July 21, 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.3: The Servant's Journey and Prayer. (Gen. 24:10-28)      

 

 

Gen. 24:10-28 (KJV)

 

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, unto the city of Nahor.

11 And he made his camels to kneel down without the city by a well of water at the time of the evening, even the time that women go out to draw water.

12 And he said, O LORD God of my master Abraham, I pray thee, send me good speed this day, and shew kindness unto my master Abraham.

13 Behold, I stand here by the well of water; and the daughters of the men of the city come out to draw water:

14 And let it come to pass, that the damsel to whom I shall say, Let down thy pitcher, I pray thee, that I may drink; and she shall say, Drink, and I will give thy camels drink also: let the same be she that thou hast appointed for thy servant Isaac; and thereby shall I know that thou hast shewed kindness unto my master.

15 And it came to pass, before he had done speaking , that, behold, Rebekah came out , who was born to Bethuel, son of Milcah, the wife of Nahor, Abraham's brother, with her pitcher upon her shoulder.

16 And the damsel was very fair to look upon, a virgin, neither had any man known her: and she went down to the well, and filled her pitcher, and came up.

17 And the servant ran to meet her, and said, Let me, I pray thee, drink a little water of thy pitcher.

18 And she said, Drink, my lord: and she hasted, and let down her pitcher upon her hand, and gave him drink.

19 And when she had done giving him drink, she said, I will draw water for thy camels also, until they have done drinking.

20 And she hasted, and emptied her pitcher into the trough, and ran again unto the well to draw water, and drew for all his camels.

21 And the man wondering at her held his peace, to wit whether the LORD had made his journey prosperous or not.

22 And it came to pass, as the camels had done drinking, that the man took a golden earring of half a shekel weight, and two bracelets for her hands of ten shekels weight of gold;

23 And said, Whose daughter art thou? tell me, I pray thee: is there room in thy father's house for us to lodge in ?

24 And she said unto him, I am the daughter of Bethuel the son of Milcah, which she bare unto Nahor.

25 She said moreover unto him, We have both straw and provender enough, and room to lodge in.

26 And the man bowed down his head, and worshipped the LORD.

27 And he said, Blessed be the LORD God of my master Abraham, who hath not left destitute my master of his mercy and his truth: I being in the way, the LORD led me to the house of my master's brethren.

28 And the damsel ran, and told them of her mother's house these things.

 

 

Introduction

 

Abraham’s servant is an important figure in this story; and though he is not named, there is much recorded here to his credit. He is a good example for everyone who has a job and is paid for some service he provides. Those who faithfully serve God and their boss shall be honored, if they live by the doctrine of Christ. Compare:

  • Prov. 27:18: “Whoever keeps the fig tree shall eat the fruit thereof: so he that waits on his master shall be honored.” That serves him faithfully, prudently, and diligently; shall be honored—shall receive that respect and recompense which he deserves.
  • Titus 2:10: “Not purloining (stealing), but showing all good fidelity; that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things.” A slave cheerfully accepting his hard yoke, and striving with hand and brain to please and advance the interest of his earthly master only for the dear love of Christ, must have been in those days of cynical self-love a silent, yet a most powerful preacher of a gospel which could so mold and elevate a character so degraded.

 

Do your work as if Jesus was your boss, for God is no respecter of persons—“Knowing that of the Lord you shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for you serve the Lord Christ. But he that does wrong shall receive for the wrong which he has done: and there is no respect of persons” (Col. 3:24, 25). An employee that gives his job the very best he is capable of doing, and does it in the fear of God, though he may never have the praise of men, yet he shall be blessed and accepted by God and receive praise from Him. The servant in our story did his best for his master, Abraham. And we can tell from his prayers that he was a believer in Jehovah.

 

 

Commentary

 

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, unto the city of Nahor.

 

And the servant took ten camels, of the camels of his master, and departed

There is an immediate question that arises—why didn’t Isaac go himself in search of a wife? We must not conclude from his noninvolvement that the matter didn’t have his full agreement or that he didn’t care who was chosen for his wife. He was Abraham’s heir, and according to Oriental manners it was fitting that the choice should be left to a reliable agent. What is peculiar in the narrative is the great distance to which the servant was sent, and the limitation of his choice to a specific family; but both these particulars arose from the religious considerations involved.

 

Camels were much in use in the eastern countries; where they were brought up among their herds of cattle, and their wealth was measured by how many camels they owned. Arabia abounded with them; Job had three thousand of them (Job 1:3); how many Abraham had is not said, his servant took only ten of them, ten being sufficient for his present mission, and which he took with his master's permission. These animals are very strong and capable of carrying great burdens, even a thousand pound weight; and for riding, especially the ones which have two humps on their backs, for some have only one; and for long journeys, seeing that they are very swift, and will travel many days without water, and so it was very sensible to take camels on such journeys in hot and desert countries.

 

But why did he take ten camels; why not more or less? There may have been several reasons:

(1)   To carry the presents for the bride.

(2)   To give the mission an appearance worthy of the rank and wealth of Abraham.

(3)  To serve as a means of transport for the bride and her companions on the return journey—“And Rebekah arose, and her damsels, and they rode on the camels, and followed the man: and the servant took Rebekah, and went his way” (Gen. 24:61).

(4)  To impress strangers with the reality and value of the proposed connection by marriage

(5)  One or two spare camels were included in case of emergency.

 

And he departed, either from Hebron (Genesis 23:19), or from the south country, near Beer-lahai-roi (Genesis 24:62). If he took the direct route, he went through Palestine along the west side of the Jordan and the lakes, into the Buk'ah, and out through the land of Hamath to the Euphrates, and then to Mesopotamia. From Hebron to Haran, is thought to be a journey of seventeen days; the distance between them is computed to be four hundred and sixty eight miles.

 

For all the goods of his master were in his hand

“For all the goods of his master were in his hand,” agrees with what was said before, that he was Abraham’s steward, and managed everything he had. Literally, and every good thing of his master was in his hand; meaning that he selected (as presents for the bride) the best of everything that belonged to his master (2 Kings 8:9) though some regard it as explaining how the servant was able to start upon his journey with such an abundance of goods; because, he had supreme rule over his master's household.

 

It was in his power to take, without particular orders, what he thought necessary, either for his own use, or for the promotion of the present business, which included presents for the bride and her friends (some of the choicest and most valuable things his master had), and accommodations for her comfort on the return journey. It was necessary not only that the servant would take with him such a convoy as would ensure his safety and that of the bride on their return, but also valuable presents that would adequately represent Abraham’s wealth and power. At least one commentator thinks that Abraham's servant carried a list of all his master's goods and property, in order to show how rich he was, and how good a match Isaac would be for the woman, and which might persuade her and her friends to listen to the proposal, since it would all pass on to Isaac.

 

And he arose, and went to Mesopotamia

Mesopotamia (from the Greek, meaning ‘between two rivers’) was an ancient region in the eastern Mediterranean bounded in the northeast by the Zagros Mountains and in the southeast by the Arabian Plateau, corresponding to today’s Iraq, mostly, but also parts of modern-day Iran, Syria and Turkey. The 'two rivers' of the name referred to the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers and the land was known as ‘Al-Jazirah’ (the island) by the Arabs, which would later be called the Fertile Crescent, where Mesopotamian civilization began. The part of it in which Haran was situated was called Padan-aram—“Arise, go to Padanaram, to the house of Bethuel your mother's father; and take you a wife from there of the daughers of Laban your mother's brother” (Genesis 28:2).

 

Unto the city of Nahor

“The city of Nahor” was Haran (also called ‘Charran’) which is arrived at by comparing two verses:

  • Genesis 28:10: “And Jacob went out from Beersheba, and went toward Haran.”
  • Genesis 29:4: “And Jacob said to them, My brothers, from where be you? And they said, Of Haran are we.”

 

Nahor was the son of Terah and brother of Abraham and Haran, and he was older than Abraham. He married Milcah, the daughter of his brother Haran; and when Abraham and Lot migrated to Canaan, Nahor remained behind in the land of his birth, on the eastern side of the Euphrates, in the land known as “Ur of the Chaldees.” He had probably migrated to Haran from Ur when Terah was growing old, so that he might occupy the pastures which Abraham was about to abandon. There he settled with his family.

 

 

11 And he made his camels to kneel down without the city by a well of water at the time of the evening, even the time that women go out to draw water.

 

And he made his camels to kneel down

Camels are “made to kneel down” when they are loaded and unloaded, and also when they rest, and in this case it was for the sake of the latter that they were made to kneel, because the servant did not unload them until he knew that God had heard his prayer. It seems that kneeling is not natural to them, but what they must learned to do. It is said, “as soon as a camel is born they tie his four feet under his belly, put a carpet over his back, and stones upon the borders of it, that he may not be able to rise for twenty days together; thus they teach him the habit of bending his knees to rest himself, or when he is to be loaded or unloaded.”

 

One traveler, when giving an account of his journeys between Cairo and Mount Sinai, says, “Our camels were made to kneel down in a circle round about us; and in this situation, as they are very watchful, and awake with the least noise, they served us instead of a guard.”

 

Without the city;

He was outside the city of Nahor, which is Haran.

 

By a well of water

 

"In the East, where wells are scarce and water indispensable, the existence of a well or fountain determines the site of the village. The people build near it, but prefer to have it outside the city, to avoid the noise, dust, and commotion always occurring there, especially if the well is near the highway. The well was the property of the whole city, and might be used only at a fixed hour; and the servant therefore waits with his camels and his men till the women came to draw. This duty of fetching water is not peculiar to Oriental women, but to this day in most parts of Europe, wherever the supply comes from a public source, women may be seen occupied with carrying water. Rebekah carried her pitcher upon her shoulder; in the south of France the Basque women, like the ancient Egyptians, carry it on their heads, and the habit of balancing it gives them a peculiarly erect and graceful carriage.

 

At the time of the evening, even the time that women go out to draw water

We have here a familiar scene from Oriental life. The well is outside the gate of the town. It is the women’s duty to draw water. Compare:

  • 1 Samuel 9:11: “And as they went up the hill to the city, they found young maidens going out to draw water…”
  • John 4:7: “There comes a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus said to her, Give me to drink.”

 

They come to draw when the heat of the day is past. They must draw enough water to take care of their family’s needs, and they must do it after they have been hard at work all day, weaving, or grinding, or making bread. At evening they set out with a pitcher or a goat's skin, and, tying their sucking children behind them, trudge in this manner in some cases two or three miles to fetch water.

 

"It is the work of females in the East to draw water both morning and evening; and they may be seen going in groups to the wells, with their vessels on the hip or on the, shoulder" "About great cities men often carry, water, both on donkeys and on their own backs; but in the country, among the unsophisticated natives, women only go to the well or the fountain. The experienced steward might therefore naturally expect to see the damsels of the town at the public well.

 

 

12 And he said, O LORD God of my master Abraham, I pray thee, send me good speed this day, and shew kindness unto my master Abraham.

 

And he said, O Lord God of my master Abraham

The servant begins his search for the maiden with prayer, a beautiful example of piety and of the fruits of Abraham's care for the souls of his household—“For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring on Abraham that which he has spoken of him” (Genesis 18:19). The prayer of the aged servant is conceived in a spirit of earnest, childlike faith. His mission in Haran is of extraordinary importance. A wife is to be found for the heir of promise. He does not call the Lord his God, though no doubt He was, since he appears throughout the whole narration to be a good man; but the God of Abraham, because God had often manifested and renewed his covenant with Abraham in a well-known manner, and had bestowed many favors and blessings upon him, and permitted him to much nearness and communion with Him; and it was not on his own account that he was come to Haran, but on his master's business.

 

“O Lord God” (Heb., Jehovah), “God of my master Abraham”—referring to Genesis 24:7: “The LORD God of heaven, which took me from my father's house, and from the land of my kindred, and which spoke to me, and that swore to me, saying, To your seed will I give this land; he shall send his angel before you, and you shall take a wife to my son from there.” The servant, though possibly a native of Damascus—“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? (Genesis 15:2)—worships the God of Abraham—“And the man bowed down his head, and worshipped the LORD” (Genesis 24:26).

 

The word translated “master” throughout this chapter is ‘donai, the ordinary word for lord, and it is rendered that way in verse 18. As a circumcised member of Abraham’s household, the servant prays to Jehovah, Abraham’s God. He grounds his prayer on God's promise made to his master.The servant appears worthy of the master he served.

 

I pray thee, send me good speed this day

What a noble example we have here for all servants to imitate their masters in their acts of goodness! Someone may point out that we are not servants and we don’t have masters. But there are still good men, and we can imitate them in their good deeds. Abraham’s servant, we find, had not lived in his master’s house without profiting by his example; he shows similar faith and dependence upon God as his master had shown; and because this was a matter of great importance which has brought him to Haran, he does not rest upon his own discretion and wisdom, but prays for the blessing and direction of God in it. And what can be more desirable in our responsibilities than to be under the guidance of infinite wisdom? And we have His permission and encouragement to submit all our affairs to the care of Divine Providence. Those who desire to have good speed” must pray for it. Therefore, we must, in all our ways, acknowledge God, and then He will direct our paths.

 

“Send me good speed this day”is the servants prayer for Divine intervention on his behalf: the meaning is “cause something to happen before me this day;” some extraordinary event, which does not depend upon the will, or skill, or planning of men, or upon chance or destiny, but upon the pleasure of God; and according to his determined counsel and will. He is asking for God to do something; that is, to cause him to meet the maiden who would answer his quest.

 

And shew kindness unto my master Abraham;

The personal humility and loyalty displayed by this aged servant are only less remarkable than the virtue and childlike faith which can be detected in the method he adopts for finding the bride. Having put the matter entirely in God’s hands by prayer, as a concern which especially belonged to Him, he points out that by giving a sign which would enable him to detect the bride designed for Isaac, He would be showing kindness to Abraham. 

 

Notice, he makes no mention of himself, nor of the merits of his master, but he ascribes even this secular blessing, merely to God’s mercy.

 

 

13 Behold, I stand here by the well of water; and the daughters of the men of the city come out to draw water:

 

Behold, I stand here by the well of water

“I stand” means ‘I post myself,’ or ‘I take my station.’ “Behold me standing by the well;” wishing, hoping, and expecting that something would happen that would direct and instruct me what else I need to do, and that would lead me to the damsel You have chosen for Isaac.

 

And the daughters of the men of the city come out to draw water

It was the usual custom in those parts that morning and evening the women of the city would come to the well to draw water (see verse 11)—“Behold, I stand by the well of water; and it shall come to pass, that when the virgin comes forth to draw water, and I say to her, Give me, I pray you, a little water of your pitcher to drink (Genesis 24:43). This was a principal reason why Abraham’s servant stopped at the well, not only to refresh himself, his men, and his camels, but in hopes he would meet there with the damsel he had come for; or at least would hear of her, or meet with some one that would direct him to her; or something would occur there by means of Divine Providence which would bringing about what he was sent to do. 

 

 

14 And let it come to pass, that the damsel to whom I shall say, Let down thy pitcher, I pray thee, that I may drink; and she shall say, Drink, and I will give thy camels drink also: let the same be she that thou hast appointed for thy servant Isaac; and thereby shall I know that thou hast shewed kindness unto my master.

 

And let it come to pass, that the damsel to whom I shall say,

That this was not a rash and arrogant fantasy, but a special expectation and confidence produced in him by God’s Spirit, appears both by the outstanding judgment and godliness of this person, and by the exact agreement of the event with his prayer, and by parallel examples, such as Judges 6:36, 37: “Gideon said to God, ‘If you will save Israel by my hand as you have promised—look, I will place a wool fleece on the threshing floor. If there is dew only on the fleece and all the ground is dry, then I will know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you said.’” 

 

Perhaps the servant had contemplated the possibility of repeated attempts at trying to identify the girl and failure, and decided to ask God to make the damsel known to him. The sign for which he prays is the voluntary offer on the part of a girl to give water, not only to himself, but also to his camels. This would be no mere formality, but a practical and laborious act of kindness towards a stranger, done probably in the presence of many bystanders and idle citizens; and therefore making a demand upon her energy and moral courage as well as physical strength.

 

 “Let it come to pass”he prays that God would make his choice of a wife for Isaac clear him, by causing certain minute events to occur. It is the consolation, as well as the belief, of a good man, that God’s providence extends to even the insignificant incidents in life.

 

Let down thy pitcher, I pray thee, that I may drink

We are astonished at the servant's request. He had arrived at Nahor and sought immediate results. She would have the pitcher of water upon her shoulder, after she had filled it with water from the well, so she would “let it down” while talking to a stranger. The servant specified certain details. He asked that the damsel who came to the well would give him water to drink; and like-wise, that she might request the privilege of giving the camels water also. We have long been of the opinion that prayers of a general nature mean very little, and get nowhere. God wants us to be specific in our request. He wants us to lay our case before Him in a definite and comprehensive way.

 

And she shall say, drink, and I will give thy camels drink also

Eliezer was wise enough to ask for a sign that was remarkable, but (in human terms) possible. He didn’t tempt God by asking for fire to fall from heaven or for protection as he leapt from the pinnacle of the temple. He asks a hard thing of the Lord, that when he requests a drink of water from a young woman who comes to draw water, she would not only give him his request, but would offer to draw water also for his ten camels. This would be no small task, for camels consume a great amount of water. No ordinary young lady would be willing to take on a job like this without any promise of compensation. But no ordinary young lady was to be satisfactory for Isaac, just as today, a Christian man should be sure that his intended wife is also a believer.

 

For a woman to do what he requested indicated a good nature, a kind, courteous disposition; which were good qualities in a wife. Those who are good-natured are more likely to be believers in God, but if they are not so yet, there is more hopes they may be. For where a good nature resides, the soul is a plain, smooth board, where a painter may more easily draw a picture: and a harsh crabby nature is like a board full of knots, and a rough surface, where a painter cannot show his workmanship. And though the power of God will show itself wherever he intends to make a vessel of mercy, yet for some there is more pain and sorrow.

 

Let the same be she that thou hast appointed for thy servant Isaac

Considering that a camel may drink up to 20 gallons at one time, watering ten camels meant take at least an hour of hard work. “Let her be the one:” In praying this prayer, there is a sense in which Eliezer “stacked the deck” against finding someone. It would take a remarkable woman to volunteer for this tedious task. But he desired this to be the sign by which he might know who the person was God had appointed, and whom He approved of as a proper wife for Isaac; and this was a very appropriate sign; for it would indicate that she was a caring and industrious person, willing to work hard when necessary; that she was kind and courteous to strangers; humble and respectful, and willing to do the most unpleasant tasks for the good of others; and this is the type of wife he was looking for, and he knew she would be a good one, and greatly acceptable to his master and to his son.

 

And thereby shall I know that thou hast shewed kindness to my master

 “Thereby shall I know:” Eliezer cares nothing about what the woman will look like. He wants a woman of character, a woman whom God has chosen. The servant asked for a sign from God. He said, “Thereby shall I know that Thou hast shewed kindness unto my master.” It may not always be right to put God to the test, and, to seek a sign from Him; and yet, in this case, at least, God gladly granted all that the servant asked. Gideon asked that the fleece might be wet and the ground dry. He asked again that the ground might be wet and the fleece dry. In each case, God answered prayer.

 

God does many things for us, when we ask according to His will. He delights in our asking the unusual thing, and the thing impossible with man. “Whatever else may be said of the prayer of Abraham’s servant, he believed in a God who could do great things. He prayed as though he were working together with God, and walking according to the will of God. He felt that God was more interested in securing a wife for Isaac than he was.

 

 

15 And it came to pass, before he had done speaking , that, behold, Rebekah came out , who was born to Bethuel, son of Milcah, the wife of Nahor, Abraham's brother, with her pitcher upon her shoulder.

 

And it came to pass, before he had done speaking

“And it came to pass (not by accident, but by Divine arrangement), before he had done speaking,” that his prayer was answered. The answer is immediate and direct—“And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear” (Isa. 65:24). From verse 45 it appears that the servant's prayer was not intelligibly spoken, but offered “in his heart”—“And before I had done speaking in my heart, behold, Rebekah came forth with her pitcher on her shoulder…” (Gen. 24:45). Before he had done speaking,” before he had mentally uttered this prayer, God, whose ears are always open to the petitions of those who trust in him, answered, in a manner of speaking, his desires. So quick is God, many times, to answer the prayers of His people. Compare:

  • Daniel 9:23: “At the beginning of your supplications the commandment came forth, and I am come to show you; for you are greatly beloved: therefore understand the matter, and consider the vision.”   The angel had come to tell Daniel that his prayers were heard.
  • Psalm 32:5: “I acknowledge my sin to you, and my iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions to the LORD; and you forgave the iniquity of my sin” (Ps. 32:5). David had just said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord;” and before he could do it, God forgave the iniquity of his sin.

 

 How admirably does the providence of God adapt every circumstance to the necessity of the case, and so He answers the prayer of the servant in the most punctual manner!

 

That behold Rebekah came out;

And before he had done speaking, “behold, Rebekah (Hebrew, meaning captivating) came out” (out of Haran, the city of Nahor)—who, in all respects, answered the characteristics he wished for in the woman that was to be his master’s wife. As he anticipated, a young woman unveiled, as in pastoral regions, appeared with her pitcher on her shoulder. Her lovely appearance, her pleasant manners, her obliging courtesy in going down the steps to fetch water not only for him but to pour it into the trough for his camels, afforded him the most delightful surprise. She was the very person his imagination had pictured. And as Providence had arranged it, she did that which exactly corresponded to the sign he wanted to see. God, in his providence, does sometimes wonderfully answer the prayer of faith, and gratify the innocent desires of his praying people, even in little things, so that He may show the extent of his care, and may encourage them at all times to seek him, and trust in him; yet we must take heed of being over bold in prescribing everything to God, in case the event should weaken our faith rather than strengthen it. And the agreement of providences, and their minute circumstances, for the furtherance of our success in anything, ought to be looked upon with wonder and thankfulness to the glory of God. We have been deficient in ourselves, both in duty and comfort, by neglecting to observe providence.

 

The servant had prayed; and God answered his prayer, even while it was upon his lips, "before he had done speaking." The woman before him having fulfilled in its entirety the conditions he had proposed, he at once sealed the choice of Rebekah as the wife of Isaac; but still the old man waits in wonder and silence to see if the Lord's approval will follow. God gives success to all things that are done for the glory of his name and according to his word.

 

Who was born to Bethuel, son of Milcah, the wife of Nahor, Abraham's brother

Rebekah came to the well to draw water, probably accompanied by other members of the community. She is described as a daughter of Bethuel; Bethuel was the eighth and last son of Milcah, who was the daughter of Haran and the wife of Nahor; Haran and Nahor were both brothers to Abraham. Rebekah would also be the grandniece of Abraham. She is called the daughter of Bethuel in Genesis 24:24, Genesis 24:47, Genesis 22:20-24, Genesis 25:20, Genesis 28:2.

 

With her pitcher upon her shoulder

Rebekah appeared to fetch water from the well for the use of the family; which, though the daughter of a wealthy person, she did not look down on such a menial task; this was an illustration of diligence and humility. The picture that the sacred historian paints of Rebekah is a lovely, benevolent woman. Everything depended upon the girl having a pitcher: hence the mention of this detail—“her pitcher upon her shoulder.” It was this sort of vessel that Gideon’s men employed (Judges 7:20).

 

 

16 And the damsel was very fair to look upon, a virgin, neither had any man known her: and she went down to the well, and filled her pitcher, and came up.

 

And the damsel was very fair to look upon

The young woman was very beautiful to behold: We generally regard the Bible as being given to understatement. When we read Rebekah was very beautiful to behold, we should understand Rebekah was indeed very beautiful (Genesis 26:7), like Sarah (Genesis 12:11) and Rachel (Genesis 29:17).

 

A virgin: neither had any man known her;

A repetition for the sake of emphasis; not only was she reckoned a virgin, but was really one, pure and untainted.

 

And she went down to the well and filled her pitcher, and came up;

By which it appears the well lay low, there was a descent unto it, and an ascent from it. Rebekah was very diligent and speedy in doing her work, she did not stay to look at strangers, or hold an idle conversation with other damsels that came thither on the same account; but, having filled her pitcher, was making the best of her way home. 

 

And she went down to the well, - "nearly all wells in the East are in wadys, and have steps down to the water" (Thomson, 'Land and Book,' p. 592) - and filled her pitcher, and came up - probably wholly unconscious of the old man's admiration, though by no means unprepared for his request, which immediately followed. 

 

She went down to the well.—the water, therefore, was reached by a flight of steps, the usual rule wherever the well was fed by a natural spring. Cisterns, on the contrary, supplied from the rains were narrower at the top than at the bottom.

Mr. Malan (Philosophy or Truth, p. 93), in an interesting account of his visit to this well, says that on going out from Haran in the evening to examine it, he found “a group of women filling, no longer their pitchers, since the steps down which Rebekah went to fetch the water are now blocked up, but their water-skins by drawing water at the well’s mouth. Everything around that well bears signs of age and of the wear of time; for as it is the only well of drinkable water there, it is much resorted to. Other wells are only for watering the flocks. There we find the troughs of various height for camels, for sheep and for goats, for kids and for lambs; there the women wear nose-rings and bracelets on their arms, some of gold or of silver, and others of brass, or even of glass.”

 

 

17 And the servant ran to meet her, and said, Let me, I pray thee, drink a little water of thy pitcher.

 

And the servant ran to meet her

He did not stop her as she went to the well, but stayed until she had been there and filled her pitcher, and then he hurried to meet her, in order to have the sign answered he had requested, which could not be done until she had filled her pitcher.

 

And said, let me, I pray thee, drink a little water of thy pitcher

It was not that he needed water to quench his thirst that he made this request, for he could have got, and perhaps had gotten water out of the well before this time, or he could easily have supplied himself; but this was done to test whether she was the person, and whether her conduct and demeanor would answer the sign he asked for, and she would draw water for him and his camels.

 

 

18 And she said, Drink, my lord: and she hasted, and let down her pitcher upon her hand, and gave him drink.

 

And she said, drink, my lord

She let him know immediately that he was welcome to drink as much as he wanted, and she addressed him with a very honorable title, my lord. She probably saw that he had a pretty large retinue with him of men and camels; so that she took him for some important person.

 

And she hasted, and let down her pitcher upon her hand

She took the pitcher from off her shoulder, and let it rest upon her hand or arm.

 

And gave him drink

She let him drink as much as he wanted of it.

 

 

19 And when she had done giving him drink, she said, I will draw water for thy camels also, until they have done drinking.

 

And when she had done giving him drink

She let him drink as much as he wanted of it.

 

She said, I will draw water for thy camels also, until they have done drinking

“She said, I will draw water for thy camels also” she proposed to go back to the well, and fill her pitcher, and repeat it as often as was necessary, until the camels had enough. What admirable qualities does Rebekah show by this one gracious act! What generosity! What good-nature! What humility! The servant asks only to drink a little water out of her pitcher, and she not only gives this with the most obliging courtesy, but then she makes haste to draw water for all his camels. Well might the servant wonder with pleasure, and conclude that God had made his journey prosperous. The only thing that kept him in doubt about it was his not knowing whether she was one of Abraham’s kindred. One of so much generosity, good-nature, humility, courtesy, and readiness to oblige, he concluded, would certainly make a good wife for his master’s son. He was well pleased, since he had requested of God that the person whom He had appointed for Isaac’s wife would act precisely in such a manner; which shows that it was not a rash and unfavorable thing which he asked, but what was agreeable to the will of God, and to which he was directed by an impulse of his.

 

 

20 And she hasted, and emptied her pitcher into the trough, and ran again unto the well to draw water, and drew for all his camels.

 

And she hasted and emptied her pitcher into the trough

“The trough” was a long shallow v-shaped receptacle made of wood or of stone, for the drinking water of domestic animals. Rebekah empties the rest of her pitcher into this trough, and probably has to fill it many times in order to provide enough water for the 10 camels to drink.

 

And ran again to the well to draw water,and drew for all his camels.

“And drew for all his camels,” and there were ten of them; and they were probably thirsty after so long a journey, and it would require a great deal of water to satisfy them; therefore Rebekah must take a vast deal of pains and labour to draw water for them all until they had enough. She “ran again unto the well to draw water;” which indicates she was in a hurry to finish the chore, since she may have had more to do when she got home. Rev. Thomson told of this experience: “At one point we came upon a large village of nomad Bedouins dwelling in their black tents. For the first time we encountered a shepherd playing on his reeden pipe, and followed by his flock. He was leading them to a fountain, from which a maiden was meanwhile drawing water with a rope, and pouring it into a large stone trough. She was not so beautiful as Rebekah.” He also wrote: “However ‘patient of thirst,’ the camel may be … it is also true that it drinks inordinate quantities when it gets the chance.… It is recorded that an individual [camel] has drunk as much as 20 gallons at a sitting, a fact which throws new light on the incident of Rebekah at the well. Abraham’s servant … had ten camels, and after he had refreshed himself from Rebekah’s pitcher, ‘she said, I will draw water for thy camels also, until they have done drinking.… And the man, wondering at her, held his peace.…’ As well he might. ‘Until they have done drinking’—the words were written by one who knew camels; and Rebekah’s acts of kindness to the stranger and his beasts were of larger proportions than the casual reader of these days might infer.”

 

 

21 And the man wondering at her held his peace, to wit whether the LORD had made his journey prosperous or not.

 

And the man wondering at her

The servant gazed steadfastly at her; we may well believe he was astonished at the exactness and quickness with which his prayer was being answered, but this is not the point to which the rest of the verse refers; rather, it sets him before us as keenly observing all she said and did, and carefully coming to the conclusion that this beautiful and generous maiden was the destined bride of the son of his lord. He may have marveled at her friendliness and courteousness to a stranger; at her humility and generosity in willingly taking upon herself such a service; at her enthusiasm and diligence, and at the hard work it involved; and the quick and efficient way she went about the business; and at her words and actions being so exactly agreeable with the sign he desired to have; and at the providence of God in bringing him to this place at just the right time; and at the damsel, that she would come just at this time, and that she answered in every way his expectations and desires.

 

Held his peace

Silence is the customary attitude for the person when either expecting or receiving a Divine communication—“I was dumb with silence, I held my peace, even from good; and my sorrow was stirred” (Psalm 39:2)

 

To wit;

Or to know, to think, and to give the affair further consideration, so that he might know…

 

Whether

 Or “if.”

 

The Lord had made his journey prosperous or not

The servant was astonished to find that the sign for which he had prayed had been given in the case of the first girl that had come to draw water; hence his look of eagerness, questioning, and silent thought. Perhaps he was saying within himself, surely God had made his journey prosperous; or if not, how was it that such strange surprising circumstances had occurred? Or what else must be done by him? or what methods must be taken in the future.

 

The servant observed the maiden to see whether “the Lord had made his journey prosperous or not.” This inward contemplation obviously took place while the whole scene was being enacted before his eyes—the beautiful young girl filling the water-troughs, and the thirsty camels sucking up the cooling drink. The loveliness of mind and body, both which he desired in Isaac's bride, was manifestly present in Rebekah; but still the questions remained to be determined, Was she one of Abraham's kindred, and was she single? And would she follow him to Canaan? These are points that must be settled before he would know that she was the woman he had come for.

 

 

22 And it came to pass, as the camels had done drinking, that the man took a golden earring of half a shekel weight, and two bracelets for her hands of ten shekels weight of gold;

 

And it came to pass, as the camels had done drinking

 Most people know that camels are endowed to an almost amazing degree with the power of enduring thirst, but, when they have an opportunity to drink, they can drink an enormous quantity of water. Therefore we must acknowledged that the trouble to which the maiden cheerfully submitted required more than ordinary, patience. When the camels had enough to put an end to their thirst and satisfy them, they were “done drinking.”

 

That the man took a golden earring

Really a nose-ring, which is how it is described inGenesis 24:47: “And I asked her, and said, Whose daughter are you? And she said, the daughter of Bethuel, Nahor's son, whom Milcah bore to him: and I put the earring on her face, and the bracelets on her hands.”   The man places it in her nose; it is wrongly translated “face” in our version. The word occurs again in Ezekiel 16:12, where it is rendered jewel, and again is placed on the forehead (nose);”—“And I put a jewel on your forehead, and earrings in your ears, and a beautiful crown on your head.” it is also similarly translated jewel in Proverbs 11:22, where it is placed in “a swine’s snout.”—“As a jewel of gold in a swine's snout, so is a fair woman which is without discretion.” It was hung not from the central cartilage of the nose, but from the left nostril, the flesh of which was pierced for the purpose; and such rings are still the usual betrothal present in some parts of Arabia, and are commonly worn both there and in Persia, made not only of gold and of silver but of coral, mother-of-pearl, and even cheaper materials. Other terms are “a jewel for the forehead,” or, as some render it, a “nose jewel,” and “an earring upon her face,” or “nose,” and this was a jewel that hung from the forehead upon lace or ribbon between the eyes down upon the nose; and such was worn by the daughters of Sion in later times—“The rings, and nose jewels” (Isaiah 3:21). And nose jewels are still in use with the Levant Arabs, as Dr. Shaw (z) relates. A man who travelled through Mesopotamia and the lands adjacent in 1574, says of “the women in those parts who are of greater substance, and have a mind to be richer and finer in their dress, that they wear silver and gold rings in one of their nostrils, wherein are set garnets, turquoise, rubies, and pearls: and in Egypt they wear nose jewels and small gold rings in their right nostrils, with a piece of coral set in them. The servant took a golden earring of half a shekel weight, which was neither a pendant for the ear nor a jewel for the forehead, but a ring for the nose.

 

Of half a shekel weight

The golden shekel is meant here, not silver. “Half a shekel,” is somewhat less than a quarter of an ounce. “A bekah for every man, that is, half a shekel, after the shekel of the sanctuary, for every one that went to be numbered…” (Exodus 36:26).  

 

And two bracelets for her hands, of ten shekels weight of gold

These two bracelets and a golden earring were merely a reward for her kindness and courtesy to a stranger. Today, the value of gold is around $1500.00 per ounce. In today’s money his gift would be valued at $15, 375.00. This was a substantial present for the young woman.

 

Bracelets are still profusely worn by Oriental women, usually covering the whole arm from the wrist to the elbow. Paul and Peter have directed Christians to a more excellent way of adorning themselves; “not with gold, or pearls, or costly array, but (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works;” “whose adorning, let it not be that outward plaiting of the hair, and of wearing of gold, but in that which is not corruptible, the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which, in the sight of God, is of great price.”


23 And said, Whose daughter art thou? tell me, I pray thee: is there room in thy father's house for us to lodge in ?

 

And said

Whether he said this before he gave her the gifts or after is unclear. However, it appears from Genesis 24:47 that it was before: “And I asked her, and said, Whose daughter are you? And she said, the daughter of Bethuel, Nahor's son, whom Milcah bore to him: and I put the earring on her face, and the bracelets on her hands.”

 

Two questions are asked by the stranger—the one relating to her family, and the other to the means and the inclination they had to lodge a stranger. An important question during a time when inns were not yet in existence.

 

 

Whose daughter art thou?

The reason for this question is, because by her answer to it he would know whether her family was related to Abraham or not; this was important because, according to his oath, he was to take a wife for Isaac only from his relatives, and if they were his relations he was close satisfying himself as to what he had been thinking about, whether the Lord had made his journey prosperous or not.

 

Tell me, I pray thee, is there room in thy father's house for us to lodge in?

“Room” is literally “place.” By her answer to this question, he would know whether her family was wealthy, and so fit to be linked with his master's; and besides, if she appeared to be the person he hoped she was, he was hopeful of lodging in her father's house, so that he might have a better opportunity of managing the affair that had brought him to Hebron.

 

 

24 And she said unto him, I am the daughter of Bethuel the son of Milcah, which she bare unto Nahor.

 

And she said unto him, I am the daughter of Bethuel the son of Milcah

Rebekah mentions her father’s mother to show that she was descended from a highborn wife (not by his concubine, but by his lawful and principal wife); but the servant would welcome this detail, since it proved that she was Isaac’s cousin, not only on the father’s side, but also on the mother’s. Milcah was the daughter of Haran, Abraham’s elder brother; and she was the sister of Sarah, Abraham's wife—“And Abram and Nahor took them wives: the name of Abram's wife was Sarai; and the name of Nahor's wife, Milcah, the daughter of Haran, the father of Milcah, and the father of Iscah” (Genesis 11:29). And when the servant knew that she fulfilled all the conditions, he gave her the jewels which he was holding in his hand, and bowed the head, and gave thanks.

 

Which she bare unto Nahor

Nahor was Abraham's brother; so her father was Nahor's son, not by his concubine Reumah, but by his lawful wife Milcah, which sets Rebekah's descent in a true light—“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).

 

 

25 She said moreover unto him, We have both straw and provender enough, and room to lodge in.

 

She said moreover unto him

Everything is working out just as God planned and according to His urging.

 

We have both straw and provender enough;

Straw for the camel’s litter, and provender for their food (hay, barley, etc.). The character of Rebekah shines forth in her practical answer. Food and stabling for the 10 camels would be more difficult to find than lodging for the man.

 

And room to lodge in

Not for him only, but for him and his men. She could invite him to lodge in her father's house, without going home to put the question to her father, and then to return to the stranger to give the invitation, because she knew full well the generosity, liberality, and hospitable spirit of her father.

 

 

26 And the man bowed down his head, and worshipped the LORD.

 

And the man bowed down his head

Rebekah’s mention of her family had dispelled the servant’s last doubt; bowing his head he gives praise to Jehovah, the God of Abraham (v. 12), showing what a deep sense he had of the divine goodness, and in humble acknowledgment of the favor he had received in being providentially directed.

 

And worshipped the Lord;

The aged servant gave thanks to God for his marvelous assistance up till then, and begging the continuance of His presence and blessing. He had good reasons for hoping and believing that things were progressing according to his master's instructions and will.

 

 

27 And he said, Blessed be the LORD God of my master Abraham, who hath not left destitute my master of his mercy and his truth: I being in the way, the LORD led me to the house of my master's brethren.

 

And he said, blessed be the Lord God of my master Abraham

“Blessed be the Lord God of my master” (v. 12):—once again this servant shows a noble example by returning thanks to God, as soon as he finds that his errand is likely to succeed. He had prayed for ‘good speed, and, having sped well so far, he blesses God, although, as yet, he is not certain that Rebekah will agree to go with him. We ought to react in the same manner: when God’s blessings are coming to us, we ought to meet them with our praises; giving thanks for all our successes in business, for all our safe journeys, for our living a comfortable life, our being happily married, our having obedient children, our having friends who are good men. For all these things we ought to give God the glory, and give him continual thanks and praise from grateful hearts, being truly aware that it is He that gives us all good things. 

 

Who hath not left destitute my master of his mercy and truth

[The God of my master has not deprived him of His mercy and truth].Ruth 2:20 is a very similar sentence, “May he be blessed of the LORD who has not withdrawn his kindness…” The word translated here as “mercy” is the same as that rendered “kindness” in verses 12 and 14and “kindly” in verse 24. The combination of the Hebrew words for “mercy” and “truth” was almost commonplace (Genesis 32:10Genesis 47:29).  “Mercy” denotes the goodness, “truth” the faithfulness of God, in the fulfilment of His promises.

 

Notice that the servant does not boast about his good fortune (as the wicked do) but acknowledges that God has dealt mercifully with this matter in keeping His promise; or has not withdrawn His mercy, grace and goodness, truth and faithfulness; for His loving kindness does not take away from His people, nor does it allow them to endure the loss of His faithfulness. Rather His mercy and grace in making kind and gracious promises continues, and his truth in performing them sooner or later never fails, and both are present in this case. Abraham believed in the grace and goodness of God, that He would send His angel and direct His servant, and make his mission successful; this was another instance of His truth and faithfulness, in making good the promise or prophecy on which Abraham's faith was built (v. 7).

 

I being in the way

“I being in the way (place), by the well; in the right way (place), where he was directed; in the way (place) of his duty, following the steps of divine Providence, and observing them. It is good to be in the way (place) which God directs us to and prescribes for us, especially in religious things, where the blessing and presence of God may be expected.

 

Another consideration suggested by these words, “I being in the way,” is that if we expect guidance we must diligently do that which is our present duty. We are led, thank God, by one step at a time. He does with His child, whom He is teaching to read His will, as we sometimes do with our children, when we are teaching them to read; we cover the page up, all but the line that we want them to concentrate their eyes upon; and then, when they have got to the end of that, slip the hand down, low enough to allow the next line to come into view. So often God does the same thing with us. One thing at a time is enough for our little brains.

 

But there is another lesson still in these words; and that is, if we are to be guided, we must see to it that we expect and obey the guidance.

 

And don’t forget that the first condition of securing real guidance in our daily life is to ask for it, and that the next is to look for it, and that a third is to be quite willing to accept it, whether the finger points down the broad road that we would like to go down, or through some tangled path amongst the brush and briars that we would like to avoid.

 

There was no miracle, no supernatural voice, and no pillar of cloud or fire, no hovering glory around the head of the village maiden. All the indications were perfectly natural and trivial. A thousand girls had gone to the wells that day all about Haran and done the very same things that Rebekah did. But the devout man who had prayed for guidance, and was sure that he was getting it, was guided by her most simple, commonplace act; and that is how we are usually going to be guided. 

 

The Lord led me to the house of my master's brethren

“My master’s brethren,” that is, near kinsmen, as that word is commonly used (Genesis 24:48; Genesis 13:8; Mark 3:31, 32). Nahor, who was Rebekah’s grandfather, was Abraham's brother; and Bethuel her father was his nephew, as was Lot—“Abram recovered all the goods that had been taken, and he brought back his nephew Lot. . .” (Genesis 14:16); and, though the servant had not yet arrived at Nahor’s house, he had met with one of the family, and had got an invitation to spend the night there, and was on his way there and presently very near it. Like Abraham’s family, this family had come from Ur of the Chaldees, though they didn’t continue on to Canaan, but stayed in Haran. They were not idolaters, but worshippers of the true God, and followed the same religion as Abraham’s family.

 

 

28 And the damsel ran, and told them of her mother's house these things.

And Abraham was old, and well stricken in age

 

And the damsel ran

 Having invited him to come and lodge at her father's house, she left him in the act of devotion, and ran there in order to acquaint the family with what had happened, so that he might not be brought in abruptly.

 

And told them of her mother's house these things

She did not go to her father to inform him of the event; some think he was dead, but from Genesis 24:50, he would appear to be living—“Laban and Bethuel answered, "This is from the LORD; we can say nothing to you one way or the other.” The real reason she went to her “mother’s house” first may be for one of the following reasons:

(1)   Her mother had a house, a tent, or an apartment to herself, as women in those times and places used to have—“And Isaac brought Rebekah into his mother Sarah's tent, and she became his wife. . . ” (Genesis 24:67); and because daughters are generally more free to converse with their mothers and impart things to them than to their fathers, may be the true reason for Rebekah's conduct.

(2)  The wife of a sheik has a separate tent (Genesis 24:67), and the result of polygamy is to make each family hold closely together. Naturally, too, the maiden would first show her mother and the women the presents she received from a stranger and tell them about such a special meeting. We even find Laban, the brother, acting as Rebekah’s representative; and it is only when the final decision has to be given that Bethuel is allowed to have any voice in the matter—“Laban and Bethuel answered, “This is from the LORD; we can say nothing to you one way or the other” (Genesis 24:50).

(3)  Either because her father was now dead; or because the women had distinct apartments in the houses, and she went there first, according to her custom. This family was in an advanced stage of pastoral life, dwelling in a specific place and staying put.

(4)  The “house” is not the building, but the “household”—“For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do righteousness and justice; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he has spoken of him” (Genesis 18:19).

(5)  With womanly instinct, perceiving the possibility of a marriage proposal, she imparts the joyful news neither to her brother nor to her father, but to her mother and the other females of the household, who lived separately from the men of the family, especially, the arrival of a messenger from Abraham, and perhaps the gifts he brought for her.

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