Genesis (Part 97)

Welcome back to my study/review of Genesis. If you missed the previous parts of this study, you can find them HERE.

Genesis: 24:15-21

15 Before he had finished speaking, behold, Rebekah, who was born to Bethuel the son of Milcah, the wife of Nahor, Abraham’s brother, came out with her water jar on her shoulder. 16 The young woman was very attractive in appearance, a maiden whom no man had known. She went down to the spring and filled her jar and came up. 17 Then the servant ran to meet her and said, “Please give me a little water to drink from your jar.” 18 She said, “Drink, my lord.” And she quickly let down her jar upon her hand and gave him a drink. 19 When she had finished giving him a drink, she said, “I will draw water for your camels also, until they have finished drinking.” 20 So she quickly emptied her jar into the trough and ran again to the well to draw water, and she drew for all his camels. 21 The man gazed at her in silence to learn whether the LORD had prospered his journey or not.


In this section, the prayer of Abraham’s servant is answered “before he had finished speaking.”

Before he had finished = כָּלָה kâlâh, kaw-law’; a primitive root; to end, whether intransitive (to cease, be finished, perish) or transitive (to complete, prepare, consume):—accomplish, cease, consume (away), determine, destroy (utterly), be (when… were) done, (be an) end (of), expire, (cause to) fail, faint, finish, fulfil, × fully, × have, leave (off), long, bring to pass, wholly reap, make clean riddance, spend, quite take away, waste.

speaking = דָבַר dâbar, daw-bar’; a primitive root; perhaps properly, to arrange; but used figuratively (of words), to speak; rarely (in a destructive sense) to subdue:—answer, appoint, bid, command, commune, declare, destroy, give, name, promise, pronounce, rehearse, say, speak, be spokesman, subdue, talk, teach, tell, think, use (entreaties), utter, × well, × work.

From The Pulpit Commentaries:

And it came to pass (not certainly by accident, but by Divine arrangement), before he had done speaking, that,—his prayer was answered (cf. Isaiah 65:24Daniel 9:20Daniel 9:21). From Genesis 24:45 it appears that the servant’s prayer was not articulately spoken, but offered “in his heart;” whence the LXX. add ἐν τῇ διανοίᾳ αὐτοῦbehold, Rebekah came out, who was born to Bethuel, son of Milcah, the wife of Nahor, Abraham’s brother (vide Genesis 22:23), with her pitcher—the cad (cf. κάδος, cadus) was a pail for drawing water, which women were accustomed to carry on their shoulders; it was this sort of vessel Gideon’s men employed (Judges 7:20)—upon her shoulder—in exact correspondence with Oriental custom—the Egyptian and the Negro carrying on the head, the Syrian on the shoulder or the hip.

This is our first introduction to Rebekah. She is the third woman named in The Book of Genesis.

Rebekah = רִבְקָה Ribqâh, rib-kaw’; from an unused root probably meaning to clog by tying up the fetlock; fettering (by beauty); Ribkah, the wife of Isaac:—Rebekah.

I decided to look elsewhere for further information on the meaning of her name as Strong’s Definition, “to clog by tying up the fetlock,” seems somewhat unsatisfying in my opinion. Wiki’s entry on the name gives us a somewhat more flattering definition.

Rebecca or Rebekah (Hebrew: רִבְקָה (Rivkah)) is a feminine given name originating from the Hebrew language. The name comes from the verb רבק (rbq), meaning “to tie firmly”; Jones’ Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names and the NOBS Study Bible Name List suggest the name means captivating beauty, or “to tie”, “to bind”. W. F. Albright held that it meant “soil, earth”

Continuing on with verse 16, and The Pulpit Commentaries:

And the damsel was very fair to look upon. Literally, good of countenance, like Sarah (Genesis 12:11) and Rachel (Genesis 29:17; cf. Genesis 26:7 of Rebekah). A virgin. Bethulah, i.e. one separated and secluded from intercourse with men; from batik, to seclude (cf. Deuteronomy 22:23Deuteronomy 22:282 Samuel 13:22 Samuel 13:18). Neither had any man known her. A repetition for the sake of emphasis, rather than because bethulah sometimes applies to a married woman (Joel 1:8). And she went down to the well,—”nearly all wells in the East are in wadys, and have steps down to the water”—and filled her pitcher, and came up—probably wholly unconscious of the old man’s admiration, though by no means unprepared for his request, which immediately followed.

damsel / young woman = נַעֲרָה naʻărâh, nah-ar-aw’; feminine of H5288; a girl (from infancy to adolescence):—damsel, maid(-en), young (woman).

very = מְאֹד mᵉʼôd, meh-ode’; from the same as H181; properly, vehemence, i.e. (with or without preposition) vehemently; by implication, wholly, speedily, etc. (often with other words as an intensive or superlative; especially when repeated):—diligently, especially, exceeding(-ly), far, fast, good, great(-ly), × louder and louder, might(-ily, -y), (so) much, quickly, (so) sore, utterly, very ( much, sore), well.

fair = טוֹב ṭôwb, tobe; from H2895; good (as an adjective) in the widest sense; used likewise as a noun, both in the masculine and the feminine, the singular and the plural (good, a good or good thing, a good man or woman; the good, goods or good things, good men or women), also as an adverb (well):—beautiful, best, better, bountiful, cheerful, at ease, × fair (word), (be in) favour, fine, glad, good (deed, -lier, -liest, -ly, -ness, -s), graciously, joyful, kindly, kindness, liketh (best), loving, merry, × most, pleasant, pleaseth, pleasure, precious, prosperity, ready, sweet, wealth, welfare, (be) well(-favoured).

maiden / virgin = בְּתוּלָה bᵉthûwlâh, beth-oo-law’; feminine passive participle of an unused root meaning to separate; a virgin (from her privacy); sometimes (by continuation) a bride; also (figuratively) a city or state:—maid, virgin.

David Guzik’s Bible Commentary adds to the fact that the Bible mentions her beauty:

Now the young woman was very beautiful to behold, a virgin; no man had known her. And she went down to the well, filled her pitcher, and came up. And the servant ran to meet her and said, “Please let me drink a little water from your pitcher.” So she said, “Drink, my lord.” Then she quickly let her pitcher down to her hand, and gave him a drink. And when she had finished giving him a drink, she said, “I will draw water for your camels also, until they have finished drinking.” Then she quickly emptied her pitcher into the trough, ran back to the well to draw water, and drew for all his camels. And the man, wondering at her, remained silent so as to know whether the LORD had made his journey prosperous or not.

a. The young woman was very beautiful to behold: We generally regard the Bible as being given to understatement. When we read Rebekah was very beautiful to behold, we should understand Rebekah was indeed very beautiful.

i. Rebekah is one of the women whom the Bible specifically says was beautiful. The others are Sarah (Genesis 12:11-14), Rachel (Genesis 29:17), Abigail (1 Samuel 25:3), Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11:2), Tamar (2 Samuel 14:27), Queen Vashti of the Persians (Esther 1:11), Esther (Esther 2:7), and the daughters of Job (Job 42:15).

Ellicott’s Bible Commentary adds a note about the well itself which is apparently still in use today:

(16) She went down to the well.—The water, therefore, was reached by a flight of steps, the usual rule wherever the well was fed by a natural spring. Cisterns, on the contrary, supplied from the rains were narrower at the top than at the bottom.

Mr. Malan (Philosophy or Truth, p. 93), in an interesting account of his visit to this well, says that on going out from Haran in the evening to examine it, he found “a group of women filling, no longer their pitchers, since the steps down which Rebekah went to fetch the water are now blocked up, but their water-skins by drawing water at the well’s mouth. Everything around that well bears signs of age and of the wear of time; for as it is the only well of drinkable water there, it is much resorted to. Other wells are only for watering the flocks. There we find the troughs of various height for camels, for sheep and for goats, for kids and for lambs; there the women wear nose-rings and bracelets on their arms, some of gold or of silver, and others of brass, or even of glass.”

In verse 17, we are told the servant runs up to meet her and asks for water.

ran = רוּץ rûwts, roots; a primitive root; to run (for whatever reason, especially to rush):—break down, divide speedily, footman, guard, bring hastily, (make) run (away, through), post.

Rebekah handles the sudden approach of the servant in a way that answers his earlier prayer.

From The Pulpit Commentaries again:

And the servant ran to meet her, and said, Let me, I pray thee, drink a little water of thy pitcher (a request which was at once complied with). And she said, Drink (and with the utmost politeness), my lord (and with cheerful animation): and she hasted, and let down her pitcher upon her hand, and gave him drink. “Rebekah’s address to the servant will be given you in the exact idiom by the first gentle Rebekah you ask water from; but I have never found any young lady so generous as this fair daughter of Bethuel”. And when she had done giving him drink, she said, I will draw water for thy camels also, until they have done drinking—thus proving that the kindly disposition within her bosom was “not simply the reflex of national customs, but the invisible sun beaming through her mind, and freely bringing forward the blossoms of sterling goodness” (Kalisch).

And she hasted, and emptied her pitcher into the trough (or gutter made of stone, with which wells were usually provided, and which were filled with water when animals required to drink), and ran again unto the well to draw water, and drew for all his camels. “At one point we came upon a large village of nomad Bedouins dwelling in their black tents. For the first time we encountered a shepherd playing on his reeden pipe, and followed by his flock. He was leading them to a fountain, from which a maiden was meanwhile drawing water with a rope, and pouring it into a large stone trough. She was not so beautiful as Rebekah”.

David Guzik’s Commentary gives a potential reason for the servant’s prayer regarding Isaac’s future wife:

c. And drew for all his camels: As Rebekah began the hard work of watering all the camels, the servant did not stop her. He wanted a woman who would not only say that she would water the camels, but who would actually do the hard work. He was amazed as he watched her do this (wondering at her).

i. Perhaps Eliezer knew that for some, it is much easier to talk like a servant than to actually serve. He wanted to see if she had a servant’s heart, not only a servant’s talk.

The Commentary assumes that the servant is Eliezer, Abraham’s chief servant mentioned several chapters earlier. However, the text does not give the servant a name in this section.

In verse 21, the servant gazes at her in silence as she does the work of watering his camels.

gazes / wonders = שָׁאָה shâʼâh, shaw-aw’; a primitive root (identical with through the idea of whirling to giddiness); to stun, i.e. (intransitively) be astonished:—wonder.

This is an instance where the underlying definition conveys more of the meaning of the text. Imagine making a child-like prayer of faith and having it answered in the form of a person before the words are even out of your mouth. I suspect that Abraham’s servant is completely astonished at Rebekah’s existence (a young beautiful woman, with a servant’s heart, who just so happens to be the first woman he talks to on this journey) and he is wowed by God’s answer of his prayer and by God Himself just more generally.

From Ellicott:

(21) And the man wondering at her . . . —The verb is rare, and the LXX., Syr., and Vulg., followed by Gesenius and Fürst, translate, “And the man gazed attentively at her, keeping silence, that he might know,” &c. The servant, we may well believe, was astonished at the exactness and quickness with which his prayer was being answered, but this is not the point to which the rest of the verse refers; rather, it sets him before us as keenly observing all she said and did, and carefully coming to the conclusion that the comely and generous maiden was the destined bride of the son of his lord.

From The Pulpit Commentaries:

And the man wondering at her—gazing with attention on her (LXX; Vulgate, Gesenius, Furst); amazed and astonished at her (Rosenmüller, Delitzsch, Keil, Lange, Calvin)—held his peace, to witi.e. that he might know—silence being the customary attitude for the soul in either expecting or receiving a Divine communication (cf. Le Genesis 10:3Psalms 39:2Acts 11:18)—whether the Lord had made his journey prosperous or not. This inward rumination obviously took place while the whole scene was being enacted before his eyes—the beautiful young girl filling the water-troughs, and the thirsty camels sucking up the cooling drink. The loveliness of mind and body, both which he desired in Isaac’s bride, was manifestly present in Rebekah; but still the questions remained to be determined, Was she one of Abraham’s kindred, was she single? and would she follow him to Canaan?—points of moment to the solution of which he now proceeds.

prosperous = צָלַח tsâlach, tsaw-lakh’; or צָלֵחַ tsâlêach; a primitive root; to push forward, in various senses (literal or figurative, transitive or intransitive):—break out, come (mightily), go over, be good, be meet, be profitable, (cause to, effect, make to, send) prosper(-ity, -ous, -ously).

As this section ends, the servant has identified Isaac’s future wife.