Genesis 24

CHAPTER XXIV

Abraham, being solicitous to get his son Isaac property married,

calls his confidential servant, probably Eliezer, and makes him

swear that he will not take a wife for Isaac from among the

Canaanites, 1-3,

but from among his own kindred, 4.

The servant proposes certain difficulties, 5,

which Abraham removes by giving him the strongest assurances of

God's direction in the business, 6, 7,

and then specifies the conditions of the oath, 8.

The form of the oath itself, 9.

The servant makes preparations for his journey, and sets out for

Mesopotamia, the residence of Abraham's kindred, 10.

Arrives at a well near to the place, 11.

His prayer to God, 12-14.

Rebekah, the daughter of Bethuel, son of Nahor, Abraham's brother,

comes to the well to draw water, 15.

She is described, 16.

Conversation between her and Abraham's servant, in which every thing

took place according to his prayer to God, 17-21.

He makes her presents, and learns whose daughter she is, 22-24.

She invites him to her father's house, 25.

He returns thanks to God for having thus far given him a

prosperous journey, 26, 27.

Rebekah runs home and informs her family, 28;

on which her brother Laban comes out, and invites the servant

home, 29-31.

His reception, 32, 33.

Tells his errand, 34,

and how he had proceeded in executing the trust reposed in him,

35-48.

Requests an answer, 49.

The family of Rebekah consent that she should become the wife of

Isaac, 50, 51.

The servant worships God, 52,

and gives presents to Milcah, Laban, and Rebekah, 53.

He requests to be dismissed, 54-56.

Rebekah, being consulted, consents to go, 57, 58.

She is accompanied by her nurse, 59;

and having received the blessing of her parents and relatives, 60,

she departs with the servant of Abraham, 61.

They are met by Isaac, who was on an evening walk for the purpose

of meditation, 62-65.

The servant relates to Isaac all that he had done, 66.

Isaac and Rebekah are married, 67.

NOTES ON CHAP. XXIV

Verse 1. And Abraham was old] He was now about one hundred and

forty years of age, and consequently Isaac was forty, being born

when his father was one hundred years old. See Ge 21:5; 25:20.

Verse 2. Eldest servant] As this eldest servant is stated to

have been the ruler over all that he had, it is very likely that

Eliezer is meant. See Ge 15:2, 3.

Put, I pray thee, thy hand] See Clarke on Ge 24:9.

Verse 3. I will make thee swear] See Clarke on Ge 24:9.

Of the Canaanites] Because these had already been devoted to

slavery, &c., and it would have been utterly inconsistent as

well with prudence as with the design of God to have united the

child and heir of the promise with one who was under a curse,

though that curse might be considered to be only of a political

nature. See the curse of Canaan, Ge 9:25.

Verse 4. My country] Mesopotamia, called here Abraham's

country, because it was the place where the family of Haran, his

brother, had settled; and where himself had remained a

considerable time with his father Terah. In this family, as well

as in that of Nahor, the true religion had been in some sort

preserved, though afterwards considerably corrupted; see

Ge 31:19.

And take a wife unto my son] A young man in Bengal is

precisely in the same circumstances as Isaac; he has nothing to do

in the choice of a wife; parents employ others to seek wives for

their sons. Those who leave their homes in search of employment

always marry their children in their own country, and among their

acquaintance at home; never among the people with whom they

reside. In Asiatic countries this custom has prevailed from

the infancy of the human race. See Ward's Hindoo Customs.

Verse 5. Peradventure the woman will not be willing] We may

see, says Calmet, by this and other passages of Scripture,

Jos 9:18, what the sentiments of the ancients were relative to

an oath. They believed they were bound precisely by what was

spoken, and had no liberty to interpret the intentions of those to

whom the oath was made.

Verse 7. The Lord God, &c.] He expresses the strongest

confidence in God, that the great designs for which he had brought

him from his own kindred to propagate the true religion in the

earth would be accomplished; and that therefore, when earthly

instruments failed, heavenly ones should be employed. He shall

send his angel, probably meaning the Angel of the Covenant, of

whom see Ge 15:7.

Verse 9. Put his hand under the thigh of Abraham] This form of

swearing has greatly puzzled the commentators; but it is useless

to detail opinions which I neither believe myself, nor would wish

my readers to credit. I believe the true sense is given in the

Targum of Jonathan ben Uzziel, and that called the Jerusalem

Targum. In the former it is said, Put now thy hand

bigzirath mehulathi, in sectione circumcisionis meoe; in the

latter techoth yerech keyami, sub femore foederis

mei. When we put the circumstances mentioned in this and the

third verse together, we shall find that they fully express the

ancient method of binding by oath in such transactions as had a

religious tendency. 1. The rite or ceremony used on the occasion:

the person binding himself put his hand under the thigh of the

person to whom he was to be bound; i.e., he put his hand on the

part that bore the mark of circumcision, the sign of God's

covenant, which is tantamount to our kissing the book, or laying

the hand upon the New Testament or covenant of our Lord Jesus

Christ. 2. The form of the oath itself: the person swore by

Jehovah, the God of heaven and the God of the earth. Three

essential attributes of God are here mentioned: 1. His

self-existence and eternity in the name Jehovah. 2. His

dominion of glory and blessedness in the kingdom of heaven. 3.

His providence and bounty in the earth. The meaning of the oath

seems to be this: "As God is unchangeable in his nature and

purposes, so shall I be in this engagement, under the penalty of

forfeiting all expectation of temporal prosperity, the benefits of

the mystical covenant, and future glory." An oath of this kind,

taken at such a time, and on such an occasion, can never be deemed

irreligious or profane. Thou shalt swear by his name-shalt

acknowledge and bind thyself unto the true God, as the just Judge

of thy motives and actions, is a command of the Most High; and

such an oath as the above is at once (on such an occasion) both

proper and rational. The person binding himself proposes for a

pattern the unchangeable and just God; and as HE is the avenger

of wrong and the punisher of falsehood, and has all power in the

heavens and in the earth, so he can punish perjury by privation of

spiritual and temporal blessings, by the loss of life, and by

inflicting the perdition due to ungodly men, among whom liars and

perjured persons occupy the most distinguished rank. Our ideas of

delicacy may revolt from the rite used on this occasion; but, when

the nature of the covenant is considered, of which circumcision

was the sign, we shall at once perceive that this rite could not

be used without producing sentiments of reverence and godly fear,

as the contracting party must know that the God of this covenant

was a consuming fire.

Verse 10. Took ten camels] It appears that Abraham had left the

whole management of this business to the discretion of his

servant, to take with him what retinue and what dowry he pleased;

for it is added, All the goods of his master were in his hand; and

in those times it was customary to give a dowry for a wife, and

not to receive one with her.

Verse 11. He made his camels to kneel down] To rest themselves,

or lie down, as the Septuagint has very properly expressed it, και

εκοιμισεταςκαμηλουσ.

The time that women go out to draw water.] In Bengal it is the

universal practice for the women to go to pools and rivers to

fetch water. Companies of four, six, ten, or more, may be seen in

every town daily going to fetch water, with the pitchers resting

upon their sides; and, on their return from bathing, women

frequently bring water home.-WARD.

Verse 12. And he said, O Lord God, &c.] "The conduct of this

servant," says Dr. Dodd, "appears no less pious than rational. By

supplicating for a sign, he acknowledges God to be the great

superintendent and director of the universe, and of that event in

particular; and at the same time, by asking a natural sign, such

as betokened humanity, condescension, and other qualities which

promised a discreet and virtuous wife, he puts his prayer upon

such a discreet, rational footing, as to be a proper example for

all to imitate who would not tempt the providence of God, by

expecting extraordinary signs to be given them for the

determination of cases which they are capable of deciding by a

proper use of their rational faculties." This is all very good;

but certainly the case referred to here is such a one as required

especial direction from God; a case which no use of the rational

faculties, without Divine influence, could be sufficient to

determine. It is easy to run into extremes, and it is very natural

so to do. In all things the assistance and blessing of God are

necessary, even where human strength and wisdom have the fullest

and freest sphere of action; but there are numberless cases, of

infinite consequence to man, where his strength and prudence can

be of little or no avail, and where the God of all grace must work

all things according to the counsel of his own will. To expect

the accomplishment of any good end, without a proper use of the

means, is the most reprehensible enthusiasm; and to suppose that

any good can be done or procured without the blessing and mercy of

God, merely because proper means are used, is not less

reprehensible. Plan, scheme, and labour like Eliezer, and then,

by earnest faith and prayer, commit the whole to the direction and

blessing of God.

Verse 15. Behold, Rebekah came out] How admirably had the

providence of God adapted every circumstance to the necessity of

the case, and so as in the most punctual manner to answer the

prayer which his servant had offered up!

Verse 19. I will draw water for thy camels also] Had Rebekah

done no more than Eliezer had prayed for, we might have supposed

that she acted not as a free agent, but was impelled to it by the

absolutely controlling power of God; but as she exceeds all that

was requested, we see that it sprang from her native benevolence,

and sets her conduct in the most amiable point of view.

Verse 21. The man, wondering at her] And he was so lost in

wonder and astonishment at her simplicity, innocence, and

benevolence, that he permitted this delicate female to draw water

for ten camels, without ever attempting to afford her any kind of

assistance! I know not which to admire most, the benevolence and

condescension of Rebekah, or the cold and apparently stupid

indifference of the servant of Abraham. Surely they are both of

an uncommon cast.

Verse 22. The man took a golden ear-ring] nezem zahab.

That this could not be an ear-ring is very probable from its being

in the singular number. The margin calls it a jewel for the

forehead; but it most likely means a jewel for the nose, or

nose-ring, which is in universal use through all parts of Arabia

and Persia, particularly among young women. They are generally

worn in the left nostril. The word is very properly translated

επιρρινον, an ornament for the nose, by Symmachus.

Half a shekel] For the weight of a shekel,

See Clarke on Ge 20:16.

And two bracelets] usheney tsemidim. As

tsemidim comes from tsamad, to join or couple

together, it may very properly mean bracelets, or whatever may

clasp round the arms or legs; for rings and ornaments are worn

round both by females in India and Persia. The small part of the

leg is generally decorated in this way, and so is the whole arm

from the shoulder to the wrist. As these tsemidim were given to

Rebekah for her hands, it sufficiently distinguishes them from a

similar ornament used for the ankles.

In different parts of the sacred writings there are allusions

to ornaments of various kinds still in use in different Asiatic

countries. They are of seven different sorts. 1. for the

forehead; 2. for the nose; 3. for the ears; 4. for the arms;

5. for the fingers; 6. for the neck and breast; 7. for the

ankles. See Ge 24:22, 47; also Eze 16:12; Pr 11:22;

Isa 3:21; Ge 35:4; Ex 32:2,3; Job 42:11; Jud 8:24.

The principal female ornaments are enumerated in the third chapter

of Isaiah, which are very nearly the same that are in use in

Persia and India to the present time.

Verse 26. Bowed down his head, and worshipped] Two acts of

adoration are mentioned here; 1. Bowing the head, yikkod; and

2. Prostration upon the earth, vaiyishtaehu. The bowing of

the head was to Rebekah, to return her thanks for her kind

invitation. The prostration was to Jehovah, in gratitude for the

success with which he had favoured him.

Verse 27. The Lord led me] By desire of his master he went out

on this journey; and as he acknowledged God in all his ways, the

Lord directed all his steps.

Verse 28. Her mother's house] Some have conjectured from this

that her father Bethuel was dead; and the person called Bethuel,

Ge 24:50, was a younger brother. This is possible, but the

mother's house might be mentioned were even the father alive; for

in Asiatic countries the women have apartments entirely separate

from those of the men, in which their little children and grown-up

daughters reside with them. This was probably the case here,

though it is very likely that Bethuel was dead, as the whole

business appears to be conducted by Rebekah's brothers.

Verse 31. Thou blessed of the Lord] Probably a usual mode of

wishing prosperity, as he that is blessed of the Lord is worthy of

all respect; for, enjoying the Divine favour, he is in possession

of the sum of happiness.

Verse 32. Provender for the camels] These were the first

objects of his care; for a good man is merciful to his beast.

Water to wash his feet] Thus it thus appears that he had

servants with him; and as the fatigues of the journey must have

fallen as heavily upon them as upon himself, so we find no

distinction made, but water is provided to wash their feet also.

Verse 33. I will not eat until I have told] In Hindoostan it is

not unusual for a Brahmin to enter a house and sit down, and when

meat is offered, refuse to eat till he has obtained the object of

his errand. Here is a servant who had his master's interest more

at heart than his own. He refuses to take even necessary

refreshment till he knows whether he is likely to accomplish the

object of his journey. Did not our blessed Lord allude to the

conduct of Abraham's servant, Joh 4:34:

My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his

work?

Verse 36. Unto him hath he given all that he hath.] He has made

Isaac his sole heir. These things appear to be spoken to show the

relatives of Rebekah that his master's son was a proper match for

her; for even in those primitive times there was regard had to the

suitableness of station and rank in life, as well as of education,

in order to render a match comfortable. Persons of dissimilar

habits, as well as of dissimilar religious principles, are never

likely to be very happy in a married life. Even the poor and the

rich may better meet together in matrimonial alliances than the

religious and the profane, the well-bred and the vulgar. A

person may be unequally yoked in a great variety of ways: Bear ye

one another's burdens is the command of God; but where there is

unsuitableness in the dispositions, education, mental capacity,

&c., of the persons, then one side is obliged to bear the whole

burden, and endless dissatisfaction is the result. See at the

end. "See Clarke's note at Ge 24:67".

Verse 42. O Lord God of my master] As Abraham was the friend of

God, Eliezer makes use of this to give weight and consequence to

his petitions.

Verse 43. When the virgin] haalmah, from alam,

to hide, cover, or conceal; a pure virgin, a woman not uncovered,

and in this respect still concealed from man. The same as

bethulah, Ge 24:16, which, from the explanation there given,

incontestably means a virgin in the proper sense of the word-a

young woman, not that is covered or kept at home, the common

gloss, but who was not uncovered in the delicate sense in which

the Scripture uses this word. See this interpretation vindicated

on Isa 7:14.

See Clarke on Isa 7:14.

Verse 45. Before I had done speaking in mine heart] So we find

that the whole of this prayer, so circumstantially related

Ge 24:12-14, and again Ge 24:42-44, was mental, and heard only

by that God to whom it was directed. It would have been improper

to have used public prayer on the occasion, as his servants could

have felt no particular interest in the accomplishment of his

petitions, because they were not concerned in them, having none of

the responsibility of this mission.

Verse 49. That I may turn to the right hand or to the left] That

is, That I may go elsewhere and seek a proper match for the son of

my master. Some have imagined that Eliezer intimated by these

expressions that if he did not succeed in obtaining Rebekah, he

would go and seek for a wife either among the descendants of

Ishmael or the descendants of Lot. This interpretation is

fanciful.

Verse 50. Laban and Bethuel] These seem both to be brothers, of

whom Laban was the eldest and chief; for the opinion of Josephus

appears to be very correct, viz., that Bethuel, the father, had

been some time dead. See Clarke on Ge 24:28.

Bad or good] We can neither speak for nor against; it seems to

be entirely the work of God, and we cordially submit: consult

Rebekah; if she be willing, take her and go.

See Clarke on Ge 24:58.

Verse 53. Jewels of silver, and jewels of gold] The word

keley, which we here translate jewels signifies properly vessels

or instruments; and those presented by Eliezer might have been of

various kinds. What he had given before, Ge 24:22, was in token

of respect, what he gave now appears to have been in the way of

dowry.

Precious things.] migdanoth. This word is used to

express exquisite fruits or delicacies, De 33:13-16;

precious plants or flowers, Cant. So 4:16; 7:13. But it may

mean gifts in general, though rather of an inferior kind to those

mentioned above.

Verse 54. And they did eat and drink] When Eliezer had got a

favourable answer, then he and his servants sat down to meat; this

he had refused to do till he had told his message, Ge 24:33.

Verse 55. Let the damsel abide with us a few days, at the least

ten] The original is very abrupt and obscure, because we are not

acquainted with the precise meaning of the form of speech which is

here used; yamim o asor DAYS or TEN, probably meaning

a year or ten months, as the margin reads it, or a week or ten

days. This latter is the most likely sense, as there would be no

propriety after having given their consent that she should go, in

detaining her for a year or ten months. In matters of simple

phraseology, or in those which concern peculiar customs, the

Septuagint translation, especially in the Pentateuch, where it

is most accurate and pure, may be considered a legitimate judge;

this translation renders the words ημεραςωσειδεκα, about ten

days. Houbigant contends strongly that instead of the words

yamim o asor, days or ten, we should read

chodesh yamim, a month of days, i.e., a full month; without which

emendation he asserts, locus explicari non possit, "the passage

cannot be explained." This emendation is supported by the Syriac

version, which reads here [Arabic] yerach yomin, a month of days,

or a full month. The reader may adopt the Syriac or the

Septuagint, as he judges best.

Verse 58. Wilt thou go with this man?] So it appears it was

left ultimately to the choice of Rebekah whether she would accept

the proposals now made to her, unless we suppose that the question

meant, Wilt thou go immediately, or stay with us a month longer?

She said, I will go.] It fully appears to be the will of God

that it should be so, and I consent. This at once determined the

whole business.

Verse 59. And her nurse] Whose name, we learn from Ge 35:8,

was Deborah, and who, as a second mother, was deemed proper to

accompany Rebekah. This was a measure dictated by good sense and

prudence. Rebekah had other female attendants. See Ge 24:61.

Verse 60. Be thou the mother of thousands of millions]

lealphey rebabah, for thousands ten thousand, or for myriads

of thousands, a large family being ever considered, in ancient

times, as a proof of the peculiar blessing and favour of God.

Similar addresses to a daughter, when she is going from her

father's house to live with her husband, are very common among the

Hindoos; such as, "Be thou the mother of a son," "Be thou the wife

of a king," &c. See Ward.

Verse 62. And Isaac came] Concerning this well see

Ge 16:13,14, &c. As it appears from Ge 25:11, that Isaac

dwelt at the well Lahai-roi, it has been conjectured that he had

now come on a visit to his aged father at Beersheba, where he

waited in expectation of his bride.

For he dwelt in the south country.] The southern part of the

land of Canaan. See Ge 12:9.

Verse 63. Isaac went out to meditate] lasuach, to bend

down the body, or the mind, or both. He was probably in deep

thought, with his eyes fixed upon the ground. What the subject of

his meditation was it is useless to inquire; he was a pious man,

and could not be triflingly employed.

Verse 65. She took a veil] hatstsaaif. This is the

first time this word occurs, and it is of doubtful signification;

but most agree to render it a veil or a cloak. The former is the

most likely, as it was generally used by women in the east as a

sign of chastity, modesty, and subjection.

Verse 67. Sarah's tent] Sarah being dead, her tent became now

appropriated to the use of Rebekah.

And took Rebekah, &c.] After what form this was done we are

not told; or whether there was any form used on the occasion, more

than solemnly receiving her as the person whom God had chosen to

be his wife; for it appears from Ge 24:66 that the servant told

him all the especial providential circumstances which had marked

his journey. The primitive form of marriage we have already seen,

Ge 2:23,24, which, it is likely, as far as

form was attended to, was that which was commonly used in all

the patriarchal times.

IN this chapter we have an affecting and edifying display of

that providence by which God disposes and governs the affairs of

the universe, descending to the minutest particulars, and managing

the great whole by directing and influencing all its parts. This

particular or especial providence we see is not confined to work

by general laws; it is wise and intelligent, for it is the mind,

the will, and energy of God; it steps out of common ways, and

takes particular directions, as endlessly varied human necessities

may need, or the establishment and maintenance of godliness in the

earth may require. What a history of providential occurrences,

coming all in answer to the prayer and faith of a simple, humble

individual, does this chapter exhibit!

As Abraham's servant has God's glory only in view in the errand

on which he is going, he may well expect the Divine direction. See

with what simplicity and confidence he prays to God! He even

prescribes the way in which the Divine choice and approbation

shall be made known; and God honours the purity of his motives and

his pious faith, by giving him precisely the answer he wished. How

honourable in the sight of God is simplicity of heart! It has

nothing to fear, and all good to hope for; whereas a spirit warped

by self-interest and worldly views is always uncertain and

agitated, as it is ever seeking that from its own counsels,

projects, and schemes, which should be sought in God alone. In

every place the upright man meets with his God; his heart

acknowledges his Maker, and his Maker acknowledges him; for such a

one the whole economy of providence and grace is ever at work.

Abraham's solicitude to get a suitable wife for his son is

worthy of the most serious regard. He was well aware that if Isaac

formed a matrimonial alliance with the Canaanites it might be

ruinous to his piety, and prevent the dissemination of the true

religion; therefore he binds his most trusty servant by a solemn

oath not to take a wife for his son from the daughters of Canaan,

but from his own kindred, among whom the knowledge of the true God

was best preserved. Others had different rays of the light of

truth, but Abraham's family alone had THE truth; and to the

descendants of this family were the promises made.

How careful should parents be to procure alliances for their

children with those who fear God, as so much of the peace and

comfort of the children, and the happiness of their posterity,

depend on this circumstance! But alas! how many sacrifice the

comfort and salvation of their offspring at the shrine of Mammon!

If they can procure rich husbands and wives for their daughters

and sons, then all, in their apprehension, is well. Marriages of

this kind may be considered as mere bargain and sale; for there is

scarcely ever any reference to God or eternity in them. The

Divine institution of marriage is left out of sight; and the

persons are united, not properly to each other, in the love, fear,

and according to the ordinance of God, but they are wedded to so

many thousand pounds sterling, and to so many houses, fields, &c.

Thus like goes to like, metal to metal, earth to earth.

Marriages formed on such principles are mere licensed adulteries.

Let such contractors hear these awful words of God: "Ye adulterers

and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is

enmity with God?" Jas 4:4.

See Clarke on Ge 24:36.

Although under the patriarchal dispensation parents had a kind

of absolute authority over their children, and might dispose of

them as they pleased in general cases, yet it appears that in

matrimonial connections they were under no compulsion. The

suitable person was pointed out and recommended; but it does not

appear that children were forced, against the whole tide of their

affections, to take those persons who were the objects of the

parent's choice. Wilt thou go with this man? was, in all

likelihood, deemed essential to the completion of the contract;

and by the answer, I will go, was the contract fully ratified.

Thus the persons were ultimately left to their own choice, though

the most prudent and proper means were no doubt used in order to

direct and fix it. Whether this was precisely the plan followed

in primitive times we cannot absolutely say: they were times of

great simplicity; and probably connections on the mere principle

of affection, independently of all other considerations, seldom

existed. And it must be allowed that matches formed on the sole

principle of conveniency might as well be formed by the parents as

by any others; and in Asiatic countries it was generally so, for

there the female seldom presumes to have a choice of her own.

In all cases of this kind the child should invariably consult

the experience and wisdom of the parents; and the parents should

ever pay much respect to the feelings of the child, nor oppose an

alliance which may be in all other respects suitable, because

there may be a lack of property on one side of the intended match.

If parents would proceed in this way, God would pour his blessing

on their seed, and his Spirit upon their offspring.

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