Tuesday

14 November 2017

“The LORD, the God of heaven, who took me from my father’s house, and from the land of my birth, and who spoke to me and swore to me, ‘To your offspring I will give this land,’ he will send his angel before you, you shall take a wife for my son from there.” (v. 8)

Psalm: Psalm 119:81-96


Background

This longest chapter in Genesis concerns the care Abraham took to find a wife for his son Isaac. It is crucial to the whole story of Abraham that Isaac should have children, as God had promised Abraham that the descendants of Isaac will inherit the land of Canaan (Genesis 17:19), a promise made even before Isaac was conceived. Because the Canaanites will ultimately be dispossessed it would be wrong for Isaac to marry one of them (verse 3), and Abraham is equally adamant that Isaac must not leave the land to find a wife because he would thereby appear to renounce claim upon it (verses 6, 8). Specifically, Abraham seeks a daughter-in-law from the extended family back in his birthplace in line with his belief in the importance of preserving the bloodline. Our greater understanding of genetics today would tend to discourage marriage with a cousin, which is what Isaac and Rebekah are to each other according to verse 15.

Abraham himself did not want to leave his adopted home to search for a wife for Isaac, even if he was fit enough for the journey, so he entrusted his most senior servant with the task. Whatever his own faith, the servant was required to swear by Yahweh (verse 3) to do as directed, whilst symbolising his total commitment to Abraham's commission by holding his master's genitals while making the oath - "under the thigh" is a euphemism (verses 2, 9).

The verses omitted from the reading describe how the servant was led by God, so we are to understand, to see in Rebekah the fulfilment of his quest, and how Rebekah's brother as head of the household likewise recognised it as God's will so that she herself went willingly. Furthermore. on having Isaac pointed out in the distance she covered her face with a veil (verse 65) thus identifying herself as his potential bride.

We are not told of any conversation between Rebekah and Isaac other than through the servant, and, without ceremony, Isaac took her, to the home that was his deceased mother's, as his wife. Despite the lack of any romance or choice in the match, we read that Isaac loved her (verse 67).


To Ponder

  • Some ethnic and religious cultures expect their children to marry someone chosen for them from within that community. What can be said in favour of such practice as opposed to other ways of obtaining a life partner?
  • According to verse 7, Abraham was sure an angel would guide the servant and prepare the way to a woman who would accept the proposal. Do you think angels still fulfil such roles? And are other ways has God guided you or people you know?
  • In whom is Abraham trusting in this story, his servant or his God? What leads you to answer as you do?


Bible notes author: The Revd Dr Stephen Mosedale

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