August 25, 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.5: The Errand Is Told. (Gen. 24:34-49)

 

 

Gen. 24:34-49 (KJV)

 

34 And he said, I am Abraham's servant.

35 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.

36 And Sarah my master's wife bare a son to my master when she was old: and unto him hath he given all that he hath.

37 And my master made me swear, saying, Thou shalt not take a wife to my son of the daughters of the Canaanites, in whose land I dwell:

38 But thou shalt go unto my father's house, and to my kindred, and take a wife unto my son.

39 And I said unto my master, Peradventure the woman will not follow me.

40 And he said unto me, The LORD, before whom I walk, will send his angel with thee, and prosper thy way; and thou shalt take a wife for my son of my kindred, and of my father's house:

41 Then shalt thou be clear from this my oath, when thou comest to my kindred; and if they give not thee one, thou shalt be clear from my oath.

42 And I came this day unto the well, and said, O LORD God of my master Abraham, if now thou do prosper my way which I go:

43 Behold, I stand by the well of water; and it shall come to pass, that when the virgin cometh forth to draw water, and I say to her, Give me, I pray thee, a little water of thy pitcher to drink;

44 And she say to me, Both drink thou, and I will also draw for thy camels: let the same be the woman whom the LORD hath appointed out for my master's son.

45 And before I had done speaking in mine heart, behold, Rebekah came forth with her pitcher on her shoulder; and she went down unto the well, and drew water: and I said unto her, Let me drink, I pray thee.

46 And she made haste, and let down her pitcher from her shoulder, and said, Drink, and I will give thy camels drink also: so I drank, and she made the camels drink also.

47 And I asked her, and said, Whose daughter art thou? And she said, The daughter of Bethuel, Nahor's son, whom Milcah bare unto him: and I put the earring upon her face, and the bracelets upon her hands.

48 And I bowed down my head, and worshipped the LORD, and blessed the LORD God of my master Abraham, which had led me in the right way to take my master's brother's daughter unto his son.

49 And now if ye will deal kindly and truly with my master, tell me: and if not, tell me; that I may turn to the right hand, or to the left.

 

 

Introduction

 

Availing himself of the privilege thus accorded, the faithful ambassador recounted the story of his master's prosperity, and of the birth of Isaac when Sarah his mother was old (literally, after her old age); of the oath which he had taken to seek a wife for his master s son among his master's kindred, and of the singularly providential manner in which he had been led to the discovery of the chosen bride. Then with solemn earnestness he asked for a decision. And now if ye will deal kindly and truly - literally, if ye are doing, i.e. are ready or willing to extend kindness and truth (cf. ver. 27) - with (or, to) my master, tell me: and if not, toll me; that I may turn (literally, and I will turn) to the right hand, or to the left - in further prosecution of my mission, to seek in some other family a bride for my master's son.

 

Commentary

 

34 And he said, I am Abraham's servant.

 

“And he said, I am Abraham's servant”—this was enough to introduce his discourse, since his master was respected and a close relative of theirs, and well known to them by name, if not in person. We may suppose, therefore, that they were not completely ignorant of his circumstances; because, Abraham knew theirs, “And it came to pass after these things, that it was told Abraham, saying, Behold, Milcah, she has also born children to your brother Nahor” (Genesis 22:20).

 

 

35 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.

 

“And the Lord hath blessed my master greatly”with secular blessings—“And Abraham was old, and well stricken in age: and the LORD had blessed Abraham in all things” (Genesis 24:1).Here blessed” means “to enrich, or increase with substance,” which are specified in the rest of the verse. These blessings are ascribed to the Father, who is the fountain, author, and giver of all such mercies. We have already heard of Abraham’s wealth and prosperity; compare:

 

  •  Genesis 12:16: And he entreated Abram well for her sake: and he had sheep, and oxen, and he asses, and menservants, and maidservants, and she asses, and camels.” These are the gifts Pharaoh gave to Abraham on account of Sarai, whom he was led to believe was his sister, and it was done so that he would consent to her becoming his wife.
  •  Genesis 13:2: “And Abram was very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold.” He was very rich—compared with the pastoral[i] tribes to which Abraham belonged. An Arab sheik is considered rich who has a hundred or two hundred tents, from sixty to a hundred camels, a thousand sheep and goats respectively. And Abram being very rich, must have far exceeded that amount of pastoral property.

 

The servant’s first objective is to present his master from a worldly point of view—to show that he was not only wealthy, but, highly honored and esteemed among men, so that a marriage with Abraham’s son would be not only prudent, but desirable. Though many of his possessions were obtained by the diligent use of his resources, yet they came with the blessing of God; and others were the gifts he received from princes, such as Pharaoh king of Egypt, and Abimelech king of Gerar; yet, since it was the Lord that put it into their hearts to be so generous to him, they are called His gifts. (See Genesis 12:16.)

 

36 And Sarah my master's wife bare a son to my master when she was old: and unto him hath he given all that he hath.

“Sarah” must have been well-known to this family, by name at least, for it is generally supposed that she is the sister of Milcah, Nahor's wife, and Bethuel's mother. When “Sarah. . . was old” (ninety years of age) she gave birth to Abraham’s son, Isaac—“Then Abraham fell on his face, and laughed, and said in his heart, Shall a child be born to him that is an hundred years old? and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear? (Genesis 17:17).This is mentioned because it was an extraordinary thing, and an instance of divine power and of the favor of God; and this son of their old age must be very dear to Abraham, because next we read—“And unto him hath he given all that he hath.” The servant states that Abraham has already given Isaac the great bulk of his wealth, as stated in Genesis 25:5And Abraham gave all that he had to Isaac.”

 

37 And my master made me swear, saying, Thou shalt not take a wife to my son of the daughters of the Canaanites, in whose land I dwell:

 

“And my master made me swear” is an allusion to Genesis 24:3“And I will make you swear by the LORD, the God of heaven, and the God of the earth, that you shall not take a wife to my son of the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell.” This is the oath his master made him take, and the mandate he gave him, in language similar to Genesis 24:3.The Canaanites were cursed, and therefore the godly could not join with them in marriage.This and the four following verses recap the substance of Genesis 24:3-8, thus, the conclusion of the story is delayed. Likewise, in the following verses (vs. 42–48), the suspense caused by the repetition tends to heighten the interest.

 

 

38 But thou shalt go unto my father's house, and to my kindred, and take a wife unto my son.

 

“But thou shalt go unto my father's house, and to my kindred,” meaning among his relatives (or, family), as in Genesis 24:40—“And he said to me, The LORD, before whom I walk, will send his angel with you, and prosper your way; and you shall take a wife for my son of my kindred, and of my father's house.”But you shall go to my family, and find a wife for my son Isaac.Among pastoral tribes the matrimonial arrangements are made by the parents, and a youth must marry, not among strangers, but in his own tribe—custom giving him a claim, which is seldom or never resisted, to the hand of his first cousin. 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.

 

 

39 And I said unto my master, Peradventure the woman will not follow me.

40 And he said unto me, The LORD, before whom I walk, will send his angel with thee, and prosper thy way; and thou shalt take a wife for my son of my kindred, and of my father's house:

41 Then shalt thou be clear from this my oath, when thou comest to my kindred; and if they give not thee one, thou shalt be clear from my oath.

 

“And I said unto my master, Peradventure the woman will not follow me.(See Genesis 24:7.) “And he (Abraham) said unto me, The LORD before whom I walk” in obedience to all His commands, and with a hearty trust in His promises and gracious providence towards me and mine, and in the fear of whom I have arranged and led my entire life. “The LORD. . .will send His angel with thee and prosper thy way,” give success to thy undertaking; “and thou shalt take a wife for my son of my kindred and of my father's house.” But, if they refuse to give you a wife for my son, “thou shalt be clear from my oath”—from my curse, denounced against thee if thou should violate your oath (my curse).” The words “oath” and “curse” are often indifferently used, because they commonly go together, and sometimes they are both expressed, as Numbers 5:21.

 

This passage reveals the sacredness of his mission. It is Yahweh Himself Who has accompanied him for the purpose of obtaining a bride of suitable parentage. But he quickly and courteously assures them that this does not put them under an obligation to satisfy his need to obtain a wife for Isaac, although that is in fact his intention. We note that the servant discreetly does not mention the fact that Abraham does not want his son to come to Haran. But the absence of Isaac from the caravan makes this apparent.

 

 

42 And I came this day unto the well, and said, O LORD God of my master Abraham, if now thou do prosper my way which I go:

43 Behold, I stand by the well of water; and it shall come to pass, that when the virgin cometh forth to draw water, and I say to her, Give me, I pray thee, a little water of thy pitcher to drink;

44 And she say to me, Both drink thou, and I will also draw for thy camels: let the same be the woman whom the LORD hath appointed out for my master's son.

45 And before I had done speaking in mine heart, behold, Rebekah came forth with her pitcher on her shoulder; and she went down unto the well, and drew water: and I said unto her, Let me drink, I pray thee.

46 And she made haste, and let down her pitcher from her shoulder, and said, Drink, and I will give thy camels drink also: so I drank, and she made the camels drink also.

47 And I asked her, and said, Whose daughter art thou? And she said, The daughter of Bethuel, Nahor's son, whom Milcah bare unto him: and I put the earring upon her face, and the bracelets upon her hands.

48 And I bowed down my head, and worshipped the LORD, and blessed the LORD God of my master Abraham, which had led me in the right way to take my master's brother's daughter unto his son.

49 And now if ye will deal kindly and truly with my master, tell me: and if not, tell me; that I may turn to the right hand, or to the left.

 

Genesis 24:42-48 reiterates the details of Genesis 24:12–27.

 

“And I came this day unto the well, that is, he arrived after a journey of several days; and said, O Lord God of my master Abraham”—having arrived at the well, he prayed as follows: If now thou do prosper my way which I go.”His meaning is that if it was the pleasure of God that he should succeed in what he had come about, that He would let him know it by a sign; and in Genesis 24:42-44 he tells the family the sign he wanted, which was granted him.

 

“Behold, I stand by the well of water, and it shall come to pass that when the virgin cometh forth to draw water”The word translated “virgin” is not the word used in Genesis 24:16, nor that rendered damsel there and in Genesis 24:14, but the idea is a young woman just ripening for marriage. It is applied to Miriam in Exodus 2:8, where it is rendered maid, and to the mother of the Immanuel in Isaiah 7:14“Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”

 

“And before I had done speaking in mine heart, behold, Rebekah came forth with her pitcher on her shoulder.” The Hebrew expression“before I had done speaking to my heart”is far more exact and true thanSpeaking in mine heart,” signifying that this prayer was not spoken by the mouth, but only in his heart.He may have mentioned this in case it should be suspected that Rebekah had overheard his prayer, and intentionally complied with it; not so, he declares.

 

“And she went down unto the well, and drew water, and I said unto her, Let me drink, I pray thee. . . And I bowed down my head, and worshipped the LORD, and blessed the LORD God of my master Abraham.”He shows our duty, what we have to do, when we have received any benefit from the Lord.

 

My master’s brother’s daughter—the servant correctly states the relationship of Rebekah (See Genesis 22:23.) Rebekah was Abraham’s niece, the daughter of Nahor. “Brother” may mean “relative” (See Genesis 13:8Genesis 14:14).

 

“And now, if you deal kindly and truly with my master, tell me”—the servant directs himself to more than one, to the whole family, especially to Laban and Bethuel; if you will do my master a kindness, and grant him the favour he requests, that a damsel of this family may be given for a wife to his son; and, if you are enthusiastic and sincere in granting this, tell me at once.

 

“And if not, tell me,” so I may look for a wife for him elsewhere; rather, if you do not choose to gratify my master, and are not sincere in this matter, let me know, so “that I may turn to the right hand or to the left,” and look elsewhere among the daughters of some of the other sons of Nahor; for he had seven more which Milcah bare to him besides Bethuel, as well as four others by a concubine (Genesis 22:20). Some of the Jewish writers understand by “the right hand,” to mean the daughters of Ishmael, that dwelt to the right, and by “the left hand” the daughters of Lot, who were to the left, but this is not likely: it seems to be only a well-known expression, signifying that if they did not choose to accept his proposal in his master's name, he must take some other method, which the LORD might direct him to do; but, at the present, he didn’t know which way he should steer his course, to the right or left, but he may have to go one way or the other. The servant asks for a prompt reply, so that, if his request is refused, he may consider what course to pursue next.

 

 

 


[i] Having the simplicity, charm, serenity, or other characteristics generally attributed to rural areas: pertaining to the country or to life in the country; rural; rustic.

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