Genesis 24:1-67

 63 And Isaac went out to meditate in the field toward evening. And he lifted up his eyes and saw, and behold, there were camels coming. 64 And Rebekah lifted up her eyes, and when she saw Isaac, she dismounted from the camel 65 and said to the servant, “Who is that man, walking in the field to meet us?” The servant said, “It is my master.” So she took her veil and covered herself. 66 And the servant told Isaac all the things that he had done. 67 Then Isaac brought her into the tent of Sarah his mother and took Rebekah, and she became his wife, and he loved her. So Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death. [1]

Sarah’s death and burial in the cave of Machpelah in the heart of the Promised Land was Abraham’s prophetic acting out of God’s promise that Abraham’s descendants would one day inhabit the land of Canaan. Machpelah would become the gravesite for all the patriarchs as they added their testimony of trust to that of Father Abraham. With Sarah’s death, the narrator begins to shift the focus away from Abraham to Isaac. This section records Abraham’s last words as he announces his trust into God’s providence for Isaac. It is the longest chapter in Genesis (67 verses) and the second longest episode behind the flood (3 chapters; 75 verses).

More than a feel-good love story, the passage finds its fulfillment in the New Testament. Since Isaac is a type of Christ, we find parallels “between the story of Isaac’s search for a bride, through the ministry of his father’s entrusted servant, and the sending forth of the Holy Spirit to take out of the Gentiles a people for his name (Acts 15:14), a bride for Christ (2 Cor. 11:2).”[2] In addition to its New Testament symbolism is Abraham’s care for preservation of the line of the Promised Seed. The bride would be the mother of a multitude of nations as God had promised. Abraham saw this as such an important task, he made his unnamed servant (hereinafter, “St Servant”) swear in a deeply personal way. The faithful St Servant is the main human character of the story.

And Abraham said to his servant, the oldest of his household, who had charge of all that he had, “Put your hand under my thigh, that I may make you swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and God of the earth, that you will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell, but will go to my country and to my kindred, and take a wife for my son Isaac.[3] Placing his hand “under the thigh” is “a euphemism for genitalia (Gen. 46:26; Ex. 1:5; Judg. 8:30). When facing death, the patriarchs secure their last will by an oath at the source of life (see Gen. 47:29; Jacob-Israel made Joseph take this kind of oath).”[4] It may have had some connection with circumcision as the sign and seal of God’s covenant. If so, the oath invoked God’s covenant power and presence.

Abraham’s first concern was that Isaac’s spouse not be a Canaanite. Noah had cursed the line of Canaan (9:25) and Father Abraham sets the bar for all the patriarchs to come to choose their wives from the blessed Semites (9:24–27; 15:16; 18:18–19; Deut. 7:1–4). Just as Ishmael could not be the promised seed since his mother was Egyptian, Isaac cannot marry into a cursed line to carry on the Promised Seed’s lineage during this early stage of salvation history. His second concern was that Isaac must remain in the Promised Land as the living testimony to God’s covenant.

The servant said to him, “Perhaps the woman may not be willing to follow me to this land. Must I then take your son back to the land from which you came?” Abraham said to him, “See to it that you do not take my son back there.[5] When St Servant suggested Isaac travel with him, Abraham refused. What bride would be willing to marry a man from a distant land sight unseen? St Servant’s reasoning was sound. But Abraham’s trust in God demanded his chosen son remain in Canaan. As Christ the Promised Seed, remains in heaven as the first fruit of our resurrection into the new and eternal land, so Isaac remained in Canaan.

Abraham reasoned, “The Lord, the God of heaven, who took me from my father’s house and from the land of my kindred, and who spoke to me and swore to me, ‘To your offspring I will give this land,’ he will send his angel before you, and you shall take a wife for my son from there.[6] This is the prophet’s last great testimony of faith. Abraham speaks no more in Scripture after this exchange. This was Abraham’s mature faith: God’s hand may be unseen, but it is always powerful to accomplish his purposes. And Isaac never once left the Land in his entire life, not even when famine broke out (26:2ff.). That was Isaac’s testimony of trust into God’s promises.

There are no miracles in this story, not as we are inclined to define the word “miracle.” There are no rivers stopped up, no seas parting, no physical healings. Nevertheless, God’s sovereign control of all things is written large across this story. God will use the ordinary means of life (delays, stresses, chance meetings, disagreements) to bring a bride for the chosen seed. God the Spirit works in the ordinary things to bring about extraordinary results.

He works this way every Lord’s Day through his Word preached, prayed, sung, and portrayed in the sacraments. He worked that way in the events of this text through the faith of Abraham, Isaac, St Servant, and Rebekah. No human is ever in the grip of blind forces such as chance, fortune, fate, or luck. Everything that happens to everyone is divinely planned. Each event is an opportunity for unbelievers (like Nahor’s moon-worshipping family) to repent and trust God. Or, it’s a call to believers to trust into, obey, rest, and rejoice over God’s rule of us in his covenant loyalty love.

We readers have the advantage of knowing what happens in this twice-told story before the characters do. We get to observe God’s providence by sight while they must observe it by faith. The position of this story at the end of Abraham’s life makes it not a love story between Isaac and Rebekah, but a love story between God and his people. The word chessed, covenant faithfulness or loyalty love, is repeated several times to describe God’s working (vv. 12, 14, 26-27). As R. Kent Hughes writes:

this is the way God works day in and day out in our lives. Such a God, of course, is great beyond our imaginings because he maintains all of life, involves himself in all events, and directs all things to their appointed end while rarely interrupting the natural order of life.[7]

Think about that. God doesn’t occasionally show up and sprinkle some miraculous power on some event to change the course of things when he feels like it or when we perform a certain act or pray a certain prayer. That’s the way the demon idol-gods work. That’s why the Canaanites sacrificed human beings – give something important to get something important. Many Christians treat the God of Scripture like that.

But here in this chapter we see a much, much greater God who arranges absolutely everyone and absolutely EVRYTHING to suit his providence. That makes ALL OF LIFE A MIRACLE! God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-controlling. Any other ideas about deity are human inventions of demonic origin. St Servant understood that because he had been taught by God’s prophet, Abraham. If this trusted man was Eliezer of Damascus, then he had actually been Abraham’s heir before being displaced by Isaac. Yet, like John the Baptizer would say of Christ, the Promised Seed, “He must increase, but I must decrease.[8] St Servant was a man who rested in the total sovereignty of God.


He was, however, no quietist. He acted, trusting his action was in God’s providence. “10 Then the servant took ten of his master’s camels and departed, taking all sorts of choice gifts from his master; and he arose and went to Mesopotamia to the city of Nahor.[9] This verse contains at least a 1,000-mile journey by camel caravan. It would be, humanly speaking, a dangerous journey since the camels themselves were the Lamborghini Veneno ($4.5M) of their day. The ten camels were packing great wealth for the bride price St Servant would pay if he met a suitable wife for Isaac. They would be a juicy target for robbers. St Servant and his band of fellow slaves trekked for many months to reach Nahor’s city. The timeline for this story would be at least a year, perhaps more.

St Servant and company finally arrived and positioned himself and his camels by the city well. God has protected them on their journey. Now, he required wisdom for his task. He is the first person in scripture recorded as seeking divine guidance. 12 And he said, “O Lord, God of my master Abraham, please grant me success today and show steadfast love to my master Abraham. 13 Behold, I am standing by the spring of water, and the daughters of the men of the city are coming out to draw water. 14 Let the young woman to whom I shall say, ‘Please let down your jar that I may drink,’ and who shall say, ‘Drink, and I will water your camels’—let her be the one whom you have appointed for your servant Isaac. By this I shall know that you have shown steadfast love to my master.” [10] St Servant will later describe his prayer as spontaneous (v. 45, “in my heart”).

Wells in Genesis are connected with marriage, not only because of this scene in the city of Nahor, but also because Jacob meets Rachel at a well (29:1-11). Isaac has just returned from Hagar’s well when he meets Rebekah. So, in John 4, when Jesus meets the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well, the woman is typical of the “Bride of Christ.” She’s unfaithful, condemned under the Law, yet forgiven and received by the Promised Seed.

St Servant, remarkably, didn’t ask for a miraculous sign from God. “…prayer is no substitute for action. This servant prayed and worked at the same time, for he knew that prayer is given not to make work unnecessary but to make it effective.”[11] He didn’t ask for God to suspend natural law. He asked God to work in the context of his situation to reveal the character of any woman with whom he came into contact. A woman who would volunteer not only water for St Servant, but also for his 10 camels, would be both kind and industrious. The servant is not “setting out a fleece” as Gideon would later do (1 Sam. 6:7-9), asking for a sign that goes against natural law.

What St Servant asks is in the realm of the reasonable: a strong, virtuous, compassionate, attractive woman of Nahor’s clan. She must not only be willing to serve St Servant and, likely his men, but she must be willing to go the extra mile. Note how Moses frames the narrative: “15 Before he had finished speaking, behold, Rebekah, who was born to Bethuel the son of Milcah, the wife of Nahor, Abraham’s brother, came out with her water jar on her shoulder.[12] Rebekah appeared before St Servant had even finished praying. It was as Isaiah would later sing: “Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear.[13]

True to answer St Servant’s prayer, in covenant loyalty, God moves Rebekah to water the camels also. Ancient wells were deep holes with steps carved into the sides leading down to a spring (vv. 1-16, “she went down… and came up”). Drawing water required a person to walk down the steps, bend over, fill a jar of up to three gallons, put it on one’s shoulder, and carry it back up to street level again. A camel would typically drink about 25 gallons of water assuming they had not been watered in a few days. Of course, the caravan would have been following close to a river along their journey. But, if the camels were thirsty, Rebekah would have made at least 80 trips down and up the well to water 10 camels who typically take about 10 minutes to drink their fill. Rebekah would have worked at least an hour and a half at this job.[14] In four short verses (Gen. 24:16, 18–20) Rebekah is the subject of eleven verbs of action and one of speech.[15]

St Servant’s heart must have been pounding as he watched this woman labor away without any expectation of reward. St Servant “took a gold ring weighing a half shekel, and two bracelets for her arms weighing ten gold shekels, 23 and said, ‘Please tell me whose daughter you are. Is there room in your father’s house for us to spend the night?” 24 She said to him, “I am the daughter of Bethuel the son of Milcah, whom she bore to Nahor.’[16] St Servant began to worship God for his faithful provision even before he confirmed Rebekah’s lineage because he trusted that if God had answered his prayer so specifically, this woman must be from the blessed line of Shem. Before he even asked after her relatives, he presented her with extravagant bridal gifts of a gold nose ring and two gold bracelets. She, a mere daughter of the household, offers her family’s home and food for the traveler (presumably, his men also) and his camels.

It turns out St Servant is much like we are. He was surprised that God answered his prayer. God’s covenant loyalty love to weak and helpless sinners ought to be always source of worship for us. “26 The man bowed his head and worshiped the Lord 27 and said, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who has not forsaken his steadfast love and his faithfulness toward my master. As for me, the Lord has led me in the way to the house of my master’s kinsmen.[17] The Apostle Paul praised God for being “able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us.[18]


Rebekah ran off to her home to tell her family of this encounter with a servant of Great Uncle Abraham. Seeing her expensive jewelry and hearing of a man with 10 treasure-bearing camels, Laban runs back to the well to receive St Servant. “Laban” means “white one,” a poetic term for the moon-god, Nanna who was worshipped in Ur (lower Mesopotamia) and Haran (upper Mesopotamia). Even though this family is a part of the blessed line of Shem, they are still pagans. Only Rebekah is of the elect in this generation of Nahor’s descendants. Her older brother is the same Laban who will later deceive Isaac and Rebekah’s son Jacob when Jacob came to him seeking Rachel’s hand in marriage.

It seems Laban loved both money and power. He, not his father, is the one who acts on behalf of the family in our scene. His materialism is on display in verses 29-33 as he rushes out to meet the wealthy servant and bring him back to the family compound to lavish the family’s hospitality on Abraham’s servants and livestock. But St Servant would not eat until he had told his story, gained Rebekah, and paid over the extravagant bride price.

“The rehearsal of the story may be tedious to our western ears, but by ancient conventions it was essential. And as the servant told the story, recorded in verses 34-49, he repeated the central points of the narrative while adding and subtracting minor points to maximize the effect on Laban and his father Bethuel. His purpose was, of course, to convince them of God’s providential guidance so that they would consent to sending Rebekah to Isaac.”[19]

St Servant’s story was well-told and effective. “50 Then Laban and Bethuel answered and said, ‘The thing has come from the Lord; we cannot speak to you bad or good. 51 Behold, Rebekah is before you; take her and go, and let her be the wife of your master’s son, as the Lord has spoken.’[20] Even shifty Laban could not argue against the clear providence of God. The lavish bride price was paid and received. But when morning came, Laban and his mother were seeking to amend the contract. It was not outside of the customs of the day for a bride to wait up to a year to enter her husband’s home (recall Lot’s engaged daughters). Perhaps St Servant was shrewd enough to have size up Laban and foreseen an attempt to wring more wealth out of Abraham. Regardless, St Servant recognized the urgency of his mission and knew there were several more months of hard travel back to the Promised Land ahead of him.

Of course, the attempted delay was part of God’s providence. It provided an opportunity for Rebekah to publicly profess her trust into the God of Abraham and Isaac. “58 And they called Rebekah and said to her, “Will you go with this man?” She said, “I will go.” 59 So they sent away Rebekah their sister and her nurse, and Abraham’s servant and his men.[21] Young Rebekah, who has likely never left this city and never been away from her family, is called out from her pagan home to go to a land over 1,000 miles away that she does not know and marry a man she has never seen. This is a reenactment of Abraham’s call from Ur. It certainly doesn’t hurt that the groom is the sole heir of great wealth. Nevertheless, it’s St Servants testimony about the nature and character of Abraham’s God that ultimately moves both her and her family. She becomes the Mother of Israel entering the Promised Land to marry the promised seed.

Rebekah is sent away with a family blessing. “Our sister, may you become /thousands of ten thousands, /and may your offspring possess /the gate of those who hate him![22] This is a parallel blessing to the one God pronounced upon Abraham after offering Isaac (22:17): “I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies….”[23] Abraham’s relatives pronounce upon Isaac and Rebekah the same blessing Abraham himself had received from the Angel of the Lord. It’s similar to Noah’s blessing of Shem and Japheth (9:26-27). This is a very different departure from Laban’s household than Jacob will undertake with the cover of darkness in chapter 31.

MARRIAGE (61-67)

The absence of any mention of Abraham in the last six verses as St Servant and Rebekah reach Isaac may indicate that Abraham is already dead. St Servant referred to Isaac as “my master” (v. 64). Interestingly, Moses records no dialogue between Isaac and Rebekah. Only St Servant speaks at length with Isaac, recounting the amazing love story of God’s faithfulness and loyalty love. The emphasis of this first meeting between the chosen bride and groom is how God has brought them together. The marriage is immediate – no ceremony, no waiting, no extended formalities other than her putting on the bridal veil when she sees him out walking in a field near the well.

As I mentioned at the beginning, this story is a picture of how we become the Bride of Christ. Rebekah is a type of the church. She was thought of before she knew it and was chosen when she did not know of the existence of her bridegroom. So it has been with us, for we were chosen in Christ “before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4). Isaac passed through his experience of sacrifice and resurrection before Rebekah knew him. The faithful servant left home to find her when she was still ignorant of Isaac’s existence. And when the servant found her, he initiated a contact and then induced her to come with him, not for himself, but for his absent master. This is how the Holy Spirit sought us and drew us to Jesus. As we travel through this life, he prepares us for when we will see Jesus face to face, much as St Servant of Abraham may have used the return trip to the Negeb to prepare Rebekah to love and live with Isaac.[24]

The God whose covenant loyalty love is celebrated in this story has total control over all things. He controls history, the future, the world and all that is within it, and all individual lives. The lesson of Isaac and Rebekah’s story is not that we set out the terms for God to fulfill his will. Rather, it is that we acknowledge who God is and depend entirely upon him to make our paths straight (Prov. 3:5,6). Our lives are not ruled by chance or fate or our own wants, wills, or demands. Our lives are ruled entirely by God.

God is always faithful to act in loyalty love toward those who trust into the perfectly lived life and sacrificial death of the risen and ascended Promised Seed, the Lord Jesus Christ. He is always faithful to us. Our challenge is, by his Spirit, to be faithful to him. But, take heart; our faithfulness is NOT a condition of his faithfulness. Later in Genesis, we will see how Isaac and Rebekah plot and scheme against one another in utter faithlessness. Even when we are faithless, he remains faithful for the sake of the perfect work of his Promised Seed.


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ge 24:63–67.

[2] Boice, 2:717.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ge 24:2–4.

[4] Waltke and Fredricks, 327.

[5] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ge 24:5–6.

[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ge 24:7.

[7] Hughes, 316. Kindle Edition.

[8] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Jn 3:30.

[9] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ge 24:10.

[10] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ge 24:12–14.

[11] Boice, 2:719.

[12] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ge 24:15.

[13] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Is 65:24.

[14] Hughes, 318. Kindle Edition.

[15] Hamilton, 2:147.

[16] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ge 24:22–24.

[17] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ge 24:26–27.

[18] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Eph 3:20.

[19] Hughes, 319. Kindle Edition.

[20] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ge 24:50–51.

[21] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ge 24:58–59.

[22] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ge 24:60.

[23] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ge 22:17.

[24] Boice, 2:721–722.