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The Marriage of Isaac annotated
by vaughn ohlman
11/29/08
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Here I present an annotation of the Marriage of Isaac: focusing on some aspects of it that are rejected by our popular culture.


1And Abraham was old, and well stricken in age: and the LORD had blessed Abraham in all things. 2And Abraham said unto his eldest servant of his house, that ruled over all that he had,

[Notice that Abraham did not seek out the wife himself. Certainly this could be because he was 'well stricken in age' but it argues against the more dramatic forms of 'due dililgence'. Many of models for 'courtship' out there involve months of investigation by the father. None of that happens here.]

Put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh: 3And I will make thee swear by the LORD, the God of heaven, and the God of the earth, that thou shalt not take a wife unto my son of the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell:. 4But thou shalt go unto my country, and to my kindred, and take a wife unto my son Isaac.

[He did not give his servant some huge list of instructions, but trusted him to find a good wife, from his family.]

5And the servant said unto him, Peradventure the woman will not be willing to follow me unto this land: must I needs bring thy son again unto the land from whence thou camest?

[This should not be taken as some form of blessing on the daughter 'choosing'. Obviously both because of her own will or that of her guardians she might not come. Indeed the guardians might wish to see Isaac and evaluate him. But this should not be read, as many of todays culture will read it, as 'what if, when I ask the girl, she will not come.' We see from the story that the servant did not even address Rebekah (with the question of betrothal) but went right to Laban and Bethuel.]

6And Abraham said unto him, Beware thou that thou bring not my son thither again.

[Thus Isaac was not to go down to 'be evaluated'.]

7The LORD God of heaven, which took me from my father's house, and from the land of my kindred, and which spake unto me, and that sware unto me, saying, Unto thy seed will I give this land; he shall send his angel before thee, and thou shalt take a wife unto my son from thence.

[So God would provide. Yet Abraham and the servant both had to do their bit.]

8And if the woman will not be willing to follow thee, then thou shalt be clear from this my oath: only bring not my son thither again. 9And the servant put his hand under the thigh of Abraham his master, and sware to him concerning that matter. 10And the servant took ten camels of the camels of his master, and departed; for all the goods of his master were in his hand: and he arose, and went to Mesopotamia, unto the city of Nahor. 11And he made his camels to kneel down without the city by a well of water at the time of the evening, even the time that women go out to draw water. 12And he said O LORD God of my master Abraham, I pray thee, send me good speed this day, and shew kindness unto my master Abraham. 13Behold, I stand here by the well of water; and the daughters of the men of the city come out to draw water: 14And let it come to pass, that the damsel to whom I shall say, Let down thy pitcher, I pray thee, that I may drink; and she shall say, Drink, and I will give thy camels drink also: let the same be she that thou hast appointed for thy servant Isaac; and thereby shall I know that thou hast shewed kindness unto my master. 15And it came to pass, before he had done speaking, that, behold, Rebekah came out, who was born to Bethuel, son of Milcah, the wife of Nahor, Abraham's brother, with her pitcher upon her shoulder. 16And the damsel was very fair to look upon, a virgin, neither had any man known her:

[You will notice that it was the narrator of the story, or perhaps the servant, who made this observation 'she was very fair to look on'... not Isaac. And the qualities that were added 'a virgin, neither had any man known her' are Biblical qualifcations for a proper marriage.]

and she went down to the well, and filled her pitcher, and came up. 17And the servant ran to meet her, and said, Let me, I pray thee, drink a little water of thy pitcher. 18And she said, Drink, my lord: and she hasted, and let down her pitcher upon her hand, and gave him drink. 19And when she had done giving him drink, she said, I will draw water for thy camels also, until they have done drinking. 20And she hasted, and emptied her pitcher into the trough, and ran again unto the well to draw water, and drew for all his camels. 21And the man wondering at her held his peace, to wit whether the LORD had made his journey prosperous or not. 22And it came to pass, as the camels had done drinking, that the man took a golden earring of half a shekel weight, and two bracelets for her hands of ten shekels weight of gold; 23And said, Whose daughter art thou? tell me, I pray thee: is there room in thy father's house for us to lodge in? 24And she said unto him, I am the daughter of Bethuel the son of Milcah, which she bare unto Nahor. 25She said moreover unto him, We have both straw and provender enough, and room to lodge in. 26And the man bowed down his head, and worshipped the LORD. 27And he said, Blessed be the LORD God of my master Abraham, who hath not left destitute my master of his mercy and his truth: I being in the way, the LORD led me to the house of my master's brethren. 28And the damsel ran, and told them of her mother's house these things. 29And Rebekah had a brother, and his name was Laban: and Laban ran out unto the man, unto the well. 30And it came to pass, when he saw the earring and bracelets upon his sister's hands, and when he heard the words of Rebekah his sister, saying, Thus spake the man unto me; that he came unto the man; and, behold, he stood by the camels at the well. 31And he said, Come in, thou blessed of the LORD; wherefore standest thou without? for I have prepared the house, and room for the camels. 32And the man came into the house: and he ungirded his camels, and gave straw and provender for the camels, and water to wash his feet, and the men's feet that were with him. 33And there was set meat before him to eat: but he said, I will not eat, until I have told mine errand.

[This could be read in two ways. The first was that this was typical oriental courtesy (the host must offer the meal first, the visitor must insist on business first). But the second is that this is an important issue. Too often we see fathers just kind of 'waiting' for betrothal 'to happen'. But here we see the servant taking the initiative, not even willing to eat until he had gotten Isaac betrothed.]

And he said, Speak on. 34And he said, I am Abraham's servant. 35And the LORD hath blessed my master greatly; and he is become great: and he hath given him flocks, and herds, and silver, and gold, and menservants, and maidservants, and camels, and asses. 36And Sarah my master's wife bare a son to my master when she was old: and unto him hath he given all that he hath. 37And my master made me swear, saying, Thou shalt not take a wife to my son of the daughters of the Canaanites, in whose land I dwell: 38But thou shalt go unto my father's house, and to my kindred, and take a wife unto my son. 39And I said unto my master, Peradventure the woman will not follow me. 40And he said unto me, The LORD, before whom I walk, will send his angel with thee, and prosper thy way; and thou shalt take a wife for my son of my kindred, and of my father's house: 41Then shalt thou be clear from this my oath, when thou comest to my kindred; and if they give not thee one, thou shalt be clear from my oath. 42And I came this day unto the well, and said, O LORD God of my master Abraham, if now thou do prosper my way which I go: 43Behold, I stand by the well of water; and it shall come to pass, that when the virgin cometh forth to draw water, and I say to her, Give me, I pray thee, a little water of thy pitcher to drink; 44And she say to me, Both drink thou, and I will also draw for thy camels: let the same be the woman whom the LORD hath appointed out for my master's son. 45And before I had done speaking in mine heart, behold, Rebekah came forth with her pitcher on her shoulder; and she went down unto the well, and drew water: and I said unto her, Let me drink, I pray thee. 46And she made haste, and let down her pitcher from her shoulder, and said, Drink, and I will give thy camels drink also: so I drank, and she made the camels drink also. 47And I asked her, and said, Whose daughter art thou? And she said, the daughter of Bethuel, Nahor's son, whom Milcah bare unto him: and I put the earring upon her face, and the bracelets upon her hands. 48And I bowed down my head, and worshipped the LORD, and blessed the LORD God of my master Abraham, which had led me in the right way to take my master's brother's daughter unto his son. 49And now if ye will deal kindly and truly with my master, tell me: and if not, tell me; that I may turn to the right hand, or to the left. 50Then Laban and Bethuel answered and said, The thing proceedeth from the LORD: we cannot speak unto thee bad or good. 51Behold, Rebekah is before thee, take her, and go, and let her be thy master's son's wife, as the LORD hath spoken.

[This is the point of betrothal. The question has been asked, and answered in the affirmative. No conditions (ie he must kill 100 Philistines, or give 40 shekels of gold, etc.) 'Take her... and let her be thy masters sons wife'. The servant, as the representative of of Abraham, the head of Isaac, made the offer.. and Bethuel, the head of Rebekah, accepted it. Any cancellation or abridgement after this point would have been a breach of covenant.]



52And it came to pass, that, when Abraham's servant heard their words, he worshiped the LORD, bowing himself to the earth. 53And the servant brought forth jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment, and gave them to Rebekah: he gave also to her brother and to her mother precious things.

[Here we see a betrothal gift, both to the girl (useful for her married life) and the parents, paying them back for the loss of someone that was obviously a very willing worker.]

54And they did eat and drink, he and the men that were with him, and tarried all night; and they rose up in the morning, and he said, Send me away unto my master. 55And her brother and her mother said, Let the damsel abide with us a few days, at the least ten; after that she shall go. 56And he said unto them, Hinder me not, seeing the LORD hath prospered my way; send me away that I may go to my master. 57And they said, We will call the damsel, and enquire at her mouth. 58And they called Rebekah, and said unto her, Wilt thou go with this man? And she said, I will go.


[Rebekah at this point acknowledges her new authority. Her mother and brother would rather that she stay for another 10 days. Abrahams servant (representing Abraham, and thus Isaac, her new head) insists that they she leave now. When asked she obeys Isaac, leaving behind her old authority and following her new.]

59And they sent away Rebekah their sister, and her nurse, and Abraham's servant, and his men. 60And they blessed Rebekah, and said unto her, Thou art our sister, be thou the mother of thousands of millions, and let thy seed possess the gate of those which hate them.

[This is the betrothal blessing. It illustrates several of the points we make: including marrying in your youth (else harder to be the mother of billions, eh? Multi-generational faithfulness, definition of marriage, role of family, etc.)]


61And Rebekah arose, and her damsels, and they rode upon the camels, and followed the man: and the servant took Rebekah, and went his way. 62And Isaac came from the way of the well Lahairoi; for he dwelt in the south country. 63And Isaac went out to meditate in the field at the eventide: and he lifted up his eyes, and saw, and, behold, the camels were coming. 64And Rebekah lifted up her eyes, and when she saw Isaac, she lighted off the camel. 65For she had said unto the servant, What man is this that walketh in the field to meet us? And the servant had said, It is my master: therefore she took a vail, and covered herself.

[This is a wonderful illustration of the dual facts that:
1) It is not supposed to be Isaac who chooses, but his father. She is still an 'unknown' to him.
2) There is not supposed to be any physical consummation/affection between them during the betrothal. It will be Isaac (see two notes down) who removes the veil.]

66And the servant told Isaac all things that he had done.

[Here it is that Isaac is told of the gift that his father has given him, including all of the events surrounding it. I can't imagine his feelings.]

67And Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah's tent, and took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her: and Isaac was comforted after his mother's death.

[In a polygamous society it is very common for each spouse to have their own tent/hut/room, and for the children to share the tent/etc before they are married. Thus when Sarah died Isaac would have continued in her tent. So on being told of his betrothal he took Rebekah into Sarahs tent, and consumated their marriage... probably in the same place where he himself was conceived. What symbolism. And here we see that 'love' follows marriage/consumation; instead of preceeding it.]





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