Review of Last Week’s lesson and how it connects to this week:
Last week we saw 3 visitors appear to Abram. He demonstrates genuine hospitality by preparing a feast and you get the idea that he treats the visitors with the very best he has to offer. And then one of them tells him “I will surely return to you in due season, and your wife Sarah shall have a son”. In Chapter 17, it was Abram that laughed. In chapter 18 it was Sarai that laughed. And if you put yourself in their shoes, you might have laughed also; because people don’t have babies when they are 90 years old. In chapter 21 Sarah indeed laughs, but it is laughter of joy. God had blessed her with the birth of Isaac. And finally after 8 days, Abraham circumcised Isaac.
Last week’s lesson connects to this week by showing how God’s promise to Abraham will be fulfilled through Rebekah and Isaac. God has a covenant with Abraham and in order for the covenant to continue; Abraham must ensure his son Isaac marries. Abraham is in his twilight years of life. He needs to ensure his son Isaac will carry on in the faith. This week’s lesson comes from Genesis 24:12-21, and 61-67. Boyd’s and Townsend Title the lesson “Isaac and Rebekah Continue the Legacy”, Standard titles the lesson “The Marriage of Isaac”.
Abraham and Sarah have been blessed with substantial material wealth and they recognize that in order to fulfill the covenant their son must himself marry and produce offspring. Abraham and Sarah have now lived in the land of Canaan many decades (probably 60 years). It was 25 years after leaving his father’s house before Isaac was born and now Isaac is old enough for marriage and to take on the leadership of his father’s clan. Soon Isaac will become the patriarch and replace his father. God’s covenant to Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3 will now continue through Isaac.
Standard Commentary says “after Sarah passed away (Gen 23:1, 17-20), Abraham was left with a final task: finding Isaac a wife”. Abraham is in his twilight years. Townsend tells us, “The words of Abraham at the beginning of Genesis 24 were his final words recorded in Genesis”. So his last thoughts in the text are about fulling the promise of God. But we should also understand that Abraham’s legacy is tied up in this promise. Ishmael, Isaac’s half-brother could not fulfill the promise nor the other children from Abraham’s concubines. Thus, as was the tradition at that time, Abraham arranged for the marriage of Isaac. He gave specific instructions to Eliezer that Isaac’s wife MUST come from the people of his homeland and kindred and NOT from the Canaanites where he lived. Rebecca is Isaacs’s cousin – she is the granddaughter of Milcah, Isaac’s aunt.
Dr Michael Coogan writes in The Old Testament A Very Short Introduction that “Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are designated “Abrahamic” religions because of their genetic and spiritual links with Abraham”. Through Isaac and his grandson Jacob, Abraham becomes the ancestor of the Hebrew people who would become known as the nation of Israel. Abraham through Isaac and Ishmael would become the father of many nations (Gen 17:4).
Notice verse 8b. Abraham tells Eliezer “only you must not take my son back there”. Perhaps Abraham gives these instructions because he believes it is important that God selects Rebekah and not Isaac. I should also note Dr. Wil Gafney in Womanist Midrash states “In verse 67, for the first time in the canon, the relationship between a woman and her man is characterized by love. Indeed, Isaac’s love for Rebekah introduces the verb “love” (including romantic love) into the text”. So this is a genuine love story. It is a story about a man who meets a woman and he genuinely loves her.
What takes place in these passages:
This text begins with Eliezer, Abraham’s servant, praying to God. It’s interesting that he says “O Lord, God of my master Abraham”. So Abraham’s faith has obviously influenced Eliezer enough for him to pray to the God of Abraham. Eliezer has already arrived in Abraham’s homeland. He is at a water spring and before he can finish his prayer in verse 14 Rebecca arrives on the scene. Eliezer asks God for a sign. The woman that offers him a drink and volunteers to water his camels also would be the one God has selected for Isaac. The text describes Rebekah as “very fair to look upon, a virgin”. After giving Eliezer water to drink, she volunteers to water his camel also just as he had prayed. “Eliezer gazed at her in silence to learn whether or not the Lord had made his journey successful”.
After Eliezer rewards Rebekah for her kindness, she extends more kindness by offering food and shelter to him and his caravan. Eliezer meets her family and negotiates for her marriage to Isaac. Rebekah’s family realized this was the work of God and agrees to the marriage. The text picks up at verse 61 with Rebekah and her maids following Eliezer back to Cannan to meet Isaac. As Isaac walks in the field he sees the camels coming. When Rebekah sees him she slipped quickly from the camel and covers herself with a veil. Eliezer tells Isaac all that has happened and the text says “Then Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent. He took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her”.
Key Characters in the text:
Eliezer – Abraham’s senior and most trusted servant.
Isaac – The second great patriarch of the Hebrew people, born when his mother was 90 years old and his father 100 years old.
Rebekah – The daughter of Abrahams nephew Bethuel.
Key Words (not necessarily in the text, but good for discussion):
- Signs from God: Eliezer needed a sign from God. Before his prayer was finished God was already working to fulfill his prayer.
- Matriarch: a woman who rules or dominates a family, group, or state specifically : a mother who is head and ruler of her family and descendants
- Patriarch: a man who is father or founder
Themes in this Lesson:
- It will all work out – A every critical moment in the story God is present to bring about God’s will.
- Responsibility to the next generation – Abraham makes sure Isaac is correctly positioned for the promise to continue. Shouldn’t we do the same for our descendants – voting rights, life insurance etc. etc.?
Notice how Abraham graciously treated the three visitors last week. This week Rebekah very graciously offers hospitality to Eliezer. Hospitality was important to the Hebrew people.
- Since Abraham arranged the marriage of Isaac, should fathers arrange the marriage for their children today? – Some cultures in the world still practice arranged marriages. If it isn’t a part of your culture you will likely cause more harm than good.
Concluding thought: We are the hopes and dreams of our ancestors.
Preview of Next Week’s Lesson:
Next week’s lesson is taken from Genesis 25: 19-34. It deals with Isaac and Rebekah as they deal with barrenness, then the birth of twins Esau and Jacob. Esau sells his birthright. And we learn about parents having favorites among their children.