Swear By the Lord, the God of Heaven
Today’s Text: Genesis 24:1-7
At the time of Sarah’s death, Isaac was 37 years of age and still single. Abraham had two concerns. Isaac was the covenantal son and would not produce an heir until he married. Abraham knew that in his grief Isaac could potentially take a wife from the neighboring Canaanites who espoused an idolatrous and decadent worldview. A wife from such a background could easily influence his grandchildren and possibly even Isaac to worship other gods.
Abraham took action. The detailed account, which is the longest in the book of Genesis, highlights the importance of God’s providential care in the fulfillment of His covenant promises to Abraham:
“Now Abraham was old, well advanced in age; and the Lord had blessed Abraham in all things. So Abraham said to the oldest servant of his house, who ruled over all that he had, ‘Please, put your hand under my thigh, and I will make you swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and the God of the earth, that you will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell; but you shall go to my country and to my family, and take a wife for my son Isaac.’
And the servant said to him, ‘Perhaps the woman will not be willing to follow me to this land. Must I take your son back to the land from which you came?’
But Abraham said to him, ‘Beware that you do not take my son back there. The Lord God of heaven, who took me from my father’s house and from the land of my family, and who spoke to me and swore to me, saying, ‘To your descendants I give this land,’ He will send His angel before you, and you shall take a wife for my son from there.’’”
Abraham’s choice to employ his chief servant (possibly Eliezer) for the task demonstrates the critical nature placed on securing the proper wife for Isaac, the covenantal heir of God’s promise. There are many speculations regarding the significance of the practice of placing the hand under the thigh in the form of an oath. Rabbinic tradition, however, best suggests the gesture signifies that failure to keep the oath would result in sterility or loss of children.
When concerns were raised about whether the woman would be willing to return with him, Abraham reassured his chief servant that God would send His angel ahead to give success.
Abraham’s servant made the 450-mile journey and devised a test to identify God’s choice of a wife for Isaac. When asked for a drink of water, the woman of God’s choosing would not only willingly give him a drink, but would also offer to water his camels.
This was a valid test. Depending on their need for hydration, a single camel can drink as much as 30 gallons in about 13 minutes. (1) Putting that into perspective, it could have taken as many as 60 trips to the well to water the 10 camels using a five-gallon container.
When the servant arrived at his destination, he stationed himself by the well and prayed to the God of Abraham for success. The first young woman he encountered was named Rebekah. He asked her for a drink and she not only gave him what he asked, but also offered to water his camels.
The text indicates that she did so cheerfully and energetically. She “quickly” lowered the heavy pitcher from her shoulder to give Abraham’s servant a drink. She “quickly” emptied the pitcher into the trough for the camels and “ran” back to the well for more water (vv.18-20).
Convinced that God had led him to the young woman, Abraham’s servant inquired about her family and learned that she was the daughter of Bethuel, the son of Abraham’s brother Nahor. He immediately realized God had led him to a woman who not only demonstrated the grace and generosity of his master, but also fulfilled Abraham’s criteria that Isaac’s future wife be taken from among his brother’s family. Convinced that this was the woman of God’s choosing, he gave her a gift of a ring and two bracelets.
The attitude of Rebekah’s family confirmed what Abraham’s servant already believed to be true. After Rebekah returned home and told about the man she had met, her brother Laban ran to the well to greet Abraham’s servant and enthusiastically invited him to stay in their home. Explaining his mission to the family, they responded,
“The thing comes from the Lord; we cannot speak to you either bad or good. Here is Rebekah before you; take her and go, and let her be your master’s son’s wife, as the Lord has spoken” (v. 50-51).
As the family bade farewell to Rebekah the following day, Laban offered a blessing:
“Our sister, may you become
The mother of thousands of ten thousands;
And may your descendants possess
The gates of those who hate them (v. 60 ).”
The blessing echoes the Lord’s promise to Abraham on Mount Moriah reaffirming a multitude of descendants and national supremacy in the land. Abraham was a stranger in the Land of Promise and surrounded by potential enemies, but God had pledged to give him all the land of Canaan. Abraham’s covenantal descendants would ultimately possess the gates of the cities of their enemies; they would own the land.
Rebekah’s actions demonstrated her willingness to enter into the proposed marriage.
As Isaac approached the caravan, Rebekah asked the identity of the man. The servant answered, “It is my master” (v. 65). When she heard the news, she took the initiative and ran out to meet Isaac. The account concludes with Isaac taking Rebekah as his wife. The future of the covenantal line would now pass through them.
The text eloquently documents God’s providential care in securing the line through which the promised Messiah would come. Abraham entrusted his faithful servant with the task of securing a wife for Isaac. And, God providentially guided and prearranged details to ensure that his efforts were a resounding success.
For any seeking to live the life of faith, an overriding principle transcends into the 21st century. The apostle Paul experientially declared,
“we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose (Rm. 8:28).
God is working behind the scenes to bring even the smallest details together in what is His best for you!
Charles E. McCracken is an international Bible teacher, long-time friend of Israel and advocate for the Jewish people. Rev. McCracken authentically communicates biblical truth making his presentations relevant for those seeking to understand the significance of Israel and the church in Bible prophecy. He staunchly supports the nation of Israel and the Jewish people’s right to exist and live in peace.
© Charles E. McCracken 2016, devotional comments only. Repost/Reprint with permission from the author. Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved. (Emphasis added).
1) Arabian (Dromedary) Camel: Camelus dromedairus, National Geographic.com
1) Bible opened to Isaiah. By, Ken Horn, [CC BY 2.0] via Wikimedia Commons – Enhancement: MKM Portfolios
2) Rebecca Meets Isaac by the Way. By James Jacques Joseph Tissot (1836-1902), [Public domain, No restrictions] – Enhancement: MKM Portfolios