Abraham’s servant said: ‘I came today to the spring, and said, “O Lord, the God of my master Abraham, if now you will only make successful the way I am going! I am standing here by the spring of water; let the young woman who comes out to draw, to whom I shall say, ‘Please give me a little water from your jar to drink,’ and who will say to me, ‘Drink, and I will draw for your camels also’—let her be the woman whom the Lord has appointed for my master’s son.”
‘Before I had finished speaking in my heart, there was Rebekah coming out with her water-jar on her shoulder; and she went down to the spring, and drew. I said to her, “Please let me drink.” She quickly let down her jar from her shoulder, and said, “Drink, and I will also water your camels.” So I drank, and she also watered the camels. Then I asked her, “Whose daughter are you?” She said, “The daughter of Bethuel, Nahor’s son, whom Milcah bore to him.” So I put the ring on her nose, and the bracelets on her arms. Then I bowed my head and worshipped the Lord, and blessed the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who had led me by the right way to obtain the daughter of my master’s kinsman for his son. Now then, if you will deal loyally and truly with my master, tell me; and if not, tell me, so that I may turn either to the right hand or to the left.’
Then Laban and Bethuel answered, ‘The thing comes from the Lord; we cannot speak to you anything bad or good. Look, Rebekah is before you; take her and go, and let her be the wife of your master’s son, as the Lord has spoken.’
When Abraham’s servant heard their words, he bowed himself to the ground before the Lord. And the servant brought out jewellery of silver and of gold, and garments, and gave them to Rebekah; he also gave to her brother and to her mother costly ornaments. Then he and the men who were with him ate and drank, and they spent the night there. When they rose in the morning, he said, ‘Send me back to my master.’ Her brother and her mother said, ‘Let the girl remain with us a while, at least ten days; after that she may go.’ But he said to them, ‘Do not delay me, since the Lord has made my journey successful; let me go, that I may go to my master.’ They said, ‘We will call the girl, and ask her.’ And they called Rebekah, and said to her, ‘Will you go with this man?’ She said, ‘I will.’ So they sent away their sister Rebekah and her nurse along with Abraham’s servant and his men. And they blessed Rebekah and said to her,
‘May you, our sister, become
thousands of myriads;
may your offspring gain possession
of the gates of their foes.’
Then Rebekah and her maids rose up, mounted the camels, and followed the man; thus the servant took Rebekah, and went his way.
Now Isaac had come from Beer-lahai-roi, and was settled in the Negeb. Isaac went out in the evening to walk in the field; and looking up, he saw camels coming. And Rebekah looked up, and when she saw Isaac, she slipped quickly from the camel, and said to the servant, ‘Who is the man over there, walking in the field to meet us?’ The servant said, ‘It is my master.’ So she took her veil and covered herself. And the servant told Isaac all the things that he had done. Then Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent. He took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her. So Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.
Isaac is waiting for a wife. Everything depends on the safe return of his father’s servant from Haran, and on the success of his mission. Everything, that is, that God once promised Abraham: descendants as countless as the stars in the heavens.
But in this part of the story God no longer speaks so clearly. When Eliezer arrived in Haran, how was he to know where to start looking for a suitable bride to take back to Isaac? It seems that he had to take the initiative as he turned to this God who no longer speaks. And he decided – or somehow they decided together – that the first girl who came to the well and was willing to help water the camels (the sort of practical skill that Isaac might be hoping for in a wife) should be the chosen one.
Not only did Rebekah give Eliezer the sip of water that he asked for from her jar, but without prompting she offered to draw water for the camels – all ten of them. How many trips down to the water did that require? Eliezer noticed not only her warm and generous personality, but the fact that she was strikingly beautiful. And then it turned out that she was part of his master’s own family – granddaughter of Abraham’s brother Nahor.
It wasn’t just the jewels that she brought home from the stranger at the well that made the eyes of the men of the household light up. Hearing Eliezer’s story, the penny drops: “The thing comes from the Lord.” If God has been silent, it may be that there was nothing he needed to say. It is crystal clear that he has been behind this whole train of events, to the extent that Rebekah herself is ready to leave immediately, and begin her new life in the land of the promises.
And when Isaac, out in the fields mourning his mother, and soon to be mourning his father too, looks up and sees Rebekah, modestly veiling her face as she slips down from the camel, he too recognises God’s hand in all that has happened to bring them together. Yes, it is an arranged marriage; but not surprisingly we are told that Isaac took Rebekah, and loved her.
In this passage, we learn that we must accomplish God’s will, God’s way. God is going to work out His will, in His way, and in His time, but we must wait upon Him to accomplish it.
though your ways are often hidden from us
give us insight to recognise that you are at work in our lives
and prompt us to make the right decisions
that may further your purposes of good for all.
The Rev’d John Durell is a retired minister living in Durham in the Northern Synod.