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Bible Commentaries

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae
Genesis 24

 

 

Verses 2-4

DISCOURSE: 39

MARRIAGE OF ISAAC

Genesis 24:2-4. And Abraham said unto his eldest servant of his house, that ruled over all that he had, Put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh: 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; but thou shalt go unto my country, and to my kindred, and take a wife unto my son Isaac.

THE great events which take place in the world, such as the rise and overthrow of kingdoms, are disregarded by God as unworthy of notice; whilst the most trivial things that appertain to his church and people, are recorded with the minutest exactness. The whole chapter from whence our text is taken relates to the marriage of Isaac. We are introduced into the most private scenes, and made acquainted with the whole rise, progress, and consummation of a matter, which might as well, to all appearance, have been narrated in a few words. But nothing is unimportant in God’s eyes, that can illustrate the operations of his grace, or tend to the edification of his church. in discoursing on this part of sacred history we shall notice,

I. Its peculiar incidents—

Abraham commissioned his servant to go and seek a wife for his son Isaac—

[That holy man could not endure the thought of his son forming a connexion with the Canaanites, who would be likely to draw him aside from the worship of the true God. He therefore ordered his old and faithful servant, Eliezer [Note: It is not absolutely said that, this was the servant; but the confidence placed in him sixty years before, renders it most probable. Genesis 15:2.], to go to the country where his father’s relations lived, and where, though idolatry obtained in part, Jehovah was still known and worshipped, to bring for his son a wife from thence. As Isaac was forty years of age, it might have seemed more proper for him to go himself: but Abraham had been called out from thence, and would on no account either go back thither himself, or suffer his son to go, lest he should appear weary of his pilgrimage, or countenance his descendants in going back to the world from whence they have been brought forth. On this account, when his servant asked whether, in the event of the woman, whom he should fix upon, being unwilling to accompany him, he should take Isaac thither to see her, Abraham in the most peremptory manner imaginable forbade any such step; and declared his confidence, that while he was thus jealous for the honour of his God, God would overrule the mind of any person who should be selected as a partner for his son [Note: –8.]. But not contented with charging him in this manner, he imposed an oath upon him, and bound him by the most solemn obligations to execute his commission with fidelity and care [Note: The more customary mode of swearing was by lifting up the hand to heaven (Genesis 14:22.): but here it was by putting his hand under Abraham’s thigh; which was afterwards required by Jacob for the same purpose of his son Joseph. Genesis 47:29.].

How admirable a pattern is this for parents, in reference to the forming of matrimonial connexions for their children! The generality are influenced chiefly by the family and fortune of those with whom they seek to be allied: and even professors of godliness are too often swayed by considerations like these, without adverting sufficiently to the interest of their immortal souls. But surely the religious character of a person ought to operate upon our minds beyond any other consideration whatever. To what purpose has God told us, that the believer can have no communion with an unbeliever, any more than light with darkness, or Christ with Belial [Note: 2 Corinthians 6:14-15.] ? To what purpose has he enjoined us to marry “only in the Lord [Note: 1 Corinthians 7:39.],” if we are still at liberty to follow our carnal inclinations and our worldly interests, without any regard to our eternal welfare? Let the example of Abraham and of Isaac have its due weight on all, whether parents or children: and let a concern for God’s honour regulate our conduct, as well in choosing connexions for ourselves, as in sanctioning the choice of others.]

The servant executed his commission with fidelity and dispatch—

[Never was there a brighter pattern of a servant than that which this history sets before us. In every step that Abraham’s servant took, he shewed how worthy he was to be intrusted with so important a mission. In his first setting-out he acted with great prudence: for, if he had gone alone without any evidences of his master’s wealth, he could not expect that he should obtain credit for his assertions. Therefore, without any specific directions from his master, he took ten camels richly laden, and, with them, a proper number of attendants; who, while they evinced the opulence of his master, would be witnesses also of his own conduct. His dependence indeed was upon God, and not on any devices of his own: nevertheless he rightly judged that a dependence upon God was not to supersede the exercise of wisdom and discretion.

Having reached the place of his destination, he earnestly implored direction and blessing from God: and in order that he might ascertain the will of God, he entreated that the woman designed for him might of her own accord offer to water all his camels. A better sign he could not well have asked: because such an offer, freely made to a stranger, would indicate a most amiable disposition: it would demonstrate at once the humility, the industry, the affability, the extreme kindness of the female; and would be a pledge, that she who could be so courteous and obliging to a stranger, would certainly conduct herself well in the relation of a wife. Scarcely had he presented his silent ejaculations to God, when Rebekah came, according to the custom of those times, to draw water; and, on being requested to favour him with a draught of water, made the very reply which he had just specified as the sign that was to mark the divine appointment. And no sooner had she made the offer, than she set herself (though it was no inconsiderable labour) to perform it. Amazed at the merciful interposition of his God, he stood wondering, and adoring God for the mercy vouchsafed unto him: nor did he suffer any of the inferior servants to assist her; that, by leaving her to complete the work alone, he might see more clearly the hand of God ordering and overruling the whole matter. When she had finished, he inquired her name and family: and finding that they were his master’s nearest relations, he made her a present of some valuable ornaments; and proposed, if her father could accommodate him, to spend the night at his house. She went home immediately to inform her friends, who came to the well, and invited him to return with them. Having brought him to their house, and shewn him the greatest hospitality, he refused to partake of any refreshment till he had made known to them the design of his coming. He then began to relate the wish of Abraham his master, the oath that he had imposed upon him, the prayer which he himself had silently offered to God, and the miraculous answer he had received to it; informing them at the same time of the opulence of Abraham, and that Isaac, on whose behalf he was come, was to be his sole heir. Immediately they all agreed, that the matter proceeded from the Lord; and they testified their willingness to accede to the proposal. They wished however for a few days’ delay; but the servant, having succeeded in the object of his mission, was impatient to be gone, and to deliver his master from the suspense in which he must of necessity have been kept. And Rebekah declaring her readiness to proceed with him, he took her and her nurse (after having given presents to all her relations, and thereby increased their esteem for his master), and brought her in safety to Isaac; who gladly received her as a present from the Lord, and was thenceforth united to her with the most affectionate regard.

In all this transaction we cannot but admire, on the one hand, the wisdom, the zeal, and the piety of the servant; and, on the other hand, the condescension and goodness of Jehovah. And though we are not warranted by this history to expect precisely the same interposition in our behalf, yet we are warranted to confide in God, and to expect his direction and blessing in all the things which we humbly commit to him.]

As a mere history, this is replete with instruction; but it is still more so, if considered in,

II. Its emblematic import—

Fearful as we would be, exceeding fearful, of imposing any sense upon the Holy Scriptures, which God himself has not plainly sanctioned, we will not take upon ourselves absolutely to affirm that the marriage of Isaac was allegorical: but when we consider that some of the most striking parts of Isaac’s history are explained by the inspired writers as emblematical of some mystery; that as the promised seed, born in a preternatural way, he was certainly a type of Christ; and that, as being the heir in opposition to Ishmael, he shadowed forth that spiritual seed who should inherit the promises; when we consider too the marvellous circumstances attending his marriage; we cannot reasonably doubt, but that it was a figure or emblem of some mysterious truth. If this ground of interpretation be admitted, we do not then hesitate to say, what that point is which it was intended to prefigure: it was certainly the marriage of God’s only dear Son to his bride, the church.

1. God, like Abraham, sends forth his servants to obtain a bride for his Son—

[The object nearest to the heart of our heavenly Father is to bring souls into connexion with his dear Son. This connexion is often represented under the idea of a marriage. Not to mention the innumerable places in the Old Testament where this image is used, we would only observe, that Jesus Christ is expressly called “the Bridegroom;” that his servants are called “the friends of the bridegroom, who hear his voice, and rejoice” in his prosperity [Note: John 3:29.] ; and that the church is called “the Lamb’s wife [Note: Revelation 21:9.].” Ministers are sent forth to prevail on persons to unite themselves to him by faith, so as to become one flesh, and one spirit [Note: Ephesians 5:30; 1 Corinthians 6:15; 1 Corinthians 6:17.], with him. And when they are successful in any instances, “they espouse their converts to one husband, that they may present them as a chaste virgin to Christ [Note: 2 Corinthians 11:2. Who that weighs these words, can doubt the propriety of interpreting Isaac’s marriage as emblematical of Christ’s union with the Church?].” To this office they are sworn in the most solemn manner: they are warned, that they shall be called to an account for their discharge of it; that if any through their neglect remain unimpressed with his overtures of mercy, their souls shall be required at the hands of him who neglected them. At the same time they are informed, that if their want of success is not owing to their own negligence, but to the obstinacy of the people to whom they are sent, it shall not be imputed to them; but “they shall receive a recompence according to their own labour [Note: 1 Corinthians 3:8.],” and “be glorious in God’s eyes though Israel be not gathered [Note: Isaiah 49:5 with 1.].”]

2. His servants execute their commission in the very way that Abraham’s servant did—

[They look unto God for his direction and blessing; knowing assuredly, that, though “Paul should plant and Apollos water, God alone can give the increase.” They endeavour to render the leadings of his providence subservient to their great end. They watch carefully for any signs which may appear of God’s intention to render their message effectual; and they are forward to set forth the unsearchable riches of Christ, together with his suitableness and sufficiency for his church’s happiness. They declare that He is “appointed heir of all things;” and that out of His fulness all the wants of his people shall be abundantly supplied. They exhibit in their own persons somewhat of that “salvation wherewith he will beautify the meek;” and to every soul that expresses a willingness to be united to him, they are desirous to impart pledges and earnests of his future love. And if in any instance God blesses their endeavours, they labour to accelerate that perfect union which is the consummation of all their wishes. To any thing that would divert their attention or retard their progress, they say, “Hinder me not, seeing the Lord hath prospered my way [Note: 6.].”]

3. Their labours are crowned with similar success—

[No faithful servant labours altogether in vain [Note: Jeremiah 23:22.]. Some doubtless are far more successful than others; but all who endeavour earnestly to “win souls to Christ,” have the happiness of seeing some who obey the call, and cheerfully “forsake all to follow him.” These are to them now their richest recompence; and in the last day will also be “their joy and crown of rejoicing:” for “when the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready,” then shall they also be “called to the marriage supper of the Lamb,” and be eternally blessed in his presence. “These are the true sayings of God [Note: Revelation 19:7-9.].”]

To make a suitable improvement of this history,

1. Let us have respect to God in all our temporal concerns—

[We have seen how simply and entirely God was regarded by all the parties concerned in this affair; by Abraham who gave the commission, by Isaac who acquiesced in it, by the servant who executed it, by Rebekah’s friends who submitted to the proposal as proceeding from God, and by Rebekah herself, who willingly accompanied the servant to his master’s house. Happy would it be if all masters, children, servants, families, were actuated by such a spirit! We need not limit our thoughts to the idea of marriage; for we are told that “in all our ways we should acknowledge God, and that he will direct our paths.” There is not a concern, whether personal or domestic, which we ought not to commit to him. And if all our “works were begun, continued, and ended in him,” we should find that God would “prosper the work of our hands upon us:” “being in his way, he would most assuredly lead us” to a happy and successful issue [Note: 7.].]

2. Let us execute with fidelity every trust reposed in us—

[It is the privilege both of masters and servants to know, that “they have a Master in heaven;” who accepts at their hands the most common offices of life, provided his authority is acknowledged, his honour consulted, and his will obeyed, in the execution of them. This is God’s own direction to them: “Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; not with eye-service, as men-pleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; with good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men: knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free. And, ye masters, do the same things unto them [Note: Ephesians 6:5-9.].” Whatever be our particular calling, it is that to which God himself has called us, and which ought to be exercised with a view to him, and as in his immediate sight. O that when we come into the presence of our Lord in the last day, we may be able to give as good an account of ourselves to him, as this servant did to his master Abraham!]

3. Let us accept the offers which are sent to us in Jesus’ name—

[The great concern typified in the history before us, is that in which we are this moment engaged. We are the servants of the most high God; and you are the people to whom we are sent. We are ambassadors from him; and we beseech you, in Christ’s stead, to be reconciled to him, and to accept his overtures of love and mercy. We declare to you, that now he will adorn you with a robe of righteousness and the graces of his Spirit, which were but faintly shadowed forth by the raiment and the jewels that were given to Rebekah [Note: 3.]. You shall be “all glorious within, and your raiment of wrought gold [Note: Psalms 45:13.].” O let us not go away ashamed: let us not return and say, that those whom we have solicited, “refuse to come with us.” This is the message which he has sent to every one of you: “Hearken, O daughter, and consider, and incline thine ear; forget also thine own people and thy father’s house; so shall the King have pleasure in thy beauty [Note: Psalms 45:10-11.].” May God of his mercy incline you to accept his invitation, and make you willing in the day of his power!]

 


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Bibliography Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Genesis 24:4". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/shh/genesis-24.html. 1832.

Lectionary Calendar
Friday, November 22nd, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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