Genesis 24. An Arranged Marriage. A Prepared Servant.
Key Notes: Rebekah at the well--one strong woman. A marriage arranged by God. The servant is a picture of Christ. Your assignment?
This is a beautiful story of an annonymous servant acting on behalf of his master and the community to do a delicate task, finding a wife for his master's son. He had to travel hundreds of miles. He had no way of checking his decision, or the decision of the family he would approach. He was a paragon of virtue,wisdom and spiritual sensitivity and he was under God's guidance.
24:1 Abraham was old, settled, and blessed but he had a new responsibility, to find a wife for his son Isaac.
24:2–9 He made his steward and house manager swear by the God of Heaven and earth to bring back a wife from Nahor in Mesopotamia, where his family lived. (Was the servant Eliezer of Damascus? Gen.15:2). If she would not come, the oath was canceled. But God would send His angel ahead. Under no circumstances was Isaac to go back himself. Abraham may have feared that Isaac would be ensnared by a pagan society.
24:10 The servant loaded ten camels with provisions and gifts ( a huge bounty) and went to Nahor.
24:11 At evening (weeks later) the camels were kneeling by a well and the servant prayed, setting conditions before God that would enable him to recognize the right woman.
24:15 Before he was finished praying, his criteria were met. Rebekah appeared--a beautiful young virgin--with her water jar on her shoulder and gave him a drink and offered to water the camels. This was no small favor. The camels require ten gallons apiece. If the well was like the archaeological site at Gibeon, one must walk down 20–30 steps to reach the water. It would take 100 gallons, carrying ~5 gal.(40 lb.) at a time, twenty trips up and down the 30 feet to the well to water ten camels. [One on-line reference suggests a total of 400 gallons!]
24:21 The servant (and his men) watched her work in silent wonder, probably for more than an hour.
24:22–25 When she was done, he presented her with a gold ring and bracelets and asked who she was and whether he could find lodging for the night.
24:26–27 When Rebekah gave good answers, the servant thanked God for leading him to the right place. "...the Lord has led me to the house of my master's kinsmen."
24:28–33 Rebekah ran home with the news and Laban returned to greet the servant and welcome him to their house.
24:34–49 Before he would eat, he had to tell them he was Abraham’s servant and explain his errand. He repeated the story in detail. He described prayer as “speaking in my heart”. At the end, he asked their response.
24:50–51 Laban, her brother, and Bethuel, her father, felt that God was in the affair and consented to let Rebekah go.
24:52–53 Once again the servant prayed. Then he gave jewelry and garments to Rebekah, Laban and Milcah. Finally he was ready to eat and sleep.
24:54–56 Although he was not a young man, and had traveled for weeks, he was ready to leave the next morning. The family begged for ten days, but the servant was insistent.
24:57–58 They asked Rebekah and she said she would go as the servant requested.
24:59–61 They sent her off with her nurse, a personal servant, and a blessing similar to the one God had given Abraham. Gen.22:17
24:62–63 Isaac was in the field meditating in the evening when the caravan came into view.
24:64–66 When Rebekah was told that Isaac was walking toward them, she veiled herself and was escorted by Isaac into his tent quarters. That was the marriage.
24:67 It was a love-match.
This was an arranged marriage and typical of the time. Arranged marriages are still the rule in China, India, Africa and many Moslem countries, almost half of the world's people. There is no evidence that such marriages are any less satisfactory than those of the romantic West and the divorce is far less frequent because of the support of the families.
It was also an arranged marriage in the spiritual sense. The question has been asked whether all marriages are made in Heaven. This one plainly was. The general answer is probably yes but there are conspicuous exceptions.
Ahab married Jezebel, and married his son Jehoram to their daughter, Athaliah, with frightful consequences. Other examples may be found.
Laban noted the gold. A grasping streak will be evident in the next generation.
This is the story of a perfect servant. He was:
* self-effacing; we do not know his name.
*devout; three times he prayed during this trip.
*devoted to his master, Abraham.
*disciplined; he would not eat until his errand was complete.
*socially adept and diplomatic dealing with an unknown woman, and her family.
*prudent, prepared; gifted with the materials of a dowry.
*effective. Everything worked out perfectly.
In all of these ways he is a picture of Christ. Christ was:
*self-effacing; He used the name" Son of Man", an ambiguous title.
*devout; He prayed to God all night. Lk6:12
*devoted to the Father; "I seek not My own will but the will of Him who sent Me." (Jn.5:30)
*disciplined; eating was less important than ministry. Jn.4:34
*socially skilled; His interaction with strangers is a study. (Jn.3,4,9)
*prudent, prepared, marvelously gifted.
*effective; He carried out his mission (Jn.17) perfectly.
Can we think of ourselves similarly as God's servants? Why are we not doing great things as the servant did—winning a wife for his master (winning people to Christ)? We must remember that the servant spent most of his life doing mundane chores (inventories, personnel problems, arranging food, negotiating with traders, checking on live-stock, conferring with his master) and this was one climactic experience. "Ninety percent of even great lives are spent in banalities."
But such climactic experience is also for us when we are called upon to arrange a meeting between one whom the Father is drawing to Himself and the Lord Jesus. Have you ever been aware of being on such an errand for God? Angels sent before you? If you are called, will you be ready? Meanwhile you do the ordinary work in the Kingdom--prayer and meditation, Bible study and teaching, charity and witness.