Toorak Uniting Church
Rebekah, a woman of faith
Genesis 24: 34 38, 42 49, 58 67
Rev. Anneke Oppewal
9:00am, 3 July 2005
For the family service we decided to do the reflecting in three parts, the three parts the lectionary indicates for the reading of Genesis.
The reflections offering some background and interpretation as well as opportunities for the congregation to react to the material and discuss how we could relate it to our lives today.
- Abrahams servant is sent out to find a wife for Isaac
- Sarah has died, Isaac is of an age where it is time to get married, they need a woman in the house
- The servant does not get a name in the story, which emphasises that he is acting on Abrahams behalf, we know his name was Eliezer, from other places where he does get a name.
Genesis 24: 34-38
- The story is told twice
We read the second one.
- first when it is happening,
- second when it is recounted by Eliezer to Bethuel and Laban.
- There are subtle differences. Abrahams servant is cleverly "selling" the story, convincing Bethuel and Laban to do the right thing and fit in with what God has obviously meant to happen.
- He boasts about Abraham and his riches
- There is only one son who will inherit all
- Abraham is committed to finding a wife among his kindred
- The message to Bethuel and Laban is:
- I come from a rich master
- Your daughter will be getting a good deal
- We are committed to a deal with you
- This was important business at the time in the middle east: wealth was everything and intermarriage was a way of safeguarding and accumulating it.
- Is business still conducted in that way?
- first you offer your credentials and make yourself look like you are a desirable business partner.
- then you show the other party the benefits they would gain from the deal you are proposing.
- finally you tell them you are really prefer to deal with them rather than with somebody else, but that it is of course up to them to accept or refuse.
- Would God come into the equation though? What about: meant to be, meant to happen, logical next step, written in the stars etc?
Genesis 24: 42-49
- Eliezer. further recounts the story: How he found Rebekah and why he thinks she is the right woman for Isaac. Also: He makes it clear he feels that this was all meant to happen, the whole enterprise guided by divine powers. He presents his own credentials: pious, filled with integrity, out to honour his masters wishes, bound to an oath to do the best deal he possibly can for the folk back home. The riches are in there once again, in the guise of golden trinkets and other gifts. All geared towards convincing Bethuel and Laban there is only one course of action imaginable: To take the decision God himself has been steering towards.
- Something else is going on at the same time however: we catch a glimpse of the girl the servant is after and her character: She is welcoming, warm, caring, quick to serve and ready to answer any questions. It is clear why the servant thinks she is the right woman for Isaac and as readers we will start to warm towards her immediately.
- A whole complex of things come into play: Business, the acquisition and safeguarding of wealth, three men trying to "fix a deal". A servant who is bound to an oath to bring home the best for his master. A girl who "happens" to be at the well at exactly the right time doing exactly the right thing. God steering and interfering with it all in ways that are too obvious to be coincidental. Or are they?
- I can see parallels with the G8 that is going on.
- Men doing deals
- Seeking to acquire and protect their wealth
- Hopefully at least some of them feeling they are bound to act not only in their own interest but are there to serve a higher good.
- Not sure who would be the Rebekah in this case. Are they the poor that need a future? Who wait on the margins for decisions to be made that will affect their life and future?
- And what about us? What is it that directs our "business"? What drives our decision making? Is God part of it?
Genesis 24: 58-67
- Rebekah gets a chance to put something in, the time frame for when she will be going and in what way.
- Extraordinary move for the times. Women were like satchels, they could be moved anywhere without being consulted at all. Even Isaac never got a chance to say anything about what he wanted, it was all arranged for him. So this is extraordinary.
- Rising verb used profusely in those verses also used a lot in the story of the calling of Abraham, indicating that Rebekah is very much making the same decisions as Abraham did. It is felt in the story that it is important she makes these decisions herself. It is only in that way she will be truly able to become part of the movement that started with Abraham. She chooses, she becomes part of Gods people because she wants to.
- How important is it to have a choice? To be able to co-determine your future? Even if it is only a little bit? What could have happened if theyd just bundled Rebekah off on a camel and taken her? What would have happened to her? What would have happened to the marriage?
- Lets for a moment think about people who do not have that choice today, who are very much at the mercy of others. Asylum seekers kept in suspense for years. People in war torn areas waiting for something to happen, somebody to come and help. Children dying of hunger or preventable illnesses, waiting for somebody to share and find ways to alleviate their suffering.
The end: romance
- The story ends in Romance.
- The woman is very much in charge. The roots of Israel lie with strong women and men, who are prepared to make risky choices and travel to uncertain destinations to make Gods future take shape.
- They love each other
- Why do you think the relationship works?
- What makes relationships work?
© Rev. Anneke Oppewal, 2005