August 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.4: The Servant Received and Entertained. (Gen. 24:29-33)      

 

Gen. 24:29-33 (KJV)

 

29 And Rebekah had a brother, and his name was Laban: and Laban ran out unto the man, unto the well.

30 And it came to pass, when he saw the earring and bracelets upon his sister's hands, and when he heard the words of Rebekah his sister, saying , Thus spake the man unto me; that he came unto the man; and, behold, he stood by the camels at the well.

31 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.

32 And the man came into the house: and he ungirded his camels, and gave straw and provender for the camels, and water to wash his feet, and the men's feet that were with him.

33 And there was set meat before him to eat: but he said, I will not eat, until I have told mine errand. And he said, Speak on.

 

 

Introduction

 

Now we have the account of the reception of Abraham's servant, and Laban appearing on the scene for the first time as a significant character. He is ready to run with his sister to find the man, and invite him to his father's house. “When he saw the earing (30).The presents given to his sister assured him that this is the envoy of some man of wealth and position. “Thou blessed of the Lord (31).” The name of Yahweh was evidently not unfamiliar to Laban’s ears. He calls this stranger “blessed of Yahweh,” on account of his language, demeanor, and obvious prosperity. The knowledge and worship of the living God, the God of truth and mercy, was still retained in the family of Nahor. Being warmly invited, the man enters the house. “And he ungirded his camels (32).” Laban is the actor here, and in the following duties of hospitality. "The men's feet that were with him (32)." It comes out here, incidentally, as it was reasonable to infer from the number of camels, that Abraham's steward had a retinue of servants with him. The crowning act of an Eastern reception is the presenting of food. But the faithful servant must deliver his message before partaking of the friendly meal.

 

 

Commentary

 

29 And Rebekah had a brother, and his name was Laban: and Laban ran out unto the man, unto the well.

 

And Rebekah had a brother, and his name was Laban

Perhaps Laban was Rebekah’s only brother; but, in any case, he was the elder brother, the head in the family, since her father Bethuel was an old man. For some reason, this man’s character has been greatly maligned, however, the Biblical narrative does not represent him as “a monster of moral depravity,” but rather as actuated by generosity and a hospitable nature. 

 

Brother Laban (Compare: Genesis 25:20Genesis 28:2Genesis 29:5) takes the part of the chief representative of Rebekah’s family. Bethuel, their father, is mentioned along with him only in Genesis 24:50; and their mother in Genesis 24:53, 54. 

 

And Laban ran out

“And Laban ran out” of his house, and out of the city of Haran, unto the man waiting by the well. From what we know of his character, there is reason to believe that the sight of the dazzling presents increased both his haste and his desire to extend an invitation to the servant. That Laban, and not Bethuel, should have the prominence in all the subsequent transactions concerning Rebekah has been explained by the supposition that Bethuel was now dead, but verse 50 contradicts that assumption, suggesting that he had become an insignificant character. Firstborn sons enjoyed during their father's lifetime a portion of his authority, and even on important occasions represented him; however, in those times it was unusual for brothers to take a special interest in their sister’s marriages (Compare: Genesis 34:13Judges 21:222 Samuel 13:22). 

 

Unto the man unto the well

This was after Rebekah had got home, and had related to the family the details concerning the man she met and what transpired between them. Laban ran to meet the man, but not until he had seen Rebekah, listened to her story, and saw the presents, as related in the next verse—this being a brief summary, followed by a more detailed account. Milcah had probably sent for Laban and summoned him to her tent, where his sister showed him her presents, and told him what had happened. He then hurried out to offer the appropriate hospitality to the generous stranger.

 

 

30 And it came to pass, when he saw the earring and bracelets upon his sister's hands, and when he heard the words of Rebekah his sister, saying, Thus spake the man unto me; that he came unto the man; and, behold, he stood by the camels at the well.

 

And it came to pass, when he saw the earring, and bracelets upon his sister's hands

“When he saw the earring, and bracelets upon his sister's hands,” he concluded that the man she had met, was both rich and generous, and he might have hoped to receive a gift himself, after giving him an invitation to his house; or he simply might have concluded that he had nothing to lose by receiving him kindly and entertaining him generously. It’s hard to tell what Laban’s true motives were, and why he hurried to meet the man, and bring him to his home. But on the surface, he would appear to have a covetous nature.

 

And when he heard the words of Rebekah his sister, saying, thus spake the man unto me

Perhaps Laban was especially interested in the part of her story where she mentioned that the stranger inquired whose daughter she was, and whether there was any room in her father's house for him and those that traveled with him.

 

That he came unto the man

Laban ran until he came to where the man was waiting beside the city well.

 

And, behold, he stood by the camels at the well

He did not follow Rebekah, but remained at the wellinstead, expecting somebody would come from her house and give him an invitation to lodge there, after Rebekah had made her report. He waited on God to work in response to his prayer of faith.

 

 

31 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.

 

And he said, come in, thou blessed of the Lord

“Come in,” thou blessed of the Lord—this kind of hospitality was extended in the East almost as a matter of course, though Laban’s earnestness may have been amplified by the sight of his sister’s golden ornaments.

 

“Come in, thou blessed of the Lord” is an invitation expressed in the beautiful language of those ancient times, by which a sense of God was constantly retained in their minds. This language is seldom used in our day! Perhaps, because they heard from Rebekah of the gracious words with which he addressed her, and they concluded that he was a good man, and therefore blessed of the Lord, with both temporal and spiritual blessings. He concluded he was blessed with the former by the presents he had given to his sister, and by the men that he directed, and the number of camels that were in his caravan; and with the latter by his devotion, his worshipping of God, and thankfulness to Him, which Rebekah had observed and shared with her family. Some Jewish writers say he thought he was Abraham, and that’s why he gave him this title and this invitation to come into the house.

 

Laban’s reference to Jehovah probably implies that he too, as a member of Abraham’s kindred, was a worshipper of Jehovah the God of Abraham, though he dabbled in idolatry. It becomes more remarkable that Laban addresses the servant as “blessed of Jehovah,” when we learn in Joshua 24:2 that the monotheism of Nahor and his family was by no means pure—“And Joshua said to all the people, Thus said the LORD God of Israel, Your fathers dwelled 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.” Still, neither were they idolaters, and the “other gods” whom they served were probably teraphim, as certainly as the godswere that Laban mentioned in Genesis 31:30“And now, though you would needs be gone, because you sore longed after your father's house, yet why have you stolen my gods?Even to the last these household gods seem to have retained a hold upon the affections of the nation—“For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and without teraphim” (Hosea 3:4); and probably most uneducated minds, even when their religion is in the main true, have nevertheless a tendency to add on to it some superstitions, even fashioning for themselves some lower mediator.

 

Wherefore standest thou without

He said this, either to scold him for not following his sister immediately after receiving her invitation, or perhaps to encourage him to no longer delay, but follow him straightaway. Possibly, he considered his not accepting Rebekah's invitation a reflection on the hospitality of the house of Abraham s kinsmen.

 

For I have prepared the house

This means he had cleaned the house, or ordered it to be cleaned; or that he had furnished it with everything necessary for the convenience and comfort of him and those with him. Some writers interpret it as purging the house from idols and other objects of strange worship, which he knew would be offensive to Abraham, or any that belonged to him; but the former sense is best.

 

And room for the camels

He had ordered the stable to be cleaned also, and that it should be stocked with everything the camels required; so, we may assume that some time elapsed between Rebekah's return home and Laban's coming to the well, though no doubt everything was done with as much rapidity as possible.

 

 

32 And the man came into the house: and he ungirded his camels, and gave straw and provender for the camels, and water to wash his feet, and the men's feet that were with him.

 

And the man came into the house

“The man” is Abraham’s servant, who upon the insistence of Rebekah’s brother, Laban, came into the house.”

 

And he ungirded his camels

Either the servant and his men by his order, “ungirded (to loosen or remove by unfastening a belt) his camels. This was usually the first thing that travelers did when they stopped at an inn to take care of their camels— that is, took off their bridles, which hindered them from eating; or loosened their girts and took off their burdens, so that they might rest; or Laban may have done it, since what follows must be interpreted as being done by him.

 

And gave straw and provender for the camels

Laban gave the camels straw for their litter, and provender (food), or ordered it to be done. The straw was cut up by threshing for fodder (Compare: Job 21:18Isaiah 11:7Isaiah 65:25).The camel is a very valuable possession, but a delicate animal, needing care and attention.

 

And water to wash his feet, and the men's feet that were with him

This was usually done to strangers and travelers in those hot countries—Let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree” (Genesis 18:4). This is the first requisite of Oriental hospitality—So he took him into his house and fed his donkeys. After they had washed their feet, they had something to eat and drink” (Judges 19:21). The feet were washed, not merely because the feet, protected only by sandals, are soiled by the dirt of the roads, but because it cools the whole body, and alleviates the feverishness caused by the heat of travelling.

 

 

33 And there was set meat before him to eat: but he said, I will not eat, until I have told mine errand. And he said, Speak on.

 

And there was set meat before them to eat

After the camels had been taken care of, food was set before the men to refresh them (the crowning act of an Oriental reception), by the order of Bethuel or Laban, or both.

 

But he said, I will not eat until I have told mine errand

“But he said, I will not eat until I have told mine errand” or, "spoke my words;” “delivered the message he was sent with,” and “declared the business he came about;” which shows him to be a diligent faithful servant, who had his master's interest at heart, and preferred it to his desire for food. The faithfulness that servants owe to their masters, causes them to prefer their masters business before their own needs. What a fine picture of diligence and zeal for a master’s service this is! How worthy to be imitated by all servants! Though it was after a long journey, and much fatigue, yet so impatient is he to do his master’s business that he will not eat until he has delivered the message.

 

Two points in Oriental manners can be seen here: first, that hospitality, which is so necessary in a country where there are no inns, was, and still is, a religion to the Bedouin; the second, that consequently he will grant anything rather than have his hospitality refused. Being aware of this feeling, Abraham’s servant will not partake of Laban’s bread and salt until he has stated his request. Oriental politeness postponed the questioning of a guest until after he had eaten; but Abraham's servant hastened to communicate the nature of his message before partaking of the hospitality offered him—an instance of self-denying zeal of which Christ was the highest example (See Mark 6:31; John 4:34). They would not even enquire into the stranger’s name before he had partaken of food, since the name might possibly reveal those embroiled in a blood-feud, which would exclude hospitality. After he had become Laban’s guest, Laban would have been free to do as he liked; but he must now grant what is asked, or the stranger would decline to enter his dwelling.

 

And he said

“And he said,” either Bethuel or Laban, for both were present: it was to them that the servant directed his words. Perhaps Laban spoke in the name of his father.

 

Speak on

And he (that is, Laban) said, “Speak on.” Go ahead and say all you have to say, signifying that they were ready to give their attention to him.

 

 

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