abraham's wealth occur in Gen. 13:6 and Gen. 14:23. Jacob too was  blessed with material wealth (Gen. 31:16; 33:11 AVmg.). His parting with Esau because they were both so wealthy (Gen. 36:7) echoes the division between Abraham and Lot  and Abraham and Abimelech for the same reason (Gen. 13:6). The similarities between these incidents serves to emphasize the wealth of the family. The prosperity of Lot in Sodom is also highlighted (Gen. 14:12 Heb.). Each of them seems to have accumulated wealth in their own right in addition to inheriting it.

24:2 Abraham said to his servant, the elder of his house, who ruled over all that he had- Presumably Eliezer. Eliezer had once been chosen by Abraham to inherit all that he had (Gen. 15:2); but he had now made him just manager over it all, and signed it all over to Isaac after his death (:36). And yet Eliezer very commendably seeks only the best for the Abraham family and the extension of God's purpose through them. 

Please put your hand under my thigh- This appears to be a reference to Abraham's circumcised, reproductive organ. The oath was relative to the covenant made with him, which Abraham knew included Isaac and the raising of a Godly seed in Isaac's line. Clearly Abraham didn't think that the promised blessings would be given automatically; he realized that he and his descendants must do what they could to realize them and live according to them.


24:3 I will make you swear by Yahweh, the God of heaven and the God of the earth, that you shall not take a wife for my son of the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I live- It could be argued that Abraham was again trying to force through the fulfilment of God's promises. He had been told that he would have a great seed, and the promises of blessing were made to Isaac and Ishmael alike. But Abraham and Sarah wanted the Divine purpose to extend through their beloved Isaac; and so therefore Abraham wished to ensure that he married someone who had also been exposed to Yahweh worship. More positively, it could be argued that Abraham realized that having a common faith in Yahweh was critical to the production of a Godly seed, and he simply wanted the best for his son in spiritual terms.

In this chapter we have several occurrences of "Yahweh Elohim"; here and also in :7,12,27,42,48; the phrase also occurs in Genesis 2 and 3 often, as well as in Gen. 26:24; 27:20; 28:13; 32:9. There is a theory that Genesis is comprised of two accounts, one written by someone who used the Yahweh Name, and another by one who used elohim. They supposedly were fused together. But the occurrence of the names together makes this theory problematic.

24:4 But you shall go to my country, and to my relatives, and take a wife for my son Isaac- It follows that there were none of Abraham's country or kindred, which he had been commanded to leave, living anywhere near him. He had truly and fully obeyed the command to separate from them, although as noted on Gen. 11 and 12, it took him decades to get there.

24:5 The servant said to him, What if the woman isn’t willing to follow me to this land? Must I bring your son again to the land you came from?- Servants were accustomed to fulfilling requirements to the letter, but not taking any initiative. This is where the parables which speak of us as servants have an element of unreality- for we are servants who are left to trade talents and manage the household affairs of our Lord on our own initiative. And for the one talent man, he felt this was too much to ask. 

24:6 Abraham said to him, Beware that you don’t bring my son there again- Abraham knew that Canaan and not Mesopotamia was the promised land, and he wanted Isaac to remain within the things of the Kingdom, rather than returning to Abraham's land of origin. We see here how totally Abraham now self-identified as a man of the eretz and had fully broken with his background. Abraham considered that if a woman wasn't willing to come and live in the promised land and live the Kingdom life now, then she wasn't worth marrying in order to raise a Godly seed.

24:7 Yahweh, the God of heaven, who took me from my father’s house, and from the land of my birth, who spoke to me, and Who swore to me, saying, ‘I will give this land to your seed’- See on 1 Pet. 1:10. As with many Christian youngsters today, the avoidance of marrying those in the surrounding world just seemed too much to ask. But Abraham knew that a way would be made. As God had taken Abram from Ur and Haran and Lot, so God would take a woman from there, suitable for Isaac.

Abraham was made to us wander from his father’s house (Gen. 20:13). God was the one who brought about Abraham’s obedience. "From thence [Haran]... God removed him into (Canaan)" (Acts 7:4 R.V.). Yet Abraham was, in the end, a willing participant in the process. It could be argued that even here, Abraham was slipping backwards- because he wants his son to marry into his own family, just as he had married Sarah and his brother had married his own niece. Yet Abraham believed that as God had taken Abram away from Ur and Haran and Lot, so God would take a woman from there, suitable for Isaac. That Abraham did finally break with his family is hinted at by the way that Laban speaks of "the God of Abraham and the God of Nahor- may they judge between us (Gen. 31:53 Heb.). Laban recognized that Nahor and Abraham worshipped different gods- whereas we know that initially, they worshipped the same gods. Heb. 11:8 records things from a positive perspective too, as if there was instant obedience from Abraham: "By faith Abraham when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went". Truly, the Biblical record imputes righteousness to Abraham, and thus sets a pattern for all of us, the equally faltering and stumbling children of Abraham. The comment "So Abram departed [Heb. 'went'- s.w. Gen. 11:31; 12:1], as the Lord had spoken unto him" (Gen. 12:4) is surely the beginning of the wonderful theme of righteousness being imputed to Abraham!

He will send His angel before you, and you shall take a wife for my son from there- Abraham told his servant that God would send His Angel before him, so that his mission to find a suitable wife for Isaac would succeed. The Angel prepared in prospect for the success of the mission; but it still depended upon the woman’s freewill. The whole incident in Genesis 24 can be read as typical of the search, through the preaching of the Gospel, for the bride of Christ. And yet Abraham realized that even with the Angels preparing the way, there has to be some element of human freewill. It was possible that despite all the preparation, some might still refuse.

24:8 If the woman isn’t willing to follow you, then you shall be clear from this my oath. Only you shall not bring my son there again- The implication could be that Isaac would have to remain single, and God would raise up a seed for him in some miraculous way. We are reminded of how Abraham said that he and Isaac would return, after sacrificing Isaac. The promises meant to him what they should to us- that somehow, even if we don't see the way, if the path seems impossible- they will be fulfilled. Despite God potentially preparing the way for individuals to become part of the bride of the promised seed, the Lord Jesus- there is still the genuine possibility that we may not respond, preferring the cozy status quo of our lives rather than pushing off into the unknown and resigning all we one held dear.

24:9 The servant put his hand under the thigh of Abraham his master, and swore to him concerning this matter- As noted on :2, this request to touch Abraham's circumcised reproductive organ was because the whole question of a wife for Isaac was related to the covenant. It was to be done in response to the covenant, which implied that Abraham's seed would marry within the faith.

24:10 The servant took ten camels of his master’s camels, and departed, having a variety of good things of his master’s with him. He arose, and went to Mesopotamia, to the city of Nahor- Ten camels could carry a lot. It would have been an impressive display that the promised blessings had received an incipient fulfilment. "For all the good things of his master were in his hand" (AV) helps us to see the servant as representative of the Lord Jesus in His role as the seeker of the bride, as well as being the groom. The Hebrew for "good things" is used of the blessings of all "good things" which were to come upon Abraham's seed (Dt. 6:11; Josh. 23:14,15); and this language is behind the description of the things of the new covenant as "good things" (Heb.  9:11; 10:1; Rom. 10:15).

Abraham had been asked to separate from Mesopotamia and his entire family. He struggled over the decades to do this, only doing so when Lot left him. We wonder why Abraham should assume that his family there knew about Yahweh and would have more spiritually minded young women there than in Canaan. They were after all idolaters; we must give due weight to Josh. 24:2: "Thus says Yahweh the God of Israel, ‘Your fathers lived of old time beyond the River, even Terah the father of Abraham, and the father of Nahor: and they served other gods". But Abraham is apparently sure that the family of Nahor will be a good family to marry back into. Perhaps he had sent message back to them about his experiences with Yahweh, and they had positively responded. Laban does uses the Yahweh Name; but his later behaviour suggests he didn't believe in Him. And we hardly get the impression that Eliezer knew the family. So perhaps Abraham's attraction to his father's family was still so strong, that he saw them more positively than he ought to have done.

24:11 He made the camels kneel down outside the city by the well of water at the evening time, the time that women go out to draw water- The well was the logical place to go to meet local young women. Moses wrote Genesis, and he will go on to record how he also met his wife by a well. And we think of the Lord meeting the Samaritan woman at a well, and Jacob meeting his wife likewise. Clearly there is a kind of Divine hallmark stamped on all these experiences. He works in the same outline manner with us all, and there are points of connection between our lives and those of others, both in our generation and in Biblical history. Man is not alone, we are not adrift, at the mercy of the winds of fortune. God is active through His Spirit, and working according to a plan.

24:12 He said, Yahweh, the God of my master Abraham, please give me success this day, and show kindness to my master Abraham- "Kindness" is a word often associated with God's keeping covenant with His covenant people. It is a way of pleading the promises, asking God to fulfil His promises to Abraham, rather than simply wishing for God to be "kind" to Abraham. The fulfilment required a Godly seed, and that was what Eliezer was seeking. He prayed according to God's will. "Success" is literally 'to bring the face to'. Jacob uses the phrase in Gen. 27:20 in claiming to have had "success" from God in bringing venison so quickly.

24:13 Behold, I am standing by the spring of water. The daughters of the men of the city are coming out to draw water- God of course knows all things; but like David in the Psalms, Eliezer shares with God his location and situation. This is not to inform God, as it were; but rather for our benefit. It helps us to verbalize our situation before God, it brings about an openness toward God on our side.

24:14 Let it happen, that the young lady to whom I will say, ‘Please let down your pitcher, that I may drink’, and she will say, ‘Drink, and I will also give your camels drink’--let her be the one You have appointed for Your servant Isaac. By this I will know that You have shown kindness to my master- This raises the issue of whether it is correct to set God signs to fulfil. Yet God seems to have worked through it in this case. The condition which Eliezer set was pretty tough; to water ten camels was a major task which would have taken some hours, and it was already evening (:11). The family would worry what had become of their young lady, and the only appropriate thing to do would be to accompany the woman back home. The chance of a woman making this offer was very slim; so slim that we wonder if Eliezer might possibly have been trying to release himself from the responsibility. And as they had come on a long journey, the servants riding the camels would have been quite capable of watering their camels as they had done many times already on the trip. We note that Eliezer prays, he is no atheist, and yet maybe he doubts whether the promises to Abraham will be fulfilled; he sets this rather difficult hoop for anyone to jump through, and then says that if it happens, then he "will know that You have shown kindness to my master". I have earlier suggested that "kindness" is a technical term which often refers to the covenant. Seeing the condition being set was so unlikely, it could be argued that he was trying to disprove the fulfilment of the promises. God could have ignored this kind of manipulation; but He didn't, and instead brought Eliezer to his knees by actually making the girl jump through the hoop. For God clearly made Rebekah respond as she did, when she had no reason to. The whole incident is parabolic and typical of the calling out of the bride of Abraham's seed; and we too are made to do things which we otherwise would never have done. Thus the Spirit works, to bring us to be the Master's bride.

"Appointed" translates a Hebrew word which carries the idea of being declared right; it has a moral sense to it, and is similar in form, although not identical with, the word used about Abraham being 'counted righteous' on account of his faith (Gen. 15:6). The reference is not to prior choosing or predestination, but to being declared as the right one; the theme of imputed righteousness is therefore continued. It was not that Rebekah was spiritually minded, but rather that she, like her relative Abraham, was counted right because she believed on some level.

24:15 It happened, before he had finished speaking, that behold, Rebekah came out, who was born to Bethuel the son of Milcah, the wife of Nahor, Abraham’s brother, with her pitcher on her shoulder- This is the classic example of God hearing prayer before it is spoken. Prayer is therefore for our benefit rather than for the sake of transmitting information to God which He didn't know. We note from Is. 65:24 that this experience of prayer being heard and answered before it is uttered is one of the joys of the Kingdom age; and yet this is part of the Kingdom life which we can even now experience. The details are added to encourage us to play Bible television with the words- her pitcher on her shoulder, silhouetted against the setting sun; and a relative of Abraham just as he had wished for.

24:16 The young lady was very beautiful to look at, a virgin, neither had any man known her- The three terms are all saying the same thing- a "young lady... virgin... neither had any man known her". The triple emphasis is to prepare us to expect that she is ideally suited to marry and bear a child into Abraham's line. When we go on to read that she was barren for 20 years, we are seeing how God doesn't automatically use those who are ideally qualified for a role. He may even delay or impede their usage, so that all is of His Spirit and grace rather than of the flesh. And we have all surely seen this in life many times. The word "neither" is used in the Semitic sense of 'not [only] B but also A". This must be remembered when we read things like "Christ sent me not to baptize"; the idea is "not [only] to baptize".

She went down to the spring, filled her pitcher, and came up- As noted on :15, we are given the picture of her walking down the steps to the well and then climbing up again with her pitcher full- as if the Divine cameraman has zoomed in upon her, and we are watching her from where Eliezer was sitting.

24:17 The servant ran to meet her and said, Please give me a drink, a little water from your pitcher- As observed on :16, the Divine camera is positioned where Eliezer was sitting, and it remains there. We see Eliezer running toward her, having prayed and set up a situation whereby if she responded in a most unusual way, then she would be the one. We notice the sense of speed in the narrative; he runs to meet her, she hurries (:18) in response, Eliezer refuses to eat at Laban's house until the matter is finished, and then he and Rebekah both wish to return to Abraham immediately. Once we are moving in step with the Spirit, life takes on a great speed once we perceive that every movement of ours will unleash the Spirit to lead us further.

24:18 She said, Drink, my lord. She hurried, and let down her pitcher on her hand, and gave him drink- As we have seen in the previous verses, it's as if the Divine cameraman is zoomed very close in now; we see the "pitcher on her hand" and can imagine her letting it down to give drink to this stranger. Once a large pitcher was full and balanced on the head, it was a major inconvenience to let it down. She would naturally have wondered why the man had not run up to her before, seeing he was watching her, and asked for water before she had put it up on her head. The way Eliezer does this could almost lead us to think that he was setting her up to fail the preconditions which he was setting God. The normal reply would have been: 'Sorry I can't, now the pitcher is balanced on my head'. And in no way with the sun going down would the woman then offer to water ten camels of a stranger. Perhaps he was really looking for a way out of his mission; he set up the preconditions which appeared impossible for anyone to reach, and set the conclusion- that if they were failed, then he would be free of the oath and could return home. The fact Rebekah was moved by the Spirit to fulfil them all... therefore made him collapse before Yahweh in deep devotion, having been transformed from cynic to believer by Rebekah's response.

It shouldn’t just be the nearness of the Lord’s return that makes us urgent. Our decisions to give over each part of our lives, radically, to Jesus should be made not just because life is short and the Lord is at the door; but also because it might otherwise be too late to undo the damage a self-engrossed life has already caused, to the self and to others. Rebekah responded immediately to the call to go marry Isaac, in a story which is clearly to be read as an acted parable of the search for a bride for Jesus. Her ‘quick’ response is one of her characteristics (Gen. 24:18,20,26,46,64). Abraham likewise “rose up early” after his night time vision, requiring him to offer his son to God (Gen. 22:1,3). Joshua “therefore” started to attack the confederacy of local kings, in the middle of the night, immediately after God had assured him of victory (Josh. 10:9). David could write: “I made haste, and delayed not to keep thy commandments” (Ps. 119:60). We cannot be passive on receiving the opportunity to serve God. We will urgently seek to do something with what we have been enabled to do for the Lord: “The servant who got five bags went quickly to invest the money and earned five more bags” (Mt. 25:16 NCV).

24:19 When she had done giving him drink, she said, I will also draw for your camels, until they have done drinking- As noted above, this was all a most unlikely response. She is presented as having no reason for making it. It was "evening", sun was setting; to water ten camels was a major job; the man had come running to her exactly when she had already got her own pitcher balanced on her head, and she had to take it down again, unstop it and give him drink from it, meaning she had to pour the rest away (:20). Why make this response? Surely God made her make it, in order to meet the rather bizarre preconditions which the [sceptical?] Eliezer had set up. There are times when we reflect that we have done or said something which was not what we naturally wanted to do. Or we do something having no idea why we did it. This is the movement of the Spirit, and in the great parable of our salvation and calling, Rebekah's humanly irrational response speaks of the Spirit's movement in our lives, that our response may be of grace and not of human volition.

 

24:20 She hurried, and emptied her pitcher into the trough- I suggested on :19 that she had to unstop her pitcher to give Eliezer water, and once it was unstopped and she had given water to a stranger, she had to pour the rest of it away. This heightens the sense of extraordinary inconvenience which she was being put to, and yet she so willingly responded.

And ran again to the well to draw, and drew for all his camels- Her hurrying may have been because the sun was going down and she didn't want to return home after dark, nor have her family worrying about her absence. But the rest of the narrative suggests that the 'hurrying' was because God's purpose was being worked out by willing people. He may appear very slow, but when people are willing, the speed of the Spirit's movement is amazing.

 24:21 The man looked at her amazed, remaining silent, to know whether Yahweh had made his journey prosperous or not- I suggested on :18 that Eliezer had set hoops for the girl to jump through which may have appeared unreasonable, in order to get himself out of the oath to find a wife for Isaac and return home. But his ridiculous preconditions have all been met. And yet despite being "amazed", or 'stunned' as the Hebrew means, he apparently still doubts whether Yahweh has prospered his journey. However, once the camels are watered, he then gives her the engagement presents (:22). It was as if he had to wait until the camels were all watered before proceeding. Or the Hebrew could imply that he was so stunned that he couldn't speak, because he had known / perceived that Yahweh had answered positively the question as to whether the journey had prospered or not. It clearly had been, and he was stunned, at how his skepticism and setting up a humanly impossible precondition had been answered.

Ask, believing that you will receive. Otherwise, prayer becomes just a conscience salver, rattled off to calm ourselves rather than meaningfully request something from the throne of Heaven. Eliezer had the answer to his prayer, just as he had asked; but, initially, he didn't believe it had happened. We are so similar. It is in those moments that we realize just what a momentous thing it is, to ask something of God, to be performed on this earth. And to realize it actually happened. He did it, for me, a little ant crawling on the surface of a small planet that is hurtling through space, in a remote part of His universe…

 24:22 So it happened, as the camels had done drinking, that the man took a golden ring of half a shekel weight, and two bracelets for her hands of ten shekels weight of gold- "The man" was a messenger, and so Rebekah ranks amongst those who showed hospitality to strangers and thereby entertained messengers / angels unaware (Heb. 13:2). The half shekel was later the price of the redemption money, the sign that one was numbered amongst Israel (Ex. 38:26). Lange's commentary demonstrates that such a nose ring (Heb.) and bracelets of that weight were the engagement presents used at the time, and are still used amongst some Bedouin today. Rebekah is presented as having no say in the matter; she was moved to respond, and then for this she was decorated with engagement presents for an unknown man in an unknown distant land. It all rather sounds like the call of Abram- he didn't understand, but said yes to God, and was carried away by event and circumstance to an unknown land- the very same land to which Rebekah was now called away. So it is with our calling to become the bride of the Seed, the Lord Jesus. The essential and only critical thing is to remain part of the program, to keep responding, to never say "no".

24:23 And said, Whose daughter are you? Please tell me. Is there room in your father’s house for us to lodge in?- Eliezer comes over as very 'forward'. It was not the done thing to invite yourself as a guest, especially when Eliezer had a group of servants and ten camels who also needed a bed for the night. The whole incident speaks of how God takes the initiative in coming into our lives with the unusual call, and our responding to it, partly from our own volition but largely from the prompting of the Spirit.

24:24 She said to him, I am the daughter of Bethuel the son of Milcah, whom she bore to Nahor- Genealogy and self-identity was usually traced through males. But she identifies herself according to her grandmother Milcah, and this was of course the way of identifying herself as one of the Abraham family. Perhaps she had indeed heard of Abraham's experiences with Yahweh and chose to identify herself with that family; and God responded to that by sending Eliezer to call her away to marry into it. Now we see the significance of the comment in Gen. 22:20 that Abraham heard that Milcah had born children to his brother Nahor. "Milcah" means "queen" and this idea was behind Sarai being renamed to Sarah.

24:25 She said moreover to him, We have both straw and provender enough, and room to lodge in- Her response is as unusually positive as her offer to water the ten camels and give Eliezer water when her sealed pitcher was already balanced on her head or shoulder. She after all was the unmarried daughter, and such agreements had to be made by the male head of the family. 'Something' made her respond like this; that is the impression we get throughout the record. And that 'something' was the Spirit. It was not that a message was preached and she responded in faith. She was as it were made to respond, just as Abram was, by his own father taking him out of Ur. We too cannot claim that our positive response to the Gospel was all by dint of our own devotion, faith, appreciation and intellectual purity of understanding.

24:26 The man bowed his head, and worshiped Yahweh- As noted on :21, the man was 'stunned'. He had set up an apparently possible precondition in order to prove that this mission was over and failed; but God met that precondition. And so he gave in, and humbles himself before Yahweh. The Hebrew for "worshipped" means to prostrate. Eliezer fell down on the ground beside that well, as if in the presence of an invisible being. This is how real the invisible God came to be for him.

24:27 He said, Blessed be Yahweh, the God of my master Abraham, who has not forsaken His loving kindness and His truth toward my master. As for me, Yahweh has led me in the way to the house of my master’s relatives- See on Gen. 25:23. I suggested on ::21 and :26 that Eliezer had begun to doubt whether the promises to Abraham [the usual referent of "kindness and truth"] would really be fulfilled in this way. But he praises Yahweh for fulfilling them. The "as for me..." may suggest he still didn't feel that this Yahweh was his personal God; he felt he had simply been used and directed miraculously as this wonderful God worked out His purpose and fulfilled His promises.

The same Hebrew words for being 'led in the way' are used of how God led Israel in the way to Canaan, also by an Angel (Ex. 13:17,21; Neh. 9:12). Moses was retelling this story to encourage his primary audience, as well as us; that experience is not random, but part of being led.

The AV "I being in the way, the Lord led me..." would suggest that if we make the effort to follow in the way demanded by the promises of grace, then we will be led further. We think of how as the believers ministered to the Lord, they were led further to reach out to the Gentiles; we are led ever further (see on Acts 13:2).


24:28 The young lady ran- There was a definite trait of energy and industrious activity amongst the Abraham family, indicated by the record of Rebekah running to respond to the call of Eliezer to marry Isaac  (Gen. 24:18,20,28,58). Laban too was spritely (Gen. 24:29). And Abraham as an old boy ran  to meet the Angels, he hastened  into the tent, and personally ran unto the herd rather than wave his wand at the servants (or the wife) to do it (Gen. 18:2,6,7). The way in which it is stressed that he got up early in the morning gives the same impression (Gen. 19:27; 20:8; 21:14; 22:3; the same is said of Jacob, Gen. 28:18 and Laban, Gen. 31:55). The mixture of zeal and business acumen is reflected in the way both Abraham and Lot greeted the Angels in a similar, outgoing, gentlemanly manner (Gen. 19:1-3 cp. Gen. 18:1-6). Note how Rebekah immediately says "I will go" (Heb. elek)- just as Abraham had been called to "go" from Ur (lek, Gen. 12:1); "and he went" (wayyelek, Gen. 12:4). This would seem to suggest an undesigned similarity of character between the family members.

And told her mother’s house about these words- We note "her mother's house" and not "her father's". We do not encounter her father in the record, so perhaps he was dead. Or as the women lived in separate dwellings, she may have gone and told them first.

24:29 Rebekah had a brother, and his name was Laban. Laban ran out to the man, to the spring- We can conclude that she left Eliezer and his caravan at the well, and ran home with the good news; for Laban then runs out to the well to meet Eliezer.

24:30 It happened, when he saw the ring, and the bracelets on his sister’s hands- They would have been valuable, and his basic materialistic instinct is portrayed here. When he saw them, he was interested.

And when he heard the words of Rebekah his sister, saying, This is what the man said to me, that he came to the man- This is similar to how the Queen of Sheba only believed the words she heard once she saw things (1 Kings 10:5,6). And that basic psychology is true to this day; the message of the gospel, the Divine promises, only becomes real when concrete evidence is seen in human lives of the primary realization of the blessings in the here and now.

Behold, he was standing by the camels at the spring- Again we are invited to visualize the scene, the cameraman as it were travelling with Laban as he ran.

 24:31 He said, Come in, you blessed of Yahweh- Although Laban is not presented as very spiritual, he uses the Yahweh name. It seems for sure that Abraham had sent message back to his family about his experiences with Yahweh. Perhaps it was news of positive response to it which led Abraham to seek a wife for Isaac from there. Laban recognizes that the Abraham household had been blessed by Yahweh; because he saw the material blessings which the camels were laden with. These were but a foretaste of the more essential spiritual blessings.

Why do you stand outside? For I have prepared the house, and room for the camels- The preparation must have been very quick, because the well was only running distance from their home. Laban's later invitation of Jacob into his home was also motivated by hopes of material gain rather than any desire for real spiritual fellowship. Rebekah is portrayed differently; despite the influence of Laban upon her, she focused upon the spiritual rather than the material.

 24:32 The man came into the house, and he unloaded the camels. He gave straw and provender for the camels, and water to wash his feet and the feet of the men who were with him- We note that Eliezer is willing for the camels to eat, but not for himself; until the Lord's work is done. He is presented as taking thought for the life of his animals. But the text may suggest that although Rebekah and Laban had offered "straw and provender", Eliezer chose to use his own, and to use his own water- so that the discussions about spiritual things would not be compromised by any sense of material obligation. We note that he had his own water; his request for water from Rebekah was therefore part of his testing her. And likewise the Father brings many things into our lives, the response to which is not important of itself; but the process is all important, for what we show ourselves to be.

24:33 Food was set before him to eat, but he said, I will not eat until I have told my message. He said, Speak on- As noted on :32, Eliezer was careful to ensure that the discussion about the essential question was not in any sense distorted by being in the debt of the host. And meals were long drawn out occasions. In our seeking of a bride for the Lord Jesus, our attitude must be the same. And this was why the Lord asked His preachers to not greet those they met on the way (Lk. 10:4), however rude it seemed; but to focus directly and without distraction on the invitation of people to salvation

24:34 He said, I am Abraham’s servant- Eliezer has a commendable humility. He uses the standard word for "servant", when he could have introduced himself as the master of Abraham's household; which would have been a very senior position. In our work as seekers of the Lord's bride, there is to be a similar humility.

24:35 Yahweh has blessed my master greatly. He has become great. He has given him flocks and herds, silver and gold, male servants and female servants, and camels and donkeys- The allusion is to the promise of Gen. 12:2 which Abraham had received whilst still living in Mesopotamia; that he would be made great. If Abraham had shared that message with others even at that stage, they would realize that the strange promise had indeed been fulfilled in a primary sense. What is attractive and compelling in our presentation of the Gospel is that there has been an incipient fulfilment of promised blessings in our lives now; not in terms of material blessing, but the essence of the Kingdom life is to be seen in us right now.

 24:36 Sarah, my master’s wife, bore a son to my master when she was old- The suggestion could be that the promises of becoming "great" and "many" had been fulfilled in a material sense, but Abraham had hardly become numerous. And that was why Eliezer had come; to seek a bride for Abraham's one legitimate son, so that the promised blessings of the seed could come true through her.

He has given all that he has to him- It was usual for a father to divide the inheritance amongst all the children, with the firstborn getting a double portion. But whilst Abraham did provide for his children by Keturah, he gave all he had as inheritance to Isaac. This reflects how Abraham considered Isaac as his one and only legitimate son. The others were by concubines (Hagar and Keturah). And we can better perceive the magnitude of the sacrifice which Abraham had been asked to make, in sacrificing this son. The language is very much that of the father in the parable of the prodigal son- all that he had was the elder son's. But that son went out into the night in bitterness and left the family.

 24:37 My master made me swear, saying, ‘You shall not take a wife for my son of the daughters of the Canaanites, in whose land I live- Although Abraham spent much of his life in Canaan, he always felt himself as one passing through, living in their land. We too, no matter how settled and stable our lives may be, are to feel likewise; that this land is not ours, but we are passing through. The day of eternal inheritance is still coming, and is not fully now.

 24:38 But you shall go to my father’s house, and to my relatives, and take a wife for my son’- This was not precisely what Abraham had said in :4. Perhaps Eliezer, realizing he was amongst the very close relatives of Abraham, interpretted his commission that way.

24:39 I asked my master, ‘What if the woman will not follow me?’- Perhaps both Rebekah and her family had the impression that Abraham's son was looking to return to his ancestral homeland. But the condition of becoming part of the Abrahamic blessing and seed was to separate from family and to go to Canaan; exactly as Abraham had had to do, as they presumably knew full well.

 24:40 He said to me, ‘Yahweh, before whom I walk, will send His angel with you, and prosper your way. You shall take a wife for my son of my relatives, and of my father’s house-  Because our Angel has been so zealous in acting for us, we too should be zealous in return- thus Abraham's servant, knowing that God had sent an Angel before him to prepare the way for his mission of finding a wife for Isaac, was eager to be as zealous as possible to do his part in the work- "Hinder me not, seeing the Lord (the Angel) has prospered my way" (:56). There are many other examples of this. Because the Angel is with us, we must joyfully and enthusiastically do our part. See on Hag. 2:4.  He felt he was on a roll, being led onwards by the Angel- and he didn’t want anything to interrupt that. The sensitive believer will perceive similar situations, time and again, as we seek to follow the leading of the Angel / cherubim before whom we walk. If we walk in step with the Angel, success is assured.


Here clearly the Angel was physically sent. It seems that great stress is placed in Scripture on the Angels physically moving through space, both on the earth and between Heaven and earth, in order to fulfil their tasks, rather than being static in Heaven or earth and bringing things about by just willing them to happen. See on Gen. 18:10. Moses was writing these things for Israel in the wilderness, who were likewise lead daily by an Angel, to the same land of Canaan. Abraham felt that he walked ‘before Yahweh', reflecting how he too saw that he was following an Angel, as Israel were. But the idea is also of covenant relationship, for Abraham had asked that Ishmael might also live before Yahweh, i.e. still be in covenant with Him (Gen. 17:18). And God had agreed, although Ishmael didn't want to know.

On a practical level, a worthy wife in order to raise a Godly seed must herself personally have responded to the call to leave all; she must have personally acted in the spirit of Abraham, in response to the same promises. And Eliezer would not even take a meal from her family until this had been established. Perhaps the equivalent for us is that romance and personal considerations should come after the basic spiritual compatibility is established between two persons.

 

24:41 Then will you be clear from my oath, when you come to my relatives. If they don’t give her to you, you shall be clear from my oath’- The events recorded in Gen. 24 concerning a wife being sought for Isaac are all capable of symbolic interpretation; the steward [= the ministry of the preacher] is sent to seek a wife [= the bride of Christ, the ecclesia] for Isaac [cp. Jesus], and told not to bring Isaac back- i.e., they had to succeed in their search, and they would; as the shepherd of the Lord's parable sought the sheep until it was found. Yet there was the recognition that she may not be found (“If they don't give her to you…”); and yet the response to the question ‘Peradventure the woman will not follow me?’ was that the Lord would prosper the way “and you shall take a wife for my son” (:40). This wasn’t blind optimism. The possibility of failure was entertained. But there was a positivism that Yahweh’s intention would be carried out. The Lord Himself marvelled at the unbelief of men (Mk. 6:6), despite knowing what was in man. Surely He could only have genuinely felt such marvel because He began with such an essentially positive spirit.

24:42 I came this day to the spring, and said, ‘Yahweh, the God of my master Abraham, if now You do prosper my way which I go- Again we get the impression that Eliezer didn't fully believe that the journey was being prospered. Maybe he had stopped at other towns in the area and not found anyone appropriate. And so he sets a most unlikely condition for Yahweh to fulfil His promise, as he was about to return home. And God made Rebekah perfectly jump through that hoop.

24:43 Behold, I am standing by this spring of water. Let it happen, that the maiden who comes out to draw, to whom I will say, Please give me a little water from your pitcher to drink- As mentioned earlier, once the pitcher was full and on her shoulder or head, it was quite an inconvenience to get it down again, unstop it, and give some water to a person; :20 seems to say that she emptied the rest of the pitcher into the trough after Eliezer had done drinking.

24:44 And she will tell me, 'Drink, and I will also draw for your camels' - let her be the woman whom Yahweh has appointed for my master's son- All who heard the account would have agreed that this was really an impossible hoop to set for God to make someone jump through, and Rebekah's response was counter instinctive, counter cultural and so unusual that one could only say that God made her do it. Just as our response to the call is induced by the Spirit.

24:45 Before I had finished speaking in my heart, behold, Rebekah came out with her pitcher on her shoulder. She went down to the spring, and drew. I said to her, ‘Please let me drink’- Prayer is largely carried out in the mind – how we ‘speak in the heart’ is effectively read as our prayer to God. Thus our self-talk merges into prayer; Hannah’s “prayer” appears to have been the same (1 Sam. 2:1). Solomon’s prayer for wisdom is described by God as “in your heart” (2 Chron. 1:11). This close link between thought and prayer is developed in the Lord’s teaching in Mk. 11:23,24. In Hannah's time, such prayer in the heart was unheard of. Relationship with the gods was seen as a question of going into a "house of prayer", it was not personal. But the promises to Abraham were of a personal relationship with Yahweh: "I will be their God".

24:46 She hurried and let down her pitcher from her shoulder, and said, ‘Drink, and I will also give your camels a drink’. So I drank, and she also gave the camels a drink- Eliezer is careful to recount things exactly as they happened, with no exaggeration, omissions or additions. It was so clearly the hand of God.

24:47 I asked her, and said, ‘Whose daughter are you?’ She said, ‘The daughter of Bethuel, Nahor’s son, whom Milcah bore to him’. I put the ring on her nose, and the bracelets on her hands- This technically should have happened after the girl and her family had agreed. Eliezer had gone ahead and taken the initiative, in a way which would have otherwise been seen as rude and countercultural, and disrespectful to the family. But this is the insistent demand of the Gospel's call. It's why people were baptized immediately in the New Testament, the same hour or day they believed.

24:48 I bowed my head, and worshiped Yahweh, and blessed Yahweh, the God of my master Abraham, who had led me in the right way to take my master’s brother’s daughter for his son- Biblical genealogies often skip generations, and this is an example. "Right" is the same word translated "truth" in :27, where it is used [as so often, e.g. Gen. 32:10] of the certainty of the fulfilment of the promises to Abraham. And Eliezer goes on to ask them to deal "truly" (:49) in response. God's mercy and truth to us are to be reflected in our responding with these things. Covenant relationship with Him is the ultimate truth or reality of our lives.

The same Hebrew words for being 'led in the way' are used of how God led Israel in the way to Canaan, also by an Angel (Ex. 13:17,21; Neh. 9:12). Moses was retelling this story to encourage his primary audience, as well as us; that experience is not random, but part of being led.


24:49 Now if you will deal kindly and truly with my master, tell me. If not, tell me, that I may turn to the right hand, or to the left- As noted on :48, the kindness and truth of God in the covenant must be responded to "truly" by men. Eliezer comes over as high pressure, forcing them to make a decision before he had even eaten a meal with the family. This speaks of the urgency of response to the Gospel. We are not lamely standing on streets holding out tracts for any who may wish to walk up to us and take them. Rather are we to entreat and implore men to see the intensity of our position, and to respond.

24:50 Then Laban and Bethuel answered, The thing proceeds from Yahweh. We can’t speak to you bad or good- This is precisely what Laban says years later to Jacob; that he couldn't speak bad or good to him (Gen. 31:29). We feel that Laban and Bethuel were not exactly enthusiastic about going God's way, but rather felt they could say nothing against it, because His hand was so clearly evident.

24:51 Behold, Rebekah is before you. Take her, and go, and let her be your master’s son’s wife, as Yahweh has spoken- There is no record that Yahweh had spoken specifically that Rebekah should be Isaac' wife. But the path of providence was effectively God's spoken voice; and we likewise can perceive God's voice to us through such situations.

24:52 It happened that when Abraham’s servant heard their words, he bowed himself down to the earth to Yahweh- The cultural thing to do would have been to thank the family. But instead he prostrates himself on the ground to Yahweh, as if in all these acts of providence, he sensed the Angel, or God Himself, standing there albeit unseen. He sensed very much the presence of God, just as we do in such times and situations.

24:53 The servant brought out jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and clothing, and gave them to Rebekah. He also gave precious things to her brother and her mother- Ten camels' burden of expensive gifts would have been worth the equivalent of a million or more dollars in our terms. But this was the value Abraham placed upon a Godly wife for his son. It speaks of the invaluable importance of marriage within the faith in order to raise a Godly seed.

24:54 They ate and drank, he and the men who were with him, and stayed all night. They rose up in the morning, and he said, Send me away to my master- The immediacy of response was not part of the deal, but it was perhaps implied. They would have been exhausted after the long journey; but the urgency of the work in hand, the following of the Spirit, was such that nothing was to delay them.

24:55 Her brother and her mother said, Let the young lady stay with us a few days, at least ten. After that she will go- This sounded reasonable, and indeed it was, from a human viewpoint. But Eliezer was aware that the flesh always seeks the opportunity to use delays and procrastination in order to get out of spiritual commitment. And constantly, we see the man aware of the urgent need to follow the Spirit's leading. The spirit of all this explains why baptism was practiced immediately in the New Testament, as it should be today.


24:56 He said to them, Don’t hinder me, since Yahweh has prospered my way. Send me away that I may go to my master- This should be our attitude- following the leading of the Spirit, and not allowing anything or anyone to delay us. All procrastination in such cases is of the flesh, seeking to put the brakes on our response to the Spirit; hence Israel should not "delay" or "hinder ourselves" to offer the first fruits (Ex. 22:29). We can easily get caught up for a whole period of our lives, delaying instead of following. The same word translated "hinder" is used of how Jacob "stayed" with Laban (Gen. 32:4) far longer than he should have done. He failed to learn the lesson; Rebekah and Eliezer had refused to be hindered or delayed with Laban. Situations had repeated themselves, and Jacob had failed to learn the lesson from history, even within his own immediate family history.

The 'prospering' of the way was in direct answer to Eliezer's question as to whether his way had been prospered in :21. This was a characteristic of Joseph, whose way was 'prospered' by God likewise (Gen. 39:2,3,23), despite many hard experiences. Joseph was potentially a primary fulfilment of the great seed of Abraham, as was Solomon, who also 'prospered' so long as he followed God's word (1 Chron. 22:11,13; 29:23; 2 Chron. 7:11). Hezekiah was another potential fulfilment of the seed, and he too prospered (2 Chron. 31:21; 32:30); and the way of the Lord Jesus was prospered above all (Is. 48:15; 53:10; 55:11). But every member of the seed likewise will "prosper" in their path to the Kingdom, although not necessarily in material terms (Josh. 1:8 cp. Dt. 28:29; Num. 14:41). That 'prospering' is the work of the Spirit; the same word is used repeatedly about the work of the Spirit in human lives (1 Sam. 10:6,10; 11:6; 16:13; 18:10; Jud. 14:6,19; 15:14 s.w. "the Spirit came mightily / to cause to prosper upon him").

24:57 They said, We will call the young lady, and ask her-  He likely thought she would flunk the decision; but she didn't. See on :59.

24:58 They called Rebekah, and said to her, Will you go with this man? She said, I will go- There was a definite trait of energy and industrious activity amongst them, indicated by the record of Rebekah running to respond to the call of Eliezer to marry Isaac  (Gen. 24:18,20,28,58). Laban too was spritely (Gen. 24:29). And Abraham as an old man ran  to meet the Angels, he hastened  into the tent, and personally ran unto the herd rather than wave his wand at the servants (or the wife) to do it (Gen. 18:2,6,7). The way in which it is stressed that he got up early in the morning gives the same impression (Gen. 19:27; 20:8; 21:14; 22:3; the same is said of Jacob, Gen. 28:18 and Laban, Gen. 31:55). The mixture of zeal and business acumen is reflected in the way both Abraham and Lot greeted the Angels in a similar, outgoing, gentlemanly manner (Gen. 19:1-3 cp. Gen. 18:1-6). Note how Rebekah immediately says "I will go" (Heb. elek)- just as Abraham had been called to "go" from Ur (lek, Gen. 12:1); "and he went" (wayyelek, Gen. 12:4). This would seem to suggest an undesigned similarity of character between the family members.

24:59 They sent away Rebekah, their sister, with her nurse, Abraham’s servant, and his men- It was most unusual for a woman to be allowed such total freedom of decision, especially with respect to her marriage. But as noted on :50, Laban felt that God's hand was at work, and so he feared to speak against it. But we note he was not particularly "for" it; he failed to have the enthusiasm to keep in step with the Spirit which was seen in Eliezer and Rebekah. And so he left it that she could decide herself. He likely thought she would flunk the decision; but she didn't.

24:60 They blessed Rebekah, and said to her, Our sister, may you be the mother of thousands of ten thousands, and let your seed possess the gate of those who hate them- She was barren for 20 years and didn't have so many children. But the Divine promises were fulfilled through her seed. We see here the contrast between spiritual and secular viewpoints; the Divine way of fulfilling these promises and hopes was so different from the secular imagination. And so it is as our own lives unfold.

24:61 Rebekah arose with her ladies. They rode on the camels, and followed the man. The servant took Rebekah, and went his way- 'Following the man' reminds us again that everything in this incident is parabolic of the calling of the bride of Christ, the seed of Abraham. We are to respond immediately, and we go to Him into an unknown land and situation, following "the man", "the servant", also representative of the Lord Jesus.


24:62 Isaac came from the way of Beer Lahai Roi, for he lived in the land of the South- This was the very well associated with Hagar and Ishmael. We wonder what Isaac's thoughts were. If he were to be the seed through whom the promises were to be fulfilled, then it was surely necessary for him to marry and have faithful children. But he was 40 years old. And now, those prayers and hopes were to be answered in the arrival of Rebekah. Or he may have reflected, as I explained previously, that Ishmael  could have been the seed, he had been circumcised into the covenant, and had received the same promises, and Abraham's prayer that Ishmael might live before Yahweh had been heard.

24:63 Isaac went out to pray in the field at the evening. He lifted up his eyes, and saw, and, behold, there were camels coming- Surely he was praying about Eliezer's mission, and a faithful wife through whom to continue the seed. On one hand, God is sovereign and shall bring about His purposes. But that sovereignty meshes with human freewill, so that we too must make our moves in the way of faith, and with prayer. "He lifted up his eyes" and saw his bride approaching, just as she "lifted up her eyes" and saw Isaac (:64). It really was a marriage made in heaven.

24:64 Rebekah lifted up her eyes, and when she saw Isaac, she dismounted from the camel- Her lifting up her eyes and seeing Isaac is complementary to Isaac lifting up his eyes and seeing her coming towards him (:63). From this symmetry we can reason that she lifted up her eyes from prayer, as he had done. They were both praying for the same thing, and had their answers in a sublimely beautiful way.

24:65 She said to the servant, Who is the man who is walking in the field to meet us? The servant said, It is my master. She took her veil, and covered herself- Eliezer and Rebekah were apparently travelling on the same camel out of the ten camels. He took very personally his responsibility in the matter; his diligence is prophetic of ours in seeking out the Lord's bride. The fact Isaac was walking alone after praying alone in a remote spot speaks much about him; and he represents the Lord, who likewise did this. She veiled herself because the wedding ceremony had not yet been undertaken.

24:66 The servant told Isaac all the things that he had done- In the parable of redemption here, the servant represents the preachers of the Gospel. The Lord Jesus uses similar language in Mt. 18:31 and Lk. 17:10, of His servants coming and telling Him what had been done.

24:67 Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent, and took Rebekah, and she became his wife. He loved her. Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death- Clearly Rebekah is presented as filling the emotional hole left by the loss of Sarah. Rebekah is not given a new tent, as was usual, but instead took Sarah's tent. "He loved her" may sound obvious, but in contracted marriages both then and now, marriage is often not love marriage. This is a commendable note; that he loved his wife. Later we will read of their physical affection, so strongly felt between them that they met up privately for intercourse when separate from each other (Gen. 26:8). The whole account of Isaac's love for Rebekah has the ring of psychological credibility to it; and such things are major internal evidence reasons for believing the Bible to be Divinely inspired.