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a Bible passage
Isaac and Rebekah
1Now Abraham was old, well advanced in years. And the Lord had blessed Abraham in all things. 2And Abraham said to his servant, the oldest of his household, who had charge of all that he had, “Put your hand under my thigh, 3that I may make you swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and God of the earth, that you will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell, 4but will go to my country and to my kindred, and take a wife for my son Isaac.” 5The servant said to him, “Perhaps the woman may not be willing to follow me to this land. Must I then take your son back to the land from which you came?” 6Abraham said to him, “See to it that you do not take my son back there. 7The Lord, the God of heaven, who took me from my father's house and from the land of my kindred, and who spoke to me and swore to me, ‘To your offspring I will give this land,’ he will send his angel before you, and you shall take a wife for my son from there. 8But if the woman is not willing to follow you, then you will be free from this oath of mine; only you must not take my son back there.” 9So the servant put his hand under the thigh of Abraham his master and swore to him concerning this matter.
10Then the servant took ten of his master's camels and departed, taking all sorts of choice gifts from his master; and he arose and went to Mesopotamia11Hebrew Aram-naharaim to the city of Nahor. 11And he made the camels kneel down outside the city by the well of water at the time of evening, the time when women go out to draw water. 12And he said, “O Lord, God of my master Abraham, please grant me success today and show steadfast love to my master Abraham. 13Behold, I am standing by the spring of water, and the daughters of the men of the city are coming out to draw water. 14Let the young woman to whom I shall say, ‘Please let down your jar that I may drink,’ and who shall say, ‘Drink, and I will water your camels’—let her be the one whom you have appointed for your servant Isaac. By this22Or By her I shall know that you have shown steadfast love to my master.”
15Before he had finished speaking, behold, Rebekah, who was born to Bethuel the son of Milcah, the wife of Nahor, Abraham's brother, came out with her water jar on her shoulder. 16The young woman was very attractive in appearance, a maiden33Or a woman of marriageable age whom no man had known. She went down to the spring and filled her jar and came up. 17Then the servant ran to meet her and said, “Please give me a little water to drink from your jar.” 18She said, “Drink, my lord.” And she quickly let down her jar upon her hand and gave him a drink. 19When she had finished giving him a drink, she said, “I will draw water for your camels also, until they have finished drinking.” 20So she quickly emptied her jar into the trough and ran again to the well to draw water, and she drew for all his camels. 21The man gazed at her in silence to learn whether the Lord had prospered his journey or not.
22When the camels had finished drinking, the man took a gold ring weighing a half shekel,44A shekel was about 2/5 ounce or 11 grams and two bracelets for her arms weighing ten gold shekels, 23and said, “Please tell me whose daughter you are. Is there room in your father's house for us to spend the night?” 24She said to him, “I am the daughter of Bethuel the son of Milcah, whom she bore to Nahor.” 25She added, “We have plenty of both straw and fodder, and room to spend the night.” 26The man bowed his head and worshiped the Lord 27and said, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who has not forsaken his steadfast love and his faithfulness toward my master. As for me, the Lord has led me in the way to the house of my master's kinsmen.” 28Then the young woman ran and told her mother's household about these things.
29Rebekah had a brother whose name was Laban. Laban ran out toward the man, to the spring. 30As soon as he saw the ring and the bracelets on his sister's arms, and heard the words of Rebekah his sister, “Thus the man spoke to me,” he went to the man. And behold, he was standing by the camels at the spring. 31He said, “Come in, O blessed of the Lord. Why do you stand outside? For I have prepared the house and a place for the camels.” 32So the man came to the house and unharnessed the camels, and gave straw and fodder to the camels, and there was water to wash his feet and the feet of the men who were with him. 33Then food was set before him to eat. But he said, “I will not eat until I have said what I have to say.” He said, “Speak on.”
34So he said, “I am Abraham's servant. 35The Lord has greatly blessed my master, and he has become great. He has given him flocks and herds, silver and gold, male servants and female servants, camels and donkeys. 36And Sarah my master's wife bore a son to my master when she was old, and to him he has given all that he has. 37My master made me swear, saying, ‘You shall not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, in whose land I dwell, 38but you shall go to my father's house and to my clan and take a wife for my son.’ 39I said to my master, ‘Perhaps the woman will not follow me.’ 40But he said to me, ‘The Lord, before whom I have walked, will send his angel with you and prosper your way. You shall take a wife for my son from my clan and from my father's house. 41Then you will be free from my oath, when you come to my clan. And if they will not give her to you, you will be free from my oath.’
42“I came today to the spring and said, ‘O Lord, the God of my master Abraham, if now you are prospering the way that I go, 43behold, I am standing by the spring of water. Let the virgin who comes out to draw water, to whom I shall say, “Please give me a little water from your jar to drink,” 44and who will say to me, “Drink, and I will draw for your camels also,” let her be the woman whom the Lord has appointed for my master's son.’
45“Before I had finished speaking in my heart, behold, Rebekah came out with her water jar on her shoulder, and she went down to the spring and drew water. I said to her, ‘Please let me drink.’ 46She quickly let down her jar from her shoulder and said, ‘Drink, and I will give your camels drink also.’ So I drank, and she gave the camels drink also. 47Then I asked her, ‘Whose daughter are you?’ She said, ‘The daughter of Bethuel, Nahor's son, whom Milcah bore to him.’ So I put the ring on her nose and the bracelets on her arms. 48Then I bowed my head and worshiped the Lord and blessed the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who had led me by the right way55Or faithfully to take the daughter of my master's kinsman for his son. 49Now then, if you are going to show steadfast love and faithfulness to my master, tell me; and if not, tell me, that I may turn to the right hand or to the left.”
50Then Laban and Bethuel answered and said, “The thing has come from the Lord; we cannot speak to you bad or good. 51Behold, Rebekah is before you; take her and go, and let her be the wife of your master's son, as the Lord has spoken.”
52When Abraham's servant heard their words, he bowed himself to the earth before the Lord. 53And the servant brought out jewelry of silver and of gold, and garments, and gave them to Rebekah. He also gave to her brother and to her mother costly ornaments. 54And he and the men who were with him ate and drank, and they spent the night there. When they arose in the morning, he said, “Send me away to my master.” 55Her brother and her mother said, “Let the young woman remain with us a while, at least ten days; after that she may go.” 56But he said to them, “Do not delay me, since the Lord has prospered my way. Send me away that I may go to my master.” 57They said, “Let us call the young woman and ask her.” 58And they called Rebekah and said to her, “Will you go with this man?” She said, “I will go.” 59So they sent away Rebekah their sister and her nurse, and Abraham's servant and his men. 60And they blessed Rebekah and said to her,
61Then Rebekah and her young women arose and rode on the camels and followed the man. Thus the servant took Rebekah and went his way.
62Now Isaac had returned from Beer-lahai-roi and was dwelling in the Negeb. 63And Isaac went out to meditate in the field toward evening. And he lifted up his eyes and saw, and behold, there were camels coming. 64And Rebekah lifted up her eyes, and when she saw Isaac, she dismounted from the camel 65and said to the servant, “Who is that man, walking in the field to meet us?” The servant said, “It is my master.” So she took her veil and covered herself. 66And the servant told Isaac all the things that he had done. 67Then Isaac brought her into the tent of Sarah his mother and took Rebekah, and she became his wife, and he loved her. So Isaac was comforted after his mother's death.
Abraham's Charges to His Servant. (b. c. 1857.)
1 And Abraham was old, and well stricken in age: and the Lord had blessed Abraham in all things. 2 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: 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: 4 But thou shalt go unto my country, and to my kindred, and take a wife unto my son Isaac. 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? 6 And Abraham said unto him, Beware thou that thou bring not my son thither again. 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. 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. 9 And the servant put his hand under the thigh of Abraham his master, and sware to him concerning that matter.
Three things we may observe here concerning Abraham:—
I. The care he took of a good son, to get him married, well married. It was high time to think of it now, for Isaac was about forty years old, and it had been customary with his ancestors to marry at thirty, or sooner, ch. xi. 14, 18, 22, 24. Abraham believed the promise of the building up of his family, and therefore did not make haste; not more haste than good speed. Two considerations moved him to think of it now (v. 1):—1. That he himself was likely to leave the world quickly, for he was old, and well-stricken in age, and it would be a satisfaction to him to see his son settled before he died; and, 2. That he 145 had a good estate to leave behind him, for the Lord had blessed him in all things; and the blessing of the Lord makes rich. See how much religion and piety befriend outward prosperity. Now Abraham's pious care concerning his son was, (1.) That he should not marry a daughter of Canaan, but one of his kindred. He saw that the Canaanites were degenerating into great wickedness, and knew by revelation that they were designed for ruin, and therefore he would not marry his son among them, lest they should be either a snare to his soul, or at least a blot to his name. (2.) That yet he should not leave the land of Canaan, to go himself among his kindred, not even for the purpose of choosing a wife, lest he should be tempted to settle there. This caution is given v. 6, and repeated, v. 8. "Bring not my son thither again, whatever comes of it. Let him rather want a wife than expose himself to that temptation." Note, Parents in disposing of their children, should carefully consult the welfare of their souls, and their furtherance in the way to heaven. Those who through grace have escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust, and have brought up their children accordingly, should take heed of doing any thing by which they may be again entangled therein and overcome, 2 Pet. ii. 20. Beware that you bring them not thither again, Heb. xi. 15.
II. The charge he gave to a good servant, probably Eliezer of Damascus, one of whose conduct, fidelity, and affection to him and his family, he had had long experience. He trusted him with this great affair, and not Isaac himself, because he would not have Isaac go at all into that country, but marry there by proxy; and no proxy so fit as this steward of his house. This matter is settled between the master and the servant with a great deal of care and solemnity. 1. The servant must be bound by an oath to do his utmost to get a wife for Isaac from among his relations, v. 2-4. Abraham swears him to it, both for his own satisfaction and for the engagement of his servant to all possible care and diligence in this matter. Thus God swears his servants to their work, that, having sworn, they may perform it. Honour is here done to the eternal God; for he it is that is sworn by, to whom alone these appeals ought to be made. And some think honour is done to the covenant of circumcision by the ceremony here used of putting his hand under his thigh. Note, Swearing being an ordinance not peculiar to the church, but common to mankind, is to be performed by such signs as are the appointments and common usages of our country, for binding the person sworn. 2. He must be clear of this oath if, when he had done his utmost, he could not prevail. This proviso the servant prudently inserted (v. 5), putting the case that the woman would not follow him; and Abraham allowed the exception, v. 8. Note, Oaths are to be taken with great caution, and the matter sworn to should be rightly understood and limited, because it is a snare to devour that which is holy, and, after vows, to make the enquiry which should have been made before.
III. The confidence he put in a good God, who, he doubts not, will give his servant success in this undertaking, v. 7. He remembers that God had wonderfully brought him out of the land of his nativity, by the effectual call of his grace; and therefore doubts not but he will succeed him in his care not to bring his son thither again. He remembers also the promise God had made and confirmed to him that he would give Canaan to his seed, and thence infers that God would own him in his endeavours to match his son, not among those devoted nations, but to one that was fit to be the mother of such a seed. "Fear not therefore; he shall send his angel before thee to make thy way prosperous." Note, 1. Those that carefully keep in the way of duty, and govern themselves by the principles of their religion in their designs and undertakings, have good reason to expect prosperity and success in them. God will cause that to issue in our comfort in which we sincerely aim at his glory. 2. God's promises, and our own experiences, are sufficient to encourage our dependence upon God, and our expectations from him, in all the affairs of this life. 3. God's angels are ministering spirits, sent forth, not only for the protection, but for the guidance, of the heirs of promise, Heb. i. 14. "He shall send his angel before thee, and then thou wilt speed well."
Journey of Abraham's Servant. (b. c. 1857.)
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. 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. 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. 13 Behold, I stand here by the well of water; and the daughters of the men of the city come out to draw water: 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 146 Isaac; and thereby shall I know that thou hast showed kindness unto my master. 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. 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. 17 And the servant ran to meet her, and said, Let me, I pray thee, drink a little water of thy pitcher. 18 And she said, Drink, my lord: and she hasted, and let down her pitcher upon her hand, and gave him drink. 19 And when she had done giving him drink, she said, I will draw water for thy camels also, until they have done drinking. 20 And she hasted, and emptied her pitcher into the trough, and ran again unto the well to draw water, and drew for all his camels. 21 And the man wondering at her held his peace, to wit whether the Lord had made his journey prosperous or not. 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; 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? 24 And she said unto him, I am the daughter of Bethuel the son of Milcah, which she bare unto Nahor. 25 She said moreover unto him, We have both straw and provender enough, and room to lodge in. 26 And the man bowed down his head, and worshipped the Lord. 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. 28 And the damsel ran, and told them of her mother's house these things.
Abraham's servant now begins to make a figure in this story; and, though he is not named, yet much is here recorded to his honour, and for an example to all servants, who shall be honoured if, by faithfully serving God and their masters, they adorn the doctrine of Christ (compare Prov. xxvii. 18 with Titus ii. 10); for there is no respect of persons with God, Col. iii. 24, 25. A good servant that makes conscience of the duty of his place, and does it in the fear of God, though he make not a figure in the world nor have praise of men, yet shall be owned and accepted of God and have praise of him. Observe here,
I. How faithful Abraham's servant approved himself to his master. Having received his charge, he with all expedition set out on his journey, with an equipage suitable to the object of his negotiation (v. 10), and he had all the goods of his master, that is, a schedule or particular account of them, in his hand, to show to those with whom he was to treat; for, from first to last, he consulted his master's honour. Isaac being a type of Christ, some make this fetching of a wife for him to signify the espousing of the church by the agency of his servants the ministers. The church is the bride, the Lamb's wife, Rev. xxi. 9. Christ is the bridegroom, and ministers are the friends of the bridegroom (John iii. 29), whose work it is to persuade souls to consent to him, 2 Cor. xi. 2. The spouse of Christ must not be of the Canaanites, but of his own kindred, born again from above. Ministers, like Abraham's servant, must lay out themselves with the utmost wisdom and care to serve their master's interest herein.
II. How devoutly he acknowledged God in this affair, like one of that happy household which Abraham had commanded to keep the way of the Lord, &c., ch. xviii. 19. He arrived early in the evening (after many days' journeying) at the place of his destination, and reposed himself by a well of water, to consider how he might manage his business for the best. And,
1. He acknowledges God by a particular prayer (v. 12-14), wherein, (1.) He petitions for prosperity and good success in this affair: Send me good speed, this day. Note, We have leave to be particular in recommending our affairs to the conduct and care of the divine Providence. Those that would have good speed must pray for it. This day, in this affair; thus we must, in all our ways, acknowledge God, Prov. iii. 6. And, if we thus look up to God in every undertaking which we are in care about, we shall have the comfort of having done our duty, whatever the issue be. (2.) He pleads God's covenant with his master Abraham: O God of my master Abraham, show kindness to him. Note, As the children of good parents, so the servants of good masters, have peculiar encouragement in the prayers they offer to God for prosperity and success. (3.) He proposes a sign (v. 14), not by it to limit God, nor with a design to proceed no further if he were not gratified in it; but it is a prayer, [1.] That God would provide a good wife for his young 147 master, and this was a good prayer. He knew that a prudent wife is from the Lord (Prov. xix. 14), and therefore that for this he will be enquired of. He desires that his master's wife might be humble and industrious woman, bred up to care and labour, and willing to put her hand to any work that was to be done; and that she might be of a courteous disposition, and charitable to strangers. When he came to seek a wife for his master, he did not go to the playhouse or the park, and pray that he might meet one there, but to the well of water, expecting to find one there well employed. [2.] That he would please to make his way, in this matter, plain and clear before him, by the concurrence of minute circumstances in his favour. Note, First, It is the comfort, as well as the belief, of a good man, that God's providence extends itself to the smallest occurrences and admirably serves its own purposes by them. Our times are in God's hand; not only events themselves, but the times of them. Secondly, It is our wisdom, in all our affairs, to follow Providence, and folly to force it. Thirdly, It is very desirable, and that which we may lawfully pray for, while in the general we set God's will before us as our rule, that he will, by hints of providence, direct us in the way of our duty, and give us indications what his mind it. Thus he guides his people with his eye (Ps. xxxii. 8), and leads them in a plain path, Ps. xxvii. 11.
2. God owns him by a particular providence. He decreed the thing, and it was established to him, Job xxii. 28. According to his faith, so was it unto him. The answer to this prayer was, (1.) Speedy—before he had made an end of speaking (v. 15), as it is written (Isa. lxv. 24), While they are yet speaking, I will hear. Though we are backward to pray, God is forward to hear prayer. (2.) Satisfactory: the first that came to draw water was, and did, in every thing, according to his own heart. [1.] She was so well qualified that in all respects she answered the characters he wished for in the woman that was to be his master's wife, handsome and healthful, humble and industrious, very courteous and obliging to a stranger, and having all the marks of a good disposition. When she came to the well (v. 16), she went down and filled her pitcher, and came up to go home with it. She did not stand to gaze upon the strange man and his camels, but minded her business, and would not have been diverted from it but by an opportunity of doing good. She did not curiously nor confidently enter into discourse with him, but modestly answered him, with all the decorum that became her sex. What a degenerate age do we live in, in which appear all the instances of pride, luxury, and laziness, the reverse of Rebekah's character, whose daughters few are! Those instances of goodness which were then in honour are now in contempt. [2.] Providence so ordered it that she did that which exactly answered to his sign, and was wonderfully the counterpart of his proposal: she not only gave him drink, but, which was more than could have been expected, she offered her services to give his camels drink, which was the very sign he proposed. Note, First, God, in his providence, does sometimes wonderfully own the prayer of faith, and gratify the innocent desires of his praying people, even in little things, that he may show the extent of his care, and may encourage them at all times to seek to him and trust in him; yet we must take heed of being over-bold in prescribing to God, lest the event should weaken our faith rather than strengthen it. Secondly, It is good to take all opportunities of showing a humble, courteous, charitable, disposition, because, some time or other, it may turn more to our honour and benefit than we think of; some hereby have entertained angels, and Rebekah hereby, quite beyond her expectation at this time, was brought into the line of Christ and the covenant. Thirdly, There may be a great deal of obliging kindness in that which costs but little: our Saviour has promised a reward for a cup of cold water, Matt. x. 42. Fourthly, The concurrence of providences and their minute circumstances, for the furtherance of our success in any business, ought to be particularly observed, with wonder and thankfulness, to the glory of God: The man wondered, v. 21. We have been wanting to ourselves, both in duty and in comfort, by neglecting to observe Providence. [3.] Upon enquiry he found, to his great satisfaction, that she was a near relation to his master, and that the family she was of was considerable, and able to give him entertainment, v. 23-25. Note, Providence sometimes wonderfully directs those that by faith and prayer seek direction from heaven in the choice of suitable yoke-fellows: happy marriages those are likely to be that are made in the fear of God; and these, we are sure, are made in heaven.
3. He acknowledges God in a particular thanksgiving. He first paid his respects to Rebekah, in gratitude for her civility (v. 22), obliging her with such ornaments and attire as a maid, especially a bride, cannot forget (Jer. ii. 32), which yet, we should think, ill suited the pitcher of water; but the ear-rings and bracelets she sometimes wore did not make her think herself above the labours of a virtuous woman (Prov. xxxi. 13), who works willingly with her hands; nor the services of a child, who, while under age, differs nothing from a servant, Gal. iv. 1. Having done this, he turns his wonder (v. 21) into worshipping: Blessed be the Lord God of my master Abraham, v. 26, 27. Observe here, (1.) He had prayed for good speed (v. 12), and now that he had sped well he gives thanks. Note, What we win by prayer we must wear with praise; for mercies in answer to prayer lay us under particular obligations. 148 (2.) He had as yet but a comfortable prospect of mercy, and was not certain what the issue might prove; yet he gives thanks. Note, When God's favours are coming towards us we must meet them with our praises. (3.) He blesses God for success when he was negotiating for his master. Note, We should be thankful for our friend's mercies as for our own. (4.) He gives thanks that, being in the way, at a loss what course to steer, the Lord had led him. Note, In doubtful cases, it is very comfortable to see God leading us, as he led Israel in the wilderness by the pillar of cloud and fire. (5.) He thinks himself very happy, and owns God in it, that he was led to the house of his master's brethren, those of them that had come out of Ur of the Chaldees, though they had not come to Canaan, but remained in Haran. They were not idolaters, but worshippers of the true God, and inclinable to the religion of Abraham's family. Note, God is to be acknowledged in providing suitable yoke-fellows, especially such as are agreeable in religion. (6.) He acknowledges that God, herein, had not left his master destitute of his mercy and truth. God had promised to build up Abraham's family, yet it seemed destitute of the benefit of that promise; but now Providence is working towards the accomplishing of it. Note, [1.] God's faithful ones, how destitute soever they may be of worldly comforts, shall never be left destitute of God's mercy and truth; for God's mercy is an inexhaustible fountain, and his truth an inviolable foundation. [2.] It adds much to the comfort of any blessing to see in it the continuance of God's mercy and truth.
Abraham's Servant Entertained by Laban; Errand of Abraham's Servant. (b. c. 1857.)
29 And Rebekah had a brother, and his name was Laban: and Laban ran out unto the man, unto the well. 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. 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. 32 And the man came into 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. 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. 34 And he said, I am Abraham's servant. 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 menservants, and maidservants, and camels, and asses. 36 And Sarah my master's wife bare a son to my master when she was old: and unto him hath he given all that he hath. 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: 38 But thou shalt go unto my father's house, and to my kindred, and take a wife unto my son. 39 And I said unto my master, Peradventure the woman will not follow me. 40 And he said unto me, The Lord, before whom I walk, will send his angel with thee, and prosper thy way; and thou shalt take a wife for my son of my kindred, and of my father's house: 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. 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: 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; 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. 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. 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. 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 upon her face, and the bracelets upon her hands. 149 48 And I bowed down my head, and worshipped 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 unto his son. 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. 50 Then Laban and Bethuel answered and said, The thing proceedeth from the Lord: we cannot speak unto thee bad or good. 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. 52 And it came to pass, that, when Abraham's servant heard their words, he worshipped the Lord, bowing himself to the earth. 53 And the servant brought forth jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment, and gave them to Rebekah: he gave also to her brother and to her mother precious things.
We have here the making up of the marriage between Isaac and Rebekah. It is related very largely and particularly, even to the minute circumstances, which, we should think, might have been spared, while other things of great moment and mystery (as the story of Melchizedek) are related in few words. Thus God conceals that which is curious from the wise and prudent, reveals to babes that which is common and level to their capacity (Matt. xi. 25), and rules and saves the world by the foolishness of preaching, 1 Cor. i. 21. Thus also we are directed to take notice of God's providence in the little common occurrences of human life, and in them also to exercise our own prudence and other graces; for the scripture was not intended for the use of philosophers and statesmen only, but to make us all wise and virtuous in the conduct of ourselves and families. Here is,
I. The very kind reception given to Abraham's servant by Rebekah's relations. Her brother Laban went to invite and conduct him in, but not till he saw the ear-rings and the bracelets upon his sister's hands, v. 30. "O," thinks Laban, "here is a man that there is something to be got by, a man that is rich and generous; we will be sure to bid him welcome!" We know so much of Laban's character, by the following story, as to think that he would not have been so free of his entertainment if he had not hoped to be well paid for it, as he was, v. 53. Note, A man's gift maketh room for him (Prov. xviii. 16), which way soever it turneth, it prospereth, Prov. xvii. 8. 1. The invitation was kind: Come in, thou blessed of the Lord, v. 31. They saw he was rich, and therefore pronounced him blessed of the Lord; or, perhaps, because they heard from Rebekah (v. 28) of the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth, they concluded him a good man, and therefore blessed of the Lord. Note, Those that are blessed of God should be welcome to us. It is good owning those whom God owns. 2. The entertainment was kind, v. 32, 33. Both the house and stable were well furnished, and Abraham's servant was invited to the free use of both. Particular care was taken of the camels; for a good man regardeth the life of his beast, Prov. xii. 10. If the ox knows his owner to serve him, the owner should know his ox to provide for him that which is fitting for him.
II. The full account which he gave them of his errand, and the court he made to them for their consent respecting Rebekah. Observe,
1. How intent he was upon his business; though he had come off a journey, and come to a good house, he would not eat, till he had told his errand, v. 33. Note, The doing of our work, and the fulfilling of our trusts, either for God or man, should be preferred by us before our necessary food: it was our Saviour's meat and drink, John iv. 34.
2. How ingenious he was in the management of it; he approved himself, in this matter, both a prudent man and a man of integrity, faithful to his master by whom he was trusted, and just to those with whom he now treated.
(1.) He gives a short account of the state of his master's family, v. 34-36. He was welcome before, but we may suppose him doubly welcome when he said, I am Abraham's servant. Abraham's name, no doubt, was well known among them and respected, and we might suppose them not altogether ignorant of his state, for Abraham knew theirs, ch. xxii. 20-24. Two things he suggests, to recommend his proposal:—[1.] That his master Abraham, through the blessing of God, had a very good estate; and, [2.] That he had settled it all upon Isaac, for whom he was now a suitor.
(2.) He tells them the charge his master had given him, to fetch a wife for his son from among his kindred, with the reason of it, v. 37, 38. Thus he insinuates a pleasing hint, that, though Abraham had removed to a country at so great a distance, yet he still retained the remembrance of his relations that he had left behind, and a respect for them. The highest degrees of divine affection must not divest us of natural affection. He likewise obviates an objection, That, if Isaac were deserving, he needed not send so far off for a wife: why did he not marry nearer home? "For a good reason," says he; "my master's son must not match with a Canaanite." He further recommends his 150 proposal, [1.] From the faith his master had that it would succeed, v. 40. Abraham took encouragement from the testimony of his conscience that he walked before God in a regular course of holy living, and thence inferred that God would prosper him; probably he refers to that covenant which God had made with him (ch. xvii. 1), I am God, all-sufficient, walk before me. Therefore, says he the God before whom I walk will send his angel. Note, While we make conscience of our part of the covenant, we may take the comfort of God's part of it; and we should learn to apply general promises of particular cases, as there is occasion. [2.] From the care he himself had taken to preserve their liberty of giving or refusing their consent, as they should see cause, without incurring the guilt of perjury (v. 39-41), which showed him, in general, to be a cautious man, and particularly careful that their consent might not be forced, but be either free or not at all.
(3.) He relates to them the wonderful concurrence of providences, to countenance and further the proposal, plainly showing the finger of God in it. [1.] He tells them how he had prayed for direction by a sign, v. 42-44. Note, It is good dealing with those who by prayer take God along with them in their dealings. [2.] How God had answered his prayer in the very letter of it. Though he did but speak in his heart (v. 45), which perhaps he mentions, lest it should be suspected that Rebekah had overheard his prayer and designedly humoured it. "No," says he, "I spoke it in my heart, so that none heard it but God, to whom thought are word, and from him the answer came," v. 46, 47. [3.] How he had immediately acknowledged God's goodness to him therein, leading him, as he here expresses it, in the right way. Note, God's way is always the right way (Ps. cvii. 7), and those are well led whom he leads.
(4.) He fairly refers the matter to their consideration, and waits their decision (v. 49): "If you will deal kindly and truly with my master, well and good: if you will be sincerely kind, you will accept the proposal, and I have what I came for; if not, do not hold me in suspense." Note, Those who deal fairly have reason to expect fair dealing.
(5.) They freely and cheerfully close with the proposal upon a very good principle (v. 50): "The thing proceedeth from the Lord, Providence smiles upon it, and we have nothing to say against it." They do not object distance of place, Abraham's forsaking them, or his having no land in possession, but personal estate only: they do not question the truth of what this man said; but, [1.] They trust much to his integrity. It were well if honesty did so universally prevail among men that it might be as much an act of prudence as it is of good nature to take a man's word. [2.] They trust more to God's providence, and therefore by silence give consent, because it appears to be directed and disposed by Infinite Wisdom. Note, A marriage is then likely to be comfortable when it appears to proceed from the Lord.
(6.) Abraham's servant makes a thankful acknowledgment of the good success he had met with, [1.] To God: He worshipped the Lord, v. 52. Observe, First, As his good success went on, he went on to bless God. Those that pray without ceasing should in every thing give thanks, and own God in every step of mercy. Secondly, God sent his angel before him, and so gave him success, v. 7, 40. But when he has the desired success, he worships God, not the angel. Whatever benefit we have by the ministration of angels, all the glory must be given to the Lord of the angels, Rev. xxii. 9. [2.] He pays his respects to the family also, and particularly to the bride, v. 53. He presented her, and her mother, and brother, with many precious things, both to give a real proof of his master's riches and generosity and in gratitude for their civility to him, and further to ingratiate himself with them.
Rebekah's Departure. (b. c. 1857.)
54 And they did eat and drink, he and the men that were with him, and tarried all night; and they rose up in the morning, and he said, Send me away unto my master. 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. 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. 57 And they said, We will call the damsel, and enquire at her mouth. 58 And they called Rebekah, and said unto her, Wilt thou go with this man? And she said, I will go. 59 And they sent away Rebekah their sister, and her nurse, and Abraham's servant, and his men. 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. 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.
Rebekah is here taking leave of her father's house; and 1. Abraham's servant presses for a dismission. Though he and his company were very welcome, and very cheerful there, yet he said, Send me away (v. 54), and again, v. 56. He knew his master would expect him home with some impatience; he had business to do at home which wanted him, 151 and therefore, as one that preferred his work before his pleasure, he was for hastening home. Note, Lingering and loitering no way become a wise and good man; when we have despatched our business abroad we must not delay our return to our business at home, nor be longer from it than needs must; for as a bird that wanders from her nest so is he that wanders from his place, Prov. xxvii. 8. 2. Rebekah's relations, from natural affection and according to the usual expression of kindness in that case, solicit for her stay some time among them, v. 55. They could not think of parting with her on a sudden, especially as she was about the remove so far off and it was not likely that they would ever see one another again: Let her stay a few days, at least ten, which makes it as reasonable a request as the reading in the margin seems to make it unreasonable, a year, or at least ten months. They had consented to the marriage, and yet were loth to part with her. Note, It is an instance of the vanity of this world that there is nothing in it so agreeable but it has its alloy. Nulla est sincera voluptas—There is no unmingled pleasure. They were pleased that they had matched a daughter of their family so well, and yet, when it came to the last, it was with great reluctance that they sent her away. 3. Rebekah herself determined the matter. To her they appealed, as it was fit they should (v. 57): Call the damsel (who had retired to her apartment with a modest silence) and enquire at her mouth. Note, As children ought not to marry without their parents' consent, so parents ought not to marry them without their own. Before the matter is resolved on, "Ask at the damsel's mouth;" she is a party principally concerned, and therefore ought to be principally consulted. Rebekah consented, not only to go, but to go immediately: I will go, v. 58. We may hope that the notice she had taken of the servant's piety and devotion gave her such an idea of the prevalence of religion and godliness in the family she was to go to made her desirous to hasten thither, and willing to forget her own people and her father's house, where religion had not so much the ascendant. 4. Hereupon she is sent away with Abraham's servant; not, we may suppose, the very next day after, but very quickly: her friends see that she has a good heart on it, and so they dismiss her, (1.) With suitable attendants—her nurse (v. 59), her damsels, v. 61. It seems, then, that when she went to the well for water it was not because she had not servants at command, but because she took a pleasure in works of humble industry. Now that she was going among strangers, it was fit she should take those with her with whom she was acquainted. Here is nothing said of her portion. Her personal merits were a portion in her, she needed none with her, nor did that ever come into the treaty of marriage. (2.) With hearty good wishes: They blessed Rebekah, v. 60. Note, When our relations are entering into a new condition, we ought by prayer to recommend them to the blessing and grace of God. Now that she was going to be a wife, they prayed that she might be a mother both of a numerous and of a victorious progeny. Perhaps Abraham's servant had told them of the promise God had lately made to his master, which it is likely, Abraham acquainted his household with, that God would multiply his seed as the stars of heaven, and that they should possess the gate of their enemies (ch. xxii. 17), to which promise they had an eye in this blessing, Be thou the mother of that seed.
Isaac's Marriage. (b. c. 1857.)
62 And Isaac came from the way of the well Lahai-roi; for he dwelt in the south country. 63 And Isaac went out to meditate in the field at the eventide: and he lifted up his eyes, and saw, and, behold, the camels were coming. 64 And Rebekah lifted up her eyes, and when she saw Isaac, she lighted off the camel. 65 For she had said unto the servant, What man is this that walketh in the field to meet us? And the servant had said, It is my master: therefore she took a veil, and covered herself. 66 And the servant told Isaac all things that he had done. 67 And Isaac brought her into 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.
Isaac and Rebekah are, at length, happily brought together. Observe,
I. Isaac was well employed when he met Rebekah: He went out to meditate, or pray, in the field, at the even-tide, v. 62, 63. Some think he expected the return of his servants about this time, and went out on purpose to meet them. But, it should seem, he went out on another errand, to take the advantage of a silent evening and a solitary field for meditation and prayer, those divine exercises by which we converse with God and our own hearts. Note, 1. Holy souls love retirement. It will do us good to be often left alone, walking alone and sitting alone; and, if we have the art of improving solitude, we shall find we are never less alone than when alone. 2. Meditation and prayer ought to be both our business and our delight when we are alone; while we have a God, a Christ, and a heaven, to acquaint ourselves with, and to secure our interest in, we need not want matter either for meditation or prayer, which, if they go together, will mutually befriend each other. 3. Our walks in the field are then truly pleasant when in them we apply ourselves to meditation and prayer. We 152 there have a free and open prospect of the heavens above us and the earth around us, and the host and riches of both, by the view of which we should be led to the contemplation of the Maker and owner of all. 4. The exercises of devotion should be the refreshment and entertainment of the evening, to relieve us from the fatigue occasioned by the care and business of the day, and to prepare us for the repose and sleep of the night. 5. Merciful providences are then doubly comfortable when they find us well employed and in the way of our duty. Some think Isaac was now praying for good success in this affair that was depending, and meditating upon that which was proper to encourage his hope in God concerning it; and now, when he sets himself, as it were, upon his watch-tower, to see what God would answer him, as the prophet (Hab. ii. 1), he sees the camels coming. Sometimes God sends in the mercy prayed for immediately, Acts xii. 12.
II. Rebekah behaved herself very becomingly, when she met Isaac: understanding who he was, she alighted off her camel (v. 64), and took a veil, and covered herself (v. 65), in token of humility, modesty, and subjection. She did not reproach Isaac for not coming himself to fetch her, or, at least, to meet her a day's journey or two, did not complain of the tediousness of her journey, or the difficulty of leaving her relations, to come into a strange place; but, having seen Providence going before her in the affair, she accommodates herself with cheerfulness to her new relation. Those that by faith are espoused to Christ, and would be presented as chaste virgins to him, must, in conformity to his example, humble themselves, as Rebekah, who alighted when she saw Isaac on foot, and must put themselves into subjection to him who is their head (Eph. v. 24), as Rebekah, signifying it by the veil she put on, 1 Cor. xi. 10.
III. They were brought together (probably after some further acquaintance), to their mutual comfort, v. 67. Observe here, 1. What an affectionate son he was to his mother: it was about three years since her death, and yet he was not, till now, comforted concerning it; the wound which that affliction gave to his tender spirit bled so long, and was never healed till God brought him into this new relation. Thus crosses and comforts are balances to each other (Eccl. vii. 14), and help to keep the scale even. 2. What an affectionate husband he was to his wife. Note, Those that have approved themselves well in one relation, it may be hoped, will do so in another: She became his wife, and he loved her; there was all the reason in the world why he should, for so ought men to love their wives even an themselves. The duty of the relation is then done, and the comfort of the relation is then enjoyed, when mutual love governs; for there the Lord commands the blessing.