First Cousins, Once Removed…

“She said to him, ‘I am the daughter of Bethuel, the son of Milkah, whom she begat to Nachor.’ And she said to him, ‘We also have a great deal of straw and fodder with us and a place to lodge.’”

(Genesis 24:24-25)

 

As it was hinted at in Genesis 22:20-23, Nahor, Abraham’s brother, also has borne children. Nahor had eight sons with his wife Milcah, the last of which was a son named Bethuel (prophetically meaning “His Daughter is God’s”). Bethuel then fathered a daughter named Rebekah, the granddaughter of Nahor and great-niece of Abraham. Soon she will also become Abraham’s daughter-in-law. The household and the lineage are now assured and confirmed and the wedding plan can move forward from here. She also comments that her father’s house has ample provisions to host such a party (camels and all), informing us of the wealth of Abraham’s brother’s family. Certainly a poor family could never have hoped to have the space and resources to host a contingency from Abraham such as we have here.

Much can be made out of the stress placed on marriages within a family, though the practice sounds a little strange to our western ears. In this particular case, Rebekah is Isaac’s First Cousin-Once Removed and in most western contexts, they would be allowed to marry anyway. We should also note on a purely biological level, Abraham is still closer to Adam and Eve than we are and thus his DNA (and hence the DNA of Nahor) is not as corrupt as our own (thus the longer life-spans) and thus the detrimental effects that come today as a result of marrying one’s kin should not be seen to be a significant factor (remember, Cain, Abel, and Seth married their sisters…).

More importantly in this case, Abraham is ensuring that Isaac’s child will still be part of the lineage that goes back to Shem through his father, Terah. Remember, too, Terah was also given a call by God to leave his homeland, though the call and ultimately the promise, would be fulfilled through his son, Abraham. Isaac too will follow this principle and send his son, Jacob, back to his homeland to find a wife from the house of Nahor, but that is an account for another time. No corners are to be cut, Isaac must have the granddaughter of Nahor as a wife.

How quick we usually are to compromise with God’s provision for us and his plan for our lives. We do not expect great things from God and thus we do not see great things taking place in the world around us. It has been said that the Christian faith is an “expectant faith,” may indeed we live and act upon such expectancy as we engage the world (and our call to disciple the world) with the Gospel.

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