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Bible Commentaries

The Popular Commentary by Paul E. Kretzmann
Genesis 24

 

 

Verses 1-9

The Preparation for the Journey

v. 1. And Abraham was old and well stricken in age; and the Lord had blessed Abraham in all things. He was now one hundred and forty years old, and felt the coming on of the infirmities of old age. It was necessary for him to provide for Isaac's marriage before death should overtake him; moreover, the Messianic promise was to be preserved to his family through Isaac and his descendants. In all things the Lord had blessed Abraham, pouring out upon him both temporal and spiritual blessings.

v. 2. And Abraham said unto his eldest servant of his house, that ruled over all that he had, the senior servant in charge of his entire establishment, Put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh, as that member of the body which symbolized posterity, in this case the promised seed, the promise and the hope of Abraham and Israel.

v. 3. And I will make thee swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and the God of the earth, that thou shalt not take a wife unto my son of the daughters of the Canaanites among whom I dwell;

v. 4. but thou shalt go unto my country and to my kindred, and take a wife unto my son Isaac. Abraham demanded a solemn oath from Eliezer, in order that this most important mission would be carried out, even if he himself should die soon. By Jehovah, the God of heaven and earth, he had his servant swear, for this was not an ordinary marriage which was contemplated, but a matter of the greatest importance for the kingdom of God, since Isaac was the heir of the divine promise. For that reason also a heathen woman from among the daughters of the Canaanites would not have been acceptable, just as today the marriage of a Christian with an enemy of Christ is always ill-advised, to say the least.

v. 5. And the servant said unto him, Peradventure the woman will not be willing to follow me unto this land; must I needs bring thy son again unto the land from whence thou camest? The caution of Eliezer in not swearing lightly is to be commended highly, although he did not have the same measure of faith as Abraham, who trusted implicitly in the promise of the Lord.

v. 6. And Abraham said unto him, Beware thou that thou bring not my son thither again! That would have been a step backward and would have shown mistrust in the words of the Lord.

v. 7. The Lord God of heaven, which took me from my father's house and from the land of my kindred, and which spake unto me, and that sware unto me, saying, Unto thy seed will I give this land, he shall send His angel before thee, and thou shalt take a wife unto my son from thence. That was the argument of faith: Jehovah had brought Abraham into the land in which he was now sojourning as a stranger; Jehovah had, with a solemn oath, promised this land to his descendants; therefore Jehovah would crown the servant's venture in Abraham's name with success, through the guidance and protection of His angel.

v. 8. And if the woman will not be willing to follow thee, then thou shalt be clear from this my oath; only bring not my son thither again. This was for the sake of reassuring the timid servant. If believers, in the name of God, undertake a matter which pleases God, then they may and should trust in the assistance and blessing of the Lord.

v. 9. And the servant put his hand under the thigh of Abraham, his master, and sware to him concerning that matter. Eliezer now knew that he would not be held responsible in case the woman selected by him would refuse to come, and so he no longer hesitated about rendering his oath in this important matter.


Verses 10-14

The arrival at Haran and the prayer at the well

v. 10. And the servant took ten camels of the camels of his master and departed; for all the goods of his master were in his hand. And he arose and went to Mesopotamia, unto the city of Nahor. As Abraham's chief steward, Eliezer had charge of all his master's goods; therefore, in order to represent him worthily, he not only started out with a caravan of some size, but he also took along various valuables in the form of costly presents for the possible bride and her parents, which he could back up with his power of attorney extending over all the goods of his master. So he traveled to Mesopotamia, usually stated to have been the country between the Euphrates and the Tigris, but including, in this connection, all the land from the Khabour, an eastern branch of the Euphrates, and the Orontes, in Syria. Haran, as nearly as can be determined, was situated in the headwaters of the Khabour.

v. 11. And he made his camels to kneel down without the city by a well of water at the time of the evening, even the time that women go out to draw water. Eliezer had made his plans with care. Instead of entering the city and looking for the house of his master's relatives, he caused his camels to kneel down for a temporary rest. For it was now evening, the time at which the women that draw water go forth. That was and is the special work of the women of the Orient, to fetch water for the household from the well near the village or city. Eliezer knew that there would be an opportunity for observation and for the study of character here which would reveal more than days of polite intercourse.

v. 12. And he said, O Lord-God of my master Abraham, I pray Thee, send me good speed this day, and show kindness unto my master Abraham. The prayer is directed to Jehovah in the name of Abraham, because Eliezer was acting as the representative of his master.

v. 13. Behold, I stand here by the well of water, and the daughters of the men of the city come out to draw water;

v. 14. and let it come to pass that the damsel 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, let the same be she that Thou hast appointed for Thy servant Isaac; and thereby shall I know that Thou hast showed kindness unto my master. It was a simple, childlike prayer which Eliezer addressed to the Lord. He asked that success might come to meet him, that the Lord would send good speed to his plan in pointing out to him that young woman whom He had destined to be the wife of Isaac. The plan of Eliezer aimed to test out especially the humility, the unselfishness, and the willingness to serve in the girls of the city. Note: In a proper marriage it is God who selects the husband and the wife for each other, and this is an act of His kindness. If the blessing and the guidance of the Lord were implored with greater frequency and with greater importunity in the important matter of marriage, there would be fewer unhappy households in the world.


Verses 15-28

The Meeting with Rebekah

v. 15. And it came to pass, before he had done speaking, that, behold, Rebekah came out, who was born to Bethuel, son of Milcah, the wife of Nahor, Abraham's brother, with her pitcher upon her shoulder. All the emphasis is here laid upon the speed with which the Lord heard the prayer of Eliezer. He had not yet finished his prayer when Rebekah, the granddaughter of Nahor, the grandniece of Abraham, appeared.

v. 16. And the damsel was very fair to look upon, a virgin, neither had any man known her; and she went down to the well, and filled her pitcher, and came up. Rebekah did not let beauty spoil her, nor did the fact that she was a rich man's daughter cause her to despise manual labor. She personally descended the steps to the well, filled her pitcher with water, and then returned to the head of the path.

v. 17. And the servant ran to meet her and said, Let me, I pray thee, drink a little water of thy pitcher.

v. 18. And she said, Drink, my lord. And she hasted, and let down her pitcher upon her hand, and gave him drink.

v. 19. And when she had done giving him drink, she said, I will draw water for thy camels also until they have done drinking.

v. 20. And she hasted, and emptied her pitcher in to the trough, and ran again unto the well to draw water, and drew for all his camels. This willingness to serve, which did not even balk at the prospect of drawing water for ten camels at the end of a day's journey, came in literal fulfillment of Eliezer's prayer. Rebekah's every act gave evidence of a hospitable kindness which considered the ready serving of a stranger a privilege. This miraculous arrangement of the circumstances was due to the dispensation of God. Many believers have since had the same experience, namely, that the living God hears prayers, often before they themselves have finished imploring Him for help.

v. 21. And the man wondering at her, watching her carefully and almost taken aback at the exactness with which his prayer was fulfilled before his eyes, held his peace to wit whether the Lord had made his journey prosperous or not. In silence the servant deliberated over the happening, asking himself whether this young woman belonged to the family of his master, whether she was still single, whether she would be willing to go with him, in short, whether the Lord had caused his way to prosper, had given success to his journey.

v. 22. And it came to pass, as the camels had done drinking, that the man took a golden earring of half a shekel weight, and two bracelets for her hands of ten shekels weight of gold. As a token of his gratitude for her willingness to serve Eliezer the latter took from his presents which he had brought a golden nose-ring, such as the woman of the Orient wears suspended from the middle wall of her nose, and two bracelets of gold, worn upon the wrist, each of five shekels weight (a shekel being about ten drams avoirdupois).

v. 23. And said, Whose daughter art thou? Tell me, I pray thee, is there room in thy father's house for us to lodge in? The presents which Rebekah received at the hand of Eliezer were intended also to make her all the more willing to answer his questions as to her family and as to the possibility of obtaining lodging in her father's house.

v. 24. And she said unto him, I am the daughter of Bethuel, the son of Milcah, which she bare unto Nahor. Thus was Eliezer's first question answered and the fulfillment of his prayer emphasized.

v. 25. She said moreover unto him, We have both straw and provender enough, and room to lodge in. The second question was thus answered with becoming reservation, for she, as the daughter of the house, could not issue a direct invitation. She merely stated, therefore, that she knew chopped straw and other food to be present at home in sufficient quantities.

v. 26. And the man bowed down his head and worshiped the Lord.

v. 27. And he said, Blessed be the Lord God of my master Abraham, who hath not left destitute my master of His mercy and His truth; I being in the way, the Lord led me to the house of my master's brethren. The obvious guidance and dispensation of the Lord in this matter, in everything pertaining to his journey, so deeply affected Eliezer that he, even in the presence of Rebekah, broke forth in a prayer of thanksgiving which revealed, to some extent, whence he came. The Lord had not withheld His free grace, His faithfulness, mercy, and truth from Abraham. He had only started out on his way, but it was the Lord that had guided him to his destination and to the object of his journey in such a miraculous manner.

v. 28. And the damsel ran and told them of her mother's house these things. Full of astonishment at the prayer of thanksgiving which she heard from the lips of the stranger, Rebekah ran home, naturally seeking for her mother in the women's part of the house. Throughout the Chapter, Rebekah is an example of a God fearing, pious virgin, whose womanly virtues stand out prominently; just as Eliezer presents the picture of a pious, faithful servant.


Verses 29-33

Eliezer in the Home of Bethuel

v. 29. And Rebekah had a brother, and his name was Laban; and Laban ran out unto the man, unto the well.

v. 30. And it came to pass, when he saw the earring and bracelets upon his sister's hands, and when he heard the words of Rebekah, his sister, saying, Thus spake the man unto me, that he came unto the man; and, behold, he stood-by the camels at the well. Among those that heard the excited report of Rebekah was her brother Laban. A glance at the rich presents which his sister exhibited started Laban, whose later covetousness is hinted at even here, off for the well. He barely stopped long enough to hear the details of the conversation which Rebekah reported. Running out quickly from the city, he found the stranger standing beside his resting camels by the well.

v. 31. And he said, Come in, thou blessed of the Lord; wherefore standest thou without? For I have prepared the house, and room for the camels. With true Oriental hospitality, even if not unmixed with some selfish motives, Laban invited Eliezer to enter, addressing him as the blessed of the Lord, one upon whom the favor of the Lord rested.

v. 32. And the man came in to the house. And he ungirded his camels, and gave straw and provender for the camels, and water to wash his feet, and the men's feet that were with him. Eliezer accepted the invitation of Laban without delay, came to the house of Bethuel, and saw to it that the straps which held the loads of the camels were properly loosened. Laban, meanwhile, provided food and bedding for the camels and water for the customary washing of the feet before one entered the living quarters of the house.

v. 33. And there was set meat before him to eat. But he said I will not eat until I have told mine errand. And he said, Speak on. Oriental custom forbade any reference to the object of a man's journey until all the physical wants of the traveler had been satisfied. But Eliezer here informed his host that he could not think of eating until he literally had "said his say," until he had stated the object of his journey. His unselfish faithfulness caused him to place his own comfort after the business of his master.


Verses 34-49

Eliezer states his errand

v. 34. And he said, I am Abraham's servant. After thus introducing himself, Eliezer, in a carefully set speech, announces the object of his coming.

v. 35. And the Lord hath blessed my master greatly; and he is become great; and He hath given him flocks, and herds, and silver, and gold, and men-servants, and maid-servants, and camels, and asses. The apparently careless enumeration serves to enhance the impression of great wealth and power.

v. 36. And Sarah, my master's wife, bare a son to my master when she was old, after the signs of advancing age were in evidence; and unto him hath he given all that he hath. Isaac was the heir of all this great wealth.

v. 37. And my master made me swear, saying, Thou shalt not take a wife to my son of the daughters of the Canaanites, in whose land I dwell,

v. 38. but thou shalt go unto my father's house and to my kindred and take a wife unto my son.

v. 39. And I said unto my master, Peradventure the woman will not follow me.

v. 40. And he said unto me, The Lord before whom I walk, in the fear of whom he had arranged and led his entire life, will send His angel with thee and prosper thy way, give success to thy undertaking; and thou shalt take a wife for my son of my kindred and of my father's house.

v. 41. Then shalt thou be clear from this my oath, when thou comest to my kindred; and if they give not thee one, thou shalt be clear from my oath.

v. 42. And I came this day unto the well and said, O Lord God of my master-Abraham, if now Thou do prosper my way which I go, if Thou wilt indeed give success to my undertaking;

v. 43. behold, I stand by the well of water, and it shall come to pass that, when the virgin cometh forth to draw water, and I say to her, Give me, I pray thee, a little water of thy pitcher to drink,

v. 44. and she say to me, Both drink thou, and I will also draw for thy camels, let the same be the woman whom the Lord hath appointed out for my master's son. Even in this part of his speech, by referring to the virgin, in the singular, whom he was expecting to come to the well, the servant directs the attention of his hearers to Rebekah.

v. 45. And before I had done speaking in mine heart, behold, Rebekah came forth with her pitcher on her shoulder; and she went down unto the well and drew water; and I said unto her, Let me drink, I pray thee.

v. 46. And she made haste, and let down her pitcher from her shoulder, and said, Drink, and I will give thy camels drink also. So I drank, and she made the camels drink also.

v. 47. And I asked her and said, Whose daughter art thou? And she said, The daughter of Bethuel, Nahor's son, whom Milcah bare unto him. And I put the earring (nose ring) upon her face and the bracelets upon her hands.

v. 48. And I bowed down my head, and worshiped the Lord, and blessed the Lord God of my master Abraham, which had led me in the right way to take my master's brother's daughter (in the wider sense, for Rebekah was Nahor's grandchild) unto his son. The circumstantial narrative, with the full account of the prayer, was intended to show that Jehovah had really taken the matter out of Eliezer's hands already, a fact which his hearers would surely have to acknowledge.

v. 49. And now, if ye will deal kindly and truly with my master, tell me; and if not, tell me; that I may turn to the right hand or to the left. Eliezer appeals directly to the kindness and faithfulness which Abraham should surely be entitled to from his relatives. At any rate, he expected them to give him definite information as to their stand in the matter, in order that he might know exactly what course to pursue next. Mark that in a proper and valid betrothal, as Luther here points out, the suit is directed to the parents of the young woman first, and a secret engagement has no validity before God.


Verses 50-60

Rebekah Consents to Become Isaac's Bride

v. 50. Then Laban and Bethuel answered and said, The thing proceedeth from the Lord; we cannot speak unto thee bad or good. The entire matter had so evidently progressed to this point under the direct guidance of the Lord that both Bethuel, the father of Rebekah, and Laban, her brother, could not but recognize the will of Jehovah. They had nothing to say, no change to suggest, Num_24:13; 2Sa_13:22.

v. 51. Behold, Rebekah is before thee; take her and go, and let her be thy master's son's wife, as the Lord hath spoken. So the first step toward a valid engagement had been taken: Eliezer's suit for the hand of Rebekah for his master Isaac had been made and accepted. It is the parents that give their children in marriage, Laban here being included in the natural guardians of Rebekah as the older son, to whom the father had entrusted practically the entire management of his affairs.

v. 52. And it came to pass that, when Abraham's servant heard their words, he worshiped the Lord, bowing himself to the earth. His first thoughts thus were of gratitude to the Lord, who had given such signal success to his journey, permitting him to accomplish its purpose on the very evening of his arrival. As we see the gracious hand of God directing the affairs of our lives for our benefit, we should make it a practice to thank the Lord for all His goodness toward us.

v. 53. And the servant brought forth jewels of silver and jewels of gold and raiment, and gave them to Rebekah. These were the customary presents to the bride-to-be: various articles of jewelry of gold and silver and costly garments. He gave also to her brother and to her mother precious things, the betrothal presents for the family, costly articles, which may have been purchased at a great cost from Phoenician or Arabian traders.

v. 54. And they did eat and drink, he and the men that were with him, and tarried all night. Having successfully performed the work which his master had entrusted to him, Eliezer was now free to enjoy the hospitality of his hosts with his men. And they rose up in the morning; and he said, Send me away unto my master. The woman whom God had appointed to be the wife of Isaac was now found, but Eliezer, like a faithful servant, with whom the interests of his master always come first, was anxious to deliver the bride-to-be to Isaac and thus complete his mission.

v. 55. And her brother and her mother said, Let the damsel abide with us a few days, at the least ten; after that she shall go. Loving Rebekah as they did, they were anxious to have her stay for at least ten days.

v. 56. And he said unto them, Hinder me not, seeing the Lord hath prospered my way; send me away that I may go to my master. Eliezer, happy over the success of his enterprise, felt that he could not conscientiously consent to a delay, that he must return at once.

v. 57. And they said, we will call the damsel, and enquire at her mouth. The matter was to rest upon Rebekah's decision.

v. 58. And they called Rebekah, and said unto her, Wilt thou go with this man? And she said, I will go. Her simple, characteristically determined and vigorous answer included both her consent to the marriage with Isaac and her decision as to an immediate departure. Although giving into marriage is the prerogative of the parents, yet the girl should not be forced into a marriage without her consent, as Luther remarks.

v. 59. And they sent away Rebekah, their sister, and her nurse, and Abraham's servant, and his men. Laban again being represented as the chief person acting for Bethuel and his wife, Rebekah is formally dismissed to become the bride of Isaac, to whom she was now bound by her word.

v. 60. And they blessed Rebekah, and said unto her, thou art our sister, be thou the mother of thousands of millions, and let thy seed possess the gate of those which hate them. That the number of Rebekah's descendants might be a countless host and that all her progeny might always be victorious against all their enemies, that was the sincere and loving blessing which the relatives that dismissed her with a heavy heart laid upon her. The work of Eliezer in the suit of Rebekah having begun so auspiciously, God Himself having manifestly blessed the betrothal, it was best to hurry forward to the consummation of marriage, lest evil tongues sow discord.


Verses 61-67

The Marriage of Isaac and Rebekah

v. 61. And Rebekah arose, and her damsels, and they rode upon the camels, and followed the man; and the servant took Rebekah, and went his way. Thus the departure of Eliezer with Rebekah took place, Rebekah taking along not only her old nurse, Deborah, Gen_35:8, but also a number of other slave-girls, her attendants.

v. 62. And Isaac came from the way of the well Lahairoi; for he dwelt in the south country. It appears from this note that Isaac, at least, if not his father as well, had journeyed down into the southern part of Canaan, near the well of Hagar, Gen_16:14, probably to inspect the flocks in this part of the country.

v. 63. And Isaac went out to meditate in the field at the eventide, for meditation, deliberation, and prayer, very likely also with regard to the very important step, his approaching marriage. And he lifted up his eyes, and saw, and, behold, the camels were coming, which he probably recognized at once as those belonging to his establishment.

v. 64. And Rebekah lifted up her eyes, and when she saw Isaac, she lighted off the camel. She dropped or sprang down from the camel which she was riding; this action was characteristic of her energy and quick decision. It was customary for a rider to descend from the animal he was riding in meeting some distinguished person.

v. 65. For she had said unto the servant, What man is this that walketh in the field to meet us? These words were addressed to Eliezer after she had alighted from the camel. And the servant had said, It is my master; therefore she took a veil, and covered herself. She drew down the mantle-like veil which covered her head, for it was customary for the bride to appear before the bridegroom veiled.

v. 66. And the servant told Isaac all things that he had done; he rendered a brief report of his journey and its success.

v. 67. And Isaac brought her in to his mother Sarah's tent, and took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her; and Isaac was comforted after his mother's death. The Lord Himself worked in the heart of Isaac the true bridal love for the woman so evidently destined to be his wife. So he took her to Hebron, to Sarah's tent, where Abraham's chief station was located. In this way the grief which had taken hold upon Isaac after the death of his mother was gradually assuaged. Thus the marriage which had begun with God was carried forward under His blessing.

 


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Bibliography Information
Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Genesis 24:4". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/kpc/genesis-24.html. 1921-23.

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Sunday, December 15th, 2019
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