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gold: 23. And said, Whose daughter art thou ? tell me, 1
pray thee: is there room in thy father's house for us to stay in? 24. And she said to him, I am the daughter of Bethuel, the son of Milcah, whom she bore to Nahor. 25. And she said to him, We have both straw and
provender enough, and room to stay in.
26. And the man bowed down, and prostrated himself to the Lord. 27. And he said, Blessed be the Lord God of my master Abraham, who hath not left destitute my master of His mercy and His truth: the Lord hath led me in the way to the house of my master's kinsmen.-28. And the maiden ran, and told these things in her mother's house. 29. And Rebekah had a brother, and his name was Laban: and Laban ran out to the man, to the well. 30. And when
Golden trinkets were abundantly used among most of the Asiatic nations from early times; and those which Abraham's servant offered to Rebekah (ver. 22) belong to the most common ornaments. The nose-ring chiefly, though not exclusively, worn by men, and applied by American tribes also, is inserted in the cartilage of the nose, either in the middle or in one side; it is often of considerable size, reaches generally beneath the mouth, and not always contributes to enhance the beauty of the face. It is here stated as having the weight of a beka which is half a shekel, or a Greek drachm. The nose-rings worn at present by the Oriental women are often of ivory, or of gold; they are hollow to render them less inconveniently heavy, and sometimes set with jewels, mostly a ruby between two pearls.-Bracelets are such favourite ornaments with Oriental ladies that they are not only worn by them in an unusual quan. tity, but are promised by Mohammed among the rewards of piety; sometimes the whole arm from the wrist of the hand to the elbow is covered with them; sometimes two or more are worn one above the other; and they are not unfrequently so heavy that they almost appear to be a burden to the fair owners; two of them are here stated to have weighed ten shekels of gold; cer
tainly a liberal present. Men also liked to adorn their wrist or upper arm with bracelets. On the Assyrian sculptures scarcely any person of wealth or station, or even any deity, appears without them. They were generally worn on one arm, and sometimes on both. Those who were unable to purchase gold or silver bracelets, contented themselves with procuring them of copper, ivory, horn, or glass. They were not always made with great skill or taste; they had not, in all cases, a lock; and often consisted merely of a large broad ring, through which the wearer forced the hand. The Egyptian bracelets, however, are in many instances, not without elegance; and those represented on the Assyrian monuments, or found in the excavations of Mesopotamia, are scarcely inferior to them either in taste or in costliness.
28-31. When Abraham's steward intimated his wish to stay in the house of Rebekah's father, the maiden, evidently rejoiced, readily replied, that their house was abundantly provided with every necessary commodity (ver. 25), and hastened home to announce the stranger. She naturally communicated her interview first to her mother Milcah, who was not slow in making the preparations for the reception of the guests. In countries where the firstborn son enjoys predominant
he saw the ear-ring and the bracelets upon his sister's hands, and when he heard the words of Rebekah his sister, saying, Thus spoke the man to me; he came to the man, and, behold, he stood by the camels at the well. 31. And he said, Come, thou blessed of the Lord; wherefore dost thou stand without? and I have cleared the house, and room is for the camels.--32. And the man came into the house: and he (Laban) ungirded his camnels, and gave straw and provender for the camels, and water to wash his feet, and the feet of the men who were with him. 33. And food was set before him: but he said, I shall not eat, until I have spoken my words. And he said, Speak. 34. And he said, I am Abraham's servant. 35. And the Lord hath blessed my master exceedingly; and he is become
influence in all domestic affairs, it is not sarprising that he should often, on important occasions, represent his father; he is regarded with respect, and his advice is listened to with deference. He possesses already, during his father's lifetime, a part of the authority which later devolves upon him by right. Instead of Bethuel, therefore, his son Laban went out to welcome the strangers. It has, from early times, been asserted that the character of this man is, in the Biblical narrative, represented as mean and base in every respect. But an impartial examination of the text leads to a result entirely different. We cannot, indeed, have any antecedent reason to expect a monster of moral depravity in Laban. If the brother of Rebekah, the future wife of Isaac, in all relations of life, were actuated by sordid motives and selfish ends, we can scarcely see a reason why Abraham should have so eagerly desired to form a matrimonial alliance with his family, and how Jacob was justified in choosing for his wife the daughter of that very man. Passing, however, to the narrative itself, we find that as soon as he heard that a stranger had arrived, he bastened towards the well (ver. 29) from a generous impulse, and without awaiting further details. Rebekah, who accompanied him on the way, only
found time to inform him again that the stranger had asked the hospitality of her father's house (ver. 23); these were the only words which she had to repeat to him; for the prayer which the steward uttered to God, and in which he mentioned his master Abraham, and “the house of his master's brother" was, no doubt, pronounced by the servant to himself beyond the hearing of Rebekah; but Laban had gone to invite the stranger even before he had been made acquainted with his request; he was, therefore, impelled by no other feeling but duty; nor is it any derogation to his character if the liberal presents which he then saw prepossessed him in favour of the guest; they were to him a proof both of his distinguished social position and of his generous mind; they were, indeed, to him a convincing sign that he was "blessed of the Lord,” from whom comes every property and worldly happiness; and he addressed him with a gentle reproach for not having thought better of his hospitality, and for not having at once accompanied his sister to the house, which was open and ready to receive him and his companions (ver. 31).
32–49. When the preliminary duties of an Oriental reception were performed, and Laban invited his guests to partake of the meal speedily prepared for them, the
great: and He hath given him flocks, and herds, and silver, and gold, and men-servants, and maid-servants, and camels, and asses.
36. And Sarah, my master's wife, bore a son to my master after her old age: and he hath given to him all that he hath. 37. And 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: 38. But thou shalt go to my father's house, and to my family, and take a wife to my son. 39. And I said to my master, Perhaps the woman will not follow me. 40. And he said to me, The Lord, before whom I walk, will send His angel with thee, and will make successful thy way; and thou shalt take a wife for my son of my family, and of my father's house: 41. Then shalt thou be clear from my adjuration, when thou comest to my family; and if they do not give thee one, thou shalt be clear from my adjuration. 42. And I came this day to the well, and said, Oh Lord God of my master Abraham, if, I pray Thee, Thou wilt make successful my way which I go: 43. Behold, I stand by the well of water, and let it be, that the virgin who cometh forth to draw water, and to whom I me,
I pray thee, a little water of thy pitcher to drink, 44. And who will say to me, Both drink thou, and I will
steward, unwilling to delay the execution of his charge unnecessarily for a single moment, refused to touch food before he had stated the purpose of his journey. When Laban, yielding to his wish, consented to deviate from the usual rule of cordial hospitality, the messenger delivered himself of his commission in a narrative graced by every charm of simplicity, rivalling the most beautiful episodes of the Homeric writings, and pervaded by a healthful spirit of sustained calmness: the repetitions which it contains, are like the echo of truth; and the measured step with which it advances, carries it to its aim with enhanced dignity. Two points especially are impressed with evident force. First, the steward appears deeply moved by a sense of responsibility. He not only dwells on the promise he has made to his
master, but describes the oath with which he has confirmed it, as belonging to the awful class connected with an imprecation and curse. He is so agitated at this solemn thought, that he impatiently urges an im. mediate reply, so as to be able to turn, if necessary, without delay to some other branch of Terah's family (ver. 49). The second feature, equally prominent, is the steward's entire submission under the Divine guidance. The whole narrative bears a religious character; it is based on the principle of the direct interposition of God, from the beginning, the wealth of Abraham, down to the last reply of Rebekah; it shows emphatically the “
mercy and truth" which God had manifested to him in every regard (ver. 27); and, therefore, in concluding his address to the parents and the brother of the maiden, Le appro
also draw for thy camels: let her be the woman whom the Lord hath appointed for my master's son. 45. And before I had finished speaking in my heart, behold, Rebekah came forth with her pitcher on her shoulder; and she descended to the well, and drew water : and I said to her, Let me drink, I pray thee. 46. And she hastened, and let down her pitcher from her shoulder, and said, Drink, and I shall give thy camels also to drink. 47. And I asked her, and said, Whose daughter art thou ? And she said, The daughter of Bethuel, Nahor's son, whom Milcah bore to him: and I put the nose-ring in her nose, and the bracelets upon her hands. 48. And I bowed down, and prostrated myself to the Lord, and blessed the Lord God of my master Abraham, who had led me in the right way to take the daughter of my master's kinsman to 49. And
you will do kindness and truth to my master, tell me: and if not, tell me; that I
may turn to the right hand, or to the left.—50. And Laban and Bethuel answered and said, The thing proceedeth from the Lord: we cannot speak to thee bad or good. 51. Behold, Rebekah is before thee, take her, and
and let her be the wife of thy master's son, as the Lord hath spoken. 52. And when Abraham's servant heard their
priately entreats them to exercise the same “mercy and truth” (ver. 49).
50–52. Bethuel and Laban enter completely into the spirit of the steward's narrative; they acknowledge in his journey the finger of God; and, submitting without hesitation to His unmistakable will, they refrain from every reflection which prudence might suggest. The expectation of Abraham was fully realized. The spark of piety which slumbered in the family of Terah was roused and kindled by the recital of the obvious miracles, which they could not but recognise. Among those who yielded to the Divine signs, Laban is mentioned as the first. His soul cannot, therefore, have been either hardened or depraved. Easily accessible to the highest truths, he was ready to express them in words and deeds. He, further, in
this domestic matter, exhibits a zeal, dis-
words, he prostrated himself before the Lord to the earth.53. And the servant took out trinkets of silver, and trinkets of gold, and garments, and gave them to Rebekah : and valuable presents he gave to her brother and to her mother. 54. And they ate and drank, he and the men who were with him, and they stayed over night: and they rose in the morning, and he said, Send me away to my master. 55. And her brother and her mother said, Let the maiden abide with us a few days or a week of ten days; after which
56. And he said to them, Do not delay me, for the Lord hath made successful my way; send me away that I may go to my master. 57. And they said, We
she may go.
proof of Laban's well-regulated mind, that to his will and authority without murmur. he took a prominent part in the arrange- ing. These premises may deceive the ments regarding his sister Rebekah; and historian into inferences perfectly antagofrom this reason, no doubt, the text men- nistic to the position which the Old Testations his name even before that of his ment assigns to the women. It may misfather Bethuel (ver. 50), and his mother lead to the belief, that the Hebrew women Milcah (ver. 55).
were regarded as mere objects; and that 53–61. When the relatives of Rebekah the Hebrew wives occupied an undignified had consented to her alliance with Isaac, place in the household—than which nothing and had said to the messenger: “Behold, could be more erroneous, as we have atRebekah is before thee, take her, and go, tempted to proveon more than one occasion. and let her be the wife of thy master's son"; The very narrative of this chapter shows the matter was considered as fully arranged. more than any other argument the high and The maiden herself was not consulted at even sacred importance, which was atall; the question later addressed to her tached to the conscientious choice of a wife. was not put with a view to elicit her de- It is unnecessary to prove that which every cision regarding the marriage, but regard- part of the text clearly proclaims. Thereing the time of her departure. We shall
fore, the obvious explanation of the fact not attempt to distort the meaning of the above referred to is, that Rebekah was, as text in order to deny this fact. Rebekah much as her parents and her brother, struck as well as Laban and Milcah accepted the with the manifest interference of God; that presents of Abraham's servant; the former she likewise saw in the request of Abrasubmitted thereby implicitly to the ar- ham's messenger the ruling of a higher rangement of the latter, and she followed will, and that her heart was equally acthe stranger into the distant land, without cessible to the truths of a purer religion, having ever seen her future husband. But The answer: “From the Lord proceedeth in order to explain such remarkable con- the matter; we cannot speak to thee bad duct, we need not be satisfied with re- or good" (ver. 50), was offered in the name minding the reader of the general Oriental of Rebekah also. It was, therefore, supercustoms, of which this narrative offers a fluous to ask her formal consent; Bethuel faithful picture; we need not merely in- and Laban, who knew her disposition and sist upon the fact, that daughters are, in character, were convinced, that she would the East, regarded as the property and not disregard signs which they felt comchief wealth of the father, who disposes pelled to respect; and in other matters, not of them as he likes; and that they submit decided by the Divine interposition, they