Welcome back to my study/review of Genesis. If you missed the previous parts of this study, you can find them HERE.
10 Then the servant took ten of his master’s camels and departed, taking all sorts of choice gifts from his master; and he arose and went to Mesopotamia to the city of Nahor. 11 And he made the camels kneel down outside the city by the well of water at the time of evening, the time when women go out to draw water. 12 And he said, “O LORD, God of my master Abraham, please grant me success today and show steadfast love to my master Abraham. 13 Behold, I am standing by the spring of water, and the daughters of the men of the city are coming out to draw water. 14 Let the young woman to whom I shall say, ‘Please let down your jar that I may drink,’ and who shall say, ‘Drink, and I will water your camels’—let her be the one whom you have appointed for your servant Isaac. By this I shall know that you have shown steadfast love to my master.”
If you live in a part of the world where parents still bear the responsibility of selecting a spouse for their child, then Chapter 24 might feel relatable to you in some way. If you do not, and you were responsible for selecting your own spouse, then it might be a fun exercise – or not – to imagine a scenario wherein your parents or caregivers had that responsibility.
I believe, though, that this section of verses is relatable and funny in either case. The servant has a task that he is unsure of so he asks God to make the task as easy as possible. “Please let the first woman I speak to be the one. Just so that I know you approve, let the following happen after I speak to her.” As is sometimes the case, though, God allows for exactly that to occur.
From Ellicott’s Bible Commentary, verse 10:
(10) And the servant.—Why did not Isaac go himself in search of a wife? We must not conclude from his inactivity that the matter had not his full concurrence; but he was the heir, and according to Oriental manners it was fit that the choice should be left to a trusty deputy. What is peculiar in the narrative is the distance to which the servant was sent, and the limitation of his choice to a particular family; but both these peculiarities arose from the religious considerations involved. Jacob subsequently went in person on a similar errand, but we must remember that Rebekah was also seeking for him a place of safety. But for this, and had he been the sole heir, she would probably have sent an embassy to her brother’s house to ask for him a wife.
For all the goods of his master were in his hand.—Rather, with every good thing of his master’s in his hand. It was necessary not only that the servant should take with him such a convoy as would ensure his safety and that of the bride on their return, but also such rich presents as would adequately represent Abraham’s wealth and power.
Mesopotamia.—Heb., Aram-Naharaim: that is, “Aram of the two rivers.” Aram means highland, but it became the title of the whole Syrian race; and here Aram-Naharaim means that part of Syria which lies between the Tigris and Euphrates. It was a mountainless region, except towards the north. For Padan-aram, see Note on Genesis 25:20.
The city of Nahor.—This was Charran (Genesis 27:43). Nahor had probably migrated thither from Ur when Terah was growing old, that he might occupy the pastures which Abraham was about to abandon.
Mesopotamia = אֲרַם נַהֲרַיִם ʼĂram Nahărayim, ar-am’ nah-har-ah’-yim; from H758 and the dual of H5104; Aram of (the) two rivers (Euphrates and Tigris) or Mesopotamia:—Aram-naharaim, Mesopotamia.
Continuing on in Ellicott:
(11) He made his camels to kneel down.—Camels rest kneeling, but the servant did not unlade them till he knew that God had heard his prayer. (See Genesis 24:32.)
By a well of water.—The well was the property of the whole city, and might be used only at a fixed hour; and the servant therefore waits till the women came to draw. This duty of fetching water is not peculiar to Oriental women, but to this day in most parts of Europe, wherever the supply comes from a public source, women may be seen thus occupied. Rebekah carried her pitcher upon her shoulder; in the south of France the Basque women, like the ancient Egyptians, carry it on their heads, and the habit of thus balancing it gives them a peculiarly erect and graceful carriage.
Apparently Ellicott appreciated the graceful carriage of Basque women. I know very little about the Basque people except that their language is not related to any other language in the world and that they are apparently the world-leader in having Rh-negative blood types. HERE is an article on that if you are interested. Perhaps his fascination is warranted.
Continuing on with The Pulpit Commentaries in Verses 12-14:
And he said,—commencing his search for the maiden by prayer, as he closes it with thanksgiving (Genesis 24:26)—a beautiful example of piety and of the fruits of Abraham’s care for the souls of his household, Genesis 18:19 (Wordsworth)—O Lord God of my master Abraham, I pray thee, send me good speed this day. Literally, cause to meet (or come before) me, i.e. what I wish, the maiden of whom I am in quest; hence εὐόδεσον ἐναντίον ἐμοῦ, make the way prosperous before me (LXX.); less accurately, occurre obsecro mihi (Vulgate). And show kindness unto my master Abraham. The personal humility and fidelity displayed by this aged servant are only less remarkable than the fervent piety and childlike faith which discover themselves in the method he adopts for finding the bride. Having cast the matter upon God by prayer, as a concern which specially belonged to him, he fixes upon a sign by which God should enable him to detect the bride designed for Isaac. Behold, I stand here by the well of water; literally, Behold me standing (cf. verse 43)—and the daughters of the men of the city come out to draw water (vide on Genesis 18:11, and cf. Genesis 29:9; Exodus 2:16): and let it come to pass that the damsel—הַגַּעַרָ, with the vowels of the Keri; the word used for Abraham’s young men (cf. Genesis 14:24; Genesis 18:7; q.v.). In the Pentateuch it occurs twenty-two times, without the feminine termination, meaning a girl (vide Genesis 24:16, Genesis 24:28, Genesis 24:55; Genesis 34:3, Genesis 34:12; Deuteronomy 20:15, &c.); a proof of the antiquity of the Pentateuch, and of this so-called Jehovistic section in particular, since in the latter books the distinction of sex is indicated by the affix ה being appended when a girl is intended (‘Speaker’s Commentary’); but this happens at least once in the Pentateuch (Deuteronomy 22:19)—to whom I shall say, Let down thy pitcher, I pray thee, that I may drink; and she shall say, Drink, and I will give thy camels drink also:—the sign fixed upon was the kindly disposition of the maiden, which was to be evinced in a particular way, viz; by her not only acceding with promptitude to, but generously exceeding, his request It is probable that the servant was led to choose this sign not by his own natural tact and prudence, but by that Divine inspiration and guidance of which he had been assured (Genesis 18:7) before setting out on his important mission—let the same be she that thou hast appointed for thy servant Isaac. “The three qualifications in the mind of this venerable domestic for a bride for his master’s son are a pleasing exterior, a kindly disposition, And the approval of God” (Murphy). And thereby—ἐν τούτῳ (LXX.), per hoc (Vulgate); but rather, by her, i.e. the damsel—shall I know that thou hast showed kindness unto my master.
The commentary above notes the thing which I found to be funny. He describes it better than I did, though.
The personal humility and fidelity displayed by this aged servant are only less remarkable than the fervent piety and childlike faith which discover themselves in the method he adopts for finding the bride.
Sometimes child-like faith can seem humorous. The childlike way that Abraham’s servant prayed for God to answer his prayer was humorous to me. What should not be lost in that, though, is that the prayer was humble, fervent, and rooted in a desire to please his master.
Christians believe “child like” faith is necessary.
Matthew 18:3 3 and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 19:14 14 but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”
Luke 18:17 17 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”
Looking at the commentary, The Pulpit Commentary notes that the sign the servant was looking for was kindness of the “maiden” in offering to not only give him a drink, but also to give a drink to his camels also.
The commentary thus notes that the three characteristics sought after by the servant, to be had by the potential-bride, are:
- a pleasing exterior,
- a kindly disposition, and
- the approval of God
Ellicott’s Commentary essentially agrees with this assessment of characteristics sought:
(12-14) O Lord God . . . —Heb., Jehovah, God of my lord Abraham. The word translated “master” throughout this chapter is ‘donai, the ordinary word for lord, and it is so rendered in Genesis 24:18. As a circumcised member of Abraham’s household, the servant prays to Jehovah, Abraham’s God; and though in Genesis 24:5 he had suggested a difficulty, apparently it was from no want of faith, but that he might know whether under any circumstances Isaac might return to Aram-Naharaim. He now leaves the success of his mission to Jehovah; and while he would use his own discernment in selecting from the troop of advancing maidens one whose countenance gave promise of goodness of heart, the fulfilment of the appointed signal which was to mark God’s approval would also show that she was no churlish woman, but one active, generous, and kind.
With this set-up, we will next meet Rebekah.
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