Isaac Gets a Wife: Genesis 24

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“Today, we’re going to learn how Isaac, Abraham’s son, got a wife!”

“How romantic,” Ginny exclaimed. “Did he meet her at the market and ask her to dinner?”

“Don’t be silly,” chided John. “Abraham probably introduced them.”

“Ah, children, you’re both wrong,” said Shirlee. “It’s a much more interesting story than that! If you’ll all settle down, I can tell it to you.”

Sarah, Isaac’s mother, died and Abraham bought a field and a cave for a burying place for her body. (Genesis 23). Now, Abraham was very old, much past 100 years of age, and very wealthy. He called his oldest and most trusted slave, and told him to put his hand under his thigh to swear an oath.

“Under his thigh? Wait a minute, like, down there?” John suddenly looked very uncomfortable.

“Well, yes, John. That’s exactly what I mean. According to Talmudic tradition, when the Bible says that a man “put his hand under [another’s] thigh” to swear, it means that he took hold of the man’s . . . manhood,” explained Shirlee.

“That’s GROSS!” All the kids made faces. “Why would they do THAT? Were they perverts?”

“No, not at all. That’s just how they did things back then.”

“So,” Mark wondered, “Why don’t we do that now? You always say that the Bible is timeless, so if having some old slave grab his junk like an overzealous TSA agent was good enough for Abraham, why isn’t it good enough for us?” Mark figured he could fluster Sister Shirlee with his graphic language.

Shirlee hesitated, not sure what to say. “Well, Mark . . . I expect it’s because people aren’t as honorable as they were then. Nowadays, we have signed and notarized contracts instead, so there’s a witness. Would you want someone to witness you fondling another man’s privates while swearing an oath? Of course not! They’d think you were running Mark’s Happy Ending Massage Parlor, wouldn’t they?”

Mark blushed as the others laughed.

“Now, if I may continue?”

The children nodded.

In this late 17th Century Murillo painting, Rebekah offers water to Slave Guy.

Abraham had the slave lay hold of his willie and swear to go to Abraham’s relatives and find Isaac a wife, and bring her back with him. And Abraham agreed that if the relatives wouldn’t give up a wife for Isaac, the slave would be free of his oath.

So the slave took ten of Abraham’s camels and traveled to the city of Nahor, and stopped outside the city by a water well, at that time of the evening when the women would come out to draw water.

He prayed to God, asking for help in identifying the right girl for Isaac. “Look, God,” he said, “I’m standing here by this well, and the young girls are going to come out for water. So, when I ask a girl to let me drink from her pitcher, if she’s the one you want to marry Isaac, have her also offer to get water for these camels.” He’d barely finished his prayer when Rebekah came out of the city, a very beautiful virgin.

The slave ran to meet her and asked her for water; she gave him some, and then drew water for the camels.

“But I thought the ancient Jews were all about hospitality,” objected Ginny. “Wouldn’t that be the normal, expected thing for her to do?”

“Yes, but that doesn’t mean she’d do it,” Shirlee snapped. “Not everybody is as perfect as you, Ginny.”

“I’m just saying . . . sounds like she was only being polite.”

The slave then whipped out a golden earring and two big gold bracelets and put them on Rebekah, asking who she was and if there was room to stay at her father’s house. She said there was, and plenty of food and straw for the camels as well.

The slave thanked God for leading him to the right people, Abraham’s relatives!

“Why exactly would Abraham want his son to marry a relative, anyway? Wouldn’t that lead to inbreeding?” John, always the science fan, was testing Shirlee again. His fascination with “scientific inconsistency” in the Bible was always a challenge, but Shirlee’s faith was too strong for this smart aleck.

“If it happened today, maybe it would. After thousands of years, our DNA has become corrupted by sin. But back then, John, DNA was strong and not all mutilated by vice. Why, Lot fathered children with his own daughters, and those boys weren’t mongoloids!”

“How do you know? Does the Bible SAY they weren’t mongoloids?”

“It doesn’t have to! They fathered great nations! How could mongoloids father great nations? They couldn’t, that’s how! Now hush!”

Rebekah’s brother Laban, seeing the expensive jewelry, ran out to meet the slave.

“Doesn’t this slave have a name?” Ginny’s parents were real liberals, the ‘egalitarian’ types. “You just keep calling him ‘the slave’ like he was property or something, not a real person!”

Shirlee sighed. “Ginny, Karl Marx wasn’t born yet, and there was none of that ‘equality’ business. The slave WAS property. The Bible doesn’t say the slave’s name, or if he had a name, only that he was Abraham’s oldest slave. It doesn’t really matter what the slave’s name was, since the story’s not about him. And,” she added, shooting a glance at Mark, “it’s not about Abraham’s weiner, either!”

Laban invited the slave and his camels and his entourage into his home, and the slave told Laban of his oath, and his prayer, and how Rebekah had done just as the slave had prayed. Laban and his father, Bethuel, agreed that this surely was the will of God since the slave’s prayer had been so precisely answered, and that she certainly should go marry Isaac.

“Now hold on just a minute here!” John was snickering. “Slave-guy tells Laban and Bethuel, ‘I prayed this thing, and then this thing happened’, and because of that, they believe it’s divine intervention?”

“Of course, John. What else could it mean?” Shirlee knew John was trying to test her faith again with his ‘logic’.

“So if you lent me a dollar, and I then told you that I’d prayed for a sign and the sign would be you lending me a dollar, you’d believe me? You wouldn’t think that I maybe made up the prayer, which nobody had witnessed, after you lent me the dollar?”

“John, these were men of God. They wouldn’t lie about such things. People were more honorable then.”

“Shirlee, Slave Guy was a piece of property under oath to bring a girl home for Isaac. You don’t think he’d do whatever he had to do, to accomplish his assignment?”

“Who knows, John. But the Bible says he prayed first and then Rebekah came out just as he prayed, so it must be true.”

Rebekah rides a camel to Isaac in this 1898 Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld woodcut.

The men celebrated by staying up late eating and drinking. In the morning, Slave Guy asked to leave with Rebekah and take her to Isaac. After some negotiation over whether she should leave right then or in a few days, they asked Rebekah, who agreed to go immediately. So Rebekah and her nurse and her slave girls went with Slave Guy to Abraham’s camp.

That evening, Isaac went to meditate in the field, and saw the camels coming. Rebekah, seeing him and learning from Slave Guy who Isaac was, covered herself with a veil. Slave Guy told Isaac all that had happened, and Isaac took Rebekah into his dead mother’s tent and she became his wife.

Ginny looked puzzled. “She became his wife by going into the tent? Did they have a wedding ceremony in the tent?”

“No, dear. She became his wife by . . . er, consummating the marriage in the tent.”

“So why’d she put the veil on, if Isaac was just going to take it right off and >censored< her two verses later?" Mark laughed. "Doesn't that seem silly? Why didn't she just strip for him, let him see the goods?" "She was being modest, so Isaac wouldn't think her a harlot. Modesty was very important back then." "This veil, was it like a burqa?" Ginny's obsession with all things Islamic was surfacing again. "No, dear. Not at all like a burqa. Just a veil to cover her face and hair." "A hijab, then?" "NO! Just a veil to cover her face and hair! There was no such thing as a hijab then, Satan hadn't created Muslims yet!" "Oh. So . . ." Ginny paused, about to explain exactly what a hijab is, then changed the subject. “What lesson were we supposed to learn from this story again?”

“The lesson from this Bible story is that God means for particular people to marry other particular people, and that He will make it happen if it’s meant to be. So don’t go handing out your virginity to the first randy tomcat who comes along, because there could be a rich and powerful man’s son waiting to find you!”

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