« ElőzőTovább »
and her maids. Isaac brought his wife into the tent before inhabited by his mother; and the love of the former consoled him for the death of the latter.
1. And Abraham was old, and advanced in years: and the Lord had blessed Abraham in all things. 2. And Abraham said to his eldest servant of his house, who ruled over all that he had, Put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh: 3. And I will make thee swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and the God of the earth, that thou wilt not take a wife to my son of the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell: 4. But thou shalt go to my country, and to the land of my birth, and take a wife to my son, to Isaac. 5. And the servant said to him, Perhaps the woman may not be willing to follow me to this land : shall I then indeed bring thy son again to the land from
1. Bereaved of the wife of his youth, conscience of man, by the sign of covenant Abraham felt that his life was hastening between God and the chosen family (xvii. to its goal; he had attained the 140th 10,11), and made him swear by the nameof year (xxv. 20); and his strength showed “the Lord, the God of heaven and the God symptoms of decline; he had “ become of earth,” that he would not take for his old and laden with years”; he had reached son a wife from the daughters of the double the age later allotted to man, and Canaanites. Th he had lived in their at the approach of which the most glo- land for half a century, he still regarded rious of his descendants experienced the himself as a stranger; he abominated same infirmities (1 Kings i. 1). But the their vices; and would never endanger patriarch had not struggled in vain. He the future of his race by associating with could look back upon a career, obstructed tribes doomed to perdition by their own indeed, and complicated, but marked out perverseness. He could hope that the by the wisdom of God, and performed members of his own family would be with the aid of His love. “He was blessed more accessible to the truths of his new with all things.”
faith, or would at least not impede its pro2–9. But the most precious treasure gress; they seemed, indeed, to have spontahe possessed was his son, He loved him neously shown a tendency towards it by not only with the affection of a father, but their emigration from Ur of the Chaldees with the purity of a prophet; the human and their settlement in Haran, where they feelings were heightened by a spiritual were less exposed to the contagious ininterest; he saw in Isaac not only his son, fluences of idolatry, where Terah had but the son of Divine promise; not only lived and died, and where Abraham himthe propagator of his name, but the me- self had for some time sojourned. Though dium by which the name of God the family of Nahor had not renounced the should become the light of mankind. false gods, they were ready to acknowWhen, therefore, Isaac had reached his ledge the true one when they saw His fortieth year, and had been declared the working and His miracles. Bethuel and heir of the house (ver. 36), he wished to Laban did not deny that God had guided secure for him a wife worthy of being the steps of the steward (ver. 51); far connected with his great destination. He from opposing His will, they submitted pledged his faithful steward by the holiest to it with reverence and cheerfulness oath which at that time could bind the (ver. 52).
The descendants of Terah
where thou camest? 6. And Abraham said to him, Beware that thou dost not bring my son thither again. 7. The Lord God of heaven, who took me from my father's house, and from the land of my birth, and who spoke to me, and who swore to me, saying, To thy seed I shall give this land, He will send His angel before thee, and thou shalt take a wife to my son from there. 8. And if the woman is not willing to follow thee, then thou shalt be clear from this my oath: only bring not my son thither again.-9. And the servant put his hand under the thigh of Abraham his master, and swore to him con. cerning that matter.—10. And the servant took ten camels
belonged to the blessed branch of the Shemites; the germ of truth slumbered in them; and it required but the genial influence of example and instruction to bring it into blossom. - Abraham was decided and absolute in his command; but this firmness was not the result of fear but of faith. When, therefore, the steward objected the possibility that no virgin might be found willing to leave her native country, and asked whether, in such emergency, he might go back with Isaac to Mesopotamia: the patriarch replied with a power and a fervour which indicated his carnestness, and he interdicted any such step in the most emphatic manner (ver. 6). But though moved, he was not agitated; he preserved his usual composure; he had inclosed his hopes in his innermost heart; his reliance in the Divine promises was unshaken; he was certain that the servant's journey would be successful; and that the same power which had turned his own heart to forsake his country and his friends, would work the same effect on another mind also. God had not only promised, but sworn to him, that his posterity should inherit the land of Canaan; the “God of heaven" would send “His angel" to assist the messenger in his design; and He had not rescued his son from death on Mount Moriah to let him perish without progeny. The patriarch commanded, therefore, his servant to return to Canaan without a wife
for Isaac, if none should consent to follow him; he released him, in such case, from his oath and from every obligation; for he was certain, that God, who had blessed him with a son in his old age against all precedent and probability, would fulfil His decrees, even if he him. self saw no natural ways. The life of Abraham was so extraordinary that he almost constantly required the wings of faith; but faith had become his element, and the very sphere in which he moved and lived.
10. The steward having, in the solemn form demanded by Abraham, sworn the most scrupulous adherence to his wishes, entered at once upon his distant journey, The fullest confidence was placed in him by his master; for he was the “eldest ser. vant of his house"; he had unlimited disposal over all domestic affairs; he was initiated in every property, and was responsible for its safety. Such stewards were appointed in all greater households, and especially in the royal palaces; they frequently represented, and sometimes succeeded, their masters; they enjoyed a degree of freedom and authority which almost raised them above the rank of subordinates; and they generally repaid this generous confidence by an ex. emplary faithfulness.
The servant certainly travelled with a respectable caravan; ten camels were required for himself, his companions, and the numerous
of the camels of his master, and departed; and every precious property of his master was in his hand: and he rose, and went to Mesopotamia, to the city of Nahor. 11. And he made his camels kneel down without the city by a well of water at the time of the evening, at the time when the women come out to draw water. 12. And he said, Oh Lord God of my master Abraham, I pray Thee, send me good speed this day, and show kindness to my master Abrahain. 13. Behold, I stand here by the well of water; and the daughters of the men of the city come out to draw water: 14. And let it be, that the maiden to whom I shall say, Let down thy pitcher, I pray thee, that I may
presents which he took with him for the future bride and her relations; thus furnished with every good and precious object that might appear worthy the representative of a wealthy emir, he journeyed eastward to that part of “Aramæa which lies between the two rivers,” Euphrates and Tigris; nor did he tarry or rest till he arrived in sight of the town which he had selected as the first place to execute his commission (comp. ver. 49). It appears, that Nahor, Abraham's brother, had later followed his father Terah from Ur of the Chaldees to Haran or Carrhæ (see p.203), perhaps at the time when Abraham left Mesopotamia, and the aged father desired to have near him at least one of his children; for Haran, his third son, had died before him. Abraham had, after his arrival in Canaan, remained in communication with his relatives; therefore, the steward directed his steps at once to the “town of Nahor," or to Carrhæ, as Jacob did a considerable time later.
11–14. The servant had, in Abra. ham's house, passed his years in a school of piety. He had seen, that
every action of life was coloured by faith; that every event was regarded as the result of Divine wisdom; that blind chance or necessity were nowhere acknowledged. He felt, therefore, that but one line of conduct was possible to him. Considering himself as a mere instrumentof Providence, he committed the success of his undertaking entirely
to the willof God, convinced that prudence may indeed devise, and perseverance pursue plans; but that human exertion is in vain without the blessing and protection of God. He, therefore, certainly acted with a premeditated design; he halted before the town, at the principal well belonging to it, a place where the daughters of the inhabitants generally assembled, and whither their duties called them at certain times of the day. Even the daughters of the chiefs seldom fail to appear there with their vessels; the well or cistern is for the females what the gate is for the men; here they indulge in friendly conversation and exchange their news; here they are, for a short interval, released from much of their usual oriental restraint; and since shepherds also repair hither to water their flocks and herds, it serves, in many cases, as a convenient place for meetings and appointments, and may, in others, be the scene of strife, where old feuds and enmities are brought to an issue. Cisterns were generally closed with a large, heavy stone, which was removed by the united strength of the shepherds (xxix. 8); while excavated wells were made more easily accessible by steps leading down to them. The place where the following event happened, seeins to have belonged to the latter description (ver.16).
But how could the messenger know the maidens who belonged to the family of Terah? And how could helearn their character
drink; and who will then say, Drink, and I shall give water to thy camels also: let her be she whom Thou hast appointed for Thy servant, for Isaac; and thereby I shall know that Thou hast shown kindness to my master.—15. And it happened, before he had finished speaking, that, behold, Rebekah came out, who was born to Bethuel, the son of Milcah, the wife of Nahor, Abraham's brother, with her pitcher upon her shoulder. 16. And the maiden was very beautiful in appearance, a virgin, and a man had not known her: and she descended to the well, and filled her pitcher, and came up.
17. And the servant ran to meet her, and said, Let me, I pray thee, taste a little water of
and disposition, the qualities of their hearts and minds? Except by the assistance of God, he felt, it was impossible for him to ascertain in one interview what ordinarily requires a long and searching examination, and to be sure to bring home to his master a wife able to bestow and to enjoy happiness. He, therefore, turned his thoughts to the God of his master Abraham, and prayed that “He might send him good speed," or that “He might let him find” a wife worthy of Isaac; he asked this as another mark of Divine mercy, and another miracle. He determined to be guided by a kind of oracle, and asked the interposition of God, that He might put into the mouth of the chosen virgin a certain answer to a certain question. She should excel in a virtue, possessing indeed a wide scope, and regarded, by the Orientals, as one of the chief characteristics of a noble mind. Ready civility towards a stranger is generally the result of a generous feeling. It is a service done to a helpless fellow-man, both without an obligation as the motive, and without hope of compensation as the end. But in countries where hospitality belongs to the ordinary duties, and where it is invested with the character of a religious observance, it easily becomes a mere matter of form; it is converted into cold politeness, preserving much of the busy officiousness, without the genuine warmth, of the original virtue. The prudcnt messenger
determined, therefore, to try the depth and spontaneous kindness of the maiden's heart: if she not merely complied with the request made to her, but, from her own accord, volunteered another and still greater service, he could safely draw the conclusion, that the feeling of love was with her, not simply the reflex of national customs, but the invisible sun beaming through her mind, and freely bringing forward the blossoms of sterling goodness.
15—27. Scarcely had the scheme been formed in the steward's mind, when it began to progress towards realization. A maiden approached unveiled, strikingly beautiful, with the bloom of innocence in her countenance. Quickly and actively she performed her task; “she went down to the well, filled her pitcher, and ascended." The watchful servant's attention was at once riveted upon her; and he hastened to address to her the decisive request. Her answer was more than barely satisfactory. She expressed herself with an emphasis proving the genial glow of her mind. “I will draw water for thy camels also," she said, " till they have finished drinking." She felt a delight in the performance of the task. Round the margin of the castern wells are watering troughs, or gutters, generally of stone, which are filled with water when animals are led thither to drink. The virgin emptied the pitcher without delay into the gutters, hastened again down
thy pitcher. 18. And she said, Drink, my lord: and she hastened and let down her pitcher upon her hand, and gave him to drink. 19. And when she had finished giving him to drink, she said, I shall draw water for thy camels also, until they have finished drinking. 20. And she hastened, and emptied her pitcher into the trough, and ran again to the well to draw water, and drew for all his camels. 21. And the man was wondering at her in silence, to know whether the Lord had made his journey successful or not. 22. And when the camels had finished drinking, the man took a golden ear-ring a beka in weight, and two bracelets for her hands of ten shekels' weight of
to the well to fetch more water, and rested not before all the camels had drunk to satisfaction. If it is remembered that camels, though endowed in an almost marvellous degree with the power of enduring thirst, drink, when an opportunity offers, an enormous quantity of water, it will be acknowledged that the trouble to which the maiden cheerfully submitted required more than ordinary patience. The steward was deeply affected; he saw his plans advance with unexpected rapidity; the girl was not only beautiful in appearance, but active, kind-hearted, and obliging; she had completely fulfilled the oracle which he had proposed to himself: but he had forgotten one important considertion. It could not, so it occurred to him, be his master's wish to have a wife from the land, but from the family of his father; Mesopotamia was inhabited by many tribes, which descended, like the Canaanites themselves, from Ham; and which, like the latter, showed no disposition to adopt a purer religion; and Terah and his family lived in Haran only as strangers and immigrants. The messenger was, therefore, still" wondering at her in silence, to know whether the Lord had made his journey successful or not” (ver. 21). His heart was, indeed, filled with hope; and he took, therefore, from his treasures rich golden trinkets intended for presents; but only when he heard from her own lips
that she was Rebekah, the daughter of Bethuel, and the grand-child of Abraham's brother, Nahor; he was certain that he had obtained the end of his mission; he gave to her the presents; and broke forth into a fervent expression of gratitude towards the God of Abraham, who had shown him “His mercy and His truth," and had so manifestly guided his steps.
Who will not dwell, with unmingled delight, upon the pleasing picture which our text draws of the faithful messenger's character? Meek and humble, he had imbibed many of the virtues which distinguished the patriarch himself; we admire the beautiful harmony of his mind and his heart; the placid dignity of his conduct; the manly energy tempered by prudence; and the confiding faith strengthened by reflection. The independent position which he enjoyed in Abraham's house, rendered this remarkable development of his character possible; and the Mosaic laws concerning servitude, were designed to preserve the servants fit to return into society as useful citizens. But “the God of heaven and of earth,” on whom the patriarch relied (vers. 3, 7) was, to the steward, only the “God of his master Abraham"; the one ! felt and understood God, the other acknowledged merely His power; the one was convinced by revelations and visions, the other was awed by miracles and signs.