Genesis 24 “An Introduction To Isaac & Rebekah: Don’t Go Back!”

Posted on November 14, 2010. Filed under: Genesis: Answers to Life's Crucial Questions |

Genesis 24 “An Introduction To Isaac & Rebekah: Don’t Go Back!”

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Bryan E. Walker

 

Read Genesis 24

 

Pray

 

Introduction: How do you know or find God’s will for your life? How do you carry out God’s will once you know it? Is God really in control? Is there such a thing as Providence? Does faith sometimes require us to make a quick, life changing decision and begin a huge adventure? These are some of the theological and practical issues that Genesis 24 brings up and answers. This is much more than a love story or an example story; this is a story of faithful love by God to Abraham, by Abraham back to God and by Abraham’s servant to Abraham. Main Idea: Here we see that God is faithful to his promises to Abraham as he obtains a wife for Isaac so that the promises of God can be passed down to the next generation.

This morning we will discover what is actually in the text by studying how it is put together and how it relates to what has come before and what will come afterwards. We will look at the big ideas of the text as well as the key words and phrases which is a fundamental part of Bible study.

  1. I.                   Literary Analysis of the longest chapter in Genesis
    1. A.     Outline
      1. 1.      “Go and take a wife for my son” vss.1-9
      2. 2.      “O LORD, please grant me success” vss.10-28
      3. 3.      “The thing has come from the LORD” vss. 29-60
      4. 4.      “The servant took Rebekah and went” vss. 61-67
    2. B.     Structure
      1. 1.      This story plays an important role in the immediate context of the story of Abraham. It is a part of the epilogue (22:20-25:18) of Abraham’s life which reached its high point in the offering up of Isaac in chapter 22. But at the end of 22 we have the brief genealogy of Nahor which introduced us to Rebekah, which was followed by the account of the death of Sarah (23:1-20) which then is followed by this story which introduces Rebekah, the next matriarch. 
      2. 2.      Within chapter 24 there is the theme of “go and take”. Abraham commands his servant to “go and take a wife for Isaac” (24:4), Laban and Bethuel respond to the servant by saying “take her and go” (vs.51), which is followed by “the servant took Rebekah and went” in vs.61.
      3. 3.      There is a geographical structure to the story as the action starts in Abraham’s household, moves to the well at the city of Nahor, moves into the household of Laban and Bethuel, and concludes with a mention of Beer-lahai-roi (the well in 16:14) and the tent of Sarah.
      4. 4.      Notice the transfer of patriarchal power as the story begins with Abraham commissioning the servant yet at the end, the servant reports back to Isaac.
      5. 5.      Waltke writes, p. 324, “The first well setting features Rebekah (24:10-27), the second, Isaac (24:62-65). Providential guidance is ever present. The household settings reveal human negotiations accomplished through faith; the well setting, providential timing in response to faith.”
      6. 6.      There are 5 key figures in the story: Abraham, the servant (could be Eliezer of Damascus from ch.15:2), Rebekah, her family (Laban and Bethuel), and at the end, Isaac. God is not seen in the action though Abraham and his servant mention the LORD as do Laban and Bethuel. But the entire story is about the LORD’s providence; his actions are seen in the answered prayers of the faithful servant.
      7. 7.      Key words or phrases- “The LORD” is mentioned 17 times, 2x by Abraham (vss.3,7), 3x by the narrator (vss.1, 26, 52), a remarkable 10x by the servant (vss. 12, 27(2x), 35, 40, 42, 44, 48(2x), and 56), and Rebekah’s family 3x (vss.31, 50, 51) which is interesting because of their pagan backgrounds.
      8. 8.      Key word/phrase- “go” (vss.4, 38, 51, 55, 56, 58(2x); “come/went” (vss. 5, 8, 39, 61), “left” (vss.10, 61), “set out” (v.10).
      9. 9.      A key part of this story is the many allusions to the Lord’s call of Abraham in 12:1-3. In vs.4 he says “go to my country and to my kindred” both of which he was commanded to leave. But notice the servant is not to take Isaac back there, thus keeping the call of God to stay in Canaan. Vss.1 and 35 show the blessing of God upon Abraham, fulfilling the promise in 12:1-3. When Rebekah says, “I will go” this is as strong of a statement of her faith as was Abraham’s obedience in leaving his family and home in 12:4. In 24:60 we find a blessing upon Rebekah that matches the blessing God gave Abraham in 22:17. In many ways, Rebekah is the star of the Isaac story, she is the female Abraham, a person of faith.

10.  There is a hint of future problems with Laban as he initially agrees with Abraham’s servant, “The thing has come from the LORD….take her and go” but then, the next morning, he hesitates, “Let the young woman remain with us a while, at least ten days…” This clearly points forward to the problem that Rebekah’s son, Jacob, would have with Laban in chapters 29-31. This foreshadowing, combined with the references linking to Abraham’s call in 12:1-3, and the way the chapter fits in with 22-23, demonstrate that the liberal ideas of a late date by some unknown author are ridiculous. Genesis fits together in a very neat but complex way with all the parts interconnecting; no committee could have written this brilliant book.

 

  1. II.                Exposition and  Theological Analysis
    1. A.     “Go and take a wife for my son” vss.1-9
      1. 1.      Overview- Wenham writes, p.140, “…the overarching purpose of including this story is theological. It reflects on how the divine promises of blessing to Abraham have already been fulfilled and shows that even though he is about to die, they will be yet further fulfilled in the future. A bride is secured for Abraham’s son, thus ensuring that his line of descendants will continue. And Rebekah’s willingness to leave land and family suggests that she too will enjoy the blessings that her father-in-law experienced.”
      2. 2.      Abraham is seeking to ensure that the divine covenant is passed down to the next generation and the next, by providing a wife for his son.
      3. 3.      “Now Abraham was old, well advanced in years. And the LORD had blessed Abraham in all things.” This opening verse confirms that the LORD had been faithful to keep his promise to Abraham in 12”1-3. See Joshua 13:1; 23:1. Wenham points out, p.140, “Though Abraham was often promised that he would be blessed, and Melchizedek greeted Abram as ‘blessed’ (14:19), and the narrative shows the blessing gradually being realized, this is the first time that the narrator explicitly comments that he has been blessed. It anticipates the servant’s observation in v.35.”
      4. 4.      Application: in the Old Testament, old age is considered a sign of God’s blessing, is it considered such today? How does our society view old age? With our modern medical science, have we lengthened life or prolonged death? How can our church help make old age a blessing? In what ways could our families make old age a blessing?
      5. 5.      “blessed” see 1:22; 12:2-3; 15:15.
      6. 6.      Hamilton writes, p.138, “Abraham’s life is lived out between the promise of divine blessing (12:2) and the actualization of that promise (24:1). The future ‘I will bless’ is now completed with Yahweh had blessed. Prospect has become reality. The fact that the statement of Yahweh’s blessing on Abraham follows immediately after a reference to Abraham’s advanced age pinpoints one of God’s blessings to Abraham- longevity.”
      7. 7.      “in all things.” The blessings on Abraham were not limited to wealth or age, he was blessed in all things. This hearkens back to 23:6 where the Hittites acknowledges he was a prince of God and to 21:22 where Abimelech and Phicol said, “God is with you in all that you do.”
      8. 8.      Application: the health and wealth gospel preachers promise blessings in areas of health and finances. What other areas of your life would you like to see God bless you? In what ways would you say that the beatitudes of Matt.5-7 and the fruit of the Spirit in Gal.5:22-23 should be blessing which we desire?
      9. 9.      “Abraham said to his servant, the oldest of his household” the servant’s name is never given but we tend to think it was Eliezer of Damascus from 15:2.

10.  “Put your hand under my thigh, that I may make you swear by the LORD…” Wenham writes, p.141, “By putting his hand under Abraham’s thigh, the servant was touching his genitals and thus giving the oath a special solemnity. In the ancient Orient, solemn oaths could be taken holding some sacred object in one’s hand, as it is still customary to take an oath on the Bible before giving evidence in court. Since the OT particularly associates God with life (see the symbolism of the sacrificial law) and Abraham had been circumcised as a mark of the covenant, placing his hand under Abraham’s thigh made an intimate association with some fundamental religious ideas. An oath by the seat of procreation is particularly apt in this instance, when it concerns the finding of a wife for Isaac.”

11.  Vs.3 “the LORD, the God of heaven and God of the earth…” this is the God of the covenant and the Creator of the universe. There is an echo of the opening account of creation and points also to 14:22. Calling heaven and earth as witnesses is common in the OT (Deut. 30:19 and Isaiah 1:2).

12.  “that you will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell,” While we do not see this commanded by the Lord here in Genesis it makes sense when you look at Gen.10 and realize that the curse upon Canaan, son of Ham, extends to his descendants, the Canaanites while the promise of blessing goes through the line of Shem. Furthermore, to marry into the Canaanite families would lead to obtaining the blessing of the land through works, not faith. Intermarriage resulted in mingling and God wanted Abraham to be separate. This is seen clearly in Moses’ day as well, in Ex.34:16; Num.25; and Deut. 7:3; Judges 3:6.. Isaac and Rebekah were upset that Esau had married Hittite women in 26:34f and 27:46, so they sent Jacob to Laban in Paddan-aram to obtain a wife.

Application- 14 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 What accord has Christ with Belial? [2] Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said,

“I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them,
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people.
17 Therefore go out from their midst,
and be separate from them, says the Lord,
and touch no unclean thing;
then I will welcome you,
18 and I will be a father to you,
and you shall be sons and daughters to me,
says the Lord Almighty.”

13.  Application- Is it wise for a Christian to marry a non-Christian? How far should we take this…should a Baptist marry a non-Baptist, a Reformed believer marry an Arminian? Have you any stories of success or failure in this regard?

14.  Application- notice that this is an arranged marriage. Are arranged marriages inherently wrong or is this a cultural thing? How does our divorce rate under a free marriage system compare with the divorce rate in a nation with arranged marriages? Who has arranged marriages now? Muslims.

15.  Vs.4 “Go to my country and to my kindred, and take a wife for my son Isaac.” Walton and Matthews write, p.51, “The practice of marrying within one’s own tribe or family is called endogamy. Endogamy could be the result of religious, social, or ethnic concerns. In this text it appears to be ethnic in that there are no suggestions that the family of Laban, Rebekah and Rachel shares the religious beliefs of Abraham and his family. Likewise social standing is usually an issue only when nobility and commoners are involved or certain classes of urban society are seen as necessarily distinct. Ethnic concerns usually center around clan traditions or family land holdings. At times they represent long-established hostilities between two groups. In this text the endogamy seems motivated by the covenant that seeks to prevent Abraham and his family from simply being assimilated into the ethnic melting pot in Canaan.”

16.  Vs.5-6 “Perhaps the woman may not be willing to follow me to this land….See to it that you do not take my son back there” The Hebrew grammar of the servant’s question indicates a very strong, forceful, probing question. Currid states, p.413, “The construction of ‘Should I then return…?” is an infinitive absolute with its cognate verb, and it is emphatic. The servant realizes that Abraham may be dead by the time he returns; if he has no wife for Isaac, what is he to do?” Wenham says that the “See to it” or, “Take care” “often refutes a shocking or unworthy idea…” (p.142).

17.  Vs.7 “The LORD…who took me from my father’s house and from the land of my kindred…and swore to me, ‘To your offspring I will give this land’, he will send his angel before you” Again notice that word, took. He emphasizes the land and the promise, demonstrating his great faith in God. Though the only land he owns is a tomb, he still claims the whole land for his son. His faith is so strong that he claims the Lord’s angel will go before him to prepare a woman for his son Isaac. This angel we have met before in the Abraham story. In ch.16 Hagar met him in the wilderness and then again at Mt. Moriah it was the angel of the LORD who stayed Abraham’s hand as he was about to slay his son  Isaac. We will see the Angel of the LORD going before Israel in their wilderness wanderings in Ex. 14:19; 23:20-23; 32:34; 33:2; Num.20:16; 22:22.

18.  Vs.8 “But if the woman is not willing to follow you, then you will be free from this oath…” Although Abraham expresses tremendous confidence and faith in the LORD working it out, he understands that people can fail even though God will never fail. This is not doubt, but prudence. The woman that his servant will find must make a hard decision to leave home for a husband unseen. He is looking for a woman of faith and courage. And it could be that his servant may be in Abraham’s mind, the servant’s faith may fail.

19.  vs. 6,8 “you must not take my son back there.” Here we see how strongly Abraham feels about this issue as he states that at the beginning of his answer to his servant and at the end, forming an inclusio. These are the last words from Abraham in the Bible. “Don’t go back!”

20.  Application: Don’t go back! Abraham was called to leave his kindred and country and to follow God to a land that he would show him. The LORD promised him this land and many descendants. If his son were to go back the promises of God would be forfeited. Abraham’s family prior to his call by God was pagan, and that branch of the family that remained in Mesopotamia remained pagan as we see in 31:30 with Rachel stealing her father’s idols. To go back to Haran or Ur would be to quit following the one true God, Creator of Heaven and earth. We see this theme throughout Scripture.

The people of Israel following Moses out of Egypt time and again wanted to return to Egypt in 14:10-12; 16:1-3; 17:1-3; Num.11:4-6; 14:1-4.

Our hearts are prone to wander and we want to go back to sin, go back to a works based salvation, and leave the grace of God and the resurrected Christ for idols of our own manufacturing.

 Bibliography:

Currid, John D. A Study Commentary on Genesis Volume 1: Genesis 1:1-25:18. Evangelical Press: Darlington, England 2003 (pp.411-431).

Hamilton, Victor P. The New International Commentary on the Old Testament: The Book of Genesis, Chapters 18-50. Eerdmans: Grand Rapids, MI 1995 (pp.136-163).

Mathews, Kenneth A. The New American Commentary, Volume 1B, Genesis 11:27- 50:26. Broadman&Holman: Nashville, TN 2005 (pp. 321-348).

Ross, Allen P. Creation & Blessing: A Guide to the Study and Exposition of Genesis. Baker Academic: Grand Rapids, MI. 1996 (pp.414-423).

Sailhamer, John H. “Genesis” The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 2.Zondervan: Grand Rapids, 1990 (pp.173-179).

Waltke, Bruce K. Genesis: A Commentary. Zondervan: Grand Rapids, MI. 2001 (pp.323- 334).

Walton, John H. The NIV Application Commentary: Genesis. Zondervan: Grand Rapids,  MI. 2001 (pp.522-541).

Walton, John H. and Matthews, Victor H. The IVP Bible Background Commentary Genesis-Deuteronomy. Intervarsity Press: Downers Grove, IL. 1997 (pp.51-53).

Wenham, Gordon J. The Word Biblical Commentary, Vol. 2, Genesis 16-50. Word Books: Dallas, TX. 1994 (pp.131-155).

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