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Genesis 24

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Isaac and Rebekah.#The story of Abraham and Sarah is drawing to a close. The promises of progeny (21:1–7) and land (chap. 23) have been fulfilled and Sarah has died (23:1–2). Abraham’s last duty is to ensure that his son Isaac shares in the promises. Isaac must take a wife from his own people (vv. 3–7), so the promises may be fulfilled. The extraordinary length of this story and its development of a single theme contrast strikingly with the spare style of the preceding Abraham and Sarah stories. It points ahead to the Jacob and Joseph stories.The length of the story is partly caused by its meticulous attention to the sign (vv. 12–14), its fulfillment (vv. 15–20), and the servant’s retelling of sign and fulfillment to Rebekah’s family to win their consent (vv. 34–49). 1Abraham was old, having seen many days, and the Lord had blessed him in every way. 2#Gn 47:29. Abraham said to the senior servant of his household, who had charge of all his possessions: “Put your hand under my thigh,#Put your hand under my thigh: the symbolism of this act was apparently connected with the Hebrew concept of children issuing from their father’s “thigh” (the literal meaning of “direct descendants” in 46:26; Ex 1:5). Perhaps the man who took such an oath was thought to bring the curse of sterility on himself if he did not fulfill his sworn promise. Jacob made Joseph swear in the same way (Gn 47:29). In both these instances, the oath was taken to carry out the last request of a man upon his death. 3and I will make you swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and the God of earth, that you will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites among whom I live,#Gn 24:37; 28:1–2; Jgs 14:3; Tb 4:12. 4but that you will go to my own land and to my relatives to get a wife for my son Isaac.” 5The servant asked him: “What if the woman is unwilling to follow me to this land? Should I then take your son back to the land from which you came?” 6Abraham told him, “Never take my son back there for any reason! 7The Lord, the God of heaven, who took me from my father’s house and the land of my relatives, and who confirmed by oath the promise he made to me, ‘I will give this land to your descendants’—he will send his angel before you, and you will get a wife for my son there.#Gn 12:7; Ex 6:8; Tb 5:17; Gal 3:16. 8If the woman is unwilling to follow you, you will be released from this oath to me. But never take my son back there!” 9So the servant put his hand under the thigh of his master Abraham and swore to him concerning this matter.
10The servant then took ten of his master’s camels, and bearing all kinds of gifts from his master, he made his way to the city of Nahor#Nahor: it is uncertain whether this is the place where Abraham’s brother Nahor (11:27) had lived or whether it is the city Nahur, named in the Mari documents (nineteenth and eighteenth centuries B.C.), near the confluence of the Balikh and Middle Euphrates rivers. Aram Naharaim: lit., “Aram between the two rivers,” is the Yahwist designation for Terah’s homeland. The two rivers are the Habur and the Euphrates. The Priestly designation for the area is Paddan-aram, which is from the Assyrian padana, “road or garden,” and Aram, which refers to the people or land of the Arameans. in Aram Naharaim. 11Near evening, at the time when women go out to draw water, he made the camels kneel by the well outside the city. 12Then he said: “Lord, God of my master Abraham, let it turn out favorably for me#Let it turn out favorably for me: let me have a favorable sign; cf. end of v. 14. today and thus deal graciously with my master Abraham. 13While I stand here at the spring and the daughters of the townspeople are coming out to draw water, 14if I say to a young woman, ‘Please lower your jug, that I may drink,’ and she answers, ‘Drink, and I will water your camels, too,’ then she is the one whom you have decided upon for your servant Isaac. In this way I will know that you have dealt graciously with my master.”
15#Gn 22:23. He had scarcely finished speaking when Rebekah—who was born to Bethuel, son of Milcah, the wife of Abraham’s brother Nahor—came out with a jug on her shoulder. 16The young woman was very beautiful, a virgin, untouched by man. She went down to the spring and filled her jug. As she came up, 17the servant ran toward her and said, “Please give me a sip of water from your jug.” 18“Drink, sir,” she replied, and quickly lowering the jug into her hand, she gave him a drink. 19When she had finished giving him a drink, she said, “I will draw water for your camels, too, until they have finished drinking.” 20With that, she quickly emptied her jug into the drinking trough and ran back to the well to draw more water, until she had drawn enough for all the camels. 21The man watched her the whole time, silently waiting to learn whether or not the Lord had made his journey successful. 22When the camels had finished drinking, the man took out a gold nose-ring weighing half a shekel, and two gold bracelets weighing ten shekels for her wrists. 23Then he asked her: “Whose daughter are you? Tell me, please. And is there a place in your father’s house for us to spend the night?” 24She answered: “I am the daughter of Bethuel the son of Milcah, whom she bore to Nahor. 25We have plenty of straw and fodder,” she added, “and also a place to spend the night.” 26The man then knelt and bowed down to the Lord, 27saying: “Blessed be the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who has not let his kindness and fidelity toward my master fail. As for me, the Lord has led me straight to the house of my master’s brother.”
28Then the young woman ran off and told her mother’s household what had happened. 29#Gn 27:43. Now Rebekah had a brother named Laban. Laban rushed outside to the man at the spring. 30#Laban becomes hospitable only when he sees the servant’s rich gifts, which is in humorous contrast to his sister’s spontaneous generosity toward the servant. Laban’s opportunism points forward to his behavior in the Jacob stories (31:14–16). When he saw the nose-ring and the bracelets on his sister’s arms and when he heard Rebekah repeating what the man had said to her, he went to him while he was standing by the camels at the spring. 31He said: “Come, blessed of the Lord! Why are you standing outside when I have made the house ready, as well as a place for the camels?” 32The man then went inside; and while the camels were being unloaded and provided with straw and fodder, water was brought to bathe his feet and the feet of the men who were with him. 33But when food was set before him, he said, “I will not eat until I have told my story.” “Go ahead,” they replied.
34“I am Abraham’s servant,” he began. 35“The Lord has blessed my master so abundantly that he has become wealthy; he has given him flocks and herds, silver and gold, male and female slaves, and camels and donkeys. 36My master’s wife Sarah bore a son to my master in her old age, and he has given him everything he owns. 37My master put me under oath, saying: ‘You shall not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites in whose land I live; 38instead, you must go to my father’s house, to my own family, to get a wife for my son.’ 39When I asked my master, ‘What if the woman will not follow me?’ 40he replied: ‘The Lord, in whose presence I have always walked, will send his angel with you and make your journey successful, and so you will get a wife for my son from my own family and my father’s house.#Tb 5:17; 10:13. 41Then you will be freed from my curse. If you go to my family and they refuse you, then, too, you will be free from my curse.’#Curse: this would be the consequence of failing to carry out the oath referred to in v. 3.
42“When I came to the spring today, I said: ‘Lord, God of my master Abraham, please make successful the journey I am on. 43While I stand here at the spring, if I say to a young woman who comes out to draw water, ‘Please give me a little water from your jug,’ 44and she answers, ‘Drink, and I will draw water for your camels, too—then she is the woman whom the Lord has decided upon for my master’s son.’
45“I had scarcely finished saying this to myself when Rebekah came out with a jug on her shoulder. After she went down to the spring and drew water, I said to her, ‘Please let me have a drink.’ 46She quickly lowered the jug she was carrying and said, ‘Drink, and I will water your camels, too.’ So I drank, and she watered the camels also. 47When I asked her, ‘Whose daughter are you?’ she answered, ‘The daughter of Bethuel, son of Nahor, borne to Nahor by Milcah.’ So I put the ring on her nose and the bracelets on her wrists. 48Then I knelt and bowed down to the Lord, blessing the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who had led me on the right road to obtain the daughter of my master’s kinsman for his son. 49Now, if you will act with kindness and fidelity toward my master, let me know; but if not, let me know that too. I can then proceed accordingly.”
50#Tb 7:11–12. Laban and Bethuel said in reply: “This thing comes from the Lord; we can say nothing to you either for or against it. 51Here is Rebekah, right in front of you; take her and go, that she may become the wife of your master’s son, as the Lord has said.” 52When Abraham’s servant heard their answer, he bowed to the ground before the Lord. 53Then he brought out objects of silver and gold and clothing and presented them to Rebekah; he also gave costly presents to her brother and mother. 54After he and the men with him had eaten and drunk, they spent the night there.
When they got up the next morning, he said, “Allow me to return to my master.”#Tb 7:14; 8:20. 55Her brother and mother replied, “Let the young woman stay with us a short while, say ten days; after that she may go.” 56But he said to them, “Do not detain me, now that the Lord has made my journey successful; let me go back to my master.” 57They answered, “Let us call the young woman and see what she herself has to say about it.” 58So they called Rebekah and asked her, “Will you go with this man?” She answered, “I will.”#Marriages arranged by the woman’s father did not require the woman’s consent, but marriages arranged by the woman’s brother did. Laban is the brother and Rebekah is therefore free to give her consent or not. 59At this they sent off their sister Rebekah and her nurse with Abraham’s servant and his men. 60They blessed Rebekah and said:
“Sister, may you grow
into thousands of myriads;
And may your descendants gain possession
of the gates of their enemies!”#Gn 22:17.
61Then Rebekah and her attendants started out; they mounted the camels and followed the man. So the servant took Rebekah and went on his way.
62Meanwhile Isaac had gone from Beer-lahai-roi and was living in the region of the Negeb.#Gn 16:13–14; 25:11. 63One day toward evening he went out to walk in the field, and caught sight of camels approaching. 64Rebekah, too, caught sight of Isaac, and got down from her camel. 65She asked the servant, “Who is the man over there, walking through the fields toward us?” “That is my master,” replied the servant. Then she took her veil and covered herself.
66The servant recounted to Isaac all the things he had done. 67Then Isaac brought Rebekah into the tent of his mother Sarah. He took Rebekah as his wife. Isaac loved her and found solace after the death of his mother.
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1By now Avraham was old, advanced in years; and Adonai had blessed Avraham in everything. 2Avraham said to the servant who had served him the longest, who was in charge of all he owned, “Put your hand under my thigh; 3because I want you to swear by Adonai, God of heaven and God of the earth, that you will not choose a wife for my son from among the women of the Kena‘ani, among whom I am living; 4but that you will go to my homeland, to my kinsmen, to choose a wife for my son Yitz’chak.” 5The servant replied, “Suppose the woman isn’t willing to follow me to this land. Must I then bring your son back to the land from which you came?” 6Avraham said to him, “See to it that you don’t bring my son back there. 7Adonai, the God of heaven — who took me away from my father’s house and away from the land I was born in, who spoke to me and swore to me, ‘I will give this land to your descendants’ — he will send his angel ahead of you; and you are to bring a wife for my son from there. 8But if the woman is unwilling to follow you, then you are released from your obligation under my oath. Just don’t bring my son back there.” 9The servant put his hand under the thigh of Avraham his master and swore to him concerning the matter.
(iii) 10Then the servant took ten of his master’s camels and all kinds of gifts from his master, got up and went to Aram-Naharayim, to Nachor’s city. 11Toward evening, when the women go out to draw water, he had the camels kneel down outside the city by the well. 12He said, “Adonai, God of my master Avraham, please let me succeed today; and show your grace to my master Avraham. 13Here I am, standing by the spring, as the daughters of the townsfolk come out to draw water. 14I will say to one of the girls, ‘Please lower your jug, so that I can drink.’ If she answers, ‘Yes, drink; and I will water your camels as well,’ then let her be the one you intend for your servant Yitz’chak. This is how I will know that you have shown grace to my master.”
15Before he had finished speaking, Rivkah the daughter of B’tu’el son of Milkah the wife of Nachor Avraham’s brother, came out with her jug on her shoulder. 16The girl was very beautiful, a virgin, never having had sexual relations with any man. She went down to the spring, filled her jug and came up. 17The servant ran to meet her and said, “Please give me a sip of water from your jug to drink.” 18“Drink, my lord,” she replied, and immediately lowered her jug onto her arm and let him drink. 19When she was through letting him drink, she said, “I will also draw water for your camels until they have drunk their fill.” 20She quickly emptied her jug into the trough, then ran again to the well to draw water, and kept on drawing water for all his camels. 21The man gazed at her in silence, waiting to find out whether Adonai had made his trip successful or not.
22When the camels were done drinking, the man took a gold nose-ring weighing one-fifth of an ounce and two gold bracelets weighing four ounces 23and asked, “Whose daughter are you? Tell me, please. Is there room in your father’s house for us to spend the night?” 24She answered, “I am the daughter of B’tu’el the son Milkah bore to Nachor,” 25adding, “We have plenty of straw and fodder, and room for staying overnight.” 26The man bowed his head and prostrated himself before Adonai. (iv) 27Then he said, “Blessed be Adonai, God of my master Avraham, who has not abandoned his faithful love for my master; because Adonai has guided me to the house of my master’s kinsmen.” 28The girl ran off and told her mother’s household what had happened.
29-30Rivkah had a brother named Lavan. When he saw the nose-ring, and the bracelets on his sister’s wrists besides, and when he heard his sister Rivkah’s report of what the man had said to her, he ran out to the spring and found the man standing there by the camels. 31“Come on in,” he said, “you whom Adonai has blessed! Why are you standing outside when I have made room in the house and prepared a place for the camels?” 32So the man went inside, and while the camels were being unloaded and provided straw and fodder, water was brought for him to wash his feet and the feet of the men with him.
33But when a meal was set before him, he said, “I won’t eat until I say what I have to say.” Lavan said, “Speak.” 34He said, “I am Avraham’s servant. 35Adonai has greatly blessed my master, so that he has grown wealthy. He has given him flocks and herds, silver and gold, male and female slaves, camels and donkeys. 36Sarah my master’s wife bore my master a son when she was old, and he has given him everything he has. 37My master made me swear, saying, ‘You are not to choose a wife for my son from among the women of the Kena‘ani, among whom I am living; 38rather, you are to go to my father’s house, to my kinsmen, to choose a wife for my son.’ 39I said to my master, ‘Suppose the woman isn’t willing to follow me.’ 40Avraham answered me, ‘Adonai, in whose presence I live, will send his angel with you to make your trip successful; and you are to pick a wife for my son from my kinsmen in my father’s house; 41this will release you from your obligation under my oath. But if, when you come to my kinsmen, they refuse to give her to you, this too will release you from my oath.’
42“So today, I came to the spring and said, ‘Adonai, God of my master Avraham, if you are causing my trip to succeed in its purpose, 43then, here I am, standing by the spring. I will say to one of the girls coming out to draw water, “Let me have a sip of water from your jug.” 44If she answers, “Yes, drink; and I will water your camels as well,” then let her be the woman you intend for my master’s son.’ 45And even before I had finished speaking to my heart, there came Rivkah, going out with her jug on her shoulder; she went down to the spring and drew water. When I said to her, ‘Please let me have a drink,’ 46she immediately lowered the jug from her shoulder and said, ‘Drink, and I will water your camels as well.’ So I drank, and she had the camels drink too.
47“I asked her, ‘Whose daughter are you?’ and she answered, ‘The daughter of B’tu’el son of Nachor, whom Milkah bore to him.’ Then I put the ring on her nose and the bracelets on her wrists, 48bowed my head, prostrated myself before Adonai and blessed Adonai, God of my master Avraham, for having led me in the right way to obtain my master’s brother’s [grand]daughter for his son.
49“So now if you people intend to show grace and truth to my master, tell me. But if not, tell me, so that I can turn elsewhere.”
50Lavan and B’tu’el replied, “Since this comes from Adonai, we can’t say anything to you either bad or good. 51Rivkah is here in front of you; take her and go. Let her be your master’s son’s wife, as Adonai has said.” 52When Avraham’s servant heard what they said, he prostrated himself on the ground to Adonai. (v) 53Then the servant brought out silver and gold jewelry, together with clothing, and gave them to Rivkah. He also gave valuable gifts to her brother and mother. 54He and his men then ate and drank and stayed the night.
In the morning they got up; and he said, “Send me off to my master.” 55Her brother and mother said, “Let the girl stay with us a few days, at least ten. After that, she will go.” 56He answered them, “Don’t delay me, since Adonai has made my trip successful, but let me go back to my master.” 57They said, “We will call the girl and see what she says.” 58They called Rivkah and asked her, “Will you go with this man?” and she replied, “I will.”
59So they sent their sister Rivkah away, with her nurse, Avraham’s servant and his men. 60They blessed Rivkah with these words: “Our sister, may you be the mother of millions, and may your descendants possess the cities of those who hate them.” 61Then Rivkah and her maids mounted the camels and followed the man. So the servant took Rivkah and went on his way.
62Meanwhile, Yitz’chak, one evening after coming along the road from Be’er-Lachai-Ro’i — he was living in the Negev — 63went out walking in the field; and as he looked up, he saw camels approaching. 64Rivkah too looked up; and when she saw Yitz’chak, she quickly dismounted the camel. 65She said to the servant, “Who is this man walking in the field to meet us?” When the servant replied, “It’s my master,” she took her veil and covered herself.
66The servant told Yitz’chak everything he had done. 67Then Yitz’chak brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent and took Rivkah, and she became his wife, and he loved her. Thus was Yitz’chak comforted for the loss of his mother.