Genesis Overview: The Matchmaking of Isac and Rebekah

"This Yahwistic narrative is the most pleasant and charming of all the patriarchal stories. ... the large space given here to artificial speeches distinguishes it from those narratives which have as their subject primarily events and actions." (p253). Some critics posit more than one author and there are inconsistencies - cf. 24.22 and 24.53; 24.23-25 are uneven; the prayer in 24.26 refers to disclosure in 24.24, the girl's brief answering 24.24 is interrupted in 24.25 - but nowhere is there anything substantial.

The material is arranged in four sections: 1-9, 11-27, 32-60 and 62-67, linked by transitional passages. The narrative has no location and gives room for speech which makes its date very late. 24.1-9: We are almost certainly in Hebron and Abraham fears he will not complete the heir's marriage for which he is responsible. "Servant" means vocationally dependent and in the confidence of, not lowly. Swearing by the genital organ an ancient custom which had died out by the time of writing: Isac is not to marry a Canaanite; the servant is to look around in Abraham's country; but Isac must not go there; if the girl refuses the oath is void. Above all, there must be no danger to the new religion. Abraham's last words are here but there is some inconsistency in handling his death which might be after 24.9 or 24.61; problems of insistence in 24.3b, possessions in 24.36, and designation in 24.65. There is some entanglement here with P in Chapter 25.

24.10-11: Although Israel knew itself to be tribally related to the Arameans, the proximity is unknown and this closeness may be more wishful thinking than fact.

24.12-14: Unlike other incidents where signs are minor miracles, in this case the servant sees "... a woman's readiness to help, kindness of heart, and an understanding for animals." (p256) "... childlike trust in God is combined with worldly-wise calculation in a most charming manner." (Gunkel) (p256).

24.15-27: God's answer is like a miracle; the servant could not have expected her to come from Nahor's house and to be beautiful! In 24.15, 24 Rebekah's father is called Bethuel but this is probably an emendation to align with 25.20 in P. Laban, the main actor, is called Nahor's son in 29.5 and in 24.48 the servant says that Rebekah was the daughter of Abraham's brother. The same question, put four times, is whether Yahweh had prospered the servant's journey, cf. 24.21, 40, 42, 56. VR characterises this as profane; why?

24.28-33: 24.29b should be placed between 30a and 30b.

24.34-49: The main concern of the speech is to emphasise Yahweh's guidance without neglecting material advantage.

24.50-61: "Cannot speak bad nor good" p307; the departure is unusually hasty.

24.62-67: 24.62 is particularly problematic; the servant seems not to report to Abraham; and the activity in 24.63 is unknown: "meditate" is guesswork; 24.67 is impossibly clumsy and reconstructions are suppositions.

The story speaks of direct divine guidance only known elsewhere in the Joseph story but the guidance is internal rather than external. This inner kind of faith seems to have emerged in the Solomonic period.     

KC VI/14

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