Introduction: Abraham’s wife Sarah had died but Isaac, their son, apparently still was grieving her death. Father Abraham decided that it was time for Isaac to seek a wife of his own. He sent a trusted servant to find a suitable bride for Isaac, but she had to be from Abraham’s original territory. God intervened, and this made biblical history!
This story comes from Genesis 24, a rather long chapter. So, we’ll look at pertinent sections and make an application at the end.
The Mission: Find a Bride for My Son! (vv. 1-9)
The first nine verses contain Abraham’s charge to his servant. Now, the custom of parents finding suitable mates for their children goes back a long way, certainly to Abraham’s time. We’re not told, though, about the arrangements for Abram and Sarai, years before they left Ur of the Chaldees (Gen. 12), but their marriage worked well. Abraham must have known how important a good wife was, as well as what potentiall could happen in the case of a bad spouse.
Abraham gave the servant two specific conditions. First, he said, “Do not choose a wife for Isaac from the women where I’m living.” He was wise to do this. The Canaanites (v. 3) were never part of Abraham’s family, and they did not worship the God of Abraham. Abraham knew firsthand that a marriage between a believer and an unbeliever was not going to work. Many years later, Solomon encountered this very thing. King Solomon’s wives (foreign princesses and other concubines) “turned his heart away after other gods” (1 Kings 11:4). Solomon should have learned from Abraham not to marry any woman who didn’t believe in the God of Abraham!
There was another condition. The servant asked if he should take (escort?) Isaac back to the land where Abraham came from (v. 5) and Abraham promptly said no! In so many words, he said, “Don’t even think about it.”
I sometimes wonder why Abraham wanted to keep Isaac close in proximity. Some reasons might include: God had told Abraham to offer Isaac as a burnt offering years before, and Abraham didn’t want to risk someone else doing the same thing (human sacrifice was practiced in those days; because Abraham was a very rich and powerful man, and he may have feared someone might trying to kidnap or kill Isaac for ransom; Isaac may have rebelled against his father’s conditions or stipulations; Isaac had to learn to trust not only his parent, Abraham, but also his heavenly Father.
Abraham also gave the servant an out, namely that he would be free from the mission if the bride-elect refused to come back to Abraham and Isaac’s current location. The obvious thing, though, was the servant had to go there and explain the situation before the girl could decide.
II. The Test: How Will I Know if She’s the Right One? (vv. 10-32)
The servant did the right thing here. He prayed! I’m sure there was a lot of prayer before and during the trip; after all, he had 10 camels’ loaded with the best Abraham had to offer. God protected the entire caravan, which made it safely to Mesopotamia, Abraham’s home country.
The servant made this specific request. He couldn’t have known which young lady to pick for Isaac’s wife unless God directed the right people together. That’s exactly what he prayed: If she’s willing to provide water for the animals, she was bound to be the right one.
We’re not told how long the servant or the caravan waited for the water, but Rebekah appeared—before the servant finished praying, according to verse 15! Furthermore, not only did she give the servant some watet, but she drew enough water for 10 camels. We don’t know how much water she pulled from the spring, but there was enough for everyone and everything.
The servant no doubt was pondering if Rebekah was truly the right one, but she had a kind spirit. So, the servant gave her some gifts, perhaps rewarding her for her kindness and hard work. These gifts included a gold ring and two wrist bracelets, all of gold. Then he asked, “Whose daughter are you, and is there room for us at your father’s house?” (v. 23). She said there was room and plenty of straw and feed for the animals.
One other thing Rebekah said was that she was the daughter of Bethuel, who was Nahor’s great-granddaughter! Nahor was Abraham’s brother (Gen. 11:27), who remained in Mesopotamia when their father, Terah, while Abram, Sarai, Lot, and perhaps others left for Canaan (Gen 11:31). So at the very least, she was a distant member of Abraham’s family. This was a part of the original condition that the girl be related to Abraham (v. 4).
III. The Proposal: What Would Rebekah Say? (vv. 33-60)
This section is quite long and has a lot of narrative. The servant related his story as to who he was and why he had come so far. He also explained how Rebekah had met the very test or condition he had requested. Then he made a request. He wanted to know if Laban and Bethuel, Rebekah’s brother and father, respectively, would “deal kindly and truly” (v. 49). I can imagine those two men looking at Rebekah’s new gold jewelry and wondering if the servant had more goods he was willing to give!
Laban and Bethuel definitely replied to the servant’s request. We might say, “It’s OK with us but…wait a bit, won’t you?” According to verse 51, they said, “Take her and go,” but I find it a bit odd that Rebekah wasn’t involved in this decision! The servant then gave all of them gifts of silver and gold, clothing, and “many precious things” (v. 54). Not only did this prove Abraham’s generosity, but it demonstrated God’s blessings. Had Nahor come to believe in God as his brother Abraham had done? Had Milcah, Bethuel or Laban? We may never know the true spiritual condition of these folks, but we do know they couldn’t argue with the servant’s testimony of God’s goodness and God’s blessings.
Verse 54 tells about a feast they all enjoyed. They “ate and drank, and spent the night,” then they rose up and were ready to head back to Abraham. Guess what? The mother and brother decided they wanted to keep Rebekah for a while. They wanted her to stay for 10 days. What had changed their minds? I’m sure the family wanted Rebekah to look her best for the wedding or at least give her a bridal shower. It’s all spelled in one word: delay. Did they really want her to go?
The servant wouldn’t agree to her staying longer, however. I can see him, perhaps mounted on his own camel, saying, “No, we’re leaving now. Send me away, that I may go to my master” (v. 56). Now the family decided to ask something they probably hadn’t asked Rebekah before, and it’s a beautiful question: “Will you go with this man?” Will you leave the land of your birth, your family and friends, your sheep and the other animals? Will you leave all you ever knew and go to a place you know nothing about? Will you leave us and marry a man you’ve never seen before?” Oh, there were many emotions, I’m sure, in that question, all of them valid. However, Rebekah had made a decision, and it’s a simple, three-word response: “I will go.”
As Abraham himself had left his home country, so did Rebekah. Abraham had left to follow the Lord; Rebekah was leaving to become his daughter-in-law. Rebekah may not have been the first bride to leave her home country and marry someone she never had seen before, but she wasn’t the last. Through the years, many other women have left their homes to marry men they loved. Ruth, years later, would leave Moab with her mother-in-law to find God’s best in Bethlehem. Abigail would leave her estate from Carmel to be a wife of David. We also read of a few women from Egypt who married men of Israel. Thus, Rebekah may have blazed a trail for others such as herself who followed their husbands into new lives in new lands.
IV. The Completion (vv. 61-end)
The writer gives some very fast-moving, vivid descriptions in the last several verses regarding the key players in this story. First we see Rebekah and her maids getting on the camels and heading to the land of Abraham. How much they knew of it, we’re not told, but I’m sure the servant gave her all the info he could about Isaac and Abraham.
Then we’re told about Isaac himself. Oddly, I don’t read where Abraham told him anything about the servant’s mission of going on a wife-hunting trip. Isaac may have thought, “OK, fine,” but can you imagine his shock when he’s told, “It’s a wife for you!”
So, Isaac was out in the fields meditating. Give him credit, he wanted his quiet time with God. Then he sees a camel caravan coming and starts walking toward it. Now think of the camera giving a glimpse of Rebekah again. She’s already dismounted from the camel, and she’s asking the servant, “Who’s he, walking in the field heading this way?”
Imagine the delight of the servant when he says, “That’s Isaac, my master!” Rebekah took a veil and covered herself, then became his wife. We’re not given any details of the wedding ceremony, but they were joined in marriage. The proof is in these three words: “He loved her.” We don’t read where they ever stopped loving each other.
When we truly have God’s love in our hearts, it will be easy to share that love with our spouse. It worked for them, and it can work for us, too, if we’re willing. Please continue always to love your spouse!