24
The Wife for Isaac
1 Now Abraham was old, well advanced in years,#tn Heb “days.” and the Lord had blessed him#tn Heb “Abraham.” The proper name has been replaced in the translation by the pronoun (“he”) for stylistic reasons. in everything. 2 Abraham said to his servant, the senior one#tn The Hebrew term זָקֵן (zaqen) may refer to the servant who is oldest in age or senior in authority (or both). in his household who was in charge of everything he had, “Put your hand under my thigh#sn Put your hand under my thigh. The taking of this oath had to do with the sanctity of the family and the continuation of the family line. See D. R. Freedman, “Put Your Hand Under My Thigh – the Patriarchal Oath,” BAR 2 (1976): 2-4, 42. 3 so that I may make you solemnly promise#tn Following the imperative, the cohortative with the prefixed conjunction indicates purpose. by the Lord, the God of heaven and the God of the earth: You must not acquire#tn Heb “because you must not take.” a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I am living. 4 You must go instead to my country and to my relatives#tn Heb “for to my country and my relatives you must go.” to find#tn Heb “and take.” a wife for my son Isaac.”
5 The servant asked him, “What if the woman is not willing to come back with me#tn Heb “to go after me.” to this land? Must I then#tn In the Hebrew text the construction is emphatic; the infinitive absolute precedes the imperfect. However, it is difficult to reflect this emphasis in an English translation. take your son back to the land from which you came?”
6 “Be careful#tn Heb “guard yourself.” never to take my son back there!” Abraham told him.#tn The introductory clause “And Abraham said to him” has been moved to the end of the opening sentence of direct discourse in the translation for stylistic reasons. 7 “The Lord, the God of heaven, who took me from my father’s house and the land of my relatives,#tn Or “the land of my birth.” promised me with a solemn oath,#tn Heb “and who spoke to me and who swore to me, saying.” ‘To your descendants I will give this land.’ He will send his angel#tn Or “his messenger.” before you so that you may find#tn Heb “before you and you will take.” a wife for my son from there. 8 But if the woman is not willing to come back with you,#tn Heb “ to go after you.” you will be free#sn You will be free. If the prospective bride was not willing to accompany the servant back to Canaan, the servant would be released from his oath to Abraham. from this oath of mine. But you must not take my son back there!” 9 So the servant placed his hand under the thigh of his master Abraham and gave his solemn promise he would carry out his wishes.#tn Heb “and he swore to him concerning this matter.”
10 Then the servant took ten of his master’s camels and departed with all kinds of gifts from his master at his disposal.#tn Heb “and every good thing of his master was in his hand.” The disjunctive clause is circumstantial, explaining that he took all kinds of gifts to be used at his discretion. He journeyed#tn Heb “and he arose and went.” to the region of Aram Naharaim#tn The words “the region of” are not in the Hebrew text, but are supplied in the translation for clarity.sn Aram Naharaim means in Hebrew “Aram of the Two Rivers,” a region in northern Mesopotamia. and the city of Nahor. 11 He made the camels kneel down by the well#tn Heb “well of water.” outside the city. It was evening,#tn Heb “at the time of evening.” the time when the women would go out to draw water. 12 He prayed, “O Lord, God of my master Abraham, guide me today.#tn Heb “make it happen before me today.” Although a number of English translations understand this as a request for success in the task (cf. NASB, NIV, NRSV) it is more likely that the servant is requesting an omen or sign from God (v. 14). Be faithful#tn Heb “act in loyal love with” or “show kindness to.” to my master Abraham. 13 Here I am, standing by the spring,#tn Heb “the spring of water.” and the daughters of the people#tn Heb “the men.” who live in the town are coming out to draw water. 14 I will say to a young woman, ‘Please lower your jar so I may drink.’ May the one you have chosen for your servant Isaac reply, ‘Drink, and I’ll give your camels water too.’#sn I will also give your camels water. It would be an enormous test for a young woman to water ten camels. The idea is that such a woman would not only be industrious but hospitable and generous. In this way I will know that you have been faithful to my master.”#tn Heb “And let the young woman to whom I say, ‘Lower your jar that I may drink,’ and she says, ‘Drink and I will also give your camels water,’ – her you have appointed for your servant, for Isaac, and by it I will know that you have acted in faithfulness with my master.”
15 Before he had finished praying, there came Rebekah#tn Heb “Look, Rebekah was coming out!” Using the participle introduced with הִנֵּה (hinneh, “look”), the narrator dramatically transports the audience back into the event and invites them to see Rebekah through the servant’s eyes. with her water jug on her shoulder. She was the daughter of Bethuel son of Milcah (Milcah was the wife of Abraham’s brother Nahor).#tn Heb “Look, Rebekah was coming out – [she] who was born to Bethuel, the son of Milcah, the wife of Nahor, the brother of Abraham – and her jug [was] on her shoulder.” The order of the clauses has been rearranged in the translation for stylistic reasons. 16 Now the young woman was very beautiful. She was a virgin; no man had ever had sexual relations with her.#tn Heb “And the young woman was very good of appearance, a virgin, and a man she had not known.” Some argue that the Hebrew noun translated “virgin” (בְּתוּלָה, bÿtulah) is better understood in a general sense, “young woman” (see Joel 1:8, where the word appears to refer to one who is married). In this case the circumstantial clause (“and a man she had not known”) would be restrictive, rather than descriptive. If the term actually means “virgin,” one wonders why the circumstantial clause is necessary (see Judg 21:12 as well). Perhaps the repetition emphasizes her sexual purity as a prerequisite for her role as the mother of the covenant community. She went down to the spring, filled her jug, and came back up. 17 Abraham’s servant#tn Heb “and the servant.” The word “Abraham’s” has been supplied in the translation for stylistic reasons. ran to meet her and said, “Please give me a sip of water from your jug.” 18 “Drink, my lord,” she replied, and quickly lowering#tn Heb “and she hurried and lowered.” her jug to her hands, she gave him a drink. 19 When she had done so,#tn Heb “when she had finished giving him a drink.” This has been simplified in the translation for stylistic reasons. she said, “I’ll draw water for your camels too, until they have drunk as much as they want.” 20 She quickly emptied#tn Heb “and she hurried and emptied.” her jug into the watering trough and ran back to the well to draw more water until she had drawn enough for all his camels. 21 Silently the man watched her with interest to determine#tn Heb “to know.” if the Lord had made his journey successful#tn The Hebrew term צָלָה (tsalah), meaning “to make successful” in the Hiphil verbal stem, is a key term in the story (see vv. 40, 42, 56). or not.
22 After the camels had finished drinking, the man took out a gold nose ring weighing a beka#sn A beka weighed about 5-6 grams (0.2 ounce). and two gold bracelets weighing ten shekels#sn A shekel weighed about 11.5 grams (0.4 ounce) although weights varied locally, so these bracelets weighed about 4 ounces (115 grams). and gave them to her.#tn The words “and gave them to her” are not in the Hebrew text, but are implied. 23 “Whose daughter are you?” he asked.#tn Heb “and he said, ‘Whose daughter are you?’” The order of the introductory clause has been rearranged in the translation for stylistic reasons. “Tell me, is there room in your father’s house for us to spend the night?”
24 She said to him, “I am the daughter of Bethuel the son of Milcah, whom Milcah bore to Nahor.#tn Heb “whom she bore to Nahor.” The referent (Milcah) has been specified in the translation for clarity. 25 We have plenty of straw and feed,” she added,#tn Heb “and she said, ‘We have plenty of both straw and feed.’” The order of the introductory clause has been rearranged in the translation for stylistic reasons. “and room for you#tn Heb The words “for you” are not in the Hebrew text, but are implied. to spend the night.”
26 The man bowed his head and worshiped the Lord, 27 saying “Praised be the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who has not abandoned his faithful love#tn Heb “his faithfulness and his commitment.” for my master! The Lord has led me#tn Heb “As for me – in the way the Lord led me.” to the house#tn Here “house” is an adverbial accusative of termination. of my master’s relatives!”#tn Heb “brothers.”
28 The young woman ran and told her mother’s household all about#tn Heb “according to.” these things. 29 (Now Rebekah had a brother named Laban.)#tn The parenthetical disjunctive clause introduces the audience to Laban, who will eventually play an important role in the unfolding story. Laban rushed out to meet the man at the spring. 30 When he saw the bracelets on his sister’s wrists and the nose ring#tn Heb “And it was when he saw the nose ring and the bracelets on the arms of his sister.” The word order is altered in the translation for the sake of clarity. and heard his sister Rebekah say,#tn Heb “and when he heard the words of Rebekah his sister, saying.” “This is what the man said to me,” he went out to meet the man. There he was, standing#tn Heb “and look, he was standing.” The disjunctive clause with the participle following the particle הִנֵּה (hinneh) invites the audience to view the scene through Laban’s eyes. by the camels near the spring. 31 Laban said to him,#tn Heb “and he said.” The referent (Laban) has been specified and the words “to him” supplied in the translation for clarity. “Come, you who are blessed by the Lord!#sn Laban’s obsession with wealth is apparent; to him it represents how one is blessed by the Lord. Already the author is laying the foundation for subsequent events in the narrative, where Laban’s greed becomes his dominant characteristic. Why are you standing out here when I have prepared#tn The disjunctive clause is circumstantial. the house and a place for the camels?”
32 So Abraham’s servant#tn Heb “the man”; the referent (Abraham’s servant) has been specified in the translation for clarity. went to the house and unloaded#tn Some translations (e.g., NEB, NASB, NRSV) understand Laban to be the subject of this and the following verbs or take the subject of this and the following verbs as indefinite (referring to an unnamed servant; e.g., NAB, NIV). the camels. Straw and feed were given#tn Heb “and [one] gave.” The verb without an expressed subject may be translated as passive. to the camels, and water was provided so that he and the men who were with him could wash their feet.#tn Heb “and water to wash his feet and the feet of the men who were with him.” 33 When food was served,#tn Heb “and food was placed before him.” he said, “I will not eat until I have said what I want to say.”#tn Heb “my words.” “Tell us,” Laban said.#tc Some ancient textual witnesses have a plural verb, “and they said.”tn Heb “and he said, ‘Speak.’” The referent (Laban) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
34 “I am the servant of Abraham,” he began. 35 “The Lord has richly blessed my master and he has become very wealthy.#tn Heb “great.” In this context the statement refers primarily to Abraham’s material wealth, although reputation and influence are not excluded. The Lord#tn Heb “and he.” The referent (the Lord) has been specified in the translation for clarity. has given him sheep and cattle, silver and gold, male and female servants, and camels and donkeys. 36 My master’s wife Sarah bore a son to him#tn Heb “to my master.” This has been replaced by the pronoun “him” in the translation for stylistic reasons. when she was old,#tn Heb “after her old age.” and my master#tn Heb “and he.” The referent (the servant’s master, Abraham) has been specified in the translation for clarity. has given him everything he owns. 37 My master made me swear an oath. He said, ‘You must not acquire a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I am living, 38 but you must go to the family of my father and to my relatives to find#tn Heb “but to the house of my father you must go and to my family and you must take a wife for my son.” a wife for my son.’ 39 But I said to my master, ‘What if the woman does not want to go#tn The imperfect is used here in a modal sense to indicate desire. with me?’#tn Heb “after me.” 40 He answered, ‘The Lord, before whom I have walked,#tn The verb is the Hitpael of הָלַךְ (halakh), meaning “live one’s life” (see Gen 17:1). The statement may simply refer to serving the Lord or it may have a more positive moral connotation (“serve faithfully”). will send his angel with you. He will make your journey a success and you will find a wife for my son from among my relatives, from my father’s family. 41 You will be free from your oath#tn Heb “my oath” (twice in this verse). From the Hebrew perspective the oath belonged to the person to whom it was sworn (Abraham), although in contemporary English an oath is typically viewed as belonging to the person who swears it (the servant). if you go to my relatives and they will not give her to you. Then you will be free from your oath.’ 42 When I came to the spring today, I prayed, ‘O Lord, God of my master Abraham, if you have decided to make my journey successful,#tn Heb “if you are making successful my way on which I am going.” may events unfold as follows:#tn The words “may events unfold as follows” are supplied in the translation for clarification and for stylistic reasons. 43 Here I am, standing by the spring.#tn Heb “the spring of water.” When#tn Heb “and it will be.” the young woman goes out to draw water, I’ll say, “Give me a little water to drink from your jug.” 44 Then she will reply to me, “Drink, and I’ll draw water for your camels too.” May that woman be the one whom the Lord has chosen for my master’s son.’
45 “Before I finished praying in my heart,#tn Heb “As for me, before I finished speaking to my heart.” The adverb טֶרֶם (terem) indicates the verb is a preterite; the infinitive that follows is the direct object. along came Rebekah#tn Heb “Look, Rebekah was coming out.” As in 24:15, the particle הִנֵּה (hinneh, “look”) is used here for dramatic effect. with her water jug on her shoulder! She went down to the spring and drew water. So I said to her, ‘Please give me a drink.’ 46 She quickly lowered her jug from her shoulder and said, ‘Drink, and I’ll give your camels water too.’ So I drank, and she also gave the camels water. 47 Then I asked her, ‘Whose daughter are you?’ She replied, ‘The daughter of Bethuel the son of Nahor, whom Milcah bore to Nahor.’#tn Heb “whom Milcah bore to him.” The referent (Nahor) has been specified in the translation for clarity. I put the ring in her nose and the bracelets on her wrists. 48 Then I bowed down and worshiped the Lord. I praised the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who had led me on the right path to find the granddaughter#tn Heb “daughter.” Rebekah was actually the granddaughter of Nahor, Abraham’s brother. One can either translate the Hebrew term בַּת (bat) as “daughter,” in which case the term אָח (’akh) must be translated more generally as “relative” rather than “brother” (cf. NASB, NRSV) or one can translate בַּת as “granddaughter,” in which case אָח may be translated “brother” (cf. NIV). of my master’s brother for his son. 49 Now, if you will show faithful love to my master, tell me. But if not, tell me as well, so that I may go on my way.”#tn Heb “and I will turn to the right or to the left.” The expression apparently means that Abraham’s servant will know where he should go if there is no further business here.
50 Then Laban and Bethuel replied, “This is the Lord’s doing.#tn Heb “From the Lord the matter has gone out.” Our wishes are of no concern.#tn Heb “We are not able to speak to you bad or good.” This means that Laban and Bethuel could not say one way or the other what they wanted, for they viewed it as God’s will. 51 Rebekah stands here before you. Take her and go so that she may become#tn Following the imperatives, the jussive with the prefixed conjunction indicates purpose or result. the wife of your master’s son, just as the Lord has decided.”#tn Heb “as the Lord has spoken.”
52 When Abraham’s servant heard their words, he bowed down to the ground before the Lord. 53 Then he#tn Heb “the servant”; the noun has been replaced by the pronoun (“he”) in the translation for stylistic reasons. brought out gold, silver jewelry, and clothing and gave them to Rebekah. He also gave valuable gifts to her brother and to her mother. 54 After this, he and the men who were with him ate a meal and stayed there overnight.#tn Heb “And they ate and drank, he and the men who [were] with him and they spent the night.”
When they got up in the morning, he said, “Let me leave now so I can return to my master.”#tn Heb “Send me away to my master.” 55 But Rebekah’s#tn Heb “her”; the referent (Rebekah) has been specified in the translation for clarity. brother and her mother replied, “Let the girl stay with us a few more days, perhaps ten. Then she can go.” 56 But he said to them, “Don’t detain me – the Lord#tn The disjunctive clause is circumstantial, indicating a reason for the preceding request. has granted me success on my journey. Let me leave now so I may return#tn After the preceding imperative, the cohortative with the prefixed conjunction indicates purpose or result. to my master.” 57 Then they said, “We’ll call the girl and find out what she wants to do.”#tn Heb “and we will ask her mouth.” 58 So they called Rebekah and asked her, “Do you want#tn The imperfect verbal form here has a modal nuance, expressing desire. to go with this man?” She replied, “I want to go.”
59 So they sent their sister Rebekah on her way, accompanied by her female attendant, with Abraham’s servant and his men. 60 They blessed Rebekah with these words:#tn Heb “and said to her.”
“Our sister, may you become the mother#tn Heb “become thousands of ten thousands.”sn May you become the mother of thousands of ten thousands. The blessing expresses their prayer that she produce children and start a family line that will greatly increase (cf. Gen 17:16). of thousands of ten thousands!
May your descendants possess the strongholds#tn Heb “gate,” which here stands for a walled city. In an ancient Near Eastern city the gate complex was the main area of defense (hence the translation “stronghold”). A similar phrase occurs in Gen 22:17. of their enemies.”
61 Then Rebekah and her female servants mounted the camels and rode away with#tn Heb “And she arose, Rebekah and her female servants, and they rode upon camels and went after.” the man. So Abraham’s servant#tn Heb “the servant”; the word “Abraham’s” has been supplied in the translation for stylistic reasons. took Rebekah and left.
62 Now#tn The disjunctive clause switches the audience’s attention to Isaac and signals a new episode in the story. Isaac came from#tn Heb “from the way of.” Beer Lahai Roi,#sn The Hebrew name Beer Lahai Roi (בְּאֵר לַחַי רֹאִי, bÿ’er lakhay ro’i) means “The well of the Living One who sees me.” See Gen 16:14. for#tn This disjunctive clause is explanatory. he was living in the Negev.#tn Or “the South [country].”sn Negev is the name for the southern desert region in the land of Canaan. 63 He#tn Heb “Isaac”; the proper name has been replaced by the pronoun (“he”) in the translation for stylistic reasons. went out to relax#tn The meaning of this Hebrew term is uncertain (cf. NASB, NIV “to meditate”; NRSV “to walk”). in the field in the early evening.#tn Heb “at the turning of the evening.” Then he looked up#tn Heb “And he lifted up his eyes.” This idiom emphasizes the careful look Isaac had at the approaching caravan. and saw that#tn Heb “and look.” The clause introduced by the particle הִנֵּה (hinneh, “look”) invites the audience to view the scene through Isaac’s eyes. there were camels approaching. 64 Rebekah looked up#tn Heb “lifted up her eyes.” and saw Isaac. She got down from her camel 65 and asked#tn Heb “and she said to.” Abraham’s servant,#tn Heb “the servant.” The word “Abraham’s” has been supplied in the translation for clarity. “Who is that man walking in the field toward us?” “That is my master,” the servant replied.#tn Heb “and the servant said.” The order of the introductory clause and the direct discourse has been rearranged in the translation for stylistic reasons. So she took her veil and covered herself.
66 The servant told Isaac everything that had happened. 67 Then Isaac brought Rebekah#tn Heb “her”; the referent has been specified here in the translation for clarity. into his mother Sarah’s tent. He took her#tn Heb “Rebekah”; here the proper name was replaced by the pronoun (“her”) in the translation for stylistic reasons. as his wife and loved her.#tn Heb “and he took Rebekah and she became his wife and he loved her.” So Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.#tn Heb “after his mother.” This must refer to Sarah’s death.
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