MARRIAGE ARRANGING Gen 24
CONTEXT: Who says arranging a marriage isn’t romantic? Not the author, J, who created a story about family feelings, character, piety, wonders, empathy, along with business practices that resemble those described in cuneiform contracts from the early second millennium BCE.
Hand under thigh oath occurs only here and in the episode of Ya’akov making Yosef swear not to bury him in Mitsrayim.(Gen 47:29) Both are deathbed scenes. The significance of the gesture can only be conjectured. Oaths came with consequences for violation. Some sort of threat gesture seems to be implied in David’s swearing to fast, “So may God do to me, and so may he add, if… I taste bread… (2 Sam 3:35) Since children are said to come “from the father’s thigh (Gen 46:26), the expression might be a euphemism, gesturing a threat of sterility.
Camels may have been customary beasts of burden in the days of the author, but asses and horses were in use in the early second millennium fertile crescent. Archaeologists have found the earliest remains of camels there dating only from the tenth century BCE and later.
B’tuel, father of Rivkah and nephew of Avraham, is deceased in the story and yet v. 50 has him joining in answering the servant. This is either a typo or an insertion from another ancient version of the story. Radak, a 13th century commentator, suggests that B’tuel was present but very old and so left the negotiations to his son, Lavan.
1Avraham was old, well along in days, and Yahh had blessed Avraham with everything. 2So Avraham said to his servant, the elder of his house, who governed all that was his: “place your hand under my thigh and 3I shall make you swear by Yahh, god of the sky and god of the earth, that you not take a woman for my son from the daughters of the K’na’ani among whom I dwell. Instead, to my land, to my birthplace, you shall go and take a woman for my son, for Yitschak.”
5The servant said to him, “Perhaps the woman will not want to go after me to this land. Shall I then return your son to the land from which you left?”
6Said Avraham, “Be on guard lest you return my son there. 7Yahh, god of the sky, who took me from my father’s house and from the land of my birth, and who spoke to me, and who swore to me, ‘I shall give this land to your seed,’ he will send his angel before you and you shall take a woman for my son from there. 8And if the woman does not want to go after you, you shall be clean from this my swearing. Just do not return my son there.”
9The servant placed his hand under the thigh of Avraham, his master, and swore to him regarding this matter. 10The slave took ten camels from his master’s camels and with all his master’s goods at hand he rose and went to Aram Naharayim, to the city of Nachor.
11Outside of the city he made the camels kneel by the water well, at evening time, the time when the drawers came out. 12Then he said, “Yahh, god of my master, Avraham, make it happen, please, for me, today. Do love for my master, Avraham. 13Here I am standing by the spring of water and the daughters of the men of the city are coming out to draw water. 14Let it be that the girl to whom I say, ‘tip your jug that I might drink,” that she will say, ‘Drink and I’ll water your camels too.’ She’ll be the one you have decided for your servant, for Yitschak. In her I shall know that you have done love with my master.”
15And it happened. He had not yet finished speaking when, see! Rivkah comes out, the one born to B’tuel benMilkah, woman of Nachor, brother of Avraham. Her jug on her shoulder. 16The girl was very good looking, a virgin–no man had known her. She descended to the spring, filled her pitcher, and came up. 17The servant ran to meet her and said, “Please, give me a gulp of water from your jug.”
18She said, “Drink, my lord,” and she made haste and lowered her jug to her arm and watered him. 19When she had completely watered him she said, ‘I’ll draw for your camels too, till they have finished drinking.” 20She made haste and poured her jug into the trough and ran again to the well to draw. She drew for all his camels.
21The man gazed at her, keeping silence to learn whether or not Yahh had brought success to his path. 22When the camels finished drinking, the man took a gold nose ring, its weight a beka, and two bracelets for her arms, their weight ten. 23And he said, “Tell me please, whose daughter are you? Is there in your father’s house place for us to lodge?”
24“I am the daughter of B’tuel benMilkah that she bore to Nachor. 25Furthermore there is with us plenty of straw and fodder and place to lodge.”
26The man bowed and prostrated himself to Yahh 27and said, “Blessed be Yahh, god of my master, Avraham, whose love and truth have not left my master. I, led on the path by Yahh, to the house of my master’s brothers.”
28The girl ran to her mother’s house and told such things. 29Rivkah had a brother named Lavan. Lavan ran outside to the man at the spring. 30It happened when he saw the nose ring and the bracelets on his sister’s arms and when he heard Rivkah’s words, “Thus the man spoke to me...” He reached the man. There he was standing by the camels by the spring.
31“Come, blessed by Yahh!” he said. Why do you stand outside? I have cleared the house. There is place for the camels.”
32The man arrived at the house and released the camels. He gave straw and fodder for the camels and water to wash his feet and the feet of the men who were with him.
33There was set before him to eat but he said, “I’ll not eat till I have spoken my words.”
“Speak,” he said.
34“Servant of Avraham am I,” he said. 35“Yahh has greatly blessed my master and he has become great. He gave him flocks and cattle, silver and gold, servants and handmaids, camels and asses. 36Sarah, my master’s woman, bore my master a son after her old age. He gave him all that was his. 37My master made me swear: you shall not take a woman for my son from the daughters of the K’na’ani in whose land I dwell. 38To the contrary, you shall go to my father’s house, and to my family. You shall take a woman for my son.
39“I said to my master, ‘Perhaps the woman will not go after me.’ 40He said to me, ‘Yahh, before whom I have walked myself, will send his angel with you and make your path successful. You shall take a woman for my son from my family and from my father’s house. 41Then you will be clean of my oath by arriving at my family. If they will not give to you, you will be clean of my oath.
42“Today I arrived at the spring. I said, ‘Yahh, god of my master Avraham, if it is yours, please, to make successful the path on which I go, 43here I am standing by the spring of water. Let it be that the young woman coming out to draw to whom I say, ‘Give me a drink, please. A little water from your jug,’ 44and she says to me, ‘You drink and I’ll also draw for your camels,” she’ll be the woman Yahh has decided for my master’s son.
45“I, I had not yet finished speaking in my heart but there is Rivkah coming out, her jug on her shoulder. She descended to the spring and drew. I said to her, ‘Please give me a drink.’ 46She made haste and lowered her jug from herself and said, ‘Drink and I’ll also water your camels.’ I drank and she also watered the camels.
47“I asked her, ‘whose daughter are you?” And she said, ‘The daughter of B’tuel benNachor, whom Milkah bore to him. So I placed the nose ring on her nose and the bracelets on her arms. 48I bowed and prostrated to Yahh and I blessed Yahh, god of my master Avraham, who led me on a true path to take a daughter of my master’s brother for his son. 49Now if it is yours, doing love and truth with my master, tell me, and if not, tell me, that I may turn to the right or to the left.”
50Lavan answered, and B’tuel. “The matter came out from Yahh. We can’t speak to you bad or good. 51Here is Rivkah before you. Take and go. Let her be woman for your master’s son as Yahh has spoken.”
52When the servant of Avraham heard their words he prostrated on earth to Yahh. 53The servant took out silver articles and gold articles and garments and gave to Rivkah. He gave precious items to her brother and to her mother.
54They ate and drank, he and the men who were with him, and they lodged. The got up in the morning and he said, “Send me to my master.”
55Her brother said, and her mother, “The girl will stay with us days? Or ten? And afterwards, go.”
56He said to them, “Don’t delay me. Since Yahh has made my path successful, send me and I’ll go to my master.”
57“Let’s call the girl,” they said, “and ask from her mouth.” 58They called Rivkah and said, “Will you go with this man?” And she said, “I’ll go.”
59So they sent Rivkah their sister and her nursemaid, and the servant of Avraham and his men. 60And they blessed Rivkah, saying:
You, our sister, become thousands of myriads.
Your seed possess their enemies’ gates.
61Rivkah rose, and her girls, and rode on the camels and went after the man. The servant took Rivkah and went.
62Yitschak was coming from the vicinity of B’erL’chaiRo’I–he was dwelling in the Negev. 63He had gone out towards evening to stroll in the field and he lifted his eyes and saw that there were camels coming. 64Rivkah lifted her eyes and saw Yitschak and fell off the camel. 65She said to the servant, “Who is this man walking in the field to meet us?”
“He is my master,” said the servant. She took the shawl and covered up.
66The servant told Yitschak everything he had done. 67Yitschak brought her into the tent of Sarah his mother and he took Rivkah and she became his as woman and he loved her and was comforted after his mother.