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“Abraham said to his servant, the oldest of his household, who had charge of all that he owned…” Gen. 24:2a
Though Abraham’s servant is not named in this chapter, the popular belief among most scholars is that the servant is Eliezer of Damascus, who is first mentioned in Genesis 15:2 as being the potential heir for Abraham’s house. It may be of note that the numerical value of Eliezer’s name is 318, which we are told is the number of men that went into battle with Abraham against the four kings (Gen. 14:14), so there is speculation that Eliezer was with Abraham in battle, or perhaps that having Eliezer in battle was as if having 318 men.
If we regard Isaac, in light of the substitute sacrifice scenario, as a picture of the Christ, and we see Rebekah as a picture of the church (as the bride of Christ in the book of Revelation), then we see that this unnamed servant is sent forth to seek out the bride for Christ. So, we must consider that this servant may be a picture of the Holy Spirit.
Aside from the above, we see some similarities between the servant and what we know of the Holy Spirit:
- The servant got Rebekah to leave her old life behind, and almost all she had, to be married to Isaac in a new life. This too is the calling of the follower of Christ.
- John 16:13 of the New Testament tells us of the Holy Spirit “He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak”. In this story we see how the unnamed servant takes very specific instructions from Abraham, and repeats them, almost verbatim, to Rebekah’s family.
- The servant brings the good gifts of his master for the bride. The church receives the gifts of God from the Holy Spirit.
- In this chapter, the Unnamed Servant refers to both Abraham and Isaac as his master. (see vv. 9, 10, 27, 35, 36, 37, 42, 48, 50, 52 as referring to Abraham and v. 65 as referring to Isaac. This is a picture of how the Holy Spirit is co-equal with God and Christ the Messiah. This is similar in nature to the Christian doctrine of the Trinity/Triune nature of God.
There are many other such examples of parallels to this betrothal story as well.
According to http://www.abarim-publications.com, Eliezer’s name appears to mean ‘God’s help’ or helper of God:
The name Eliezer is a compound of two elements. The first part is the word (El 93), the common abbreviation of Elohim, meaning God (or gods). The second part comes from the verb (azar 1598) meaning help, support. This verb is quite common and used in all expected ways. Most notable is its usage in describing the function of Eve to Adam, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone, I will make him a helper suitable for him’ (http://www.abarim-publications.com/)
The types set forth in this chapter are just more reminders that all scripture is by design. Christ said that it was the law and the prophets that testified of Him, and I believe that is true in stories such as this.
“When Abram heard that his relative had been taken captive, he led out his trained men, born in his house, three hundred and eighteen, and went in pursuit as far as Dan.” Gen. 14:14
Abram seems quite ambitious here. There were four kings and their armies that just defeated and subdued five other kings and their armies, and Abram plans to rescue his newphew Lot, who was taken captive during the battle. Six peoples in all Chedarlaomer and the other kings and their armies defeated even before they got to the main battle: The Rephaim (who were believed to be giants), the Zuzim, the Emim, the Horites, the Amalakites and the Amorites were all just in the way of Chedarlaomer before they faced the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah. We must stop and wonder why Abram got involved in this fight – was it worth risking his life (and the lives of those with him) just to rescue Lot and his family? I mean after all, God had just given Abram these wonderful promises but said nothing about violence and fighting. There is the possibility that Lot was specifically chosen as a prisoner, as Abram may have been known as a wealthy man who could have paid a ransom. In any case apparently Abram felt Lot was worth the risk.
Abram was not completely alone of course – the scriptures tell us he took 318 trained men to fight with him. This does not sound like many, however the Midrash points out that 318 is the numeric equivalent of the name “Eliezer”, a name which means “God is my help”. Also interestingly, one of Abram’s 318 men is named Eliezer of Damascus – Abram voices his concern to God that Eliezer of Damascus will be his heir since he is childless (Gen. 15:2) though God of course informs Abram that he will have a son as the heir.
So what do we make of this? Some scholars say that only two men went in to fight – Abram and Eliezer (representing the 318 with his name), or that Abram went alone, and the 318 represented that God was his help. Do we consider the possibility that Eliezer was somehow God incarnate? It would seem an odd fit, but perhaps this is the case. One of my Torah commentaries also points out that if you add together all the prime numbers between 7 and 49 (7 x 7) that you arrive at 318. There is no doubt there is much symbolism in Genesis and other parts of scripture involving the number seven, but I do not know if that is significant to the story here. My opinion is that if the interpretation is useful to understanding the story, and glorifies God, then it is sufficient.
My position is that there were 318 actual men that went out to fight, as scripture goes out of its way to tell us that these men were A) trained, and B) born in Abram’s house. We would not expect such details to be mentioned if we were only speaking symbolically of God’s help. Regarding Eliezer of Damascus, I believe he was also an actual man of Abram’s household, as God said of him “This man will not be your heir…” (Gen. 15:4) Again, this conversation would not have taken place if Eliezer was not a real person. This does not completely rule out that Eliezer may have been an incarnation of God, only that even if that were the case, there were 318 actual men fighting.
I do believe that there is an intended significance that 318 men were taken; that Eliezer = 318, and that Eliezer means “God is my help”. I can believe this without believing the other speculations above because, quite simply, God is God and knows how to weave significance into His story. I believe this is an early picture showing us as believers that we can accomplish great things and win great battles when God is on our side. This is underscored by two things: 1) in Genesis 15:1, right after this battle, God tells Abram “I am a shield to you.” Also note that the other five armies, despite preparing for war (while the other armies were already expending energy fighting) and despite choosing their own turf as a battleground (Gen. 14:3), which should have offered a great advantage, the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah and their armies still lost the battle and fled for their survival.
And so this passage exists to tell us that if God is our help, and we have the correct intentions, we can still emerge victorious despite being vastly outnumbered. This is in contrast to the five kings and their armies, who probably outnumbered their enemies but still lost on their own turf because God was not with them. Gen. 13:13 tells us of the exceeding wickedness of the men of Sodom, and even the names of their kings speaks volumes: Bera (king of Sodom) means “with evil” or “son of evil” and Birsha (king of Gomorrah) means “with wickedness” or “with iniquity”.