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And Abraham was old and well stricken in age:—literally, [lone into days (cf. Genesis 18:11), being now about 140 (vide Genesis 25:20)—and the Lord—Jehovah] not because the chapter is the exclusive composition of the Jehovist (Tuch, Bleek, Kalisch), but because the writer aims at showing how the God of redemption provided a bride for the heir of the promise (Hengstenberg)—had blessed Abraham in all things.
And Abraham said auto his eldest servant of his house, that ruled over all that he had,—literally, to his servant, the old man, ancient or elder, of his house, the ruler over all which (sc. belonged) to him. The term זָקֵן (an old man) is in most languages employed as a title of honor,—cf. sheikh, senatus, γέρων, presbyter, signor, seigneur, senor, sir,—and is probably to be so understood here. Eliezer of Damascus, upwards of half a century previous regarded as heir presumptive to Abraham's house (Genesis 15:2), is commonly considered the official meant, though the point is of no importance—Put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh: and I will make thee swear. This ancient form of adjuration, which is mentioned again only in Genesis 47:29, and to which nothing analogous can elsewhere be discovered,—the practice alleged to exist among the modern Egyptian Bedouins of placing the hand upon the membrum virile in solemn forms of asseveration not forming an exact parallel, was probably originated by the patriarch. The thigh, as the source of posterity (cf. Genesis 35:11; Genesis 46:26; Exodus 1:5), has been regarded as pointing to Abraham's future descendants (Keil, Kalisch, Lange), and in particular to Christ, the promised seed, and the oath to be equivalent to a swearing by him that was to come. By others the thigh has been viewed as euphemistically put for the generative organ, upon which the sign of circumcision was placed, and the oath as an adjuration by the sign of the covenant (Jonathan, Jarchi, Tuch). A third interpretation considers the thigh as symbolizing lordship or authority, and the placing of the hand under it as tantamount to an oath of fealty and allegiance to a superior (Aben Ezra, Rosenmüller, Calvin, Murphy). Other explanations are modifications of the above. By the Lord, the God of heaven, and the God of the earth (a clause defining Jehovah as the supreme Lord of the universe, and therefore as the sole Arbiter of human destiny), that thou shalt not take a wife unto my son—not investing him with authority to provide a wife for Isaac in the event of death carrying him (Abraham) off before his son's marriage, but simply explaining the negative side of the commission with which he was about to be entrusted. If it evinced Isaac's gentle disposition and submissive piety, that though forty years of age he neither thought of marriage, but mourned in devout contemplation for his mother (Lange), nor offered resistance to his father's proposal, but suffered himself to be governed by a servant (Calvin), it was also quite in accordance with ancient practice that parents should dispose of their children in marriage (cf. Genesis 28:2)—of the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell. Being prompted to this partly by that jealousy with which all pastoral tribes of Shemitie origin have been accustomed to guard the purity of their race by intermarriage, and partly no doubt by his perception of the growing licentiousness of the Canaanites, as well as his knowledge of their predicted doom, though chiefly, it is probable, by a desire to preserve the purity of the promised seed. Intermarriage with the Canaanites was afterwards forbidden by the Mosaic legislation (Exodus 34:16; Deuteronomy 7:3). But (literally, for, i.e. the former thing must not be done because this must be done) thou shalt go unto my country (not Ur of the Chaldees, but the region beyond the Euphrates generally), and to my kindred, and take a wife unto my son Isaac. Though enforced by religious considerations, this injunction to bring none but a relative for Isaac's bride "was in no sense a departure from established usages and social laws in regard to marriage".
And the servant said unto him (not having the same faith as his master), Peradventure (with perhaps a secret conviction that he ought to say, "Of a surety") the woman will not be willing to follow me unto this land. Prima facie it was a natural and reasonable hypothesis that the bride elect should demur to undertake a long and arduous journey to marry a husband she had never seen; accordingly, the ancient messenger desires to understand whether he might not be at liberty to act upon the other alternative. Must I needs bring thy son again unto the land from whence thou camest? In reply to which the patriarch solemnly interdicts him from attempting to seduce his son, under any pretext whatever, to leave the land of promise.
And Abraham said, Beware thou—literally, beware for thyself, the pleonastic pronoun being added by way of emphasis (cf. Genesis 12:1; Genesis 21:16; Genesis 22:5)—that thou bring not my son thither again. Literally, lest thou cause my son to, return thither; Abraham speaking of Isaac's going to Mesopotamia as a return, either because he regarded Isaac, though then unborn, as having come out with him from Mesopotamia, cf. Hebrews 7:10 (Wordsworth), or because he viewed himself and his descendants as a whole, as in Genesis 15:16 (Rosenmüller). The Lord God of heaven, who took me from my father's house, and from the house of my kindred,—vide Genesis 12:1. This was the first consideration that prevented the return of either himself or his son. Having emigrated from Mesopotamia in obedience to a call of Heaven, not without a like instruction were they at liberty to return—and who spake unto me,—i.e. honored me with Divine communications (vide supra)—and (in particular) that sware unto me,—vide Genesis 15:17, Genesis 15:18; the covenant transaction therein recorded having all the force of an oath (cf. Genesis 22:16)—saying, Unto thy seed will I give this land. Here was a second consideration that negatived the idea of Isaac's return,—he was the God-appointed heir of the soil,—and from this, in conjunction with the former, he argued that the Divine promise was certain of fulfillment, and that accordingly the mission for a bride would be successful. He shall send his angel before thee,—i.e. to lead and protect, as was afterwards promised to Israel (Exodus 23:20), and to the Christian Church (Hebrews 1:14)—and thou shalt take a wife unto my Ben from thence (meaning, thy mission shall be successful). And if the woman will not be willing to follow thee, then shalt thou be clear of this my oath (i.e. at liberty to bold thyself as no longer under obligation in the matter; thy responsibility will at that point cease and determine): only bring not my son thither again—or, observing the order of the Hebrew words, only my son bring not again to that place; with almost feverish entreaty harping on the solemn refrain that on no account must Isaac leave the promised land, since in that would be the culmination of unbelief and disobedience.
And the servant (understanding the nature of his mission, and feeling satisfied on the points that impinged upon his conscience) put his hand under the thigh of Abraham his master, and sware to him concerning that matter—to be true to his master and his mission, and to the hope and promise of the covenant.
A bride for the heir.-1. Abraham and Eliezer, or the mission for the bride.
I. THE TRUSTY MESSENGER.
1. His designation.
(1) From official position, a servant.
(2) From venerable age, the old man or ancient of the house.
(3) From superior dignity, the steward or ruler over Abraham's property.
2. His qualification.
(1) Obedient, as became a slave or servant.
(2) Faithful, as was required of a steward.
(3) Prudent, as might have been expected of age.
II. THE IMPORTANT COMMISSION.
1. The purport of it. "To take a wife for Isaac." A step of greatest moment for the happiness of Isaac, the fulfillment of the promise, and the onward development of the Church.
2. The reason of it.
(1) Abraham's advancing years. The patriarch was "gone into days," and had no time to waste if he desired to see Isaac well married before he followed Sarah to Machpelah.
(2) Abraham's prosperous estate. "The Lord had blessed him in all things," left nothing that his soul could desire to complete the cup of his terrestrial happiness, except the wedding of his son to a godly partner.
(3) Isaac's obvious disinclination to seek a wife for himself, his placid and pensive temperament disposing him rather to cling with mournful tenderness to the memory of a beloved mother than to anticipate the felicities of conjugal affection.
(4) Eliezer's admirable fitness for the contemplated mission.
III. THE SOLEMN ADJURATION.
1. The motto of the oath. "Put, I pray thee, thy band under my thigh." For the significance of this ancient ceremony consult Exposition.
2. The power of the oath. This was derived from the character of the Divine Being—the Lord God of heaven and of earth—in whose presence it was taken, to whose witness it appealed, and whose wrath it invoked in case of failure to perform what was vowed.
3. The tenor of the oath.
(1) Negative—not to marry Isaac to a daughter of the Canaanites, an already doomed race; and
(2) positive—to seek a wife for Sarah's son among his kinsmen in Padan-aram, amongst whom as yet the knowledge of the true God was retained.
IV. THE REASONABLE APPREHENSION.
1. Natural. A priori there was little probability that a modest girl would consent on the invitation of a stranger to leave her home and kindred, accompany him into a distant land, and wed a man (even though a relative) whom she had never seen; and in a similar way reason can make out a case against almost every step in the distinctly Christian life as being unlikely, improbable, imprudent.
2. Unbelieving. The aged ambassador's anxiety was not shared in by the patriarch, whose faith had already reasoned out the successful termination of the contemplated expedition. And so again in the Christian life, difficulties which to sagacious reason appear insurmountable, to simple-minded faith cease to exist.
3. Unnecessary. When discovered and interrogated, the maiden was quite willing to become Isaac's bride. Many of the saint's fears are of his own making, like this of Abraham's servant, and in the end are found to have been superfluous.
V. THE RESOLUTE PROHIBITION. "Beware that thou bring not my son thither again." To do so would be—
1. To reverse the Divine call which had brought the patriarch from Mesopotamia.
2. To endanger the inheritance by exposing Isaac to the temptation of remaining in Mesopotamia, should his wife prove unwilling to return.
1. The interest which should be taken by pious parents in the marriage of their children.
2. The care which should be exercised by those who marry to secure pious partners.
3. The lawfulness of imposing and taking oaths on important occasions, and for sufficient reasons.
4. The clearer sight which belongs to faith than to sense and reason.
5. The folly of anticipating difficulties that may never arise.
6. The danger of taking any step in life without Divine guidance or instruction.
7. The sin of renouncing one's religion for the sake of a wife.
HOMILIES BY J.F. MONTGOMERY
The unfolding of the Divine purpose.
I. THE EXPANDED BLESSING. The first line of the web of sacred history stretches itself out to Mesopotamia. The aged patriarch, blessed of Jehovah in all things, is fading from our sight. We must look on a new generation and see the blessing expanded.
II. THE DIVINE GUIDANCE. The angel shall be sent before Isaac, and he will overrule the events and wills which seem to stand in the way. The marriage of Isaac was a matter of most solemn moment. The earthly bonds are blessed only when they are held up by the Divine covenant.
III. MAN'S FAITH REWARDED BY SPECIAL DIRECTION. The servant prayed for good speed, because it was in the spirit of dependence upon Jehovah that the whole errand was undertaken. We have no ground for expecting supernatural indications of the future, but when we commit our way unto the Lord we may ask him to show it. If it be well for us to see it beforehand, which it sometimes is not, he will send us "kindness" both in the occurrences and persons we meet.
IV. EARTHLY RELATIONSHIPS ARE UNDER HEAVEN'S SUPERINTENDENCE. The fair Mesopotamian is a suitable companion for the heir of the patriarch. She is full of graciousness and activity, free from pride, gentle, unsuspicious, generous, patient, self-sacrificing, benevolent. Such characteristics are what the children of God desire to transmit to their descendants. In the sight of so much that was lovely both in person and character, the servant held his peace with wondering thoughtfulness, waiting for and already anticipating the blessing of the Lord.
V. THE TRUE PIETY WATCHES FOR GOD AND WORSHIPS. On receiving the simple answer to his inquiry, and perceiving how the hand of the Lord had been guiding him, he bowed his head, and worshipped (Genesis 24:26, Genesis 24:27). Those who wait for "the mercy and the truth" will not be left destitute of it. Oh to be able at every step and stage of life to say, "Blessed be the Lord!" to hear the salutation rendered us, "Come in, thou blessed of the Lord!"
VI. GOD IN HISTORY. The kingdom of God had its points of connection from this moment with the throned of human affection, sanctified by the grace of God, uniting them together. The house of Abraham, the house of Bethel, are widely separated from one another in the measurement of space, but closely bound together henceforth by the spiritual ties of a common faith and obedience in the name of Jehovah. The same Divine purpose which directed the servant's way moved the heart of the damsel. "She said, I will go." She went out of the midst of pure family affections; she was welcomed by one who saw her coming when he was "meditating in the field at eventide," doubtless in the spirit of prayerful expectation; and who took her to his mother Sarah's tent, where she might be sure one who so tenderly mourned the loss of a mother would know how to cherish a wife sent of God to comfort him. "He loved her." Religion is the only true guardian of domestic happiness, the only deep soil in which the affections flourish.—R.
HOMILIES BY J.F. MONTGOMERY
No turning back.
"And Abraham said unto him, Beware thou that thou bring not my son thither again." Abraham's care to prevent the leaven of idolatry entering his family (cf. Exo 34:16; 1 Corinthians 15:33; James 1:27). Worldly wisdom would have led him to seek a wife for his son among the families of Canaan, so as to give him a firmer footing in the land; but he solemnly charged his steward, in sending him on a marriage embassy, not to do this (cf. 1 Kings 11:3; 2 Corinthians 6:14). A wife was to be sought from his brother's family. Out of the earnestness of this godly desire came the trial of his faith. An obvious difficulty; what if the damsel should not be willing to follow a stranger? There had been little intercourse between the families. The news is Genesis 22:20 was plainly the first for many years. Must Isaac go in person to take a wife from her father's house? Much might be urged in favor of this. If the presence of Isaac were of importance, might he not return for a little, though Canaan was his appointed home? Was it not hindering the very thing Abraham desired, to refuse to do so? Was it not unreasonable to look for a blessing and yet to neglect obvious means for obtaining it? Not for a moment would Abraham listen to the suggestion. At God's call he had left Mesopotamia forever. To send his son back would he contrary to the principle of his whole life. It would be to put expediency above faith, to distrust God's promise, to think his will changeable (cf. 1 Kings 13:19). Contrast the faithlessness of the Israelites in their wilderness journeys. Abraham would not allow even a temporary return. They "in their hearts turned back again into Egypt" (cf. Luke 9:62).
I. IN A GODLY LIFE THERE IS OFTEN A TEMPTATION TO TURN BACK FOR A LITTLE. With a laudable aim, some step which seems likely to lead to it is not quite what in itself we know to be right. To gain the means of doing good, some little departure from truth may seem almost necessary. In the eagerness of some plan of usefulness the time for prayer can hardly be found, or the ordinary daily duties of life seem to interrupt the greater and higher work; or, to gain an influence over the gay and worldly, it may seem the course of wisdom to go, a little way at least, with them. And is not a Christian, under the law of liberty, freed from strict observance of the letter? Does not that savor of the spirit of bondage? Nay, "to obey is better than sacrifice." Always danger when men seek to be wiser than God (Proverbs 14:12). We cannot foresee the difficulties of returning.
II. TRUE FAITH POINTS TO IMPLICIT OBEDIENCE. Can we not trust God to order all—not only the ends towards which he would have us strive, but the means to be used? We are to live by every word of God, not by some special saying only. Promise and precept, instruction and direction, are alike his words, by which every step should be guided. It is want of faith which leads to departure from obedience; want of full trust in God which leads to ways of fancied wisdom. We have to do -with efforts, not with results; these are in God's hand. Where obedience is not in question we rightly use our judgment; reason was given us to be our guide, but not to take the guidance out of God's hands.—M.
And the servant took ten camels of the camels of his master,—to bear the presents for the bride, to enhance the dignity of his mission, and to serve as a means of transport for the bride and her companions on the return journey. On the word Gamal vide Genesis 12:16—and departed. Either from Hebron (Genesis 23:19), or from the south country, near Beer-lahai-roi (Genesis 24:62). For all the goods of his master were in his hand. Literally, and every good thing of his master in his hand; meaning that he selected (sc. as presents for the bride) every best thing that belonged to his master—cf. 2 Kings 8:9 (LXX; Vulgate, Murphy, Kalisch), though some regard it as explaining how he, the servant, was able to start upon his journey with such an equipage, viz; because, or for, he had supreme command over his master's household (Calvin, Rosenmüller, 'Speaker's Commentary'). And he arose, and went—if along the direct route, then "through Palestine along the west side of the Jordan and the lakes, into the Buk'ah, and out through the land of Hamath to the Euphrates, and thence—to Mesopotamia,—Aram-Naharaim, i.e. the Aram of the two rivers; Aram meaning the high region, from aram, to be high—an ancient and domestic name for Syria, not altogether unknown to the Greeks; vide Hom; 'Il; 2:783; Hes; 'Theog.,' 304; Strabo, 13.4 (Gesenius). Standing alone it signifies Western Syria (Jdg 3:10; 1 Kings 10:29; 1 Kings 11:25; 1 Kings 15:18), and especially Syria of Damascus (2 Samuel 8:6; Isaiah 7:1, Isaiah 7:8; Amos 1:5); when Mesopotamia is intended it is conjoined with Naharaim, the two rivers being the Tigris and the Euphrates, or Padan, the field or plain, as in Genesis 25:20. The latter is not an Elohistic expression as distinguished from the former, which some ascribe to the Jehovist (Knobel, et al.), but a more exact description of a portion of Mesopotamia, viz; of that where Laban dwelt. Unto the city of Nahor—i.e. Haran, or Charran (Genesis 28:10; vide Genesis 11:31). Nahor must have migrated thither either along with or shortly after Torah.
And he made his camels to kneel down—"a mode of expression taken from actual life. The action is literally kneeling; not stooping, sitting, or lying down on the side like a horse, but kneeling on his knees; and this the camel is taught to do from his youth"—without the city by a well of water. "In the East, where wells are scarce and water indispensable, the existence of a well or fountain determines the site of the village. The people build near it, but prefer to have it outside the city, to avoid the noise, dust, and confusion always occurring at it, especially if the place is on the highway (Ibid.). At the time of the evening, even the time that women go out to draw water. Literally, that women that draw go forth. "It is the work of females in the East to draw water both morning and evening; and they may be seen going in groups to the wells, with their vessels on the hip or on the, shoulder". "About great cities men often carry, water, both on donkeys and on their own backs; but in the country, among the unsophisticated natives, women only go to the well or the fountain; and often, when traveling, have I seen long files of them going and returning with their pitchers "at the time when women go out to draw water".
And he said,—commencing his search for the maiden by prayer, as he closes it with thanksgiving (Genesis 24:26)—a beautiful example of piety and of the fruits of Abraham's care for the souls of his household, Genesis 18:19 (Wordsworth)—O Lord God of my master Abraham, I pray thee, send me good speed this day. Literally, cause to meet (or come before) me, i.e. what I wish, the maiden of whom I am in quest; hence εὐόδεσον ἐναντίον ἐμοῦ, make the way prosperous before me (LXX.); less accurately, occurre obsecro mihi (Vulgate). And show kindness unto my master Abraham. The personal humility and fidelity displayed by this aged servant are only less remarkable than the fervent piety and childlike faith which discover themselves in the method he adopts for finding the bride. Having cast the matter upon God by prayer, as a concern which specially belonged to him, he fixes upon a sign by which God should enable him to detect the bride designed for Isaac. Behold, I stand here by the well of water; literally, Behold me standing (cf. verse 43)—and the daughters of the men of the city come out to draw water (vide on Genesis 18:11, and cf. Genesis 29:9; Exodus 2:16): and let it come to pass that the damsel—הַגַּעַרָ, with the vowels of the Keri; the word used for Abraham's young men (cf. Genesis 14:24; Genesis 18:7; q.v.). In the Pentateuch it occurs twenty-two times, without the feminine termination, meaning a girl (vide Genesis 24:16, Genesis 24:28, Genesis 24:55; Genesis 34:3, Genesis 34:12; Deuteronomy 20:15, &c.); a proof of the antiquity of the Pentateuch, and of this so-called Jehovistic section in particular, since in the latter books the distinction of sex is indicated by the affix ה being appended when a girl is intended ('Speaker's Commentary'); but this happens at least once in the Pentateuch (Deuteronomy 22:19)—to whom I shall say, Let down thy pitcher, I pray thee, that I may drink; and she shall say, Drink, and I will give thy camels drink also:—the sign fixed upon was the kindly disposition of the maiden, which was to be evinced in a particular way, viz; by her not only acceding with promptitude to, but generously exceeding, his request It is probable that the servant was led to choose this sign not by his own natural tact and prudence, but by that Divine inspiration and guidance of which he had been assured (Genesis 18:7) before setting out on his important mission—let the same be she that thou hast appointed for thy servant Isaac. "The three qualifications in the mind of this venerable domestic for a bride for his master's son are a pleasing exterior, a kindly disposition, And the approval of God" (Murphy). And thereby—ἐν τούτῳ (LXX.), per hoc (Vulgate); but rather, by her, i.e. the damsel—shall I know that thou hast showed kindness unto my master.
And it came to pass (not certainly by accident, but by Divine arrangement), before he had done speaking, that,—his prayer was answered (cf. Isaiah 65:24; Daniel 9:20, Daniel 9:21). From Genesis 24:45 it appears that the servant's prayer was not articulately spoken, but offered "in his heart;" whence the LXX. add ἐν τῇ διανοίᾳ αὐτοῦ—behold, Rebekah came out, who was born to Bethuel, son of Milcah, the wife of Nahor, Abraham's brother (vide Genesis 22:23), with her pitcher—the cad (cf. κάδος, cadus) was a pail for drawing water, which women were accustomed to carry on their shoulders; it was this sort of vessel Gideon's men employed (Judges 7:20)—upon her shoulder—in exact correspondence with Oriental custom—the Egyptian and the Negro carrying on the head, the Syrian on the shoulder or the hip.
And the damsel was very fair to look upon. Literally, good of countenance, like Sarah (Genesis 12:11) and Rachel (Genesis 29:17; cf. Genesis 26:7 of Rebekah). A virgin. Bethulah, i.e. one separated and secluded from intercourse with men; from batik, to seclude (cf. Deuteronomy 22:23, Deuteronomy 22:28; 2 Samuel 13:2, 2 Samuel 13:18). Neither had any man known her. A repetition for the sake of emphasis, rather than because bethulah sometimes applies to a married woman (Joel 1:8). And she went down to the well,—"nearly all wells in the East are in wadys, and have steps down to the water"—and filled her pitcher, and came up—probably wholly unconscious of the old man's admiration, though by no means unprepared for his request, which immediately followed.
And the servant ran to meet her, and said, Let me, I pray thee, drink a little water of thy pitcher (a request which was at once complied with). And she said, Drink (and with the utmost politeness), my lord (and with cheerful animation): and she hasted, and let down her pitcher upon her hand, and gave him drink. "Rebekah's address to the servant will be given you in the exact idiom by the first gentle Rebekah you ask water from; but I have never found any young lady so generous as this fair daughter of Bethuel". And when she had done giving him drink, she said, I will draw water for thy camels also, until they have done drinking—thus proving that the kindly disposition within her bosom was "not simply the reflex of national customs, but the invisible sun beaming through her mind, and freely bringing forward the blossoms of sterling goodness" (Kalisch).
And she hasted, and emptied her pitcher into the trough (or gutter made of stone, with which wells were usually provided, and which were filled with water when animals required to drink), and ran again unto the well to draw water, and drew for all his camels. "At one point we came upon a large village of nomad Bedouins dwelling in their black tents. For the first time we encountered a shepherd playing on his reeden pipe, and followed by his flock. He was leading them to a fountain, from which a maiden was meanwhile drawing water with a rope, and pouring it into a large stone trough. She was not so beautiful as Rebekah".
And the man wondering at her—gazing with attention on her (LXX; Vulgate, Gesenius, Furst); amazed and astonished at her (Rosenmüller, Delitzsch, Keil, Lange, Calvin)—held his peace, to wit—i.e. that he might know—silence being the customary attitude for the soul in either expecting or receiving a Divine communication (cf. Le Genesis 10:3; Psalms 39:2; Acts 11:18)—whether the Lord had made his journey prosperous or not. This inward rumination obviously took place while the whole scene was being enacted before his eyes—the beautiful young girl filling the water-troughs, and the thirsty camels sucking up the cooling drink. The loveliness of mind and body, both which he desired in Isaac's bride, was manifestly present in Rebekah; but still the questions remained to be determined, Was she one of Abraham's kindred, was she single? and would she follow him to Canaan?—points of moment to the solution of which he now proceeds.
And it came to pass, as the camels had done drinking,—"If it is remembered that camels, though endowed in an almost marvelous 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" (Kalisch)—that the man took a golden earring of half a shekel weight,—the נֶזֶם, was neither a pendant for the ear (LXX; Vulgate) nor a jewel for the forehead, but a ring for the nose (Genesis 24:47), the side cartilage, and sometimes the central wall, of which was pierced for the purpose of admitting it (cf. Ezekiel 16:11, Ezekiel 16:12). Such rings are still worn by Oriental women, and in particular "the nose-ring is now the usual engagement present among the Bedouins" (Delitzsch). The weight of that presented to Rebekah was one בֶקַע, or half (sc. shekel), from בָקַע, to divide—and two bracelets for her hands of ten shekels weight of gold;—the עָמִיר, from צָמַר, to bind or fasten, meant a circle of gold for the wrist or arm. So favorite an ornament is this of Oriental ladies, that sometimes the whole arm from wrist to elbow is covered with them; some- times two or more are worn one above the other; and not infrequently are they so numerous and heavy as almost to appear burdensome to the fair owners (Kalisch)—and said, Whose daughter art thou! tell me, I pray thee: is there room in thy father's house for us to lodge in? The production of the bridal presents, and the tenor of the old man's inquiries, indicate that already he entertained the belief that he looked upon the object of his search. All dubiety was dispelled by Rebekah's answer. And she said unto him, I am the daughter of Bethuel the son of Milcah,—to show that she was not descended from Nahor's concubine (cf. Genesis 24:15)—which she bare unto Nahor. This appears to have been the stage at which the jewels were presented (Genesis 24:47). She said moreover unto him, We have both straw and provender enough, and room to lodge in. It was now conclusively determined, by her answering all the pre-arranged criteria, that the Lord had heard his prayer and prospered his way, and that the heaven-appointed bride stood before him. And the man bowed down his head, and worshipped the Lord. The first verb expressing reverent inclination of the head, and the second complete prostration of the body, and both combining "to indicate the aged servant's deep thankfulness for the guidance of the Lord." And he said, Blessed be the Lord God of my master Abraham (on the import of בָּרוּךְ vide Genesis 2:1-26), who hath not left destitute my master of his mercy and his truth:—literally, who hath not taken away his grace (i.e. the free favor which bestows) and ale truth (i.e. the faithfulness which implements promises) from (= from the house of, as in Exodus 8:8, Exodus 8:25, Exodus 8:26; Gesenius) my master (cf. Psalms 57:3; Psalms 115:1; Proverbs 20:28)—I being in the way, the Lord led (or, hath led) me to the house of my master's brethren.
And the damsel—הַגַּעַרָ (vide on Genesis 24:16)—ran (leaving the venerable stranger in the act of devotion), and told them of her mother's house—a true touch of nature. With womanly instinct, discerning the possibility of a love-suit, she imparts the joyful intelligence neither to her brother nor to her father, but to her mother and the other females of the household, who lived separately from the men of the establishment—these things—in particular of the arrival of a messenger from Abraham. Perhaps also the nose-jewel would tell its own tale.
A bride for the heir.-2. Eliezer and Rebekah, or the finding of the bride.
I. THE MATRIMONIAL EMBASSY.
1. The departure from Hebron. With promptitude and alacrity, as became a servant executing the instructions of a master—attended by a cavalcade of ten camels and their drivers, as ambassadors of princes are wont to signalize their dignity by ample retinues; and laden with the choicest of his master's goods as presents for the bride, since they who go to woo must not neglect to carry gifts—the venerable steward issued forth upon his mission.
2. The journey northwards. Up the Jordan valley towards "the Eye of the East" would probably be the route followed by Eliezer of Damascus; thence closely skirting the spot where in after years Tadmor in the wilderness arose with its palaces and tern-pies, now magnificent in their ruins, till at length, crossing the Euphrates, he would reach Aram of the Two Rivers.
3. The arrival at Haran. If the time at which the patriarchal envoy reached the city of Nahor, viz; at sunset, when the maidens sally forth to draw, was an indication of the guiding hand of Providence, perhaps the spot at which he halted and partially unloaded his weary camels, viz; at the well, was a testimonial to his own shrewd sagacity, which discerned that for meeting with the virgins of the district, and in particular the females of Nahor's family, no better place could be selected than the city well, which was besides the customary resting-place for travelers.
II. THE PRAYER AT THE WELL.
1. Its reverent humility. Not only does he adore the Divine greatness, but, leaving himself altogether out of account, he bespeaks an interest in the Divine favor entirely as an act of kindness to his master.
2. Its childlike simplicity. He proposes a test by which he may. be able to recognize the bride whom God has selected for his master's son. In doing so he practically casts the matter over upon God, asking him in the fashion indicated to point out the object of his search, thus exemplifying the very spirit of the Christian rule, "In everything by prayer and supplication let your requests be made known unto God."
3. Its immediate answer. "Before he had done speaking, Rebekah came out" to the well, and acted precisely as he had desired that the bride should do. It was a striking illustration of the promise, "Whiles they are yet speaking I will hear."
III. THE MEETING WITH REBEKAH.
1. A description of her person. As to parentage, the daughter of Bethuel; in respect of condition, of virgin purity; with regard to appearance, very fair to look upon; concerning education, trained to domestic duties.
2. An account of her kindness. Coming up from the well, she graciously complies with the servant's request to be allowed to take a draught from her pitcher. Then with winning sweetness she promptly offers to fill the stone troughs for his wearied animals. And finally, when asked her name, she with ingenuous frankness tells it, adding, in reply to a request for lodging, that in Bethuel's house there was not only room for himself and camels, but sumptuous hospitality for both. Such spontaneous acts of kindness to an unknown and aged stranger bespoke a tender and susceptible heart within the breast of the fair Rebekah.
3. The impression which she made on, Eliezer.
(1) Her appearance arrested him and made him run to meet her (Genesis 24:17) with his pre-arranged request. Clearly this old man had a singular discernment of character as well as a quick eye for beauty.
(2) Her kindness touched him, and made him silent in wonder (Genesis 24:21), struck dumb with amazement at her minute fulfillment of every one of his stipulated conditions.
(3) Her invitation overpowered him, causing him to bow his head and worship (Genesis 24:26), acknowledging God's goodness in so quickly leading him to the house of his master's brethren, and so unmistakably pointing out the bride.
1. The fidelity and devotion to the interests of masters and mistresses which should be evinced by servants.
2. The spirit of prayer and supplication which Christians should display in all the perplexing and difficult paths of life.
3. The kind of brides which young men should select, viz; maidens distinguished by Rebekah's amiable and obliging disposition, even should they not be gifted with Rebekah's grace of form.
HOMILIES BY F. HASTINGS
Eliezer, or a wife-seeker.
"And the man wondering at her held his peace, to wit whether the Lord had made his way prosperous or not." "The man" spoken of was probably the Eliezer of Damascus mentioned in Genesis 15:2. He had been selected by Abraham to be his heir, but of course when Isaac was born he could not hold that position. He became honored and trusted as "the eldest servant of (Abraham's) house, who ruled over all that be had" (Genesis 24:2). To him was committed the delicate business recorded in this chapter; and the way in which it was executed was just that which would be expected from one who had so won the confidence of Abraham as to be selected as heir. We cannot but admire the thoughtfulness of Abraham for his son. He sought to prevent Isaac from being brought under the polluting influence of the Canaanitish people in the midst of whom he dwelt. He also desired to prevent Isaac from going back to the country from which he had himself been Divinely led. Hence he sends his steward to select from among his kindred one who shall be a suitable life-companion for his son. He takes an oath of his steward that he will in no wise permit a wife to be taken from among the Canaanites, or lead Isaac to Mesopotamia again. The mission of Eliezer was indeed difficult and delicate. We must not think of it according to the customs of our land. In Oriental nations to this day it is the practice to employ a third person to negotiate a marriage between those who seem by report to be suitable for such relationship. Eliezer undertook the affair with every desire to gratify his master, and to serve well even the one who had supplanted him in heirship. We cannot too highly praise "the man" for his unselfishness, or too warmly admire the devoutness which characterized his whole conduct.
I. HE SEEKS BY PRAYER SUCCESS FROM GOD. The prayer recorded here was probably not the first offered with respect to the subject. His mission was not only delicate, but rather indefinite. He is sent to the relations of his master to choose from among them a wife for Isaac. He knows that much of the satisfaction of Abraham and welfare of Isaac will depend on his right performance of the duty. He feels the responsibility resting upon him, and makes every needful preparation for discharging it. He starts on the camels prepared, and carries with him presents suitable. After a long journey he arrives at a city in Mesopotamia where dwelt Nahor, his master's brother. It is eventide when he reaches the well outside the city. The graceful daughters of the city, with pitchers poised on their shoulders, are just coming forth to draw water for their households. The camels turn their long necks and weary eyes in the direction of the approaching maidens. They know that on their arrival the dry troughs, which only tantalized thirst, will be filled. The shade from the palms avails not now to break the fierce rays of the sun setting so rapidly in the west. Long shadows are over the landscape. Eliezer stands with the golden light about him. He feels that this may be the moment of great import. Clasping firmly his hands, and lifting fervently his face heavenward, he breathes the beautiful prayer, "O Lord God of my master Abraham, I pray thee, send me good speed this day, and show kindness unto my master Abraham." It was—
1. Brief prayer, because there was not time to say much more, but it was most appropriate. He asked for what he felt he needed. He did not use prayer as a mere mystical method of pleasing God, but as the expression of a felt need. This is true prayer. God does not want fine words, long sentences, and wearying repetitions. None are heard for their much speaking. That is a heathenish notion. God is not glorified by the length of time we remain on our knees, or the number of things we can crowd into a certain time. The longest prayers are often the most unmeaning. This is true of prayers in the home and in the Church. Brief, earnest, sincere prayer is that which wings its way to heaven. When Peter was sinking in the waters his cry was brief and pointed enough: "Lord, save; I perish."
2. Eliezer did not hesitate to ask God's guidance in respect to a subject which many would have accounted as quite within the scope of their own judgment to decide. Many also would have thought it beneath the notice of God. Many would have made their way direct into the city to Nahor's house to choose for themselves. And many would have left the matter to be decided by chance; but Eliezer seeks guidance from God. Only those who are ignorant of the value of trifles, of their relative power, or who are ignorant of the fact that there are no trifles but which may become all-important circumstances, would think of such an affair as that Eliezer had in hand, as beneath God's notice. If not beneath God's notice, it may be the subject of prayer. Many who contemplate forming relationships might with the greatest advantage imitate the example of Eliezer in this case, and seek direction from God. Were this the practice there would be fewer unhappy marriages. Eliezer, in carrying out his master's wish, seeks success from God.
II. NOTICE HOW GOD OVERTAKES OUR PRAYERS. At the most opportune time the steward prays. He committed his way unto the Lord at the juncture when he felt he needed the guidance. God honors the man's trust. "It came to pass that before he had done speaking Rebekah came out." She was the very one whom God had appointed. She knew not that she was moving to fulfill the intention of God. In her acts and in her words she was doing that which was in harmony with the sign the man had asked. Courteously, on being asked for a draught from her vessel, she had offered even to draw for the camels also. In the first one addressed Eliezer had the answer to his prayer. Cf. Isa 60:1-22 :54: "Before ye call I will answer," &c.; and Daniel 9:23 : "At the beginning of thy supplication the commandment came forth." We lose much of the comfort of prayer because, after having put up a petition, we either forget to look for the answer, or because we have but a semi- belief in the power of prayer. If prayer be a reality to us, it is no less so in God's sight. Some put up prayers in the spirit which seems to say, "Now I will see whether God will answer that." God is not to be subject to mere testings. Christ showed that, when on earth he refused to gratify the curiosity or submit to the testings the Pharisees prepared for him. Where God is perfectly trusted the answer will, in some way or other, overtake, or even anticipate, the prayer.
III. SEE HOW THE RAPIDITY OF THE ANSWER STAGGERS BELIEF. "He, wondering at her, held his peace," waiting to know whether the "Lord had made his journey prosperous or not." God had not only answered speedily, but in the manner desired. Sometimes he sends the answer, but in away so different from that we expected, that we discern not the fact that we have an answer. But what heavenly telegraphy is here! No sooner the petition sent than the answer is given. The very correspondence between the sign desired and its rapid fulfillment only sets Eliezer speculating as to whether it may not have been simply a very remarkable coincidence rather than a Divine response. Meanwhile he acts as though he believed. He offers to Rebekah the gifts which indicated already his business. He offers such as shall become the character of his master, who was princely in his possessions as well as position. He offers and waifs. The man "held his peace." He knows that if God has answered in part be will also answer fully. God's dealings should always induce awe and patient waiting. He will often surprise us with the blessings of goodness. In our lives we have probably known like surprisingly-rapid answers to prayer. We have even disbelieved in the answer. What if God had withdrawn the help or blessing given because received in such unbelief! There are times when we, like Eliezer, and like the Israelites on the shores of the Red Sea, have to be still and know that the Lord is God. Then God's action staggers belief.
IV. SEE HOW GRACIOUSLY GOD CONFIRMS HIS SERVANT'S WONDERING HOPE. Eliezer inquires of the maiden whether there is room in her father's house for him to lodge. After the manner of the Orientals, she readily replies, "We have both straw and provender enough, and room to lodge in." He follows Rebekah. Laban acts as host in place of his father Bethuel. He welcomes Eliezer heartily. "Come in, thou blessed of the Lord," &c. Eliezer enters and attends to the Wants of his men and camels, but will not attend to his own until he has unburdened his mind. He tells of his errand, of the meeting with Rebekah at the well, of his praying, of the speedy answer, and of the sign fulfilled. Laban and Bethuel are surprised, and see in it God's hand. They say, "The thing proceedeth from the Lord; we cannot speak unto thee good or ill." Then the man "bowed his head and worshipped." Rebekah consented to accompany him and become the wife of Isaac, his master's son. Everything fell out better than the steward could have expected; he could only see in it God's hand, God's mercy in guiding him and in confirming his hope.
1. God is as willing to answer us as to answer Eliezer of Damascus.
2. Prayer can overcome difficulties that seem insurmountable. When the cup of sorrow is not removed the strength is given to bear it, and so prayer is answered. If the way we expected does not open up in answer to our supplication, another and better is sure to be made plain. Prayer also "makes the darkened cloud withdraw."
3. When in the other world we look at our past life, we shall all see that God had answered all prayers that it would have been for our good to have answered, and that in others the withholdment has been kindliest response. There we shall "bow our heads and worship." him who made our earthly journey prosperous, and who had brought us to the "city which hath foundations." Whatever, then, our anxiety, trial, perplexity, let us lay all before God. If we are earnestly trying for the salvation of members of our own family, or for the advancement of God's kingdom, let us by prayer and supplication make our requests known to God, and he will send us an answer of peace, even as he did to Eliezer.—H.
And Rebekah had a brother, and his name was Laban. "White," whose character has been considerably traduced, the Biblical narrative not representing him as "a monster of moral depravity," but rather as actuated by generous imputes and hospitable dispositions (Kalisch). And Laban ran out unto the man, unto the well. That Laban, and not Bethuel, should have the prominence in all the subsequent transactions concerning Rebekah has been explained by the supposition that Bethuel was now dead (Josephus), but vide Genesis 24:50; that he was altogether an insignificant character (Lange, Wordsworth); that firstborn sons enjoyed during their father's lifetime a portion of his authority, and even on important occasions represented him (Kalisch); that in those times it was usual for brothers to take a special interest in sisters' marriages—cf. Genesis 34:13; Judges 21:22; 2 Samuel 13:22 (Rosenmüller, Michaelis).
And it cams to pass, when he saw the earring and bracelets upon his sister's hands (vide Genesis 24:22), and when he heard the words of Rebekah his sister, saying, Thus spake the man unto me; that he came unto the man (this explains the cause of the action mentioned in the previous verse); and, behold, he stood by the camels at the well.
And he said, Come in, thou blessed of the Lord. בְּרוּךְ יהֹוָה (cf. Genesis 26:29; Numbers 24:9); the usual form being לַיַהוָֹה (vide Genesis 14:19; Ruth 2:20; 1 Samuel 15:13). Though Laban was an idolater (Genesis 31:30), it seems more satisfactory to regard him as belonging to a family in which the worship of Jehovah had originated, and by which it was still retained (Murphy, Wordsworth), than to suppose that he first learnt the name Jehovah from the servant's address (Keil, Lange, Hengstenberg). Wherefore standest thou without? (as if his not accepting Rebekah's invitation were almost a reflection on, the hospitality of the house of Abraham's kinsmen) for (literally, arid, in expectation of thine arrival) I have prepared the house,—or, put the house in order, by clearing it from things in confusion (cf. Leviticus 14:36)—and room (i.e. place) for the camels.
And the man came into the house: and he (i.e. Laban) ungirded his (literally, the) camels, and gave straw—cut up by threshing for fodder (cf. Job 21:18; Isaiah 11:7; Isaiah 65:25)—and provender for the camels, and water to wash his feet (cf. Genesis 18:4; Genesis 19:2), and the men's feet that were with him—the first intimation that any one accompanied the messenger, though that assistants were necessary is obvious from the narrative.
And there was set—appositus est (Vulgate); i.e. if the first word be taken, as in the Keri, as the hophal of שׂוּם; but if the Kethib be preferred, then וַיַּישֶׂם is the fur. Kal of יָשַׂם, signifying, "and he set;" παρέθηκεν (LXX.)—meat before him to eat (the crowning act of an Oriental reception): but he said, I will not eat, until I have told mine errand. Oriental politeness deferred the interrogation of a guest till after he had supped ('Odyss.' 3.69); but Abraham's servant hastened to communicate the nature of his message before partaking of the offered hospitality—an instance of self-forgetful zeal of which Christ was the highest example. And he (i.e. Laban) said, Speak on.
Availing himself of the privilege thus accorded, the faithful ambassador recounted the story of his master's prosperity, and of the birth of Isaac when Sarah his mother was old (literally, after her old age); of the oath which he had taken to seek a wife for his master's son among his master's kindred, and of the singularly providential manner in which he had been led to the discovery of the chosen bride. Then with solemn earnestness he asked for a decision. And now if ye will deal kindly and truly—literally, if ye are doing, i.e. are ready or willing to extend kindness and truth (cf. Genesis 24:27)—with (or, to) my master, tell me: and if not, toll me; that I may turn (literally, and I will turn) to the right hand, or to the left—in further prosecution of my mission, to seek in some other family a bride for my master's son.
Then Laban and Bethuel (vide on Genesis 24:29) answered and said, The thing proceedeth from the Lord:—Jehovah (vide on Genesis 24:31)—we cannot speak unto thee bad or good—i.e. they could not demur to a proposal so clearly indicated by Divine providence; a proof of the underlying piety of those descendants of Nahor. Behold, Rebekah is before thee, take her, and go,—that the consent of the maiden is not asked was not owing to the fact that, according to ancient custom, Oriental women were at the absolute disposal, in respect of marriage, of their parents and elder brothers (Bush), but to the circumstance that already it had been tacitly given by her acceptance of the bridal presents (Kalisch), or, from her amiable and pious disposition, might be taken for granted, since she, no more than they, would resist the clearly-revealed will of Jehovah (Lange, Wordsworth)—and let her be thy master's son's wife, as the Lord hath spoken. Words which again kindled the flame of reverential piety in the old man's heart, so that he worshipped the Lord, bowing himself to the earth—literally, he prostrated himself to the earth to Jehovah (cf. Genesis 24:26).
Genesis 24:53, Genesis 24:54
And the servant brought forth jewels—literally, vessels (σκεύη, LXX.), the idea being that of things finished or completed; from כָּלָה, to finish (cf. Genesis 31:37; Genesis 45:20)—of silver, and jewels (or vessels) of gold, and raiment,—covering garments, e.g. the outer robes of Orientals (Genesis 20:11, Genesis 20:12, Genesis 20:13, Genesis 20:15; Genesis 41:42); especially precious ones (1 Kings 22:10)—and gave them to Rebekah—as betrothal presents, which are absolutely essential, and usually given with much ceremony before witnesses. He gave also to her brother and to her mother (here mentioned for the first time) precious things, מִגְדָּנֹת from מֶגֶד precious, occurring only elsewhere in 2 Chronicles 21:3 and Ezekiel 1:6; both times as here, in connection with gold and silver—probably describes valuable articles in general. And (having thus formally concluded the engagement) they did eat and drink,—i.e. partook of the victims which had been set before them at an earlier stage (verse 33)—he and the men that were with him, and tarried all night;—literally, and passed the night (cf. Genesis 19:2; Genesis 24:25)—and they rose up in the morning (indicative of alacrity and zeal), and he said, Send me away unto my master—being impatient to report to Abraham the success of his expedition.
And her brother and her mother—Laban as usual (Genesis 24:50) having the first place; probably because of the prominence which from this time he assumes in the theocratic history—said, Let the damsel abide with us a few days, at least ten. Literally, days, at least (Vulgate, sagtem); as it were (LXX; &c.); perhaps (Murphy); or (Furst, Ewald, Kalisoh); if she wish, with the idea of choice. (Gesenius); a ten or decade of days; the עָשׂוֹר being used as a measure of time analogous to the שָׁבוּעַor hebdomad. That ten months are meant (Chaldee, Arabic, Ainsworth) is probably incorrect. After that she shall go.
Still urging his suit for permission to depart, Laban and the mother of Rebekah proposed that the maiden should be left to decide a matter so important for her by her own inclinations. When consulted she expressed her readiness at once to accompany the venerable messenger to his distant home; and accordingly, without more delay, she was dismissed from her mother's tent, attended by a faithful nurse (Genesis 35:8) and enriched by the blessing of her pious relatives, who said unto her, Thou art our sister, be thou the mother of thousands of millions (literally, our sister thou, become to thousands of myriads, i.e. let thy descendants be very numerous), and let thy seed possess the gate (vide Genesis 22:17) of those which hate them.
A bride for the heir.-3. Eliezer and Laban, or proposals for the bride.
I. THE HOSPITABLE BROTHER.
1. The eager invitation. "Come in, thou blessed of the Lord!"
(1) The speaker was Laban, Rebekah's brother, who on hearing his sister's call had hurried to the well.
(2) The motive which impelled him was not unlikely a little greed of filthy lucre, the appetite for which a sight of Rebekah's jewels may have whetted; a little feeling of friendship, since he would learn from Rebekah that the stranger had come from Abraham; and a little sense of religion, as the family of Nahor appear still to have retained the knowledge of Jehovah. Most people's motives are mixed, and so probably were Laban's.
2. The kindly reception.
(1) Eliezer's camels were unpacked, stalled, and fed—a proof of Laban's humanity (Proverbs 12:10).
(2) His men's feet and his own were refreshed by washing—a necessary part of Oriental hospitality, evincing Laban's thoughtfulness (cf. Luke 7:44).
(3) Meat and drink were set before himself and his companions—the crowning act of an Eastern reception, showing that Laban and the other members of the household were accustomed to "use hospitality without grudging."
II. THE AGED WOOER.
1. Impatient. The nature of his mission urged him to dispatch, as knowing well that his master was old, that Isaac was needful of a bride, that coy maidens are soonest caught by fervent suitors, and that successful wooing brooks no delay.
2. Skillful. The first recorded speech in the Bible, Eliezer's bride-wooing cannot fail to be admired for its wisdom.
(1) He secures the sympathy of his auditors by declaring himself to be the servant of Abraham;
(2) he details to them the wealth of his master, reasoning probably that no mother would ever think of sending away her daughter into a foreign country to be a poor man's bride;
(3) he advances to the great religious consideration that Isaac's wife must be a worshipper of God; and
(4) he narrates the singular providence that had pointed out Rebekah as the destined bride.
3. Pious. The religious character of this wooing is apparent from the reverent use of the Divine name throughout the old man's speech, the importance assigned to piety as one of the bride's qualifications, the devout recognition of God's hand in prospering his journey, and the impression he conveys that Jehovah has himself selected Rebekah.
III. THE CONSENTING RELATIVES. The acquiescence of Laban, Bethuel, and the mother of Rebekah was—
1. Unhesitatingly given. "Behold, Rebekah is before take her, and go, and let her be thy master's son's wife." A little reluctance on their part would not have been surprising.
2. Piously dictated. "The thing proceedeth from the Lord!" Not the eligibility of the match, but the approbation Of Heaven, secured their consent.
3. Thankfully acknowledged. "Abraham's servant worshipped the Lord, bowing himself to the earth." How eminent the piety which traces every blessing to its primal source; how beautiful the religion which, the more' it gets, the more it stoops!
4. Richly rewarded. "The servant brought forth jewels of silver," &c. (Genesis 24:53). While adoring the original Giver, he did not neglect the second cause. Young men who receive fair Rebekahs in marriage should not forget to recompense with love and gifts the fathers and mothers who have given them up.
IV. THE WILLING MAIDEN.
1. The proposed delay. "Let the damsel abide with us a few days, at least ten." This was natural, and would be convenient both for the preparation of the bride's trousseau and for the gratification of friends who might wish to bid her farewell.
2. The urgent request. "Hinder me not; send me away." The old man accepted his prosperity in wooing as an indication that God intended his immediate return.
3. The important question. "Wilt thou go with this man?" No maiden, however urged by relatives and friends, should contract a forced and unwilling marriage.
4. The decisive answer. "I will go." After this there could be no mistaking how Rebekah's heart inclined. It augured well for the coming marriage that it would prove, a union of love, and not simply of convenience.'
5. The fraternal benediction. Thou art our sister, be thou the mother of thousands of millions."
HOMILIES BY F. HASTINGS
Laban's eye of greed.
"And when he saw the bracelets," &c. One thing moved Laban to offer hospitality to a stranger—the vision of gold on his sister's form.
I. COVETOUSNESS MAKES A MAN CALCULATING WHEN APPEARING TO BE GENEROUS. Laban had not been so pressingly urgent in his invitation if he had not cherished a hope of further advantages. He was a churlish man. He said, "Come in, thou blessed of the Lord," &c; because he saw that which was to him the greatest sign of blessing—wealth. Laban helped the more readily to ungird Eliezer's camels because he hoped thereby to loosen the girdle-purse of his visitor. He had the eye of greed. He could not see anything valuable belonging to another without wishing to possess it.
II. COVETOUSNESS MAKES A MAN, GENERALLY, SHORT-SIGHTED WITH RESPECT TO HIS OWN BEST INTERESTS. Laban gave Eliezer a bad impression of himself. The latter would soon see through such a man as Laban. He showed this when he gave presents not only to the sister and mother, but to the brother (Genesis 24:53). He knew that it would not he advisable to overlook Laban. Eliezer knew he could be bought. Laban, when treating with Jacob, was just as short-sighted. He gave Leah and Rachel to Jacob as wives only after years of service for which he stipulated. He changed Jacob's wages ten times. Through his greed he at last lost Jacob. He confessed how great a helper Jacob had been. "The Lord hath blessed me for thy sake" (Genesis 30:27). Jacob would not tarry with him, and even the daughters were glad enough to get away from such a father. Covetousness is opposed to our temporal and eternal interests. We lose by it the respect of others here and of God hereafter.
III. COVETOUSNESS IS EVER INDIFFERENT TO THE RIGHTFUL CLAIMS OF OTHERS. It will ignore those claims altogether, if possible.
1. We find Laban thus ignored the influence of his father throughout the whole transaction. Perhaps Bethuel was infirm or aged, but he is, consistently with the character of Laban, thrust into the back- ground. Laban also takes all presents, and there is no mention of any being given to his father.
2. We find also he was in great measure indifferent to the happiness of his sister. He was subtle in tongue, and spoke of the Lord arranging things, but he believed in the arrangement because his family was the gainer. A good chance is offered by the Damascene stranger, and Rebekah soon saw that it was a foregone conclusion that she should go with him. Covetousness will make parents careless as to the physical, mental, and moral well-being of their children, and employers care- less of the state of their servants. It is covetousness also that leads many to spread temptations, too strong to be resisted, before others, and one nation to get rich out of that which is sapping the life-blood of another.
IV. COVETOUSNESS NEVER SATISFIES, AND OFT MAKES MEN MOST MISERABLE. "He that is greedy of gain troubleth his house." "Envy is rottenness to the bones." Misers perish in the midst of plenty. Riches possessed, the desire for more is generally intensified. The desire is no more checked than a lamp is extinguished by added oil.
V. COVETOUSNESS IS SURE, SOONER OR LATER, TO BE REBUKED. The greed in Laban's eye which glistened at the sight of the golden ornaments on his sister's form deepened with the passage of years. At last, in his pursuit of Jacob, he was rebuked by God in a vision, and afterwards by the man he had wronged. Learn, therefore, that medium prosperity is better than great riches gained by greed. Despise not the comforts of life, but live for something higher. What is gained in the world is speedily gone. If we gain much and ruin our souls, we shall not only be rejected by God, but shall bitterly condemn ourselves.—H.
Laban, the solicitous host.
"Wherefore standest thou without?" The character of Laban has been well explained by Blunt in his ' Coincidences.' It is one of consistent greed. He was sincere in inviting Eliezer because he saw the bracelets on his sister's hand, and expected still further favors from a guest who can so lavishly bestow gifts. Christ asks us to enter his kingdom, but he expects nothing from us in return but love. We may adapt this inquiry of Laban to souls as yet outside the Church.
I. THE POSITION OCCUPIED. "Without." Probably they have no realized pardon, no enjoyment in religion, no future prospects of joy. Life is a dread mystery to them. They are saying, "Who will show us any good?" They may be just awakened spiritually, like the Philippian jailor. They may be under the condemnings of law and conscience, and in dread of the consequences of sin. Those within the true Church know in whom they have believed, and rejoice in forgiveness and the prospect of heaven. They are no longer outside the gates of mercy. We may be in a visible Church without being of Christ's fold. It is penitence, faith, and character that determine our position, and not birth, rank, or ceremonial observances.
II. THE REASONS WHEREFORE MANY RETAIN A POSITION OUTSIDE THE CHURCH.
1. Accustomed to the state, and unwilling to change. They are like the prisoner who, after many years' imprisonment in the Bastile, was liberated, and went forth only to find all his friends gone and himself a mere burden to society. He went back and entreated to be allowed to retain his cell until he should pass out of the world.
2. Many, because they are ignorant of the fullness of Divine mercy.
3. Others, because they think there is so much to be done ere they can be fitted to be received within, and are looking to their own efforts to prepare themselves.
4. Many, because they fear their opportunity of admittance is past.
5. Others, because undecided as to whether they shall give up the pleasures of the world for the privileges of Christian fellowship.
6. Others, because they lack faith in their faith and its power to justify.
7. Many stand outside because they think themselves as secure outside as within. They forget that Christ demands open confession, and that to be united openly, to his Church is one way of confessing his name before men. Let there be a personal and searching inquiry, "Wherefore standest thou without?" The invited guest passed within, and found his highest expectations more than realized, because God "had prospered his journey."—H.
And Rebekah arose, and her damsels,—probably a company, at least two, though Laban afterwards only gave each of his daughters one (Genesis 29:24, Genesis 29:29)—and they rode upon camels (most likely those which Abraham's servant had brought), and followed the man (not in fear, but in hope): and the servant took (in the sense of undertook the charge of) Rebekah (who, in his eyes, would now he invested with additional charms, as his young master's intended bride), and went his way—returning by the road he came.
And (when the bridal train was nearing home) Isaac came from the way of the well Lahai-roi;—Hagar's well (Genesis 16:7, Genesis 16:14)—for he dwelt in the south country—on the Negeb (vide Genesis 12:9). Abraham may by this time have removed from Hebron; or, if Hebron be included in the south country, Isaac may have been only on a visit to Hagar's well (Lange).
And Isaac went out to meditate—לָשׂוּח; to think (LXX; Vulgate, Murphy, Kalisch); to pray (Onkelos, Samaritan, Kimchi, Luther, Keil); to lament (Knobel, Lange); doubtless to do all three, to commune with his heart and before God; not, however, about agricultural affairs, or the improvement of his property (Knobel), but concerning his deceased mother, whom he still mourned (Genesis 24:67), though chiefly, it is probable, anent the marriage he contemplated (Keil)—in the field at the eventide. Literally, at the turning of the evening (cf. Deuteronomy 23:12; and for corresponding phrase, "when the morning draws on," Exodus 14:27; Judges 19:26; Psalms 46:6). And he lifted up his eyes, and saw, and, behold, the camels were coming. The bride's first glimpse of her intended spouse being, with artless simplicity though with dramatic picturesqueness, described in similar terms.
And Rebekah lifted up her eyes, and when she saw (literally, and she saw, though as yet she did not know that it was) Isaac, she lighted—literally, fell; the word signifying a hasty descent (cf. 1 Samuel 25:23; 2 Kings 5:21); κατεπήδησεν (LXX.); descended (Vulgate)—off the camel. "The behavior of Rebekah was such as modern etiquette requires".
For she had said (literally, and she said; not before, but after alighting) unto the servant (of Abraham), What man is this that walketh in the field to meet us?—Isaac having obviously hastened forward to give a welcome to his bride. On learning who it was she took a veil—"the cloak-like veil of Arabia" (Keil), which covers not merely the face, but, "like a kind of large wrapper, nearly the whole form, rendering it impossible to recognize the person" (Kalisch)—and covered herself. That married ladies did not always use the yell when traveling appears from the case of Sarah (Genesis 20:16); but that brides did not discover their faces to their intended husbands until after marriage may be inferred from the case of Leah (Genesis 29:23, Genesis 29:25). Thus modestly attired, she meekly yields herself to one whom she had never before seen, in the confident persuasion that so Jehovah willed.
And Isaac—receiving an account (Genesis 24:66) from his father's faithful ambassador of all things that he had done—brought her into his mother Sarah's tent (which must have been removed from Hebron as a precious relic of the family, if by this time they had changed their abode), and took Rebekah, and she became his wife—the primitive marriage ceremony consisting solely of a taking before witnesses (vide Ruth 4:13). And he loved her. And he had every reason; for, besides being beautiful and kindly and pious, she had for his sake performed a heroic act of self-sacrifice, and, better still, had been both selected for and bestowed upon him by his own and his father's God. And Isaac was comforted after his mother's death. Literally, after his mother; the word death not being in the original, "as if the Holy Spirit would not conclude this beautiful and joyful narrative with a note of sorrow" (Wordsworth).
A bride for the heir.-4. Rebekah and Isaac, or the wedding of the bride.
I. THE PENSIVE BRIDEGROOM.
1. Mourning for his mother. Isaac's meditation clearly includes this. Good mothers, when they die, should be deeply and affectionately sorrowed for by grateful and loving sons. A son who loves his mother living forgets not to lament her dead. The best testimonial of filial piety is to know that a son tenderly regards his mother while she lives, and cherishes her memory when she is gone.
2. Musing on his bride. This too the language will admit. Scarcely could the thought of Eliezer's mission be excluded from Isaac's mind. Doubtless he would often, during the interval of his absence, have his silent wonderings about its return with the God-provided spouse. Almost certainly too his prayers would ascend to heaven on her behalf. He who asks a wife from God is most likely to receive one, and he who frequently prays for the wife of his youth is most likely to love her when she comes. Note that Isaac's mournings and musings were in the field at eventide. While any place and time will suffice for heart exercises, some places and times are more suitable than others, and none more so than the solitude of nature and the darkening of eve.
II. THE VEILED BRIDE. Springing from her camel at the sight of her intended husband, "she took a veil and covered herself." The actions indicated—
1. Rebekah's politeness. Etiquette required both. It was satisfactory at least that Isaac was about to receive as his wife a lady, one acquainted with the gentle manners of the day. Refinement, while desirable in all, is specially beautiful in woman. Elegance of manners are only second to beauty of form in a bride.
2. Rebekah's modesty. Nothing can palliate immodesty in any, least of all in the gentler sex. Hence, not only should maidens be educated with the greatest possible attention to the cultivation of pure and delicate emotions, but nothing should ever tempt them to east aside that shield of maidenly reserve which is one of their surest protections in the midst of life's dangers and seductions.
III. THE PRIMITIVE WEDDING.
1. The giving of the bride. This we can suppose was performed by Eliezer, who, by his recital of "all things that he had done," practically certified that Rebekah was the maiden whom Jehovah had provided, and now in formal act handed over to him to be his wife.
2. The taking of the bride. "Isaac took Rebekah, i.e. publicly and solemnly accepted her in the presence of witnesses as his bride. Thus, without elaborate or expensive Ceremonial, Rebekah "became his wife."
3. The home-coming of the bride. "Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah's tent," and thus installed her in the honors as well as invested her with the privileges of matron of his house.
IV. THE HAPPY HOME.
1. Isaac loved Rebekah. "So ought husbands to love their wives as their own bodies" (Ephesians 5:28). It is their duty; it ought to be their happiness; it certainly will prove their interest.
2. Rebekah comforted Isaac. So ought wives not merely "to reverence their husbands" (Ephesians 5:33), but to soothe their sorrows, cure their cares, and dispel their despondencies.
1. That the son who sorrows for a mother will likely prove a husband that can love a wife.
2. That maidens' charms are most attractive when seen through a veil of modesty.
3. That those marriages are most auspicious which are made by God.
4. That those homes are happiest where husband and wife love and comfort one another.
HOMILIES BY F. HASTINGS
Isaac in the field.
"And Isaac went out to meditate in the field at eventide." Isaac was one of the less prominent among the patriarchs. He seems to have lacked energy of character, but there was great devoutness. His life was like a toned picture, lacking garish coloring, but having a depth of interest. Possibly the fact that an uplifted knife had once gleamed death upon him, and that he had so narrowly escaped, may have bad great influence in giving a sober tinge to his life. Not only so, but training by such a father as Abraham must have inculcated a ready obedience to God's will, and a constant desire to know that will. In the passage above we have—
I. A GODLY HABIT INDICATED. "Went out to meditate"—to pray. There is a great difference between reverie and meditation. The one is aimless dreaming, the other, thought tending to an object. Prayer is the thought expressed. Meditation is the "nurse of prayer." Meditation stirs up the spiritual fire within. It brings us nearer to the Divine. It should be cultivated as a habit rather than be left to spasmodic impulses.
II. A PLACE WELL ADAPTED TO PRAYER SELECTED. The field or open country, where we can get away from men, is the place for fellowship with God. A free prospect lets God's power be more plainly seen. It is an advantage to get out to sea, and, leaning over the bulwark of a vessel, to realize the width of the world, the vastness of the universe and greatness of God. We should seek some place where we can specially realize the presence and power of God. "Enter into thy closet" is a command which many find it difficult to obey. At school, in business houses, there is little or no provision for solitary meditation; but with a book in hand the believer may in spirit get alone with God.
III. THE TIME CHOSEN FOR PRAYER WAS MOST FITTING. Isaac went into the field at eventide. When the fret and toil of the day were over; when the sun was setting, glorified by crimson clouds, or shaded by the purplish haze; when the blossoms were closing, and flocks were being folded; when the moon was just showing, and the stars beginning to shine out; when a hush was over nature and entering into the soul—then Isaac sought to pray; then he sought to realize the certainty of the Divine promises and the faithfulness of the Divine performance. The time accorded well with his own feelings. He still mourned for his mother (Genesis 24:67). Sorrow makes solitude congenial. Moreover, he was anticipating a change of state. He knew his father had sent Eliezer to seek for him a wife from among his own kindred, and he may have been praying that God would send him a suitable partner for life. While he was praying the answer was approaching. By prayer Isaac was prepared also to bear with the selfishness and wrong-doing of others. In Genesis 26:1-35. we see how he avoided quarrelling with the Philistines. Gentleness made him great, and that gentleness was intensified by prayer.—H.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Genesis 24". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20