1 Now Abraham was old and of many days. And the Lord had blessed him in all things.
2 And he said to the elder servant of his house, who was in charge of all that he had: "Place your hand under my thigh,
3 so that I may make you swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and earth, that you will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I live.
4 But that you will proceed to my land and kindred, and from there take a wife for my son Isaac."
5 The servant responded, "If the woman is not willing to come with me into this land, must I lead your son back to the place from which you departed?"
6 And Abraham said: "Beware that you never lead my son back to that place.
7 The Lord God of heaven, who took me from my father's house, and from the land of my nativity, who spoke to me and swore to me, saying, 'To your offspring I will give this land,' himself will send his Angel before you, and you will take from there a wife for my son.
8 But if the woman is not willing to follow you, you will not be held by the oath. Only do not lead my son back to that place."
9 Therefore, the servant placed his hand under the thigh of Abraham, his lord, and he swore to him on his word.
10 And he took ten camels from his lord's herd, and he went forth, carrying with him things from all of his goods. And he set out, and continued on, to the city of Nahor, in Mesopotamia.
11 And when he had made the camels lie down outside of the town, near a well of water, in the evening, at the time when women are accustomed to go out to draw water, he said:
12 "O Lord, the God of my lord Abraham, meet with me today, I beg you, and show mercy to my lord Abraham.
13 Behold, I stand near the fountain of water, and the daughters of the inhabitants of this city will go forth to draw water.
14 Therefore, the girl to whom I will say, 'Tip your pitcher, so that I may drink,' and she will respond, 'Drink. In fact, I will give your camels a drink also,' the same one is she whom you have prepared for your servant Isaac. And by this, I will understand that you have shown mercy to my lord."
15 But he had not yet completed these words within himself, when, behold, Rebekah went out, the daughter of Bethuel, son of Milcah, the wife of Nahor, the brother of Abraham, having a pitcher on her shoulder.
16 She was an exceedingly elegant girl, and a most beautiful virgin, and unknown by man. And she descended to the spring, and she filled her pitcher, and then was returning.
17 And the servant ran to meet her, and he said, "Provide me with a little water to drink from your pitcher."
18 And she responded, "Drink, my lord." And she quickly brought down the pitcher on her arm, and she gave him a drink.
19 And after he drank, she added, "In fact, I will draw water for your camels also, until they all drink."
20 And pouring out the pitcher into the troughs, she ran back to the well to draw water; and having drawn, she gave it to all the camels.
21 But he was contemplating her silently, wanting to know whether the Lord had caused his journey to prosper or not
22 Then, after the camels drank, the man took out gold earrings, weighing two shekels, and the same number of bracelets, ten shekels in weight.
23 And he said to her: "Whose daughter are you? Tell me, is there any place in your father's house to lodge?"
24 She responded, "I am the daughter of Bethuel, the son of Milcah, to whom she gave birth for Nahor."
25 And she continued, saying, "There is very much straw and hay with us, and a spacious place to stay."
26 The man bowed himself down, and he adored the Lord,
27 saying, "Blessed be the Lord, the God of my lord Abraham, who has not taken away his mercy and truth from my lord, and who has led me on a direct journey to the house of the brother of my lord."
28 And so the girl ran, and she reported all that she had heard in the house of her mother.
29 Now Rebekah had a brother, named Laban, who went out quickly to the man, where the spring was.
30 And when he had seen the earrings and bracelets in his sister's hands, and he had heard all the words being repeated, "This is what the man spoke to me," he came to the man who stood by the camels and near the spring of water,
31 and he said to him: "Enter, O blessed of the Lord. Why do you stand outside? I have prepared the house, and a place for the camels."
32 And he brought him into his guest quarters. And he unharnessed the camels, and he distributed straw and hay, and water to wash his feet and that of the men who arrived with him.
33 And bread was set out in his sight. But he said, "I will not eat, until I have spoken my words." He answered him, "Speak."
34 Then he said: "I am the servant of Abraham.
35 And the Lord has blessed my lord greatly, and he has become great. And he has given him sheep and oxen, silver and gold, men servants and women servants, camels and donkeys.
36 And Sarah, the wife of my lord, has given birth to a son for my lord in her old age, and he has given him all that he had.
37 And my lord made me swear, saying: 'You shall not take a wife for my son from the Canaanites, in whose land I dwell.
38 But you shall travel to my father's house, and you shall take a wife of my own kindred for my son.'
39 But truly, I answered my lord, 'What if the woman is not willing to come with me?'
40 'The Lord,' he said, 'in whose sight I walk, will send his Angel with you, and he will direct your way. And you shall take a wife for my son from my own kindred and from my father's house.
41 But you will be innocent of my curse, if, when you will arrive at my close relatives, they will not grant this to you.'
42 And so, today I arrived at the well of water, and I said: 'O Lord, the God of my lord Abraham, if you have directed my way, in which I now walk,
43 behold, I stand next to the well of water, and the virgin, who will go forth to draw water, will hear from me, "Give me a little water to drink from your pitcher."
44 And she will say to me, "You drink, and I will also draw for your camels." Let the same be the woman, whom the Lord has prepared for the son of my lord.'
45 And while I thought over these things silently within myself, Rebekah appeared, arriving with a pitcher, which she carried on her shoulder. And she descended to the spring and drew water. And I said to her, 'Give me a little to drink.'
46 And she quickly let down the pitcher from her arm, and said to me, 'You drink, and to your camels I will also distribute drinking water.' I drank, and she watered the camels.
47 And I questioned her, saying, 'Whose daughter are you?' And she responded, 'I am the daughter of Bethuel, the son of Nahor, whom Milcah bore to him.' And so, I hung the earrings on her, to adorn her face, and I put the bracelets on her hands.
48 And falling prostrate, I adored the Lord, blessing the Lord, the God of my lord Abraham, who has led me along the straight path so as to take the daughter of my lord's brother to his son.
49 For this reason, if you would act according to mercy and truth with my lord, tell me so. But if it pleases you otherwise, say that to me also, so that I may go either to the right, or to the left."
50 And Laban and Bethuel responded: "A word has proceeded from the Lord. We are not able to speak anything else to you, beyond what pleases him.
51 Lo, Rebekah is in your sight. Take her and continue on, and let her be the wife of the son of your lord, just as the Lord has spoken."
52 When Abraham's servant had heard this, falling down to the ground, he adored the Lord.
53 And bringing forth vessels of silver and gold, as well as garments, he gave them to Rebekah as a tribute. Likewise, he offered gifts to her brothers and her mother.
54 And a banquet began, and they feasted and drank together, and they lodged there. And rising up in the morning, the servant said, "Release me, so that I may go to my lord."
55 And her brothers and mother responded, "Let the girl remain for at least ten days with us, and after that, she will continue on."
56 "Do not be willing," he said, "to delay me, for the Lord has directed my way. Release me, so that I may journey to my lord."
57 And they said, "Let us call the girl, and ask her will."
58 And when, having been called, she arrived, they wanted to know, "Will you go with this man?" And she said, "I will go."
59 Therefore, they released her and her nurse, and the servant of Abraham and his companions,
60 wishing prosperity for their sister, by saying: "You are our sister. May you increase to thousands of thousands. And may your offspring possess the gates of their enemies."
61 And so, Rebekah and her maids, riding upon camels, followed the man, who quickly returned to his lord.
62 Then, at the same time, Isaac was walking along the way that leads to the well, whose name is: 'of the One who lives and who sees.' For he dwelt in the southern land.
63 And he had gone out to meditate in the field, as daylight was now declining. And when he had lifted up his eyes, he saw camels advancing from afar.
64 Likewise, Rebekah, having seen Isaac, descended from the camel.
65 And she said to the servant, "Who is that man who advances to meet us through the field?" And he said to her, "That is my lord." And so, quickly taking up her cloak, she covered herself.
66 Then the servant explained to Isaac all that he had done.
67 And he led her into the tent of Sarah his mother, and he accepted her as wife. And he loved her so very much, that it tempered the sorrow which befell him at his mother's death.
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.
Learn More About New American Bible, revised edition
Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc