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Bible: What Does Genesis 24-25 Teach Us About Abraham's Steward, Rebekah, Laban, Jacob and Esau?

Updated on September 8, 2016

Abraham's Steward

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The Faithful Steward

The patriarch, blessed of the LORD, summons his eldest servant/steward.

While employing an odd ritual (to Western eyes), Abraham makes his steward swear to God that he would not take a Canaanite wife for Isaac, but choose one from the patriarch’s family in the city of Nahor in Mesopotamia (vv. 1-4,9).

[What does this ritual signify?]

Abraham makes it clear that if the woman the servant chooses does not want to live in Beersheba, then the servant is released from the oath.

He must not take Isaac to Syria (Padan Aram) [vv. 5-6, 8].

Abraham quotes to him part of the LORD’s covenant promise regarding the Land, ensuring the ultimate success of the endeavor (v. 7; cf. Gen. 12:1); nevertheless, he leaves open the possibility that this servant may not be the right person to secure a wife for Isaac (v. 8).

Leaving Canaan, the steward journeys to the city of Nahor where he rests his camels at evening by a well frequented by women who traditionally fetched water for their households (vv. 10-11).

He prays very specifically for success in his endeavor and for Yahweh to “show kindness to my master,” detailing his exact location and circumstances, including the precise words he wants the woman to respond to his request for water (vv. 12-14).

Rebekah and Eliezer, Abraham's Steward

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Rebekah

Immediately, Rebekah—the beautiful virgin daughter of Nahor—appears on the scene and fills her pitcher (vv. 15-16).

The servant repeats the gist of what he prayed, and the girl responds as he had desired and waters the camels (vv. 17-20).

[Apparently, he was not looking for a verbatim answer].

Waiting for God’s leading, the old man does not say anything else until he approaches Rebekah with a nose ring and bracelets—engagement gifts (?)—and inquires of her father’s name and somewhat of his ability to lodge visitors (vv. 21-23).

When the servant hears that she is Nahor’s daughter and that Nahor has plenty of room to house him and his entourage, he bows in worship, praising God for His mercy and truth toward Abraham and for His guidance on this errand (vv. 24-27).

Rebekah races away to tell the news to her mother’s household (v. 28).

Meanwhile, Laban, Rebekah’s brother, hastens out to meet Abraham’s servant (the man with all the nice trinkets), welcomes him into the house, and shows him genuine, near Eastern hospitality, providing food for his camels and water for his feet (vv. 29-32).

Rebekah Sees Isaac

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Rebekah Meets Isaac

Before the servant sups (v. 33), he relates the substance of his mission.

He reveals (1) who his master is (v. 34), (2) his master’s prominence (v. 35), and (3) the necessity for his master’s miracle son/heir to take a wife from the family in Nahor (vv. 36-38).

The servant also tells the entire tale from start to finish:

(1) Abraham’s response to his query (vv. 39-41),

(2) His prayer request, and Rebekah’s answer (vv. 42-47), and

(3) His worship of God because of His mercy, truth, and guidance (v. 48).

Now he only requires a “Yes” or “No” answer from the family (v. 49).

So convincing is the old man's story that Laban and Bethuel, in essence, say, “Here’s Rebekah; she’s yours” (vv. 50-51).

Overcome with gratefulness, Abraham’s steward first worships the LORD again, and then loads Rebekah down with all kinds of jewelry and clothing (vv. 52-53a).

Even brother Laban and mother Bethuel acquire a few “precious” articles (v. 53b).

After celebrating the transaction with a feast, the servant and his attendants stay overnight, intending to depart the next morning (v. 54).

Laban and Bethuel, however, have a different agenda; they wish Rebekah to stick around for at least another ten days (v. 55).

This delay, however, does not sit well with the servant (v. 56).

When they ask about the young lady’s desires, she agrees to leave immediately with her nurse Deborah and the blessings of her family (vv. 57-60; cf. 35:8).

Meanwhile, while meditating in a field near Beer Lahai Roi, Isaac happens to catch a glimpse of a caravan (vv. 61-63).

[The Angel of the LORD met Hagar here (16:14].

Seeing a man approaching the camels, Rebekah asks Abraham’s servant, “What is this one’s name?” (vv. 64a-65a)

When she learns that he is her husband-to-be, she covers her face with a veil and dismounts (vv. 64b, 65b).

After the steward informs Isaac of the success of his search, the young man takes Rebekah as his wife (vv. 66-67a).

His great love for Rebekah eases the pains he had been suffering after the death of his mother, Sarah (v. 67).

Burial Site of Abraham and Sarah


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Genesis 25

After Sarah’s death and Isaac’s marriage to Rebekah (24:67), Abraham marries Keturah (v. 1). Another short genealogy ensues, that of Keturah (vv. 2-4).

Nearing the end of his life, Abraham begins to part with his possessions; he, of course, remembers Isaac first (v. 5).

[The theme of possessions plays a prominent role in Genesis (cf. 12:16, 20; 13:1; 14:11-12, 16, 19, 22; 23:11-13; 24:10, 36)].

To his other “families” Abraham also gives gifts, but does not allow these members to dwell with the son of the promise (v. 6).

Abraham lived one hundred seventy-five years—a considerable length of time, but not nearly approaching the longevity of his antediluvian ancestors (vv. 7-8).

[According to Nolen Jones’ calculations, Abraham passed away in the year 2183].

The author (Moses) provides a rather elaborate description of the events surrounding the patriarch’s death (v. 8), giving proper closure to the life of such an eminent personality.

His sons bury Abraham next to Sarah in the famous cave of Machpelah, the place the great man painstakingly purchased after his wife died (vv. 9-10; cf. Genesis 23).

Now God blesses Isaac near the place where the Angel of Yahweh spoke to Hagar (v. 11; cf. Gen. 16:14).

Common Difficulty


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Having mentioned Hagar, Moses transitions again (cf. 25:1) to record the toledoth of Ishmael (vv. 12-18).

He provides a respectful recording of the death of this son of Abraham, though it is not quite as extensive as his father’s (v. 17).

Then Moses quickly returns to review Isaac’s toledoth (v. 19).

He stresses the patriarch’s marriage to Rebekah, a woman with Syrian roots, and mentions her relationship to Laban, a character who figures prominently in the life of Jacob, one of Isaac’s sons (v. 20).

That Isaac would have sons is not a given, for Rebekah is barren-- as barren as was her now deceased mother-in-law at one time (v. 21a; cf. 16:2).

The LORD steps into the picture in answer to Isaac’s prayer, and He grants Rebekah conception (v. 21b).

When she begins to experience apparent complications in her pregnancy, Rebekah also prays and receives an answer from God in a prophecy (vv. 22-23).

[Was the couple praying for almost twenty years to have children?]

Jacob, the supplanting younger twin, grasps the heel of his elder brother, hairy Esau, as they are being born (vv. 24-26), foreshadowing what the former would do to the latter when they were older.

[Twenty years into their marriage, Isaac and Rebekah have their first children].

As their children grow up, the parents choose favorites; Isaac loves the rugged hunter Esau, while Rebekah prefers the domesticated Jacob (vv. 27-28).

Esau Sells His Birthright to Jacob

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The Birthright

The narrative then records the occasion when Jacob asked a famished Esau, fresh off a weary, unsuccessful day of hunting, to sell him his birthright in exchange for a bowl of red lentil stew (vv. 29-31).

[When did Esau acquire the nickname “Red”? Did Jacob give it to him?]

By means of a solemn oath, the brothers seal the agreement (v. 32-34).

[Jacob saw the long-term value of the birthright; Esau, on the other hand, sadly sacrificed his future on “the altar of the immediate.”

Jacob believed God’s promises; Esau could not care less about them].

© 2013 glynch1

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