“And the servant brought out items of silver and items of gold, also garments and gave them to Rebekah. Precious gifts he also gave to her brother and to her mother.”
For some reason, the ESV, the NIV, and the KJV translations have chosen to render the word yIlÚVk (keliy) as “jewels” or “jewelry.” The normal meaning of the word has little to do with jewelry one would wear but applies more generally to items, vessels, or implements that would be ornamented with silver or gold. These items might have consisted of anything from eating plates and utensils to a ceremonial knife or other things that might be so decorated. It is assumed by the translation committees of the aforementioned versions that because these gifts are being given to a woman along with clothing, so that they must be forms of jewelry. Yet such is an inference not necessitated by the text. Being as these are gifts given as a form of promise to Rebekah that she will be well provided for, to envision these things as ornate household items might be more appropriate.
What I find more interesting is that the things given to Rebekah are given with detail, but that given to her mother and brother are just generally noted as “precious gifts.” Clearly Eliezer has been well stocked with wealth on this journey and the gifts are meant to be understood as abundant treasures offered to her and to her family, but what is given to Rebekah is far more important than what is given to her family, noting once again that it is to Rebekah’s mother and brother gifts are given, not to her father, again implying that Laban is functioning more or less as the head of the household by this point in time.
You know it is interesting how we sometimes live with respect to earthly treasures. On one level, most of us in the western world work very hard to provide “good things” to our families but at the same time feel guilty about having good things when we realize the condition in which most of the world lives. We live a bit like Jekyll and Hyde in this way. Abraham was remarkably wealthy by ancient and modern standards. He had gold and silver in abundance, a secure place to lie down at night and rest, servants, animals, food, etc… And Abraham was not afraid to use his wealth to achieve his goals nor was he embarrassed about the way God had blessed him — his wealth was God’s doing, something that Abraham never lost sight of.
Scripture does not tell us that money is the root of all evils, but that the love of money is the root of all sorts of evils (1 Timothy 6:10). The question then is not so much the money, but where your heart is — or where your treasure is, for there your heart will be (Matthew 6:19-21). Ultimately, money is a tool. It is a tool we can use to help others and glorify God or it is a tool which we can use to harm ourselves. The question is how we use this tool today. Do we sit and dream of money so that we can live in the lap of luxury satisfying our desires? If so, one needs to put that money out of ones heart and hand. But do we recognize money as a tool that God can use in our lives not just to provide for our own needs, but to minister to others? If it is the latter, it will do good and not harm.
It has been estimated that if Americans would cut back on their Christmas purchasing by one-half and then use those funds to provide for others, we could provide clean drinking water for the entire planet all year long as well as put a Bible into the hands of every human being who does not have one. If every Christian church in America would have have a family who would adopt two children out of foster care (or two families each adopting one child…) then there would be no more foster children in our country — all would have Christian families. Similarly, if every Christian church in America would take in and provide for two homeless people, homelessness in America would be eradicated. But what do we do with our resources?
Jesus did not say that everyone needed to go and give all they had to the poor, that counsel was reserved for a man whose heart was bound by his wealth (Luke 18:18-30). At the same time, it is clear that some will be uncomfortable on how they have stewarded the blessings that God has given to them. May we be stewards that multiply the kingdom of God rather than multiplying our own comforts. The author of Hebrews writes:
“May the manner of your life not be marked by greed and be content with what you have, for he has spoken: ‘I will never leave you behind nor will I ever forsake you.’”