Genesis: Isaac and Rebekah

Genesis 24:1-67

Abraham is now advanced in age, and wants for his son Isaac to find a wife. He calls on his eldest of servants to find a suitable bride for Isaac, and stresses the importance of keeping the bride in the family. Abraham says to his servant:

 “Put your hand under my thigh. I want you to swear to the Lord, the God of heaven and the God of Earth, that you will not get a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I am living, but will go to my country and my own relatives and get a wife for my son Isaac.”

The servant asks his master what he should do if he is unable to find a women willing to marry Isaac. Should he bring Isaac back to the land Abraham came from? Abraham tells him not to do this. Abraham tells him that if he is unable to find a women willing to come marry Isaac then the servant is free from his oath, and that under no circumstance should his son return to the land Abraham came from. Abraham says that God had promised the land of Canaan to his descendants, and so his son must stay. The servant then places his hands behind his master’s thighs and swore an oath to him. After this homoerotic scene, the servant set out with ten of his master’s camels to Aram Naharaim, Northwest Mesopotamia, and to the town of Nahor. The servant also brought with him many of his master’s good things for gifts. When the servant had reached the town of Nahor, he had his camels kneel at a well outside of town. It was at this time of the day that the women of a town would come to fetch water. The servant then preyed to the Lord and asks the Lord to grant him success. He then asks the Lord to give him a sign to prove which of the girls that come to the well is the right one for Isaac. The servant tells the Lord what must occur for him to know the Lord has shown him the right girl. The condition was as follows: When the servant asks the girl if he may drink from the jar she has just filled, she will allow it and she will then fetch water for his camels too. Before he finishes his prayer, Rebekah comes out to fetch water from the well. Rebekah is the daughter of Bethuel the son of Milcah. The text describes her as beautiful  and, of course, a virgin. The servant goes to her and asks her for some water, of course she obliges and offers to bring water to his camels. After the camels drank the water, the servant pulled out a gold nose ring and bracelets. He then asks who her father is, and if he could stay the night. When she tells the servant who her father is, he bows down and worships the Lord. After this, Rebekah runs into the house to tell her mother want had just happened, and then her brother Laban comes out to speak with the servant. He then asks the servant to join them inside and they bring him food. The servant then goes on to repeat, almost verbatim, the last fifteen paragraphs. After hearing this, the brother tells the servant that he approves of Rebekah going with him to marry Abraham’s son. The servant then gives the family the gifts he had brought with him.

The next morning, the servant asks Laban to let him leave with Rebekah. Laban tells the servant that he thinks Rebekah should remain with the family for ten more days before leaving. The servant pleads with her brother to allow them to leave. The family decides that they will let Rebekah decided if she is ready to go, and she chooses to leave with the servant. The family then blesses her with this militant passage:

“Our sister, may you increase
         to thousands upon thousands;
    may your offspring possess
        the gates of their enemies.”
Rebekah and her maids then mounted their camels and left with the servant of Abraham.

Isaac was out in the field meditating when he saw the camels of his father’s servant and his future bride approach. Rebekah asks the servant who the man in the field was, and the servant told her that he will be her husband, so she quickly pulls her veil to hide her face. The servant then tells Isaac what he had done, and in the tent of his deceased mother, Sarah, Isaac marries his second-cousin, Rebekah.

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