July 13, 2014

Commentary on the Book of Genesis

By: Tom Lowe

 

PART II: AN ACCOUNT OF ABRAHAM. Gen. 11:10-25:18.

Topic #F:DEATH AND MARRIAGES. Gen. 23:1-25:18.                                                           

                

Lesson II.F.2: Abraham Seeks a Wife for Isaac. (Gen. 24:1-9)                                                                 

Gen. 24:1-9 (KJV)

 

1 And Abraham was old, and well stricken in age: and the LORD had blessed Abraham in all things.

2 And Abraham said unto his eldest servant of his house, that ruled over all that he had, Put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh:

3 And I will make thee swear by the LORD, the God of heaven, and the God of the earth, that thou shalt not take a wife unto my son of the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell:

4 But thou shalt go unto my country, and to my kindred, and take a wife unto my son Isaac.

5 And the servant said unto him, Peradventure the woman will not be willing to follow me unto this land: must I needs bring thy son again unto the land from whence thou camest?

6 And Abraham said unto him, Beware thou that thou bring not my son thither again.

7 The LORD God of heaven, which took me from my father's house, and from the land of my kindred, and which spake unto me, and that sware unto me, saying, Unto thy seed will I give this land; he shall send his angel before thee, and thou shalt take a wife unto my son from thence.

8 And if the woman will not be willing to follow thee, then thou shalt be clear from this my oath: only bring not my son thither again.

9 And the servant put his hand under the thigh of Abraham his master, and sware to him concerning that matter.

 

 

Commentary

 

1 And Abraham was old, and well stricken in age: and the LORD had blessed Abraham in all things.

 

And Abraham was old, and well stricken in age

“Abraham was old”—Isaac was thirty-seven years of age when Sarah died—“And Sarah was an hundred and seven and twenty years old: these were the years of the life of Sarah” (Genesis 23:1). And Isaac was forty when he married Rebekah—“And Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah to wife, the daughter of Bethuel the Syrian of Padanaram, the sister to Laban the Syrian” (Genesis 25:20). Abraham, who was a centenarian at Isaac’s birth, would now be nearly 140. Since he lived to be 175—“And these are the days of the years of Abraham's life which he lived, an hundred threescore and fifteen years” (Genesis 25:7)—he survived Isaac’s marriage thirty-five years, and lived to see Esau and Jacob nearly grown up.

 

And the Lord had blessed Abraham in all things

“The Lord blessed Abraham” with all kinds of blessings, with worldly and spiritual blessings; but, because of what follows, the worldly kind seems to be what is meant here. God had blessed him with long life, and riches, and honour, and children, things which men desire. It’s true, Abraham had many and severe trials; but even these were blessings in disguise. This is how Abraham’s chief steward described his master’s wealth to Rebekah’s brother: “And the LORD hath blessed my master greatly; and he is become great: and he hath given him flocks, and herds, and silver, and gold, and menservants, and maidservants, and camels, and asses. (Gen, 24:35).

 

 

2 And Abraham said unto his eldest servant of his house, that ruled over all that he had, Put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh:

 

And Abraham said unto his eldest servant of his house,

“His eldest servant” doesn’t necessarily mean the oldest in years, but the one of chief authority and dignity, who, if there was no rightful heir by birth, would become Abraham’s heir. Eliezer was his name—“And Abram said, LORD God, what will you give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus?And Abram said, Behold, to me you have given no seed: and, see, one born in my house is my heir” (Genesis 15:2, 3).  

 

 Though one holding such a confidential and important position would probably be a man of advanced years, yet it is not likely that Abraham would send anyone who was not still vigorous on so distant a journey. Eliezer must have lived with Abraham and served him for more than fifty years; he can be traced back nearly sixty years as a servant of Abraham's family, and it is highly probable he lived much longer; he was his servant when he had the vision between the pieces, (see Genesis 15:2); and then he was the steward of his house, and was in line to be his heir, before Hagar was given to Abraham, and Ishmael was his son by Hagar. As for how long Eliezer was a servant to Abraham’s family cannot be said with certainty.

 

Abraham has a very delicate mission for Eliezer, a long journey to obtain a wife for Isaac. He would only trust his long time servant for the task, because he was too old and Isaac was not at liberty to make even a temporary visit to his native land. Eliezer would make the trip and Abraham would put his entire confidence in him, but first he would bind him by a solemn oath.

 

That ruled over all that he had,

Eliezer had the position of steward in Abraham’s household. As such his task was to manage the domestic concerns, supervise the servants and possibly the children, collect income, keep accounts etc. Stewards seem to have been commonplace throughout all of the period of biblical history.

 

Put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh:

“Put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh,” was meant as a symbol of his subjection to Abraham as a servant, and of his readiness, willingness, and faithfulness to execute any commands he should give to him, and in this case he is ordered to take an oath. It should be observed, that this same rite or ceremony was required of Joseph, governor of Egypt, by his father Jacob: “And the time drew nigh that Israel must die: and he called his son Joseph, and said unto him, If now I have found grace in thy sight, put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh, and deal kindly and truly with me; bury me not, I pray thee, in Egypt” (Genesis 47:29). This form of oath was evidently regarded as a very solemn one. The meaning of it has caused much discussion, but I believe the explanation which seems most reasonable relates to the promise given to Abraham of the Messiah being one of his ancestors.  We find the thigh mentioned in these verses:

  • Genesis 46:26: “All the souls that came with Jacob into Egypt, which came out of his loins, besides Jacob's sons' wives, all the souls were three score and six.” Those that were his seed and offspring.
  • Exodus 1:5: “And all the souls that came out of the loins of Jacob were seventy souls: for Joseph was in Egypt already.”

And in both verses it is rendered loins—used as the source of descendants. Probably, therefore, it is an inoffensive manner of describing the circumcised member, which was to be touched by the hand placed beneath the thigh; and thus the oath was really confirmed by the holy covenant between Abraham and God, of which circumcision was the symbol. The ceremony declared the servants obedience to his master, and the master's power over the servant. The appeal is made to Abraham’s posterity, on the one hand, to confirm the oath, and, on the other, to avenge its violation. Similar symbolic acts have been found to exist among other primitive races. A custom like this long outlives the recollection of its original significance. The ritual remains binding; its purpose may be forgotten.This ceremony was used in swearing, in the eastern countries, either as a testimony of subjection, and promise of faithful service, for this rite was used only by inferiors towards superiors; or, as some think, with respect to the blessed Seed, Christ, who was to come out of Abraham’s thigh, as they say, so naturally, this rite was used only by believers. 

 

 

3 And I will make thee swear by the LORD, the God of heaven, and the God of the earth, that thou shalt not take a wife unto my son of the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell:

 

And I will make thee swear by the Lord, the God of heaven, and the God of the earth

“And I will make thee swear”—this was both for Abraham’s own satisfaction, and to obligate his servant to take all possible care and diligence in the performance of the important business that he must do for his master.

 

“By the Lord, (Hebrew, “Jehovah”) the God of heaven and the God of the earth”—Notice with what reverence Abraham speaks of God, and with what solemnity this oath is administered and taken! This solemn title of Jehovah as God of the whole universe is more common in later Hebrew writings: “And thus they returned us answer, saying, We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth. . .” (Ezra 5:11). This form of earnest request indicates the conviction of the writer that the God of the Hebrews was the God of the whole world, not merely of a particular individual, locality or nation: “That be far from you to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from you: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:25). No change of country, no lapse of time, would constitute an exemption from the binding character of this oath.

 

The Maker and possessor of heaven and earth, is the One by whom Abraham used to swear: “And Abram said to the king of Sodom, I have lift up my hand to the LORD, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth” (Genesis 14:22).

 

That thou shalt not take a wife unto my son of the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell

“That thou shalt not take a wife”—among ancient peoples the matrimonial arrangements are made by the parents, and a youth must marry, not among strangers, but in his own tribe or people. It was a custom which gave the man a claim, which is seldom or never resisted, to the hand of his first cousin, or of another relative, or of another family. But Abraham had a far higher motive—a fear that if his son married into a Canaanite family, he might be gradually led away from the true God.

 

“Not take a wife unto my son of the daughters of the Canaanites,” a race sinking fast into ungodliness and unrighteousness, doomed to extermination. The relatives of Abraham were Shemites, Hebrews, and still retained some knowledge of the true God, and some reverence for Him and His will. The steward of Abraham's house does not wish to bind himself by an oath to an undertaking which may be impossible to fulfill. He makes the supposition that the bride whom he chooses could be unwilling to marry Abraham’s son, and in that case he is released from the oath (v. 8). The patriarch, however, charges him not to bring his son back to the land of his fathers, and expresses his confidence in the God of promise, that he will direct his servant to the suitable wife for his son (v. 7). "His angel" would direct him to the right woman, as he led Hagar to water in the desert—“And the angel of the LORD found her by a fountain of water in the wilderness, by the fountain in the way to Shur.” (Genesis 16:7). This is the Lord Jesus Christ functioning as an angel or messenger opening the way for the servant of Abraham. He does not make an appearance to the servant, though a controlling Providence is strikingly displayed throughout the whole affair. The faithful steward now understands and takes the required oath.

 

Abraham is very insistent that his son should not marry a woman of corrupt principles and manners. He was held in such high esteem among the Canaanites, that, undoubtedly, he could have married Isaac to a daughter of one of the princes of the land. But he saw that the Canaanites were degenerating into great wickedness, and knew that they were destined for destruction; and he would not marry his son to one of them, for fear that they would be a snare to his soul. To obtain for him, as his partner in life, a person of piety and virtue, is his chief, if not his sole concern, and therefore he sends his servant to a distant country for just such a woman.

 

“Among whom I dwell,” of course, was the Canaanites; they were not only idolaters, and very wicked people, but were the seed of the accursed Canaan; and who eventually would be dispossessed from the land, and be destroyed. Now though Isaac was forty years of age, and one would think he was fully capable of choosing a wife for himself; but since Abraham knew that Isaac had great respect for this servant, and would be influenced by him in such a choice, and especially since this affair was now about to be committed to his care, and no doubt with the consent of Isaac, therefore he orders and commits him to obtain a wife for Isaac from among his family. 

 

The Canaanites were not only gross idolaters and terrible sinners, as so many others were at this time; but they were a people under God’s peculiar curse—“And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be to his brothers” (Genesis 9:25).” They were destined to be totally destroyed by Abraham’s descendants; and therefore to marry his son to one of them would be a type of self-murder, placing the holy and blessed seed in danger of great infection from them, and utter ruin with them. And Abraham’s practice was afterwards justified by God, who has often showed his dislike of such unequal matches of his people with those infidels and idolaters, by severe prohibitions and sharp censures. [See Exodus 34:16Deut. 7:3Joshua 23:12Ezra 9:1-3Nehemiah 13:23, 25; 2 Corinthians 6:14, 15.] Religious feeling underlies this prohibition. The purity of the Hebrew race is to be maintained. Intermarriage would involve participation in religious rites which were forbidden by God. Separation from the Heathen idolaters would give a corresponding freedom from moral contamination.

 

 

4 But thou shalt go unto my country, and to my kindred, and take a wife unto my son Isaac.

 

But thou shalt go unto my country

“My country” does not mean Canaan, which though it was his by promise, yet it was not in his possession, but Mesopotamia, according to Genesis 24:10: “And the servant took ten camels of the camels of his master, and departed; for all the goods of his master were in his hand: and he arose, and went to Mesopotamia, to the city of Nahor.” Mesopotamia, a vast region which included Ur of the Chaldeans—“And he said, Men, brothers, and fathers, listen; The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelled in Charran” (Acts 7:2)—the country where Abraham was born, and where he came from. Mesopotamia, included most of the land between those two famous rivers, Euphrates and Tigris. Compare:

  • Genesis 11:31: “And Terah took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran his son's son, and Sarai his daughter in law, his son Abram's wife; and they went forth with them from Ur of the Chaldees, to go into the land of Canaan; and they came to Haran, and dwelled there. 
  • Genesis 12:1: “Now the LORD had said to Abram, Get you out of your country, and from your kindred, and from your father's house, to a land that I will show you”

 

Mesopotamia is called here Abraham's country, because it was the place where the family of Haran, his brother, had settled; and where Abraham himself had remained for a considerable time with his father Terah—in the land of Haran, or Paddan-aram (v.7). In Abraham’s family, as well as in that of Nahor, the true religion had been in some sort preserved, though afterwards it seems to have been considerably corrupted, as we see from Genesis 31:19—“When Laban had gone to shear his sheep, Rachel stole her father's household gods.”

 

And to my kindred

“My kindred” refers to the family of Nahor his brother, which now dwelt at Haran in Mesopotamia, called the city of Nahor, (see Genesis 24:10). A few years ago Abraham had received news that his brother’s family had increased: “Soon after this, Abraham heard that Milcah, his brother Nahor's wife, had borne Nahor eight sons” (Genesis 22:20).Abraham rightly preferred Nahor’s family before the Canaanites, partly because though they were idolaters, as appears from…

  • Genesis 31:19, 30, 32, 35: “And Laban went to shear his sheep: and Rachel had stolen the images that were her father's. And now, though thou wouldest needs be gone, because thou sore longedst after thy father's house, yet wherefore hast thou stolen my gods? With whomsoever thou findest thy gods, let him not live: before our brethren discern thou what is thine with me, and take it to thee. For Jacob knew not that Rachel had stolen them. And she said to her father, Let it not displease my lord that I cannot rise up before thee; for the custom of women is upon me. And he searched, but found not the images.”
  • Joshua 24:2: “And Joshua said unto all the people, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Your fathers dwelt on the other side of the flood in old time, even Terah, the father of Abraham, and the father of Nachor: and they served other gods.”

 

Yet they did worship the true God together with idols, as may be gathered from Genesis 24:31, 50—“And he said, Come in, thou blessed of the LORD; wherefore standest thou without? for I have prepared the house, and room for the camels. Then Laban and Bethuel answered and said, The thing proceedeth from the LORD: we cannot speak unto thee bad or good”—and from other places; and therefore there was more hope for the conversion of one of that family; and partly because they lived at a great distance from the place where Abraham and his family lived, and therefore one of that stock would be more easily disentangled from her superstition and idolatry, because she was removed from the influences of the evil counsels and examples of her nearest relations, and partly because they were of the race of blessed Shem, and not of cursed Canaan.

 

He did not want his son to marry out of the godly family: for the problems that come from marrying the ungodly are set forth in various places throughout the scriptures.

 

And take a wife unto my son Isaac

It was customary for the father to select a bride for his son. Compare:

  • Genesis 34:4: “And Shechem spake unto his father Hamor, saying, Get me this damsel to wife.”
  • Judges 14:2: “And he came up, and told his father and his mother, and said, I have seen a woman in Timnath of the daughters of the Philistines: now therefore get her for me to wife.”

 

Abraham would obtain a wife for Isaac from his brother Nahor’s family. She would not be clear of superstition and idolatry, yet they worshipped the true God in addition to their "idols"; and a woman taken out of such a family, and moved a great distance from it, might be convinced to do away with useless idols and follow the pure and undefiled religion. This family was chosen, not only because it was related to Abraham, but because it had sprung from Shem, who was blessed of God, and whose God the Lord was. There were no objections to one marrying close kin, since the laws relating to marriage were not given until the time of Moses.

 

 

5 And the servant said unto him, Peradventure the woman will not be willing to follow me unto this land: must I needs bring thy son again unto the land from whence thou camest?

 

And the servant said unto him

Note here the common sense and piety of this good man, who, before he would take an oath, diligently inquires into the nature and conditions of it, and expressly mentions that one exception which could reasonably happen.

 

Peradventure the woman will not be willing to follow me unto this land

 His question to Abraham is this: “Suppose this should be the case, that the woman would object to coming along with him to the land of Canaan, and insist upon Isaac's coming into her country, and dwelling there; what should I do then? It was a natural and reasonable hypothesis that the bride elect would baulk at undertaking a long and arduous journey to marry a husband she had never seen. Accordingly, the faithful servant wants to know whether he would be at liberty to act upon the other alternative, and bring Isaac to the land where Abraham came from.

 

Must I needs bring thy son again unto the land from whence thou camest?

Now there was good reason for the servant asking this question, since he was neither ignorant of the call of Abraham out of that land, no more to return to it, nor of the promise of the land of Canaan to him and his posterity: and as for bringing Isaac "again", where he never had been in person, this may be accounted for by his being in the loins of Abraham when he was there, and came from that place, as Levi is said to be in his loins when he paid tithes to Melchizedek, and to pay them in him—“And as I may so say, Levi also, who receives tithes, paid tithes in Abraham” (Hebrews 7:9); and in like manner he might be said to be brought again, or return to Abraham's country, should he ever go there, as all the seed of Abraham are said in the fourth generation to come to Canaan again, though none of them had been there before in person—“But in the fourth generation they shall come here again” (Genesis 15:16).

 

Abraham’s reply is given in the next verse; the patriarch solemnly prohibits him from attempting to persuade his son, under any pretext whatever, to leave the land of promise.

 

 

6 And Abraham said unto him, Beware thou that thou bring not my son thither again.

 

And Abraham said unto him

Abraham does not blame him for asking such a question, nor does he accuse him of impertinence, but clearly seeing the appropriateness of it, and in order to clarify this matter for him, he gives the following instructions.

 

Beware thou, that thou bring not my son thither again

“Beware” is probably added for emphasis.

 

The command to come out of the land of Chaldea, never to return again, and to come into the land of Canaan, and there abide, pertained to both Abraham and his posterity; and besides, it was dangerous for Isaac to go into a family, where, though there was some knowledge of the true God, yet there was much superstition and idolatry in it (which appears from the various hints in the sequel to this narration), through which he could be corrupted, and fall away from the true religion.

 

“That thou bring not my son thither again”literally, in case you cause my son to return to Mesopotania. Abraham is speaking of Isaac’s going to Mesopotamia as a return, either because he regarded Isaac, though then unborn, as having come out with him from Mesopotamia—“For he was yet in the loins of his father, when Melchisedec met him” (Hebrews 7:10). The idea is, just as all mankind were in the loins of Adam, when he sinned and fell, and so they sinned and fell in him; and so Levi was in Abraham's loins, when he left Mesopotamia. Or, because he viewed himself and his descendants as a whole, as in Genesis 15:16: “But in the fourth generation they shall come here again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.” The reason why they must not have the land of promise in their possession till the fourth generation, is, because “the iniquity of the Amorites was not yet full.” The righteous God has determined that they shall not be removed till they have arrived at such a high pitch of wickedness; and therefore, till it comes to that, the seed of Abraham must be kept out of possession.In the fourth generation” probably means at the end of the four hundred years mentioned in Genesis 15:13—“And he said to Abram, Know of a surety that your seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years—a generation being at that time reckoned at one hundred years, or thereabouts. Or, in the fourth generation numbered from their going into Egypt, or from their leaving Canaan; which may also be implied by these words.

 

Abraham’s instruction to his servant is, “In case she will not come here, do not for any reason agree that he shall go there. Why so?

  1. Because there was more danger of infection from his wife and her kindred, because of their friendly, and familiar, and constant interaction with him, than from the Canaanites, who were strangers to him, and lived separately from him, and had very little conversation with him.
  2. Because the command of God to Abraham to come out of Chaldea, and into Canaan, did extend to his posterity also, whom God would require to dwell there as long as they could, so that they might live in constant faith and expectation of the performance of God’s promise in giving this land unto them.

 

 

7 The LORD God of heaven, which took me from my father's house, and from the land of my kindred, and which spake unto me, and that sware unto me, saying, Unto thy seed will I give this land; he shall send his angel before thee, and thou shalt take a wife unto my son from thence.

 

The Lord God of heaven, which took from my father's house, and from the land of my kindred

“The Lord God of heaven (v.3)—the reference is to God as “Yahweh, God of heaven and God of the earth.” Yahweh is the personal name of God, which is used by those who are in fellowship with Him. He is the Creator of all things, and therefore of heaven and earth; and He determines the destiny of the oath-taker, both in spiritual and material things, both in this life and in what is to come. The phrase “the God of heaven” occurs in Ezra 5:12; Nehemiah 1:4-5; Nehemiah 2:4; Jonah 1:9; Job 5:16.

 

Abraham expresses the strongest confidence in God, that the great plans for which he had taken him from his own kindred to spread the true religion on the earth would be accomplished; and that when earthly instruments failed, heavenly ones should be employed. Apparently, Abraham anticipated that he might die while his servant was gone, so the instructions were made perfectly clear.

 

“My father's house” denotes Haran; for his father and his family came with him from Ur of the Chaldees to Haran, and they stayed there after Abraham separated from them.

 

“The land of my kindred” signifies either Ur of the Chaldees, where he was born, or it could mean Haran, where Terah his father died, and Nahor his brother and family lived.

 

And which spake unto me, and that sware unto me, saying, unto thy seed will I give this land

God made a promise to him, and confirmed it with an oath. Compare:

  • Genesis 15:18: “In the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, To your seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates.” 
  • Genesis 12:7: “And the LORD appeared to Abram, and said, To your seed will I give this land: and there built he an altar to the LORD, who appeared to him.”
  • Genesis 13:15: “For all the land which you see, to you will I give it, and to your seed for ever.”
  • Genesis 22:16: “And said, By myself have I sworn, said the LORD, for because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son”

 

God promised the land of Canaan to Abraham and his seed; and therefore his son must not be removed from there, and settled in another country. Isaac never left the Promised Land.

 

He shall send his angel before thee

Some understand this to be a prayer or wish, "may he send his angel before thee"; for if it was a prophecy, they say, why does he say “if”—"if the woman will not be willing? (v. 8)" But from Genesis 24:10—“And the servant took ten camels of the camels of his master, and departed; for all the goods of his master were in his hand: and he arose, and went to Mesopotamia, to the city of Nahor—and from what God bad done for him, and said unto him, and the encouragement he had for his faith in it, and from what follows, it seems that he was fully assured in his own mind that the servant would succeed in finding a wife for his son from his kindred.

 

It is noteworthy that Abraham does not speak here of Jehovah being present with the servant on his mission. The servant of Abraham will be guided by “the messenger, or angel,” of Abraham’s God. The angel may be either:

  1. A created angel, since they were frequently made use of in the affairs of Providence, directing and prospering men. God’s angels are ministering spirits, sent forth, not only for the protection, but guidance of the heirs of promise—“Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?” (Hebrews 1:14). And those who are guided by angels are sure to be successful.
  2. An uncreated Angel, the Son of God, the Angel of the Covenant, since the servant attributes his direction and success wholly to the Lord. 

 

Thou shalt take a wife unto my son from thence

He doesn’t doubt the success of the mission, and he could confidently say so, either by rational conjecture, both from the nature of the thing, and from the constant course of God’s providence in blessing him in all his undertakings; or by assurance and inspiration received directly from God.

 

 

8 And if the woman will not be willing to follow thee, then thou shalt be clear from this my oath: only bring not my son thither again.

 

And if the woman will not be willing to follow thee

This was said by Abraham to his steward, not because he doubted that she would be willing to come, for he was certain that the God that had made him willing to leave his own country, and his father's house, He would make her willing to do likewise, and come and settle with his son in the land that God had given him; but he says this, and what follows, in order to make the mind of his servant easy, since he seems to have had some doubt about it. The servant wanted to know what he should do if she did indeed refuse to leave her family; and what it was he was to take an oath to do.

 

Then thou shalt be clear from this my oath

The servant is under orders to take this oath, he has no choice in the matter, since he is the property of Abraham. The gist is, when he had done all he could to get the consent of the damsel, and her family, for her to go with him and marry his master's son; and after all was said and done, if she could not be prevailed upon to come with him, then he was free from his oath, having done all that the oath obligated him to do, and he was not to attempt to take a damsel from any other place. Later the servant would explain this to the family of Rebekah: “Then shall you be clear from this my oath, when you come to my kindred; and if they give not you one, you shall be clear from my oath” (Gen. 24:41). The word “clear” is used in the sense of “innocent,” or “guiltless,” as in Joshua 2:17: “And the men said to her, We will be blameless of this your oath which you have made us swear.”

 

Only bring not my son thither again;

 

Under no circumstance shall Isaac leave the Promised Land, since that would be the height of unbelief and disobedience; therefore, do not agree with the damsel and her parents, that he shall come to them, and don’t attempt to persuade him to comply with such terms.

 

The betrothal of Isaac and Rebekah is told with the greatest exactness of detail, because it contained two principles of prime importance to Abraham’s descendants:

  1. That they were not to allow themselves to be merged among the Canaanites, but remain a distinct people; for this intermarriage with women of their own race was only a means to an end, and not a binding law, to be observed for its own sake.
  2. That under no circumstances could they return to Mesopotamia, but must cling devotedly to the land which God had promised them for a possession. We learn from Genesis 24:8 that this second point was regarded by Abraham as even more important than the first; and with good reason. For the race might remain distinct even if Isaac took a woman of Palestine to wife, though there would be the risk of religious deterioration; but if they returned to Padanaram they were certain to be absorbed, and could look for no higher religious standing than that attained to by Laban’s descendants.

 

Abraham would prefer that his son not have a wife than for him to leave the Promised Land in order to get a wife and then expose himself to temptation. Note, Parents when giving up their children in marriage, should carefully consult the welfare of their souls, and their fitness for heaven. Those who through grace have escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust, and have brought up their children accordingly, should take heed of doing any thing by which they may be again entangled in sin and overcome—“For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning” (2 Pt. 2:20).

 

 

9 And the servant put his hand under the thigh of Abraham his master, and sware to him concerning that matter.

 

And the servant put his hand under the thigh of Abraham his master

“And the servant,” understanding the nature of his mission, and feeling satisfied on the points that impacted upon his conscience, put his hand under the thigh of Abraham his master.

 

“Put his hand under the thigh of Abraham”—this form of swearing has greatly puzzled the commentators; but it would be useless for me to detail opinions which I neither believe myself, nor would wish my readers to believe. I believe the true sense found by placing the circumstances mentioned in this and the third verse together—by doing this we shall find that they fully express the ancient method of binding by oath in such transactions which had a religious affinity. Observe:

  1. The rite or ceremony used on the occasion: the person binding himself put his hand under the thigh of the person to whom he was to be bound; i.e., he put his hand on the part that bore the mark of circumcision, the sign of God's covenant, which is tantamount to our kissing the book, or laying the hand upon the New Testament or covenant of our Lord Jesus Christ.
  2. The form of the oath itself: the person swore by Jehovah, the God of heaven and the God of the earth. Three essential attributes of God are mentioned here:
    1. His self-existence and eternity in the name Jehovah.
    2. His dominion of glory and blessedness in the kingdom of heaven.
    3. His providence and abundance in the earth.

 

And sware to him concerning that matter

The meaning of the oath seems to be this: “Just as God is unchangeable in his nature and purposes, so shall I be in this mission, under the penalty of forfeiting all expectation of worldly prosperity, the benefits of the mystical covenant, and future glory." An oath of this kind, taken at such a time, and on such an occasion, can never be deemed irreligious or profane. Thou shalt swear by his name—shalt acknowledge and bind thyself unto the true God, as the just Judge of thy motives and actions, is a command of the Most High; and such an oath as the above is at once (on such an occasion) both proper and rational. The person binding himself accepts for a model the unchangeable and just God; and as He is the avenger of wrong and the punisher of falsehood, and has all power in the heavens and in the earth, so he can punish perjury by privation of spiritual and temporal blessings, by the loss of life, and by inflicting the destruction due to ungodly men, among whom liars and perjured persons occupy the most distinguished rank. Our ideas of delicacy may find the rite used on this occasion to be revolting; but, when the nature of the covenant is considered, of which circumcision was the sign, we shall at once perceive that this rite could not be used without producing sentiments of reverence and godly fear, as the contracting party must know that the God of this covenant was a consuming fire.

 

 

 

 

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