Readings and Sermon by Rev L Synnestvedt
April 24 2022 – Genesis 24
Now Abraham was old, well advanced in age; and the Lord had blessed Abraham in all things. So Abraham said to the oldest servant of his house, who ruled over all that he had, Please, put your hand under my thigh, and I will make you swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and the God of the earth, that you will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell; but you shall go to my country and to my family, and take a wife for my son Isaac.
And the servant said to him, Perhaps the woman will not be willing to follow me to this land. Must I take your son back to the land from which you came?
But Abraham said to him, Beware that you do not take my son back there. The Lord God of heaven, who took me from my father’s house and from the land of my family, and who spoke to me and swore to me, saying, To your descendants I give this land, He will send His angel before you, and you shall take a wife for my son from there. And if the woman is not willing to follow you, then you will be released from this oath; only do not take my son back there. So the servant put his hand under the thigh of Abraham his master, and swore to him concerning this matter.
Then the servant took ten of his master’s camels and departed, for all his master’s goods were in his hand. And he arose and went to Mesopotamia, to the city of Nahor. And he made his camels kneel down outside the city by a well of water at evening time, the time when women go out to draw water. Then he said, O Lord God of my master Abraham, please give me success this day, and show kindness to my master Abraham. Behold, here I stand by the well of water, and the daughters of the men of the city are coming out to draw water. Now let it be that the young woman to whom I say, Please let down your pitcher that I may drink, and she says, Drink, and I will also give your camels a drink—let her be the one You have appointed for Your servant Isaac. And by this I will know that You have shown kindness to my master.
And it happened, before he had finished speaking, that behold, Rebekah, who was born to Bethuel, son of Milcah, the wife of Nahor, Abraham’s brother, came out with her pitcher on her shoulder. Now the young woman was very beautiful to behold, a virgin; no man had known her. And she went down to the well, filled her pitcher, and came up. And the servant ran to meet her and said, Please let me drink a little water from your pitcher.
So she said, Drink, my lord. Then she quickly let her pitcher down to her hand, and gave him a drink. And when she had finished giving him a drink, she said, I will draw water for your camels also, until they have finished drinking. Then she quickly emptied her pitcher into the trough, ran back to the well to draw water, and drew for all his camels. And the man, wondering at her, remained silent so as to know whether the Lord had made his journey prosperous or not.
So it was, when the camels had finished drinking, that the man took a nose jewel of gold weighing half a shekel, and two bracelets for her wrists weighing ten shekels of gold, and said, Whose daughter are you? Tell me, please, is there room in your father’s house for us to lodge?
So she said to him, I am the daughter of Bethuel, Milcah’s son, whom she bore to Nahor. Moreover she said to him, We have both straw and feed enough, and room to lodge.
Then the man bowed down his head and worshiped the Lord. And he said, Blessed be the Lord God of my master Abraham, who has not forsaken His mercy and His truth toward my master. As for me, being on the way, the Lord led me to the house of my master’s brethren. So the young woman ran and told her mother’s household these things.
Now Rebekah had a brother whose name was Laban, and Laban ran out to the man by the well. So it came to pass, when he saw the nose jewel, and the bracelets on his sister’s hand, and when he heard the words of his sister Rebekah, saying, Thus the man spoke to me, that he went to the man. And there he stood by the camels at the well. And he said, Come in, O blessed of the Lord! Why do you stand outside? For I have prepared the house, and a place for the camels.
Then the man came to the house. And he unloaded the camels, and provided straw and feed for the camels, and water to wash his feet and the feet of the men who were with him. Food was set before him to eat, but he said, I will not eat until I have told about my errand.
And he said, Speak on.
So he said, I am Abraham’s servant. The Lord has blessed my master greatly, and he has become great; and He has given him flocks and herds, silver and gold, male and female servants, and camels and donkeys. And Sarah my master’s wife bore a son to my master when she was old; and to him he has given all that he has. Now my master made me swear, saying, You shall not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, in whose land I dwell; but you shall go to my father’s house and to my family, and take a wife for my son. And I said to my master, Perhaps the woman will not follow me. But he said to me, The Lord, before whom I walk, will send His angel with you and prosper your way; and you shall take a wife for my son from my family and from my father’s house. You will be clear from this oath when you arrive among my family; for if they will not give her to you, then you will be released from my oath.
And this day I came to the well and said, O Lord God of my master Abraham, if You will now prosper the way in which I go, behold, I stand by the well of water; and it shall come to pass that when the virgin comes out to draw water, and I say to her, Please give me a little water from your pitcher to drink, and she says to me, Drink, and I will draw for your camels also,—let her be the woman whom the Lord has appointed for my master’s son.
But before I had finished speaking in my heart, there was Rebekah, coming out with her pitcher on her shoulder; and she went down to the well and drew water. And I said to her, Please let me drink. And she made haste and let her pitcher down from her shoulder, and said, Drink, and I will give your camels a drink also. So I drank, and she gave the camels a drink also. Then I asked her, and said, Whose daughter are you? And she said, The daughter of Bethuel, Nahor’s son, whom Milcah bore to him. So I set the jewel above her nose and the bracelets upon her hands. And I bowed my head and worshiped the Lord, and blessed the Lord God of my master Abraham, who had led me in the way of truth to take the daughter of my master’s brother for his son. Now if you 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.
Then Laban and Bethuel answered and said, The thing comes from the Lord; we cannot speak to you either bad or good. Here is Rebekah before you; take her and go, and let her be your master’s son’s wife, as the Lord has spoken.
And it came to pass, when Abraham’s servant heard their words, that he worshiped the Lord, bowing himself to the earth. Then the servant brought out jewelry of silver, jewelry of gold, and clothing, and gave them to Rebekah. He also gave precious things to her brother and to her mother.
And he and the men who were with him ate and drank and stayed all night. Then they arose in the morning, and he said, Send me away to my master.
But her brother and her mother said, Let the young woman stay with us a few days, at least ten; after that she may go.
And he said to them, Do not hinder me, since the Lord has prospered my way; send me away so that I may go to my master.
So they said, We will call the young woman and ask from her mouth. Then they called Rebekah and said to her, Will you go with this man?
And she said, I will go.
So they sent away Rebekah their sister and her nurse, and Abraham’s servant and his men. And they blessed Rebekah and said to her:
Our sister, may you become
The mother of thousands of ten thousands;
And may your descendants possess
The gates of those who hate them.
Then Rebekah and her maids arose, and they rode on the camels and followed the man. So the servant took Rebekah and departed.
Now Isaac came from the way of Beer Lahai Roi, for he dwelt in the South. And Isaac went out to meditate in the field in the evening; and he lifted his eyes and looked, and there, the camels were coming. Then Rebekah lifted her eyes, and when she saw Isaac she dismounted from her camel; for she had said to the servant, Who is this man walking in the field to meet us?
The servant said, It is my master. So she took a veil and covered herself.
And the servant told Isaac all the things that he had done. Then Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent; and he took Rebekah and she became his wife, and he loved her. So Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.
Arcana Coelestia 3158
[Abraham’s servant, in looking for an answer speaks:] ‘Tell me; and if not, tell me’ means a state in which they are free to deliberate. This is evident from the sense of the words themselves. From all that has gone before it is clear that while the sense of the letter in this chapter is dealing with the betrothal and marriage of Rebekah to Isaac, the internal sense is dealing with the introduction and joining together of truth and good, for the introduction and joining together of truth and good is spiritual betrothal and spiritual marriage. In both instances a free state to deliberate is necessary. The necessity for it in betrothal and marriage is well known, but the necessity for it in the introduction and joining together of truth and good is not so well known because it is not visible to the natural man and belongs among the things that go on quite apart from any reflecting on them. Yet this activity continues moment by moment in one who is being reformed and regenerated, that is to say, he experiences a free state when truth is being joined to good.
 Everyone may know, if he merely stops to think, that nothing ever exists as a person’s own unless it forms part of his will. . . . Everything that belongs in the will looks to be free. The state itself of the will is freedom, for what I will, I choose and desire since that is what I love and acknowledge as that which is good. From this it becomes clear that the truth of faith in no sense becomes a person’s own until it has been accepted by the will, that is, introduced and joined to the good there, which cannot happen except in a free state.
A Wife for Isaac
So they said, We will call the young woman and ask from her mouth. Then they called Rebekah and said to her, Will you go with this man?
(Genesis 24: 57-58)
It is often said “Context is everything.” We read this story of what might be called an arranged marriage and think of it in the context of our own day. On the other hand, we can take ourselves back to that time and culture and discover a richness that could not be seen otherwise.
This 24th chapter of Genesis can be published and read as a story all by itself. Here we are only reading portions of it in the interests of time and then attempting to draw a few lessons for our spiritual life. Yet there is so much here we could read the whole story, discuss it verse by verse, and have a lovely conversation that could last hours.
We get to some of our thoughts in our Bible Study, but sadly our setting today is more limited. So let’s return to the idea of context.
This chapter is about the betrothal and marriage of Isaac and Rebekah. We note the prominence of the idea of free will and consent as being a key part of the process. Whatever their rituals and formalities were in their day, we note how important consent, and even ongoing consent, was to the marriage relationship. It remains important, even essential, in marriages today.
In the Old Testament we observe a number of marriages and relationships. It seems that many were not exactly what we would call ideal. Yet with each of the Patriarchs we do observe that there was something special and instructive about their married lives: Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, and Jacob and Rachel. Isaac’s marriage to Rebekah was clearly monogamous, and began with this amazing ritual and journey of Abraham’s servant.
But let’s go back and see what the bigger context is: the Bible, the Word of God, sets forth the institution of marriage.
And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. And God blessed them, and said, Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth (Genesis 1: 27, 28).
These words are from Genesis chapter 1. This theme of marriage is deepened in the second chapter where Creation is given a second perspective. There we find new details surrounding the origin of this relationship:
And Jehovah God caused a deep sleep to fall upon man, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed the flesh in its place. And the rib which Jehovah God had taken from the man, He made into a woman, and brought her to the man. And the man said, This one, this time, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; for this she shall be called woman, for she was taken out of man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they shall become one flesh (Genesis 2: 21-24).
There is a principle, when studying the Word, that the first things said reign throughout. So it is with this theme of marriage which permeates Scripture. We see this principle expressed in other ways, like how human life starts out in a state of innocence. Young children have an innocence which may be hidden or obscured by time and subsequent states of life, but it is a return to innocence that equips each person to enter the kingdom of God.
To strike home this opening concept of marriage, we read of it again in early Genesis. Chapters three and four are about the fall of man in the garden and the sad killing of Abel by his own brother Cain. Then chapter five reminds us how it all started in case we were taken off the scent:
This is the book of the genealogy of Adam. In the day that God created man, He made him in the likeness of God. He created them male and female, and blessed them and called them Man in the day they were created (verses 1 and 2).
This theme of marriage is extended throughout the Old Testament into the New. God’s relationship to His people he likens to a marriage:
For your Maker is your husband,
The Lord of hosts is His name;
And your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel;
He is called the God of the whole earth (Isaiah 54: 5).
The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son (Matthew 22: 2).
Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready (Revelation 19: 7).
We pause to note that it is indeed the purpose from Creation for man and woman to be married, and not only for this life, but for eternity. These teachings are for everyone whether married in the here and now or not. Some of us may have spouses in the other world. Some of us may have not yet found their true partner. Even good marriages may be troubled by the stresses and tribulations of life. Marriage as an institution is attacked relentlessly in society. And in our own hearts, we may find ourselves doubting and abandoning what we know to be holy and innocent in true and eternal love. Remember Jesus, too, was attacked even though of His ministry was one of healing and His promise that of eternal life. The Lord was able to say of those who participated in His crucifixion:
Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do (Luke 23: 34).
We pray this prayer also for those who appear to undermine the spirit and the wonder that is the marriage of man and woman as ordained by God.
These are stressful times for marriage. So it is good to get into the Word and let the Lord send His angels to attend us in our reflections and prayers for ourselves and for our loved ones.
This story of Abraham’s servant illustrates an elaborate and distant ritual of finding and discovering a life’s partner. It is also something more.
On a deeper level it is about the way Good seeks out its own Truth and Truth its own Good. Abraham the father is like that primitive love or goodness that gives us our life’s purpose. Our deepest character is a gift of God. It contains the promise of all we will become. That is happening on the deepest level, and this is what gives us the life and events of Abraham.
Now Abraham is getting old. He has a son, Isaac, who is designated to pass on the legacy to be fulfilled in the promised land. Isaac with a name that means laughter represents the good of the rational mind. It is that deep purpose coming forth in the mind’s eye. The mind has an amazing ability to comprehend and grasp a plan or purpose and work towards the ultimate end. It can differentiate incompatibilities and incompatibilities, what is a higher and what is a lower priority.
That rational mind needs to be joined with an affection, suited just perfectly to itself, an affection of truth, it is called. This is the wife that is sought for Isaac.
Consider how things happen when they do not work out. The person has a gift or calling, but never seems to get on track. Perhaps they are sidetracked with worldly pursuits – money or pleasures – that eventually are unfulfilling. Or perhaps they simply have not discovered who they really are and what is their true calling. The rational mind has not yet been joined to its true motivating love.
Much of what we are talking about happens whether we can think about them or not. People have minds and hearts that drive them forward, perhaps with a plan or even a trial-and-error method. Yet something is going on where there is this searching for a suitable affection and love that will propel us forward in our life’s direction.
This is a process of inner discovery. And amazingly, there is, in the best cases, a great respect within ones self, a respect that requires free will and consent.
It is true that outer circumstances and even physical drives may press us to take this or that path. But until we come to honor our deepest calling, and the affections and loves that are suitable and good, there will be no going forward with a sense of purpose and peace.
So they said, We will call the young woman and ask from her mouth. Then they called Rebekah and said to her, Will you go with this man? (Genesis 24: 57-58).
As we read in our lesson:
From all that has gone before it is clear that while the sense of the letter in this chapter is dealing with the betrothal and marriage of Rebekah to Isaac, the internal sense is dealing with the introduction and joining together of truth and good, for the introduction and joining together of truth and good is spiritual betrothal and spiritual marriage. In both instances a free state to deliberate is necessary.
So even if we are not aware of it, when reading this 24th chapter of Genesis, we are reading about ourselves and our inner deliberations. We take care to assess our lives. We honor the thoughts and feelings that come our way, and we look for what is compatible and are prepared to step away from whatever does not serve our true purpose in life. We engage in a sort of spiritual ritual that asks a prayer, looks for the indications of providence, and then gives thanks as the way forward is opened up.
May each of us come to know and appreciate our Creator more and more. May we combine our life’s purpose with a respect for marriage and all the human relationships we enter. Life is truly a wonder. And our context each day is the presence of our Heavenly Father and a path that leads to our peace and happiness.
May the following words express our wish for our marriages, as well as our sense of Divine Providence in all our endeavors.
When the servant met the young woman Rebekah, he said:
And I bowed my head and worshiped the Lord, and blessed the Lord God of my master Abraham, who had led me in the way of truth (Genesis 24: 48).