Love — A Principle

Chapter 10

Abraham had become an old man and did not expect to live much longer. There was still one very important responsibility that he needed to fulfill before he died. Isaac was the one appointed by God to follow Him as the keeper of the divine Law and the father of the chosen people; but as of yet, he was unmarried. The people of Canaan were idol worshipers; and God had forbidden intermarriage between His people and idolators, knowing that such marriages would lead to apostasy. Though Isaac was a faithful worshiper of God, he had a tendency to be gentle and yielding in disposition; and the patriarch feared the effect of the corrupting influences surrounding his son. If he were to marry one who did not fear God, he would be in danger of sacrificing principle for the sake of harmony. In the mind of Abraham, the choice of a wife for his son was a matter of grave importance.

In ancient times, marriage engagements were generally made by the parents; and this was the custom among those who worshipped God. None had to marry someone whom they could not love; but in giving to another their affections, the young people relied on the judgment of their experienced, God-fearing parents to help guide them in the choice. It was regarded as a dishonor to parents to pursue a course contrary to this.

Isaac, trusting his father’s wisdom and affection, was satisfied to commit the matter to him, believing also that God Himself could direct in the choice made. The patriarch’s thoughts turned to his father’s kindred in the land of Mesopotamia. Though not free from idolatry, they cherished the knowledge and the worship of the true God. It might be that among them could be found one who would leave her home and unite with Isaac in maintaining the pure worship of the living God. Abraham committed the important matter to his trusted servant, Eliezer, a man of experience and sound judgment who had given him long and faithful service. He required Eliezer to make a solemn promise before the Lord that he would not take a wife for his son from among the Canaanites but would choose a maiden from the family of Nahor in Mesopotamia. He also asked of him to promise that he would not take Isaac down to Mesopotamia with him. Abraham assured his trusted servant that God would bless him with success. “The Lord God of heaven, which took me from my father’s house . . . shall send His angel before thee, and thou shalt take a wife unto my son from thence.” If, however, a young woman could not be found who would leave her family, then the messenger would be released from his pledge.

Taking ten camels, not only for the use of his own company and the bridal party that might return with him, but to carry gifts for the intended wife and her friends, the servant left immediately. Going beyond Damascus, he made the long journey to the rich plains that border the great river of the East, to Haran, the hometown of Nahor, Abraham’s brother. Eliezer stopped outside the walls of the town near the well to which the women of the town came for water at evening. It was a time of anxious thought for him. The outcome of this trip was important not only to his master’s household, but to future generations. How, he wondered, might he make the right choice from among entire strangers? Remembering the words of Abraham, that God would send His angel with him, he prayed earnestly for positive guidance. He asked that the young woman of God’s choice might be identified by a special act of courtesy when he spoke to her.

Scarcely had he completed his prayer before he received the answer. Among the women who were gathered at the well, the courteous manners of one particularly attracted his attention. As she came from the well, Eliezer met her and asked for some water from the pitcher on her shoulder. The request received a kindly answer, with an offer to draw water for the camels also. Thus the desired sign was given. After acknowledging her kindness by rich gifts, Eliezer asked who her parents were. On learning that she was Rebekah, the daughter of Bethuel, Abraham’s nephew; he bowed his head, and worshipped the Lord.

Returning home, Rebekah told her brother Laban what had taken place; and he immediately hurried to find this stranger and bring him and his attendants to share their hospitality.

Eliezer would not eat, however, until he had explained his errand and his prayer at the well, with all the circumstances attending it. Then he said, “And now if ye will deal kindly and truly with my master, tell me: and if not, tell me; that I may turn to the right hand, or to the left.” The answer was, “The thing proceedeth from the Lord: we cannot speak unto thee bad or good. Behold; Rebekah is before thee, take her, and go, and let her be thy master’s son’s wife, as the Lord hath spoken.”

After the family had agreed to the marriage arrangement, Rebekah herself was asked as to whether she would be willing to go such a great distance from her father’s house to marry the son of Abraham. She believed, from what had taken place, that God had selected her to be Isaac’s wife and said that she would go.

Isaac was highly honored by God in being made inheritor of the promises through which the world was to be blessed; yet when he was forty years of age, he deferred to his father’s judgment in the selection of a wife. The result of that marriage, as presented in the Scriptures, is a beautiful picture of family happiness: “And Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent, and took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her: and Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.

True love is a high and holy principle. This is altogether different in character from that love which is governed by impulse and which suddenly dies when severely tested. It is by faithfulness to duty in the parents’ home that young people are to prepare themselves for homes of their own. In practicing unselfish acts of kindness and courtesy, they are learning how to bring happiness to the one they will eventually choose as a companion for life. Then marriage, instead of being the end of love, will be only its beginning.

This chapter is based on Genesis 24