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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Isaac and Rebekah
1Now Abraham was old, advanced in age,#Literally “going in the days” and Yahweh had blessed Abraham in everything. 2And Abraham said to his servant, the oldest of his house, who had charge of all he had, “Please put your hand under my thigh 3that I may make you swear by Yahweh, 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 in whose midst I am dwelling, 4but that you will go to my land and to my family, and take a wife for my son, for Isaac.” 5And the servant said to him, “Perhaps the woman will not be willing to follow#Literally “to go after” me to this land—must I then return your son to the land from whence you came?” 6Abraham said to him, “You must take care#Literally “let it be careful to you” that you do not return my son there. 7Yahweh, the God of heaven who took me from the house of my father and from the land of my family, and who spoke to me and swore to me, saying, ‘to your offspring I will give this land,’ he will send his angel before you, and you shall take a wife for my son from there. 8And if the woman is not willing to follow#Literally “to go after” you, then you shall be released from this oath of mine—only you must not return my son there.” 9Then the servant put his hand under the thigh of Abraham his master, and he swore to him concerning this matter. 10And the servant took ten camels from his master’s camels, and he went with all kinds of his master’s good things in his hand. And he arose and went to Aram-Naharaim, to the city of Nahor. 11And he made the camels kneel outside the city at the well of water, at the time of evening, toward the time the women went out to draw water.12And he said, “O Yahweh, God of my master Abraham, please grant me success today and show loyal love to my master Abraham. 13Behold, I am standing by the spring of water, and the daughters of the men of the city are going out to draw water. 14And let it be that the girl to whom I shall say, ‘Please, offer your jar that I may drink’ and who says, ‘Drink—and I will also water your camels,’ she is the one you have chosen for your servant, for Isaac. By her I will know that you have shown loyal love to my master.” 15And it happened that before he had finished speaking, behold, Rebekah—who was born to Bethuel, son of Milcah, the wife of Nahor, the brother of Abraham—came out, and her jar was on her shoulder. 16Now the girl was very pleasing in appearance. She was a virgin; no man had known her. And she went down to the spring, filled her jar, and came up. 17And the servant ran to meet her. And he said, “Please, let me drink a little of the water from your jar.” 18And she said, “Drink, my lord.” And she quickly lowered her jar in her hand and gave him a drink. 19When#Or “And” she finished giving him a drink she said, “I will also draw water for your camels until they finish drinking.” 20And she quickly emptied her jar into the trough and ran again to the well to draw water. And she drew water for all his camels. 21And the man was gazing at her silently to know if Yahweh had made his journey successful or not. 22And it happened that as the camels finished drinking the man took a gold ring of a half shekel in weight and two bracelets for her arms, ten shekels in weight, 23and said, “Please tell me, whose daughter are you? Is there a place at the house of your father for us to spend the night?” 24And she said to him, “I am the daughter of Bethuel, son of Milcah, whom she bore to Nahor.” 25Then she said to him, “We have both straw and fodder in abundance, as well as a place to spend the night.” 26And the man knelt down and worshiped Yahweh. 27And he said, “Blessed be Yahweh, God of my master Abraham, who has not withheld#Or “abandoned” his loyal love and his faithfulness from my master. I was on the way and Yahweh led me to the house of my master’s brother.” 28Then the girl ran and reported these things to the household of her mother.
29Now Rebekah had a brother, and his name was Laban. And Laban ran out to the man toward the spring. 30And when he saw the ring and the bracelets on the arms of his sister and heard the words of Rebekah his sister, who said, “Thus the man spoke to me,” he went to the man. And behold, he was standing with the camels at the spring. 31And he said, “Come, O blessed one of Yahweh. Why do you stand outside? Now I have prepared the house and a place for the camels.” 32And the man came to the house and unloaded the camels. And he gave straw and fodder to the camels, and water to wash his feet and the feet of the men who were with him. 33And food was placed before him#Literally “And it was placed before him” to eat. And he said, “I will not eat until I have told my errand.”#Literally “I have spoken my word” And he said, “Speak.” 34And he said, “I am the servant of Abraham. 35Now Yahweh has blessed my master exceedingly, and he has become great. He has given to him sheep and cattle, silver and gold, male slaves and female slaves, and camels and donkeys. 36And Sarah, the wife of my master, has borne a son to my master after her old age. And he#That is, Abraham has given to him all that he has. 37And my master made me swear, saying, ‘Do not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites in whose land I am living. 38But you shall go to the house of my father, and to my family, and you shall take a wife for my son.’ 39And I said to my master, ‘Perhaps the woman will not follow#Literally “go after” me.’ 40And he said to me, ‘Yahweh, before whom I have walked, shall send his angel with you and will make your journey successful. And you shall take a wife for my son from my family, and from the house of my father. 41Then you shall be released from my oath, when you come to my family. And if they will not give a woman to you, then you will be released from my oath.’ 42Then today I came to the spring, and I said, ‘O Yahweh, God of my master Abraham, if you would please make my journey successful,#Literally “if there is you making successful my journey” upon which I am going. 43Behold, I am standing by the spring of water. Let it be that the young woman who comes out to draw water and to whom I say, “Please give me a little water to drink from your jar,” 44let her say to me, “Drink; I will also draw water for your camels,” she is the woman whom Yahweh has appointed for the son of my master.’ 45I had not yet finished speaking to myself#Or “to my heart” when, behold, Rebekah was coming out with#Or “and” her jar on her shoulder. And she went down to the spring and drew water. And I said to her, ‘Please give me a drink.’ 46And she hastened and let down her jar from her shoulder#Literally “from upon her” and said, ‘Drink, and I will give a drink to your camels also.’ Then I drank and she gave a drink to the camels also. 47Then I asked her and said, ‘Whose daughter are you?’ And she said, ‘The daughter of Bethuel, son of Nahor, whom Milcah bore to him.’ And I put the ring on her nose and the bracelets on her arms. 48And I knelt down and worshiped Yahweh, and I praised Yahweh, the God of my master Abraham, who led me on the right way, to take the daughter of the brother of my master for his son. 49So now, if you are going to deal loyally and truly#Literally “if there is you doing loyal love and faithfulness” with my master, tell me. And if not, tell me, so that I may turn to the right or to the left.”#An idiom for “so that I might know what to do” 50Then Laban and Bethuel answered, and they said, “The matter has gone out from Yahweh; we are not able to speak bad or good to you. 51Here is Rebekah before you. Take her and go; let her be a wife for the son of your master as Yahweh has spoken.” 52And it happened that when the servant of Abraham heard their words he bowed down to the ground to Yahweh. 53And the servant brought out silver jewelry and gold jewelry, and garments, and he gave them to Rebekah. And he gave precious gifts to her brother and to her mother. 54And he and the men who were with him ate and drank, and they spent the night. And they got up in the morning, and he said, “Let me go to my master.” 55And her brother and her mother said, “Let the girl remain with us ten days or so; after that she may go.” 56And he said to them, “Do not delay me. Now, Yahweh has made my journey successful. Let me go. I must go to my master.” 57And they said, “Let us call the girl and ask her opinion.”#Literally “her mouth” 58And they called Rebekah and said to her, “Will you go with this man?” And she said, “I will go.” 59So they sent away Rebekah their sister, and her nurse, and the servant of Abraham and his men. 60And they blessed Rebekah and said to her, “You are our sister; may you become countless thousands; and may your offspring take possession of the gate of his enemies.” 61And Rebekah and her maidservants arose, and they mounted the camels and followed#Literally “went after” the man. And the servant took Rebekah and left.
62Now Isaac was coming from the direction of Beer-Lahai-Roi. And he was living in the land of the Negev. 63And Isaac went out to meditate in the field early in the evening,#Literally “at the turning of evening” and he lifted up his eyes and saw—behold, camels were coming. 64And Rebekah lifted up her eyes and saw Isaac. And she got down from the camel. 65And she said to the servant, “Who is this man walking around in the field to meet us?” And the servant said, “That is my master.” And she took her#Or “the” veil and covered herself. 66And the servant told Isaac all the things that he had done. 67And Isaac brought her to the tent of Sarah his mother. And he took Rebekah, and she became his wife. And Isaac loved her and was comforted after the death of his mother.
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