This is a very beautiful story of faith, providence and love. It takes place after the death of Sarah. We see Abraham making a request of his oldest and most trusted servant. Abraham requires the servant to make a solemn oath that he will fulfill this request. He is to go and find a bride for Isaac, but there are conditions.
The servant is to make sure that she is from Abraham’s country and Abraham’s people and not of the daughters of the Canaanites. Fearing that the potential bride would be unwilling to follow him all the way back, the servant asks Abraham if Isaac should go with him on the journey so that the bride would be put at ease enough to go with them willingly. Abraham does not think that this is necessary: he remembers the promises that God made to him and he trusts that God would allow for the union to happen so that the promises could be fulfilled. If the potential bride is unwilling to follow the servant back, then the servant will be released from the oath. Abraham trusted that the presence of God would be there to guide his servant. Abraham’s faith is once again on display: he does not want Isaac’s wife to come from a culture that worships false gods and he believes that God will provide.
So the servant takes ten of Abraham’s camels and comes strategically to a well where young women would gather water at evening. This was the city of Nahor in Mesopotamia. The servant says a prayer for success – that he will find the right bride for Isaac and that it will be under the condition that she would offer him water for his camels after he asks for water for himself. If she gives both him and his camels a drink, he will know that God is identifying this as Isaac’s bride and in turn showing kindness to his master Abraham. We can see in the servant’s attitude and prayer that he has faith in God also – undoubtedly influenced by the great faith of his master Abraham.
At the well, the servant notices a very beautiful young virgin with a pitcher on her shoulder. After the servant asks her for water, things proceed with the young lady Rebekah just as he had planned. She tells the servant that she will make sure that his camels have enough water to drink until they are no longer thirsty. The servant gives her gifts of gold and asks her who her father is. Upon hearing that she was the daughter of Bethuel, Milcah’s son, whom she bore to Nahor, the servant rejoices because he realizes that she is related to Abraham. This would have been highly significant because it represents familiarity and familial closeness, which was preferred at the time. It also confirmed that the servant would meet the condition laid out by Abraham at the outset that the bride not be one of the Canaanites.
Rebekah’s brother Laban, when realizing that the servant had shown kindness and given gifts to Rebekah, offered the servant and the camels lodging for the night. The servant relates the whole story to Laban and other family members, including everything about how Rebekah should follow him back to Isaac, or else he would be released from the oath. He tells the story, including the condition of her giving water to the camels, right up to that present moment. He concludes by requesting that they deal kindly with him and inform him of their intentions, mainly of which was whether they would allow Rebekah to return with him back to Isaac and Abraham. Bethuel, Rebekah’s father and Laban, her brother, respond:
“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.”
When hearing this wonderful news, the servant bows, worships God and gives Rebekah even more gifts. He also gives precious gifts to Rebekah’s brother and mother. After staying the night and eating with the them, the servant asks them the next morning to let him return to Abraham with Rebekah, as he had mentioned the day before. But Rebekah’s family was not entirely prepared to release her just yet for they wish for her to remain with them for a few more days yet. But the servant has his condition to meet and he does not want to disappoint Abraham. He also ultimately feels that Rebekah is the right bride for Isaac so he insists. Then Rebekah’s family ask her what she desires. She says simply that she will go. After hearing this, Rebekah’s family agrees to send her and her nurse with the servant and they say a prayer for her as she goes:
“Our sister, may you become the mother of thousands of ten thousands; and may your descendants possess the gates of those who hate them.”
It is no coincidence that this prayer echoes themes of the promises God gave to Abraham. As the bride of Isaac, Abraham’s son, Rebekah plays a large role in the progeny to come from the lineage of Abraham.
It is the ending of this chapter that is the most beautiful of all. As the servant and Rebekah are traveling back, Isaac is in a field meditating in the evening. He sees the camels coming. Rebekah, too, notices Isaac and asks the servant who he is. When she learns that it is Isaac, she covers herself with a veil. This simple act of humility before her soon-to-be husband says a lot about her character: she respects the institution of marriage, she respects Isaac and she bends to the will of the Lord.
After the servant tells Isaac all that had happened, Isaac and Rebekah are married. The grief that Isaac had over the death of his mother is now replaced with the joy of his new wife Rebekah. The conclusion is as the story, it is simple. It is a story of God’s love and providence for His people. When we love and obey God today, this sort of providence is the same today as it was with Isaac and Rebekah. When a faithful man and a faithful women seek and pray for a suitable mate, the Lord is the absolute best matchmaker there ever was, or ever will be.