Good morning! Today in Genesis 24-25 we see how Abraham and Sarah’s children and grandchildren grow into an extended family of God-followers, and how they struggle with tensions that are common to families today.
The story of Isaac and Rebekah’s meeting emphasizes the divine at work in human relationships. I’m struck that the instruction to find a wife comes not to Isaac himself, but to Abraham’s trusted senior servant. While this may have been customary in ancient society, it effectively shields Isaac from agency in his own marriage. Regardless, the carefully rehearsed conversation with Rebekah at the well succeeds, proof that God is at work in this expedition. If Isaac is a passive recipient of the actions of others, Rebekah is active throughout, offering admirable hospitality to the servant and asserting her wishes to leave her family home immediately. Rebekah’s presence comforts the wanderlust Isaac after the death of his mother. (“The Red Tent” novel extends this characterization and persuasively suggests that Isaac’s trauma at being nearly sacrificed by his father makes him a fragile person all the rest of his life.) Rebekah proves a powerful match to Isaac in the next generation of this powerful family.
Abraham marries Keturah after Sarah’s death, but he regards none of the children of that marriage as inheritors of his wealth; it all passes to Isaac upon his death. The brief genealogy of Ishmael’s descendants ties off that line of Abraham’s kin for the purposes of the Bible, focusing all attention on the children of Isaac and Rebekah. Their twin boys Esau and Jacob fight with each other from conception on. They could not be more opposite, and each parent has a favorite among the offspring. We’ll see this play out in the readings to come, but Esau’s rejection of his birthright sets the table (so to speak) to reveal God’s favor for the (slightly) younger man, Isaac. The biblical tradition’s emphasis on the younger supplanting the older was already present in Ishmael/Isaac’s generation, and becomes a major theme in stories of the Hebrew Bible.
Please join discussion of this passage at the Daily Bible Facebook group, or comment below. Tomorrow’s passage is Genesis 26-28. Thanks for reading!