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Bible Commentaries

Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary

Genesis 24

Verses 1-9


Verses 1-9:

Three years after the death of Sarah, Abraham instructed his servant Eleazar concerning a wife for Isaac. Two unchangeable provisions were: 1) under no circumstances was Isaac to marry a Canaanite; and 2) under no circumstances was he to leave the land and return to Mesopotamia to seek a wife. Eleazar was Abraham’s most trusted servant, in complete charge of all Abraham’s household affairs. He was given the further responsibility to return to the land of Abraham’s kinsmen and there secure a bride for Isaac. He suggested the possibility that the woman so chosen might be unwilling to accompany him, and inquired if he should return to get Isaac and take him there in person. Abraham absolved him of any further responsibility in the unlikely event either of these events occurred.

Verses 10-14

Verses 10-14:

Abraham’s servant set out on his journey. He took from Abraham’s possessions the choicest of gifts, and loaded them upon ten camels. It is unlikely that he undertook such a mission alone. One lone man with ten camels laden with valuable gifts would be an open invitation to bandits. Likely he had several companions, though only he is mentioned.

The distance traveled was considerable, about six hundred miles in a direct line. The journey likely required at least a month. The destination: Mesopotamia, Aram-Naharaim, the Aram of the two rivers. The city was that of Nahor, named Haran or Charran (Ge 11:31). It was located in the fertile delta land between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers.

Eleazar arrived in Haran in the evening, near the time when the women were wont to come to the well to draw water. In Oriental lands, water is scarce and valuable. The location of a city may be determined by the location of a well of good water. First the well is dug, then the city is built nearby. It is the custom that women come to the well each morning and evening to draw water for the family use. Eleazar proposed to Jehovah God that He would guide the selection of the bride for Isaac. This would be determined by the young woman who would answer his request for a drink of water, by offering to draw water not only for him, but for the camels as well. This would be an important test, for it would reveal her nature, whether or not she was generous, hospitable, and industrious.

Verses 15-28

Verses 15-28:

Abraham’s servant had scarcely finished praying when he observed a young woman coming to the well to draw water. Though he did not know who she was, this young woman was the daughter of Abraham’s nephew Bethuel. Her name was Rebekah, Ribkah, meaning "captivating, ensnaring," from a word meaning a rope with a noose; the thought being that she was one who ensnared men by means of her beauty. Eleazar put to her the test he had determined in prayer to Jehovah. She responded exactly as he had prescribed. Still he did not press the matter, in order to know for certain ("to wit") that this was indeed the leadership of Jehovah in the matter.

Eleazar presented valuable gifts of gold to the young woman. Upon inquiry he learned her identity, and asked for lodging for the night. Then he identified himself as the servant of her kinsman Abraham, and affirmed the leadership of Jehovah in directing their meeting. Rebekah hurried to her home to inform her mother’s household of these remarkable events.

Verses 29-31

Verses 29-31:

Rebekah’s brother Laban evidently occupied the role of the head of the household. He heard Rebekah’s account of her meeting at the well, and quickly went to the well to assess the situation. He was evidently more intrigued by the sight of the gifts of gold which Rebekah displayed, than by the identity of the man who gave these gifts. Subsequent events recorded of Laban indicate his materialistic outlook. He offered the hospitality of the home to Eleazar.

Verses 32-33

Verses 32, 33:

Eleazar accepted Laban’s hospitality. He first attended to his camels, then to his own needs and the needs of the men who accompanied him. Before he would eat, however, he felt it necessary to give the purpose of his errand. He was conscientious in the discharge of his obligation to his master. Eleazar is an example of one who is truly faithful to his master.

Verses 34-49

Verses 34-49:

Abraham’s servant began his presentation with a statement of identification. He told of Jehovah’s blessings upon Abraham; and his extensive wealth. Then he told of Sarah’s giving birth to a son, and the fact that this son would inherit the considerable riches of Abraham. The rest of the narration is a faithful account of what occurred, from the time Abraham commissioned him to seek a bride for Isaac, until the meeting with Rebekah at the well. Eleazar attributed the entire proceedings as the direction of Jehovah, down to the most minute detail. Then, he came to the point of decision: would Rebekah and her family accept the evident will of Jehovah, and send Rebekah with him to become Isaac’s bride.

Verses 50-60

Verses 50-60:

Verses 50, 51: For the first time in this narrative, Bethuel appears on the scene. It may have been inferred from verses 28 and 29 where Rebekah’s mother and brother are the chief characters in Rebekah’s home that Bethuel was dead. However, this was not the case. The explanation appears to be that firstborn sons received a portion of their father’s authority, and that it was not unusual for them to take an active role in their sisters’ marriages.

The language implies that both Bethuel and Laban were worshipers of Jehovah God. However, this may be only partially true. Laban was at least partially an idolater (Ge 31:19, 30-32). Likely he acknowledged Jehovah as merely One of many deities, rather than the One true God. This was a common practice among the nations of ancient times, and is not uncommon today.

The readiness with which Laban and Bethuel agreed to Eleazar’s request may have been prompted by the evident wealth he displayed, more than by any desire for the will of Jehovah to be done.

Verses 52-54: Abraham’s servant was sincere in his worship of Jehovah for Divine leadership. He recognized the Lord’s hand in the entire matter. Then, according to custom, he presented an impressive array of jewels, silver and gold vessels, and clothing to Rebekah, and many precious (migdanoth, from meged) articles of gold and silver to her brother and her mother. The gifts to Rebekah, were betrothal presents: those to Laban and his mother were a form of dowry in compensation for the loss of a sister and daughter. According to custom, these were given with a great deal of ceremony, and in the presence of witnesses. At the conclusion of the engagement proceedings, they partook of the food which had been prepared earlier (see verse 33). Early the next morning, Eleazar requested permission to begin his journey homeward.

Verses 55-60: Rebekah’s brother and mother were reluctant for her to depart so quickly. They urged Eleazar to delay his departure for at least ten days. He persisted in his request to be allowed to leave with Rebekah. At length Laban and his mother agreed to ask Rebekah’s wishes in the matter and to abide by them. Rebekah said simply, "I will go." So, without further delay, Rebekah’s family sent her on her way, accompanied by her faithful nurse Deborah (Ge 35:8). They pronounced the highest form of blessing possible upon her, that her descendants should be numerous, prosperous and victorious.

Verses 61-67

Verses 61-67:

The camels which bore the rich gifts in search of Isaac’s bride now bore the bride and her entourage to the waiting groom. It is likely that the days spent in the long journey from Mesopotamia to Lahairoi were filled with the servant’s account of Isaac and his character. As the caravan approached Lahairoi, Isaac walked in the open countryside, deep in meditation. Rebekah spied him, and inquired of Eleazar who this man was, walking in the field. On learning that it was Isaac, Rebekah veiled herself in keeping with custom. Isaac met the caravan, and Eleazar recounted all that had taken place.

The marriage ceremony took place, and Isaac took Rebekah into his mother’s tent, which they likely made their dwelling place. Though Isaac had not seen his bride prior to their marriage, he "loved her." This was due not only to her natural beauty, but to her spirit of self-sacrifice, and her piety as evidenced by her ready acceptance of the will of Jehovah for her marriage.

Marriage customs of Bible times were considerably different from those of today. Often the marriage was arranged by parents. The prospective bride and groom had little to say in the matter. "Love" was not always the reason for the marriage. "Love" came after the wedding, as the result of a deliberate choice to accept the will of God in the matter. Marriage was regarded as a binding contract, entered into not so much as an emotional thing but as the act of a deliberate choice.

Some suggest that the account of Isaac and Rebekah is a type of Christ and the Church: Abraham represents God the Father; Eleazar typifies the Holy Spirit; Isaac is a type of Christ; and Rebekah is a type of the Church, the "Gentile bride." There is no basis in the Scriptures for regarding this as a type. Nowhere is it referred to as such. It is not in keeping with principles of Bible interpretation to regard something as a type unless the Scriptures define it as such, see 1Co 10:11.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Blessed Hope Foundation and the Baptist Training Center.
Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Genesis 24". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. 1985.