…it would have been in vain for Abraham to enter into engagements with his servant, had he not been persuaded that his son would prove submissive and tractable. It here appears what great veneration he cherished towards his father; because Abraham, relying on Isaac’s obedience, confidently calls his servant to him. Now this example should be taken by us as a common rule, to show that it is not lawful for the children of a family to contract marriage, except with the consent of parents; and certainly natural equity dictates that, in a matter of such importance, children should depend upon the will of their parents.
In part I of this series we spoke of how modern readers of Scripture are forced to add to the story of Isaac and Rebecca: to add a time of courting, a time of getting to know each other, so that they might develop a ‘sincere love’ for each other.
But there is a second issue, even more serious, even more egregious. There is something else about the use of this particular proof text to demonstrate the apriori ‘sincere love’. It must not only read into the text things that are not there, but it must read out of the text what actually happens, what actually is there. Let us go through the text and see what must be ignored to fit this into the model courtship.
Gen 24:1-9 And Abraham was old, and well stricken in age: and the LORD had blessed Abraham in all things.
And Abraham said unto his eldest servant of his house, that ruled over all that he had, Put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh:
And I will make thee swear by the LORD, the God of heaven, and the God of the earth, that thou shalt not take a wife unto my son of the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell:
But thou shalt go unto my country, and to my kindred, and take a wife unto my son Isaac.
And the servant said unto him, Peradventure the woman will not be willing to follow me unto this land: must I needs bring thy son again unto the land from whence thou camest?
And Abraham said unto him, Beware thou that thou bring not my son thither again.
The LORD God of heaven, which took me from my father’s house, and from the land of my kindred, and which spake unto me, and that sware unto me, saying, Unto thy seed will I give this land; he shall send his angel before thee, and thou shalt take a wife unto my son from thence.
And if the woman will not be willing to follow thee, then thou shalt be clear from this my oath: only bring not my son thither again.
And the servant put his hand under the thigh of Abraham his master, and sware to him concerning that matter.
Here is the first thing that we must ignore if we wish to fit this example into the idea of ‘courtship’. It is not in the courtship model for the father of the young man to do any initiating. In the same book a different author calls this initiation an ‘interference’ on the part of Abraham in Isaac’s search for a bride. He allows for this ‘interference’ because the marriage is of ‘such importance’; but he makes it clear that this is not the regular rule. Indeed the very word ‘interference’ does that, no?
But let us be clear: this is no ‘interference’. One ‘interferes’ when one stops or slows down something that someone else was doing. This is, to use the clear term, an ‘arrangement’. This is the first step in an arranged marriage. There is no indication that Isaac was doing anything here, and what Abraham did would not be to ‘interfere’ with it even if he was. Given a polygamous society (Abraham himself was polygamous, and Isaac’s sons were to be polygamous) it cannot be considered interfering to get your son a wife except in the very broadest sense. It certainly cannot interfere with his quest to get a different wife. And especially not if one believes in the courtship version of ‘consent’ and all of the extra bits above. Having Dad bring a girl home to be ‘checked out’ might be annoying, but it can’t be ‘interfering’.
So here is the first thing to be ignored. It must be ignored that Abraham sent his servant to get Isaac a wife. Not a date, not a courting partner, not a ‘potential wife if she turns out ok’, but a wife. “Thou shalt take a wife unto my son…”
Gen 24:10-50 And the servant took ten camels of the camels of his master, and departed; for all the goods of his master were in his hand: and he arose, and went to Mesopotamia, unto the city of Nahor.
And he made his camels to kneel down without the city by a well of water at the time of the evening, even the time that women go out to draw water.
And he said, O LORD God of my master Abraham, I pray thee, send me good speed this day, and shew kindness unto my master Abraham.
Behold, I stand here by the well of water; and the daughters of the men of the city come out to draw water:
And let it come to pass, that the damsel to whom I shall say, Let down thy pitcher, I pray thee, that I may drink; and she shall say, Drink, and I will give thy camels drink also: let the same be she that thou hast appointed for thy servant Isaac; and thereby shall I know that thou hast shewed kindness unto my master.
And it came to pass, before he had done speaking, that, behold, Rebekah came out, who was born to Bethuel, son of Milcah, the wife of Nahor, Abraham’s brother, with her pitcher upon her shoulder.
And the damsel was very fair to look upon, a virgin, neither had any man known her: and she went down to the well, and filled her pitcher, and came up.
And the servant ran to meet her, and said, Let me, I pray thee, drink a little water of thy pitcher.
And she said, Drink, my lord: and she hasted, and let down her pitcher upon her hand, and gave him drink.
And when she had done giving him drink, she said, I will draw water for thy camels also, until they have done drinking.
And she hasted, and emptied her pitcher into the trough, and ran again unto the well to draw water, and drew for all his camels.
And the man wondering at her held his peace, to wit whether the LORD had made his journey prosperous or not.
And it came to pass, as the camels had done drinking, that the man took a golden earring of half a shekel weight, and two bracelets for her hands of ten shekels weight of gold;
And said, Whose daughter art thou? tell me, I pray thee: is there room in thy father’s house for us to lodge in?
And she said unto him, I am the daughter of Bethuel the son of Milcah, which she bare unto Nahor.
She said moreover unto him, We have both straw and provender enough, and room to lodge in.
And the man bowed down his head, and worshipped the LORD.
And he said, Blessed be the LORD God of my master Abraham, who hath not left destitute my master of his mercy and his truth: I being in the way, the LORD led me to the house of my master’s brethren.
And the damsel ran, and told them of her mother’s house these things.
And Rebekah had a brother, and his name was Laban: and Laban ran out unto the man, unto the well.
And it came to pass, when he saw the earring and bracelets upon his sister’s hands, and when he heard the words of Rebekah his sister, saying, Thus spake the man unto me; that he came unto the man; and, behold, he stood by the camels at the well.
And he said, Come in, thou blessed of the LORD; wherefore standest thou without? for I have prepared the house, and room for the camels.
And the man came into the house: and he ungirded his camels, and gave straw and provender for the camels, and water to wash his feet, and the men’s feet that were with him.
And there was set meat before him to eat: but he said, I will not eat, until I have told mine errand. And he said, Speak on.
And he said,
I am Abraham’s servant. And the LORD hath blessed my master greatly; and he is become great: and he hath given him flocks, and herds, and silver, and gold, and menservants, and maidservants, and camels, and asses. And Sarah my master’s wife bare a son to my master when she was old: and unto him hath he given all that he hath. And my master made me swear, saying, Thou shalt not take a wife to my son of the daughters of the Canaanites, in whose land I dwell: But thou shalt go unto my father’s house, and to my kindred, and take a wife unto my son.
And I said unto my master,
Peradventure the woman will not follow me.
And he said unto me,
The LORD, before whom I walk, will send his angel with thee, and prosper thy way; and thou shalt take a wife for my son of my kindred, and of my father’s house: Then shalt thou be clear from this my oath, when thou comest to my kindred; and if they give not thee one, thou shalt be clear from my oath.
And I came this day unto the well, and said,
O LORD God of my master Abraham, if now thou do prosper my way which I go: Behold, I stand by the well of water; and it shall come to pass, that when the virgin cometh forth to draw water, and I say to her, Give me, I pray thee, a little water of thy pitcher to drink;
And she say to me,
Both drink thou, and I will also draw for thy camels: let the same be the woman whom the LORD hath appointed out for my master’s son.
And before I had done speaking in mine heart, behold, Rebekah came forth with her pitcher on her shoulder; and she went down unto the well, and drew water: and I said unto her,
Let me drink, I pray thee.
And she made haste, and let down her pitcher from her shoulder, and said,
Drink, and I will give thy camels drink also: so I drank, and she made the camels drink also.
And I asked her, and said,
Whose daughter art thou? And she said, The daughter of Bethuel, Nahor’s son, whom Milcah bare unto him: and I put the earring upon her face, and the bracelets upon her hands.
And I bowed down my head, and worshipped the LORD, and blessed the LORD God of my master Abraham, which had led me in the right way to take my master’s brother’s daughter unto his son.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.
Then Laban and Bethuel answered and said,
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.
Here is the second grave difficulty for the courtship advocates. The second thing that must be deleted from the text. The giving of a wife by Laban and Bethuel. We are a long, long way from verse 67, and Rebecca has been given. Are we to read permission for a courtship here? If so, the form is very unusual. Not exactly Kosher.
“Take her, and go, and let her by thy master’s son’s wife, as the LORD hath spoken.”
And it came to pass, that, when Abraham’s servant heard their words, he worshipped the LORD, bowing himself to the earth.
And the servant brought forth jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment, and gave them to Rebekah: he gave also to her brother and to her mother precious things.
And they did eat and drink, he and the men that were with him, and tarried all night; and they rose up in the morning, and he said, Send me away unto my master.
Here is the next hurdle to overcome, the third grave difficulty. The servant worshiped the Lord, gave gifts, and ate. He did not collapse in a fit of nervous anticipation, wondering how the courtship would go… he thanked God, gave gifts, and ate. He refused to eat before, when the matter was still hanging in the balance, but now he ate. He gave the bride price. He thanked the LORD.
Gen 24:55-56 And her brother and her mother said, Let the damsel abide with us a few days, at the least ten; after that she shall go.
And he said unto them, Hinder me not, seeing the LORD hath prospered my way; send me away that I may go to my master.
Here is the next obstacle. He was sent to get a wife, and now he says ‘the LORD has prospered my way’. He is in a rush to get back… with the wife that the LORD has provided for Isaac.
Gen 24:57-58 And they said, We will call the damsel, and enquire at her mouth.
And they called Rebekah, and said unto her, Wilt thou go with this man? And she said, I will go.
Here, according to the courtship advocates, is the next problem. Not that they call it a problem, but it proves to be one for their interpretation of verse 67. You see, they believe that this ‘I will go’ is Rebecca’s consent to the marriage. Like, long before she has seen Isaac. Long before any courtship. Long before the step that is being listed as a required principle: a sincere love for each other.
Gen 24:59-60 And they sent away Rebekah their sister, and her nurse, and Abraham’s servant, and his men.
And they blessed Rebekah, and said unto her, Thou art our sister, be thou the mother of thousands of millions, and let thy seed possess the gate of those which hate them.
Here is another obstacle: the blessing. They don’t bless Isaac’s wooing; they don’t read her a long list of things that she must approve of in Isaac (which is the subject of the book, btw, the long list of things a suitor must be)… they bless her as a mother.
Gen 24:61-65 And Rebekah arose, and her damsels, and they rode upon the camels, and followed the man: and the servant took Rebekah, and went his way.
And Isaac came from the way of the well Lahairoi; for he dwelt in the south country.
And Isaac went out to meditate in the field at the eventide: and he lifted up his eyes, and saw, and, behold, the camels were coming.
And Rebekah lifted up her eyes, and when she saw Isaac, she lighted off the camel.
For she had said unto the servant, What man is this that walketh in the field to meet us? And the servant had said, It is my master: therefore she took a vail, and covered herself.
Here is another obstacle. Why did she veil herself? Is this a courting custom? If she is his wife, then we can go to I Corinthians 11 and see that she would be veiling herself in the presence of her new head. But if they are just ‘courting’?
Gen 24:66-67 And the servant told Isaac all things that he had done.
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.
So now we come to the crux of the matter, and the things that must dramatically be read out of the story. To summarize:
-Abraham, Isaac’s father, sent his servant to get a wife for Isaac.
-Rebecca’s father and brother gave her to be his wife.
-The servant worshiped God, gave gifts, and ate, only after the acceptance speech of the father and brother.
-The servant said the LORD had prospered his journey and wanted to leave immediately.
-Rebecca said ‘I will go’, which the courtship advocates interpret as being her consent to the marriage.
-She is blessed with a blessing only appropriate to a married woman: the gift of fertility.
-Once she finds out that a particular man is Isaac, she puts on her veil
-The servant tells Isaac what he had done
-Isaac takes Rebecca into his tent
-He ‘takes’ Rebecca (a euphemism for sexual intercourse)
-And she became his wife (Hebrew: isha: woman)
=And he loved her: and was comforted after his mother’s death.
The love that Isaac has for his new wife is listed as the culmination of all of those events: including sexual intercourse. It is not listed as a precursor to any of them. And it is definitely not listed as a prerequisite for any of them. And whole swaths of Scripture need to be ignored in order for it to be treated as a prerequisite.
This passage does not prove, indeed it flatly contradicts, the idea that the young couple must have a sincere love for each other before they are allowed into covenant. It also contradicts the Romeo and Juliet notion of love. Isaac, having been given a wife by his father, having taken her into his mother’s tent, having consummated the marriage: loves his wife. That is what Ephesians 5 says he should do. There love is commanded: “Husband’s, love your wives” is the message of that text.
There is a passage in Scripture where the love comes first. At least, a sort of ‘love’:
And Samson went down to Timnath, and saw a woman in Timnath of the daughters of the Philistines.
And he came up, and told his father and his mother, and said, I have seen a woman in Timnath of the daughters of the Philistines: now therefore get her for me to wife.
Then his father and his mother said unto him,
Is there never a woman among the daughters of thy brethren, or among all my people, that thou goest to take a wife of the uncircumcised Philistines? And Samson said unto his father,
Get her for me; for she pleaseth me well.
But his father and his mother knew not that it was of the LORD, that he sought an occasion against the Philistines: for at that time the Philistines had dominion over Israel.
Perhaps this is the proof text the courtship advocates should use? It has a lot less baggage. Samson saw a woman, she pleased him, he asked his folks to get her for him. A short courtship, and nothing is said of her feelings, but this fits the model much better, no?
Obviously not. Modern readers, along with Samson’s parents, would reject this marriage out of hand. They make it very clear that an unbeliever is not a choice. Indeed the book concerned makes it clear that a Christian husband cannot even do his job if he has an unbelieving wife. This is a false statement, flatly contradicted by Paul in Scripture, but consider their dilemma: here is the only passage in Scripture that teaches the ‘consent’ and ‘love’ part of courtship, and it flatly contradicts the ‘unequally’ yoked part of courtship! No wonder they turn to the blatant illogicality of using Genesis 24:67!
We get ourselves into very hot and deep water when we try to add to God’s Word. Often, as here, we find ourselves contradicting what that Word does say and example. It is a firm principle of Romeo and Juliet, of romance novels, and of Disney movies, that a man and woman must have a sincere and deep romantic attachment (called ‘love’) before they commit to each other in marriage. It is not a Biblical principle. The Biblical principle is that the Godly young woman will transform the sisterly love she has for each brother in the church into a wifely love, expressed in respect and obedience, for her husband.
Written by Vaughn Ohlman
Approved by Jeff Woodward
 The text Genesis 24:67 was used to say that it is a Biblical principle of marriage that the young man and woman, before any covenant is entered into, must have a ‘sincere love’ for each other. Interested parties may email me privately for the name of the book and its authors, but I have no interest in calling out a fellow believer in public.
Eph 5:25-33 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;
Eph 5:26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,
Eph 5:27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.
Eph 5:28 So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.
Eph 5:29 For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:
Eph 5:30 For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.
Eph 5:31 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.
Eph 5:32 This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.
Eph 5:33 Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.
Col 3:19 Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them.
 In I Corinthians chapter seven and I Peter chapter three we learn that the believer married to an unbeliever has all of the same responsibilities and blessings of one married to a believer. While we are commanded to marry ‘in the Lord’ that does not excuse a false view of the nature of such a marriage. It is a marriage, and it is sanctified by the believing spouse.