October 2, 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.7: Rebekah Presented to Her Husband. (Gen. 24:61-67)

 

 

Gen. 24:61-67 (KJV)

 

61 And Rebekah arose, and her damsels, and they rode upon the camels, and followed the man: and the servant took Rebekah, and went his way.

62 And Isaac came from the way of the well Lahairoi; for he dwelt in the south country.

63 And Isaac went out to meditate in the field at the eventide: and he lifted up his eyes, and saw, and, behold, the camels were coming.

64 And Rebekah lifted up her eyes, and when she saw Isaac, she lighted off the camel.

65 For she had said unto the servant, What man is this that walketh in the field to meet us? And the servant had said, It is my master: therefore she took a vail, and covered herself.

66 And the servant told Isaac all things that he had done.

67 And Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah's tent, and took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her: and Isaac was comforted after his mother's death.

 

 

Commentary

 

61 And Rebekah arose, and her damsels, and they rode upon the camels, and followed the man: and the servant took Rebekah, and went his way.

 

“And Rebekah arose, and her damsels,” that is, her maids (handmaidens or maidservants) that were given to her by her parents to supply her wants, which was not unusual for one of her rank and dignity in those times and countries. We know from Genesis 24:59 that one of these maids was her childhood nurse—So they sent their sister Rebekah on her way, along with her nurse” (Genesis 24:59).It seems then, when she went to the well for water, it was not because she had no servants to command, but because she took pleasure in work and helping others.

 

Rebekah, her maids, Abraham's servant and those he had brought with him, “rode upon the camels.” Theirs would be a tiresome and tedious journey, but for a good reason; to bring Rebekah to a good man, who would be her husband. Now we realize why the steward had taken so many camels with him. He had known full well that if he was successful they would be required for this purpose. So, they leave her home and family and make their way back to Canaan.

 

The travelers “followed the man” (Abraham’ servant), who rode in front of the group and led the way.

 

“The servant took Rebekah, and went his way.” He took her from her friends and family, and he took her under his care, and to be the wife of his master's son, and then set off on his journey.

 

 

62 And Isaac came from the way of the well Lahairoi; for he dwelt in the south country.

 

The story is shortened, because no mention is made of the return to Abraham which may have taken place before this incident, for Isaac is well south of Beersheba in ‘the land of the South’, almost at the Egyptian border. What is clearly important to the writer, who undoubtedly also has a romantic streak, is the pleasing union of Isaac and Rebekah. All attention is on Isaac who is the new beginning and Abraham slips into the background. The account begins with the ancient Abraham and ends with the two young lives who represent the future.

 

And Isaac came from the way of the well Lahairoi

After Sarah’s death, Abraham and Isaac relocated to Beer-sheba, in the southern part of Canaan (Genesis 12:9), for we are told in the next clause, “For he dwelt in the south country,” which would not be stated if he were still dwelling at Hebron. While the chief servant was away in Mesopotamia, Isaac made a journey to Beer-lahai-roi, the place where the pregnant Hagar met the angel of Yahweh when she had deserted the tribe to return to Egypt (Genesis 16:14). He probably went there to look after the flocks and herds in that region, and had just now returned to Beer-sheba, to visit his father, and wait for his bride. It appears from Genesis 25:11—“And it came to pass after the death of Abraham, that God blessed his son Isaac; and Isaac dwelt by the well Lahairoi”—that Isaac, at this time, dwelt at Lahai-roi: so he had come home. He clearly has a liking for Beer-lahai-roi for after his father’s death he went there to live. It is quite possible that he went there to meet up with his brother Ishmael, and was there on a visit at this time. (They seem on good terms in Genesis 25:9).

 

The oasis, which included the well Lahai-roi, became Isaac’s favorite residence (Genesis 25:11), and was in the neighborhood of Beer-sheba, where Abraham was dwelling when Sarah died at Hebron (Genesis 23:2). The journey of the servant would take some months, and during this time Abraham’s herds would be moved from one location to another, but it would be known where Isaac was by the time of the year. Since Isaac was at the location most remote from Charran, Rebekah would have visited all his homes before arriving at Beer-lahai-roi.

 

For he dwelt in the south country

“For he dwelt in the south country”; at Beersheba, where it seems that Abraham had returned again; but it does not appear that Abraham and Sarah lived together at this time, since we are told in Genesis 24:67 that Isaac took Rebekah to his mother Sarah's tent, where he introduced Rebekah. (Also see Genesis 22:19).

 

 

63 And Isaac went out to meditate in the field at the eventide: and he lifted up his eyes, and saw, and, behold, the camels were coming.

 

And Isaac went out to meditate in the field at the eventide

Some uncertainty surrounds the meaning of the word rendered here as “meditate.” Other translations render it differently: “to walk in the field”; “to go to and fro”; “to pray”; “to lament.” There is something beautiful and appropriate in the thought of this heir of the promises going out to meditate in the field in the evening, and no doubt, he was filled with anxious thoughts about the mission of his aged servant.

 

Today, meditation seems to have gone the way of fasting and personal Bible study, because people cannot tear themselves away from the TV and computer games long enough to do it. “To meditate,” means to converse with God, and with himself, by pious and profitable thoughts and words, and fervent prayers; for Isaac, the focus of meditation is God’s blessing upon this great affair, and so, his prayers are swiftly answered. He chose a solitary place, where he might freely concentrate upon God without any interruption or distraction.

 

Some think he expected his servants about this time, and went out on purpose to meet them. But it would seem he went out to take advantage of a silent evening, and a solitary field, for meditation and prayer. Our walks in the field (our yard, sidewalk, street, etc.) are really pleasant, when, while walking, we apply ourselves to meditation and prayer: it is during those times that we have a free and open view of the heavens above us, and the earth around us, and the hosts and riches of both, and by this view we should be led to the contemplation of the Maker and Owner of all. Merciful providences are twice as enjoyable, when they find us in the process of reflecting on the wonders of God. It is very likely that Isaac was now praying for the success of his servant’s mission, and meditating upon that which would encourage his hope in God concerning the matter; and now, when he surveys the horizon, to see how God would answer him, he sees the camels coming.

 

And he lifted up his eyes, and saw, and, behold, the camels were coming.

“And he lifted up his eyes—and there were camels coming.” There can be no doubt of the writer’s romantic streak. Isaac lifts up his eyes, and Rebekah lifts up her eyes. And in a sense they meet. The writer is hinting that the sight of the camels, fairly rare and therefore quite probably carrying the expected bride, must have stirred something within him.

 

 

64 And Rebekah lifted up her eyes, and when she saw Isaac, she lighted off the camel.

 

 

“And Rebekah lifted up her eyes,” and looked about, “and when she saw Isaac”; whom she suspected was her future husband, she asked the servant, who confirmed her suspicions—“It is my master.”“She lighted off the camel”—literally, she fell off the camel. The expression indicates the rapidity with which she threw herself from the camel at the sight of Isaac. The behavior of Rebekah, when she was about to meet Isaac, is similar to what modern etiquette requires. It is customary for both men and women, when anyone noble or important or eminent, is approaching, to alight before he comes up to them. Women frequently refuse to ride in the presence of men, and when a company of them are to pass through a town, they often dismount and walk. It was, no doubt, a point of Syrian etiquette for Rebekah to stop, descend from her camel, and cover herself with a vail in the presence of her future husband. Besides beauty, we have already seen in her, kindliness of heart, activity, and courageous submission to the guidance of Providence; we now see her modesty and courtesy towards her husband. Had she sat on her camel when she met him, she would have appeared to him to be disrespectful. This biblical narrative is so natural to one familiar with the East, so beautiful, also, and lifelike, that the entire scene seems to be an affair in which the historian himself has been a recent actor.

 

 

65 For she had said unto the servant, What man is this that walketh in the field to meet us? And the servant had said, It is my master: therefore she took a vail, and covered herself.

 

“For she had said,” or rather, “and she said.” There is no need to explain “had” in either of the two places in which it occurs in this verse.

 

“For she had said unto the servant,” as soon as she saw a man walking towards them, who she thought might be Isaac.

 

She said, “What man is this that walketh in the field to meet us?”— for by the path he took, she perceived that he was coming towards them, and so concluded it must be one of the family, and probably the person she was to be married to; for otherwise, had he not by his eyes and movement discovered that he knew the servant, and was coming towards them, she would have took no notice of him.

 

“And the servant had said, It is my master”—Some have complained about this statement on the grounds that Abraham is his master, but it has always been commonplace for the son of the house to be thought of as ‘the young master’; hence the servant doesn’t mean Abraham, but his son, who also was his master. There may have been a reason for him slightly exaggerating Isaac’s status in the eyes of the future wife. He wants Rebekah to know that he will be as faithful to her future husband as he is to her future father-in-law.

 

“And she took her veil and covered herself.” She has been travelling unveiled, but now modesty requires that she veil herself with “the long cloak-like vail, with which the Eastern women covered their faces,” before she meets her betrothed, for this is a formal meeting and she does not wish to appear presumptuous, by overstepping the bounds of propriety or courtesy, and by taking liberties, which some would call scandalous.

 

”Therefore she took a vail,” which may have been for the reason given in the preceding verse, or either in conformity to the general custom in ancient times, or it may refer to the particular custom of the nuptial veil, worn by the bride when she was first introduced to her husband. In any case, it was a testimony of her respect for Isaac, whom she learned from the servant was to be her lord and husband. The vail was also a custom among the Heathens—it is notable, that of the ancients the Spartans alone allowed their virgins to appear without vails in public; but when married, they were never permitted to be seen without them.

 

 

66 And the servant told Isaac all things that he had done.

 

It was natural that the steward would summarize to Isaac everything that had happened; the means he employed to find the person God intended for Isaac’s wife, and the location of her father's house, where he was introduced and made welcome; and the agreement he had made with the parents and relatives of Rebekah, for her to become his wife, whom he had brought with him. But what the writer of Genesis is also trying to show, is that Isaac is now taking over Abraham’s mantle. He can now be seen as ‘the master’ and receive briefings from the steward. The old is passing and the new is here.

 

Ministers must also give account of their stewardship. Happy is he that can present his people "as a chaste virgin to Christ" (2 Corinthians 11:2); that can say along with the prophet, "Here am I, and the children that thou hast given me" (Isaiah 8:18); and with that chief-prophet, "I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do" (John 17:4).

 

 

67 And Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah's tent, and took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her: and Isaac was comforted after his mother's death.

 

And Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah's tent

Isaac immediately brought Sarah into his mother’s tent thus establishing her at once in the rights and honors of a wife, before he had even seen her features: but this was done after many other things had transpired, which are not recorded here; a conversation between Isaac and her, her betrothal, and an introduction of her to Abraham, with whose consent, no doubt, she was given his wife's tent. Women at that time had their tents separate from the men (See Genesis 18:10 24:67 31:33).Both Leah and Rachel had their own tent (See Genesis 31:33; 24:28).The tent which had been Sarah’s special apartment and home during many years of nomadic life, now belonged to Rebekah. This tent had probably been moved to Beer-sheba after Sarah’s death. There she could rest until the marriage rites were performed; till they got to know and love each other; till she became settled into her new position of wife and mistress of their home; till they had pledged their mutual trust; till they had sought God’s blessing on their marriage, and till they had performed the simple ceremonies which the occasion required. Under the circumstances and customs of that time, no other formal marriage ceremony was required than him leading her, in a loving manner, into the tent. Thus the vacant home place had another mistress, and Sarah’s loss became less painful; and there, they consummated their marriage.

 

And took Rebekah, and she became his wife

“And (Isaac) took Rebekah,” not like Shechem took Dinah, or Amnon took Tamur, to rape her; but like Boaz took Ruth, and David Abigail, to make her his wife by lawful wedlock.Rebekah takes the place of his mother—as mother of the tribe.

 

“And she became his wife—they consummated the marriage, which was first contracted by his servant, then confirmed by himself, and now completed.

 

And he loved her

There are many disappointments in life, but when Isaac saw his wife, “he loved her.”  While Abraham almost certainly loved Sarah, it is never stated. This statement, therefore, is a further indication of the writer’s romantic point of view. It may also indicate that Isaac was seen as having a more tender nature than his father. He fell short of his father’s toughness, but he had a delicacy of spirit that his father lacked.

 

“And he loved her,” not only as his kin, or a good woman, but as his woman, with a marital love. And he had good reason for it:

(1)   She was his wife, the proper object of his love.

(2)  A wife that God provided; a mate suitable for him; no one in all the world was as suitable.

(3)  She was worthy of his love, because she was beautiful, courteous, and virtuous.

(4)  She left her father’s house, and forsook all her friends for him.

 

“And he loved her”; as a man ought to love his wife; even as he loves his own body—“In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself” (Ephesians 5:28). The Jews say she was fourteen years of age at this time:

 

And Isaac was comforted after his mother's death.

 “Isaac brought her into his mother's tent”—“and was comforted.” The tent, which Sarah had formerly occupied, was put into Rebekah's possession: whose beauty, modesty, and virtue relieved Isaac's grief for the loss of his beloved mother, whom he had continued to grieve over for three years.This shows the heartfelt regard Isaac had for his mother; by which he sets a good example for us to follow, of the responsibility and behavior of children toward parents!  This also brings out Isaac’s delicate spirit. He missed his mother and found comfort in the arms of Rebekah, and he became cheerful and comfortable. Again this is something we would not expect to find said of Abraham. If God takes away one comfort, he will give another. Cheer up, dear friend.

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