Genesis 24:32-51: Isaac and Rebekah
Bible Essentials: Set 3, Lesson 17
It’s been over three months since we were last in Genesis, and I’m excited to get started again! We’ve already been through Genesis 1-22: the establishment of the human race, Noah and the flood, and the life of Abraham. For the next several weeks, we’ll look at the life of Isaac. If you are new since the last time we had a study in Genesis (which is over 20% of you!), you can see the overview and index of the study here. If you want to know more about the Bible Essentials studies, I describe it here.
In today’s passage, we jump into the middle of a story, but the chapter basically recounts the story twice, so I chose only one of those recountings. I was originally going to study the entire passage in this lesson, but it was just too long for a single lesson. So I would highly encourage you to read all of Genesis 24 to understand the whole story. Consider asking the main three questions of the whole chapter: What do we learn about God? What do we learn about people? What do we learn about God’s plan?
Individuals: Take time to think back about your past week. Where have you seen God work in your life or answer prayer? Write down any prayer requests you have.
Group: Open the study by sharing life updates, reviewing highs and lows of your past week, or sharing prayer requests and praises.
Icebreaker: If you are married, how did you meet your spouse?
All: Begin the study with a word of prayer, asking God to open your heart for today’s study. You can also pray for any prayer requests now, or save that for the end.
Read today’s passage: Genesis 24:32-51.
32 So the man went to the house, and the camels were unloaded. Straw and fodder were brought for the camels, and water for him and his men to wash their feet. 33 Then food was set before him, but he said, “I will not eat until I have told you what I have to say.”
“Then tell us,” Laban said.
34 So he said, “I am Abraham’s servant. 35 The Lord has blessed my master abundantly, and he has become wealthy. He has given him sheep and cattle, silver and gold, male and female servants, and camels and donkeys. 36 My master’s wife Sarah has borne him a son in her old age, and he has given him everything he owns. 37 And my master made me swear an oath, and said, ‘You must not get a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, in whose land I live, 38 but go to my father’s family and to my own clan, and get a wife for my son.’
39 “Then I asked my master, ‘What if the woman will not come back with me?’
40 “He replied, ‘The Lord, before whom I have walked faithfully, will send his angel with you and make your journey a success, so that you can get a wife for my son from my own clan and from my father’s family. 41 You will be released from my oath if, when you go to my clan, they refuse to give her to you—then you will be released from my oath.’
42 “When I came to the spring today, I said, ‘Lord, God of my master Abraham, if you will, please grant success to the journey on which I have come. 43 See, I am standing beside this spring. If a young woman comes out to draw water and I say to her, “Please let me drink a little water from your jar,” 44 and if she says to me, “Drink, and I’ll draw water for your camels too,” let her be the one the Lord has chosen for my master’s son.’
45 “Before I finished praying in my heart, Rebekah came out, with her jar on her shoulder. She went down to the spring and drew water, and I said to her, ‘Please give me a drink.’
46 “She quickly lowered her jar from her shoulder and said, ‘Drink, and I’ll water your camels too.’ So I drank, and she watered the camels also.
47 “I asked her, ‘Whose daughter are you?’
“She said, ‘The daughter of Bethuel son of Nahor, whom Milkah bore to him.’
“Then I put the ring in her nose and the bracelets on her arms, 48 and I bowed down and worshiped the Lord. I praised the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who had led me on the right road to get the granddaughter of my master’s brother for his son. 49 Now if you will show kindness and faithfulness to my master, tell me; and if not, tell me, so I may know which way to turn.”
50 Laban and Bethuel answered, “This is from the Lord; we can say nothing to you one way or the other. 51 Here is Rebekah; take her and go, and let her become the wife of your master’s son, as the Lord has directed.”
What is the context for this passage?
The last time we studied Abraham, we were in Genesis 22. In that chapter, God asked Abraham to offer Isaac as a burnt offering. Isaac was the son that God had promised to Abraham and Sarah, and they waited 25 years for that promise to be fulfilled. Yet now, God was asking Abraham to kill that long-awaited-for son. Completely trusting in God, Abraham did as God asked. He took Isaac up on a mountain and prepared to offer him as a burnt offering to God. As Abraham was about to kill his son, an angel of the Lord called out to him to stop him. Abraham had passed God’s test. God spared Isaac’s life and gave Abraham a ram to sacrifice instead.
At the end of Genesis 22, we are told that Abraham’s brother Nahor had several sons, one of whom became the father of Rebekah. Then in Genesis 23, we learn that Sarah died at the age of 127. Abraham bought a field with a cave—the owner wanted to gift it to him, but Abraham insisted on buying it—to bury his wife Sarah. Now, in Abraham’s old age, he is ready to make sure that Isaac has a good wife. So he sends his servant to his brother Nahor’s house to find Isaac a wife. We pick up in the middle of that story.
Read the passage again.
Explore a different version if you have one available. If you are online, here is Genesis 24 in NIV through Bible Gateway. You can change the version by using the dropdown menu at the top right of the page.
Try to summarize the passage in your own words.
Answer these three questions about the passage:
1. What does the passage say about God?
God blesses those who follow him. Throughout his life, Abraham was richly blessed by God. He accumulated all kinds of wealth. Abraham was also blessed with a rich relationship with God. Although God may not bless all of his people with this same level of wealth, he does bless his followers with a rich relationship with him.
God guides his people. When Abraham sent his servant on this journey, God sent an angel to guide the servant to the house of Abraham’s brother. The presence of this guiding angel assured that Abraham’s servant would have success on his journey.
God listens to the prayers of his people. When Abraham’s servant got to the land of Abraham’s family, he prayed to God for success in his journey and that God would give him a sign to know which woman God had chosen for Isaac. God listened to this prayer and gave him the sign he asked for.
God’s timing is always perfect. Before Abraham’s servant had even finished praying, God had answered his prayer. In God’s perfect timing, Rebekah came out to draw water, and the servant recognized the sign that he had asked God to perform.
2. What does the passage say about people?
Masters delegate responsibility to their servants. At this point in his life, Abraham was very old, as we learn in Genesis 24:1. Therefore, Abraham sent his servant on this journey to find a wife for Isaac rather than going himself.
Abraham had trust in his servant. To entrust his servant with such an important task, Abraham must have had great trust in his servant that the servant would follow his directions and carry out the task in full.
People make contingency plans. Because people are not always predictable and are not always willing to do what God asks of them, Abraham and his servant came up with a backup plan in case the woman was unwilling to leave her home. Although Abraham was sure that God would grant the servant success, they made a contingency plan anyway.
People pray to God for guidance. When Abraham’s servant got to the land of Abraham’s family, he prayed that God would guide him to the right woman for Isaac. He asked for a sign so that he would understand which woman was the right one—the one that God had chosen for Isaac.
Women were given the task of drawing water. During this time in history, women were often the ones who were sent to draw water for the family and the livestock. Out of all the women who could have possibly come to draw water at that time, God sent exactly the right one at the right time.
Rebekah was generous and hospitable. When Abraham’s servant asked Rebekah for some water, she quickly gave him water and offered to draw water for his camels as well. Although this was part of the sign that the servant had asked for, it also shows that Rebekah had a heart of generosity and hospitality. Her family did as well, as they were willing to take in the servant and all those he was traveling with, including the animals. They were willing to house them and feed them while they heard the reason he had come.
People give gifts to others to find favor with them. When Abraham’s servant identified Rebekah as the one God had chosen, he gave her gifts. He also gave gifts to the rest of the family. This was customary at the time to help them find favor in the eyes of the recipient and to bless them.
People who follow God worship him when he gives them success. The servant’s immediate response when he knew that God had made his journey a success was to worship God. He knew that God had led him to the right place and to the right woman, so his natural response was praise and worship.
People share stories with each other. After Laban and his family took in Abraham’s servant and all those with him, the servant would not eat until he told the family why he was there. He told the whole story, from the oath he had with Abraham to meeting Rebekah at the well. Earlier in the chapter, Rebekah had also told her side of the story to her mother.
People tend to trust family and other believers. I don’t know about you, but if some stranger came and asked me to send my daughter/sister off to marry someone whom I had never met, I’m not sure I would have been as accepting of that as Laban and the rest of Rebekah’s family was. But because of their trust in family and in God, Laban and Rebekah agreed that Rebekah should return with the servant so that Rebekah could marry Isaac.
3. What does the passage say about God’s plan?
God’s plan was to bless Abraham. All through Abraham’s story, we see over and over again that God blessed Abraham and continued to bless him. In this story, we see the accumulation of God’s blessing in Abraham’s life through his wealth, but we also see that God’s blessing extended beyond Abraham to Isaac. God blessed Isaac by selecting a wife from within his own people to help him carry on God’s promise to make Abraham into a great nation.
God’s plan was that Isaac would have a wife from within his own family. Abraham was concerned about the need for Isaac to have a wife from within his own people. He didn’t want Isaac to have a wife from the Canaanites, because the Canaanites didn’t follow the one true God. God, in his wisdom, selected a wife for Isaac from within Abraham’s extended family.
God’s plan was to make Abraham’s servant’s journey successful. Abraham sent his servant on a journey to find Isaac the wife that God had chosen for him. Due to Abraham’s and the servant’s faithfulness and God’s faithfulness, God made the servant successful in his journey. He led the servant to Abraham’s brother’s household to find a wife for Isaac.
How does the passage fit into the overarching story of the Bible?
Sometimes it’s easier to understand a passage if you have a little outside knowledge from other passages in the Bible. This section will help provide that outside perspective.
Throughout the Bible, God makes it clear that the Israelites were not to marry outside the Israelite community. The main reason for this is that people from other nations do not follow God but instead follow other gods. If the Israelites marry outside their own people, then those false gods are introduced into their lives, and they tend to go astray. This happened repeatedly in the Bible. By finding a wife for Isaac from within their own family, Abraham could be more assured that the woman would follow the one true God and would not lead Isaac astray to follow other gods. This was important for maintaining the integrity of the Israelite faith, especially during these early years when Abraham’s line and the Israelites were being established as a nation.
Individual: Answer the following questions thoughtfully for yourself.
Group: Pose these questions for discussion.
All: If you are willing to share, I’d love to hear your thoughts to these questions. Feel free to use the comment section to start a discussion about this passage.
What else strikes you about this passage?
How does the passage affect how you view God? How you view yourself?
How does this passage affect how you will live your life?
For additional study related to this topic, read Genesis 24 in full.
For Bible Essential studies, you can use my thoughts as your devotional, or you can download and use the journaling sheet to work through the passage on your own. If desired, you can then compare your thoughts to mine. Journal sheets can be downloaded and used now or later. They can be printed and filled in by hand or saved and filled out electronically. Journal sheets are available for individual or group use.
If you plan to lead a group study, a PowerPoint presentation is also available.
You can access these resources by clicking here: Genesis 24 Resources
Or you can download the journal sheets here*:
*Substack doesn’t support PowerPoint file downloads yet, so if you want to access the PowerPoint file for group study, you will need to download it from the resource page linked above.