A wife for Isaac
1Abraham was now a very old man. The Lord had blessed him in every way. 2Abraham had an important servant in his house. He had authority over everything that belonged to Abraham. Abraham said to him, ‘Come here and make a promise to me. Put your hand between my legs to show that I can trust you. #24:2 At that time, the people used this practice. It showed that a person was making a serious promise to another person. 3You must make a serious promise to me in front of the Lord. He is the God who rules both heaven and earth. I am living among the Canaanite people, but you must promise this to me: Do not get a Canaanite woman to be a wife for my son. 4Instead, you must go to my own country. Go to my family there to find a wife for my son Isaac.’
5The servant asked Abraham, ‘What should I do if the woman will not agree? Maybe she will not come back with me to this land? Must I then take your son to the country that you came from?’
6Abraham replied, ‘No! You must never take my son back there. 7The Lord, the God of heaven, took me away from there. He took me out of my father's house. He took me away from the land where my family lives. God made a serious promise to me. He said, “I will give this land to your descendants.” Because God has promised this, he will send his angel to go in front of you. When you arrive there, you will find a woman to marry my son. 8But perhaps the woman will not agree to come back here with you. If that happens, you do not have to keep this promise. But do not take my son back to that land.’ 9So the servant put his hand between Abraham's legs. The servant promised that he would do everything that Abraham had told him.
10After that, Abraham's servant left to go on his journey. He took with him ten of his master's camels. He also took many different kinds of valuable gifts that Abraham had given to him. #24:10 The gifts were for the family of the woman who would agree to marry Isaac. He travelled towards Aram Naharaim. He arrived in the town of Nahor. #24:10 This was the place where Abraham's brother Nahor had lived. It was in Mesopotamia.
11Abraham's servant stopped outside the town. He made the camels go down on their knees near a well. It was the evening time, when women came to the well to get water. 12The servant prayed to God. He prayed, ‘Lord, God of Abraham, my master, please be my guide today. Be kind to my master Abraham, as you have promised him. 13See, I am standing here near this well. The daughters of the people who live in the town will come to get water from the well. 14I will say to one of the young women, “Please let me have a drink of water from your pot.” If she is the right woman for your servant Isaac to marry, please may she say, “Yes, drink. Then I will give water to your camels also”. If that happens, then I will know that you have kept your promise to my master.’
15The servant was still praying when Rebekah came to the well. She had her pot on her shoulder. Rebekah was the daughter of Bethuel, who was the son of Milcah. Milcah was the wife of Abraham's brother, Nahor. 16The young woman was very beautiful. She had not had sex with any man. She went down to the well. She filled her pot with water and she came back up again. 17Abraham's servant hurried to meet her. He said, ‘Please give me a little water to drink from your pot.’ 18She replied, ‘Yes sir, please drink.’ She quickly took the pot down from her shoulders. She held the pot with her hands and gave him a drink. 19After she had done that, she said, ‘Now I will get some water for your camels too. I will do this until they have drunk as much water as they want.’ 20So Rebekah quickly poured the water from her pot into the place where the animals drank. She ran back to the well to get more water. She did this until the camels had drunk enough. 21Abraham's servant watched the girl, but he did not say anything. He wanted to know if the Lord had helped him to find a wife for Isaac.
22The camels finished drinking. Then Abraham's servant took out a valuable gold nose ring. It weighed one half shekel. He also took out two large gold rings for Rebekah's arms. They weighed 10 shekels each.
23The servant gave them to Rebekah and he asked her, ‘Whose daughter are you? Please tell me. Is there a room in your father's house for me and my men to sleep there tonight?’
24Rebekah replied ‘I am the daughter of Bethuel. Nahor is his father, and Milcah is his mother. 25We have plenty of grass and food for the camels. And there is a room for you to stay with us for the night.’
26Then the man turned his face towards the ground. He worshipped the Lord. 27He said, ‘I praise the Lord who is the God of my master, Abraham. He has been very kind to my master. He has done what he promised to do for him. The Lord has been kind to me too. He has led me here to the house of my master's family.’
28Rebekah quickly ran back home. She told her mother and her family about what had happened.
29Rebekah had a brother. His name was Laban. 30Laban saw the nose ring and the arm rings that Rebekah was wearing. Rebekah told him what the man had said to her. So Laban went out quickly to the well to meet the servant. He found him standing near the well, together with his camels. 31Laban said to him, ‘The Lord has blessed you! You should not continue to stand out here. Come with me. I have prepared a room for you in my house. There is also a place for your camels.’
32So Abraham's servant went with Laban to the house. They took the luggage off the camels. Someone brought grass and food for the camels. They also brought water so that Abraham's servant and his men could wash their feet. 33They prepared food for the servant but he said, ‘I will not eat yet. First I must tell you why I have come here.’ Laban said, ‘Please tell us.’
34So the servant said, ‘I am Abraham's servant. 35The Lord has blessed my master very much, so that he has become very rich. The Lord has given him sheep and cows, and silver and gold. He has also given him male servants and female servants, camels and donkeys. 36Sarah is my master's wife. She has given birth to a son for him, even when she was very old. My master has given his son everything that belongs to him. 37My master told me to make a serious promise to him. He said, “I live as a stranger among the Canaanite people. But you must not get a Canaanite woman to be a wife for my son. 38Instead, go to the land where my father lived and find a wife for my son from among my family there.”
39So I asked my master, “What should I do if the woman will not return with me?” 40My master said “I have lived to please the Lord. He will send his angel to go with you. You will find a wife for my son, because the Lord will help you. You will find a wife for him from among my own family. 41Go to the place where my family group live. If they refuse to let you take her, you will no longer have to keep your promise to me.”
42I arrived at the town well today. I prayed, “Lord, God of my master Abraham, please help me to find a wife for my master's son. This is why I have travelled here. 43See, I am standing here near this well. If a young woman comes to get water, I will say to her, ‘Please let me drink some water from your pot.’ 44If she is the woman that the Lord has chosen to marry my master's son, please may she say to me, ‘Yes, drink. Then I will also get some water for your camels to drink.’ ”
45While I was still praying quietly, Rebekah came to the well. She carried her pot on her shoulder. She went down to the well, and got some water. Then I said to her “Please give me some water to drink.” 46She quickly took her pot down from her shoulder. She said, “Drink. Then I will get water for your camels too.” So I drank. And she also gave water to the camels.
47I asked her, “Whose daughter are you?” She said, “I am the daughter of Bethuel. Nahor is his father and Milcah is his mother.” When I heard that, I put the ring in her nose. I put the rings on her arms. 48I turned my face towards the ground and I worshipped the Lord. I praised the Lord, the God of my master, Abraham. The Lord led me to the right place so that I met the granddaughter of my master's brother. The Lord has led me to her, for my master's son. 49So tell me what you will say. If you will show true love to my master, then please say, “Yes.” But if not, then tell me. Then I will know what to do.’
50Laban and Bethuel replied, ‘We know that the Lord has caused all this to happen. So what we ourselves say is not important. 51Here is Rebekah. Take her with you to become the wife of your master's son. That is what the Lord has shown to be right.’
52When Abraham's servant heard their answer, he turned his face towards the ground to thank the Lord. 53He brought his master's gifts to give them to Rebekah. They were valuable things made from gold and silver, as well as beautiful clothes. He also gave valuable things to her brother and to her mother.
54After that, the servant ate a meal. The men who were with him also ate and drank. They stayed there for the night.
When they woke up the next morning, the servant said, ‘Let me leave now so that I can go back to my master.’ 55Rebekah's brother and her mother replied, ‘Please let Rebekah stay with us for a few more days. After about ten days, she can go with you.’ 56But the servant said, ‘Do not make me stay longer. The Lord has given me what I came here for. Let me leave now so that I can go back to my master.’ 57Rebekah's brother and mother said, ‘Let us call the girl. We can ask her what she wants to do.’ 58So they called Rebekah to come. They asked her, ‘Will you go with this man now?’ Rebekah said, ‘Yes, I will go.’
59So they agreed to let their sister Rebekah go. Her nurse went with her. They left there with Abraham's servant, and his men. 60As Rebekah was leaving, her brother and her mother blessed her. They said,
‘Our sister, may you become the mother of millions of descendants.
May your descendants win against their enemies,
and may they go into their enemies' cities.’ #24:60 Rebekah's mother and her brother are asking God that he will bless Rebekah. They want her to have many children.
61Then Rebekah and her female servants left there, together with Abraham's servant. They took camels to ride on. That was how the servant took Rebekah and left.
62At this time Isaac had returned from Beer Lahai Roi. #24:62 Beer Lahai Roi is a well. See Genesis 16:14. He was now living in the Negev.
63It was evening time. Isaac went out to walk in the fields. He looked up and he saw some camels. They were coming towards him.
64Rebekah also looked up and she saw Isaac. She got down from her camel. 65She asked Abraham's servant, ‘I see a man in the field who is coming towards us. Who is he?’ The servant replied, ‘He is my master’. Rebekah covered her face with a piece of cloth. #24:65 She covered her face because she was not yet a married woman.
66Then the servant told Isaac everything that happened. 67Isaac took Rebekah into the tent that his mother Sarah had lived in. Rebekah became Isaac's wife. And Isaac loved Rebekah. So Isaac was happy again, after the death of his mother.
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Isaac and Rebekah.#The story of Abraham and Sarah is drawing to a close. The promises of progeny (21:1–7) and land (chap. 23) have been fulfilled and Sarah has died (23:1–2). Abraham’s last duty is to ensure that his son Isaac shares in the promises. Isaac must take a wife from his own people (vv. 3–7), so the promises may be fulfilled. The extraordinary length of this story and its development of a single theme contrast strikingly with the spare style of the preceding Abraham and Sarah stories. It points ahead to the Jacob and Joseph stories.The length of the story is partly caused by its meticulous attention to the sign (vv. 12–14), its fulfillment (vv. 15–20), and the servant’s retelling of sign and fulfillment to Rebekah’s family to win their consent (vv. 34–49). 1Abraham was old, having seen many days, and the Lord had blessed him in every way. 2#Gn 47:29. Abraham said to the senior servant of his household, who had charge of all his possessions: “Put your hand under my thigh,#Put your hand under my thigh: the symbolism of this act was apparently connected with the Hebrew concept of children issuing from their father’s “thigh” (the literal meaning of “direct descendants” in 46:26; Ex 1:5). Perhaps the man who took such an oath was thought to bring the curse of sterility on himself if he did not fulfill his sworn promise. Jacob made Joseph swear in the same way (Gn 47:29). In both these instances, the oath was taken to carry out the last request of a man upon his death. 3and I will make you swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and the God of earth, that you will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites among whom I live,#Gn 24:37; 28:1–2; Jgs 14:3; Tb 4:12. 4but that you will go to my own land and to my relatives to get a wife for my son Isaac.” 5The servant asked him: “What if the woman is unwilling to follow me to this land? Should I then take your son back to the land from which you came?” 6Abraham told him, “Never take my son back there for any reason! 7The Lord, the God of heaven, who took me from my father’s house and the land of my relatives, and who confirmed by oath the promise he made to me, ‘I will give this land to your descendants’—he will send his angel before you, and you will get a wife for my son there.#Gn 12:7; Ex 6:8; Tb 5:17; Gal 3:16. 8If the woman is unwilling to follow you, you will be released from this oath to me. But never take my son back there!” 9So the servant put his hand under the thigh of his master Abraham and swore to him concerning this matter.
10The servant then took ten of his master’s camels, and bearing all kinds of gifts from his master, he made his way to the city of Nahor#Nahor: it is uncertain whether this is the place where Abraham’s brother Nahor (11:27) had lived or whether it is the city Nahur, named in the Mari documents (nineteenth and eighteenth centuries B.C.), near the confluence of the Balikh and Middle Euphrates rivers. Aram Naharaim: lit., “Aram between the two rivers,” is the Yahwist designation for Terah’s homeland. The two rivers are the Habur and the Euphrates. The Priestly designation for the area is Paddan-aram, which is from the Assyrian padana, “road or garden,” and Aram, which refers to the people or land of the Arameans. in Aram Naharaim. 11Near evening, at the time when women go out to draw water, he made the camels kneel by the well outside the city. 12Then he said: “Lord, God of my master Abraham, let it turn out favorably for me#Let it turn out favorably for me: let me have a favorable sign; cf. end of v. 14. today and thus deal graciously with my master Abraham. 13While I stand here at the spring and the daughters of the townspeople are coming out to draw water, 14if I say to a young woman, ‘Please lower your jug, that I may drink,’ and she answers, ‘Drink, and I will water your camels, too,’ then she is the one whom you have decided upon for your servant Isaac. In this way I will know that you have dealt graciously with my master.”
15#Gn 22:23. He had scarcely finished speaking when Rebekah—who was born to Bethuel, son of Milcah, the wife of Abraham’s brother Nahor—came out with a jug on her shoulder. 16The young woman was very beautiful, a virgin, untouched by man. She went down to the spring and filled her jug. As she came up, 17the servant ran toward her and said, “Please give me a sip of water from your jug.” 18“Drink, sir,” she replied, and quickly lowering the jug into her hand, she gave him a drink. 19When she had finished giving him a drink, she said, “I will draw water for your camels, too, until they have finished drinking.” 20With that, she quickly emptied her jug into the drinking trough and ran back to the well to draw more water, until she had drawn enough for all the camels. 21The man watched her the whole time, silently waiting to learn whether or not the Lord had made his journey successful. 22When the camels had finished drinking, the man took out a gold nose-ring weighing half a shekel, and two gold bracelets weighing ten shekels for her wrists. 23Then he asked her: “Whose daughter are you? Tell me, please. And is there a place in your father’s house for us to spend the night?” 24She answered: “I am the daughter of Bethuel the son of Milcah, whom she bore to Nahor. 25We have plenty of straw and fodder,” she added, “and also a place to spend the night.” 26The man then knelt and bowed down to the Lord, 27saying: “Blessed be the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who has not let his kindness and fidelity toward my master fail. As for me, the Lord has led me straight to the house of my master’s brother.”
28Then the young woman ran off and told her mother’s household what had happened. 29#Gn 27:43. Now Rebekah had a brother named Laban. Laban rushed outside to the man at the spring. 30#Laban becomes hospitable only when he sees the servant’s rich gifts, which is in humorous contrast to his sister’s spontaneous generosity toward the servant. Laban’s opportunism points forward to his behavior in the Jacob stories (31:14–16). When he saw the nose-ring and the bracelets on his sister’s arms and when he heard Rebekah repeating what the man had said to her, he went to him while he was standing by the camels at the spring. 31He said: “Come, blessed of the Lord! Why are you standing outside when I have made the house ready, as well as a place for the camels?” 32The man then went inside; and while the camels were being unloaded and provided with straw and fodder, water was brought to bathe his feet and the feet of the men who were with him. 33But when food was set before him, he said, “I will not eat until I have told my story.” “Go ahead,” they replied.
34“I am Abraham’s servant,” he began. 35“The Lord has blessed my master so abundantly that he has become wealthy; he has given him flocks and herds, silver and gold, male and female slaves, and camels and donkeys. 36My master’s wife Sarah bore a son to my master in her old age, and he has given him everything he owns. 37My master put me under oath, saying: ‘You shall not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites in whose land I live; 38instead, you must go to my father’s house, to my own family, to get a wife for my son.’ 39When I asked my master, ‘What if the woman will not follow me?’ 40he replied: ‘The Lord, in whose presence I have always walked, will send his angel with you and make your journey successful, and so you will get a wife for my son from my own family and my father’s house.#Tb 5:17; 10:13. 41Then you will be freed from my curse. If you go to my family and they refuse you, then, too, you will be free from my curse.’#Curse: this would be the consequence of failing to carry out the oath referred to in v. 3.
42“When I came to the spring today, I said: ‘Lord, God of my master Abraham, please make successful the journey I am on. 43While I stand here at the spring, if I say to a young woman who comes out to draw water, ‘Please give me a little water from your jug,’ 44and she answers, ‘Drink, and I will draw water for your camels, too—then she is the woman whom the Lord has decided upon for my master’s son.’
45“I had scarcely finished saying this to myself when Rebekah came out with a jug on her shoulder. After she went down to the spring and drew water, I said to her, ‘Please let me have a drink.’ 46She quickly lowered the jug she was carrying and said, ‘Drink, and I will water your camels, too.’ So I drank, and she watered the camels also. 47When I asked her, ‘Whose daughter are you?’ she answered, ‘The daughter of Bethuel, son of Nahor, borne to Nahor by Milcah.’ So I put the ring on her nose and the bracelets on her wrists. 48Then I knelt and bowed down to the Lord, blessing the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who had led me on the right road to obtain the daughter of my master’s kinsman for his son. 49Now, if you will act with kindness and fidelity toward my master, let me know; but if not, let me know that too. I can then proceed accordingly.”
50#Tb 7:11–12. Laban and Bethuel said in reply: “This thing comes from the Lord; we can say nothing to you either for or against it. 51Here is Rebekah, right in front of you; take her and go, that she may become the wife of your master’s son, as the Lord has said.” 52When Abraham’s servant heard their answer, he bowed to the ground before the Lord. 53Then he brought out objects of silver and gold and clothing and presented them to Rebekah; he also gave costly presents to her brother and mother. 54After he and the men with him had eaten and drunk, they spent the night there.
When they got up the next morning, he said, “Allow me to return to my master.”#Tb 7:14; 8:20. 55Her brother and mother replied, “Let the young woman stay with us a short while, say ten days; after that she may go.” 56But he said to them, “Do not detain me, now that the Lord has made my journey successful; let me go back to my master.” 57They answered, “Let us call the young woman and see what she herself has to say about it.” 58So they called Rebekah and asked her, “Will you go with this man?” She answered, “I will.”#Marriages arranged by the woman’s father did not require the woman’s consent, but marriages arranged by the woman’s brother did. Laban is the brother and Rebekah is therefore free to give her consent or not. 59At this they sent off their sister Rebekah and her nurse with Abraham’s servant and his men. 60They blessed Rebekah and said:
“Sister, may you grow
into thousands of myriads;
And may your descendants gain possession
of the gates of their enemies!”#Gn 22:17.
61Then Rebekah and her attendants started out; they mounted the camels and followed the man. So the servant took Rebekah and went on his way.
62Meanwhile Isaac had gone from Beer-lahai-roi and was living in the region of the Negeb.#Gn 16:13–14; 25:11. 63One day toward evening he went out to walk in the field, and caught sight of camels approaching. 64Rebekah, too, caught sight of Isaac, and got down from her camel. 65She asked the servant, “Who is the man over there, walking through the fields toward us?” “That is my master,” replied the servant. Then she took her veil and covered herself.
66The servant recounted to Isaac all the things he had done. 67Then Isaac brought Rebekah into the tent of his mother Sarah. He took Rebekah as his wife. Isaac loved her and found solace after the death of his mother.
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