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The Blue Letter Bible

David Guzik :: Study Guide for Genesis 24

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A Bride for Isaac

A. Abraham’s commission to his servant.

1. (Gen 24:1-4) Abraham sends out a servant to seek out a bride for his son.

Now Abraham was old, well advanced in age; and the Lord had blessed Abraham in all things. So Abraham said to the oldest servant of his house, who ruled over all that he had, “Please, put your hand under my thigh, and I will make you swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and the God of the earth, that you will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell; but you shall go to my country and to my family, and take a wife for my son Isaac.”

a. The oldest servant of his house, who ruled over all that he had: This was the servant named Eliezer (Genesis 15:2), or at least he was some 60 years before this. If it was someone else, the Holy Spirit didn’t give any indication of it.

b. Put your hand under my thigh: According to ancient custom, this described a serious oath. Abraham was extremely concerned that Isaac not be married to a Canaanite bride.

i. “The person binding himself put his hand under the thigh of the person to whom he was to be bound; i.e., he put his hand on the part that bore the mark of circumcision, the sign of God’s covenant…Our ideas of delicacy may revolt from the rite used on this occasion; but, when the nature of the covenant is considered, of which circumcision was the sign, we shall at once perceive that this rite could not be used without producing sentiments of reverence and godly fear, as the contracting party must know that the God of this covenant was a consuming fire.” (Clarke)

2. (Gen 24:5-9) The mission clearly defined.

And the servant said to him, “Perhaps the woman will not be willing to follow me to this land. Must I take your son back to the land from which you came?” But Abraham said to him, “Beware that you do not take my son back there. The Lord God of heaven, who took me from my father’s house and from the land of my family, and who spoke to me and swore to me, saying, ‘To your descendants I give this land,’ He will send His angel before you, and you shall take a wife for my son from there. And if the woman is not willing to follow you, then you will be released from this oath; only do not take my son back there.” So the servant put his hand under the thigh of Abraham his master, and swore to him concerning this matter.

a. Abraham said to him: Apparently, Abraham anticipated that he might die while his servant was gone, so the instructions were made perfectly clear.

b. Beware that you do not take my son back there: Isaac, the son of promise, never once left the Promised Land.

B. The servant’s mission fulfilled.

1. (Gen 24:10-14) Eliezer’s prayer to God.

Then the servant took ten of his master’s camels and departed, for all his master’s goods were in his hand. And he arose and went to Mesopotamia, to the city of Nahor. And he made his camels kneel down outside the city by a well of water at evening time, the time when women go out to draw water. Then he said, “O Lord God of my master Abraham, please give me success this day, and show kindness to my master Abraham. Behold, here I stand by the well of water, and the daughters of the men of the city are coming out to draw water. Now let it be that the young woman to whom I say, ‘Please let down your pitcher that I may drink,’ and she says, ‘Drink, and I will also give your camels a drink’; let her be the one You have appointed for Your servant Isaac. And by this I will know that You have shown kindness to my master.”

a. O Lord God of my master Abraham, please give me success this day: Essentially, Eliezer asked God to guide through providential circumstances. Often (but certainly not always) this is a bad way to discern God’s will.

i. Generally speaking, circumstances alone can be a dangerous way to discern God’s will. We have a way of ignoring circumstances that speak against our desired outcome (or we attribute those circumstances to the devil), while focusing on the circumstances that speak for our desired outcome.

ii. But in this case, Eliezer established what he would look for before anything happened. He wasn’t making up the standard as the process unfolded.

b. Drink, and I will also give your camels a drink: Eliezer was wise enough to ask for a sign that was remarkable, but (in human terms) possible. He didn’t tempt God by asking for fire to fall from heaven or for protection as he leapt from an unsafe height.

c. Let her be the one: In praying this prayer, there was a sense in which Eliezer set the odds against finding someone. It would take a remarkable woman to volunteer for this tedious task.

i. Considering that a camel may drink up to 20 gallons, watering ten camels meant at least an hour of hard work.

d. By this I will know: Eliezer cared nothing about the woman’s appearance. He wanted a woman of character, a woman whom God had chosen.

2. (Gen 24:15) God answers the servant’s prayer before it was finished.

And it happened, before he had finished speaking, that behold, Rebekah, who was born to Bethuel, son of Milcah, the wife of Nahor, Abraham’s brother, came out with her pitcher on her shoulder.

a. Before he had finished speaking: Isaiah 65:24 speaks of this kind of gracious answer to prayer: It shall come to pass that before they call, I will answer; and while they are still speaking, I will hear.

b. Rebekah…came out with her pitcher on her shoulder: The servant did not yet know the prayer was answered; only time would prove it.

3. (Gen 24:16-21) The servant, though surprised, waits for complete confirmation of his prayer.

Now the young woman was very beautiful to behold, a virgin; no man had known her. And she went down to the well, filled her pitcher, and came up. And the servant ran to meet her and said, “Please let me drink a little water from your pitcher.” So she said, “Drink, my lord.” Then she quickly let her pitcher down to her hand, and gave him a drink. And when she had finished giving him a drink, she said, “I will draw water for your camels also, until they have finished drinking.” Then she quickly emptied her pitcher into the trough, ran back to the well to draw water, and drew for all his camels. And the man, wondering at her, remained silent so as to know whether the Lord had made his journey prosperous or not.

a. The young woman was very beautiful to behold: We generally regard the Bible as being given to understatement. When we read Rebekah was very beautiful to behold, we should understand Rebekah was indeed very beautiful.

b. The servant ran to meet her: The servant did not think it was unspiritual to introduce himself to Rebekah; yet, he certainly did not do anything to suggest that she should provide water for the camels. Prayer is no substitute for action.

c. And drew for all his camels: As Rebekah began the hard work of watering all the camels, the servant did not stop her. He wanted a woman who would not only say that she would water the camels, but who would actually do the hard work.

i. Perhaps Eliezer knew that for some, it is much easier to talk like a servant than to actually serve. He wanted to see if she had a servant’s heart, not only a servant’s talk.

4. (Gen 24:22-28) The servant, when the bride has been chosen, gives her rich gifts even before the marriage to the father’s son.

So it was, when the camels had finished drinking, that the man took a golden nose ring weighing half a shekel, and two bracelets for her wrists weighing ten shekels of gold, and said, “Whose daughter are you? Tell me, please, is there room in your father’s house for us to lodge?” So she said to him, “I am the daughter of Bethuel, Milcah’s son, whom she bore to Nahor.” Moreover she said to him, “We have both straw and feed enough, and room to lodge.” Then the man bowed down his head and worshiped the Lord. And he said, “Blessed be the Lord God of my master Abraham, who has not forsaken His mercy and His truth toward my master. As for me, being on the way, the Lord led me to the house of my master’s brethren.” So the young woman ran and told her mother’s household these things.

a. A golden nose ring: There was nothing strange, shocking, or rebellious about wearing a nose ring in that culture.

b. Being on the way, the Lord led me: This showed the mentality of the servant. He felt it was his duty to be on the way, and to trust that God would guide him along the way.

i. It is hard to steer a parked car. If we want to be guided by the Lord, we should be on our way.

5. (Gen 24:29-33) Laban entertains the servant.

Now Rebekah had a brother whose name was Laban, and Laban ran out to the man by the well. So it came to pass, when he saw the nose ring, and the bracelets on his sister’s wrists, and when he heard the words of his sister Rebekah, saying, “Thus the man spoke to me,” that he went to the man. And there he stood by the camels at the well. And he 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.” Then the man came to the house. And he unloaded the camels, and provided straw and feed for the camels, and water to wash his feet and the feet of the men who were with him. Food was set before him to eat, but he said, “I will not eat until I have told about my errand.” And he said, “Speak on.”

a. Rebekah had a brother whose name was Laban: The father of Rebekah was Bethuel, who was still alive (Genesis 24:50). Yet it seems that Laban took the lead in representing the family. Perhaps Laban was already known for his ability to make a deal to his advantage.

b. When he saw the nose ring, and the bracelets on his sister’s wrists: Laban’s eyes were on the riches the servant brought. He was motivated to show appropriate hospitality to this mysterious visitor and to warmly greet him: “Come in, O blessed of the Lord!

6. (Gen 24:34-49) The servant tells his story and the purpose of his visit.

So he said, “I am Abraham’s servant. The Lord has blessed my master greatly, and he has become great; and He has given him flocks and herds, silver and gold, male and female servants, and camels and donkeys. And 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. Now my 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; but you shall go to my father’s house and to my family, and take a wife for my son.’ And I said to my master, ‘Perhaps the woman will not follow me.’ But he said to me, ‘The Lord, before whom I walk, will send His angel with you and prosper your way; and you shall take a wife for my son from my family and from my father’s house. You will be clear from this oath when you arrive among my family; for if they will not give her to you, then you will be released from my oath.’ And this day I came to the well and said, ‘O Lord God of my master Abraham, if You will now prosper the way in which I go, behold, I stand by the well of water; and it shall come to pass that when the virgin comes out to draw water, and I say to her, “Please give me a little water from your pitcher to drink,” and she says 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.’ But before I had finished speaking in my heart, there was Rebekah, coming out with her pitcher on her shoulder; and she went down to the well and drew water. And I said to her, ‘Please let me drink.’ And she made haste and let her pitcher down from her shoulder, and said, ‘Drink, and I will give your camels a drink also.’ So I drank, and she gave the camels a drink also. Then I asked her, and said, ‘Whose daughter are you?’ And she said, ‘The daughter of Bethuel, Nahor’s son, whom Milcah bore to him.’ So I put the nose ring on her nose and the bracelets on her wrists. And I bowed my head and worshiped the Lord, and blessed the Lord God of my master Abraham, who had led me in the way of truth to take the daughter of my master’s brother for his son. Now if you 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.”

C. Rebekah is brought to Isaac.

1. (Gen 24:50-53) The family agrees to give Rebekah to Isaac. The father’s servant gives more gifts.

Then Laban and Bethuel answered and said, “The thing comes from the Lord; we cannot speak to you either bad or good. Here is Rebekah before you; take her and go, and let her be your master’s son’s wife, as the Lord has spoken.” And it came to pass, when Abraham’s servant heard their words, that he worshiped the Lord, bowing himself to the earth. Then the servant brought out jewelry of silver, jewelry of gold, and clothing, and gave them to Rebekah. He also gave precious things to her brother and to her mother.

a. Laban and Bethuel answered: In light of the evident hand of God’s providence, and the wealth of the servant’s master, the answer seemed obvious to Rebekah’s brother and father.

b. He also gave precious things to her brother and to her mother: When an agreement of marriage had been made, it was customary for the bridegroom (or his representative) to give the family of the bride gifts as a dowry to demonstrate his financial ability to provide for the bride.

2. (Gen 24:54-60) The servant intends to depart quickly; Rebekah agrees.

And he and the men who were with him ate and drank and stayed all night. Then they arose in the morning, and he said, “Send me away to my master.” But her brother and her mother said, “Let the young woman stay with us a few days, at least ten; after that she may go.” And he said to them, “Do not hinder me, since the Lord has prospered my way; send me away so that I may go to my master.” So they said, “We will call the young woman and ask her personally.” Then they called Rebekah and said to her, “Will you go with this man?” And she said, “I will go.” So they sent away Rebekah their sister and her nurse, and Abraham’s servant and his men. And they blessed Rebekah and said to her: “Our sister, may you become the mother of thousands of ten thousands; and may your descendants possess the gates of those who hate them.”

a. I will go: One of the most remarkable things about Rebekah was her total willingness to leave all to be with a bridegroom she had never seen. Her words “I will go” were worthy words of faith.

b. “Do not hinder me”…“I will go”: The servant was determined to leave promptly, and Rebekah was determined to make her home with her new husband. She understood that her loyalty should be with her new family.

i. “If the world does not succeed in persuading the believer to abide in the world, it will seek to delay his exit…When you decide to go with the Lord, the world will applaud your devotion but will say, ‘Don’t rush. Abide a few days, at least ten, and then go.’” (Barnhouse)

3. (Gen 24:61-67) Rebekah is brought unto Isaac; they marry.

Then Rebekah and her maids arose, and they rode on the camels and followed the man. So the servant took Rebekah and departed. Now Isaac came from the way of Beer Lahai Roi, for he dwelt in the South. And Isaac went out to meditate in the field in the evening; and he lifted his eyes and looked, and there, the camels were coming. Then Rebekah lifted her eyes, and when she saw Isaac she dismounted from her camel; for she had said to the servant, “Who is this man walking in the field to meet us?” The servant said, “It is my master.” So she took a veil and covered herself. And the servant told Isaac all the things that he had done. Then Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent; and he took Rebekah and she became his wife, and he loved her. So Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.

a. So the servant took Rebekah and departed: We can well imagine the conversations Rebekah and Eliezer had on the journey. She wanted to know all she could about Isaac, whom she loved without ever seeing, and he would be delighted to tell her.

b. She took a veil and covered herself: The covering with a veil signified chastity, modesty, and submission. This was how Rebekah wanted to meet her bridegroom.

c. Isaac went out to meditate in the field in the evening: This was the first mention of Isaac since he was left on top of Mount Moriah (Genesis 22:19). We see nothing of Isaac from the time of his rescue from death (which might be thought of as a symbolic resurrection) to the time he was united with his bride.

i. In all this, we see the coming together of Isaac and Rebekah as a remarkable picture of the coming together of Jesus and His people.

· A father desired a bride for his son
· A son was accounted as dead and raised from the dead
· A nameless servant was sent forth to get a bride for the son
· The servant’s name was actually Eliezer, meaning “God of help” or “helper”
· The lovely bride was divinely met, chosen, and called, and then lavished with gifts
· She was entrusted to the care of the servant until she met her bridegroom

ii. The way Isaac and Rebekah came to each other is also instructive. They did not date in the modern sense; they served and sought God (Isaac did meditate in the field), and God brought them together. They obviously were more concerned with the will of God than with modern notions of romantic love.

d. He loved her: Isaac loved his bride, and Jesus loves His Church. Summarizing the pictures of Isaac, Rebekah, Jesus, and the Church.

i. Both Rebekah and the church:

· Were chosen for marriage before they knew it (Ephesians 1:3-4).
· Were necessary for the accomplishment of God’s eternal purpose (Ephesians 3:10-11).
· Were destined to share in the glory of the son (John 17:22-23).
· Learned of the son through his representative.
· Must leave all with joy to be with the son.
· Were loved and cared for by the son.

ii. Both Isaac and Jesus:

· Were promised before their coming.
· Finally appeared at the appointed time.
· Were conceived and born miraculously.
· Were given a special name before birth.
· Were offered up in sacrifice by the father.
· Were brought back from the dead.
· Were head of a great company to bless all people.
· Prepared a place for their bride.
· Had a ministry of prayer until united with the bride.

©2013 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission
[A previous revision of this page can be found here]

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