The Prayer of Abraham’s Servant to Identify Isaac’s Wife
Prayer • Sermon • Submitted • 57:43
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Wenstrom Bible Ministries
Genesis 24 records one of the most beautiful passages in the Bible, and one of the most self-less and wonderful prayers from the lips of a believer.
In this passage, Abraham desired to secure a bride for his son Isaac, from his own relatives.
He sent his faithful and trusted servant, Eliezer of Damascus, to find a wife for Isaac.
Eliezer, faithful to the Lord as he was to Abraham, prayed to the Lord first to help him identify Isaac’s wife.
Genesis 24:1 Now Abraham was old, advanced in age; and the LORD had blessed Abraham in every way. 2 Abraham said to his servant, the oldest of his household, who had charge of all that he owned, “Please place your hand under my thigh, 3 and I will make you swear by the LORD, the God of heaven and the God of earth, that you shall not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I live, 4 but you will go to my country and to my relatives, and take a wife for my son Isaac.” 5 The servant said to him, “Suppose the woman is not willing to follow me to this land; should I take your son back to the land from where you came?’ 6 Then Abraham said to him, “Beware that you do not take my son back there!” 7 The LORD, the 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 your descendants I will give this land,’ He will send His angel before you, and you will take a wife for my son from there. 8 But if the woman is not willing to follow you, then you will be free from this my oath; only do not take my son back there. 9 So the servant placed his hand under the thigh of Abraham his master and swore to him concerning this matter.” (NASB95)
Unlike today, there were arranged marriages in Biblical times.
In this passage, Abraham set an example for his descendants to secure wives from the Semites, who were blessed by God, and not from the Canaanites, who were cursed by God according to Noah’s prophecy recorded in Genesis 9:24-27 (Gen 15:16; 18:18-19; Deut 7:1-4).
It was customary, especially among wealthy families, to make marriage arrangements through an intermediary, like a faithful servant.
Therefore, since Abraham was too old to make the trip back to Mesopotamia, which was over five hundred miles away, he sent his servant.
Furthermore, Abraham, by then, had learned that being the recipient of God’s promises demanded that he stay in the Promised Land, which was Canaan.
Therefore, Abraham sent his servant, who was unnamed, since the servant was going in the name of Isaac, rather than himself.
The unnamed servant was Eliezer of Damascus, who Genesis 15 mentions as being the heir of Abraham’s household.
The fact that Abraham planned on Eliezer being his heir, until God promised him a child from his own body, indicated that Abraham trusted Eliezer, enough to leave him his estate.
This trust was crucial in giving him the responsibility to secure a bride for Isaac.
This assignment would only be given to a loyal servant.
Genesis 24:2 records that this unnamed servant was Abraham’s “oldest” servant in his household, which Eliezer would have been at this point in the narrative, and one who had “charge of all” that Abraham owned.
Abraham’s command to his servant to “place your hand under my thigh” is a euphemism for genitalia (Gen 46:26; Exo 1:5; Judges 8:30).
By putting his hands under Abraham’s thigh and touching his genitals, the servant gave a special and solemn oath.
Genesis 24:10-14 records Abraham’s servant, providentially, meeting Isaac’s future wife, Rebekah, at a well in Nahor in Aram Naharaim.
Genesis 24:10 Then the servant took ten camels from the camels of his master and set out with a variety of good things of his master's in his hand; and he arose and went to Mesopotamia, to the city of Nahor. 11 He made the camels kneel down outside the city by the well of water at evening time, the time when women go out to draw water. 12 He said, “O LORD, the God of my master Abraham, please grant me success today, and show lovingkindness to my master Abraham.” 13 “Behold, I am standing by the spring, and the daughters of the men of the city are coming out to draw water. 14 Now may it be that the girl to whom I say, ‘Please let down your jar so that I may drink,’ and who answers, ‘Drink, and I will water your camels also’—may she be the one whom You have appointed for Your servant Isaac; and by this I will know that You have shown lovingkindness to my master.” (NASB95)
Notice that Abraham’s servant did “not” attempt to advertise in the city that he was looking for a wife for his rich master; but rather, he prayed to God, demonstrating his wisdom.
Now that Abraham’s servant was in the perfect location to observe the unmarried women of the city of Nahor, he was faced with an almost impossible problem to resolve.
Namely, how could he go about determining the spiritual character of the woman, which would identify her as the woman that God wanted Isaac to marry?
Therefore, we see the servant turning to prayer to resolve this problem.
Do not be misled, though Eliezer’s proposal to God to determine the identity of the woman may appear, on the surface, to be “putting out the fleece” and testing God—as Gideon did in Judges 6:36-40, it was, instead, meant to test the woman because only a woman with character and integrity would offer to take on the grueling task of watering his camels.
Therefore, the proposal was simply to confirm that he find the right woman for Isaac by testing her.
The fact that the servant’s proposal to God in prayer was to test the woman expresses his care and concern for Isaac and his high opinion of Isaac and Abraham, for he genuinely wanted to find the right woman that God ordained for Isaac.
He did not want Isaac to marry a woman with poor character.
Proverbs 12:4 A wife of noble character is her husband's crown, but a disgraceful wife is like decay in his bones. (NASB95)
Therefore, according to the servant’s plan, the woman must volunteer to draw water for ten thirsty camels.
As we noted, camels could drink up to twenty-five gallons of water!
The servant knew this and so did Rebekah.
Only a woman with that kind of integrity would fit into Abraham’s household.
Genesis 24:15-20 records Rebekah appearing to Abraham’s servant and identifying herself as Isaac’s bride by her actions.
Genesis 24:15 Before he had finished speaking, behold, Rebekah who was born to Bethuel the son of Milcah, the wife of Abraham's brother Nahor, came out with her jar on her shoulder. 16 The girl was very beautiful, a virgin, and no man had had relations with her; and she went down to the spring and filled her jar and came up. 17 Then the servant ran to meet her, and said, “Please let me drink a little water from your jar.” (NASB95)
Notice, the servant did not walk to meet Rebekah, but ran to meet her, expressing his eager anticipation for the answer to his prayer.
Genesis 24:18 She said, “Drink, my lord”; and she quickly lowered her jar to her hand and gave him a drink. 19 Now when she had finished giving him a drink, she said, ‘I will draw also for your camels until they have finished drinking.’ 20 So she quickly emptied her jar into the trough, and ran back to the well to draw, and she drew for all his camels. 21 Meanwhile, the man was gazing at her in silence, to know whether the LORD had made his journey successful or not. (NASB95)
Genesis 24:22 records Rebekah finishing the task and then Eliezer showering her with gifts and praised the Lord for answering his prayer.
Genesis 24:22 When the camels had finished drinking, the man took a gold ring weighing a half-shekel and two bracelets for her wrists weighing ten shekels in gold 23 and said, “Whose daughter are you? Please tell me, is there room for us to lodge in your father's house?” 24 She said to him, “I am the daughter of Bethuel, the son of Milcah, whom she bore to Nahor.” 25 Again she said to him, ‘We have plenty of both straw and feed, and room to lodge in.’ 26 Then the man bowed low and worshiped the LORD. (NASB95)
Here we witness a marvelous display of gratitude by Abraham’s servant, when he manifests two significant aspects of prayer, namely, thanksgiving and worship of God.
Genesis 24:27 He said, “Blessed be the LORD, the God of my master Abraham, who has not forsaken His lovingkindness and His truth toward my master; as for me, the LORD has guided me in the way to the house of my master's brothers.” (NASB95)
“Blessed” is the verb barakh, which means, “to bless,” in the sense of praising the Lord for His providence and sovereignty over circumstances.
This verb, particularly, denotes the covenant relationship between Abraham and the Lord.