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shall call the maiden, and enquire at her mouth. 58. And they called Rebekah, and said to her, Wilt thou go with this man? And she said, I will go.
59. And they sent away Rebekah their sister, and her nurse, and Abraham's servant, and his men. 60. And they blessed Rebekah, and said to her, Thou art our sister, be thou the mother of thousands of myriads, and let thy seed possess the gate of their enemies.—61. And Rebekah rose, and her maids; and they rode upon the camels, and followed the man : and the servant took Rebekah, and departed.—62. And Isaac came from the way of the well Lahai-roi; for he dwelt in the country of the south. 63. And Isaac went
left her unrestricted freedom (ver. 57). marriage-price; and whether it intends to And lest there should remain the least un- divest it at least of the mercenary sordidcertainty, it is later expressly added, that ness into which it is apt to degenerate: Isaac loved Rebekah, and that he was this we can rather feel than prove from the through her consoled for the grief caused words, although it is in full harmony both by the death of his mother (ver. 67). Thus, with the pure spirit of this narrative, and our tale may, at the same time, be intended with the enthusiastic admiration with which to teach the lesson, that a special providence elsewhere a virtuous wife is praised as priceof God watches over the holy bond of matri- less (Pror. xxxi. 10; see on xxix. 13—20). mony, and that He always unites those Incited to a speedy return by the rapidestined by Him to form “one flesh," how- dity with which God had made him sucever separated they may be from one ceed in his mission (ver. 56), the faithful another, and however accidental the ways steward, unwilling to indulge in inactive may appear by which they are brought enjoyment, longed to announce his triumph into connection.
to his master. But as it was usual to It is customary, that before the conclu. allow a certain period to elapse between sion of a marriage-contract, a price should the bethrothal and the marriage, as a be stipulated, which the young man is matter of propriety as well as of prudence, required to pay to the father of the bride. the bride was consulted, and her decision But as the whole transaction of the ser- was regarded as final: and when Rebekah, vant's mission has a perfectly spiritual cha- revering the Divine oracle, declared her racter, such stipulation would have been readiness to follow the messenger withinappropriate; for it would hare made the out delay, she was dismissed by her relasuccess dependent on an external agree- tions with a fervent blessing, implying a ment, while it was to be decided by the numerous, powerful, and ever-victorious Divine will alone. The marriage price, progeny; and she departed, as it behoves therefore, is, in this case, very aptly re- the daughter of a wealthy house, accompresented by the voluntary gifts which the panied by her nurse and her maids. messenger offers to the bride and her pa- 62–63. Isaac was the worthy offrents, and which, though no doubt valuable spring of the chosen patriarch. He ever and generous, were a present rather than displayed imperturbable harmony of the an exacted price. Whether this circum- soul, unmoved by the greatest and dearstance also has a practical tendency; whe- est sacrifices; his mind was, by nature, ther it hints at the propriety of abandon- calm and placid; modest and reserved; ing the frigid and undignified custom of a he was susceptible of that happiness which
out to meditate in the field towards the evening : and he lifted
his eyes, and saw, and behold, camels were coming. 64. And Rebekah lifted up her eyes, and when she saw Isaac, she alighted from the camel. 65. And she said to the servant, Who is this man who walketh in the field to meet us? And the servant said, It is my master : and she took the veil, and covered herself. 66. And the servant told Isaac all things that he had done. 67. And Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah's tent, and took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her: and Isaac was comforted after his mother's death.
flows from sentiment; his heart was warm and sensitive; his piety internal and unostentatious; he inclined to reflection and prayer; his affections were strong without impetuosity; his impressions pro. found without exuberance. His destinies corresponded with his character. They form the exact medium between the his. tory of Abraham and that of Jacob. He spent his life without the deeds of the one and the sufferings of the other; he was not, like either, compelled to distant wanderings; after the grand trial of his youth, the course of his life was, on the whole, calm and even. Without labour or care, he inherited a large fortune, while both his father and his son acquired property but gradually, and the latter not without laborious exertion; he obtained a pious and beautiful wife without the least personal effort, by the care of a provident father and a faithful servant, whereas, Jacob had, for the same purpose, not only to undertake a perilous journey, but to submit to a long and toilsome servitude; and though we shall soon have occasion to show many parallels in the destinies of Isaac and Abraham, the history of the former exhibits a certain pause in the progress of the narrative; it contains few new elements, and advances but little the Hebrew theocracy; its tendency is rather to secure the old ideas, than to introduce new ones; and its chief interest consists in proving how the enlightenment of Abraham had, by habit and temperament, become with Isaac an impulsive feeling; and how the acquirements of the mind had become the property of the heart.
With this character of Isaac alone the last part of this section harmonises. His thoughts were, no doubt, engaged with the messenger's journcy; after the death
of his mother, his heart felt a void which he longed to fill up by a sentiment equally holy and absorbing; his pensive nature indulged in meditation on this momentous point; but his happy disposition shielded him against agitating anxiety, and his piety taught him to hope. It is not impossible, that Isaac, like the messenger, had proposed to himself a certain oracle; that this is expressed in the rather obscure phrase: “he went out to meditate in the field”; and that the arrival of the caravan just at that moment was to him the fulfilment of the sign. It is evidently necessary to include Isaac in the same circle of religious resignation which embraces all the other persons connected with this mission, from Abraham to Laban; Isaac was personally more deeply concerned in it than all the others; he had before all to believe that the bride brought to him from a foreign land would really sympathise with his own feelings; and that she was selected for him by the immediate interposition of God: a sign was, therefore, naturally expected by him with, at least, the same justice as by the servant of his father.
It is an eastern custom, prevalent in many parts to this day, that women, when riding on the road, and meeting strange men, descend from their animals, as a mark of respect offered to the stronger sex. European travellers have frequently been the objects of such salu. tations. The conduct of Rebekah is, therefore, in no way extraordinary, if we but translate correctly: “ she alighted from the camel." When Rebekah heard from the servant that her future husband was approaching towards them, “she took the veil and covered herself.” It is evident, from this context, that her application of the veil stands in some necessary connection with the presence of Isaac; and we find this connection easily in the well-known eastern custom, that the bride is, on the day of marriage, brought veiled to her bridegroom, a custom which alone explains the possibility of Laban's deception practised on Jacob. Nor must we forget that the class of eastern out-door veils here mentioned does not, like others in common use, merely cover the face, but, like a kind of large wrapper, nearly the whole form, rendering it impossible to recognise the person; while the veils worn in the house, resemble much those of our age and country, forming a part of the head-dress, and usually thrown back. Another sort of veil, common in Egypt and Syria, and represented even on very ancient Asiatic monuments, commences beneath the eyes and falls down over the greater part of the body; but it is uncer. tain whether the Hebrews applied it. The material of the veils varied from the coarsest to the finest and most exquisite texture; and a suitable veil was among the costliest articles with which brides were necessarily furnished by their parents. It is clear, from our passage, and from many others, that among the Hebrews unmarried ladies appeared publicly without a veil; even married women did not
veil themselves before strangers in their own houses; but, out of doors, the latter probably took the veil as conscientiously as it is at present deemed indispensable by all Eastern ladies of honour and virtuc. It may, however, be inferred from our text (ver. 65), that even married ladies, when travelling, were not always scrupulous in the application of the veil; for it is certain that Rebekah regarded herself as the lawful wife of Isaac from the moment that her parents had expressed their consent. — It appears that Abraham had, in the mean time, changed his abode; he had left Hebron, and pitched his tents more southward, near that celebrated well which had become sacred to him by the Divine appearance here granted to Hagar; this change must have taken place before the departure of the messenger, who, otherwise, would not have come so far southward on his return from Mesopotamia. - When Isaac heard the wonderful history of that journey, his heart, spontaneously inclining to the softer feelings, considered Rebekah as the wite assigned to him by the manifest will of God; he loved her with a double affection; and for the first time, after the death of his mother, after three mournful and solitary years, joy re-entered his bosom, and cheerfulness his dwelling.
SUMMARY.--Abraham, after having become the father of six sons from Keturah, and
having sent them away with presents eastward, died in the 175th year of his life, and was buried by Isaac and Ishmael in the cave of Machpelah (vers. 1-11).Ishmael begat twelve sons, who became the progenitors of as many tribes of the mixed Arabs, and died at the age of 137 years (vers. 12–18).-After a barrenness of twenty years, Rebekah gave birth to twins, Esau and Jacob, of whom a Divine oracle predicted that the younger would rule over the elder; and, in fact, Esau, who became a wild huntsman, sold to Jacob, a nomadic shepherd, his birthright for the trifling compensation of a pottage of lentiles (vers. 19-34).
1. And Abraham took again a wife, and her name was Keturah. 2. And she bore him Zimran, and Jokshan, and Medan, and Midian, and Ishbak, and Shuah. 3. And Jokshan begat Sheba, and Dedan. And the sons of Dedan were Asshurim, and Letushim, and Leummim. 4. And the sons of Midian, Ephah, and Epher, and Enoch, and Abidah, and Eldaah. All these were the children of Keturah.—5. And Abraham gave all that he had to Isaac. 6. And to the sons of the concubines whom Abraham had, Abraham gave gifts, and sent them away from Isaac his son while he yet lived, eastward, to the land in the east.7. And these are the days of the years of Abraham's life which he lived, a hundred and seventy-five years. 8. And Abraham expired, and died in a good old age, and full of years; and he was gathered to his people. 9. And his sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah, in the field of Ephron, the son of Zohar, the Hittite, which is before Mamre; 10. The field which Abraham had
1–4. There existed among the Hebrews the tradition that certain tribes of Arabia were connected with them by descent and close relationship. This popular belief, no doubt based on a genuine historical reminiscence, is embodied in the offspring here attributed to Abraham, and born to him by a subordinate wife, Keturah. Accustomed as we are to the Biblical mode of representing ethnographic relations by means of genealogies, we can find no difficulty in the insertion itself of this list. But a great perplexity arises from the circumstance, that it contains names elsewhere introduced in perfectly different connections. For Sheba and Dedan, here traced to Abraham, and mentioned as the sons of Jokshan, are in the great catalogue of nations (x. 7) enumerated among the Cushites and described as the sons of Raamah. We have on former occasions noticed, and attempted to account for, this seeming discrepancy; nor do we believe this matter hopelessly involved in confusion. The following remarks may assist in arriving at a conclusion:-1. The universal list of nations itself acknowledges that a part of the Sabæans were Shemites; for it includes them among the thirteen tribes descended from Joktan, who is likewise a son of Eber, and is regarded as the ancestor of the chief stock of the population inhabiting the Arabian peninsula (x. 28). How they could be introduced both as Cushites and as Joktanites has been explained in its proper place (see p. 171). 2. These earlier Sabæans, connected with Shem by only four intermediate links,
namely, Arphaxad, Salah, Eber, and Joktan (x. 24, 25), were believed to have later received a considerable increase from descendants of Abraham, who, settling in the districts of Sabæa, were gradually also called Sabæans, although their later origin was not forgotten, and is here strikingly represented by the circumstance that Sheba was not the son of Abraham, but connected with him only through Jokshan. In the lists of Genesis, the tribes are sometimes designated according to their local rather than their genealogical relations (see p. 194). 3. In a similar manner we may understand the introduction of Dedan among the Abrahamites, though he had before been mentioned as the grandson of Cush (x. 7). The abodes of the Dedanites were, moreover, so comprehensive, and centred round two districts so different in many respects that the supposition of a double population of different descent is both natural and plausible (see p. 172).Thus we may uphold the agreement between the various genealogical notices; it is unnecessary to regard Jokshan and Joktan as identical, by which assumption the difficulties would not be materially lessened; and we must admit, that the theory on which these lists are based is historically not improbable. This conclusion is confirmed by a remarkable circumstance to which we shall presently have occasion to refer (see p. 314).— We are enabled to ascertain the identity of but very few of the descendants of Keturah.
However, the territory and character of the Midianites are sufficiently known; they
were both commercial and warlike, no- took her (ver. 1); she was not, like the madic and agricultural; lived partly in the latter, given to him by his lawful wife peninsula of Mount Sinai and partly in (xvi. 2, 3). It may, therefore, be supposed the East of the Jordan, near the land of the that, according to the author, it was only Moabites; and as they were early engaged the patriarch's matrimony with Sarah in a very extensive caravan trade between which was not blessed with offspring, and Syria, Arabia, and Egypt, they are some- required the direct intervention of God, times called Ishmaelites, who, being the while he was generally not destitute of the chief masters of the commerce of the power of generation, as was proved by the desert gave the name to the Arabian mer. birth of Ishmael from Hagar. As God chants generally (comp. Comm. on Exod. predestines the couples (p. 309), and as p. 23).
children are a gift of His favour (Ps. The great age of Abraham has long be- cxxvii. 3): the want of progeny does not fore been emphatically urged (xxiv. 1); affect the indissolubility of the matrimonial about forty years previous to the period to bond (comp. 1 Sam. i. 8). which this portion seems to refer, he had 5, 6. But though Abraham begot more felt the debility of advancing years ap- children after Sarah's death, he did not dis. proach (xvii.17),and the birth of Isaac was regard the superior rights of her son Isaac, considered a miracle, beyond the natural born by the love and grace of God, his order of events (xviii. 11), since Abraham, only lawful heir, because intended to proexhausted in strength, seemed to verge to pagate truth and faith. And as a mark the grave (Hebr. xi. 12). It has, therefore, of the higher dignity of his posterity, and been deemed incredible, that the patriarch as a symbol that to them belonged the should, after Sarah's death, have become promised land, he received all the wealth the father of six other children, as it is of his father, while the other brothers were certainly not the intention of the Hebrew dismissed with presents into the eastern historian to represent the ancestors of the regions, to seek new abodes, and to found Arabic tribes as born by a Divine miracle. separate communities. The usual manner of explaining this diffi- 7-11. Though Abraham lived to see culty is by supposing that, in reality, those the birth of twin grand-children (ver. 26), children, though born long before, are now the text relates his death in this place, in only mentioned, because, if inserted in an order to prepare the way for the connected earlier place, they would have interrupted narrative of Isaac's life.— Filial affection the continuity of the narrative. But this united once more the two eldest sons of conjecture would be at variance with the Abraham; the wild and ungovernable Ishprinciple of monogamy everywhere rigid- mael left for a short time the solitude of ly adhered to in the history of the patri- his deserts, and joined the gentler Isaac in archs; and though Keturah, like Hagar, paying the last debt of love to their father; was only a secondary wife, Abraham the duty of conveying the relative safely