22 November 2012

Genesis 24:1-21

"and I will make you swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and earth, that you will not get a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I live" (v. 3)


Abraham is now an old man and he has one last major duty to perform - to find a wife for his son Isaac, the heir of the promise. It is an important task because the wife of Isaac will be the one through whom the divine blessing given to Abraham will be passed on to future generations. It is therefore very important that the right wife will be found for Isaac. The subject of finding a wife for Isaac forms the longest chapter in Genesis. It is a beautiful story, marked by simplicity and clarity of style, and gives one of the most vivid pictures of ancient oriental life to be found in the Old Testament.

Abraham calls his oldest and most trustworthy servant and makes him swear; first that he will not take a wife from the Canaanites for Isaac (verse 3); secondly, that he will go to Haran, the city of Nahor, to get a wife for Isaac (verse 4); and thirdly, that he will never take Isaac back to his relatives in Syria (verse 6). If, however, the young woman is unwilling to come to Canaan and marry Isaac, then the servant will be free of the oath which he has sworn (verse 8).

By ordering his servant to carry out these strict orders under oath, Abraham is safeguarding the divine promises which are made to him when he entered Canaan. Marriage with the Canaanites is forbidden, not only to preserve the purity of the stock, but also to avoid contamination with the immoral practices of the Canaanite religion.

The detailed account of the servants' journey, his meeting with the young woman at the well outside the city of Nahor, indicates that nothing is unimportant on a divinely appointed mission like this. God's overruling providence is seen in every detail.

To Ponder

  • Abraham asks the servant to fulfil a promise. Have you ever been asked to fulfil a promise?
  • When have you experienced the providence of God in your life?

Bible notes author

The Revd Richard Teal

Richard Teal is a Methodist minister currently serving as chair of the Cumbria Methodist District. He has a deep interest in ecumenical relationships, Church growth and liturgy.