Bible Commentary: Genesis 24

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Genesis 24

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A Wife for Isaac

Three years have passed since the death of Sarah. Abraham is now 140 years old; Isaac is 40.  Feeling his age, and now more sensible that his own time may be short, Abraham begins the process of acquiring a wife for his son. Arranged marriages have become a thing of the past in most, though not all, modern cultures. But in Abraham’s day one of the duties of a father was to ensure that a proper mate was selected for his children, especially his sons.

The selection of a wife for a son, especially the firstborn and heir to the position of head of the family, was a serious undertaking. The right woman had to be selected, ensuring the continued stability and prosperity of the family. In some cases the father himself negotiated the purchase of a bride, but in other cases the services of an intermediary (called a malach, angel or messenger, in Hebrew) were employed. Abraham is now old, so he entrusts the responsibility to the steward of his household, here identified as the “the oldest servant of his house, who ruled over all that he had” (verse 2). Most likely this is Eliezer, whom Abraham mentioned in Genesis 15:2-3 Genesis 15:2-3 [2] And Abram said, LORD God, what will you give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus? [3] And Abram said, Behold, to me you have given no seed: and, see, one born in my house is my heir.
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as his heir before he fathered children—although it is possible that Eliezer has died by this point. In any case, Abraham imposes a most solemn oath upon his servant, instructing him to return to Abraham’s country and kindred in the city of Nahor in northern Mesopotamia, and from them to select a wife. He is strictly forbidden to take Isaac with him.

There are many parallels between the selection of Isaac’s wife and the selection of a wife for Jesus Christ, His wife meaning the Church (see Ephesians 5:22-33 Ephesians 5:22-33 [22] Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands, as to the Lord. [23] For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the savior of the body. [24] Therefore as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. [25] Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; [26] That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, [27] That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. [28] So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loves his wife loves himself. [29] For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourishes and cherishes it, even as the Lord the church: [30] For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. [31] For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined to his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. [32] This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. [33] Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.
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). Abraham can be seen as a type of the Father, being himself later called the father of the faithful (Romans 4:16 Romans 4:16Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all,
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). Isaac is a type of Christ, a son born according to promise, whose birth was announced beforehand, and whose conception was miraculous. The servant is a type of the role of the Holy Spirit. Indeed, if the servant was Eliezer, the type is even more striking since his name means “God his help” and God’s Spirit is called the Helper (as the Greek word parakletos may be legitimately translated in John 1416). Of course, all analogies break down at some point—and it certainly does here in the fact that the Holy Spirit is not a person nor an independent agent capable of decision-making on its own. (To learn more, see our free booklet Who Is God?) Still, the analogy appears valid to a point considering that Jesus personified the Holy Spirit in referring to it as a parakletos (in essence, a personal helper or court advocate).

Thus we have the Father sending His Spirit to select out and prepare a Bride for His Son. The Bride receives gifts from this agent of the Father (Ephesians 4:8 Ephesians 4:8Why he said, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men.
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, Romans 11:29 Romans 11:29For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.
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, 1 Corinthians 12), agrees to marry one she has never seen (1 Peter 1:8 1 Peter 1:8Whom having not seen, you love; in whom, though now you see him not, yet believing, you rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory:
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), undertakes a journey with that agent (the journey of this life with the Spirit as a guide), is brought to the Son (Revelation 19), and takes up residence in the tent of Sarah (whose name means “Princess”) where the marriage is consummated (which is a type of spiritual union—1 Corinthians 6:16-17 1 Corinthians 6:16-17 [16] What? know you not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, said he, shall be one flesh. [17] But he that is joined to the Lord is one spirit.
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).

It should also be mentioned that God’s ministers (servants) play a role in bringing Christ’s bride to Christ. As the apostle Paul wrote to the Church: “For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:2 2 Corinthians 11:2For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.
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). Through His ministry God calls people to enter into a relationship with Christ, and through His ministry He also provides the gifts of help and instruction to those who respond.

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