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Here, we continue our study in Genesis.
1Abraham was now old and well advanced in years, and the LORD had blessed him in every way. 2He said to the chief servant in his household, the one in charge of all that he had, "Put your hand under my thigh. 3I want you to swear by the LORD, the God of heaven and the God of earth, that you will not get a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I am living, 4but will go to my country and my own relatives and get a wife for my son Isaac."
5The servant asked him, "What if the woman is unwilling to come back with me to this land? Shall I then take your son back to the country you came from?"
6"Make sure that you do not take my son back there," Abraham said. 7"The LORD, the God of heaven, who brought me out of my father's household and my native land and who spoke to me and promised me on oath, saying, `To your offspring I will give this land'--He will send His angel before you so that you can get a wife for my son from there. 8If the woman is unwilling to come back with you, then you will be released from this oath of mine. Only do not take my son back there." 9So the servant put his hand under the thigh of his master Abraham and swore an oath to him concerning this matter.
"Abraham was now old and well advanced in years, and the LORD had blessed him in every way." But there was something unfinished for Abraham. His son, the heir of promise, had not yet chosen a bride. As mentioned in the previous studies, these chapters in Genesis form a typological picture of the Gospel. In chapter 22, the father offers up his "only" son on Mount Moriah. In this chapter, the father commissions his chief servant (typical of the Holy Spirit) to choose a bride for the son. God's plan was not thought up at Calvary, but was His "eternal purpose, which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Eph. 3:11). The typology of these chapters in Genesis testify that God's plan existed before the foundation of the world.
As mentioned, Abraham commissioned his chief servant with the task of finding a wife for Isaac. The chief servant was most likely Eliezer[Footnote #1], who is spoken of earlier in Genesis. Eliezer, though subordinate, was, it seems, more like a business partner than the typical servant. In fact, if Abraham had died without having a son, Eliezer would have inherited his estate (see Gen. 15:3).
In commissioning his servant, Abraham said: "Put your hand under my thigh. I want you to swear by the LORD, the God of heaven and the God of earth, that you will not get a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I am living, but will go to my country and my own relatives and get a wife for my son Isaac" (vss. 2-4). Abraham was adamant that Isaac not marry among the Canaanites. One might wonder, why was he so adamant about this? After all, his own people in Mesopotamia were pagans, as well. This is true. However, there was a greater danger that Isaac's offspring would fall into paganism if Isaac married a Canaanite, than a Mesopotamian. If Isaac's wife's family lived nearby, they would undoubtedly have had an influence upon Isaac's children and grandchildren. They would have undoubtedly pressured them to join in the pagan rites and customs. Abraham was wise in choosing a wife for Isaac from a faraway land so that the pagan influence would be minimized to what the wife brought with her.
In line with this, in answer to Eliezer's question, "What if the woman is unwilling to come back with me to this land? Shall I then take your son back to the country you came from?" (vs. 5), Abraham answered: "Make sure that you do not take my son there" (vs. 6). Abraham knew that if Isaac went to Mesopotamia, he would most likely have never come back to the promised land, and his offspring would have undoubtedly fallen under the influence of the heathenism in Mesopotamia. Abraham did not want Isaac wandering from the promised land. Abraham surely remembered how he himself stumbled every time he wandered away from the promised land toward Egypt, into the world (see Gen. 12:10ff; Gen. 20).
Abraham's requirements upon Eliezer support the typological reading of this passage. Just as Eliezer went into Mesopotamia to bring back to the promised land a bride for Abraham's son, so also the Holy Spirit ventures into the world to gather a bride for God's son. And the bride will be brought out of the world into heaven for the great marriage with the Lamb of God (see Rev. 18:23; 19:7; 21:2).
Abraham went on to state (by faith) that God Himself would make Eliezer's journey a success: "The LORD, the God of heaven, who brought me out of my father's household and my native land and who spoke to me and promised me on oath, saying, `To your offspring I will give this land' --He will send his angel before you so that you can get a wife for my son from there" (vs. 7). Abraham had faith that God would aid Eliezer in choosing a wife for Isaac. Some think that God is disinterested in our personal lives. They think it is absurd that God would be involved in our lives so as to aid us in choosing whom we marry. This attitude goes against the testimony of the Bible. In fact, in Proverbs we are told specifically: "A prudent wife is from the LORD" (Prov. 19:14). God is interested in our personal lives. To think otherwise is illogical. God went to great trouble creating us, and to greater trouble redeeming us. Why would He not be interested in the events of our lives? Thus, we should seek His guidance and will as we live our lives.
Abraham based his faith that God would guide him in choosing a wife for Isaac upon God's past guidance in his own life, as well as God's promises concerning his family. Abraham described God as the one who "brought [him] out of [his] father's household and [his] native land" (vs. 7). Also, God spoke to him and promised him: "To your offspring I will give this land" (vs. 7). Whom Isaac married was not just a personal matter; it was a public concern, affecting the establishment of God's people, the future nation of Israel. In this, God had great concern, thus Abraham was certain Eliezer would be guided by the hand of God.
10Then the servant took ten of his master's camels and left, taking with him all kinds of good things from his master. He set out for Aram Naharaim and made his way to the town of Nahor. 11He made the camels kneel down near the well outside the town; it was towards evening, the time the women go out to draw water.
12Then he prayed, "O LORD, God of my master Abraham, give me success today, and show kindness to my master Abraham. 13See, I am standing beside this spring, and the daughters of the townspeople are coming out to draw water. 14May it be that when I say to a girl, `Please let down your jar that I may have a drink,' and she says, `Drink, and I'll water your camels too'--let her be the one you have chosen for your servant Isaac. By this I will know that you have shown kindness to my master."
15Before he had finished praying, Rebekah came out with her jar on her shoulder. She was the daughter of Bethuel son of Milcah, who was the wife of Abraham's brother Nahor. 16The girl was very beautiful, a virgin; no man had ever lain with her. She went down to the spring, filled her jar and came up again.
17The servant hurried to meet her and said, "Please give me a little water from your jar."
18"Drink, my lord," she said, and quickly lowered the jar to her hands and gave him a drink.
19After she had given him a drink, she said, "I'll draw water for your camels too, until they have finished drinking." 20So she quickly emptied her jar into the trough, ran back to the well to draw more water, and drew enough for all his camels. 21Without saying a word, the man watched her closely to learn whether or not the LORD had made his journey successful.
22When the camels had finished drinking, the man took out a gold nose ring weighing a beka and two gold bracelets weighing ten shekels. 23Then he asked, "Whose daughter are you? Please tell me, is there room in your father's house for us to spend the night?"
24She answered him, "I am the daughter of Bethuel, the son that Milcah bore to Nahor." 25And she added, "We have plenty of straw and fodder, as well as room for you to spend the night." 26Then the man bowed down and worshipped the LORD, 27saying, "Praise be to the LORD, the God of my master Abraham, who has not abandoned his kindness and faithfulness to my master. As for me, the LORD has led me on the journey to the house of my master's relatives."
"Then the servant took ten of his master's camels and left, taking with him all kinds of good things from his master" (vs. 10). Eliezer took these things to display Abraham's wealth. He brought all of these things in faith that success would come, that he would need them to convince Isaac's bride to come to the promised land. Note that Abraham and Eliezer ask for the blessings and guidance of God, but they also do their part and use common sense in the matter. They do not rest and let God do all the work, but they desire to be part of God's work, and do their best to see the achievement of what they pray for. This is evocative of Daniel, who when reading of the prophecy of Jeremiah that the Babylonian captivity was soon to end, did not sit back and merely watch God work, but went to God in fervent prayer, praying for the fulfillment of this prophecy: "[I]n the first year of [Xerxes'] reign, I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the LORD given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years. So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with Him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes" (Dan. 9:2-3).
Eliezer went right to the best place to look for a bride for Isaac: "He made the camels kneel down near the well outside the town; it was towards evening, the time the women go out to draw water" (vs. 11). The well was the gathering place for the women in the morning and the evening, and so it was a logical place to meet with the eligible women of the community. Again, Eliezer combined his God-given intelligence with seeking God for help and guidance in the situation. Eliezer, at the well, prayed to God: "O LORD, God of my master Abraham, give me success today, and show kindness to my master Abraham." (vss. 12). Eliezer's prayer demonstrates his own true faith in God, and his true desire to bring success for Abraham, his master, in his plan to find Isaac a wife. The prayer shows Eliezer to be both a faithful servant to God and a faithful servant to Abraham. Faithful service requires faithful prayer.
In his prayer, Eliezer puts out a "fleece" of sorts (see Judg. 6:37ff), and asks for a sign from God to determine who Isaac's bride is: "See, I am standing beside this spring, and the daughters of the townspeople are coming out to draw water. May it be that when I say to a girl, `Please let down your jar that I may have a drink,' and she says, `Drink, and I'll water your camels too' --let her be the one You have chosen for Your servant Isaac. By this I will know that You have shown kindness to my master" (vss. 13-14). Some may quarrel with Eliezer's prayer, saying, "Isn't he putting God to the test?" It is true that God has told us: "Do not put the Lord your God to the test" (Deut. 6:16; Matt. 4:7). In context, God was forbidding us to ask for the miraculous in order to prove He cares for us. In Deuteronomy, God says: "Do not put the Lord your God to the test as you did at Massah" (Deut. 6:16). At Massah, the Israelites asked for miraculous provision by God, saying, "Is the Lord among us or not?" (Ex. 17:7). The other place we find this command is when Satan asks Jesus to climb to the highest point of the temple and jump off because God will send His angels to protect. Jesus rebuffs Satan's temptation by saying, "Do not put the Lord your God to the test." (Matt. 4:7).
Eliezer is not testing the Lord in that sense. Rather, he is humbly asking for guidance from God in service to his master. Note the humble language: "May it be... let her be the one..." Note also that the sign he asks for is reasonable, and in fact furthers his purpose. He asks that Isaac's prospective bride respond to his request for water by saying: "Drink, and I'll water your camels too". This response would demonstrate an attitude of service and hospitality, and would be a sign of strength and perseverence (Eliezer had ten camels, and thirsty camels drink a lot!), as well as an absence of laziness. Each of these traits would be desirable in a wife, and so Eliezer's "test" was certainly reasonable.
As it turned out, God must have approved of Eliezer's request (He may have even inspired it), for "[b]efore he had finished praying, Rebekah came out with her jar on her shoulder" (vs. 15). What a blessing answered prayer is! Eliezer's prayer was in the process of being answered even as he was praying it, an example of the fulfillment of a promise of God: "Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear" (Isa. 65:24). As Christ taught: "[Y]our Father knows what you need before you ask him" (Matt. 6:8).
Rebekah gave the answer that Eliezer was looking for (see vss. 18-19), and then some. She not only offered to water the camels, but to water them "until they have finished drinking" (vs. 19). Then, she set about the work of watering "quickly" and diligently. Eliezer, just to make sure she was not paying lipservice with her promise to water the camels, "watched her closely to learn whether or not the LORD had made his journey successful" (vs. 21). When he learned that she was a relative of Abraham (vs. 24), he was overcome with appreciation to the Lord for His great providence: "Then the man bowed down and worshipped the LORD, saying, `Praise be to the LORD, the God of my master Abraham, who has not abandoned His kindness and faithfulness to my master. As for me, the LORD has led me on the journey to the house of my master's relatives" (vss. 26-27). This is another demonstration of the true faith of Eliezer. True faith manifests itself in true worship of the Lord, as we recognize the results of our faith, the goodness and love that God lavishes upon us. Eliezer gives God all the glory for the success of the journey. He does not take credit himself, nor does he credit the success to luck. We must also be sure to recognize God's work in our endeavors, and give Him the glory for it.
28The girl ran and told her mother's household about these things. 29Now Rebekah had a brother named Laban, and he hurried out to the man at the spring. 30As soon as he had seen the nose ring, and the bracelets on his sister's arms, and had heard Rebekah tell what the man said to her, he went out to the man and found him standing by the camels near the spring. 31"Come, you who are blessed by the LORD," he said. "Why are you standing out here? I have prepared the house and a place for the camels."
32So the man went to the house, and the camels were unloaded. Straw and fodder were brought for the camels, and water for him and his men to wash their feet. 33Then food was set before him, but he said, "I will not eat until I have told you what I have to say."
"Then tell us," Laban said.
34So he said, "I am Abraham's servant. 35The LORD has blessed my master abundantly, and he has become wealthy. He has given him sheep and cattle, silver and gold, menservants and maidservants, and camels and donkeys. 36My master's wife Sarah has borne him a son in her old age, and he has given him everything he owns. 37And my master made me swear an oath, and said, `You must not get a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, in whose land I live, 38but go to my father's family and to my own clan, and get a wife for my son.'
39"Then I asked my master, `What if the woman will not come back with me?'
40"He replied, `The LORD, before whom I have walked, will send his angel with you and make your journey a success, so that you can get a wife for my son from my own clan and from my father's family. 41Then, when you go to my clan, you will be released from my oath even if they refuse to give her to you--you will be released from my oath.'
42"When I came to the spring today, I said, `O LORD, God of my master Abraham, if you will, please grant success to the journey on which I have come. 43See, I am standing beside this spring; if a maiden comes out to draw water and I say to her, "Please let me drink a little water from your jar," 44and if she says to me, "Drink, and I'll draw water for your camels too," let her be the one the LORD has chosen for my master's son.'
45"Before I finished praying in my heart, Rebekah came out, with her jar on her shoulder. She went down to the spring and drew water, and I said to her, `Please give me a drink.'
46"She quickly lowered her jar from her shoulder and said, `Drink, and I'll water your camels too.' So I drank, and she watered the camels also.
47"I asked her, `Whose daughter are you?'
"She said, `The daughter of Bethuel son of Nahor, whom Milcah bore to him.'
"Then I put the ring in her nose and the bracelets on her arms, 48and I bowed down and worshipped the LORD. I praised the LORD, the God of my master Abraham, who had led me on the right road to get the granddaughter of my master's brother for his son. 49Now if you will show kindness and faithfulness to my master, tell me; and if not, tell me, so I may know which way to turn."
50Laban and Bethuel answered, "This is from the LORD; we can say nothing to you one way or the other. 51Here is Rebekah; take her and go, and let her become the wife of your master's son, as the LORD has directed."
52When Abraham's servant heard what they said, he bowed down to the ground before the LORD. 53Then the servant brought out gold and silver jewelery and articles of clothing and gave them to Rebekah; he also gave costly gifts to her brother and to her mother. 54Then he and the men who were with him ate and drank and spent the night there.
The evident prosperity of his master, as demonstrated by the gifts (vs. 30), gained entry for Eliezer into the household in order to discuss the matter with Rebekah's family. Eliezer and his caravan were treated with the utmost hospitality (vs. 32). They all sat down to the meal, but Eliezer wanted to talk business first (vs. 33). Business often was discussed after the meal (quite often after the spirits had taken their effect!), but Eliezer wanted this important piece of business to be discussed with clear heads and attentive minds. He did not desire to take advantage with a discussion after the meal, but rather desired that the matter be discussed "on the level", and that the will of the Lord be done. He also undoubtedly was anxious to close the matter before relaxing to a meal.
Eliezer began by stating his master's case, commending to them what his master had to offer. He first described how the Lord has blessed Abraham financially, and then stated that Isaac would be the sole heir (vs. 34). He also stated the importance that Abraham attached to Isaac's marrying among his own people (vs. 38). Eliezer then went on to relate the history of the journey, making frequent mention of how the Lord had been guiding and blessing him, ending with a description of how he praised the Lord for his success (vs. 48). There is much for which we can commend Eliezer for his narrative. Many of us, when relating an event to our non-believing friends or relatives, are guilty of downplaying, or even leaving out, God's role in the situation. We should follow Eliezer's example and be bold in describing how God has greatly blessed us.
At last, the time of decision came (vs. 49). Eliezer's faith was catchy, for Laban and Bethuel answered: "This is from the LORD; we can say nothing to you one way or the other. Here is Rebekah; take her and go, and let her become the wife of your master's son, as the LORD has directed." (vss. 50-51). At this answer, Eliezer was once again overcome with appreciation for what the Lord had done: "When Abraham's servant heard what they said, he bowed down to the ground before the LORD" (vs. 52). Eliezer then distributed the dowry that he and Abraham had prepared, and retired for the night.
When they got up the next morning, he said, "Send me on my way to my master."
55But her brother and her mother replied, "Let the girl remain with us ten days or so; then you may go."
56But he said to them, "Do not detain me, now that the LORD has granted success to my journey. Send me on my way so I may go to my master."
57Then they said, "Let's call the girl and ask her about it." 58So they called Rebekah and asked her, "Will you go with this man?"
"I will go," she said.
59So they sent their sister Rebekah on her way, along with her nurse and Abraham's servant and his men. 60And they blessed Rebekah and said to her, "Our sister, may you increase to thousands upon thousands; may your offspring possess the gates of their enemies."
61Then Rebekah and her maids got ready and mounted their camels and went back with the man. So the servant took Rebekah and left.
62Now Isaac had come from Beer Lahai Roi, for he was living in the Negev. 63He went out to the field one evening to meditate, and as he looked up, he saw camels approaching. 64Rebekah also looked up and saw Isaac. She got down from her camel 65and asked the servant, "Who is that man in the field coming to meet us?"
"He is my master," the servant answered. So she took her veil and covered herself.
66Then the servant told Isaac all he had done. 67Isaac brought her into the tent of his mother Sarah, and he married Rebekah. So she became his wife, and he loved her; and Isaac was comforted after his mother's death.
Often, the fervency and faith in the Lord's work wears off as we gain distance. So it was with Rebekah's family: "When they got up the next morning, [Eliezer] said, `Send me on my way to my master.' But [Rebekah's] brother and her mother replied, `Let the girl remain with us ten days or so; then you may go.'" (vss. 54-55). Those of the world are forever trying to cause us to delay our commitment to doing the Lord's will. This is often done for selfish reasons on their parts. In Laban's case, since he had already collected Rebekah's dowry, he most likely thought he could have his cake and eat it too. He could enjoy the dowry and keep Rebekah from leaving for a time. Laban, as we shall see in Genesis 29ff with his treatment of Jacob, was a tricky individual, who always tried to take advantage of others. He asks for "ten days" (not an unreasonable request on the surface), but odds are that the ten days would turn into ten weeks then ten months then forever. Eliezer had the wisdom (no doubt God-given) to see the danger of delay (especially having given up the dowry). He demands that they leave right away, as originally agreed.
Laban (possibly not realizing the depth of Rebekah's faith in Eliezer's message) proposes that they leave the decision up to Rebekah. Her faith was not weakened over night: "`I will go' she said" (vs. 58). And so, they set off. Though not described in the narrative, the journey must certainly have been arduous: four hundred miles through the wilderness on a camel. But Rebekah's hope in the future that she would have with Isaac, a hope based upon the testimony of Eliezer, helped her to endure the long journey.
What joy there must have been in the hearts of everyone involved--Eliezer, Abraham, and especially Rebekah and Isaac--when the journey came to an end. On that day, "[Isaac] went out to the field one evening to meditate" (vs. 63). Quite possibly he was praying concerning his future bride. And as he was meditating, he looked up and "saw camels approaching." Certainly, his heart beat faster as he anticipated the meeting with Eliezer and the bride he was bringing. Rebekah also was surely excited to near the end of her journey. She looked up and saw Isaac, the object of her hope, and had to ask to confirm the fulfillment of her hope: "Who is that man in the field coming to meet us?" (vs. 65). Eliezer answered: "He is my master." The journey was complete. The hope fulfilled. Joy and comfort would soon replace the arduousness of the journey, so much so that the difficulty of the journey would be forgotten. The wedding was at hand.
Earlier we mentioned that this chapter was typological. Eliezer's journey to get a bride for Isaac foreshadowed the gathering of a bride for Christ by the Holy Spirit. With this typological reading, Abraham is a type of God the Father, Isaac a type of Christ, Eliezer a type of the Holy Spirit, Rebekah a type of the bride of Christ (the church). In this section, we will review specific typological aspects of the episode.
To begin, Abraham commissioned Eliezer (his chief servant) to get a bride for his son. Eliezer went out to bring the bride back, just as the Holy Spirit goes out into the world to gather the bride for Christ, to bring the bride back to Christ. Isaac did not go to Mesopotamia, just as Christ will not return to earth to gather the bride; rather, the bride of Christ will be brought to Him.
The language in the narrative suggests that the bride for Isaac was chosen by God ahead of time: She is called "the woman" in verse 8; when praying to God, Eliezer calls her "the one You have chosen" (vs. 14). So also, the bride of Christ has been chosen from the beginning of time: "For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight" (Eph. 1:4).
Eliezer took with him "all kinds of good things from his master" (vs. 10), just as the Spirit brings us spiritual gifts from God to testify the goodness and richness of the Father. The gifts of Eliezer were given freely, based upon the response of Rebekah to Eliezer (vs. 22,53). The gifts bestowed on the bride are used to draw others to the Spirit (vs. 30).
Eliezer testified to the goodness and riches of Abraham and Isaac (vs. 35ff), just as the Spirit testifies concerning God and Christ. Christ Himself tells us (concerning the Holy Spirit): "When the Counsellor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, He will testify about me" (John 15:26).
The response to the testimony of Eliezer was the work of the Lord (vs. 39,40), just as our faith is given to us by God (see Eph. 2:8). Laban tried to delay Rebekah's response to Eliezer (vs. 55), just as those of the world try to interfere with the work of the Spirit in the believer. Ultimately, it is the choice of the individual to follow the guidance and testimony of the Spirit (vs. 58).
Between the time Rebekah chose to be Isaac's bride and the the time of marriage, there was a long, arduous journey through the wilderness (vs. 61); just as, from the time we choose to be part of the church (the bride of Christ) until our dwelling with Him in heaven, there is a long, arduous journey here on earth. But the journey will end in joy and peace and celebration as we are wedded to the Lamb of God, when we are brought home to dwell with Him forever.
Oh, Father, we praise You for sending out Your Spirit to testify to us concerning Your riches and goodness, and to bring us home to be Your Son's bride. Guide us in the long journey home, just as Eliezer guided Rebekah. Bestow us with gifts from the Spirit, so that our journey may be enjoyable and productive, as through these gifts we seek to serve You in the journey. May You be glorified in our lives. In the name of Your Son, with whom we will be wedded on that glorious day in heaven, we pray these things, Amen.
(We will continue our study in Genesis next month.)
1. Appropriate to the typology, the name "Eliezer" means "God is my help", which is similar in meaning to the name of the Holy Spirit "Paraclete" (see John 14:16; 16:7), which means "Counselor" or "Comforter".
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