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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 24

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 1

And Abraham was old, and well stricken in age: and the LORD had blessed Abraham in all things.

And Abraham was old and well stricken, ... His anxiety to see his son married was natural to his position as a pastoral chief interested in preserving the honour of his tribe, and still more as a patriarch who had regard to the divine promise of a numerous posterity.

And the Lord had blessed Abraham in all things. The promised blessing having been amply realized in the vast increase of his worldly prosperity, Abraham was desirous of providing in the most proper way for transmitting it to a line of descendants faithful to the service of the true God.

Verse 2

And Abraham said unto his eldest servant of his house, that ruled over all that he had, Put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh:

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 3

And I will make thee swear by the LORD, the God of heaven, and the God of the earth, that thou shalt not take a wife unto my son of the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell:

Thou shalt not take a wife, ... Among the pastoral tribes the matrimonial arrangements are made by the parents, and a youth must marry, not among strangers, but in his own tribe-custom giving him a claim, which is seldom or never resisted, to the hand of his first cousin. But Abraham had a far higher motive-a fear lest, if his son married into a Canaanitish family, he might be gradually led away from the true God; and hence, as that people were gross idolaters, he was desirous that a matrimonial negotiation should be opened with his Mesopotamian relatives, who, amidst some corruptions, still retained the knowledge and worship of God.

Said unto his oldest servant. Abraham, being too old, and, as the heir of the promise not being at liberty, to make even a temporary visit to his native land, was obliged to entrust this delicate mission to "his oldest servant of his house," whom, although putting entire confidence in him, he on this occasion bound by solemn oath. A pastoral chief in the present day would take the same plan, if he could not go himself-that of sending a confidential servant, with or without his son, in search of a wife; and the servant has power to settle the affair, and bring home the bride. It is commonly supposed that this person was the steward, over-seer, major-domo, of the house and all the servants of the establishment; but such a confidential officer is designated in this book by a different phraseology (see Genesis 15:2; Genesis 43:16; Genesis 44:1). The nature of the mission on which he was to be employed requiring both experience and judgment, it is probable that the words are used here in their literal sense, to denote superiority in age. Had Eliezer been the servant, his name would doubtless have been mentioned; and as sixty years had elapsed since Abraham received the divine promise of offspring (Genesis 15:4), and Isaac was now forty years old (Genesis 25:20), it may well be presumed that Eliezer, if he had ever entertained hopes of the inheritance, must, have so completely dismissed them as to justify his employment on the delicate negotiation of Isaac's marriage. But reasons were assigned for thinking that Eliezer was not a servant in Abraham's house (see the note at Genesis 15:2).

Put ... thy hand under my thigh. This form of oath, which was peculiar to the patriarchs (cf. 47:29), referred to the solemn covenant of circumcision by which the Hebrews were separated from all other people to the service and fellowship of the one living and true God; it recognized also their national hope of abundant fruitfulness (cf. Genesis 46:26), and that, through Abraham's seed, all kindreds of the earth should be blessed. The asseveration was to be by "Yahweh, the God of heaven and the God of the earth;" - the reason being, that the embassy on which the servant was about to be despatched was not a common matrimonial negotiation, but one which had an important prospective reference to the kingdom of God.

Verses 4-6

But thou shalt go unto my country, and to my kindred, and take a wife unto my son Isaac.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 7

The LORD God of heaven, which took me from my father's house, and from the land of my kindred, and which spake unto me, and that sware unto me, saying, Unto thy seed will I give this land; he shall send his angel before thee, and thou shalt take a wife unto my son from thence.

The Lord God of heaven ... shall send his angel before thee. This was said in answer to the natural enquiries of the servant what course he should follow in the eventuality of certain specified contingencies. Abraham had received no revelation respecting this mission; but he justly concluded, from his past experience, that the covenant God whom he had faithfully served, and who had given him so many tokens of His approval and blessing, would pave the way for the successful accomplishment of this embassy, which was planned for the furthering of the interests of His kingdom. He had seen angels as well as heard their voice; but he knew that, also unseen and unheard, they were employed in ministering to the servants of God (cf. Hebrews 1:14); and the sequel fully justified the confidence he expressed.

Verses 8-9

And if the woman will not be willing to follow thee, then thou shalt be clear from this my oath: only bring not my son thither again.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 10

And the servant took ten camels of the camels of his master, and departed; for all the goods of his master were in his hand: and he arose, and went to Mesopotamia, unto the city of Nahor.

The servant took ten camels, ... So great an equipage was to give the embassy an appearance worthy of the rank and wealth of Abraham; to carry provisions; to bear the marriage presents, which, as usual, would be distributed over several beasts; besides one or two spare camels in case of emergency.

Went to Mesopotamia, ..., [Hebrew, 'Aram-Nahªrayim (H7630)] (a Semitic word in a plural form; the Naharaina of the Egyptian monuments, the Mesopotamia of the classics, the Jezirah, or island of the Arabs) - the highlands of the two rivers, the designation of the mountainous country whence the Euphrates and Tigris issue into the plain (see the term in the Hebrew text, Deuteronomy 23:5; Judges 3:8; 1 Chronicles 19:6). Aram (Syria) being a very extensive region, this descriptive word [nahªrayim] is added to define what district was referred to; and with a view to still greater precision "the city of Nahor," i:e., Haran, is annexed to indicate the specific locality to which the servant was to direct his course.

Dr. Beke ('Notes of an Excursion to Harsh'), followed by Cyril Graham ('Cambridge Essays,' 1858), places Haran not in Mesopotamia, but in the neighbourhood of Damascus, his opinion being that 'the country of the two rivers' is that which was watered by the Pharphar and Abana-the fertile region known in later times as the Ager Damascenus-the Padan-Aram of Scripture-and that Haran, or Charran, is identical with the modern village, Harran-el-awamid, or 'Haran of the Columns,' situated about fourteen miles east of Damascus, on the western border of the lake into which the Barada and Awaj pour their waters (see the note at Genesis 11:13). A well also was discovered in a farm court-yard at Haran of the Columns (Mrs. Beke's 'Narrative of a Second Journey'). But this hypothesis of a Syrian Haran is supported neither by legend nor tradition, whereas both are in favour of the Mesopotamian Haran.

Verse 11

And he made his camels to kneel down without the city by a well of water at the time of the evening, even the time that women go out to draw water.

He made his camels to kneel down without the city by a well ... A stranger in those regions, who wishes to obtain information, stations himself at one of the wells in the neighbourhood of a town, and he is sure to learn all the news of the place from the women who frequent them every morning and evening. Eliezer followed this course, and, letting his camels rest, he waited until the evening time of water-drawing. There is a well to the southwest of Haran (without the town), in Mesopotamia. This was the direction in which Abraham's servant would have come from Canaan. Of all the wells this alone is sweet and good. The well has a square stone at the top for its cover, with a circular hole to draw water, a flight of steps down to it, and near it stand numerous stone troughs, some higher, some lower, for different descriptions of animals to drink out of' (Walpole's 'Ansayric,' Vol. 1:, p. 316, also Niebuhr's 'Travels'). Throughout the East, camels always kneel down near a well; and one sees the women-Arab girls-come out with pitchers upon their shoulders, and, taking them down with their right hand to receive them on their left, hasten to draw water.

Verse 12

And he said, O LORD God of my master Abraham, I pray thee, send me good speed this day, and shew kindness unto my master Abraham.

And he said, O Lord God of my master ... send me good speed - literally, 'let occur to me,' or 'let come before my face this day,' what I seek (Gesenius). 'I can in imagination hear an Arab slave exclaim, "Ya Allah!" etc. ("O God!"), which they always do after they have made their camels rest, and make vows and prayers for the success of the undertaking in which they are engaged' (Wolff's 'Missionary Researches'). Abraham's servant followed the customary practice; but he appears worthy of the master he served; because he resolves to follow the leading of Providence; and while he shows good sense in the tokens he fixes upon for ascertaining the temper and character of the future bride, never doubts but that in such a case God will direct him.

Verses 13-14

Behold, I stand here by the well of water; and the daughters of the men of the city come out to draw water:

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verses 15-21

And it came to pass, before he had done speaking, that, behold, Rebekah came out, who was born to Bethuel, son of Milcah, the wife of Nahor, Abraham's brother, with her pitcher upon her shoulder.

Before he had done speaking - as he anticipated, a young woman, unveiled as in pastoral regions, appeared with her pitcher on her shoulder. Her comely appearance, her affable manners, her obliging courtesy in going down the steps to fetch water not only to him, but to pour it into the trough for his camels, afforded him the most agreeable surprise. She was the very person his imagination had pictured, and he proceeded to reward her civility.

Rebekah (cord with a noose) - a name not unaptly given to a maiden who ensnares by her beauty (Gesenius). She was the only daughter of a shepherd prince, and yet was in the habit, as appears, of going to a considerable distance to draw water; and from the readiness with which she let down the pitcher, and gave drink to the servant, and afterward drew for all his camels, it is evident that she had long been accustomed to this employment. Such duties, although simple and humble in their character, were not in ancient times, nor to this day in the pastoral districts of the East, regarded as degrading (cf. Genesis 29:9; Exodus 2:16-17). The pitcher, as may be seen from the Ninevite excavations, was exactly of the shape still in use. Rebekah was the granddaughter of Abraham's brother Nahor; and that fact has been ingeniously used as furnishing a strong, though minute, mark of truth in this history-the youth and relative position of the future wife of Isaac being a 'singular confirmation that he was the child of his parents' old age, the miraculous offspring of a sterile bed' (Blunt's 'Undesigned Coincidences').

Verse 22

And it came to pass, as the camels had done drinking, that the man took a golden earring of half a shekel weight, and two bracelets for her hands of ten shekels weight of gold;

The man took a golden earring ... - [Hebrew, nezem (H5141), nose-jewel. The Septuagint erroneously has: enootia chrusa, golden earrings; the proper Greek correspondent to the Hebrew term is epirrinion.] This ring, set with jewels, was not for the ear, but for the nose (Genesis 24:47) [ `al (H5921) 'apaah (H639)], upon her nostril (cf. Isaiah 3:21; Ezekiel 16:12) - a large ring on the wing of the left nostril, sometimes pierced through the cartilage in the central division of the nose, and falling down quite over the mouth (cf. Proverbs 11:22). The one given to Rebekah was "half a shekel weight," a bekah (Exodus 38:26) - i:e., it weighed 68 Parisian grains. Nose-jewels are still worn by thousands, both in Syria and Egypt, but not now among the respectable classes of society.

And two bracelets for her hands - the armlets, such as young women in Syria and Arabia still appear daily at wells decked in. They are worn from the elbow to the wrist, commonly made of silver, copper, mother-of-pearl, brass, or horn. But those given to Rebekah were of gold, of ten shekels weight = 2,680 Parisian grains (Bockh).

Verse 23

And said, Whose daughter art thou? tell me, I pray thee: is there room in thy father's house for us to lodge in?

And said, Whose daughter art thou? After telling her name and family, the kind-hearted girl hastened home to give notice of a stranger's arrival.

Verses 24-25

And she said unto him, I am the daughter of Bethuel the son of Milcah, which she bare unto Nahor.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verses 26-27

And the man bowed down his head, and worshipped the LORD.

The man bowed down his head and worshipped the Lord The pious character of Abraham's messenger The man bowed down his head, and worshipped the Lord. The pious character of Abraham's messenger is strikingly manifested by the record of these momentary ejaculations. His way had prospered beyond his most ardent expectations, and every circumstance which transpired testified to the presence of an unseen but constantly directing power.

Blessed be the Lord ... who hath not left destitute my master of his mercy and his truth - i:e., manifested his mercy in showering upon Abraham an abundance of temporal prosperity, and His truth in the faithful accomplishment to him of the divine promises.

Verse 28

And the damsel ran, and told them of her mother's house these things.

And told them of her mother's house - in the female apartments. This family were in an advanced stage of pastoral life, dwelling in a settled place and a fixed habitation.

Verses 29-31

And Rebekah had a brother, and his name was Laban: and Laban ran out unto the man, unto the well.

Rebekah had a brother ... Laban ran out. From what we know of his character, there is reason to believe that the sight of the dazzling presents increased both his haste and his invitation.

Come in, thou blessed of the Lord. This, of course, was not Laban's customary style of speaking, because the name Yahweh was as yet confined to Abraham and his household. But whatever degree of knowledge Laban possessed of God, and that knowledge was probably debased by many corruptions, yet it is easy to conceive that he might borrow this language from Abraham's servant, whose words Rebekah, doubtless, had faithfully rehearsed to her relatives in the house.

Verse 32

And the man came into the house: and he ungirded his camels, and gave straw and provender for the camels, and water to wash his feet, and the men's feet that were with him.

The man came into the house. What a beautiful picture of piety, fidelity, and disinterestedness in a servant! He declined all attention to his own comforts until he had told his name and his errand. Water to wash his feet, ... Providing water for the feet, and sometimes even washing them, is to this day a part of Oriental hospitality and kindness. It is necessary in the East, whether the traveler is furnished with shoes or sandals, or goes barefoot. To bathe the feet in cold water is one of the most grateful refreshments, after the dust of the desert and the scorching heat of the Syrian sun.

Verse 33

And there was set meat before him to eat: but he said, I will not eat, until I have told mine errand. And he said, Speak on.

There was set meat before him ... It seems from time immemorial to have been customary among men to feast together on the ratification of a compact or covenant; and it is well known that in the East, where primitive customs are stereotyped, that a bond of friendship is established between persons who have eaten together. If, therefore the repast was simply a refreshment for the weary travelers, the refusal of Abraham's messenger to partake of it until his business was transacted evinces his conscientious devotedness to his master's service. But if he were looking to the symbolical import of eating in the house of a host, he judged rightly in deeming it premature until the friendship had been cemented.

Verse 34

And he said, I am Abraham's servant.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 35

And the LORD hath blessed my master greatly; and he is become great: and he hath given him flocks, and herds, and silver, and gold, and menservants, and maidservants, and camels, and asses.

The Lord hath blessed my master greatly. 'How perplexed,' says Kennicott, 'is this sentence from the confusion of the nominative He.' But the original is clear of this strange mixture, and flows smoothly on in a beautiful uniformity of person. 'And the Lord hath blessed my master exceedingly; and He hath made him great; and hath given him flocks, and herds,' etc.

Verses 36-49

And Sarah my master's wife bare a son to my master when she was old: and unto him hath he given all that he hath.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 50

Then Laban and Bethuel answered and said, The thing proceedeth from the LORD: we cannot speak unto thee bad or good.

Then Laban and Bethuel answered. The brothers conduct all the marriage negotiations, and without consulting their sister. This usage, which prevailed in ancient times, particularly among polygamous families (cf. Genesis 34:12-13), still obtains among the Arabs.

The thing proceedeth from the Lord. Any one who has penetrated into the ruling principle of Laban's character can feel no difficulty in accounting for such an observation falling from his lips. It is nothing more than an echo of the language employed by the pious servant; and the sight of the nose-ring and the bracelets which had been presented to his sister rapidly led him, for whom gold had irresistible attractions, to join in the general feeling, that 'the thing proceeded from the Lord.'

Verses 51-52

Behold, Rebekah is before thee, take her, and go, and let her be thy master's son's wife, as the LORD hath spoken.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 53

And the servant brought forth jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment, and gave them to Rebekah: he gave also to her brother and to her mother precious things.

Jewels of silver, and ... gold. These, with money, are the usual articles that form a woman's dowry among the pastoral tribes. The marriage being a sort of commercial transaction, the purchase-money was paid in the name of costly presents to the bride's family; and thus Rebekah was betrothed.

Verse 54

And they did eat and drink, he and the men that were with him, and tarried all night; and they rose up in the morning, and he said, Send me away unto my master.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 55

And her brother and her mother said, Let the damsel abide with us a few days, at the least ten; after that she shall go.

And her brother and her mother. Although Bethuel was alive (Genesis 24:15; Genesis 24:50), he acts a most insignificant part, or rather is ignored in this transaction; and 'whether he was incapable from years or imbecility to manage his own affairs, it is of course impossible to say; but something of this kind seems to be implied in all that relates to him. The narrative represents him in a light totally different from the very active part which Laban took in the matrimonial arrangements of his daughters' (Blunt's 'Undesigned Coincidences').

Let the damsel abide with us a few days, at the least ten, [Hebrew, yaamiym (H3117) 'ow (H176) `aasowr (H6218)] - some days, if perhaps ten; i:e., ten days, if she choose (Gesenius). It is equivalent to our phrase, 'a week or ten days.'

Verses 56-58

And he said unto them, Hinder me not, seeing the LORD hath prospered my way; send me away that I may go to my master.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 59

And they sent away Rebekah their sister, and her nurse, and Abraham's servant, and his men.

Her nurse. A lady of rank is, on her marriage, always accompanied by a nurse, who, as a confidential servant, is held in great regard (Genesis 29:24; Genesis 29:29: cf. Genesis 35:8).

Verse 60

And they blessed Rebekah, and said unto her, Thou art our sister, be thou the mother of thousands of millions, and let thy seed possess the gate of those which hate them.

And they blessed Rebekah. Their parting benediction consists of two parts-the first,

Be thou the mother of thousands of millions. This, of course, is an hyperbolical expression, intimating a hope that she would have a numerous posterity, which was considered a most honoured position for a wife to occupy; and the second, that her family might enjoy prosperity and independence (see the note at Genesis 22:17).

Verse 61

And Rebekah arose, and her damsels, and they rode upon the camels, and followed the man: and the servant took Rebekah, and went his way.

Rebekah arose, and her damsels. The bridal party, consisting of Rebekah and her female attendants, under the escort of Abraham's servants, set out for their distant home. They must have formed a considerable caravan, and the travelers, it will be observed, were mounted on camels, which were the most eligible beasts of burden for a journey across mountainous deserts, and, along with donkeys, were and are alone used for of burden for a journey across mountainous deserts, and, along with donkeys, were and are alone used for riding in the Negeb.

Verse 62

And Isaac came from the way of the well Lahai-roi; for he dwelt in the south country.

Isaac came from the way of the well Lahai-roi. It was situated in the Negeb (south country), that extensive pastoral Lahai-roi (Moilahhi) is still a regular station in the wilderness, at the point where several roads both from the east and west of the peninsula fall into the main route leading from Suez to Bir-es-Saba (Robinson's 'Biblical Researches ') (see the note at Genesis 16:14). Isaac had been to the well at Lahai-roi; but whether he had been there simply to inspect his flocks and herds scattered on the distant pasture lands around, or whether he had resorted for devotional purposes to a place hallowed by the special manifestation of the divine presence, he had now returned home.

Verse 63

And Isaac went out to meditate in the field at the eventide: and he lifted up his eyes, and saw, and, behold, the camels were coming.

Isaac went out to meditate in the field at the eventide - [Hebrew, laasuwach (H7742), used only here, and supposed = laasoyim; Septuagint, hadolescheesai, to meditate, or to pray.] But neither of these expressions conveys the full meaning of the original. The Syriac renders it to walk; and Gesenius suggests that the original text might probably be laashuwT, to go to and fro in the field (Job 1:7; 2 Samuel 24:2; 2 Samuel 24:8). Blunt, accepting the present as the true reading, says, 'The leading idea suggested seems to be an anxious, a reverential, a painful, a depressed state of mind; and Issac went out into the field, not directly to pray, but to give ease to a wounded spirit in solitude. What more likely than that the loss of his mother-an event that had happened not long before (Genesis 23:1-20) - was the subject of his mournful mediations on this occasion. But this conjecture is reduced almost to a certainty by a few words dropped incidentally at the end of the chapter - "Isaac was comforted after his mother's death." The agreement of this later incident with what had gone before is not set forth in our version, and a scene of very touching and picturesque beauty impaired, if not destroyed' ('Undesigned Coincidences').

Verse 64

And Rebekah lifted up her eyes, and when she saw Isaac, she lighted off the camel.

She lighted off the camel If Isaac was walking it would have been most unmannerly for her to have She lighted off the camel. If Isaac was walking, it would have been most unmannerly for her to have continued seated: an inferior, if riding, always alights in presence of a person of rank, no exception being made for women (cf. 2 Sam. 25:23 ).

Verse 65

For she had said unto the servant, What man is this that walketh in the field to meet us? And the servant had said, It is my master: therefore she took a vail, and covered herself.

She took a veil, and covered herself. The veil is an essential part of a female dress. In country places it is often thrown aside; but on the appearance of a stranger it is drawn over the face, so as to conceal all but the eyes. But the text has [ hatsaa`iyp (H6809)] the bridal veil-in Syria and Persia of red silk-which envelopes the entire person, and arrayed in which a bride is commonly led into the presence of her husband. It was in this attire, becoming her bridal character, that Rebekah was adorned when about to be introduced for the first time to Isaac. In a bride it was a token of her reverence and subjection to her husband.

Verse 66

And the servant told Isaac all things that he had done.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 67

And Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah's tent, and took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her: and Isaac was comforted after his mother's death.

Brought her into his mother's ... tent - thus establishing her at once in the rights and honours of a wife before he had seen her features. Disappointments often take place; but when Isaac saw his wife "he loved her."

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Genesis 24". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/genesis-24.html. 1871-8.
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