“Then the servant ran to meet her, and said, “Please let me drink a little water from your jar.” She said, “Drink, my lord”; and she quickly lowered her jar to her hand, and gave him a drink. Now when she had finished giving him a drink, she said, “I will draw also for your camels until they have finished drinking.”” Gen. 24:17-19
This passage contains an oft-overlooked theme which is central not only to this story, but a theme that is critical to our lives as believers in God.
In response to the his request, Rebekah offers a drink to Abraham’s servant. She then offers to get water for the camels to drink. It is at this point that most of us who are reading forget: camels are known for drinking vast quantities of water, and further, there are ten camels (v. 10). In short, Rebekah volunteered for a momentous task for a complete stranger. The watering of the camels was a gesture that went far beyond the social expectation. (Nelson’s)
Ten camels will drink somewhere between 140 and 250 gallons by the time they are through (R’Hirsch; Plaut) and the scripture does read “until they have finished drinking” so this is not just a first sip. Also, the text tells us that Rebekah ‘descended’ to get the water, so there may have even been steps to climb down to the spring. If the spring or well had been easily accessible, they could simply lead the camels to the water, but instead a trough was used. It likely took her hours to perform all this work.
In short, Rebekah volunteered for a momentous task for a complete stranger, but soon she will be richly rewarded for it. The watering of the camels in and of itself is a sign to the servant for certain, however even more so, the practice of such excellent hospitality is what undoubtedly shows Abraham’s servant that Rebekah has the characteristics of Abraham’s family. Consider how Abraham served the three traveling strangers in Gen. 18, and how Abraham likely raised Lot to do the same (Genesis 19). Hospitality was a huge part of Abraham’s family, and Rebekah was the embodiment of that hospitality.