“So he said, “I am Abraham’s servant. “The LORD has greatly blessed my master, so that he has become rich; and He has given him flocks and herds, and silver and gold, and servants and maids, and camels and donkeys. “Now Sarah my master’s wife bore a son to my master in her old age, and he has given him all that he has. “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 live; but you shall go to my father’s house and to my relatives, and take a wife for my son.’ “I said to my master, ‘Suppose the woman does not follow me.’ “He said to me, ‘The LORD, before whom I have walked, will send His angel with you to make your journey successful, and you will take a wife for my son from my relatives and from my father’s house; then you will be free from my oath, when you come to my relatives; and if they do not give her to you, you will be free from my oath.’” Gen. 24:34-41
While some things are only mentioned in passing in scripture, or even only alluded to, the initial conversation between Abraham and his servant, and it’s retelling, are both captured in full detail. We must ask ourselves if there is something critical about this passage that it is essentially here twice, since we know the scriptures are typically efficient and non-repetitive.
At the beginning of Genesis 24, Abraham charges his eldest servant to find a wife for Isaac. The entire oath is recorded in 24:2-9. Once the servant arrives and finds Rebekah, he and those traveling with him are offered to rest a while before their return journey. To explain his presence to Rebekah’s family, the servant essentially recounts the charge and the oath made with Abraham. A close reading of the text indicates subtle differences however, which I explore here.
In the opening, the servant expounds upon Abraham’s blessings, giving details. Obviously it would not have been necessary for Abraham to go into detail with his servant, as he lived with him.
In the sworn statement, Abraham makes reference to The LORD God concerning the promise, but the servant keeps in anonymous; only that he ‘swore’, but not to whom.
Abraham had charged the servant to go to “my country and relatives”. The servant used the term “my father’s house”. Perhaps this was a tactic to remind Laban that they are all, in fact, family. It is worth noting that in Genesis 12:1 Abraham was called to leave all three:
“Now the LORD said to Abram,
“Go forth from your country,
And from your relatives
And from your father’s house,
To the land which I will show you;”
The servant mentions both ways to freedom from his oath, either by success or the family not permitting the woman to come. Abraham only mentions the latter, but refers instead to it as “If the woman is not willing to follow you”. This is fascinating because on one hand it appears Rebekah has no choice (v. 51), yet ultimately she is asked (v. 58).
Regarding Isaac, we note that the servant made no reference to Abraham’s prohibition on bringing the son to that land, though Abraham mentions it twice. Apparently the servant did not think that was critical information, or else moot now that he was already in the middle of fulfilling the oath.
Lastly, I find it fascinating that Isaac is not mentioned by name at all throughout this entire exchange. In fact, Rebekah does not find out the name of her husband-to-be until they are face to face for the first time.
Wouldn’t Laban and the rest of the family be curious to meet this future husband? Aren’t they wondering why he is not here himself? Why doesn’t this arouse suspicion? Perhaps they are all taken aback by the display of wealth and generosity of gifts, so much so that they do not even think to ask these things.