Forty-year-old bachelor Isaac gets a wife
Abraham sends servant to find Isaac a wife1Abraham was an old man now, but God had taken good care of him in every way. 2Abraham asked a favor of his oldest and most trusted servant, who managed the household. “Put your hand under my thigh. 3I want you to make a promise in the sight of the LORD, God of heaven and earth. I want you to vow that you won’t let my son marry one of these local Canaanite women. 4Instead, promise me you’ll go back to the land where I used to live, find my relatives there, and arrange for Isaac to marry one of the women in my family.”
5“I can go there,” the servant said. “But what if a woman I pick for your son refuses to move this far from her home? Should I take Isaac up there to live with your relatives?” 6“Absolutely not!” Abraham said. “Don’t you dare take my son back there! 7The LORD, God of heaven, took me out of that land, just as he had earlier taken me out of the land where I was born. He made a promise to me: ‘I am giving your descendants this land.’ So don’t worry, I believe God will send his angel ahead of you and you’ll come back with a wife for my son. 8But if I’m wrong and the woman refuses to come back with you, I will release you from this oath. But not from your promise to keep my son here.”
9The servant put his hand under Abraham’s thigh and promised to do everything Abraham had asked him to do.
Search begins with 10-camel caravan10Abraham’s servant put together a caravan of 10 camels loaded with supplies and gifts. He traveled north to the city where Nahor lived, in the region of Aram-naharaim. 11He rested his camels beside a well outside the city. The camels kneeled. It was in the cool of the evening, when women come to get water.
12Abraham’s servant prayed: “LORD, God of my master Abraham, show how much you love my master by letting me find a wife for his son. 13I’m standing here beside this spring. The daughters of the men in this city are coming out to draw water. 14I’d like a sign from you. I’m going to tell one of the women, ‘Please draw some water for me so I can have a drink.’ If that is the woman you have chosen for Isaac, I would ask that you have the woman reply by offering not only to give me a drink but to draw water for my camels, too. This way I will know you love my master.”
15The servant hadn’t even finished his prayer before a young woman had come out with a water jar on her shoulder. She was Rebekah, granddaughter of Abraham’s brother, Nahor and wife Milcah. Rebekah’s father was Bethuel.
16Rebekah was absolutely beautiful, and a virgin. She went down into the spring and filled her jug with water. 17Abraham’s servant ran over to meet her and asked, “Would you mind if I took a drink from your water jar?” 18“Not at all,” she said, lowering the jar for him. “You may certainly drink, sir.”
19When the servant finished drinking, Rebekah said, “I’ll draw water for your camels, too. I’ll keep the water coming until they’ve had their fill.” 20She emptied her jar into the watering trough and ran back to the well to draw more water. She kept that up until the camels were done drinking. 21The servant watched silently to see if she finished the job so he would know if she was the right one for Isaac.
A nose ring for the kind lady22When the work was done, the servant thanked her with a gift: a gold nose ring weighing about a fifth of an ounce (6 grams) and two gold bracelets weighing 4 ounces (114 grams). 23“Whose daughter are you?” the servant asked. “Would your father have room for us to spend the night?” 24“My father is Bethuel,” she said. “He is the son of my grandfather Nahor and my grandmother Milcah. 25And yes we have plenty of room, and lots of straw and feed.”
26Right there the man bowed and worshiped the LORD. 27Then he said, “Wonderful. Thanks be to the LORD, the God of my master Abraham. The LORD has proven he loves my master because he has led me straight to the house of my master’s relatives.”
"We've got company28Rebekah ran back to her home and told everyone in her mother’s house what had just happened. 29Rebekah had a brother named Laban who dashed outside to meet the man at the spring.
30Laban had seen the nose ring and the bracelets his sister was wearing. As soon as Rebekah told everyone what the man had said, Laban hurried out to meet him. Abraham’s servant was standing beside his camels at the spring. 31“Come inside,” Laban said. “Why are you standing here outside when I have a room for you in our house, along with shelter for the camels?”
32Abraham’s servant went into the house. Laban handled the chore of unloading the camels. He gave the servant straw and feed for the animals, along with water so the servant and the men traveling with him could wash their feet. 33Then Laban served food. But the servant said, “I’m going to hold off on eating until I take care of the business that brought me here.” Laban said, “Okay, keep talking.”
34“I’m Abraham’s servant,” he said. 35“The Lord has taken great care of my master, making him incredibly rich with flocks and herds, silver and gold, male and female slaves, along with camels and donkeys. 36My master’s wife, Sarah, gave him a son when she was quite old. Everything my master has accumulated now belongs to his son. 37Before I left my master’s home to come here, my master made me swear an oath to obey these instructions: ‘When you go looking for a wife for my son, don’t go to the Canaanites, here where we live. 38Instead, go to the land where my father lived and where my relatives live today. There is where you will find a wife for my son.’ 39I told my master, ‘The woman might decide not to come back with me.’ 40He told me, ‘The LORD I have served will send his angel with you to work everything out. You’ll find a wife for my son when you reach the home of my relatives. 41If I’m wrong and my relatives don’t give you a wife for my son, I release you from your oath.’ 42Today I came to the spring and I said this prayer: ‘LORD, God of my master Abraham, please make this trip successful. 43I’m standing here beside this spring. I’d like a sign from you. I’m going to tell one of the women, “Please draw some water for me so I can have a drink.” 44If that is the woman you have chosen for Isaac, I would ask that you have the woman reply by offering not only to give me a drink but to draw water for my camels, too.’ 45I was still praying when Rebekah arrived, carrying her jar on her shoulder. She went down to the spring and drew some water. I went over to her and asked, ‘Would you mind if I took a drink from your water jar?’ 46Right away she lowered her jar and said, ‘You may certainly drink. I’ll draw water for your camels, too.’ 47I asked her, ‘Whose daughter are you?’ And she said ‘My father is Bethuel. He is the son of my grandfather Nahor and my grandmother Milcah.’ That’s when I put the ring on her nose and the bracelets on her wrists. 48I bowed and worshiped the LORD, the God of my master Abraham. The LORD himself has led me here so my master’s son can marry a woman from his own extended family. 49So please tell me now if you are going to treat my master with kindness. If not, I will be on my way.”
Blind date's dad says "I do" for her50Both Rebekah’s brother and her father, Laban and Bethuel, spoke up. “This is God’s business. We have no say in the matter. 51Here is Rebekah. Take her with you. She will be the wife of your master’s son, since that is what the LORD wants.”
52When Abraham’s servant heard this, he bowed low before the LORD. 53Then he broke out the gifts he had brought for the bride: jewelry made of silver and gold along with clothing. He also gave expensive gifts to Rebekah’s mother and her brother. 54Afterward, the servant ate a meal with the men who were with him. They spent the night there and then woke up early the next morning. Abraham’s servant said, “It’s time for you to send me back to my master.”
55Rebekah’s brother and mother both said, “Let her stay with us a while longer, for at least 10 days. After that, she can go.” 56The servant said, “Don’t make me stay any longer. The LORD has allowed me to do what he sent me here to do. Let me finish my work by returning to my master.” 57They said, “We will ask the girl what she wants to do.”
58They called Rebekah and asked her, “Do you want to go with this man now?” Rebekah said, “I do.” 59So the family sent Rebekah on her way, along with a nurse. The two left with Abraham’s servant and his men. 60Rebekah’s family said their goodbyes with a prayer of blessing:
“May you, dear sister, become the mother of descendants by the thousands of thousands.
And may your people defeat every enemy they face.”
Isaac marries Rebekah62Isaac had come home to the Negev in south Canaan after a trip to an oasis called Beer-lahai-roi. 63Early one evening Isaac was out in the field by himself. He looked up and, in the distance, he saw a caravan of camels coming toward him. 64When Rebekah saw Isaac, she quickly got off her camel.
65She went to Abraham’s servant and asked, “Who is that man in the field over there who is coming to meet us?” The servant said, “That’s my master.” Right away Rebekah pulled her veil down in front of her face. 66The servant told Isaac the whole story—everything that had happened. 67Isaac took Rebekah into the tent where his mother had lived. Rebekah became his wife and he loved her dearly. Isaac still grieved for his mother, but Rebekah comforted him.
Possibly a polite way of referring to genitals in what amounts to an ancient version of “swear on the Bible.” In this case, the servant is swearing on something else important: the physiological source of Isaac’s life and of Abraham’s family to come.
Nahor probably lived in Abraham’s former hometown of Haran (Genesis 11:31).
Literally “Aram of Two Rivers.” Nahor’s likely hometown of Haran was in southern Turkey, along Syria’s northern border. The area was nestled between two rivers: Euphrates on the west and Habur on the east.
Israel and Palestinian territories.
There’s an old saying: “Every Abraham is followed by an Isaac.” What do you think that means?
What does it say to you about the character of Abraham and Isaac when Abraham decides to find a wife for his 40-year-old bachelor son, apparently to console Isaac over the loss of his mother?
Why would Abraham insist on a wife from his extended family 500 miles north (800 km) in what is now Turkey? What do you think he had against “these local Canaanite women” (24:3)?
Abraham’s servant came up with an incredibly specific set of “signs” to help him identify which woman he should propose to on behalf of Isaac. For one, she had to offer to water his caravan of camels. Sounds like a fine way to make sure Isaac gets a hard-working, compassionate wife. Based on what you can read about that servant in this story, would you suspect that was his strategy? Or was he more likely just hoping to get some help watering his string of camels?
Rebekah and her family jumped at the proposal of marriage. Rebekah left town the next day with Abraham’s servant, not even bothering to stay around for a wedding shower. What do you think motivated them to dive into the marriage like this?
Which statement best reflects what you think about the story of Isaac and Rebekah getting together?
- And I thought a blind date was a bad idea.
- I’ll bet the nose ring clinched the deal.
- It’s hard to resist a man with camels.
- God has a flair for the dramatic.
LIFE APPLICATION. It was custom for the groom to give gifts to the family of the bride. And it sounds like they got some expensive gifts. Do you think that would be a nice touch today—for the groom to give gifts of appreciation to the bride’s family?
LIFE APPLICATION. By all indications, it looks like love at first sight—at least for Isaac. Could you describe the impression you got the first time you met the love of your life and had a conversation with that person?