Welcome back to my study/review of Genesis. If you missed the previous parts of this study, you can find them HERE.
22 When the camels had finished drinking, the man took a gold ring weighing a half shekel, and two bracelets for her arms weighing ten gold shekels, 23 and said, “Please tell me whose daughter you are. 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 she bore to Nahor.” 25 She added, “We have plenty of both straw and fodder, and room to spend the night.” 26 The man bowed his head and worshiped the Lord 27 and said, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who has not forsaken his steadfast love and his faithfulness toward my master. As for me, the Lord has led me in the way to the house of my master’s kinsmen.” 28 Then the young woman ran and told her mother’s household about these things.
Verse 22 shows us Abraham’s servant presenting Rebekah with jewelry. I want to make a note of the gold ring, first.
ring / earring = נֶזֶם nezem, neh’-zem; from an unused root of uncertain meaning; a nose-ring:—earring, jewel.
Ellicott’s Bible Commentary clarifies what type of ring it is:
(22) Earring.—Really nose-ring; for in Genesis 24:47 the man places it on her nose, wrongly translated face in our version. The word occurs again in Ezekiel 16:12, where it is rendered jewel, and again is placed “on the nose;” it is also similarly translated jewel in Proverbs 11:22, where it is placed in “a swine’s snout.” It was hung not from the central cartilage of the nose, but from the left nostril, the flesh of which was pierced for the purpose; and such rings are still the usual betrothal present in Arabia, and are commonly worn both there and in Persia, made not only of gold and of silver but of coral, mother-of-pearl, and even cheaper materials. (See Quotation in Note on Genesis 24:16.) Its weight, about a quarter of an ounce, would make it not more disfiguring than many of the personal ornaments worn at the present time.
Bracelets are profusely worn at this day by Oriental women, the whole arm to the elbow being usually covered by them.
It appears that Rebekah wore a nose ring. She is the picture of the perfect future bride here in Genesis but with that adornment she might have been viewed as a rebel in some parts of the Judeo-Christian world not so long ago – particularly in the West.
I attempted to learn the value of a Biblical shekel for this post. Here is what I learned from chabad.org:
In terms of today’s money, what would be the value of the biblical half shekel?
Maimonides writes (Laws of Shekalim 1:5) that the half shekel mentioned in the Torah – the annual contribution every Jew was required to give to the Temple coffers – is equal to 160 grains of barley, which, in modern measurements, would be approximately eight grams of silver.
It is impossible to know silver’s value in biblical times. At today’s rate of approximately 17 US dollars per ounce, 8 grams of silver is around five dollars.1
Going on to verses 23 through 25 from The Pulpit Commentaries:
Whose daughter art thou! tell me, I pray thee: is there room in thy father’s house for us to lodge in? The production of the bridal presents, and the tenor of the old man’s inquiries, indicate that already he entertained the belief that he looked upon the object of his search. All dubiety was dispelled by Rebekah’s answer. And she said unto him, I am the daughter of Bethuel the son of Milcah,—to show that she was not descended from Nahor’s concubine (cf. Genesis 24:15)—which she bare unto Nahor. This appears to have been the stage at which the jewels were presented (Genesis 24:47). She said moreover unto him, We have both straw and provender enough, and room to lodge in. It was now conclusively determined, by her answering all the pre-arranged criteria, that the Lord had heard his prayer and prospered his way, and that the heaven-appointed bride stood before him.
- Rebekah’s answer seems a bit wordy to me, a Western reader, but the explanation as provided above makes perfect sense in the context of when she lived. Giving her parentage requires more thorough explanation because she has to clarify that she is not the daughter of a concubine.
Ellicott adds the following:
(24) Bethuel the son of Milcah, which she bare unto Nahor.—Rebekah mentions her father’s mother to show that she was descended from a highborn wife; but the servant would welcome it as proving that not only on the father’s side, but also on the mother’s, she was Isaac’s cousin, Milcah being the daughter of Haran, Abraham’s brother. And when thus he knew that she fulfilled all the conditions, he gave her the jewels which he was holding in his hand, and bowed the head, and gave thanks.
- Rebekah’s answer demonstrates not only that she is not the daughter of a concubine but it shows specifically that she is a cousin of Isaac via both her father AND mother.
After all of this – which is quite miraculous given that the servant seems to meet Rebekah almost immediately upon arrival AND she fits all of the necessary criteria – the servant worships the Lord and then tells Rebekah who sent him.
bowed his head = קָדַד qâdad, kaw-dad’; a primitive root; to shrivel up, i.e. contract or bend the body (or neck) in deference:—bow (down) (the) head, stoop.
worshipped = שָׁחָה shâchâh, shaw-khaw’; a primitive root; to depress, i.e. prostrate (especially reflexive, in homage to royalty or God):—bow (self) down, crouch, fall down (flat), humbly beseech, do (make) obeisance, do reverence, make to stoop, worship.
How does Rebekah react? She runs!
28 Then the young woman ran and told her mother’s household about these things.
young woman / damsel = נַעֲרָה naʻărâh, nah-ar-aw’; feminine of H5288; a girl (from infancy to adolescence):—damsel, maid(-en), young (woman).
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.
The Pulpit Commentaries says the following:
And the damsel—הַגַּעַרָ (vide on Genesis 24:16)—ran (leaving the venerable stranger in the act of devotion), and told them of her mother’s house—a true touch of nature. With womanly instinct, discerning the possibility of a love-suit, she imparts the joyful intelligence neither to her brother nor to her father, but to her mother and the other females of the household, who lived separately from the men of the establishment—these things—in particular of the arrival of a messenger from Abraham. Perhaps also the nose-jewel would tell its own tale.
Ellicott’s Commentary echoes the same thoughts:
(28) The damsel ran, and told (them of) her mother’s house.—The words inserted in italics are worse than useless. The wife of a sheik has a separate tent (Genesis 24:67), and the result of polygamy is to make each family hold closely together. Naturally, too, the maiden would first show her mother and the women presents of so special a meaning. We even find Laban, the brother, acting as Rebekah’s representative; and it is only when the final decision has to be given that Bethuel is allowed to have any voice in the matter (Genesis 24:50).
Both notes instruct that her mother’s tents would be separate from those of her father and also separate from his concubine. The impression is that Rebekah has a sense of what may be imminent and that her mother’s family will be primarily responsible for negotiating any potential wedding.
We will meet Rebekah’s family in the next section of verses.