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Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at

Genesis Chapter 24

Genesis 24:1

gen 24:1

After the death of Sarah, Abraham had still to arrange for the marriage of Isaac. He was induced to provide for this in a mode in harmony with the promise of God, quite as much by his increasing age as by the blessing of God in everything, which necessarily instilled the wish to transmit that blessing to a distant posterity. He entrusted this commission to his servant, "the eldest of his house," - i.e., his upper servant, who had the management of all his house (according to general opinion, to Eliezer, whom he had previously thought of as the heir of his property, but who would now, like Abraham, be extremely old, as more than sixty years had passed since the occurrence related in Gen 15:2), - and made him swear that he would not take a wife for his son from the daughters of the Canaanites, but would fetch one from his (Abraham's) native country, and his kindred. Abraham made the servant take an oath in order that his wishes might be inviolably fulfilled, even if he himself should die in the interim. In swearing, the servant put his hand under Abraham's hip. This custom, which is only mentioned here and in Gen 47:29, the so-called bodily oath, was no doubt connected with the significance of the hip as the part from which the posterity issued (Gen 46:26), and the seat of vital power; but the early Jewish commentators supposed it to be especially connected with the rite of circumcision. The oath was by "Jehovah, God of heaven and earth," as the God who rules in heaven and on earth, not by Elohim; for it had respect not to an ordinary oath, but to a question of great importance in relation to the kingdom of God. "Isaac was not regarded as a merely pious candidate for matrimony, but as the heir of the promise, who must therefore be kept from any alliance with the race whose possessions were to come to his descendants, and which was ripening for the judgment to be executed by those descendants" (Hengstenberg, Dissertations i. 350). For this reason the rest of the negotiation was all conducted in the name of Jehovah.

Genesis 24:5

gen 24:5

Before taking the oath, the servant asks whether, in case no woman of their kindred would follow him to Canaan, Isaac was to be conducted to the land of his fathers. But Abraham rejected the proposal, because Jehovah took him from his father's house, and had promised him the land of Canaan for a possession. He also discharged the servant, if that should be the case, from the oath which he had taken, in the assurance that the Lord through His angel would bring a wife to his son from thence.

Genesis 24:10

gen 24:10

The servant then went, with ten camels and things of every description belonging to his master, into Mesopotamia to the city of Nahor, i.e., Haran, where Nahor dwelt (Gen 11:31, and Gen 12:4). On his arrival there, he made the camels kneel down, or rest, without the city by the well, "at the time of evening, the time at which the women come out to draw water," and at which, now as then, women and girls are in the habit of fetching the water required for the house (vid., Robinson's Palestine ii. 368ff.). He then prayed to Jehovah, the God of Abraham, "Let there come to meet me to-day," sc., the person desired, the object of my mission. He then fixed upon a sign connected with the custom of the country, by the occurrence of which he might decide upon the maiden (הנּער puella, used in the Pentateuch for both sexes, except in Deu 22:19, where נערה occurs) whom Jehovah had indicated as the wife appointed for His servant Isaac. הוכיח (Gen 24:14) to set right, then to point out as right; not merely to appoint. He had scarcely ended his prayer when his request was granted. Rebekah did just what he had fixed upon as a token, not only giving him to drink, but offering to water his camels, and with youthful vivacity carrying out her promise. Niebuhr met with similar kindness in those regions (see also Robinson, Pal. ii. 351, etc.). The servant did not give himself blindly up to first impressions, however, but tested the circumstances.

Genesis 24:21

gen 24:21

"The man, wondering at her, stood silent, to know whether Jehovah had made his journey prosperous or not." משׁתּאה, from שׁאה to be desert, inwardly laid waste, i.e., confused. Others derive it from שׁאה = שׁעה to see; but in the Hithpael this verb signifies to look restlessly about, which is not applicable here.

Genesis 24:22

gen 24:22

After the watering of the camels was over, the man took a golden nose-ring of the weight of a beka, i.e., half a shekel (Exo 38:26), and two golden armlets of 10 shekels weight, and (as we find from Gen 24:30 and Gen 24:47) placed these ornaments upon her, not as a bridal gift, but in return for her kindness. He then asked her about her family, and whether there was room in her father's house for him and his attendants to pass the night there; and it was not trill after Rebekah had told him that she was the daughter of Bethuel, the nephew of Abraham, and had given a most cheerful assent to his second question, that he felt sure that this was the wife appointed by Jehovah for Isaac. He then fell down and thanked Jehovah for His grace and truth, whilst Rebekah in the meantime had hastened home to relate all that had occurred to "her mother's house," i.e., to the female portion of her family. חסד the condescending love, אמת the truth which God had displayed in the fulfilment of His promise, and here especially manifested to him in bringing him to the home of his master's relations.

Genesis 24:29

gen 24:29

As soon as Laban her brother had seen the splendid presents and heard her account, he hurried out to the stranger at the well, to bring him to the house with his attendants and animals, and to show to him the customary hospitality of the East. The fact that Laban addressed him as the blessed of Jehovah (Gen 24:31), may be explained from the words of the servant, who had called his master's God Jehovah. The servant discharged his commission before he partook of the food set before him (the Kethibh ויישׂם in Gen 24:33 is the imperf. Kal of ישׂם = שׂוּם); and commencing with his master's possessions and family affairs, he described with the greatest minuteness his search for a wife, and the success which he had thus far met with, and then (in Gen 24:49) pressed his suit thus: "And now, if he will show kindness and truth to my lord, tell me; and if not, tell me; that I may turn to the right hand or to the left," sc., to seek in other families a wife for Isaac.

Genesis 24:50

gen 24:50

Laban and Bethuel recognised in this the guidance of God, and said, "From Jehovah (the God of Abraham) the thing proceedeth; we cannot speak unto thee bad or good," i.e., cannot add a word, cannot alter anything (Num 24:13; Sa2 13:22). That Rebekah's brother Laban should have taken part with her father in deciding, was in accordance with the usual custom (cf. Gen 34:5, Gen 34:11, Gen 34:25; Jdg 21:22; Sa2 13:22), which may have arisen from the prevalence of polygamy, and the readiness of the father to neglect the children (daughters) of the wife he cared for least.

Genesis 24:52

gen 24:52

After receiving their assent, the servant first of all offered thanks to Jehovah with the deepest reverence; he then gave the remaining presents to the bride, and to her relations (brother and mother); and after everything was finished, partook of the food provided.

Genesis 24:54

gen 24:54

The next morning he desired at once to set off on the journey home; but her brother and mother wished to keep her with them עשׁור או ימים, "some days, or rather ten;" but when she was consulted, she decided to so, sc., without delay. "Then they sent away Rebekah their sister (Laban being chiefly considered, as the leading person in the affair) and her nurse" (Deborah; Gen 35:8), with the parting wish that she might become the mother of an exceedingly numerous and victorious posterity. "Become thousands of myriads" is a hyperbolical expression for an innumerable host of children. The second portion of the blessing (Gen 24:60) is almost verbatim the same as Gen 22:17, but is hardly borrowed thence, as the thought does not contain anything specifically connected with the history of salvation.

Genesis 24:61

gen 24:61

When the caravan arrived in Canaan with Rebekah and her maidens, Isaac had just come from going to the well Lahai-Roi (Gen 16:14), as he was then living in the south country; and he went towards evening (ערב לפנות, at the turning, coming on, of the evening, Deu 23:12) to the field "to meditate." It is impossible to determine whether Isaac had been to the well of Hagar which called to mind the omnipresence of God, and there, in accordance with his contemplative character, had laid the question of his marriage before the Lord (Delitzsch), or whether he had merely travelled thither to look after his flocks and herds (Knobel). But the object of his going to the field to meditate, was undoubtedly to lay the question of his marriage before God in solitude. שׂוּח, meditari, is rendered "to pray" in the Chaldee, and by Luther and others, with substantial correctness. The caravan arrived at the time; and Rebekah, as soon as she saw the man in the field coming to meet them, sprang (נפל signifying a hasty descent, Kg2 5:21) from the camel to receive him, according to Oriental custom, in the most respectful manner. She then inquired the name of the man; and as soon as she heard that it was Isaac, she enveloped herself in her veil, as became a bride when meeting the bridegroom. צעיף, θέπιστρον, the cloak-like veil of Arabia (see my Archologie, 103, 5). The servant then related to Isaac the result of his journey; and Isaac conducted the maiden, who had been brought to him by God, into the tent of Sarah his mother, and she became his wife, and he loved her, and was consoled after his mother, i.e., for his mother's death. האהלה, with ה local, in the construct state, as in Gen 20:1; Gen 28:2, etc.; and in addition to that, with the article prefixed (cf. Ges. Gram. 110, 2bc).

Next: Genesis Chapter 25