Summary: A study concerning the selection of a bride for Isaac with principles and applications for the Christian life.
A Study by Charles W. Holt
A Bride for Isaac or How Comes the Bride?
We revisit Genesis 24 to consider other themes found in this chapter. The chapter heading of my New King James Version Bible reads: A Bride for Isaac. That’s a good clue on what the chapter is all about. I thought about tagging this study with the title, "Here Comes the Bride." After reflecting upon what I think is one of the main themes, however (there are several), I decided to call it, "How Comes the Bride." This expresses in a better way where I want to go with it. The dynamics of how Rebecca was chosen as a bride for Isaac offer several intriguing applications to our Christian life.
First, I want to interject a verse we’ve seen before in order to validate what will happen throughout this study. In First Corinthians chapter 10, Paul uses several Old Testament events to warn the church at Corinth of the dangers of spiritual sloppiness and slackness in their faith; "…nor let us tempt (test) Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents," for example. He concludes his remarks on that subject by saying, "Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come" (vs. 11 NKJV). In other words, he is telling us that the Old Testament stories, such as the one now under consideration in Genesis 24, provides us with examples that are, in effect, illustrations of how the Lord works throughout the centuries. They are types and models for the Christian and for living the Christian life. It is in the light of this rule of interpretation and allegorical usage that we approach today’ lesson. But, of course, this is nothing new. We have followed this procedure throughout these studies. (My Seminary professor in Old Testament studies would be suffering from severe heart palpitations if he knew I was doing this. I would say, "relax, Dr. Worden. I did it with you back then, and I’ll do it agin.")
Before diving off into the allegorical deep-end, however, it is important to bring this into historical perspective. The search for Isaac’s bride occurs sometime after that his mother Sarah had died, approximately three years earlier. Abraham will not die for another 35 years. We know he is already over 100-years old. "Now Abraham was old, well advanced in age," says verse one of chapter twenty-four. He knew it was time to take care of some very important unfinished business of selecting a bride for his now 40-year-old son (see 25:20). Only one person can be trusted enough to do the job. "So Abraham said to the oldest servant of his house, who ruled over all that he had . . . go to my country and to my family, and take a wife for my son Isaac" (24:2-4 NKJV). Although unstated, it is my belief that this servant was none other than Eliezer of Damascus, Abraham’s heir apparent at that time. We met him in chapter 15. Eliezer takes an oath to obey Abraham’s instructions to the letter, sets off on what in the natural, can be said without exaggeration, was a "mission impossible." He ultimately returns with a very beautiful young woman for Isaac. They marry, and "live happily ever after." Ah! Yes, it has a happy ending just the way we want all beautiful love stories to end. Of course, they got married first and after that they fell in love . . . but that’s another subject.
Having put this true, original, and historical story snugly in a safe keeping place where its historical message will remain unchanged in Hebrew/Jewish/Arab interpretation and application, we will proceed to look at the main characters in the light of our distinctly Christian, "spiritual" sense.
Although I have never done it myself, I have heard and read others who make this story a powerful illustration of how the Holy Spirit has been at work since the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4f.) seeking a bride for Christ. In a typical sense it works like this: Abraham is a picture of God the Father. Eliezer is a type of the Holy Spirit. Isaac is a picture of the bridegroom, Christ, and Rebekah is the bride, the Church. God (Abraham) sends the Holy Spirit (the servant) into a distant land (the world) to seek the bride, i.e., the Church. The Holy Spirit, finding a willing person, bestows gifts (24:22) upon her. These gifts are but "an earnest of her inheritance" (see 2 Cor. 1:22; 5:5 and Eph. 1:14). She must be willing to follow the servant (Holy Spirit), forsaking her "family" to meet and marry a man she has never seen--kind of "walking by faith," one could say. She does. They do. Thus begins a great relationship with a happy ending. Now that’s just pretty neat, and makes for a great sermon. (Maybe I’ll use it some day.) If memory serves me, someone has used the ten camels of Eliezer’s entourage as the text of a sermon. In this each camel is a type of something or else they use the characteristic’s of camels as burden-bearers, etc., to make the point that we believer’s may have a hard, hot job to do but it must be done, and we can do it. Well, think about it . . . the camel’s endurance, ability to carry a heavy load for a long distance . . . and other things. Such should characterize each Christian. Hmmm…I can easily see a Christian as being lamb-like. But camel-like? It might strain the point just a little too much. (They do have a nasty side . . . but we won’t get into that.)