“And she would sit under the Palm of Deborah, between Hormah and Beth-El on the mountain of Ephraim and the Sons of Israel would come up to her for judgment.”
If there is any question as to the type of leader that Deborah was, we need to put that to rest up front. In the previous verse, we see her introduced as a prophetess, so there is clearly a spiritual element to her leadership, but here we see her issuing judgments and thus we must recognize that there is a civil authority that she has. It should be noted, though, that while other judges offer sacrifices at times, Deborah does not fulfill a priestly role in the context of her account.
We have already pointed out that Deborah is the exception to the rule as to her role in such leadership, but seeing these facets does help us to better understand the role of the ancient judge. For while there would later be three branches of government in ancient Israel (Prophet, Priest, and King), here we see the judges fulfilling all roles as needed. And thus, in many ways, the Judge forms as a kind of “type” or foreshadowing of Christ — the one who perfectly fulfills all three functions.
It is interesting to note that the Palm of Deborah is probably not a reference to this particular Deborah, but instead to the Deborah who was Rebekah’s nurse (introduced in Genesis 24:59), who died in this area (Genesis 35:8) and thus the name of the area was given to be “Allon-Bacuth” — or the “Oak of Weeping.” Such a notable landmark would have been a quite appropriate place for the solemn task of judging over disputes amongst God’s people. Sadly, disputes in our world have become so common that we often do not take seriously the gravity of such situations. But here are those to whom God has given infinite grace, bickering amongst one another. How can this be?
“And Rebekah lifted her eyes and saw Isaac; she fell from her camel and said to the servant, ‘Who is this man walking in the field to summon us?’ And the servant said, ‘He is my lord.’ Thus she took her veil and covered herself. So the servant recounted to Isaac all of the things he had done. So Isaac led her to the tent of Sarah, his mother, and he took Rebekah to be his wife and he loved her. In this way Isaac was consoled after his mother.”
The journey has come to an end. Rebekah has returned with Eliezer; Isaac has returned from Beer-Lachay-Roiy; and Abraham surely is satisfied with the providence of God. This ending has all the marks of one of the great romance stories — the two, whom God has matched together, finally meet, though at first seeing each other from a distance. You can almost envision Rachael dismounting and covering herself as would have been the custom for those so engaged to marry, and Isaac running in their direction.
Now I do need to make a note of the language that is used to speak of Rebekah dismounting her camel. One might have expected a different term than the one that is used here. For example, when Achsah dismounted her donkey (Judges 1:14), the author uses the term jnx (tsanach), which means “to dismount.” Yet, in our instance, Moses chooses the much more generic term lpn (naphal), which literally means “to fall down.” Sometimes the term is used of someone accidentally falling, sometimes it is used of someone falling in battle or collapsing, and sometimes it refers to someone falling prostrate on the ground, but typically it refers to something done either in great passion or with some degree of awkwardness (or clumsiness). Though I am not suggesting a comic reading of the text where Rebekah falls flat on her face, I would suggest that the word choice is there to help relieve some of the tension of the account and remind us that Rebekah is just as perfectly human as each one of the rest of us — an awkward dismount from a camel after a long trip or otherwise.
Whether clumsy or graceful, Isaac takes Rebekah to be his wife, allowing her to take possession of his mother’s tent, something that would have been a proper privilege and thus Isaac finds comfort. Isaac was 37 years old when his mother died (Genesis 23:1 — noting that she was 90 when she gave birth, Genesis 17:17). While we don’t know the exact amount of time between the death of Sarah and the sending of Eliezer to find Rebekah nor how long the actual journey took, the combined span of time was a total of 3 years as Isaac is 40 years old at the point where he marries (Genesis 25:20), which means that at this point in history, Abraham is 140 years of age. He will live another 35 years before he passes away, even taking another wife (see Genesis 25), but the covenantal work to which Abraham has been called is complete and we are getting ready to see the baton be passed from Abraham to his son, Isaac. One generation following after the other.
As a father, one of the greatest blessings is to see your children walking in faith after you — and your grandchildren and further generations as well. Isaac is far from perfect (and even makes some of the errors of his father), but he is a man of faith and a man who knows the grace and covenant faithfulness of God. He has had a long journey under his father’s guidance and now is ready to raise sons of his own. It should be noted though that children rising up and calling their parents blessed is not something that happens without a great deal of work in the raising of our children. It seems that many Christians today have adopted the idea that their kids will automatically grow up to be Christians and then sit back and let their kids follow whatever course they happen to follow. Yet scripture is filled with reminders — teach these things to your children and to your children’s children. If we do not show our children the way we are going, why are we surprised when they do not follow? Do not simply take them to church, but live the Christian walk as you live before them and teach them why every element of your Christian faith is true, reasonable, and essential to life not only in this world but thereafter as well.
“So Rebekah and her young women got up and they mounted camels and followed after the man. In this way the servant took Rebekah and went on.”
And thus Laban and the rest of the family are left behind … for the moment at least … and Rebekah travels on with Eliezer to meet Isaac and Abraham. One must commend Rebekah as well as Eliezer for their faith, but in different ways. For Eliezer, his faith is demonstrated in his willingness to follow his master; for Rebekah, faith is demonstrated in her willingness to follow the instructions of Abraham never having seen him or having known his character. She trusts in his authority and follows; Eliezer knows Abraham’s authority and follows. Jesus said blessed are those who believe without having to see (John 20:29). Eliezer has seen Abraham and has witnessed the mighty works that God has done through this man; Rebekah has not, yet she still follows. Eliezer reasonably knows what the outcome will be when he returns home to Abraham; Rebekah does not.
Miracles and magnificent works really are overrated. While they can perhaps confirm faith, they are impotent in producing faith and the faith that Jesus commends is a faith that does not rely on such works. How often, when we are called upon by God to follow his leading in big or even in small ways, we hesitate. We desire confirmation while God desires obedience. We are often more like the child that always asks his parents, “why,” rather than the child who follows in obedience. Loved ones, obedience is the call to which God has called us; may we follow into the unknown — even sight unseen! — along the pathway that God has laid before us and see what God will do through our lives.
“And they blessed Rebekah, and said to her, ‘Our sister, you shall become like countless thousands and may your seed inhabit the gates of those who hate him.’”
“I will surely bless you and your seed will surely be great as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the lip of the sea. And your seed will take possession of the gates of his enemies.”
“Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed — it does not say, ‘To the seeds…’ as if to many, but as if to one. ‘And to your seed,’ which is Christ.”
It is hard not to make a connection between this blessing and to the Messianic promises that are to come. It could be legitimately pointed out that the term oår‰z (zera), or “seed,” is a collective singular (a singular term that refers to a group or a set of like things or persons) and thus nothing of great significance should be made of the language here. At the same time, given the covenantal significance of this event, a second look should be taken at what is being pronounced for even Nahor’s line understands that Abraham and his line has been singled out by God for a special purpose and, just as God did through the lips of Balaam, God sometimes speaks great truths through the lips even of non-believers.
It will be through Rebekah that the promised seed of Abraham will continue to descend that will ultimately culminate in the Great and true Seed: Jesus Christ. Note too, the similarity of this language to the language that God speaks to Abraham in Genesis 22. In part, of course, this will be fulfilled as the nation of Israel grows and then conquers Canaan. In full, this promise will find its completion in Jesus Christ — for it is in the church that True Israel will find its fullness, that the children of Abraham will be numbered like the sands of the sea, and that the gates of hell will find their demise (Matthew 16:18). Surely this promise, whether the family of Rebekah recognized it in full or not, is a promise that speaks of the coming of the Messiah through the line of Rebekah and Isaac.
How wonderful is the scope and plan of God. How puny our plans quickly become when placed alongside of God’s design. Isn’t if fascinating that we get so caught up in the moment — our successes and failures — our plans — our particular church’s rises and falls in attendance or fiscal numbers when God’s sovereign plan covers the scope of millennia. And why do we worry and fret? Why do we lose sleep over things that are meaningless in the scope of eternity? Friends, God is sovereign and he is the ruler of all of his creation. And he has a plan and a design for his church and kingdom of which he has graciously made us a part. Rejoice! Revel in that truth! And when faced with difficulties and opposition, trust in the wisdom and grace of God. Though men are not; God is good … and he is good all of the time — even in the midst of our trials and difficulties. What is it that God would lead you into doing and what is holding you back?
“And they said, ‘Let us call to the young girl and hear it from her mouth.’ And they called to Rebekah and they said to her, ‘Will you go with this man?’ And she said, ‘I will go.’ Thus, they sent out Rebekah, their sister, and her nurse as well as the servant of Abraham and his men.”
It almost seems as if, knowing that they are not going to persuade Eliezer to stay, they turn to Rebekah to buy more time. Rebekah’s response is short, simple, and typical of a woman of God. She simply says, “I will go.” While hesitation grips the family (likely out of hopes for personal gain), no hesitation afflicts the mind of Rebekah. She sees the hand of God at work and decides to simply follow God’s leading through the open door.
If the main theme of this chapter of the Bible is God’s sovereignty and faithfulness to his people, one of the next most significant themes is that of how God’s people are to follow God’s lead without hesitation or qualm. It is easy for us to get comfortable in our setting, no matter what that setting is. Even if the context is difficult, it is a “familiar difficulty” in the light of the unknown world that lays before us. Yet, when God calls us to go, we must follow His lead. Rebekah models that faithfulness for us in a pretty radical way. How often we fail even in simple ways.
Let the testimony of Rachael be your example and model. When God opens the door for you to serve him in a new (or in a fuller) way, step through that door and see where God will lead. There will be comforts enough in heaven, let us risk discomfort here to lift high the name of our mighty Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
“Now, if it is in you to show steadfast love and truth to my lord, declare it to me; if not, declare it to me so that I may turn to the right or to the left.”
It is interesting to me how Eliezer couches his request for Rebekah to return with him. He does not say here, “Are you willing to wed your daughter to Isaac, son of Abraham?” What he says is, “Are you willing to be faithful to Abraham.” The first would simply be a yes or no question based on the wishes and preferences of the family. This way of asking bases the question on the relationship that Bethuel has with his Uncle Abraham. If Bethuel rejects this requests, it is no longer a matter of preference, but it is a rejection of the relationship that is had between these two men. Indeed, it is a rejecting of Abraham’s family line and right to find a wife for his son within his extended covenant family.
The idiom of the right hand and the left hand is often one that expresses a lack of knowing where else one should turn even to find what is true. God has led Eliezer here and Eliezer is basing his actions upon the principle that what God directs is true and right. If he is rejected, then where can he go? Can one hope to honor God by looking for a spouse in a place other than where God has led him? Abraham and Sarah know the difficulties that come as a result of trying to circumvent God’s design, for that is how Ishmael came into the world. How often we pursue our own ends rather than submitting to God’s and found we have embarked on that which will bring disappointment and failure?
Loved ones, it is God’s plan and design we are to follow. Indeed, discerning that design is the trick at times, though the principle that Eliezer is following is sound. Ask God to open the doors through which you are to go and wait on him to do just that in His timing. God is about to work in Rebekah’s life in a visible and magnificent way; he does that in our lives as well. May we be faithful to that call.
“Then I asked her saying, ‘Whose daughter are you?’ And she said, ‘I am the daughter of Bethuel the son of Nahor whom Milkah bore to him.’ So I put the ring on her nose and the bracelets on her hands and I bowed and worshipped Yahweh. I repeatedly blessed Yahweh the God of my lord Abraham who led me in the true path to take a daughter of the brother of my lord for his son.’”
Eliezer’s retelling now comes to a close, but notice what it is that he closes this dialogue with: praise to God. He could have closed his account by saying, “and she brought me to you…” or “and she showed me here to her father’s house…”, but Eliezer closes with the most important thing: “I gave praise to God.” In fact, the verbal form used when it speaks of Eliezer’s “blessing” Yahweh is in the Piel construct, which reflects a repeated action. His words might have been, “Oh thank you, thank you, thank you, oh Lord…”
Loved ones, I also hope that this is your response to the hand of God working in your life — that God is rightly honored for bringing about such good things and for leading you on the true path that leads to his glory. Sadly, our response is not to do so or only to do so as an afterthought. Often we desire the glory for ourselves and do not give honor where honor is due. As my friend and I were discussing just last night, the only good in me is the good that God is doing in me; may He get the credit for he is the agent at work in my life.
“The girl ran and she told these things to her mother’s household.”
As simple as this verse is on the surface, it is once again a reminder to us of the humanity of all the people involved in this account. This is no fable; it is history. Yet, how often it is that when we read these ancient narratives, we mythologize them by forgetting that those facing these events and speaking these words were flesh and blood human beings just as you and I are. Rebekah had hopes and dreams just like any other young girl of her age and probably one of those dreams was what it would one day be like when she was wedded. Surely the events surrounding the arrival of Eliezer must have been different than anything that she had fantasized about, but how often that is the case when God works in the life of his people.
It is interesting that the narrative describes her as running to her “mother’s house” and not to her “father’s.” There are only three occasions in the Old Testament where this language is used in this way: here, when Naomi instructs Ruth to return to her mother’s household (Ruth 1:8), and then in the Song of Solomon where the Shepherd Girl sings of her love (Song of Solomon 3:4). In contrast, the phrase “father’s household” or “father’s house” is found in 172 verses in the Old Testament alone. We should be careful not to speculate too much as to the choice of language, but later on in this passage we will find Rebekah’s mother playing a significant role (along with her brother) in negotiations regarding the timing of Rebekah’s departure (see verse 55). Perhaps that is an indication as to the influence of the matriarch in the events that would transpire. We should be reminded as well of the manipulations that Rebekah would later engage in with respect to her own two sons and gaining favor for Jacob over Esau. Such may simply have been the only model that she knew. Again, we must be careful not to speculate too far lest we leave the text and pursue the fancies of our imaginations.
All of the pieces of the puzzle have now been laid out on the table and Eliezer is about to meet the rest of Rebekah’s family, including her brother, Laban, but we get ahead of ourselves. Again, do not lose sight of the human-ness of these people. They are not characters in a story told to thrill children and adults alike, but historical people whose lives are intertwined with God’s redemptive plan…as are our lives. May we never lose sight of that great truth.
“And it came to pass as the camels completed drinking, the man took an nose-ring of gold, its weight being half-a-shekel, and two bracelets for her hands, their weight being ten gold shekels, and he said, ‘Whose daughter are you, please tell me. Also, in your father’s house is there a place for us to lodge?’”
Having had his request of God confirmed, now Eliezer begins to follow through on his mission. He must confirm that this girl is genuinely from Abraham’s relatives and then he must begin negotiating the marriage price, something similar to a dowry. Essentially Eliezer must demonstrate to her father that Isaac will be able to provide a comfortable life for Rebekah. This begins with some gold trinkets as an initial indication of his wealth.
Some translations render the first item of jewelry simply as a “ring.” Hebrew is vague as to identifying pieces of jewelry and relies largely on context to communicate what kind of ring this is — or more accurately, on what part of the body this ring is to be worn. Scholars seem to be inclined to believe that culturally, this ring would have been worn in the nose (oh my, nope, nose rings are not a new fad, but at one point in time were very much in style!). Anyway, wherever this ring was to be worn — the ear, the nose, the finger… — a gift of a ring weighing about a quarter of an ounce was offered. The second gift was that of bracelets. Again, some render this as “armbands,” but the text states that the jewelry was for her hands, implying they be worn closer to the wrists. The weight of ten shekels (just over 4 ounces) is likely a combined weight of the two bracelets together. Still, this is a good deal of wealth, especially to be handed to a girl that he has just met.
Not only does he set forth to confirm her lineage, but in confidence that this is the woman to which God has led him, he begins making plans to lodge with her family. True, if she is the wrong girl, he would be staying in the wrong house. Yet in faith Eliezer moves forward with his plan. God’s design begins to unfold in this adventure that Eliezer has been on — notice too that he uses the plural (us) when he asks about lodging, reminding us again that he has an entourage with him (protection is essential) and that this group of people is also witnessing the unfolding of God’s plan.
How often it is that we get bogged down in worry when it comes to making decisions in life. The best philosophy is a different one than is typically taught in schools or in self-help seminars. The best philosophy is the Biblical model of taking God at his word that he will lead us. That means, when God opens doors, we should step through those doors for he will make a straight road for us to follow. But it also means that until God is ready to open doors, we should stay put with a clear focus on what God has designed for us where we are and in what we happen to be doing at the time. Our tendency, when doors are closed, is to try and beat them open with our fists or knock them in like the police do when raiding a building. Also, our tendency, when doors are opened wide, is to drag our feet, wondering whether this is really God’s design for us. When we live according to our human tendencies, the paths are rocky and crooked at best. How sad it is that we so often choose the latter rather than the former. Eliezer has chosen to trust and follow in faith recognizing that it is God’s hand that has opened the door and thus he will faithfully go through. May we all commit to doing the same.
“Then the servant ran over to meet her and said, ‘Please provide a drink for me of a little water from your pitcher.’ And she said, ‘Drink my lord.’ And she hastened to put down her pitcher by her hand and provided him drink.’”
You almost need to picture the site of this event to really grasp the intensity of what is taking place. The servant, Eliezer, has been sent out blind to find this girl. He has made a long journey and now he is here. He says a prayer to God asking for God’s grace and then he sees the young lady whom he perceives is the one — clearly there is a nudge of the Holy Spirit in this action. Now he is ready to put his plan to the test. Will she give him water and water his camels or will she retreat from this man whom she has never met? You can feel the electricity in the air and Eliezer dismounts his camel and rushes over to this woman — can you imagine his excitement he must feel? Can you imagine the wonder that would have been going on in Rebekah’s mind as she sees this unknown man running in her direction? Don’t lose sight of the humanity of these people.
Notice the contrast between the request and the response. He asks for a “little water” — essentially, a small sip to wet his lips; she provides a full pitcher to refresh him. The text even states that she put the pitcher down by her own hand. She doesn’t hand him the pitcher and say, “draw some yourself,” but instead, she lets down the pitcher herself and provides him with a drink. What will follow is a watering of the camels (again a willingness to work and labor to bless), but what we find in her is grace and hospitality. Truly this is a woman of noble character.
There is much about this event that is reminiscent of Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well (John 4), but the contrast is also remarkable. Here it is the woman that does provide the servant with water rather than receiving water from him. Here, Rebekah is marked as a virgin and a woman of virtue; the woman Jesus encountered had numerous marriages and was living in immorality — even the other women would not come to the well with her. Perhaps the contrasts we see between these two scriptural encounters are to remind us of how far sin has caused people to fall and how desperately we need a redeemer. Jesus indeed provides redemption for the woman at the well. Eliezer provides something different for Rebekah. He comes to bring her into the covenantal family of Isaac — to become the woman through whom God’s promised line would flow. Indeed, Jesus the savior would descend from Isaac and Rebekah’s union.
There is much we can learn from this interaction about trust and hospitality, but the most important thing is that we recognize the God whose hand is governing all of these events to bring about his good and glorious purposes. We should never be tempted to forget that we serve the same God and that he is also working in our lives to bring about his ends and purposes as well.
“And it came to pass when he had not yet finished speaking, behold, Rebekah came out, who was begotten of Bethuel the son of Milkah, the wife of Nachor the brother of Abraham, and her pitcher was on her shoulder!”
God is good and he shows himself to be faithful all of the time when it comes to the needs of his people. Sometimes God calls us to wait on his fulfillment to teach us trust and patience; here it is covenant faithfulness that God is teaching to Eliezer, Abraham’s servant. Rebekah’s name in Hebrew is written hDqVbˆr (Ribqah) and means “Great Water Giver” which is providential in terms of what will take place here on this day. Our English Bibles use a combination of the Hebrew version of her name and the Greek transliteration, Rebekka (Rebekka), to construct the English transliteration that we have become used to seeing. As has been mentioned above, transliteration is not an exacting science and many have taken liberties through history (that we have inherited) in doing so.
What is also interesting about this event is the significance of the location. Wells and springs were important parts of the people’s lives in the near east — there was no such thing as indoor plumbing in those days and animals need a great deal of water to thrive. But more significantly than that, it was around a well that God revealed himself to Hagar (Genesis 21:19), it was around a well that God provided a place in the land for Abraham (Genesis 21:25-31), it was around a well that Isaac first encounters Rachael (Genesis 29:9), and it is even around a well that Moses would meet Zipporah (Exodus 2:16-22). God is establishing a pattern here by which we will better see and anticipate his hand at work — in this case around a well.
Here, then, God shows his faithfulness to Eliezer. How often God has also shown his faithfulness to us as well, though perhaps not next to a well wondering who will be the bride for our master’s son. Instead, God has provided for our needs, he has preserved us from harm, he has healed our wounds, and he has shown us his Son, Jesus, giving us new life in Him. How good it is to serve a king who never fails his people but draws them faithfully toward himself.
“‘Behold, I am positioned over the spring of water and the daughters of the men of the city are coming to draw water. May it be that to the girl to whom I say, ‘Please extend to me your pitcher that I might drink’ and she would say, ‘Drink and I will also water your camels.’ Let her be the one appointed to your servant, for Isaac, and through her may I know that you work covenant faithfulness for my lord.’”
Notice the language of appointment being made here. There is a clear expectation on the part of Eliezer that God has orchestrated things from beginning to end and that one of these girls coming out to water will be the one that God has chosen to marry Isaac. He sets the standard as he prays, asking that the one whom God has chosen shall show courtesy toward him, offer him a drink, and water his camels for him. Certainly, the young girl that shows this kind of grace and hospitality will be the one that God has appointed in his covenant faithfulness. And thus, he waits and will soon meet Rebekah — again, an instance where God demonstrates his control, for he sees Rebekah coming out of the city.
How quick we can often be to doubt the faithfulness and grace of God. We doubt and worry and second-guess, but none of these things befits us as children of the living God who loves us. Jesus says that it is the role of the pagan to worry for these things that we need (Matthew 6:32); indeed, the pagans have gods that neither can speak nor hear nor move (Psalm 135:15-17) and thus neither can hear nor answer the prayers of those who serve them. Our God is living and active and not only hears but acts in the life of his loved ones — we need fear nothing.
Worry robs our hair of color, our nights of sleep, and our friendships of depth. We fear committing because we fear that the end might soon be near. Loved ones, fear the Lord and him alone. He is the God over the heavens and the earth and he has chosen to come into a relationship with you. He promises to provide for all of our necessities and he promises to never leave or forsake us…what more do we need? God is even the God who ordained the timing and the manner in which Rebekah comes out to the watering hole for her family — who knows, she might have come down with a cold and been sick that day — and that is the point; when God so appoints, this things will come to pass — and God has appointed (Ephesians 1:11), so why worry?
“And the servant said to him, ‘Perhaps the woman will not consent to come with me to this land. Should I surely return with your son to the land from which you came out of?’”
The servant asks a very human question, though it is a question that betrays his lack of understanding of the hand of God in this event. He says, “Hey, what if she doesn’t want to come?” Put the matter in perspective, in her homeland, she has her father, brothers, extended family, a place to live, friends, and realistically a fair degree of security. Why would she leave to marry the son of a wanderer in a strange land? Then again, we might alter the question — why would one want to leave the relative security of home for a foreign land in the first place? This is exactly the same question that one might have posed to Abraham himself many years past, but Abraham was a man obedient to God’s call and his desire is to find a wife for his son who will too be a person faithful to God’s call regardless of how far outside of one’s comfort zone it happens to take them.
The last phrase of this verse is very significant given the context. Literally the servant refers to the land from which Abraham came as the land “which you came out of.” While on the surface, the wording may not seem overly significant, it is a reference to God’s hand of providence bringing him out of the land of his fathers and into a new land that God will give to him. Ur is no longer his homeland per say, but the land that he came out of, a reminder of God’s covenantal promises. Even the servant’s comment about returning with Isaac gives an indication of the significance of such an action, for he uses a repetition of the verb (Shall I return return — commonly rendered, “surely return”), intensifying the statement regarding the action he is proposing to take. The firmness of Abraham’s response is directly related to the language that the servant uses here.
How often, like this servant, we doubt the power of God to bring about his will. When the call is made or the command given, we ask “why” rather than saying, “here I am, send me.” May we be quick to follow the model of Abraham (and soon Rebekah) in terms of following God in faith.