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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible
Genesis 24

 

 

Introduction

CHAP. XXIV.

Abraham sends his eldest servant to his relations, to take a wife for his son Isaac. Rebekah meets the servant, who is hospitably entertained by Laban. She is delivered to him, and he returns with her, with all speed, to Isaac.

Before Christ 1856.


Verse 1

Genesis 24:1. And Abraham was old, &c.— A hundred and forty. Compare ch. Genesis 21:5 with Genesis 25:20.


Verse 2

Genesis 24:2. His eldest servant It is generally believed that this was Eliezer, mentioned in ch. Genesis 15:2. And as the Hebrew word זקן zaken, rendered eldest, signifies a governor, intendant, or steward of a family, (Genesis 50:7. Numbers 11:16; Numbers 11:35.) many interpreters render it, And Abraham said to one of his servants, who was the steward or governor of his house.

Put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh This is the first time we meet with this manner of taking an oath in sacred Scripture, though we find it afterwards used by Jacob and Joseph. Some judicious writers have been led to believe, that this mode of swearing contained a mystery, and referred to the oath made to Abraham concerning the Messiah, who was to spring from him. While others are of opinion, that this oath was relative to the covenant of circumcision, all the privileges of which they engaged to renounce who forfeited an oath taken in this manner. But they, who assert that this practice was common in the East, and more ancient than circumcision, conceive, that it was only a sign of submission, implying, that he who used this rite acknowledged he was in the power of the other, and would be at his mercy if he kept not his oath. Grotius refers it to the custom of wearing the sword upon the thigh, Psalms 45:3 upon which the person who swore, put his hand, according to this judicious critic, with some such form of words, as, "If I falsify my oath, put me to the sword." Servants were wont thus to acknowledge their obedience, and this custom is to this day observed among some Indians. It is as much as to say, thou art subjected to me, thou art my servant.


Verse 3

Genesis 24:3. That thou shalt not take a wife, &c.— Abraham apprehending probably his own death, and being anxious about his son Isaac, resolved to intrust the great charge of his matrimonial alliance to this faithful and long-approved servant, whom we are not to consider in a low light, but as the first and principal person under so great a man as Abraham. And certified of Isaac's consequence, as being the appointed father of the promised Seed, he was solicitous that he should not enter into any union with the devoted race of Canaan, but with some proper person of his own kindred and family.


Verse 7

Genesis 24:7. He shall find his angel, &c.— Desirous of understanding clearly the intention of Abraham, and consequently of fulfilling his oath, Eliezer inquires, Genesis 24:5 whether, if the proper woman would not come to Isaac in the land of Canaan, he should be obliged to go a second time, and take Isaac with him to her in the land of Mesopotamia, whence Abraham came? This Abraham absolutely forbids, and, assured of God's favour, declares to him, that he had no doubt but that the Providence of God, by the ministry of his angel, would bring the matter to a happy effect. It was a received opinion among the Orientals, that God did all things by the ministry of angels; and that not only in corporeal things, but in such as concerned the mind. And when we consider how often angels had ministered visibly to Abraham, and even the Angel of the Covenant himself, it is not to be admired that he was of this opinion. The expression shall send before, is a metaphor taken from pioneers, and such as are sent before armies, when upon a march, to prepare the way, or provide the necessary accommodations. So John was sent before Christ, to prepare the way. See Isaiah 40:3. Malachi 3:1. Matthew 3:3.

REFLECTIONS.—As Sarah's death concurred with Abraham's age, in reminding him how few were his days to come; he is desirous as a good father, to see Isaac well settled before he dies. Two things he was solicitous to prevent; his marriage with a daughter of Canaan, and his return to his own country to seek a wife. Note; 1. Every godly man or woman should well weigh Abraham's caution. An unconverted partner is a most dangerous and deadly snare. 2. Parents, as they have a right to recommend what appears best to their children, should, above all things, consult their soul's good. In consequence of these views we have,

1. His solemn charge given to his steward, confirmed by an oath to act herein according to his intentions. He is to go and seek a wife from Abraham's kindred, and is solemnly enjoined by no means to suffer Isaac to go thither himself. The steward, according to his known fidelity and affection, consents readily to be employed, and takes the oath, with one condition, that if the woman should not be willing to come, he should he free. Note; An oath is a solemn thing, and cannot be taken with too much wariness and consideration.

2. The encouragement Abraham gives him. Past experience assured him of present success: as he knew he was in the way of duty, he doubted not but success would attend him. Note; It is good to remember the past mercies we have received, to encourage us in present dependance on the same care and kindness of our God.


Verse 10

Genesis 24:10. Servant took ten camels, &c.— Abraham dismissed his servant with a train suitable to the commission wherewith he was charged; loading his camels with proper presents for the dowry of the intended spouse of Isaac; it being the custom in those days for the husband to pay, not to receive, a dowry for the wife. Moses passed over the journey, and only informs us, that when Eliezer was arrived at the city of Nahor, he caused his camels to kneel down, that is, to rest, near a well of water, where the young women of the city used to come, according to the primitive simplicity of those times; and where he piously requested from that God, under whose immediate protection his master was, that he would condescend to point out the woman destined for Isaac. The conduct of this servant appears full of faith; and yet, at the same time, no less rational than pious. By supplicating for a sign, he acknowledges God to be the great Superintendant and Director of the Universe, and of that event, in particular, which so nearly concerned the holy patriarch: and at the same time by asking a natural sign, such as betokened humanity, condescension, and other qualifications which promised a discreet, virtuous wife, he puts his prayer upon such a rational footing, as to be a proper example for all to imitate, who would not tempt the Providence of God, by expecting extraordinary signs to be given them for the determination of cases, which they are capable of determining by a proper use of their rational faculties.

REFLECTIONS.—How great a blessing is a trusty servant. We have here,

1. His expeditious journey, and safe arrival in Mesopotamia, where Nahor had dwelt. It is mentioned to his honour; for that servant who makes conscience of his duty, will find favour with him who is no respecter of persons.

2. His earnest address to God, for a blessing and direction in this important business. Note; Where servants learn to pray and fear God, the business of that family will prosper. He begs he may have good success that day. Note; Those who begin the day with prayer, may hope to end it with praise. The particular mercy he seeks, is a suitable partner for his master's son; and he mentions those best qualifications, humility of temper, and industry in her station; begging that God would by these signs point out the person at the well where, his camels rested. Note; (1.) In difficult cases (yea, in all cases) it is wisest to begin with prayer for direction. (2.) It is a great mark of spiritual prudence, to look for and follow the leadings of God's Providence. (3.) Those who are found most industrious and gentle in the house of their father, will prove most amiable and useful in the house of their husband.


Verse 15

Genesis 24:15. It came to pass, &c.— Before he had done speaking, before he had mentally uttered this prayer, see Genesis 24:45. God, whose ears are ever open to the petitions of those who trust in him, prevented, as it were, his desires: and Rebekah, with her pitcher on her shoulder, appeared. What an image of the simplicity of the first ages! Indeed in that view nothing can be more pleasing than this whole transaction. Hesiod and Homer, representing the simplicity of the early ages, have passages very similar to, and, perhaps, borrowed from this. See Odyss. vii. 20. xx. 105. Nothing can be more amiable, than the colours in which the sacred historian paints the lovely, benevolent Rebekah.


Verse 21

Genesis 24:21. To wit whether, &c.— This verse must be supposed to refer to the whole action, and expresses, that as soon as Rebekah began to employ herself on his account, Eliezer stood the meanwhile wrapt in wonder and silent attention, to note whether the sign, which he had requested of the Lord, would be fulfilled in her, and whether consequently his journey would be prosperous. The words finely express the situation of a man, who, with astonishment and surprise, considers in silence the objects which strike him.


Verse 22

Genesis 24:22. A golden ear-ring A jewel for the forehead, says the margin of our bibles, and in Genesis 24:47 it is said to have been put upon her face, or nose. That this was not a jewel for the ears seems probable, as it is in the singular only: but in what manner it was worn on the forehead or nose is doubtful. See Isaiah 3:21. (where the prophet speaks of the women's nose-jewels,) also Proverbs 11:22. Thevenot mentions it in his travels, as a custom still prevailing in the East, for women to put jewels in their noses, which they bore with a needle. According to Prideaux's calculation, this jewel and the bracelets were worth about twenty-five pounds of our money.


Verse 28

Genesis 24:28. Her mother's house It seems very probable from this expression, that Bethuel the father was dead, and that the Bethuel mentioned after Laban, Genesis 24:50 was a younger brother of Rebekah's. In Genesis 24:53 no mention is made of the father.

REFLECTIONS.—No sooner had Eliezer spoken in his heart, than God answers; so ready is he to hear our prayers. The maid comes, fills her pitcher, and is returning; but on his accosting her, she readily assists him to water his camels. In these days the qualifications of the fair were humility, courtesy, and diligence: let the degenerate daughters of pride, luxury, and laziness, blush at the comparison. Thus providences remarkably concurred, and on inquiry he finds her a relation of his master, and is invited to the house. Happy they whom God thus brings together, not from the riotous assembly, or the market of public places, but by providential disposition, in answer to fervent prayer. Two things hereupon he does: 1. He makes her a handsome present for her kind assistance. 2. He blesses God for the mercy so graciously shewn him. Prayer and praise are like sound and echo. They who pray shall praise: and no earthly blessing is more matter of praise, than finding such a partner, who, to the amiableness of her person and manners, adds the crowning beauty of religion. This was a fresh mercy to Abraham; and Eliezer, like a good servant, makes his master's interests his own, and rejoices in God for his sake, that he had found a suitable wife for his son.


Verse 31

Genesis 24:31. Thou blessed of the Lord of Jehovah, in the Hebrew. Hence, it clearly appears, that the knowledge of Jehovah was not confined to Abraham and his immediate family. No appellation could be more beautiful or honourable than this; thou blessed of the Lord! for what can express more esteem than to call a man the favourite of God; or what more love, than to wish him the friendship of the Almighty?


Verse 32-33

Genesis 24:32-33. He ungirded, &c.— We have here a fine picture of the simplicity and open-hearted hospitality of those times. We have similar passages in Homer, who, perhaps, borrowed his ideas on the subject from this sacred history. See Homer's Sixth Iliad in Pope, ver. 214. and Odyssey, iii. 69. and iv. 60, &c. in the original.


Verse 40

Genesis 24:40. The Lord, before whom I walk, &c.— See ch. Genesis 17:1. The ancient manner is observable in this speech of Eliezer. In Homer the messages, &c. are always thus repeated.


Verse 48

Genesis 24:48. My master's brother's daughter means the grand-daughter of Nahor: grand-daughters are often so called.


Verse 49

Genesis 24:49. If ye will deal kindly and truly If you are indeed inclined to oblige my master: if you will freely and honestly give him the virgin. These expressions are often used in Scripture, and are spoken of God towards men, as Genesis 24:27 ch. Genesis 32:10. 2 Samuel 2:6, &c. &c. and of men towards each other, Genesis 47:29. Joshua 2:14. Proverbs 3:3. Eliezer adds, if not, tell me, that I may turn to the right hand, or to the left; a proverbial expression, equivalent to, that I may take some other course: Numbers 20:17; Numbers 22:26. Deuteronomy 2:27. The metaphor, Le Clerc observes, seems borrowed from travellers, who, when they come to a place where two ways meet, turn to the right or left, according as their course directs them.


Verse 50

Genesis 24:50. Speak unto thee bad or good We cannot contradict thee in any thing respecting this matter. It is a Hebrew phrase.

REFLECTIONS.—1. In consequence of what had passed at the well, Laban, Rebekah's brother, comes and gives Eliezer the kindest reception. From Laban's character, given in the subsequent chapters, it is to be feared that the bracelets paved the way; for a man's gift maketh room for him, Proverbs 18:16. The cattle are first put up and fed. Note; On a journey remember your beast before you eat yourself. And then the board is spread to entertain the stranger. But, before he eats, he opens his commission at large; whose servant he was; the design of his coming; the riches of his matter; the settlement of all upon his son; his care to have him marry among his own kindred, and not among the daughters of Canaan; his prayer; the providential answer to it in the meeting of Rebekah; then begs them to consider and determine concerning the issue of his journey. I know not whether most to admire the ingenuousness of the representation of his master's affairs, or the fidelity which made him prefer his master's business to his own refreshment: both admirable, and worthy of imitation. Note; In religious courtship, plain-dealing is the best wooing.

2. We have the brothers' consent to the proposal. They saw God's hand in the affair; and therefore as Abraham's fortune made it advantageous, God's Providence also bespoke their compliance.

3. Here is the behaviour of Eliezer on the occasion. He thanked God for the speedy answer he had received. Note; As we go on receiving, we should go on adoring. We shall, with all our praise to God, be left far behind. And to confirm the match, as well as evidence his master's opulence, he makes noble presents to the intended bride, as also to her mother and brothers. Note; The bride, the Lamb's wife, must be brought to him, not in the ornaments with which nature hath endowed her, but in the jewels with which he himself hath decked her.


Verse 59

Genesis 24:59. Her nurse Whose name (we learn, ch. Genesis 35:8.) was Deborah. She was the principal female attendant upon Rebekah, but not the only one, see Genesis 24:61 as Eliezer was the principal, but not the only servant from Abraham; Abraham's servant and his men. Nurses, in ancient times, were generally the attendants upon young ladies, and frequently their great favourites. This Deborah, as she is mentioned again, was most probably a woman of much worth and esteem in the family.


Verse 60

Genesis 24:60. They blessed Rebekah They, i.e.. her mother, brethren, and all the rest of her family and kindred, by way of tender adieu, pray God to bless her with a numerous and a glorious posterity, which was the highest blessing in the matrimonial way they could wish. Mr. Selden observes, that the Jews used this, even before the law, as a form of solemn benediction, when the spouse was carried home to her husband, be thou the mother, &c. "Be fruitful in children, and be those children prosperous and honourable."

REFLECTIONS.—A good servant never loiters. Instead of staying to spend the days in mirth and feasting, no sooner is his business done, than he is in haste to be gone. What an example is he for servants! But,

1. Natural affection pleads for a little respite. Though they know it is good for Rebekah, they are loth to part with her. Note; There is no joy pure without alloy in this world, except that which proceeds from the enjoyment of God. However, as he presses to be gone, Rebekah is called and asked.

2. She consents to go. She had, no doubt, from the piety of the servant, conceived a high esteem for the family, and therefore the more readily yields. Note; Though parents have a right of advising, they have none of constraining. Marriage must be of choice, not force.

3. On this they give her their blessing, take care that she is suitably attended, and send her away. Note; New relations need our prayers for God's blessing upon them.


Verse 62

Genesis 24:62. Isaac came from the way, &c.— It appears from this passage, compared with the next chapter, Genesis 24:11 that Isaac at this time dwelt at Lahai-roi: so that he had now come thence to visit his father at Beer-sheba, and wait for his bride. It is a beautiful attitude, in which the sacred writer draws Isaac, walking out to meditate in the field at even-tide. A good man, in his evening-walk, it has been observed, makes a distinguished figure in the eyes of superior beings. And the example is worthy imitation; for though it is not good for man to be always alone, yet assuredly it is not fit he should be always in company: he ought frequently to step aside from the busy scenes of life, and retire within himself. Such solitude, to use Milton's words, is often best society, and short retirement urges sweet return.


Verse 65

Genesis 24:65. Therefore she took a vail, &c.— This was done either in conformity to the general custom in ancient times, or it may refer to the particular custom of the nuptial veil, worn by the bride when she was first introduced to her husband. This was also a fashion among the Heathens; and Tertullian very reasonably infers, from this passage, that it was of great antiquity. It is remarkable, that of the ancients the Spartans alone suffered their virgins to appear without veils in public; but when married, they were never suffered to appear without them.


Verse 67

Genesis 24:67. Brought her into his mother's tent—and was comforted The tent, which Sarah had formerly occupied, was put into Rebekah's possession: whose beauty, modesty, and virtue alleviated Isaac's grief for the loss of an affectionately beloved mother, whom he had now continued to lament three years. Such was the pious regard Isaac had for his mother; such is the amiable example he sets before us, of duteous behaviour to parents! The heart, truly sensible of parental, will assuredly enjoy the comfort of conjugal, love.

REFLECTIONS.—Isaac inherited not more his father's promises than his piety. We have him here,

1. Employed in meditation: improving an evening's walk in the blessed work of communion with God. Wise are they who can make even their recreations means of drawing them nearer the Lord. Note; (1.) Retirement is most needful for the soul. (2.) When we are in the field, we should imitate the patriarch, where every object around us may serve to awaken serious thoughts of God. (3.) None ever will feel the want of company, who have learned the art of converse with a better world.

2. We have his meeting of Rebekah. When we go to meet God, mercies come to meet us. He saw her at a distance; and when she knew him, she put on her veil, and alighted to meet him. Modesty is woman's best ornament.

3. His marriage, and putting her in possession of Sarah's tent. For three years he had mourned over his loss of so dear a mother; and now he is comforted in a gracious wife, and his affection knit to her, as a loving husband. Happy the pair, where mutual love makes marriage real union.

 


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Bibliography Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Genesis 24:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/genesis-24.html. 1801-1803.

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Sunday, September 22nd, 2019
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25
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