Message title: Rebekah Marries Isaac, Genesis 24:55-67
Broadcast date: October 20, 2019 (No. 4007)
Radio pastor: Rev. Wilbur Bruinsma
Dear Radio Friends,
Today we study another godly woman, one named Rebekah. Rebekah would have been the daughter-in-law to Sarah whom we considered in our last broadcast. But Sarah had already died.
Abraham, as we will find, sent his servant to Haran, the home of his ancestors, to find a wife for Isaac his son. The account we consider today is a dialogue between this servant of Abraham and Rebekah and her family after they had consented to the marriage proposal of the servant. We will learn more of the story as we go, but let me read the passage we consider in Genesis 24:55-67: “And Rebekah’s brother and her mother said, Let the damsel abide with us a few days, at the least ten; after that she shall go. And he said unto them, Hinder me not, seeing the Lord hath prospered my way; send me away that I may go to my master. And they said, We will call the damsel, and enquire at her mouth. And they called Rebekah, and said unto her, Wilt thou go with this man? And she said, I will go. And they sent away Rebekah their sister, and her nurse, and Abraham's servant, and his men. And they blessed Rebekah, and said unto her, Thou art our sister, be thou the mother of thousands of millions, and let thy seed possess the gate of those which hate them. And Rebekah arose, and her damsels, and they rode upon the camels, and followed the man: and the servant took Rebekah, and went his way. And Isaac came from the way of the well Lahairoi; for he dwelt in the south country. And Isaac went out to meditate in the field at the eventide: and he lifted up his eyes, and saw, and, behold, the camels were coming. And Rebekah lifted up her eyes, and when she saw Isaac, she lighted off the camel. For she had said unto the servant, What man is this that walketh in the field to meet us? And the servant had said, It is my master: therefore she took a vail, and covered herself. And the servant told Isaac all things that he had done. 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.”
Sarah, the wife of Abraham, had died at the age of 127. This means Isaac was about 37 years old when his mother left this life. Since Isaac was an only child and the child of Sarah’s old age, he loved her dearly. For this reason Isaac, together with his father, mourned their loss together. In fact, Isaac, it seems, was lonely at the void his mother left behind in his life. It was time for Isaac to marry. Abraham did not want Isaac to marry any of the unbelieving women of Canaan. Isaac would have to find a wife among the women in Haran, where his brother Nahor lived with his family.
Abraham chose to send the oldest, most trusted servant of his household to Haran to obtain a wife for Isaac. Haran was approximately 600 to 650 miles to the north of the southern part of Canaan, where Abraham and Isaac were living at the time. That would be the case if the servant used the then-prevailing trade routes. By camel, that was around a month’s journey. For that reason, Abraham seldom, if ever, visited his brother Nahor. But Abraham had learned from a few travelers from Haran that his brother and his wife had given birth to eight children. The youngest son was a man named Bethuel. This means that Bethuel was Isaac’s cousin. Bethuel, in turn, had a daughter named Rebekah. Since Isaac was born late in Abraham’s life, this would make him around the same age as Rebekah, his second cousin (or first cousin once removed). We consider this young woman and her faith today. Certainly, she too is worthy as an example of faith among the godly women of the Bible.
Rebekah Marries Isaac
The Accepted Proposal
Obviously, Isaac did not personally propose to Rebekah. Abraham’s servant proposed. It was not even Isaac who suggested to this servant to go to Haran and propose to Rebekah on his behalf. Abraham told him to do so. The account before us contains none of the romantic marriage proposals that we might find in fairytales or see portrayed in the movies. The servant of Abraham was sent by his master to the land out of which Abraham was called, the land of his kindred. After many days he arrived in the evening at a well of water outside of the city and made his camels to kneel down there. He then prayed to Jehovah that the Lord would reveal to him whom He had chosen for Isaac. This would be the sign: if a young virgin girl appeared at the well and gave water to him, his men, and his camels, let that be the woman God had chosen. No sooner had he asked God for this sign than Rebekah appeared. He asked her for water and she gave to him. Then she offered to water his camels too. The servant asked Rebekah who she was, and she explained that she was the daughter of Bethuel, son of Nahor. She then offered the servant a place to stay and provender for his camels. Abraham’s servant then knew that the sign for which he had asked was answered by God. Rebekah ran to her house and explained to her father and mother what had just taken place. When Rebekah’s brother Laban saw the gold earrings and bracelets that the servant had given her, he ran to meet the man and invite him to stay in his father’s house.
While there, the servant explained that he had been sent by Abraham to seek a wife for Isaac. He then related the entire tale of what had happened at the well—in God’s providing the sign that Abraham’s servant had asked of Him. Now the servant came to the crux of the matter. Here he sat in this stranger’s house. Everything had fallen into place for him. But the servant knew he could not make any assumptions. He could still be wrong and Rebekah might not be the one chosen by God for Isaac. We read in verse 49, “And now if ye will deal kindly and truly with my master, tell me: and if not, tell me; that I may turn to the right hand, or to the left.”
So, we have the marriage proposal. No, not to Rebekah at this point. The servant properly first asked her father for Rebekah’s hand in marriage. Bethuel was Rebekah’s head. He needed to be asked first if he was willing to give his daughter away in marriage. Permission was therefore first sought of him, to which Bethuel answered in the affirmative. Bethuel recognized that God had provided in His providence proof that Rebekah should become the wife of Abraham’s son. He also recognized that Abraham and Isaac feared God, and this is what he wanted for his daughter—a God-fearing husband.
We ought not to think that Rebekah at this point was sitting somewhere else in the house and had nothing to do with what was going on. She was not being treated by her father as if she had no say-so whatsoever in what was transpiring in the house. She already knew why the servant was there. She knew that her father was granting permission to the servant that she marry Isaac. And although the decision already had been made by father and mother, there was still the matter of Rebekah’s willingness to marry and go. It can be safely assumed that she did now assent to the marriage. She was a part of the celebration that night in the home of Bethuel. But that Rebekah was indeed consenting to the marriage revealed itself the next morning. Abraham’s servant wanted to leave that very day. But Rebekah’s mother wanted her daughter to stay for ten days to say her farewells and to prepare for her leaving, so she asked the servant to stay. He answered in Genesis 24:56: “Hinder me not, seeing the Lord hath prospered my way; send me away that I may go to my master.”
Now we learn for certain that Rebekah herself had consented to the marriage. They called Rebekah and asked her if she would go with the servant. Her answer was short: “I will go.” It is almost as short as the woman saying “I do” to her husband during a wedding ceremony! It is then that Rebekah accepted this proposal to marry Isaac. Think about that: she was moving hundreds of miles away from home and family, probably never going to see them again. She was going to marry a man that she had never seen before. She did not know whether he was good looking or cross-eyed. She did not know whether he was kind and gentle or harsh and tyrannical. But she was willing to move.
Neither was this true of Rebekah because she had a brave and adventuresome spirit. Rebekah was a woman of faith, just as Sarah was. We say this because Rebekah too had heard the testimony of the servant. His faith in Jehovah God whom she loved and served was known to her. She too heard the servant relate to her family that what had taken place at the well was a sign from God that she was chosen by Him. She heard the servant speak of God’s blessing on Abraham and his desire to find for Isaac a wife that loved Jehovah. She knew God and she trusted that He had called her to move and to marry Isaac to raise up seed to Abraham. But there was more to this faith of Rebekah. Her grandfather, Nahor, was living in Haran because he had followed his brother Abraham from Ur of the Chaldees. Abraham left Nahor and his family behind in Haran in answer to God’s call to Abraham and Sarah to move to Canaan. Nahor knew that Abraham had a special place in God’s plan for His cause and kingdom in this world. Neither ought we to think that Nahor was ignorant of God’s promise to Abraham, that in his seed all the nations of the earth would be blessed. It is evident from Rebekah’s mother’s blessing on her that these relatives had heard of God’s blessing on Abraham.
Rebekah wanted that! She wanted to be a part of that! Though it cannot be certain that she had the same hope at this point in her life that Sarah had when giving birth to Isaac, nevertheless Rebekah must have been given a glimpse of that. We may not forget that Rebekah, by marrying Isaac, also became a mother of Christ. Christ was born out of her just as He was out of Sarah. Ultimately, then, Rebekah’s faith was rooted in the birth of Christ. She also in faith, as did all of God’s people then, looked for that Messiah who would deliver from sin. And in that faith she now accepted the proposal of marriage: “I will go.”
The Arranged Marriage
That very day Rebekah and the young women who served her packed and left with Abraham’s servant and his men. The women rode on the camels while the servant of Abraham and his men walked beside them. God led the travelers safely on their journey, and in a number of weeks they reached their destination in southern Canaan, where Abraham and Isaac presently lived. It was early evening when they arrived. Isaac was out in the fields meditating, we are told. Isaac too was a man of faith, and he was in the field praying and thinking on God’s will for him. Such is the biblical concept of meditation—not the eastern sort that is so common today. Isaac was meditating on God’s will and praying when he looked out and in the distance saw the caravan of camels approaching. At the same time Rebekah spotted Isaac too. She asked Abraham’s servant who the man she saw was. The servant identified Isaac for her. It was his master and not some servant sent to check to see if they were coming. Rebekah did not wait for Isaac to come to her, but she jumped from the camel and walked out to meet her future husband for the first time. Her heart must have been pounding. What manner of man would Isaac be? This would change her life forever!
We are told that Rebekah covered herself with a veil. She took a thin veil and wrapped it around her face so her eyes only could be seen. This, as we well know, is a mid-eastern custom. As such it is a sign both of modesty and of subjection. Western civilization is based more on chivalry, where the woman would be swept from the camel by the man and he would bow before her and offer his life to protect hers. The mid-eastern culture is the opposite. Rebekah jumps hastily from the camel to show respect to this man who is to be her husband. It would not be right to sit elevated above Isaac on a camel. Then she covered her face with a veil. This is how she met Isaac—humbly and in a spirit of subjection to him already before marriage. Abraham’s servant now explained what had happened.
We then learn in simple terms of the marriage of these two believers. Isaac gave her lodging in his mother’s tent until such time as preparations could be made for a wedding. She then became his wife and he loved her. The term love here in Hebrew means “to breathe after” or “desire.” This is the term used for God’s love for His people. Isaac loved Rebekah with a true spiritual love. He loved her as a godly husband loves his wife and vice versa. They longed for each other’s companionship and desired no one else. In other words, this was a strong, genuine love that Isaac had for her and Rebekah had for him. It was not a forced marriage, but a good, healthy marriage rooted in their mutual faith. It is added that Isaac was now comforted after his mother’s death. He had found a godly companion whose love would replace the deep love his mother had shown him. Yes, it was a good marriage...even though it was an arranged marriage.
Now, we might question whether this was an arranged marriage, at this point. An arranged marriage is one that the parents arrange between two children while they are still young and have no say-so in it. When the young girl and boy come of age they must marry whether they love each other or not. Then after marriage they are to learn to love each other and dwell with one another in peace and harmony. But this does not fit what happened with Isaac and Rebekah. Abraham in no way consorted with his brother Nahor in order to arrange a marriage between these two ‘young’ people. No one knew that these two would end up together as husband and wife.
But this is not what I mean when I speak of an arranged marriage. I am referring to this marriage as divinely arranged by God. It was already arranged in eternity in the counsel of God for all things. Christ was to be born out of the line of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God chose from eternity not only these men, but their wives too, in order to bring about the birth of His Son into this world. In other words, these events surrounding the finding of a wife for Isaac did not take place by chance! They were ordered by God in eternity and they were providentially brought about by God to take place. It was not a mere coincidence that Rebekah stopped by the well at that particular moment to water her own sheep. It was not by chance that she invited the servant to spend the night by her house. Both the servant and Rebekah were aware that Jehovah God had ordered these events in their lives. God arranged this marriage.
Notice what the servant prayed when he came to the well: “Let the same be she that thou has appointed for they servant Isaac.” This marriage was controlled by divine appointment. The servant recognized this. He then explained it in the same manner to Bethuel and his wife and son. The family of Rebekah recognized as well that God had arranged this marriage. Both Bethuel and Laban answered, “The thing proceeds from the Lord: we cannot speak unto thee bad or good.” It was obvious to all that God had picked Rebekah for Isaac. This is true according to God’s divine decree. But Rebekah’s entire life was directed by God exactly for this end. Rebekah was to become another mother of the covenant along with Sarah.
The Prophetic Blessing
We say this, of course, because of the blessing pronounced on Rebekah by her mother and Laban before Rebekah left. We read in verse 60, “be thou the mother of thousands of millions and let thy seed possess the gate of those which hate them.” This sounds almost exactly like the promise given to Abraham and Sarah. God told them “your seed will be as many as the stars in the sky and the sand by the seashore innumerable.” Rebekah’s mother says, “be thou the mother of thousands of millions.” God told Abraham and Sarah, “your children will possess the land of Canaan.” Rebekah’s mother says, “let your seed possess the gate of those who hate them.” All this became true of Rebekah. This blessing was indeed prophetic. Rebekah, like Sarah, became a mother of the covenant. Not only did this covenant include those among her generations who believed, but it included all believers from every age. Rebekah was a mother of the thousands of millions that believe on God and His Son Jesus Christ. So this blessing was fulfilled in Rebekah. She would become the mother of the thousands of millions that believed. Out of her came forth the nation of Israel. Out of her came forth the line of David. Out of her the Messiah would be born. She died not seeing her mother’s blessing upon her fulfilled, but it was fulfilled. What an important place God had appointed for this maiden in His covenant. But then, God has appointed each mother in His church to an important place. We look to Rebekah as our example.
Rev. Wilbur G. Bruinsma (Wife: Mary)
Ordained: October 1978
Pastorates: Faith, Jenison, MI - 1978; Missionary to Jamaica - 1984; First, Holland, MI - 1989; Kalamazoo, MI - 1996; Eastern Home Missionary - 2006; Pittsburgh PRC - 2016.Website: www.prcpittsburgh.org/
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