The Servant of Abraham Was Sent Back to Get a Wife for Isaac (Genesis 24)
Genesis 24 tells the account of the servant of Abraham who was sent back to Abraham’s relatives to get a wife for Isaac. Rebekah had a servant’s heart.
Abraham was now very old, and the Lord had blessed him in every way. He said to the senior servant in his household, the one in charge of all that he had, “Put your hand under my thigh. I want you to swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and the God of earth, that you will not get a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I am living,but will go to my country and my own relatives and get a wife for my son Isaac.” Genesis 24:1-4
The name of Abram’s chief servant and steward of his house was revealed in Genesis chapter 15.
But Abram said, "Sovereign LORD, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?" Genesis 15:2
Most commentators agree that the senior servant referred to in Genesis chapter 24 was most probably Eliezer whose name means, “God is help”. I believe the reason that Abraham’s senior servant is not named at this point, is the emphasis of this chapter of the Bible is on the nature of servanthood and obedience. A true servant is not serving for personal recognition but serves in humility and with a willing heart.
The act of Abraham having his servant place his hand under his thigh was an acknowledgement that the promised Messiah would come from the seed of Abraham. The servant swore an oath that Isaac’s wife would be taken from the blessed line of Shem and not the cursed line of Ham.
The servant asked him, “What if the woman is unwilling to come back with me to this land? Shall I then take your son back to the country you came from?”
“Make sure that you do not take my son back there,” Abraham said.“The Lord, the God of heaven, who brought me out of my father’s household and my native land and who spoke to me and promised me on oath, saying, ‘To your offspring I will give this land’—he will send his angel before you so that you can get a wife for my son from there.If the woman is unwilling to come back with you, then you will be released from this oath of mine. Only do not take my son back there.”So the servant put his hand under the thigh of his master Abraham and swore an oath to him concerning this matter. Genesis 24:5-9
Yahweh, the God of heaven and earth, made a covenant with Abraham and promised the land of Canaan to Abraham’s descendants. Isaac was to remain in the Promised Land even if a woman from Abraham’s family would be unwilling to return with his servant. The angel of the LORD, the pre-incarnate Messiah, would assure that Abraham’s servant would complete his journey to the town of Nahor. This town was named after Abraham’s grandfather.
Then the servant left, taking with him ten of his master’s camels loaded with all kinds of good things from his master. He set out for Aram Naharaim and made his way to the town of Nahor. He had the camels kneel down near the well outside the town; it was toward evening, the time the women go out to draw water. Genesis 24:10-11
The journey from the south of the land of Canaan to Haran, where Abraham’s family had settled, was a distance of approximately 700 miles. Camels can cover 25-30 miles per day carrying a load of up to 300 pounds. It probably took at least a month for the journey. Now, outside of town as the cool of the evening approached, the ten camels knelt by the well.
Then he prayed, “Lord, God of my master Abraham, make me successful today, and show kindness to my master Abraham. See, I am standing beside this spring, and the daughters of the townspeople are coming out to draw water.May it be that when I say to a young woman, ‘Please let down your jar that I may have a drink,’ and she says, ‘Drink, and I’ll water your camels too’—let her be the one you have chosen for your servant Isaac. By this I will know that you have shown kindness to my master.” Genesis 24:12-14
Abraham’s servant had been with his master for many years and had witnessed the great blessings, favor and wealth the LORD had bestowed on Abraham. But far from being envious of his master, his servant entreats the LORD to be gracious to Abraham and grant him success in obtaining a wife for Isaac. To be sure that she would be the one that the LORD chose for Isaac, the servant asks for a sign from the LORD.
Before he had finished praying, Rebekah came out with her jar on her shoulder. She was the daughter of Bethuel son of Milkah, who was the wife of Abraham’s brother Nahor. The woman was very beautiful, a virgin; no man had ever slept with her. She went down to the spring, filled her jar and came up again. Genesis 24:15-16
Rebekah was the daughter of Abraham’s nephew Bethuel and the granddaughter of Abraham’s brother Nahor.
Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear. Isaiah 65:24
Abraham sent his servant to get a wife for his son Isaac from his own relatives. Before his servant had finished praying, Abraham’s great niece Rebekah came out with her jar to draw water from the well. Not only was she from Shem’s line, she was pure and beautiful.
The servant hurried to meet her and said, “Please give me a little water from your jar.”
“Drink, my lord,” she said, and quickly lowered the jar to her hands and gave him a drink.
After she had given him a drink, she said, “I’ll draw water for your camels too, until they have had enough to drink.”So she quickly emptied her jar into the trough, ran back to the well to draw more water, and drew enough for all his camels. Without saying a word, the man watched her closely to learn whether or not the Lord had made his journey successful. Genesis 24:17-21
A camel can drink up to 20 gallons of water at one time. Since water weighs more than eight pounds per gallon, it was unlikely that Rebekah’s water jar held more than three gallons of water. She would have had to make at least six or more trips to the well and back for each camel. Watering ten camels would entail at least sixty round trips to the well. If it only took three minutes to fill the jar, walk to the trough, pour out the water and return to the well – it would have taken Rebekah at least three hours to water the camels. This indeed was a miraculous sign and a demonstration that indeed, Rebekah also had a servant’s heart.
When the camels had finished drinking, the man took out a gold nose ring weighing a beka and two gold bracelets weighing ten shekels. Then he asked, “Whose daughter are you? Please tell me, is there room in your father’s house for us to spend the night?”
She answered him, “I am the daughter of Bethuel, the son that Milkah bore to Nahor.” And she added, “We have plenty of straw and fodder, as well as room for you to spend the night.”
Then the man bowed down and worshiped the Lord, saying, “Praise be to the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who has not abandoned his kindness and faithfulness to my master. As for me, the Lord has led me on the journey to the house of my master’s relatives.” Genesis 24:22-27
Rebekah was rewarded handsomely for her act of servitude. The gold nose ring weighed a beka which was ½ a shekel or equivalent to an ounce of gold. The two gold bracelets weighed a total of ten shekels or four ounces of gold. Then after enduring an arduous month’s trek of 700 miles by camel, Abraham’s servant praised the LORD for success in his journey that led to house of his master’s relatives.
The young woman ran and told her mother’s household about these things. Now Rebekah had a brother named Laban, and he hurried out to the man at the spring. As soon as he had seen the nose ring, and the bracelets on his sister’s arms, and had heard Rebekah tell what the man said to her, he went out to the man and found him standing by the camels near the spring.“Come, you who are blessed by the Lord,” he said. “Why are you standing out here? I have prepared the house and a place for the camels.” Genesis 24:28-31
Laban was impressed by the expensive gifts given to Rebekah. Five ounces of gold in today’s market would be worth several thousands of dollars. Laban called this seemingly wealthy man traveling in a caravan of ten camels, “… blessed by the LORD.”
So the man went to the house, and the camels were unloaded. Straw and fodder were brought for the camels, and water for him and his men to wash their feet. Then food was set before him, but he said, “I will not eat until I have told you what I have to say.” Genesis 24:32-33a
Being a diligent faithful servant, who had his master's interest at heart, he preferred to deliver his message and explain the purpose of journey to his necessary food.
“Then tell us,” Laban said.
So he said, “I am Abraham’s servant. The Lord has blessed my master abundantly, and he has become wealthy. He has given him sheep and cattle, silver and gold, male and female servants, and camels and donkeys. My master’s wife Sarah has borne him a son in her old age, and he has given him everything he owns. And my master made me swear an oath, and said, ‘You must not get a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, in whose land I live, but go to my father’s family and to my own clan, and get a wife for my son.’
“Then I asked my master, ‘What if the woman will not come back with me?’
“He replied, ‘The Lord, before whom I have walked faithfully, will send his angel with you and make your journey a success, so that you can get a wife for my son from my own clan and from my father’s family. You will be released from my oath if, when you go to my clan, they refuse to give her to you—then you will be released from my oath.’
“When I came to the spring today, I said, ‘Lord, God of my master Abraham, if you will, please grant success to the journey on which I have come. See, I am standing beside this spring. If a young woman comes out to draw water and I say to her, “Please let me drink a little water from your jar,”and if she says to me, “Drink, and I’ll draw water for your camels too,” let her be the one the Lord has chosen for my master’s son.’
“Before I finished praying in my heart, Rebekah came out, with her jar on her shoulder. She went down to the spring and drew water, and I said to her, ‘Please give me a drink.’
“She quickly lowered her jar from her shoulder and said, ‘Drink, and I’ll water your camels too.’ So I drank, and she watered the camels also.
“I asked her, ‘Whose daughter are you?’
“She said, ‘The daughter of Bethuel son of Nahor, whom Milkah bore to him.’
“Then I put the ring in her nose and the bracelets on her arms,and I bowed down and worshiped the Lord. I praised the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who had led me on the right road to get the granddaughter of my master’s brother for his son. Now if you will show kindness and faithfulness to my master, tell me; and if not, tell me, so I may know which way to turn.” Genesis 24:33b-49
Abraham’s servant recounts the entire scenario to his audience. He begins with the charge his master had given him and the purpose of his venture. Then he continues by letting them know the divine favor he had received from the LORD. Now that they know the entire picture, he awaits their reply.
Laban and Bethuel answered, “This is from the Lord; we can say nothing to you one way or the other.Here is Rebekah; take her and go, and let her become the wife of your master’s son, as the Lord has directed.” Genesis 24:50-51
Both Rebekah’s brother Laban and her father Bethuel acknowledged that it was the LORD’s will for her to marry Abraham’s son.
When Abraham’s servant heard what they said, he bowed down to the ground before the Lord. Then the servant brought out gold and silver jewelry and articles of clothing and gave them to Rebekah; he also gave costly gifts to her brother and to her mother. Then he and the men who were with him ate and drank and spent the night there. Genesis 24:52-54a
The desire of Abraham’s servant was to fulfill his master’s wishes with the help and guidance of the LORD. After receiving the approval for Rebekah to become Isaac’s wife, the first thing he did was to worship the LORD in thanksgiving. Then he paid Rebekah’s family a lavish bridal price.
When they got up the next morning, he said, “Send me on my way to my master.”
But her brother and her mother replied, “Let the young woman remain with us ten days or so; then you may go.”
But he said to them, “Do not detain me, now that the Lord has granted success to my journey. Send me on my way so I may go to my master.”
Then they said, “Let’s call the young woman and ask her about it.” So they called Rebekah and asked her, “Will you go with this man?”
“I will go,” she said. Genesis 24:54b-58
Rebekah did not hesitate but was willing to immediately fulfill God’s calling for her life. She, like Abraham, was willing to leave her family and her country and dwell in a land far off.
So they sent their sister Rebekah on her way, along with her nurse and Abraham’s servant and his men. And they blessed Rebekah and said to her,
“Our sister, may you increase to thousands upon thousands; may your offspring possess the cities of their enemies.”
Then Rebekah and her attendants got ready and mounted the camels and went back with the man. So the servant took Rebekah and left. Genesis 24:59-61
The family’s blessing upon Rebekah was prophetic. It was literally fulfilled when the twelve tribes of Israel took possession of the Promised Land under the leadership of Joshua.
Now Isaac had come from Beer Lahai Roi, for he was living in the Negev. He went out to the field one evening to meditate, and as he looked up, he saw camels approaching. Rebekah also looked up and saw Isaac. She got down from her camel and asked the servant, “Who is that man in the field coming to meet us?”
“He is my master,” the servant answered. So she took her veil and covered herself.
Then the servant told Isaac all he had done. Isaac brought her into the tent of his mother Sarah, and he married Rebekah. So she became his wife, and he loved her; and Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death. Genesis 24:62-67
Isaac went out to take the advantage of a silent evening, and a solitary place, for meditation and prayer. When he looked up, he saw Rebekah who was not only outwardly very beautiful but who had the willing and obedient heart of a servant. So she became his wife and he loved her.
In Genesis chapter 22 according to the command of the LORD, Abraham was willing to offer up his son Isaac as a burnt offering. Abraham, who was well over 100 years old, could not have forced Isaac to be bound and laid upon the altar. Isaac willingly laid down his life. Even if it meant that he had to die, Isaac submitted his will to the will of his father. In this is prophetic picture of the coming Messiah, Father Abraham typified God the Father, while Isaac foreshadowed the sacrifice of God the Son.
Abraham’s servant sojourned from the Promised Land to the country of Abraham’s relatives to get a bride for Isaac. Rebekah was chosen because she willingly drew water from a well. This scene is reminiscent of the account of the woman at the well in John chapter 4.
When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)
The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans).
Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
“Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”
Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:7-14
The Holy Spirit is the “living water” who regenerates those who have placed their trust in the finished work of Messiah on the cross. Abraham’s servant, who was sent by Father Abraham to get a bride for his son Isaac, typifies the Holy Spirit who came down from heaven to indwell and prepare the Bride of Christ. As Rebekah was chosen by the LORD to marry Isaac, the Bride of Christ is betrothed to God’s Son according to the Father’s will. Rebekah, the beautiful virgin who was obedient to the LORD’s calling for her life, pictures the spotless bride of Christ. Isaac loved his wife. So, in much greater measure, does Christ love His bride.