Genesis chapter twenty-four is the longest chapter in the book of Genesis, but it only deals with one subject- finding the right marriage partner for Abraham’s son Isaac. As we go through this chapter, we’ll find that it is broken down into four main parts. In part one, Abraham will recruit his top man to serve as a special agent for this important mission. Abraham will then communicate his instructions and send this unnamed agent on his mission in part two. Part three will describe how God enabled this special operation to be a success and then we’ll see the fulfillment of his mission in part four.
“Abraham was now old and well advanced in years, and the Lord had blessed him in every way” (Genesis 24:1).
Abraham was about 140 years old at the time when these events took place, and when someone is that old, it’s natural for that person to start thinking about making some preparations for his or her eventual death. For Abraham, something that was right at the top of his “things to do” list was finding the right woman for his son Isaac to marry…
“He said to the chief servant in his household, the one in charge of all that he had, ‘Put your hand under my thigh. I want you to swear by 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'” (Genesis 24:2-4).
Abraham’s son Isaac was about forty years old at this time and that meant that Isaac was still unmarried at a time when many other guys in his age group could have already been grandfathers. We might find a reason to explain this by looking again at Abraham’s instruction to his servant: “I want you to make a vow in the name of the LORD, the God of heaven and earth, that you will not choose a wife for my son from the people here in Canaan” (Genesis 24:3 GNB).
So it appears that Isaac remained unmarried because there was no one who was right for him in the area that he was living. But Abraham was so determined to find the right person for Isaac that he told his servant, “Put your hand under my thigh… (and) swear…” in verse two. This apparently describes a very serious oath and it’s been suggested that this act means, “May my descendants come against you if you fail to fulfill the promise that you’ve made to me.”
“Swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and earth, that you will not allow my son to marry one of these local Canaanite women” (Genesis 24:3 NLT).
When you think about it, it probably would have been a lot better for Abraham if he had arranged for his son to get married to a daughter of one of the local leaders in that area. This would have allowed Abraham to “marry into the family” of a local official and help provide him with some security in an area where he was still living as a stranger (see Genesis 23:3-4). But Abraham absolutely refused to consider something like that.
You see, Abraham knew that the people who lived in that area didn’t follow God. When it came to the spiritual beliefs of the people who were living in that area, Abraham knew that his neighbors fell into two basic categories. The first category consisted of those people who chose to live as if God did not exist. The second category was made up of those people who accepted the idea of “god” but had substituted some kind of idol or false religious belief for the one true God. Of course, this situation was not unique to Abraham’s time because many people also fall into one of these two basic categories today.
Because of his close relationship with God, Abraham also knew about a principle that God would inspire later Biblical writers to put down on paper. That principle was this: do not get involved in dating or marriage relationships with people who are not serious about following the God of the Bible.
Of course, that idea might sound incredibly restrictive to some people today. After all, there are many non-Christian people who are honorable, ethical, and moral- the same kind of qualities that you would look for in anyone that you might consider for a dating or marriage relationship. So why would anyone want to disqualify a person with those qualities simply because of their spiritual beliefs?
Well, the reason is that people who do not share your faith are not going in the same direction that you are going as a Christian. Remember that as a Christian, your priority is following Jesus. If you were to get involved in a relationship with someone whose priority is someone or something other than Christ, then you will both be going in different directions- and it’s hard to stay together as a couple when the two sides are pulling in different directions.
The Scriptures go on to talk about this idea in both the Old and New Testaments, and we’ll look at a few examples next.
Take a look at what God has to say about relationships in the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy…
“When the Lord your God brings you into the land you are about to enter and occupy, he will clear away many nations ahead of you… You must not intermarry with them. Do not let your daughters and sons marry their sons and daughters, for they will lead your children away from me to worship other gods. Then the anger of the Lord will burn against you, and he will quickly destroy you” (Deuteronomy 7:1, 2-4 NLT).
Later on in the New Testament, 2 Corinthians 6:14-15 says this…
“Stop forming inappropriate relationships with unbelievers. Can right and wrong be partners? Can light have anything in common with darkness? Can Christ agree with the devil? Can a believer share life with an unbeliever? Can God’s temple contain false gods? Clearly, we are the temple of the living God. As God said, ‘I will live and walk among them. I will be their God, and they will be my people.’ The Lord says, ‘Get away from unbelievers. Separate yourselves from them. Have nothing to do with anything unclean. Then I will welcome you.’ The Lord Almighty says, ‘I will be your Father, and you will be my sons and daughters'” (2 Corinthians 6:14-17 GW).
You see, some Christian teens who are romantically involved with non-Christians often feel confident that their partner will get right with God eventually. While that’s certainly possible, the truth is that the non-Christian partner will often end up having the greatest influence in that relationship. So if you’re starting to get the feeling that your boyfriend or girlfriend’s “Christianity” is more for your benefit than their own, then it’s time to seriously re-evaluate that relationship.
But this mean that we shouldn’t have any friendships with those whose beliefs may be different? Well, here’s some of what the Bible has to say about that…
“When I wrote to you before I said not to mix with evil people. But when I said that I wasn’t talking about unbelievers who live in sexual sin or are greedy cheats and thieves and idol worshipers. For you can’t live in this world without being with people like that” (1 Corinthians 5:9-10 TLB).
The Scriptures tell us that coming into contact with people who don’t believe in Christianity is a fact of life. The world is filled with many different kinds of people and we can (and should) try to have friendly relationships with others. But the Bible also goes on to give us a word of caution on this subject- and we’ll take a look at that next.
Have you ever known someone whose personality began to change after they started hanging around with a different group of friends? This can happen because our friendships help to influence who we are as individuals. This is one reason why the Bible gives us this word of caution in the New Testament book of 1 Corinthians…
“Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character'” (1 Corinthians 15:33).
This explains why it’s important to be wise in our friendships and relationships with others. You see, it’s OK to have non-Christian friends and acquaintances, but our close friendships and romantic relationships with others should only be set aside for those who are equally serious about following the Lord. For his part, Abraham wanted to make sure that Isaac had someone who was just as serious about following God as he was. So here was the idea that he came up with…
“You must go back to the country where I was born and get a wife for my son Isaac from among my relatives” (Genesis 24:4 GNB).
Abraham wanted his son to have wife who honored God and respected their heritage as well- and his determination to find the right marriage partner for Isaac helps to provide us with a good example to follow in our own dating relationships today. Remember that the purpose of a dating relationship should be to help determine God’s choice for a marriage partner. Unfortunately, this is not always the main motivation for many couples who are involved in dating relationships today. You see, people often find themselves entering into dating relationships for the wrong reasons. Some of those reasons may include things like peer pressure, loneliness, and a strong desire for attention from the opposite sex.
Now it’s not wrong for someone to desire attention from the opposite sex and its not wrong to want to be in a relationship because you’re lonely. The problem comes when those things become the most important reasons for entering a dating relationship with someone else. For example, a person who is motivated to enter a dating relationship mainly because of peer pressure or a desire for attention from the opposite sex is more likely to make a bad relationship choice. On the other hand, someone who is determined to put God first in a dating relationship is much more likely to make a good relationship choice.
So how can we apply Abraham’s example today? Well, just as Abraham looked for a marriage partner for Isaac from among the members of his own family, we should also look to our own spiritual family (those people who are equally serious about following Jesus) in our dating relationships as well.
So Abraham called in his top man to undertake a special mission- finding the right marriage partner for his son Isaac. Unfortunately, it looks like the man that Abraham placed in charge of this mission was having a little trouble with the assignment…
“The servant asked him, ‘What if the woman is unwilling to come back with me to this land? Shall I then take your son back to the country you came from?’ ‘Make sure that you do not take my son back there,’ Abraham said” (Genesis 24:5-6).
Since Abraham was unwilling to let Isaac travel back to his old hometown, this servant had to find someone who would be willing to do two things…
- She had to be willing to leave her country, her people, and her father’s home
- She had to be willing to go to a new land that he would show her.
Do those two things sound familiar? Well, if you’ve been following the story of Abraham’s life, then they should both sound very familiar. You see, Abraham wanted Isaac to find someone who would be willing to do what he did when God said much the same thing to him (see Genesis 12:1). Of course, this put Abraham’s servant in a very difficult position. If Isaac wasn’t allowed to marry a local girl and Abraham wouldn’t let Isaac go and make his own choice, then what if he couldn’t find anyone to accept his offer? Well, Abraham had that covered as well…
“‘The Lord, the God of heaven, who brought me out of my father’s household and my native land and who spoke to me and promised me on oath, saying, ‘To your offspring I will give this land’ – he will send his angel before you so that you can get a wife for my son from there.
“If the woman is unwilling to come back with you, then you will be released from this oath of mine. Only do not take my son back there.’ So the servant put his hand under the thigh of his master Abraham and swore an oath to him concerning this matter” (Genesis 24:7-9).
So Abraham was absolutely certain that God had the ability to make this mission a success. In fact, Abraham was so certain that God could make this happen that he agreed to release his servant from any further responsibility if he was unable to find a young woman to accept his offer. This is just another example where Abraham demonstrated his great faith in God.
“Then the servant took ten of his master’s camels and left, taking with him all kinds of good things from his master. He set out for Aram Naharaim and made his way to the town of Nahor” (Genesis 24:10).
That sounds like an awful lot of stuff to bring on this trip, doesn’t it? For example, why would Abraham’s servant have to leave with ten camels in order to bring back one bride? Well, there were a number of reasons to explain why Abraham’s servant had to leave with so much many things.
First, this caravan had to be impressive enough to clearly demonstrate that Abraham was a person of rank and status. You see, Abraham’s servant had to make sure that he was able to impress the potential bride (and her family) with enough good things to convince them that Isaac was someone who was worthy enough to be a good marriage partner. He also had to provide some extra room for the bride and any servants she might have for the trip back home. Finally, Abraham’s servant had to make certain that he had an extra camel or two just in case one of the animals became sick or disabled along the way.
So Abraham’s servant loaded up the convoy and set out for the town of Aram Naharaim. Now it doesn’t say this from the text, but Aram Naharaim was about 500 (805 km) miles away from where Abraham was living at that time. This meant that Abraham’s servant had least a month’s worth of travel just to get there. But Abraham’s top man finally arrived at his destination and the next verse tells us this…
“He had the camels kneel down near the well outside the town; it was toward evening, the time the women go out to draw water” (Genesis 24:11).
In looking at these verses, one commentary says this: “A stranger in those regions, who wishes to obtain information, stations himself at one of the wells in the neighborhood of a town, and he is sure to learn all the news of the place from the women who frequent them every morning and evening. (Abraham’s servant) followed this course, and letting his camels rest, he waited till the evening time of water drawing.” (1)
So if you were someone who was looking for a potential marriage partner, this was definitely the place where you wanted to be. This means that Abraham’s servant put himself in a position where the kind of person that he was looking for was likely to be- and we’ll look at some ways that we can apply this concept today next.
(1) A Commentary on the Old and New Testaments by Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset and David Brown
“He had the camels kneel down near the well outside the town; it was toward evening, the time the women go out to draw water” (Genesis 24:11).
Although it may not seem very obvious at first, this verse holds some important information for anyone who is looking to enter a dating relationship today. You see, one of the big questions for anyone who is ready to enter a dating relationship today is, “Where can I find someone who is right for me?” While there may be many possible ways to answer that question, God provides us with one good example to follow through the actions of Abraham’s servant here in Genesis 24:11.
Notice that Abraham’s servant didn’t isolate himself and wait around for the right person to come along- he made sure to put himself in a position where the kind of person that he wanted to meet was likely to be. How do we know that? Well, once Abraham’s servant arrived, we’re told he deliberately parked his camels near the well outside of town. This was a strategic move on his part because it was around the time when the women of that area came out to get some water from the well.
This provided Abraham’s servant with a good opportunity to meet and talk with some of the local young women. Since the success of his mission depended on finding the right marriage partner for Isaac, Abraham’s servant made sure to put himself in a position where he would have the best opportunity to accomplish that. Of course, most people don’t ride camels or draw water from the town well anymore, so how can someone apply this concept in the 21st century? Well, this gives us an opportunity to talk about the idea of “principles and practice” and how to find some good ways to apply Biblical precepts in today’s world. (1)
Since this is an important concept for Christians to understand and apply today, let’s start first by defining these terms. We can begin with the word “principle,” a word that means, “a fundamental, primary, or general law or truth from which others are derived.” (2) The word “practice” refers to “the action or process of performing or doing something.” (3)
So if we put these two definitions together and apply them to the Scriptures, we come up the idea of taking a fundamental truth from the Bible (the principle) and using it (or putting that principle into practice) in our daily lives. We’ll see how we can use this handy tool to link the example of Abraham’s servant to 21st century dating relationships next.
(1) A “precept” is “a rule or principle prescribing a particular course of action or conduct” (American Heritage Dictionary Of The English Language, Third Edition)
(2) principle. Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/principle
(3) practice. Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/practice
Since Abraham’s servant had been given the important responsibility of finding the right marriage partner for Abraham’s son Isaac, he made sure to put himself in the best position to accomplish that mission. That meant taking up a position near the town water well when the women from that area were scheduled to be there. So if you are someone who is looking to enter a dating relationship today, how can you take this idea and put it into practice in your own life?
Well, one possible way to do that would be to find ways to use the talents, skills, and abilities that God has given to you in His service. In other words, start looking for various ways to serve God by using the gifts and capabilities that He has given to you. How could that help someone in their dating relationships? Well, once someone starts using their God-given abilities in His service, that person will be put in a position where the kind of people that he or she wants to meet are most likely to be.
You see, once someone begins to utilize the abilities that God has given to him or her, that person will automatically start to network with other people who naturally fit in with them. This is a great situation for anyone who is interested in starting a dating relationship- not only will you be honoring God with your talents, but you will also put yourself in a position where the kind of person that you want to meet is most likely to be.
That’s exactly what Abraham’s servant did- he put himself in a position where the kind of person that he wanted to meet was most likely to be. But he didn’t stop there, because Abraham’s servant then followed up by doing another smart thing- he made sure to ask God for His help and direction…
“Then he prayed, ‘O Lord, God of my master Abraham, give me success today, and show kindness to my master Abraham'” (Genesis 24:12).
Abraham’s servant did what he could- he made sure to put himself in the right position, then he asked God to take care of the rest. This is another important principle for people to remember today- be sure to prayerfully ask God for His input and direction before making decisions. You see, many people get this idea backwards- they decide what they want to do first and then they ask God to get involved. Unfortunately, the problem is that people often tend to wait until after everything starts going wrong before seeking God’s advice and direction. Abraham’s servant made sure not to make that mistake.
“Then he prayed, ‘O Lord, God of my master Abraham, give me success today, and show kindness to my master Abraham'” (Genesis 24:12).
It’s not unusual for people to make their decisions first and then ask God to get involved if things don’t work out. But it’s far better to seek God first in the decision making process and then move forward according to His agenda. That’s what we see Abraham’s servant doing in the verse quoted above.
For example, if there is something that you want but do not have, have you considered praying about that thing (whatever it is) first? Have you brought that circumstance or situation to God and asked Him to provide for you, just like Abraham’s servant did here? You see, the New Testament book of Philippians tells us this…
“…in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6).
So it’s right for us to bring our requests to God in prayer, but there’s something else we need to do as well- we also need to check the motivations behind those requests. That’s because the Scriptures tell us, “Yet even when you do pray, your prayers are not answered, because you pray just for selfish reasons” (James 4:3 CEV). To illustrate this, let’s go back to the subject of dating relationships for a moment. Let’s say that you are interested in a dating relationship with someone or someone is interested in a dating relationship with you. Before you move forward in that situation, ask yourself this question: “Why am I considering a dating relationship with this person?”
If you’re looking to see if that person is God’s choice for you, then the dating process can be a good thing- pray about it, ask God for His direction, and be prepared to break it off if it becomes clear that there is no long-term potential for that relationship. On the other hand, if your motivation to enter a dating relationship is something like peer pressure, a desire for attention, or an urge to get your physical needs met, then James 4:3 applies to you: “When you pray for things, you don’t get them because you want them for the wrong reason- for your own pleasure” (GW).
Remember that the purpose of prayer is not to get God to do what we want Him to do. The purpose of prayer is to get our motivations in line with what God wants. God always wants the best for us and if our prayers are in line with those good things that He wants to give us, then there should be no problems in getting our them answered.
We’ve already seen how Abraham’s servant made sure to ask God for His help and direction before continuing his mission. Now we’ll see him propose a little test to help him make the right decision…
“See, I am standing beside this spring, and the daughters of the townspeople are coming out to draw water. May it be that when I say to a girl, ‘Please let down your jar that I may have a drink,’ and she says, ‘Drink, and I’ll water your camels too’ – let her be the one you have chosen for your servant Isaac. By this I will know that you have shown kindness to my master'” (Genesis 24:13-14).
So Abraham’s servant asked God to confirm His direction with a specific series of events that were very unlikely to occur by chance or accident. How unlikely? Well, remember that there were ten camels in this caravan (Genesis 24:10), and making sure that each one had enough to drink was more than just a matter of putting some water in a bowl.
You see, a camel can go without water for a longer period than any other domestic animal. In the cooler part of the year, a camel may not drink any water for up to six months. Even during the hot summer months, a camel may only drink once a week. But when it does come time for a camel to have a drink, it can gulp down an enormous quantity of water in a very short time. For example, a very thirsty camel -such as one just off a long, hot caravan- can drink up to 35 gallons (132.5 l) of water in only six minutes. (1)
So let’s say that each of these camels only wanted to drink 20 gallons (75 l) of water. That would still total up to 200 gallons (757 l) of water for all ten camels. That represented a lot of work because all of that water had to be brought out by hand from a well. If the well was a cistern type well, then someone would have to lower a bucket or a jar on a rope to haul up the water. If the well was a reservoir type well, then someone would need to travel up and down a staircase to bring out the water.
While getting a drink for a stranger might be a courteous thing to do, hauling out hundreds of gallons of water for ten thirsty camels was really asking a lot. So anyone who was willing to do this would be someone who was definitely out of the ordinary.
(1) Gen. 23-24: The Death Of Sarah / A Bride Is Found For Isaac Bomkamp, Jim http://www.calvarychapelgb.com/Genesis/Gen23p1.htm
“May it be that when I say to a girl, ‘Please let down your jar that I may have a drink,’ and she says, ‘Drink, and I’ll water your camels too’ – let her be the one you have chosen for your servant Isaac. By this I will know that you have shown kindness to my master'” (Genesis 24:14).
Because of the tremendous amount of work that was involved in watering ten camels, any woman who volunteered to take on such a responsibility would demonstrate something important about her character and personality. For example, a woman like that would be someone who could see what needed to be done and not disregard it. She would be someone who was kind and helpful- not only to Abraham’s servant but also to the animals who were with him. She would also be a hard worker and not someone who was lazy or only concerned about herself. Therefore, anyone with the ability to demonstrate these qualities and pass this test was sure to be someone really special.
So now the scene was set. Abraham’s servant had prepared himself by making sure that he was in the right place at the right time. He also made sure to pray and ask God to confirm His direction by arranging a certain sequence of events that were highly unlikely to happen on their own. And now we’re about to meet a young lady who has no idea that her life is about to change forever…
“Before he had finished praying, Rebekah came out with her jar on her shoulder. She was the daughter of Bethuel son of Milcah, who was the wife of Abraham’s brother Nahor. The girl was very beautiful, a virgin; no man had ever lain with her. She went down to the spring, filled her jar and came up again” (Genesis 24:15-16).
Before Abraham’s servant could even finish his prayer, a young woman (who was almost certainly a teenager at this time) came out to draw some water from this local well. Her name was Rebekah and she was the granddaughter of Abraham’s brother Nahor. This meant Rebekah was actually related to Abraham’s son Isaac as a 2nd cousin. Now you may remember that part of Abraham’s mission statement for this trip was this: “…go to my country and my own relatives and get a wife for my son Isaac'” (Genesis 24:4). So Rebekah passed the first qualification- but there were still a few more hurdles that she still needed to overcome.
“The girl was very beautiful, a virgin; no man had ever lain with her. She went down to the spring, filled her jar and came up again” (Genesis 24:16).
First, we’re told that Rebekah was someone who “…was very beautiful.” While it was certainly nice that Rebekah was a good-looking girl, that by itself wasn’t enough to qualify her as the right choice to be a good marriage partner. We’re also told that she was a virgin, so she we know that Rebekah was a person of good moral character and not someone who was sleeping around. So now it was time for step two…
“The servant hurried to meet her and said, ‘Please give me a little water from your jar.’ ‘Drink, my lord,’ she said, and quickly lowered the jar to her hands and gave him a drink” (Genesis 24:17-18).
Rebekah demonstrated that she was polite and considerate to someone who was a total stranger. She could have ignored this simple request or told Abraham’s servant to go and get his own water, but instead she was kind and respectful to a thirsty traveler.
“After she had given him a drink, she said, ‘I’ll draw water for your camels too, until they have finished drinking.’ So she quickly emptied her jar into the trough, ran back to the well to draw more water, and drew enough for all his camels” (Genesis 24:19-20).
Notice that Rebekah volunteered to do far more than just give an anonymous stranger a sip of water- she also said, “I will get water for your camels till they have had enough” (BBE). Rebekah must have recognized that these animals were tired and thirsty from their trip and she made sure to do something about it. So it seemed that God had given Abraham’s servant exactly what he was looking for, right? Well, remember that it was easy for Rebekah to make that promise but not so easy for her to keep that promise. So Abraham’s servant decided to wait around to see if she was really willing to live up to her word…
“Without saying a word, the man watched her closely to learn whether or not the Lord had made his journey successful” (Genesis 24:21).
Abraham’s servant wisely decided to watch and see just how well Rebekah lived up to her promise. Remember that Abraham’s servant was a total stranger to Rebekah. That meant that she had no special reason to be nice to him. Anything that Rebekah did to help him would honestly serve to demonstrate the type of person that she was.
“When the camels had finished drinking, the man took out a gold nose ring weighing a beka and two gold bracelets weighing ten shekels” (Genesis 24:22).
So in appreciation for her kindness towards him, Abraham’s servant rewarded Rebekah with a gift of some expensive jewelry. First, she was presented with the gift of a nose ring that carried the weight of one beka. A “beka” was a standard of weight that was used during Abraham’s time and it was equivalent to approximately 5-6 grams or 0.2 oz in a modern system of weights and measures. (1) At an exchange rate of $1000.00 (US) per ounce, this piece of jewelry would be worth between $150.00 and $200.00 (US) today.
But that wasn’t all. We’re told that Abraham’s servant also gave Rebekah a gift of two gold bracelets weighing 10 shekels. Now the bracelets that Rebekah received were much more elaborate then the simple bracelets that we might be familiar with today. You see, a bracelet of Abraham’s day was worn along the forearm and extended down from the elbow to the wrist, so this was clearly a very impressive piece of jewelry. One “shekel” had the equivalent weight of 11.5 grams, so the total weight of these bracelets was about 115 grams or approximately 4 ounces. (1) If we wanted to express the value of these bracelets in terms of what someone might pay for them today, we could say that someone would have to spend almost $1300.00 (US) just for the worth of the gold alone. (2)
So Rebekah received a pretty nice reward for helping out a total stranger- but Abraham’s servant wasn’t finished yet. It was now time for the final question…
“Then he asked, ‘Whose daughter are you? Please tell me, is there room in your father’s house for us to spend the night?’ She answered him, ‘I am the daughter of Bethuel, the son that Milcah bore to Nahor.’ And she added, ‘We have plenty of straw and fodder, as well as room for you to spend the night'” (Genesis 24:23-24).
It was clear that God had definitely arranged for Abraham’s servant to meet the right person at the right place at the right time. In a very short time, we’ve learned that Rebekah was pure and beautiful (verse 16), considerate (verse 18), kind (verse 19), and a very hard worker (verse 20). She came from the right family (verse 24) and she was even willing to offer Abraham’s servant a place to stay and food to feed his animals. So it should come as no surprise to see how Abraham’s servant responded next.
(1) NET Notes, NET Bible Genesis 24:22 http://dev.bible.org/netbible6b/verse.php?book=Gen&chapter=24&verse=22
(2) At a rate of $1000.00 (US) per ounce
“Then the man bowed down and worshiped the Lord, saying, ‘Praise be to the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who has not abandoned his kindness and faithfulness to my master. As for me, the Lord has led me on the journey to the house of my master’s relatives'” (Genesis 24:26-27).
When you think about everything that’s happened in Genesis 24 up to this point, it’s no wonder that Abraham’s special agent reacted in the way that he did. This man was so overwhelmingly impressed by God’s answer to his prayer that he responded with an spontaneous outpouring of worship, thankfulness, and appreciation. This response provides us with an example that’s important to remember today- when God answers our prayers, we shouldn’t forget to thank Him for His answers. You see, people sometimes have a tendency to pray for something but then forget to acknowledge God when He answers their prayers. In fact, Jesus once had an experience that illustrated this very clearly…
“As Jesus made his way to Jerusalem, he went along the border between Samaria and Galilee. He was going into a village when he was met by ten men suffering from a dreaded skin disease. They stood at a distance and shouted, ‘Jesus! Master! Have pity on us!’ Jesus saw them and said to them, ‘Go and let the priests examine you.’
On the way they were made clean. When one of them saw that he was healed, he came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself to the ground at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. The man was a Samaritan. Jesus spoke up, ‘There were ten who were healed; where are the other nine? Why is this foreigner the only one who came back to give thanks to God?’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Get up and go; your faith has made you well'” (Luke 17:11-19 GNB).
Did you see how Jesus took note of the nine men who were healed but then couldn’t be bothered to go back and thank Him for what He had done? It’s clear that Jesus missed them and He wondered why they didn’t show any appreciation to God for the things that He had done in their lives. This reminds us that God notices when people neglect to thank Him for the things that He has done, just as we would look for an expression of appreciation from someone that we’ve helped. So when God answers your prayers, be sure to remember to thank Him for His answers.
Rebekah surely had no idea that she was the answer to someone’s prayer as she worked to get water for ten thirsty camels. But she quickly caught on to the fact that something bigger and more important was actually going on behind the scenes…
“The girl ran and told her mother’s household about these things. Now Rebekah had a brother named Laban, and he hurried out to the man at the spring. As soon as he had seen the nose ring, and the bracelets on his sister’s arms, and had heard Rebekah tell what the man said to her, he went out to the man and found him standing by the camels near the spring.
“‘Come, you who are blessed by the Lord,’ he said. ‘Why are you standing out here? I have prepared the house and a place for the camels.’ So the man went to the house, and the camels were unloaded. Straw and fodder were brought for the camels, and water for him and his men to wash their feet” (Genesis 24:28-32).
So Rebekah’s brother Laban went out to meet the man who had given his sister these expensive gifts. Now in that culture, you would normally expect to see a father take on the responsibility of meeting with Abraham’s servant. However, Rebekah’s father Bethuel will only appear once in this story (and then only for a moment), so it’s likely that he was either too old, too sick, or otherwise unable to carry out this responsibility. This would explain why Rebekah ran back to tell “…her mother’s household…” about what had happened instead of “her father’s household” as we might normally expect to see in that culture. It would also help to explain why Rebekah’s brother Laban stepped in to act as the family representative.
Now we’re going to get to know Rebekah’s brother Laban a lot better was we go on through the book of Genesis, but these verses help to give us a little preview of his character. For instance, did you notice that Genesis 24:30 specifically tells us, “As soon as (Laban) had seen the nose ring, and the bracelets on his sister’s arms, and had heard Rebekah tell what the man said to her, he went out to the man and found him standing by the camels near the spring.”
In other words, as soon Laban saw this expensive jewelry and heard what his sister had to say about this mysterious stranger, he was ready to launch right into action. The question is, what was Laban’s real motivation?
“As soon as he had seen the nose ring, and the bracelets on his sister’s arms, and had heard Rebekah tell what the man said to her, (Laban) went out to the man and found him standing by the camels near the spring. ‘Come, you who are blessed by the Lord,’ he said. ‘Why are you standing out here? I have prepared the house and a place for the camels'” (Genesis 24:30-31).
Abraham’s servant was certainly blessed by the Lord, but it seems that Laban’s hospitality was at least partially motivated by something else- the expensive gifts that his sister received from this visitor. While it’s possible that Laban simply wanted to show his appreciation for what this man had done for Rebekah, it’s more likely that Laban was really interested in seeing how he could benefit from developing a relationship with this wealthy stranger as well. In fact, Laban will eventually go on to show that he was very good at manipulating relationships for his own benefit- but that’s a story to be continued later.
“So the man went to the house, and the camels were unloaded. Straw and fodder were brought for the camels, and water for him and his men to wash their feet. Then food was set before him, but he said, ‘I will not eat until I have told you what I have to say.’ ‘Then tell us,’ [Laban] said” (Genesis 24:32-33).
So Laban offered the traditional courtesies that were given to a guest in that culture. First, he made sure to take care of the animals’ needs. Next, we’re told that “…he brought water for Abraham’s servant and his men to wash their feet” (GNB). This was important because there weren’t many paved roads back in those days. This meant that someone walking along the dirt roads of that time often had to deal with dust, mud, and things like animal droppings and other waste. Since the people of that day usually wore open-toed sandals as footwear, their feet would usually get dusty and dirty as they walked along. So whenever a traveler entered someone’s home as a guest, it was expected that a servant would remove the guest’s footwear, pour water over his or her feet, and then dry their feet with a towel. After that, it would be time for the host and his or her guest to enjoy a nice meal together.
Now it was normal for someone to wait until after the meal to discuss business, but we’ll soon see that Abraham’s servant wasn’t interested in wasting any time.
‘I will not eat until I have told you what I have to say'” (Genesis 24:33).
Abraham’s servant was so determined to fulfill the purpose of his mission that he wouldn’t even eat until he explained the circumstances behind how he came to meet Rebekah (see Genesis 24:34-49). So after discussing the entire purpose of his visit with his hosts, Abraham’s servant finished up by saying this…
“‘Now if you will show kindness and faithfulness to my master, tell me; and if not, tell me, so I may know which way to turn'” (Genesis 24:49).
In other words, Abraham’s servant basically told Rebekah’s family this: “She is exactly the kind of person that I came looking for. Are you willing to let her go with me?” That left Rebekah’s family with a decision to make and to their credit, Rebekah’s brother and father responded by saying this…
“Laban and Bethuel answered, ‘This is from the Lord; we can say nothing to you one way or the other. Here is Rebekah; take her and go, and let her become the wife of your master’s son, as the Lord has directed'” (Genesis 24:50-51).
So their attitude was, “This is something that God has clearly arranged, so who are we to stand in the way? Whatever our personal feelings about this may be, we will accept whatever plan God has for our family.”
“When Abraham’s servant heard what they said, he bowed down to the ground before the Lord. Then the servant brought out gold and silver jewelry and articles of clothing and gave them to Rebekah; he also gave costly gifts to her brother and to her mother”(Genesis 24:52-53).
When a marriage agreement was finalized in that culture, it was a custom for the groom (or the groom’s representative) to give gifts to the family of the bride. These gifts served to demonstrate that the groom had enough financial ability to provide for the bride after they were married. These gifts also helped to compensate the bride’s family for the loss of their daughter as a valuable worker.
You see, once Rebekah left home, it meant that someone else would have to take over her responsibilities. While it was impossible to replace a family member, it was expected that the groom would help to compensate the bride’s parents for the loss of their daughter as a contributing member of their family. This is what Abraham’s servant did and according to the verses quoted above, Rebekah’s family was very well compensated.
“Then he and the men who were with him ate and drank and spent the night there. When they got up the next morning, he said, ‘Send me on my way to my master.’
But her brother and her mother replied, ‘Let the girl remain with us ten days or so; then you may go.’ But he said to them, ‘Do not detain me, now that the Lord has granted success to my journey. Send me on my way so I may go to my master'” (Genesis 24:54-56).
Now that all the arrangements had been made, Abraham’s servant wanted to pack up and leave with Rebekah the very next morning. However, it seems that Rebekah’s family wasn’t ready to let her go quite so soon: “Let the girl stay a while, say another ten days, and then go” (MSG). However, Abraham’s servant was absolutely determined to get their road trip started: “Don’t delay me now that the LORD has made my trip successful. Let me go back to my master” (GW).
That was important because a decision to stay around for a while might have prevented Abraham’s servant from successfully finishing the work that he had been sent to do. For example, a decision to hang around for a week or more could have opened up the opportunity for someone in the family to have second thoughts about letting Rebekah go. It might have also provided time for someone to think up a reason to get out of doing what God clearly wanted them to do. Instead, Abraham’s servant wanted to avoid these potential problems by moving forward as soon as possible.
We can also find a good spiritual application in this experience as well. For instance, someone may think, “I know that I should get right with God but I want to live my life first. I want to go out and experience things- there will be enough time for ‘religion’ when I’m older.” The problem with this idea is that while someone may have an expectation of a long life, no one has an assurance of a long life. No one has a guarantee that they will be alive next week, next month, next year, or even tomorrow. So this episode with Rebekah’s family reminds us that it’s important to stay focused on quickly doing what God has called us to do- and that includes making sure that we are right with God through Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf.
And to those people who need to get right with God but want to wait until they are older and “enjoy life” first, the Bible says this: “I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2).
“‘Do not detain me, now that the Lord has granted success to my journey. Send me on my way so I may go to my master'” (Genesis 24:56b).
Abraham’s servant refused to be diverted from the mission that he had been sent out to perform- and his example can also be applied in the spiritual lives of God’s people as well. You see, God provides each of His people with an opportunity to do some real good in the world and those opportunities exist where ever you may happen to be.
For example, you have the opportunity to be God’s representative at home, at school, on your team, at your job, or anywhere else you may be. Remember that time is always short and the opportunities that may be available to you now won’t last forever. Today is the day to do great things for God because there’s no guarantee that there is going to be a tomorrow and you can’t change anything that happened yesterday. Remember that Abraham’s servant was focused on doing his master’s work without any delay, and he provides us with a good example to follow as we seek to follow through on God’s will for our own lives.
But there’s another reason to stay focused on doing the things that God have given you to do. Remember that the Scriptures identify an enemy who seeks to neutralize God’s will for your life. This enemy doesn’t care about the great spiritual things that you plan to do. He doesn’t care about the ministry that you want to get involved in. He doesn’t care that you are going to start reading your Bible or setting aside time to pray each day. He doesn’t care that you’re going get serious about going to church. He doesn’t care that you’re going to be careful about the movies you see, the music you listen to, or the television shows you watch.
This enemy doesn’t care about any of those things- as long as you start doing them tomorrow. You see, once you start putting things off until “tomorrow,” you’ll often find that “tomorrow” quickly turns into “next week,” or “next month,” or “next year,” and maybe even “never.” That’s one reason why Hebrews 3:13 tells us to, “…encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”
Rebekah’s family wanted Abraham’s servant to hang around for a while, but he wasn’t willing to put off doing something that God was clearly leading him to do. In the same way, the time to do whatever God is calling you to do is today– don’t put it off until tomorrow.
So it seems that Rebekah’s family and Abraham’s servant found themselves at a stalemate- that is, until somebody came up with a bright idea…
“Then they said, ‘Let’s call the girl and ask her about it.’ So they called Rebekah and asked her, ‘Will you go with this man?’ ‘I will go,’ she said” (Genesis 24:57-58).
Now put yourself in Rebekah’s position for a moment. Abraham’s servant was someone that Rebekah had only known for less than a day. Now this man wanted her to leave her family, most of her friends, and everything that had been familiar so she could travel with him to a place where she’d never been to before. Then he wanted her to get married to another man that she had never met and spend the rest of her life with her new husband in a foreign country.
It’s safe to say that most people would probably be unwilling to do something like this, but Rebekah didn’t hesitate:“They called her and asked, ‘Are you willing to leave with this man right now?’ ‘Yes,’ she answered” (CEV). So it appears that Rebekah also wanted to move forward on God’s agenda without any delay, just as Abraham’s servant did.
” So they sent their sister Rebekah on her way, along with her nurse and Abraham’s servant and his men. And they blessed Rebekah and said to her, ‘Our sister, may you increase to thousands upon thousands; may your offspring possess the gates of their enemies.’
Then Rebekah and her maids got ready and mounted their camels and went back with the man. So the servant took Rebekah and left” (Genesis 24:57-61).
In Abraham’s day, people basically had two choices if they wanted to go from one place to another. The first option for a traveler would be to walk from place to place. At an average walking speed of 2 miles per hour (3 kph), a person could reasonably expect to cover 20-30 miles (32-48km) in a day if the conditions were good. The problem was that walking was difficult for traveling long distances. It was hard to carry supplies and long distance travelers were in constant danger from thieves or wild animals.
The other alternative was to travel using an animal, usually a camel or a donkey. Traveling with many animals in a caravan was a lot safer than traveling alone and additional animals could be used to carry extra food or supplies. While the idea of traveling for hundreds of miles on the back of a camel doesn’t sound like the easiest way to get around, it was the quickest and safest way to cover the 500 mile (805km) distance that lay between Rebekah’s old home and her new home.
“Now Isaac had come from Beer Lahai Roi, for he was living in the Negev. He went out to the field one evening to meditate, and as he looked up, he saw camels approaching” (Genesis 24:62-63).
This passage gives us an opportunity to talk about the idea of “meditation,” a subject that can be easily misunderstood today. You see, there is a big difference between the Christian definition of “meditation” and the “New Age” or eastern religion idea of meditation. For example, the Christian’s definition of meditation means to think, consider, and reflect on the subject of God and His Word. This kind of meditation is clearly encouraged by Scriptures like Psalm 1:1-2…
“Oh, the joys of those who do not follow evil men’s advice, who do not hang around with sinners, scoffing at the things of God. But they delight in doing everything God wants them to, and day and night are always meditating on his laws and thinking about ways to follow him more closely” (TLB).
The New Testament book of Philippians also has something important to say about the right kind of meditation….
“…Fix your thoughts on what is true and good and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely, and dwell on the fine, good things in others. Think about all you can praise God for and be glad about” (Philippians 4:8 TLB).
This is the kind of meditation that honors God and it was undoubtedly the type of meditation that Isaac was involved in as Rebekah’s caravan approached. Unfortunately, the “New Age” idea of meditation usually involves “emptying” your mind to achieve some sort of physical response or altered state of consciousness. Instead of that, the right kind of meditation involves learning about God and His Word and then thinking about how that knowledge should impact your life.
“Rebekah also looked up and saw Isaac. She got down from her camel and asked the servant, ‘Who is that man in the field coming to meet us?’ ‘He is my master,’ the servant answered. So she took her veil and covered herself. Then the servant told Isaac all he had done. Isaac brought her into the tent of his mother Sarah, and he married Rebekah. So she became his wife, and he loved her; and Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death” (Genesis 24:64-67).
In those days, it was customary for a bride to veil herself prior to getting married as a sign of respect and modesty. After getting the full report about Rebekah, we’re told that Isaac married her and let her stay in the tent that had previously belonged to his mother. This told everyone that Rebekah was assuming Sarah’s place as the female head of the family. So even though this marriage was arranged without his involvement, Isaac came to love his wife because she was God’s choice for him.