A Smooth Operator

29 Rebekah had a brother whose name was Laban. Laban ran out toward the man, to the spring. 30 As soon as he saw the ring and the bracelets on his sister’s arms, and heard the words of Rebekah his sister, “Thus the man spoke to me,” he went to the man. And behold, he was standing by the camels at the spring. 31 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.” 32 So the man came to the house and unharnessed the camels, and gave straw and fodder to the camels, and there was water to wash his feet and the feet of the men who were with him. 33 Then food was set before him to eat. But he said, “I will not eat until I have said what I have to say.” He said, “Speak on.”

34 So he said, “I am Abraham’s servant. 35 The Lord has greatly blessed my master, and he has become great. He has given him flocks and herds, silver and gold, male servants and female servants, camels and donkeys. 36 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. 37 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, 38 but you shall go to my father’s house and to my clan and take a wife for my son.’ 39 I said to my master, ‘Perhaps the woman will not follow me.’ 40 But he said to me, ‘The Lord, before whom I have walked, will send his angel with you and prosper your way. You shall take a wife for my son from my clan and from my father’s house. 41 Then you will be free from my oath, when you come to my clan. And if they will not give her to you, you will be free from my oath.’

42 “I came today to the spring and said, ‘O Lord, the God of my master Abraham, if now you are prospering the way that I go, 43 behold, I am standing by the spring of water. Let the virgin who comes out to draw water, to whom I shall say, “Please give me a little water from your jar to drink,” 44 and who will say 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.’

45 “Before I had finished speaking in my heart, behold, Rebekah came out with her water jar on her shoulder, and she went down to the spring and drew water. I said to her, ‘Please let me drink.’ 46 She quickly let down her jar from her shoulder and said, ‘Drink, and I will give your camels drink also.’ So I drank, and she gave the camels drink also. 47 Then I asked her, ‘Whose daughter are you?’ She said, ‘The daughter of Bethuel, Nahor’s son, whom Milcah bore to him.’ So I put the ring on her nose and the bracelets on her arms. 48 Then I bowed my head and worshiped the Lord and blessed the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who had led me by the right way to take the daughter of my master’s kinsman for his son.’ 49 Now then, if you are going to show steadfast love and faithfulness to my master, tell me; and if not, tell me, that I may turn to the right hand or to the left.”

50 Then Laban and Bethuel answered and said, “The thing has come from the Lord; we cannot speak to you bad or good. 51 Behold, Rebekah is before you; take her and go, and let her be the wife of your master’s son, as the Lord has spoken.” Genesis 24:29-51 ESV

In this section of chapter 24, Moses introduces yet another character who will play a major role in the unfolding plot surrounding Abraham and his descendants. After his “chance” encounter with the young woman at the well, Abraham’s servant accepted her gracious offer of food and lodging. It seems that Rebekah had hurried home to tell her family about what had happened and to help them to prepare for their unexpected guest. But the servant remained at the well with his retinue of ten camels.

Out of breath and filled with excitement, Rebekah shared the details of her conversation with the stranger and showed off her new jewelry.  When her brother Laban saw the expensive gifts his sister had received from this stranger, he decided to roll out the red carpet.

…he rushed out to the spring, where the man was still standing beside his camels. Laban said to him, “Come and stay with us, you who are blessed by the Lord! Why are you standing here outside the town when I have a room all ready for you and a place prepared for the camels?” – Genesis 24:30-31 NLT

Laban went out of his way to extend hospitality to their guest, unloading the man’s camels and providing them with food and water. He even supplied the camel drivers with clean water to wash their feet. He was the consummate host, even ordering a meal to be served for his famished guests. But the servant refused to eat until he had declared the purpose for his visit.

At this point, Moses provides a retelling of the events that took place at the well, but through the eyes of Abraham’s servant. First, he disclosed his relationship with Abraham, their long-departed relative. And then he gave them a Cliff Notes recap of Abraham’s life since leaving Haran. But he prefaces the whole historical narrative surrounding Abraham’s life by accentuating his tremendous wealth. He wanted his hosts to know that Abraham had become a very wealthy man. This information was intended to soften up Rebekah’s father and brothers and make them more amenable to the proposal he was about to make.

He revealed some of the details surrounding Isaac’s birth and then emphasized how Abraham had made Isaac the sole heir of all his possessions. In other words, Isaac was also a wealthy man. But this wealthy, unmarried son of Abraham was in need of a wife. And the servant revealed that his presence in Haran was due to an oath he had sworn to his master. He had vowed not to return home until he had found a suitable wife for Isaac. And then the servant disclosed Abraham’s addendum to the oath.

“…you must find a wife for my son from among my relatives, from my father’s family. Then you will have fulfilled your obligation. But if you go to my relatives and they refuse to let her go with you, you will be free from my oath.” – Genesis 24:40-41 NLT

By this time, Rebekah’s father and brothers had put two and two together. They understood the purpose behind this man’s mission and knew exactly what he was about to ask them. But the servant was far from done. He continued to describe the divine nature of his meeting with Rebekah. He wanted his audience to know that this entire sequence of events had been ordained by Yahweh, the God of Abraham. He even revealed his own shock at discovering Rebekah’s identity. She wasn’t some random stranger fetching water from the well. No, she was the daughter of Abraham’s nephew and the granddaughter of his brother, Nahor.

This faithful servant of Abraham proved to be a deft negotiator. He did a masterful job preparing Rebekah’s family for the ask. By the time he finished describing this divinely orchestrated encounter at the well, it would be virtually impossible for Rebekah’s father to say no to the request he was about to make. He flatly declared, “the Lord, the God of my master, Abraham…led me straight to my master’s niece to be his son’s wife” (Genesis 24:48 NLT). But to further enhance his prospects of success, the servant placed all the pressure on Bethuel and Laban by insisting that they make the final call.

“So tell me—will you or won’t you show unfailing love and faithfulness to my master? Please tell me yes or no, and then I’ll know what to do next.” – Genesis 24:49 NLT

What was Bethuel supposed to do? If he said no, it would appear as if he was opposing the will of God. So, having heard the details of the servant’s story, Bethuel and Laban gave their wholehearted consent.

“The Lord has obviously brought you here, so there is nothing we can say. Here is Rebekah; take her and go. Yes, let her be the wife of your master’s son, as the Lord has directed.” – Genesis 24:50-51 NLT

And just like that, the oath was fulfilled, and the son of Abraham had a wife. God had miraculously intervened yet again, paving the way for His promise to make of Abraham a great nation to become a reality.

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