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Genesis 24:1. And Abraham was old.] He was now in his hundred and fortieth year. (See ch. Genesis 25:20.)
Genesis 24:2. Eldest servant of his house.] Heb. “His servant, the elder of his house.” This term denotes office, not length of servitude. This confidential head servant or steward may have been Eliezer of Damascus, who was Abraham’s steward sixty years before this. (Ch. Genesis 15:2.) Put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh. “In these words is euphemistically described a practice of making an oath binding by touching that part of the body which symbolises power and continuance. For the Jew a farther sanctity was imparted to this confirmation of an oath by that member being the recipient of God’s covenant of circumcision. The practice is found besides in ch. Genesis 47:29, only.” (Alford.) “The thigh is the symbol of posterity; in Israel the symbol of the promised posterity, with the included idea of the promise. (Genesis 46:26; Exodus 1:5.) Elieazer and Joseph thus must swear by the posterity; the promise and the hope of Abraham and Israel.” (Lange.)
Genesis 24:3. By the Lord.] By Jehovah. The redemptive name of God, as most appropriate, in dealing with those who are in fellowship with Him. “It is not an ordinary marriage which is here about to be made, which would fall under the providence of Elohim, but a marriage which concerns the kingdom of God, and therefore Jehovah appears in the whole narrative.” (Keil.)
Genesis 24:4. Unto my country, and to my kindred.] His country was Mesopotamia, where Abraham had dwelt for a time after leaving Ur of the Chaldees. His kindred were Shemites, who, though they preserved the knowledge of God, yet—as we learn from the instance of Laban, (ch. 31),—retained some vestiges of idolatry.
Genesis 24:7. The Lord God of heaven.] Heb. Jehovah, the God of the heavens.
Genesis 24:9. Abraham his master.] Heb. His lord. Sware to him.] Heb. Was sworn to him. The passive voice is used in Heb. to convey the idea that one is adjured by another.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Genesis 24:1-9
ABRAHAM’S PROVISION FOR THE MARRIAGE OF HIS SON
The death of Sarah had left a sad breach in Abraham’s family. He had now been mourning for her three years. But in the sorrows of bereavement he must still think of the duty which lies before him, and how he may fulfil the purpose of God so clearly made known to him. He knew that Isaac was the son of promise, in whom his house was to be enlarged and to take its destined place among the family of nations. He naturally, therefore, seeks a wife for his son, exercising due care and circumspection in so important a matter. In the provision which he now makes for his son’s marriage, we note two elements.
I. Human Prudence. Abraham is apparently left to act for himself in this matter, to use the wisdom which the experience of ordinary life had taught him. He appears to have no distinct revelation from God on the subject. He does not act as a fanatic who vaguely trusts in some divine power and neglects the use of suitable means. Not such were the saints whose lives are recorded in the Bible. They were all men of faith and devotion, but they were rational and human in all features of their character. Abraham sets about this work as a prudent man would do.
1. He accepts the fact that his time for making such a provision is short (Genesis 24:1). He was now an old man and nigh unto the close of his mortal day. His time for all human effort and labour would soon be at an end. A solemn duty was imposed upon him, and he must discharge it in the narrow space which now lay between him and the grave. It is wise thus to look the sad facts of life in the face, for in human affairs death closes all opportunity.
2. He is careful about the family from whence his son’s wife is to spring (Genesis 24:3). He had seen enough of the wickedness of the Canaanites among whom he dwelt to convince him that no great nation could arise from any alliance with them. Their wickedness grew increasingly from generation to generation until they had now reached a rank maturity of corruption. The law of inherited tendencies is a sad fact of human nature, and tends in an enormous degree to spread and intensify the power of evil in the world of mankind. Abraham must look for a goodly seed, for a purer channel through which the life of his sacred nation is to flow.
3. He relies upon human faithfulness. The “eldest servant of his house that ruled over all he had” (Genesis 24:2) was, probably, Eliezer of Damascus who for fifty-four years had been Abraham’s faithful steward. He had been the confidential head servant to whom was entrusted the most sacred and important affairs of the family. There are occasions in life in which man must repose great trust in his fellow man. The time comes when we have to arrange for a future which will unfold itself when we are hidden in the grave and can no longer take our part in the things of this life. Our power to do good and to act well our part in the world would be greatly crippled if we could not rely upon human faithfulness. In all these things Abraham acted upon the highest principles of human prudence.
II. Religious Faith. But with Abraham it was more than mere human prudence. It was the strength of his character that he believed in God. He is acting in a history which throughout all its course is overshadowed by a greater and a higher world than this.
1. He gratefully recognises the hand of God in all his past life (Genesis 24:1.) He does not ascribe his success to his own skill and prudence, but to the favour of God. God had blessed him in all things. He had first trusted the bare word of God, and then faith was a supreme effort. But now through many years of blessings from above his faith had received due encouragement and support. Memory would now serve to stimulate faith and hope. God had blessed him in the past, and therefore he would trust Him for the future.
2. He recognises the supreme control of God over all things. He says, “the Lord God of heaven took me from my father’s house, and from the land of my kindred.” He knew with a distinct and certain knowledge that it was God who shaped his life and guided him through the wanderings of many years. Ever since he was first called he had felt the leading of a Divine hand. Living faith looks not to forces inherent in matter, but trusts in the living God who controls all times, agents, and events.
3. He acts upon the known will of God. It was enough for him that God had spoken, promised His blessing, and the land for an eternal possession. He had faith in God’s holy covenant. In seeking a suitable wife for Isaac, he is but working from one great truth revealed to him. He knew that God who had promised to make him a great nation would accomplish his promise and prosper every work of his hands, and guide it to the best results. He used all proper human means, but he acted in faith that, in this matter, the choice would still be God’s.
4. While he trusts in human faithfulness, he recognises the importance of binding men by a sense of religious fear and duty. He binds his servant by an oath (Genesis 24:3; Genesis 24:9.) Human morality must rest upon a religious basis, which alone can render it constant and safe. Independent morality is too apt to be influenced by the temper of the age or passing expediency, so that we cannot trust it at all times as an unchanging standard. To morality, therefore, we must add Godliness if we would give any real and lasting strength to human obligations.
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES
Genesis 24:1. Old age, with its growing infirmities and sure decay, is sad to look upon; but the blessing of God imparts a beauty to it, for He will never leave nor forsake those whom He has blessed. Their hoary head is a crown of glory, for the light of heaven has touched it.
Abraham had a good grey head, as it is elsewhere said of him; hence so honoured, not only at home, but of the Hittites (ch. 23). God bids us to “honour the face of the old man” (Leviticus 19:32); for the hoary head is a crown, so that it be found in the way of righteousness. God is called “The Ancient of days;” and, because “holy,” therefore “reverend is His name,” as saith the Psalmist (Psalms 111:9).—(Trapp.)
Abraham’s life, since he received the Divine call, was not exempt from many troubles and sorrows; yet the blessing of God fell even upon these “in all things.”
The Gospel promises that blessing which Abraham enjoyed. To faithful believers in every age, “all things” still work together for good.
Genesis 24:2. The person whom Abraham entrusted with this delicate task has a threefold designation. First, he is his servant or minister. Secondly, he is the old man, ancient, or elder of his house. Here the term elder approaches its official signification. In early times age was taken into account, along with good conduct and aptitude, as the qualification for services of trust. Thirdly, he ruled over all that he had. He was therefore a master as well as a minister.—(Murphy.)
To put the hand under one’s thigh was probably a form of making oath, or giving most solemn pledge to another. We do not read of it elsewhere, except only where Jacob requires the same of Joseph (Genesis 47:29). The thigh is the part on which the sword rests, and thus it expresses dominion. “Gird thy sword upon thy thigh.” It is also the seat of generation, and so it might refer to the covenant of circumcision. The servant sacredly swore subjection and obedience to his master, by this formal act, with reference to the Divine covenant.—(Jacobus.)
Genesis 24:3. Abraham’s appeal to Jehovah.
1. His name. Jehovah is the personal name of God, and therefore a proper one to be employed by those who were in fellowship with Him. It is His redemptive name, most fitly employed with designed reference to the Covenant of Grace made with Abraham.
2. His dominion. He is the author of all being, and therefore rules and possesses heaven and earth. He is, therefore, the sole arbiter of the oathtaker’s destiny, not only in this life but also in that which is to come.
3. His concern for the purity of His servants. Abraham well knew that God loved righteousness in those who professed to serve Him: therefore he took the needful steps to secure the purity of his family.
In these prudential arrangements for the prosperity and honour of his family, we see Abraham’s true character as a spiritual man just as much as we see it in his most heroic acts of faith.
1. His determined aversion to idolatry. He will make his servant swear by Jehovah alone. His neighbours were idolators. He was on friendly terms with them and would go far to please them but in this solemn matter he must declare for the true God. The great purpose of that early revelation of which he formed so important a part, was to teach the doctrine of the Divine unity. The voice to the chosen people, rising above all others, ever spake thus, “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord.” The land was given to Abraham in order that idolatry might be overthrown.
2. His godliness. In seeking a wife for his son he is not guided by motives of worldly policy. He makes no mention of riches, honours, or personal attractions. He is only concerned that his son shall form an alliance worthy of his high calling of God. He had learned to look at every circumstance of human life in its Godward relations.
3. His distrust of human nature without the safeguards of religion. He well knew that it was more likely that his son—though he had received such a pious training—should be corrupted by an idolatrous wife, than that such a wife should be won over to the true faith by her believing husband. And even should Isaac maintain his integrity, there would still be some hazard for his family. Deriving its origin partly from heathen nations, and with idolatrous practices everywhere prevailing, such a family must degenerate. Abraham knew the frailty of human nature too well not to surround the pure faith of his seed with the strongest possible safeguards.
How admirable a pattern is this for parents in reference to the forming of matrimonial connections for their children. Unhappily, great numbers even among the professors of godliness bring nothing but worldly considerations to this all-important subject. The outward advantages of fortune, rank, or personal attractions are the only things regarded. But what comparison can these bear to the internal qualities of sound principle, good sense, amiable temper, and meek devoted piety? What permanent happiness can we promise ourselves in connection with one who cannot understand our views, or enter into our feelings; to whom we cannot speak of religion so as to be sympathised with, advised, or comforted; with whom we cannot take sweet counsel on the things of all others most interesting and absorbing to our souls? No wonder that in such unions comfort and serenity of spirit are banished from our abodes. No wonder that there arise estrangements of affection, diversity of pursuits, contrariety of will, domestic jangling, mutual accusations and retorts, and all that embitters or poisons the springs of love and peace. Whether, therefore, we are choosing for ourselves in this matter, or sanctioning the device of others, let the example of this holy man have its due weight in governing our conduct. Let us learn from him to subordinate everything to the one great concern—the interests of the soul. Let every plan and purpose entertained, every connection formed, express our firm and unvarying conviction of the reality, the importance, the preciousness of those interests which infinitely transcend all others.—(Bush.)
Abraham does not forget his relation to the kingdom of God. This marriage is not a private and individual matter, but one affecting countless millions who are to be blessed in his seed. Isaac has to sustain a peculiar and a sacred character. He has to inherit and transmit, not simply a family name, importance, or worldly possessions merely, but the hope and promise of salvation. His marriage is significant as pointing to the purity of the kingdom of God, and also to the importance of woman in that kingdom.
Genesis 24:4. The conditions might seem to be irreconcilable. On the one hand, Isaac must contract no alliance with the daughters of the land; and, on the other hand, he must not leave the land to seek a bride elsewhere. The former is essential to the preservation of the holy seed, pure and uncontaminated from all intermixture with strange and idolatrous nations. The latter is indispensable to his succeeding his faithful father, not only in his ultimate inheritance of the promised country, but also in his preliminary pilgrimage meanwhile, as a stranger and sojourner in the land. For Isaac is to share his father’s trial as well as his reward. He is to walk by faith in an inheritance to come—living and dying in the land destined to be his; but without a portion of it that he can call his own, except his grave. Hence he must continue among the people, from whom he is not at liberty to select a wife; nor may he go in search of one to the ancient seat of his race.—(Candlish.)
The kindred of Abraham were Shemites, Hebrews, and still retained some knowledge of the true God, and some reverence for Him and His will.—(Murphy.)
It would have been natural prudence in Abraham to have sought a wife for his son among the Canaanites. This would have tended to secure protection and good will for Isaac, and would have greatly contributed towards the possession of the land by his family. The fact that Abraham acted contrary to what worldly prudence would suggest shows that he was under the guidance of God.
In the Old Testament we see marriage as a natural institution; in the New it is brought before us in a religious light, for we are shown its spiritual significance, it is there likened to Christ and the Church. Now, what is remarkable here is, that the union of Christ and the Church is not illustrated by marriage, but marriage by this spiritual union, that is, the natural is based upon the spiritual. And this is what is wanted; it gives marriage a religious signification, and it thus becomes a kind of semi-sacrament. Now there are two points in which this illustration holds good: first, in the nature of the union, for in marriage, as in the union between Christ and His Church, like is joined to unlike. The other point of resemblance is in the principle of sacrifice, for as no love between man and wife can be true which does not issue in a sacrifice of each for the other, so Christ gave Himself for His Church and the Church sacrifices itself to His service. The only true love is self devotion. Thus we see how all, even the every day affairs of married life, must fail without this principle of the cross of Christ.—(Robertson.)
Genesis 24:5-6. The servant, when the commission is first proposed to him, sees the difficulty. He is not to marry his master’s son to any daughter of the Canaanites; neither will he be allowed to take Isaac back to the land from whence Abraham came. And yet he may be unable to persuade any woman of the country and kindred to which Abraham limits him—any daughter of Terah’s family—to leave her home—to commit herself to the care of a stranger, and to share the fate of an unknown husband. In these circumstances, he will not bind himself by an absolute and unconditional oath. Nor is it until he is not only encouraged by Abraham’s strong expression of his faith in the guidance of Jehovah—but relieved also by the arrangement, that, in the contingency he apprehended, he is to be free from his vow—that he consents to undertake, under so solemn a sanction, so responsible a mission. His scruple is reasonable and honourable. It is of such a nature as may well increase his master’s confidence in him. It marks his conscientious sense of obligation, and his sacred reverence for an oath.—(Candlish.)
He swears cautiously, he doth not rashly rush upon his oath; he swears not in jest, but in judgment. So must we (Jeremiah 4:2), duly considering the conditions and circumstances; as the nature of an oath, the matter whereabout, the person by whom, and before whom, the time, the place, our calling and warrant thereunto. “Be not rash” (Ecclesiastes 5:2.) Swear not in heat and choler, as David did when he was going against Nabal; but soon after blessed Abigail for better counsel.—(Trapp.)
In our dealings with even the best of men we must sacredly preserve the sense of our own individual responsibility.
Genesis 24:7. Abraham’s expectation of success.
1. Founded upon what God is. The God of heaven and earth, and therefore controlling all things and events, and thus accomplishing His will. The thing hoped for was not impossible with God, and it was well in accordance with His known will.
2. Founded upon what God had been to him. God had called him from his father’s house, and from the land of his kindred. He had been blessed in all things. He had been guided in every step of his way, hitherto; surely he might trust for the next step. Every past favour is a pledge of a future one. “Thou hast”—“Thou wilt,” is a Scripture demonstration.
3. Founded upon the Word of God to him. It may be that Abraham had no distinct word of revelation to direct him in the choice of a wife for Isaac. But God had promised him the land, and assured the greatness and perpetuity of his family. He, therefore, reasons from the truths already made known, justly infering that his pious wish would be realised, and that the angel of God would guide his servant on this solemn embassy. One thing was clear—that which he desired was right in itself. With the full confidence of faith he leaves the question of means to the disposal of that Providence which had guided his life hitherto—to that Infinite Wisdom which had spoken to him words of large promise. Thus the Word of God is not to be regarded as merely a definite portion of truth, but as a seed ever growing into more abundant life.
We should so enter upon every work as to be able to promise to ourselves the presence and blessing of God.
The term “angel” in Scriptural usage is employed not only to denote those personal agents whom the Most High may see fit to make the executors of His will, but also in an impersonal sense, implying in many cases merely a dispensation of Providence, whether in a way of mercy or of judgment. The phraseology, indeed, but rarely occurs in respect of the ordinary incidents of life; but extraordinary operations of Providence, or events fought with momentous consequences, though accomplished by natural means, are in Scripture spoken of as “angels.” Thus the destruction of the first-born in Egypt is attributed to an angel, because such an event was extraordinary and memorable in the highest degree. In like manner the destruction of Sennacherib’s army is ascribed to angelic agency. We suppose the angel to be the personification of a special Providence. God would send His angel before the servant in the sense of preparing his way, of removing difficulties and objections, and fully reconciling the minds of his kindred to the step.—(Bush.)
Genesis 24:8. Abraham here releases the steward from the oath, in case the supposed difficulty should occur; for in no case would he consent to have his son taken to that land, to dwell outside of the land of promise. “This oath implies that if Abraham should die this steward would have an influential position towards Isaac.”—(Kurtz—Jacobus.)
This second time he lays charge on his servant not to do it. Better no wife than displease God, than violate conscience. He purchaseth his pleasure at too dear a rate that pays his honesty to get it. He hath less of the ballast and more of the sail, makes more haste than good speed, that thus speeds himself.—(Trapp.)
Genesis 24:9. The servant was enjoined by oath to undertake his master’s commands. This was allowable in Judaism; but Christ says, “Swear not at all.” Our nay is to be nay, and nothing else but nay, and our yea, yea; the word of the Christian is to be so true that no oath could add to its security. But what Abraham meant to express was this, that he would hold the man firm to his word by religious fear and duty. There are two ways of speaking truth: many a man may be true from expediency, and this may last so long as he sees he shall gain by being true; but as soon as an opportunity appears for winning something by falsehood without any immediate evil consequences, then his truth is at an end. Truth, to be constant, must lean upon a religious basis.—(Robertson.)
This servant obeyed the voice of a man to whom he believed God had spoken. Such is our position in regard to the sacred writers. We believe through their word.
The call and exaltation of Rebekah, her position in the kingdom of God, all depended upon the oath between Abraham and his servant. She was ignorant all the while of the great things which were preparing for her. So God works for His children far away out of their sight,—preventing them by the blessings of His goodness.
Genesis 24:10. Mesopotamia.] The Heb. term is Aram (or Syria) of the two rivers—the name for the district lying between the Euphrates and the Tigris. The Gr. name, Mesopotamia, has the same meaning, midst of the rivers. City of Nahor.] Haran, (Charran), see ch. Genesis 11:31.
Genesis 24:11. At the time of the evening, even the time that women go out to draw water.] The women in the East still draw water from the wells at evening, and use the occasion for holding conversations and exchanging news, as the men were accustomed to do at the gate. This duty devolves upon the females without distinction of rank.
Genesis 24:12. Send me good speed this day.] Heb. “Bring it to pass, or cause it to happen,” i.e., the object of the journey. The same word is used in ch. Genesis 27:20 : “Because the Lord thy God brought it to me,” i.e., made it to happen.
Genesis 24:13. The well of water.] Or fountain of water. The two words are often used interchangeably. The Heb. word for well or fountain is ayin, the primary signification of which is “eye.” The eye is the source from which the tears flow, and therefore the same term is applied to an opening in the earth from which waters gush forth.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Genesis 24:10-14
THE EMBASSY OF ABRAHAM’S SERVANT
I. He uses all possible human means of success. He took ten camels with him for the purpose of carrying sufficient provisions for the journey and presents for the bride. He felt bound to put in an appearance worthy of the rank of his master. A sufficient number of camels would be necessary for bringing home the bride and her suite. The means to be used must in themselves have a natural fitness for gaining the desired end. Even under the guidance of the highest religious faith, and the most comfortable assurance of God’s favour, we must rightly use our human reason and sense of the fitness of things. There are certain facts of social life which we must acknowledge, and act accordingly. It is presumption to trust that to Providence which we can determine and arrange ourselves. True faith is a living and energetic thing, and diligent in the use of means. Faith and duty are one in essence, and they cannot be really separated.
II. He expects Divine Help. He did not entirely trust to human means, but looked to God for help and success. Human prudence, of itself, would have suggested a most natural course to him. When he had reached the end of his journey he could have enquired after his master’s kinsmen, concerning whom tidings had been received before he left home. He could have made his way to the dwellings of Nahor’s children, and introduce himself as the representative of Nahor’s brother. He could then, with some propriety, demand the daughter as a wife for Abraham’s son. He had a strong case—sufficient ground for making such a demand. According to the ordinary ways of the world, this design was proper and likely to succeed. This would be held to be a princely style of matrimonial negociation. But we are here studying a history which is overshadowed by the spiritual world—a history, not of nations as such, but rather a history of the kingdom of God. The choice appeared to be left to the servant, but in reality it was God’s choice. This man evidently expected Divine help. Consider,
1. His prayer to God for success (Genesis 24:12.) In a large portion of a lifetime spent with his master he had seen evident signs of a Divine Providence ordering the steps of a good man in a most remarkable manner. He had learned that it was true wisdom to rely upon the God of his master Abraham. His mode of conducting this treaty is truly primitive, but at the same time pervaded by a spirit of genuine piety. Now that he is near the end of his proposed journey, and confident that he had done everything in his power for its success, he pauses to know the will of God and to invoke his aid. Before entering upon so great a work he must needs collect his thoughts for prayer. This incident throws light upon his character as a religious man. He knew that whatever the wisdom of man might design, success must come from God.
2. Prayer for special Divine guidance. He appeared to lay down the method in which Providence should bring about the desired end (Genesis 24:13-14.) He prayed that the woman, of whom he was to make choice, might appear at the well. We are not to imitate him in every exact particular of this conduct, for Christ condemned the use of signs. The time, place, and manner, should be left to the will of God. To depend upon signs seems like an appeal to chance. But this man did it in faith. His suggestion was not unreasonable in itself. It was most natural and likely that what he expected should come to pass. When he presented himself at the well where the women of the neighbourhood were wont to assemble he would have an opportunity of observing the behaviour of the damsels, and of forming a judgment upon their kindness and goodwill. Therefore he prays that God would bless the design which he had thus formed in his own mind. The principle is sound that when we have formed our plans with due care we may ask God to bless and encourage us. The providence of God often fits in to the providence of man. But we should be very careful in seeking signs.
(1) Our plan should be formed upon the lines of duty.
(2) Should be prompted by a spirit of faith and love. We should be ready to leave all to the choice of a kind and loving Father.
(3) Should not take the form of a challenge, as if we should cease to trust in God were He to act in a different way from what we expected. However confident we may be in our own wisdom and integrity, we should be still meek and trustful, not as claiming from God, but rather as seeking for His pure favour. This servant forms his plan in the spirit of piety, and, as it were, spreads it out before the Lord. There are also occasions in the life of a believer when faith, as by a kind of Divine instinct, possesses the gift of prophecy.
3. Prayer for what was good in itself.
(1) He looks for the best qualities in the bride. She was to be amiable, modest, kind—all qualities of the heart, and without which all other endowments were vain.
(2) He desires the Divine confirmation of his choice,—“She that Thou hast appointed.” (Genesis 24:14.) The approbation of God was the chief thing. He went as far as he could in making the choice, leaving all the rest to God. We are not guilty of presumption when we pray for what is good in itself, and are ready to leave the whole matter ultimately to the will of God.
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES
Genesis 24:10. This delicate mission was delegated to a servant or slave, because Isaac, according to the notions of those days, was too inexperienced to go himself. A touching confidence subsisted between master and servant. And in this we learn in what true liberty consists: this man was a servant,—a slave if you will,—and yet he enjoyed far greater liberty than our modern servants, who are free to go where they please; his freedom consisted in that glorious principle of obedience through love, which makes a man free at once, and which we have so grievously forgotten.—(Robertson.)
He did not trouble his aged master in things of inferior moment, but having all his affairs entrusted to him, adjusts those matters himself. Taking with him ten camels, and of course a number of attendants, partly for accommodation, and partly, we may suppose, to give a just idea of his master’s substance, he set off for Mesopotamia, to the city of Nahor.—(Fuller.)
When we are thoughtful, energetic, and faithful in doing our own part, then we have the best reason for trusting in Providence.
The large treasure thus borne to the land of the bride, this splendid outfit, considered together with the evident piety of the servant, would all produce the impression that Abraham was greatly blessed by God.
Had the servant gone alone, without any evidences of his master’s wealth, it is clear that he could not reasonably have expected to obtain the same credence for his assertions on the subject. The measure, therefore, was in every view politic and wise, although we cannot question that both Abraham and his servant, as habitually pious men, placed more dependence on a secret Divine interposition than upon any devices, however well chosen, of their own.—(Bush.)
Genesis 24:11. The camels were made to kneel down for repose. “A good man is merciful to his beast.” (Proverbs 12:10.)
The evening was the cool part of the day. The simple maidens of primitive days attended personally to domestic affairs. The experienced steward might therefore naturally expect to see the high-born damsels of the land at the public well, which had probably given rise to the neighbouring town.—(Murphy.)
The women contrive to draw an enjoyment even out of this irksome duty, as it affords the best opportunity they have of meeting and talking together, and of displaying their finery to each other. They by no means appear to the worst advantage as to dress at the wells; and this circumstance shows that Abraham’s servant might, there, without any incongruity, invest Rebekah with the ornaments he had brought. To a traveller in the East; the best opportunities of making his observations on the females will occur in the evening at the wells. Eliezar was aware of this, and regarded the opportunity as favourable for his purpose.—(Bush.)
Genesis 24:12. Prayer—needful at all times, and in the smallest things of life—was specially needed in this instance.
1. The object of this embassy was of extraordinary importance. A wife had to be found for the heir of promise—a mother for the kingdom of God.
2. This was a special concern of God. The Covenant God was about to found a great nation to preserve the knowledge of Himself in the world, and to be the means of salvation. Messiah was to come of these, according to the flesh. God’s own glory was specially concerned in this marriage.
“Lord, God of my master, Abraham.” The piety of the servant speaks well for the godly example set by the master.
The goodness and faithfulness of God to other saints of His should encourage us. In living the life of faith we are not solitary, but belong to a numerous company in all ages who trusted in God. They form a “great cloud”—those witnesses of His grace.
The prayer is remarkable for—
1. The faith in which it is offered. He speaks all along under a full persuasion that the providence of God extended to the minutest events, and that there was no presumption in appealing to Him on the present occasion. His words are full of confidence that God would direct him in a matter of so much importance to His Church in all future ages.
2. The correct views of the character of Jehovah which he expresses. He addresses Him as the Covenant God of Abraham, who had given him exceeding great and precious promises. In approaching Him in this character, he would occupy the best possible ground for urging his request, as any promise made to Abraham would furnish a plea which could scarcely fail to be effectual.—(Bush.)
By approaching Him as a God in covenant, he would find matter for faith to lay hold upon; every promise to Abraham would thus furnish a plea, and turn to a good account. Surely this may direct us in our approaches to a throne of grace, to make mention of a greater than Abraham, with whom also God is in covenant, and for whose sake the greatest of all blessings may be expected. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is to us what the God of Abraham was to Eliezer; and in the name of our Redeemer we may pray and hope for everything that is great and good.—(Fuller.)
Genesis 24:13-14. This entreaty for a sign is not presumption, for—
1. The expedient he uses was rational. The circumstances he looked for were likely in themselves.
2. He leaves all issues to God, and looks to Him alone for success.
3. He does not stand upon conditions of his own with God. He does not suspend his own conduct upon the granting of what he desires. He rather humbly seeks the countenance and co-operation of God.
When we have done our best in rightly using our discretion and human wisdom, we may with all the more confidence look to God for direction and success.
He now proposes a sign by which he shall receive the Divine intimation of the person intended for Isaac’s bride. He will use the means. He will do his best as to a choice, but he will submit the decision to God. He must have the Divine confirmation of his choice, else he dares not proceed. The whole matter is of utmost importance, to choose a wife for the son of promise, and God will surely give direction at his humble request.
1. He was to go so far as he could in making the choice.
2. She must be such an one as will respond cordially to his application for water. She would then have the marks of a good temper, besides the personal attractions which he could only judge at first sight. Form and feature and healthful aspect, and charms for the eye of which a stranger could judge, were to be seconded by a prompt and hearty response to the request of a stranger for water. How a little act of kindness will display the disposition! The politeness and culture which will give water to the stranger will speak volumes in regard to the character. How indispensable in a good wife is a good disposition, beyond any mere outward charms. How requisite, above all, is the approbation of God in so momentous a choice.—(Jacobus.)
“She that thou hast appointed.” The will and design of God is the ultimate aim of prayer.
Genesis 24:15. Upon her shoulder.] This was the most graceful mode of carrying a pitcher when it was empty.
Genesis 24:19. Until they have done drinking.] Kalisch remarks, “If it is remembered that camels, though endowed in an almost marvellous degree with the power of enduring thirst, drink when an opportunity offers an enormous quantity of water, it will be acknowledged that the trouble to which the maiden cheerfully submitted required more than ordinary patience.”
Genesis 24:21. Held his peace, to wit, whether the Lord had made his journey prosperous or not?] Heb. “Keeping silence to know whether Jehovah had prospered his way or not.”
Genesis 24:22. Golden ear-ring.] Properly a nose ring. It was a single one, not a pair. Such are worn by Eastern women, the left nostril being pierced for the purpose. (Genesis 24:47.) “The presents were not as yet bridal presents: those first come in Genesis 24:53, and could not be given till the consent of Laban and Bethuel had been ascertained.” (Alford.)
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Genesis 24:15-31
THE FINGER OF PROVIDENCE IN THE APPOINTMENT OF A BRIDE FOR ISAAC
In the events related here Abraham’s steward had evident proof that God was blessing his designs, and was bringing them to the desired issue. He could plainly see the finger of Providence:—
I. In the prompt and complete answer given to his prayer. “Before he had done speaking” Rebekah appeared at the well (Genesis 24:15.) The suddenness of her appearance, taken together with the fact that her conduct and bearing were such as he looked for, would produce the impression upon his mind that his prayer was already answered. The sight of this comely damsel at such a seasonable moment, her dignified bearing, her kind disposition, her unaffected simplicity, would strike him as a distinct interference of Providence. He could not ascribe it all to chance or mere accident. His pious mind was disposed to believe and to see the manifest finger of God. The maiden appeared on the scene which he had pictured to his mind’s eye, and displayed all the qualities which he had looked for in a bride for Isaac. She was civil and courteous (Genesis 24:18; Genesis 24:24.) She was open and sincere. There was no pretence, or acting a part. She was kind (Genesis 24:18-20.) It was a good action, and done to a stranger. She was simple and unaffected. There was no suspicion or affected coyness. He could not see all these things without feeling that God had answered his prayer.
II. In the control of apparent accidents. The events that happened, though most remarkable in their wonderful fitness, were yet in themselves probable. Some might have regarded them as a lucky accident—as one of those favourable chances that will sometimes happen. But to a religious mind the most obscure and unknown causes are under the control of an all-seeing Providence, and are so regulated as to accomplish the Divine will. This incident brings one fact of God’s government of mankind vividly before us, which is, that great issues often depend upon apparently little things. It was a simple matter to ask a stranger for a drink of water, and yet how much depended upon this! The simple maiden had no suspicion of the greatness of the issue hanging upon her cheerful and kindly compliance with the request. It is conceivable that she might have acted otherwise, and with apparent justice. This man was a foreigner, and perhaps a foe. She was a lady accustomed to be waited upon, rather than to serve. But she stood upon no dignity, nor maintained a proud and cautious reserve. Any rudeness or suspicion on her part at this time and the servant must have looked elsewhere. Thus the great destinies of the Jewish nation seemed at this moment to depend upon the bearing of this maiden in meeting a stranger at a well.
III. In the impression made upon the steward himself. Doubtless he felt that his prayer was now answered, or at least that he had received the first tokens of an answer. Still he is afraid to presume too much.
1. He pauses to see whether Divine Providence is still leading on. He allows time for the natural feelings of the moment to possess him. He is filled with amazement and delight. He will not, however, be too confident, but waits to see whether God is still leading him on. (Genesis 24:21.) When we have done our duty in the humble spirit of prayer, and when Divine light has enabled us to see a few steps in advance, we should calmly wait that more light may be granted.
2. He acts upon the favours of Providence already received. Believing that his way was divinely directed so far, he presents gifts to the young damsel. (Genesis 24:22.) These were a suitable expression of thanks for her services, and would naturally secure her goodwill for the future. Then he is encouraged to ask for the rights of hospitality, and they were graciously granted. (Genesis 24:23-25.) He was making his way safe and sure—still looking to God for direction and success.
3. He engages in an act of praise. (Genesis 24:26-27.) He worships the Covenant God—gives thanks to the God of families who had not failed of His mercy and His truth. He felt that he had acted, up to this point, in the integrity of his heart, and that he had not wandered from the way of the Lord. His conduct in this matter is a beautiful picture of true and simple primitive piety. He seeks direction by prayer, and acknowledges the answer in humble hearty praise.
IV. In the recognition of God by all concerned. All who were concerned in the results of this embassy felt that this thing was of God. When Rebekah heard of the Lord of Abraham her feelings of wonder and piety were excited. (Genesis 24:27-28.) She cannot resist the impression that she is honouring a saint of God. Laban also regards this servant as one who was specially favoured by Jehovah. (Genesis 24:31.) He discerned by evident signs that this was a true child of God.
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES
Genesis 24:15. So quick is God many times in the answer of prayers. (Isaiah 65:24; Daniel 9:23.) The angel had even tired himself with flight, to tell Daniel that his prayers were heard. David did but say, “I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord,” and before he could do it, “God forgave the iniquity of his sin.” (Psalms 32:5.)—(Trapp.)
So forward is God to bestow His benefits upon us that they do not so much follow our prayers as prevent and go before them. “And it shall come to pass, that before they call I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear” (Isaiah 65:24.)—(Bochart.)
The eastern women sometimes carry their jars upon their heads; but Rebekah’s was carried upon her shoulder. In such a case, the jar is not supposed to have been placed upright on the shoulder, but held by one of the handles, with the hand over the shoulder, and suspended in this manner on the back, held, I should imagine, by the right hand over the left shoulder. Consequently, when it was presented to Abraham’s servant, that he might drink out of it, it was to be gently moved over the left arm, and being suspended by one hand, while the other probably was placed under the bottom of the jar; it was in that position presented to Abraham’s servant and his attendants to drink out of. “And she hasted and let down her pitcher upon her hand, and gave him to drink.” (Genesis 24:18.)—(Harmer.)
Genesis 24:16. Beauty is the characteristic of the Church, which is lovely and fair in the sight of God. It was fitting that the mother of the Church, which God was now calling out of the world, should be beautiful.
Some suppose that this well was a cistern of rain-water. We have seen such cut in the rock above ground, and we have seen wells or fountains reached by a declivity or by steps. He had watched her in this movement, and was clear that she fulfilled all the conditions as to personal manners.—(Jacobus.)
Genesis 24:16-17. How is it, she might have answered, that thou being a foreigner,—and for anything I know a foe,—askest drink of me, a native of this country? What am I, that I should minister to thee? Or, what art thou to me, that thou shouldest expect this favour at my hands? It was good for Rebekah that she did not answer thus. No other opportunity would probably have been given to her; no second appeal would have been made to her. And it was good for another woman, who, long after, met another stranger,—“wearied with his journey,” at another well,—that when she met His request, “Give me to drink,” with the churlish question, “How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria?” It was good for her that she had a different person from Abraham’s servant to deal with. A rude reception of this sort might have ended once and for ever the negotiation for a marriage treaty which this messenger from Canaan was about to open. But that other Messenger from the heavenly Canaan is not so easily repelled. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. (Isaiah 55:8.)—(Candlish.)
Little things are often the most reliable test of character. They reveal the chief and prevailing dispositions of our nature far more truthfully than a well studied and prepared part acted on great occasions. Faithfulness in little things affords the best promise of faithfulness in great.
Genesis 24:18-19. Her response was prompt and cordial. She was bearing her pitcher upon her shoulder, as we suppose, and naturally let it down upon her hand. This civility and courtesy added to the already favourable impression. It happened somewhat differently with us. We came up to a cistern hewn out of the limestone rock, and were very thirsty after a hot ride on the road from Jericho to Jerusalem. The cistern was well supplied with rainwater, covered over with green scum. Our dragoman let down his skin bucket or bottle by a cord, and drew up the water clear and cool from beneath the surface. He poured it into a cup and was handing it to one of our ladies, when an old sheikh, who had escorted us, seized the cup, demanding to be served before the lady. On his being stoutly refused by our dragoman, he mounted his beast in a surly mood and rode off immediately.—(Jacobus.)
The maiden manifests that very bountifulness of spirit, which the woman of Samaria not only wanted, but thought it strange that she should be expected to possess. Without suspicion or inquiry, without upbraiding, she is impatient to respond to the stranger’s call—she is in haste to minister to his wants. “She hasted,” it is said,—and said, not once, but twice,—as if to indicate her promptness to meet the demand made upon her, and to supply the wants not only of the wayfarer himself but of his cattle.—(Candlish.)
She now proceeded quite according to the sign which the steward had named. Everything thus goes forward most satisfactorily. She proposes, in her open-hearted way, to furnish water for his camels also, using even the language which the servant had used in his prayer. This indicated, most clearly, the hand of God in the matter.—(Jacobus.)
Genesis 24:20. In the vicinity of Nazareth we noticed such a well or fountain with a stone trough filled, and at evening the women were gathered there, filling their stone jars at the well, and carrying them on their heads. The trough would also be a convenience for cattle to drink. Around Jerusalem, Damascus, and Hebron the water is conveyed from pools or reservoirs outside the city, in earthen pipes running under cover, but having openings at intervals along the roadside for the cattle to drink.—(Jacobus.)
Genuine goodness of disposition does not proceed with a dull and melancholy movement, but is sprightly and cheerful. The value of such duties lies not only in what they bestow, but rather in the attractive and willing manner in which they are done. This is the kind of service which God loves.
Rebekah was a true mother of the Church, for it is the office of the Church to perform large and cheerful services for mankind.
Genesis 24:21. He was rapt in admiration of the Divine providence which had made the event to correspond so remarkably with his desires. The maiden’s conduct; so amiable in itself, and so exactly in unison with his previous wishes, struck him with a kind of amazement, accompanied by a momentary hesitation whether all could be true. Thus, the disciples of Jesus wondered when Peter was cast into prison; and when their prayers were heard, and Peter stood without, knocking at the gate, they could not credit the joyful news, but said, “It is his angel.” We pray for blessings, and when our prayers are answered we can scarcely believe them to be so.—(Bush.)
The mind, like the eye, is often dazzled and confounded by excess of light. We require time to adjust our souls to new and sudden situations. Amazement is the first effect of the appearing of God’s great goodness.
It is not wise to rush into too sudden conclusions from favourable appearances. It is better to wait and see whether the future will confirm our first impressions.
To find out whether God has prospered us, we must have successive proofs of His goodness. His guiding hand must lead us every step of our way.
No wonder the good man marvelled. Such alacrity of attention to a poor way-worn traveller did indeed betoken a gracious disposition. And the circumstance fitted in so aptly to his previous train of holy meditation, that he could not fail to recognise an answer to his prayer. It was as if the Lord were saying to him in this remarkable providence, “Be still and know that I am God.”—(Candlish.)
Genesis 24:22. Is it not in opposition with 1 Timothy 2:9-10; 2 Timothy 3:4-5, to put on these ornaments? We answer,
1. Rebekah had no conceit of herself in connection with them;
2. As Sarah was a princess, so Rebekah became the daughter of a prince, and we cannot refuse to distinguished persons a certain pre-eminence in clothing and ornaments;
3. The great abundance of gold, precious stones, and jewels in the Levitical cultus, was not to contribute to pride.—(Starke.)
The thing really intended seems to be a ring or jewel for the nose; but our translators, having no knowledge of such an ornament, which seemed to them to imply an absurdity, have carefully avoided the true idea everywhere, except in Isaiah 3:21, the translator of which portion had probably gained some information, not possessed by the others, of this peculiarity of Oriental ornament. Yet all their care could not preclude an occasional allusion to it, as in Proverbs 11:22, where it could not but be rendered “a jewel in a swine’s snout.” The extensive use of nose ornaments among the Arabian and other females of the East having now become known, modern translators render the present text “nose ring,” as is done in the Arabic and Persian versions.—(Bush.)
Genesis 24:23. As there were no public-houses for travellers, only at best the Khan or caravan-serai, and as it was and still is customary for strangers to seek a lodging with the Sheikh of the village, this question about accommodations was proper, and not surprising.—(Jacobus.)
It is sufficient if we have clear light for the next duty which lies before us. When Providence opens our way we should follow.
Genesis 24:24. She promptly told of her family relation; and it proved to be of Abraham’s kindred—the daughter of his nephew.—(Jacobus.)
Another step in the paths of Providence was verefied. God rewards faithful duty by granting more and more a knowledge of His will.
Genesis 24:25. In keeping with her cordiality; already shown at the well, is her hospitality, in which she goes beyond his request for lodging, and assures him of straw and provender besides. The straw was chopped straw for mixture with provender—as grasses and herbage, or barley. The term for provender means feed in the general.—(Jacobus.)
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 a most amiable point of view.—(A. Clarke.)
It is well observed by an interpreter, that in the narration of this story (which yet seemeth to be of light and trivial matters) the Spirit of God is very exact and large; whereas other things wherein great mysteries are infolded (as the history of Melchizedek etc.), are set down in few words; that man might consider God’s wisdom and Providence in things of least esteem amongst men. I add, that all may see what delight He takes in the meanest actions and speeches of His dearest children; when the great acts and exploits of Nimrod, Ninus, and other grandees of the world are not once mentioned, but lie shrouded in the sheet of oblivion or shame.—(Trapp.)
God rewards those who seek Him with more than they ask or think.
Genesis 24:26-27. See how he relisheth of his master’s house, and showeth a gracious heart, ready to offer up a sacrifice of praise, wherever God shall please to set it up an altar. The same word in Greek (χάρις) signifieth grace and thanks; to show, that as any man hath more grace, he is more grateful to God and man. It is observable also, that our Saviour sets these two together,—“the unthankful, and the evil.” (Luke 6:35).—(Trapp.)
Such a sight is fitted to move deeply the simple and earnest soul of the guileless maiden. The venerable aspect of the stranger, surprised into a sudden act of most profound devotion could not but strike her heart; and the mention of the name of Abraham, of whom doubtless she had often heard in her father’s house,—and with whose migration, narrated as a household tale, she had been taught to associate something of the mysterious and the supernatural,—could not fail to call forth her feelings of wonder, expectancy, and awe. Who is this to whom she has been unawares rendering what appears to be received as so remarkable a service? It is but a little cold water that she has been giving; a boon that she would not withhold from the poorest pilgrim she might chance to meet with at a well. But what a burst of pious gratitude does it cause! And what a discovery does it occasion! she is “not forgetful to entertain strangers”; and as “thereby some have entertained angels unawares,” (Hebrews 13:2), so Rebekah on this occasion reaps a rich reward for the attention she has been unconsciously paying to an honoured saint of God. The old man who is the object of her apparently trifling courtesy and kindness, as if bent under the weight of an insupportable obligation, “bows down his head and worships God. And the words he utters in his ecstacy and thankfulness, bring home to her as a present reality all that from her childhood she has doubtless been wont to hear, of what was probably the most remarkable event in the family history,—the strange adventure of the old patriarch called so mysteriously away long ago into a distant and a sort of dreamy land. Well may she be in haste to communicate the surprising intelligence she has so unexpectedly obtained.—(Candlish.)
Here is a fine example of a man who “acknowledged God in all His ways.” He takes no steps without prayer, nor receives any blessing thereby vouchsafed without rendering thanksgiving and praise.
The servant’s thanksgiving.
1. The piety of it. He does not ascribe his success to chance or fortune, but to God. Moreover he adores God by His Covenant name as the Redeemer.
2. The confidence of it.
(1) Founded upon God’s dealings in the past. He had never failed in His mercy and His truth to Abraham. Therefore He might be thanked for the past with that confidence which is encouraged to hope much for the future. It is safe to trust Divine mercy and truth.
(2) Founded upon a consciousness of his own integrity. This servant knew that he was in the way of the Lord, that he was led to the house of his master’s brethren by Divine direction. Therefore he was sure from whom these blessings came.
The Bible is a revelation not only of God’s truth, but also of His mercy. Were it not thus it would bring no glad tidings to men.
It is a comfort to know that the father of believers is represented as a man who never was forsaken of God’s mercy and truth. All the children of faith in every age have this experience.
Genesis 24:28. Rapid movements become excited feelings. Joyful feet travel swiftly. It is so, notably, with the highest spiritual feelings. When God enlarges our hearts with them then we are ready to run in the ways of His commandments.
This praise to God was probably offered while Rebekah was running to her home with the exciting news. It would be to the female part of the house to whom she would naturally relate all the facts and all her thoughts. How natural the picture! The mother, and those who cluster around her, will first get the interesting news. The family was settled in a fixed abode; as would seem.—(Jacobus.)
Genesis 24:29-31. From what we afterwards learn of Laban, it is not perhaps doing him injustice to suppose that the golden ornaments had great influence in prompting a behaviour which had the appearance of being highly disinterested and generous. His whole history shows him to have been a mercenary man, and quite susceptible to the impressions which the display of great wealth would make upon a covetous mind. But, whatever were his motives, his treatment of the servant was kind. Finding him at the well modestly waiting for a further invitation, he accosts him in language that would have befitted the lips of a much better man.—(Bush.)
The presents to his sister assure him that this is the envoy of some man of wealth and position. The name of Jehovah was evidently not unfamiliar to Laban’s ears. He calls this stranger blessed of Jehovah on account of his language, demeanour, and manifest prosperity. The knowledge and worship of the living God, the God of truth and mercy, was still retained in the family of Nahor.—(Murphy.)
Genesis 24:32. And he ungirded his camels, and gave straw and provender for the camels.] “It is plain that Laban is to be understood as having unsaddled and unloaded the camels, besides furnishing the provender, water, etc. Everything was supplied for their comfort in true Oriental hospitality.” (Jacobus.)
Genesis 24:49. That I may turn to the right hand, or to the left.] That is, should they decline his application, he would seek a wife for Isaac among other families of that people.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Genesis 24:32-49
THE MARRIAGE TREATY
I. Its religious element.
1. The sense of instant duty. The steward was intent upon the commission entrusted to him by his master, and refuses to take his food until he has discharged it (Genesis 24:33). He felt that he had to perform a duty to God as well as to man; for Abraham was in covenant with God, and he had taken a solemn oath to be faithful to his master in this matter. The pious man regards all duty as having reference to God, and instantly obeys the suggestions of conscience herein. To make haste to obey is an essential mark of godliness.
2. A recognition of God’s gracious dealings. The steward felt that God had greatly blessed his master—had designed to make him a great nation, and for that end had wrought a special act of His power (Genesis 24:36). His master had taken all due care to make a holy alliance for his son. He himself had prayed that God might prosper his way. He now recites to this company the things which had befallen him during the course of his journey. He is convinced by the evident favour of Providence that the Lord’s hand had been in the business from the first, and now he confidently commits all his way to the same Divine guidance (Genesis 24:48).
3. A solemn sense of responsibility.
(1.) To man. He had a trust committed to him. His master was worthy of that trust. The business itself was right in the sight of God, and most important for the highest welfare of the human race.
(2.) To God. This man had learned that the Lord had intended a great destiny for the family of Abraham, which was to be the hope of the world. He must feel that he was not acting a part in an ordinary history. He has to bring the kingdom of God nigh unto this house. He had come from a family where the fear and worship of Jehovah were known, and which alone had any recent revelation from God, or was marked by the Covenant seal. Truly he is coming to offer to Laban’s household a share in the privileges of Abraham’s calling. He is the bearer of the message of salvation.
II. Its economic element. The steward gives an account of Abraham’s wealth and position (Genesis 24:35). He knew that the parents of this well-bred damsel would never consent to give their daughter to a man of mean circumstances, and living one hundred miles away, nor to one of ignoble or degraded family. He takes care, therefore, to state that his master is rich, and that the bride would have a suitable home and congenial society. Still, with that pious feeling which marked him hitherto, he takes equal care to note that the riches of his master were righteously gotten. “The Lord hath blessed my master greatly” (Genesis 24:35). He also gave suitable presents (Genesis 24:47). He treats her as one who is to enter such a distinguished family. In all this transaction the religious and the economic elements are mixed in due proportion. The men who most believed in the supernatural, and who had most abundant witness of it, were the men who used the most care in the employment of common prudence and skill. This man does not blindly rely upon miracles alone, but uses human means and proprieties to their proper extent and trusts for the blessing of God.
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES
Genesis 24:32. Being warmly invited, the man enters the house. Laban is the actor here, and in the following duties of hospitality. It comes out here, incidentally, as it was reasonable to infer from the number of camels, that Abraham’s steward had a retinue of servants with him. The crowning act of an Eastern reception is the presenting of food.—(Murphy).
Thoughtful and seasonable acts of kindness—a worthy feature of those simple times.
Genesis 24:33. He meant to act, perhaps, upon some such principle as that laid down by our Lord for the guidance of those whom He sent out as ambassadors. (Luke 10:8-11). He has substantially to set before them the salvation of the Gospel, inviting them to become partakers of it, and to cast in their lot with the people whose God is the Lord. To press for a decision upon this point is his first and chief concern, to which even the supply of his necessary food is altogether subordinate. He is in earnest,—as a far greater Messenger was in earnest, when He too had to deal with the woman whom He met at the well about her spiritual good,—her separation from old connections that she might be the Lord’s handmaid,—and found the task so engrossing as to make him forget his own most pressing wants: (John 4:31-34). So, in some corresponding measure, Abraham’s servant felt in reference to the commission with which he was charged. It was his meal also, as it was the Lord’s, to get his commission well executed in obedience to his master and his master’s God; and the execution of it took precedence with him even of his necessary food.—(Candlish).
Genesis 24:34-49. Eliezer’s bride-wooing, the first speech in the Bible, a fit beginning for the whole circle of Biblical speeches.—(Lange.)
And how simply does he go about the execution of his commission! He does little more than narrate the Lord’s dealings with Abraham in Canaan, and with himself on his journey thence. As a matter of course, we may be sure that he dwells somewhat more at length on the details of his master’s pilgrimage than the brief summary given in this discourse might indicate. Nor can we doubt that he opens up, at least in part, the fulness of the blessing with which “the Lord had blessed his master greatly,” as having in it a rich store of spiritual as well as temporal benefits. At all events, it is the Lord’s blessing upon Abraham and his seed that this devout and upright man holds out as the chief, and indeed the only recommendation of the suit he has to urge. For, in what remains of his address, beyond a plain recital of the things that had befallen him, with a piousreference throughout to the manifest grace and goodness of the Lord in the leadings of His holy providence—the good man uses no arguments whatever to enforce the proposal he has to make to Laban’s household. Not “with excellency of speech or of wisdom”—not “with enticing words of man’s wisdom does he come to them,” declaring unto them the testimony of God. If his mission is to be successful—if his message is to be believed by them—their “faith is not to stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.” It is to be no triumph of persuasive eloquence; nor is it by any varnish of a subtle and seductive tongue that the maiden’s choice is to be determined and the consent of her family obtained. The Lord’s hand has been in this business from the first; and it must be left in His hand to the last. The servant can but deliver his plain tale, with all plainness of speech, and await such results as the Lord may be pleased to appoint. Such is this honest ambassador’s honest discharge of his embassy.—(Candlish.)
The offer of Abraham’s servant to the house of Nahor is suggestive of the offer of God’s salvation to mankind.
1. Salvation is of the Lord—by His direction and will (Genesis 24:48.)
2. Salvation is a miracle of Divine mercy. Isaac—on whose account these things happened—was born by a miracle. Forgiveness of transgressions comes to us out of the ordinary course. Nature teaches no doctrine of forgiveness. Her laws punish all transgressors without remedy. When salvation is brought, God’s own arm is apparent.
3. The consequences of rejecting the offer of salvation are serious. Had this offer made to Nahor’s household been rejected, the steward must have looked in some other direction. They would have lost a distinguished and honourable place in human history. They would have put themselves outside the circle of religious privileges. The rejection of salvation is—to say the least—the rejection of honour and dignity, of a place in the family of God.
“And the Lord hath blessed my master” (Genesis 24:35.) Ministers, Christ’s paranymphs, must likewise woo for Christ by setting forth His great wealth, and not to speak one word for Christ and two for themselves, as those did in Philippians 1:15. John Baptist was no such spokesman. (John 3:29.) It is the special office of the ministry to lay Christ open, to hold up the tapestry, and let men see him as He is set forth, (Hebrews 1:2-3), that they may be sick of love, for otherwise Christ is like to have but a cold suit of it.—(Trapp.)
“And I will put the earring upon her face” (Genesis 24:47.) So did Christ put upon His spouse His own comeliness, which was a jewel on her forehead, an earring in her ear, and a beautiful crown upon her head, (Ezekiel 16:12-14);—whence she is called Callah, of the perfection of her beauty and bravery, (Jeremiah 2:32); and Hephzibah, (Isaiah 62:4), of His delight in her; since He hath purified her as Esther, sanctified her, (Ephesians 5:26), and so beautified her that now He “rejoiceth over her as a bridegroom doth over his bride.” (Isaiah 62:5.) Yea, He “resteth in His love,” and will seek no further; He “joyeth over her with singing” as well paid for His choice. (Zephaniah 3:17.)—(Trapp.)
“The Lord, before whom I walk, will send His angel with thee, and prosper thy way” (Genesis 24:40.) Eliezer, the earthly messenger of Abraham, in the convoy of the heavenly messengers. A pious diplomat, accompanied by the angel of the Lord. The diplomats of this world are often accompanied by demons.—(Lange.)
Genesis 24:50. The thing proceedeth from the Lord: we cannot speak unto the bad or good.] Heb. “The word cometh forth from Jehovah; we are not able to speak unto thee bad or good.” That is, we cannot say anything at all against the measure. (Genesis 31:24.)
Genesis 24:59. Her nurse.] The name of this nurse was Deborah. (Genesis 35:8.)
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Genesis 24:50-60
THE SUCCESS OF THE MARRIAGE TREATY
I. Due to the manifest interposition of Providence. The impression made upon the mind of the father and brother of Rebekah was, that the hand of God was clearly evident in this matter. They felt as if they could not interfere. They could not utter a word by way of expressing an independent opinion or wish. “The thing proceedeth from the Lord: we cannot speak unto thee bad or good” (Genesis 24:50.)
II. Acknowledged by suitable acts of devotion. We find we are dealing all along with a history which is continually looking towards God. The actors in it are ready to refer all success to God, and to acknowledge every benefit with pious gratitude.
1. By acts of worship. Abraham’s servant “worshipped the Lord, bowing himself to the earth” (Genesis 24:52.) This is the supreme act of religion—prostration before that Being who is holier, greater, and higher than we are. The sense of the Divine goodness in favouring his mission was uppermost in the mind of this man. But it is the assurance of that Goodness which is the confidence and comfort of devotion. Without the conviction of His goodness, His greatness would overpower us and make us afraid.
2. By faith and ready obedience. The brother and mother of the damsel naturally plead for a few day’s delay (Genesis 24:55.) But the servant is so convinced that the hand of God is in this matter that he urges haste. If this was the bride selected by Providence, surely there was no need for any further delay. When the matter is mentioned to Rebekah, she makes up her mind in a moment, and declares her willingness at once to go with the servant (Genesis 24:58.) Her obedience is instant and cheerful. A clear message from heaven leads to sudden changes in conduct. Such was the case with St. Paul. “Immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood” (Galatians 1:16.)
3. By human benedictions. God had already blessed, and now man must bless (Genesis 24:60.) It is the dignity and privilege of man that he can both act and think after God. Thus there is human forgiveness as well a Divine. The brightest discoveries of the human intellect are but the thoughts that have dwelt from eternity in the mind of God at length revealed to man. These benedictions were given in faith. There was faith in a great future for the family of God (Genesis 24:60.) There would be a witness for God throughout human history—a final victory for his people. “Let thy seed possess the gate of those which hate them.”
III. Followed by a grateful sense of relief. The servant can now eat and drink, for his duty is discharged and God has now shown him that his mission is a success (Genesis 24:54.) There is repose and satisfaction when we are conscious of duty faithfully done; but while the duty is impending, the thought of it swallows up all else—every idea of personal comfort or safety. It is the mark of a pious mind when we esteem the commandments of God more than our necessary food.
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES
Genesis 24:50. The affect of the appeal which, with such unadorned simplicity, Abraham’s servant addressed to the family whose acquaintance he had so strangely made, is not merely an instance of the primitive and confiding hospitality of these times, but a proof of the same Divine interposition in which this whole procedure originated being continued down to its close. The Divine Spirit is very unequivocally at work, giving efficacy to the Divine message, moving and inclining the hearts of those to whom it comes, and making them willing in the day of the Lord’s power. The brother and father—the latter in all probability being now, in his old age, represented to a large extent by his son, who in the whole of this affair seems to act for him as the head of the house,—the relatives, in short, of the woman thus strangely courted as the bride of a Prince Royal, whose person and whose kingly heritage are alike unknown,—cannot withstand the evidence of a Divine warrant, which the whole transaction bears. They frankly own their conviction. It is the Lord; what can we say or do?—(Candlish).
God’s will, when clearly made known.
1. Puts an end to all doubt. There is no longer room for any question. We walk in the light.
2. Determines our duty, which is unquestioning obedience.
3. It should be accepted with resignation. Even when something which is grievous for the present is imposed upon us, it is enough to know that such is God’s will.
This simple belief in the presence and energy of a living God working in human affairs was the soul of the Patriarchal religion.
Here they acknowledge,
1. Jehovah’s authority in managing the affairs of men.
2. That the actual progress of this matter was brought about by Him. Though they lived in corrupt times and places, yet they acknowledge God in the ways of His providence. So God did preserve some discoveries of Himself outside His Church.
3. That no opposition should be offered to this providence. “We shall not be able to gainsay, evil or good” (so the Heb.) In which passage they acknowledge such clear discovery of God’s will in this matter, that they take it as irresistible. Therefore the meaning of this expression is well paraphrased by the lxx., “we cannot gainsay thee anything in this matter, either in pretence of evil or good, to urge anything against God’s mind which seemeth to be so dear to us that we are included in it.”—(Hughes).
Genesis 24:51. So plain an interposition of Providence admits of no refusal on the part of those who revere the Lord. Bethuel now appears as a concurring party. Laban, as the full brother of Rebekah, has a voice in the disposal of her hand; but the father only has the power to ratify the contract.—(Murphy.)
The whole conduct of this affair is calculated to surprise an European reader. A servant is sent on a distant journey, with full powers to select a wife, and conclude a marriage for his master’s son. The servant addresses himself to the lady’s father and brother, and they agree to his proposals without consulting Rebekah. The agent makes valuable presents to the lady and her relations, and carries her away, and Isaac and Rebekah meet as man and wife without having ever seen each other before; but all this is most precisely analagous to uses which still prevail in the East, with some small diversity in different nations. We will state the process of a marriage of a young couple in Persia, which seems, on the whole, to present a very close parallel to this patriarchal procedure. When a young man becomes marriageable, his parents begin to look about among their kindred and acquaintance for a suitable partner for him, frequently assisting their inquiries or leaving the matter entirely to a confidential servant—generally the young man’s old nurse—who goes about from house to house, and having found a suitable object, endeavours to create a mutual prepossession, by speaking to each of the other. Very often, however, the whole matter is concluded without any reference to the parties most immediately interested. When the parents have found a suitable female, they proceed to the house of her father, and make their overtures to him; and if they are acceptable, he denotes his acquiescence by ordering sweetmeats to be brought. A few days after, another meeting is held at the same place, and then it is finally settled what the parents of the young man are to give in his behalf to the bride.—(Bush.)
Genesis 24:52. With this simple, but interesting account, the whole family is overcome; one sentiment bows every mind. Rebekah says nothing; but her heart is full. It is an affair in which little or nothing is left for creatures to decide. Such was the happy result of this truly religious courtship; and the good man, who saw God in all things, still keeps up his character. Hearing their words, he bowed himself to the earth, and worshipped God! How sweet would all our temporal concerns be rendered if they were thus intermixed with godliness!—(Fuller.)
This act of worship implies—
1. Faith. He was convinced that there was a living God working throughout all this affair, and that events were so shaped as clearly to indicate what the will of the Lord was.
2. Gratitude. He felt that he had received favour from the Lord for himself and for his master. It is the good God that we worship, and gratitude should be the uppermost feeling in our mind towards Him.
3. Reverence. He bowed himself to the earth as worshipping the Highest. It is this feeling of reverence for the one great God which ennobles such histories as these recorded in the Bible.
Genesis 24:53. The main things being settled, he, according to the customs of those times, “presents the bride elect with jewels of silver, jewels of gold, and raiment” suited to the occasion; and further to conciliate the esteem of the family “he gave also to her brother and to her mother precious things.” Presents when given from sincere affection are very proper, and productive of good effects. It is by a mutual interchange of kind offices that love is often kindled, and always kept alive. Our Saviour accepted the presents which were offered Him, not only of food, but raiment, and even the anointing of His feet. Where love exists it is natural and grateful to express it in acts of kindness.—(Fuller.)
She is treated as the great King, the Church’s Bridegroom, treats everyone whom He espouses to Himself;—as He will treat thee, whoever thou art, to whom the message of His mercy comes. He invites thee, by His ambassadors pleading with thee,—by His providence waiting for thee,—by His word dwelling in thee,—by His Spirit striving with thee,—He invites thee to become His. From the very first He enforces His invitation by substantial tokens of His earnestness in seeking thee. Thou hast ample proof given to thee of His love in the cross He bore for thee, in the Gospel He sends to thee, in the blessed peace, and free pardon, and full renewal He holds out to thee. Even the opening of His treaty of espousals with thee is not without many a sweet and precious gift of grace, such as may well suffice to give thee confidence in closing with His overtures, and casting thyself into His arms. For whatever ministry or immediate embassy he may employ, He is nearer to thee by far than was the suitor for Rebekah’s love to the damsel whom by proxy he wooed. He who wooes thee knows thee by name. He is not going in search of the objects of His regard at a venture. Nor does He send His messengers to grope in the dark. This, so far as they themselves are concerned, may be the condition of their embassy. But “the Lord knoweth them that are His.” And to thee, O meek and contrite soul! to thee He comes,—through human instrumentality perhaps, but with unerring wisdom and kindness,—demanding thee as His own. The instant thou consentest to be His, He causes all the treasures of His wisdom and knowledge,—all the riches of His grace and glory,—to be opened up to thee. Of all that is His there is nothing that He will withold, or refuse to share with thee.—(Candlish.)
Genesis 24:54-55. When our duty is done, we can best enjoy ease and refreshment.
Very natural is the remonstrance which the brother, and especially the mother of the bride, addressed to the impatient servant of Abraham. And whether they asked for a respite of ten days, or, as some say, of ten months, or even years, before the mother bids her daughter her last adieu—it is a touch of genuine tenderness such as we would not willingly lose in this narrative. For it is a narrative which proves its own truth by its being so thoroughly, and all throughout, true to nature.—(Candlish.)
Genesis 24:56-58. Nor is it a trifling evidence of the chosen virgin’s faith, that she is enabled to withstand the pleading for delay which has nothing but instinctive fondness to support it, in deference to the solemn appeal of one so unequivocally under the direction of heaven as the messenger to whom her friends have already consented to surrender her. She has taken the decisive step when, in the dark as some might think, she has resolved to peril all upon the truth of the singular embassy that has come to seek her. And now, when it is left to herself to say how soon the step shall become irrevocable, her reply is prompt. She balances the fond reluctance of her family to part with her—a reluctance which, however grateful to her feelings, has no force at all as an argument addressed to her faith—against the clear appeal which the holy man who has called her makes to the God whose very favour urges him to haste. And she cannot hesitate for a moment. Having made up her mind to a very painful sacrifice and a very serious risk, she feels that to doubt or to deliberate any longer would be to be lost. “Now,” with her, is the accepted time; “now is the day of salvation.” What is to be done had best be done quickly. Let there be no halting between two opinions; no hesitancy—no yielding to the impulse that would gain time and prompt dangerous delay. Having put her hand to the plough, she will not draw back. She hears a voice powerfully speaking to her, and saying, “Go forward.”—(Candlish.)
The Church promptly obeys the call of her Lord, and listens to no other voice. She is persuaded that in Him alone all her joy and prosperity are to be found.
This does not seem to be a question as to Rebekah’s consent to the marriage. The contract was lawfully concluded by the parent. It was understood to be right and proper. Besides, it could easily be seen that in this case Rebekah’s heart had been won by the proposal. She acted plainly from a high principle of faith in the proposal as directed so manifestly by God. “A prudent wife is from the Lord.” (Proverbs 19:14.)—(Jacobus.)
Genesis 24:59. How beautiful! The old maid-servant of the house, who had cared for her and brought her up, must go with her. This is a custom still to be found in that land. The nurse’s name was Deborah. (Ch. Genesis 35:8.) She died before her mistress, and in the service of the family. The one who, even more than the mother, knew all about her and could best do for her, and meet her wants, she was to her a choice memorial of home.—(Jacobus.)
It was a beautiful characteristic of ancient manners thus to care for faithful servants in their old age. This is one of those lessons of kindness which the Gospel should only the more impress upon us.
How often have scenes like this led my mind to the patriarchal age! The daughter is about, for the first time, to leave the paternal roof; the servants are all in confusion; each refers to things long gone by—each wishes to do something to attract the attention of his young mistress. One says, “Ah! do not forget him who nursed you when an infant;” another, “How often did I bring you the beautiful lotus from the distant tank.” “Did I not always conceal your faults?” The mother comes to take leave; she weeps, and tenderly embraces her, saying, “My daughter, I shall see you no more: forget not your mother.” The brother enfolds his sister in his arms, and promises soon to come and see her. The father is absorbed in thought, and is only aroused by the sobs of the party. He then affectionately embraces his daughter, and tells her not to fear. The female domestics must each smell of the poor girl, and the men touch her feet. As Rebekah had her nurse to accompany her, so at this day the aya (the nurse), who has from infancy brought up the bride, goes with her to the new scene. She is her adviser, her assistant, and friend; and to her she will tell all her hopes and all her fears.—(Roberts.)
Genesis 24:60. Thus the history of Abraham is repeated in Rebekah. Like him, she went forth in faith; and the family invoke upon her the blessings promised to him (Genesis 23:17).
From the numerous instances which are recorded in the Scriptures of those who were aged or holy giving their blessing, may be seen the importance which was attached to such benedictions. Has a son or daughter to leave a father, an aged friend, or a priest, a blessing is always given. To be the mother of a numerous progeny is considered a great honour. Hence parents often say to their daughters, “Be thou the mother of thousands.” Beggars also, when relieved, say to the mistress of the house, “Ah, madam, millions will come from you!”—(Roberts.)
Genesis 24:63. To meditate.] Onkelos has to pray, and the LXX. to exercise himself, i.e., religiously, to employ his mind and heart in devout contemplation. The Heb. word occurs only in this place, and is variously interpreted. The rendering in the A.V. is generally adopted.
Genesis 24:64. She lighted off the camel.] “It is an Eastern custom, prevalent in many parts to this day, that women, when riding on the road and meeting strange men, descend from their animals as a mark of respect offered to the stronger sex.” (Kalisch.)
Genesis 24:67. And Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death. The interval between her death and his marriage was about three years.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Genesis 24:61-67
A PRIMEVAL MARRIAGE
Here we have a beautiful and touching picture of a primeval marriage, in which the following characteristics are remarkable:—
I. Its simplicity. The servant had returned from his journey, and now “told Isaac all things that he had done.” (Genesis 24:66.) To him he introduces Rebekah. Isaac takes her in the presence of all witnesses, and she becomes his wife. There was no elaborate form or ceremony. The whole transaction was reduced to the utmost simplicity.
II. Its purity. The motives of all concerned were honest and sincere. As for Rebekah, she was modest and retiring, though simple and trustful. As for Isaac, “he loved her.” (Genesis 24:67.) Love is essential to a real marriage, and where this is wanting that pure and holy institution is dishonoured. Everything belonging to this marriage was real and true. It had a pure motive and a pure end in view.
III. Its godliness. This was truly a marriage in the Lord. It was pervaded by a spirit of reverence towards God and a desire for His blessing. Isaac prepares himself for this favour of Providence by prayer and meditation. (Genesis 24:63.) This quiet and retiring duty became him, for he was rather a man of thoughtful and reflective habits than of action. Probably he now meditated upon the time when he was bound upon the altar, and when God wrought for him a wonderful deliverance. He would naturally hope that great things were still in store for him. The spirit of meditation was a suitable attitude of mind in which to await the events that were impending.
IV. It is illustration of the principle of unity in diversity. In this principle we have the true idea of marriage—the conjunction of things that are unlike. The characters of Isaac and Rebekah were most diverse. They were truly complements of each other, and when brought together made a complete whole. Isaac was passive, obedient, submissive; and on the other hand Rebekah was modest, trustful, and impulsive. The deficiencies of one were supplied by the other, and both together made a strong and full-orbed character.
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES
Genesis 24:61. Rebekah, like Abraham, was one of the children of faith. Like him she obeyed what she believed to be the voice of God, and went out not knowing whither she went. It is true that God spoke directly to Abraham, and that Rebekah followed the guidance of a man who was charged to carry out the Divine purpose. And herein we are represented, for in the Bible we listen to holy men who have received a message from God.
Her damsels. These were her attendants besides her nurse. These were probably given to her as part of her patrimony. Rebekah went in company with Eliezer, and the damsels (attendants, and nurse, and retinue) followed in a train or caravan.—(Jacobus.)
A tiresome and a tedious journey it was, but for a good husband. Suffer we with and for Christ, “that we may be glorified together” (Romans 8:17), when the marriage shall be consummated. Heaven will pay for all. What though thou ride on a trotting camel? it is to be married. He that rides to be crowned will not think much of a rainy day.—(Trapp.)
Genesis 24:62. Isaac was just come from the entering in of that place. This may mean that here he resided at this time. It was the well where the Covenant Angel had met Hagar (Genesis 16:14). He was living in the south country. And in ch. Genesis 25:11, it is said that he dwelt by this well, and he was just now coming (or come) from that direction towards Beersheba, his father’s house, to learn the result. Some suppose that he had been thither on account of its association with the family history and the omnipresence of the Covenant Angel, and had there laid this important matter before God. This would be a reason for noting this incidental fact. This view would be sustained by the connection—he went out into the field to meditate.—(Jacobus.)
This place was well calculated to awaken thoughts of an overruling Providence. To every religious mind there are such sacred spots upon earth.
Genesis 24:63. This is a characteristic of Isaac’s retiring contemplative word. Abraham was the active, authoritative father; Isaac was the passive, submissive son. To meditate was to hold converse with his own thoughts, to ponder on the import of that never-to-be-forgotten scene, when he was laid on the altar by a father’s hand, and a ram caught in the thicket became his substitute, and to pour out his soul unto the God of his salvation. In this hour of his grave reflection comes his destined bride with her faithful escort upon his view.—(Murphy).
She found Isaac engaged in prayer and meditation; two things from which we have sadly fallen. We are not the giants in prayer that our fathers were.—(Robertson).
Important interests were pending upon the results of this servant’s mission. Isaac therefore, awaited them with prayer and meditation.
The closing hour of the day, the still time of evening, is most welcome to meditation. The labour of the day is over, but its mercies and cares and anxieties are still fresh in our mind. We can gather these up by meditation, until they find expression in trustful and thankful prayer.
Much power and fervour in the Church of God are wasted for the want of that guidance and direction which only meditation can give.
By meditation alone can we make Divine truth the real possession of our souls.
As meditation and prayer are the right improvement of mercies past, so they are the best preparative for mercies yet expected. Isaac could not have put himself in a more suitable posture for welcoming the anticipated blessings than that in which he is here represented, nor in one which would have been more apt to ensure its being made more substantial and durable. As a general fact, it may safely be affirmed that those husbands and wives, are likely to prove the greatest blessings to each other whose union is brought about in answer to prayer. “A prudent wife is from the Lord.”—(Bush.)
A garment that is double dyed, dipped again and again will retain the colour a great while; so a truth which is the subject of meditation.—(Philip Henry.)
It will do us good to be often left alone, and sitting alone, and if we have the art of improving solitude, we shall find that we are never less alone than when alone. Meditation and prayer ought to be both our business and our delight when we are alone, while we have a God, a Christ, and a heaven, to acquaint ourselves with, and to secure an interest in, we need not want matter either for meditation or prayer, which, if they go together, will mutually befriend each other. Our walks in the field are then truely pleasant, when in them we apply ourselves to meditation and prayer. We there have a free and open prospect of the heavens above us, and the earth around us, and the hosts and riches of both by the view of which we should be led to the contemplation of the maker and owner of all.—(Matthew Henry).
Gerson calls meditation the nurse of prayer; Jerome calls it his paradise; Basil calls it the treasury where all the graces are locked up; Theophylact calls it the very gate and portal by which we enter into glory; and Aristotle, though a heathen, placeth felicity in the contemplation of the mind. You may read much, and hear much, yet without meditation you will never be excellent, you will never be eminent Christians.—(Brooks).
Genesis 24:64-65. Rebekah, too, is alive to the scene, and as she sees this man walking towards them alone in the field, she inquires of Eliezer as to his name. And having learned that it was none other than Isaac, she lighted off the camel, to receive him, and according to the custom, she put on a veil, which covers the face, and hangs down over her breast and shoulders. It is still customary in Syria and Palestine for the bride to be introduced to the groom covered with her veil, denoting modesty and subjection to her husband.—(Jacobus).
We read here that as soon as Rebekah knew that her husband was coming, she alighted from her camel, and took a veil, and covered herself. And this, brethren, is what we so much want; I know it to be the bane of domestic life, the want of modesty and delicacy; without Rebekah’s veil affection becomes alienated, and often turns to hatred; love, to be constant; must be kept pure.—(Robertson).
Isaac had now another experience of the promise, “the Lord will provide.”
What a meeting on that calm summer’s night! It is faith meeting faith;—faith venturous and bold, meeting faith meditative and meek! On the one hand, there is a faith that not all the perils of a long journey and an unknown issue can daunt; on the other hand there is a faith that seeks quiet rest in communing with the God of nature, as the God also of covenanted grace. Rebekah, dropping thy modest veil, as if half afraid, or half ashamed, of thine own adventurous spirit; and thou, Isaac, lifting thine eyes, as if awakened out of a trance,—ye two are now one in the Lord!—(Candlish).
Genesis 24:66. Isaac addresses himself, at first, not to Rebekah, but to the servant, and learns from him what is the result of his embassy. Like the quiet meditative man that he was, he does not rush to conclusions, but calmly waits for the unfolding of events. The true believer in the Divine direction and help does not make haste. While he has confidence, he is rational and collected, and he observes the proprieties of circumstances.
Ministers also must give account of their stewardship. Happy he that can present his people “as a chaste virgin to Christ,” with Paul (2 Corinthians 11:2), that can say, with the prophet, “here am I, and the children that thou hast given me” (Isaiah 8:18).—(Trapp).
Genesis 24:67. This is the first mention of the social affections. It comes in probably because Isaac had not before seen his bride, and now felt his heart drawn towards her, when she was presented to his view. All things were evidently done in the fear of God, as became those who were to be the progenitors of the seed of promise. We have here a description of the primeval marriage. It is a simple taking of a woman for a wife before all witnesses, and with suitable feelings and expression of reverence towards God, and of desire for His blessing. It is a pure and holy relation, reaching back into the realms of innocence, and fit to be the emblem of the humble, confiding, affectionate union between the Lord and his people.—(Murphy).
Thus the comfort of a wife was made to compensate for the loss of a mother. God, in infinite wisdom, saw fit to set a day of prosperity over against a day of adversity. Now He wounds our spirits by dissolving one tender union, and now binds up our wounds by cementing another. But while these vicissitudes occur, let us remember that the transition from the character of a dutiful son to that of a kind and affectionate husband is natural and easy, and that he that fills up one station in life with credit and honour is thereby prepared for all those that follow.—(Bush).
Isaac was a lovely and contemplative man, and needed marriage to draw him from his habits as a recluse and to prepare him for the place he was to take in the history of the Church.
As Isaac was introduced to Rebekah by his faithful servant, so was Jesus introduced to the Church, as His bride, by John the Baptist,—the friend of the Bridegroom.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Genesis 24". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25