Marriage of Isaac (Gen 24:1-24:67)

“Abraham was old and well advanced in years.  Yahweh had blessed Abraham in all things.  Abraham said to his servant, the oldest of his house, who had charge of all that he had, ‘Put your hand under my thigh, and I will make you swear by Yahweh, the God of heaven and earth, that you will not get a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I live, but will go to my country and to my kindred, and get a wife for my son Isaac.’  The servant said to him, ‘Perhaps the woman may not be willing to follow me to this land.  Must I then take your son back to the land from which you came?’  Abraham said to him, ‘See to it that you do not take my son back there.  Yahweh, the God of heaven, who took me from my father’s house and from the land of my birth, and who spoke to me and swore to me, ‘To your offspring I will give this land,’ he will send his angel before you, and you shall get a wife for my son from there. But if the woman is not willing to follow you, then you will be free from this oath of mine.  Only you must not take my son back there.’  So the servant put his hand under the thigh of Abraham his master, and swore to him concerning this matter.”

In this Yahweh tradition, the old Abraham is perhaps over 137 years old since he just buried his wife who was 127 years old.  He made his oldest trusted servant, perhaps Eliezer swear an oath by putting his hand under this thigh, a strange custom.   He did not want Isaac to marry a Canaanite, but wanted him to find a wife from the country of his kindred.  The servant asked what if no one is willing to come here.  Abraham would excuse him of this oath if the woman does not come here, but Isaac was not to go back there either.  This was an odd dilemma for this old faithful servant.

“Then the servant took ten of his master’s camels and departed, taking all sorts of choice gifts from his master.  He set out and went to Mesopotamia, Aram-naharaim, to the city of Nahor. He made the camels kneel down outside the city by the well of water.  It was toward evening, the time when women go out to draw water.  He said, ‘Yahweh, God of my master Abraham, grant me success today and show steadfast love to my master Abraham.  I am standing here by the spring of water, and the daughters of the townspeople are coming out to draw water.  Let the girl to whom I shall say, `Please offer your jar that I may drink,’ and who shall say, `Drink, and I will water your camels.’  Let her be the one whom you have appointed for your servant Isaac. By this I shall know that you have shown steadfast love to my master.”

Then the servant took ten camels with lots of gifts and set out for Nahor, between the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers in Mesopotamia, near Haran.  There he had the camels kneel in order to take water at a well.  This servant prayed to Yahweh, the God of Abraham, for success in his task, saying that the girl who would water his camels would be the one for Isaac.  He had a plan.

“Before he had finished speaking, there was Rebekah, who was born to Bethuel the son of Milcah, the wife of Nahor, Abraham’s brother, coming out with her water jar upon her shoulder.  The maiden girl was very fair to look upon, a virgin, whom no man had known. She went down to the spring, filled her jar, and came up.  Then the servant ran to meet her, and said, ‘Please let me sip a little water to drink from your jar.’ ‘Drink, my lord,’ she said, and she quickly lowered her jar into her hand and gave him a drink.  When she had finished giving him a drink, she said, ‘I will draw for your camels also, until they have finished drinking.’  So she quickly emptied her jar into the trough and ran again to the well to draw more water, and she drew for all his camels.”

Out came Rebekah, the daughter or Bethuel, son of Nahor, a very good looking virgin girl, carrying a jar of water on her head.  So the servant of Abraham went to her and asked for water, which she gave him.  After he had finished drinking, she said that she would get water for his camels, which she did.

“The man gazed at her in silence to learn whether or not Yahweh had made his journey successful.  When the camels had finished drinking, the man took a gold nose-ring weighing a half shekel, and two bracelets for her arms weighing ten gold shekels, and said, ‘Tell me whose daughter you are. Is there room in your father’s house for us to spend the night?’  She said to him, “I am the daughter of Bethuel son of Milcah, whom she bore to Nahor.’  She added, ‘We have plenty of straw and fodder and a place to spend the night.’  The man bowed his head and worshiped Yahweh and said, ‘Blessed be Yahweh, the God of my master Abraham, who has not forsaken his steadfast love and his faithfulness toward my master.  As for me, Yahweh has led me on the way to the house of my master’s kin.’”

The servant thought that his mission was a success as he got out a gold nose ring and two bracelets weighing ten gold shekels to give to her.  You thought that nose rings were a new invention.  This story puts it 3,500-4,500 years ago. He asked whose daughter she was.  She replied that she was the daughter of Bethuel, the son of Milcah and Nahor, who was Abraham’s brother. Thus she was the grand niece of Abraham or a second cousin of Isaac.  Rebekah said that the servant of Abraham could spend the night because they had straw and fodder.  The servant bowed his head and worshipped Yahweh, the God of his master Abraham, because he had found a woman from the relatives of Abraham.

“Then the girl ran and told her mother’s household about these things. Rebekah had a brother whose name was Laban.  Laban ran out to the man, to the spring. As soon as he had seen the nose-ring and the bracelets on his sister’s arms, and when he heard the words of his sister Rebekah, ‘Thus the man spoke to me,’ he went to the man.  There he was, standing by the camels at the spring.  He said, ‘Come in, O blessed of Yahweh.  Why do you stand outside when I have prepared the house and a place for the camels?’ So the man came into the house.  Laban unloaded the camels and gave him straw and fodder for the camels and water to wash his feet and the feet of the men who were with him.  Then food was set before him to eat.  But he said, ‘I will not eat until I have told my errand.’ He said, ‘Speak on.’”

Rebekah had a brother named Laban, who invited the servant and his camels in.  Laban watered and feed his camels, then washed the servant’s feet.  When the food was set out, the servant said that he had to tell his purpose for being there before he ate. 

“So he said, ‘I am Abraham’s servant.  Yahweh has greatly blessed my master and he has become wealthy.  He has given him flocks and herds, silver and gold, male and female slaves, camels and donkeys.  Sarah my master’s wife bore a son to my master when she was old.  He has given him all that he has.  My master made me swear saying, `You shall not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, in whose land I live.  But you shall go to my father’s house, and to my kindred, and get a wife for my son.’  I said to my master, `Perhaps the woman will not follow me.’  But he said to me, `Yahweh, before whom I walk, will send his angel with you and make your way successful.  You shall get a wife for my son from my kindred, from my father’s house.  Then you will be free from my oath, when you come to my kindred, even if they will not give her to you, you will be free from my oath.’”

So he told them about how rich Abraham was and how his son Isaac could not marry a Canaanite.  He was there to find a wife for him and be freed from his oath.

“I came today to the spring, and said, `Yahweh, the God of my master Abraham, if now you will only make me successful the way that I am going!  I am standing by the spring of water.  Let the young woman who comes out to draw, to whom I shall say, ‘Please give me a little water from your jar to drink,’ and who will say to me, ‘Drink and I will draw for your camels also.’ Let her be the woman whom Yahweh has appointed for my master’s son.’’

Then he retold the story of how he was going to choice which girl to marry his master’s son.  Anyone who would be kind to his camels when he just asked for his own water would be the one. There is a lot of repetition in this long story that clearly indicates a strong oral tradition.

 “Before I had done speaking in my heart, there was Rebekah coming out with her water jar on her shoulder. She went down to the spring, and drew. I said to her, `Please let me drink.’  She quickly let down her jar from her shoulder, and said, `Drink, and I will also water your camels.’ So I drank, and she also watered the camels.  Then I asked her, `Whose daughter are you?’  She said, ‘The daughter of Bethuel, Nahor’s son, whom Milcah bore to him.’ So I put the ring on her nose and the bracelets on her arms.  Then I bowed my head and worshiped Yahweh, and blessed Yahweh, the God of my master Abraham, who had led me by the right way to take the daughter of my master’s kinsman for his son.  Now then, if you will deal loyally and truly with my master, tell me.  If not, tell me, so that I may turn either to the right hand or to the left.’”

Rebekah was kind to the camels at the well.  This was the sign that she was the one to wed his master’s son, for it was Yahweh’s will.  However, the servant wanted an answer as to whether Rebekah would agree to be the wife of Isaac.

“Then Laban and Bethuel answered, ‘The thing comes from Yahweh.  We cannot speak to you anything bad or good.  Look, Rebekah is before you, take her and go, and let her be the wife of your master’s son, as Yahweh has spoken.’”

Laban was joined by his father Bethuel, who said that it was God’s will that she go with him. Case closed, the father and sister agree to the marriage of Rebekah.

“When Abraham’s servant heard their words, he bowed himself to the earth before Yahweh.  The servant brought out jewelry of silver and of gold, and garments, and gave them to Rebekah.  He also gave to her brother and to her mother costly ornaments.  Then he and the men who were with him ate and drank, and they spent the night there. When they rose in the morning, he said, ‘Send me back to my master.’  Her brother and her mother said, ‘Let the girl remain with us a while, at least ten days.  After that she may go.’  But he said to them, ‘Do not delay me, since Yahweh has made my journey successful. Let me go that I may go to my master.’  They said, ‘We will call the girl and ask her.’  They called Rebekah, and said to her, ‘Will you go with this man?’ She said, ‘I will.’  So they sent away their sister Rebekah and her nurse along with Abraham’s servant and his men.  They blessed Rebekah, and said to her, ‘May you, our sister, become thousands of myriads.  May your offspring gain possession of the gates of their foes.’  Then Rebekah and her maids rose up, mounted the camels and followed the man.  Thus the servant took Rebekah, and went his way.”

Then the servant of Abraham brought out other jewelry, silver, gold, and garments and gave it to Rebekah, her brother and mother.  Then they ate and drank, and spent the night there. The next morning the brother and mother of Rebekah asked that she stay another ten days.  The servant wanted to go to his master since his mission was successful.  So they called Rebekah to ask her what she wanted to do.  She wanted to go, so they got her maid nurse to go with her.  Then they blessed Rebekah with the hopes of many offspring.

“Now Isaac had come from Beer-lahai-roi, and was settled in the Negeb.  Isaac went out in the evening to walk in the field.  Looking up, he saw camels coming.  Rebekah looked up, and when she saw Isaac, she slipped quickly from the camel, and said to the servant, ‘Who is the man over there, walking in the field to meet us?’ The servant said, ‘It is my master.’ So she took her veil and covered herself.  The servant told Isaac all the things that he had done.  Then Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent.  He took Rebekah, and she became his wife.  He loved her.  Thus Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.”

Isaac, settled in the Negeb, was walking in the field one evening and saw the camels coming.  Rebekah asked who that man was.  The servant said it was Isaac.  He then explained to Isaac everything that he had done.  Then Isaac took her into his mother’s tent and they were married and lived happily ever after. ‘Thus Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.’  This is a very long detailed nice romantic fairy tale with a happy ending.  Isaac marries his second cousin.


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