Genesis 24:67: 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.”
THE ELIGIBLE BACHELOR
Forty years old he was and still unmarried. It was likely not as strange then as now that a young man would remain “unattached” for such a length of time. Then men lived longer on the earth. But even at that, it would appear strange that Isaac was yet single. Was he not highly “eligible?” As far as material wealth was concerned, he was. Isaac was the sole heir of his extremely wealthy father Abraham. Any woman married to Isaac could be assured of the utmost in luxury and ease. Doubtless, many a beautiful girl in the land of Canaan cast desirous glances in his direction. Here was Canaan’s most eligible bachelor.
One would imagine too that had Isaac been united in marriage to one of the daughters of the mighty men of Canaan, such a union would have had many advantages—though only from man’s viewpoint. God had promised to Abraham and his seed the land of Canaan. What better way to assure oneself a place in the land than by cementing an alliance by marriage? In light of the advantages for both sides, why was it that Isaac remained unmarried?
To modern ears, the entire account of the marriage of Isaac sounds strange. It seems to me that right now I hear in the back of my mind the words of an old popular song which went something like this: “Love and marriage, go together like a horse and carriage.” But Isaac could never have sung such a song—surely not with the obvious implication of the song. Isaac, it would seem, enters marriage without consideration first of all of “love.” Not only that, he appears to have been willing that his future wife be obtained for him by another—a servant at that. What brought about such events that Isaac should not be moved to seek an advantageous marriage with a woman of Canaan?
You recall how Isaac did receive his wife. Abraham was old and “well stricken in age,” to be precise, he was almost 140 years old. He had called unto himself his oldest servant, probably Eliezer of Damascus, and made him take an oath that a wife for Isaac would never be taken from the daughters of the land of Canaan; but rather a wife would be sought from Haran where lived Abraham’s brother, Nahor. Abraham insisted upon two things: first, that Isaac would not marry a woman of Canaan; secondly, that Isaac would by no means return to the land of Haran.
With ten camels, other servants and much riches, Eliezer had begun his long, hot journey. When the servant reached Haran, and rested outside the city near the well, he pondered upon the problem of finding the suitable wife for Isaac. God-fearing man that he was, he resorted to prayer and asked that God grant a certain sign to indicate the woman. Before he had even concluded his prayer, Rebekah came to the well. The sign was fulfilled in her—to the great amazement of Abraham’s servant. The man could hardly imagine that so soon God would answer his prayer. Shortly after, upon questioning the woman, does the servant discover that this young lady is the daughter of Bethuel, granddaughter of Nahor.
The servant of Abraham had one intent—to carry out the assignment given to him. Before he would consent to eat that evening, he insisted on recounting his objective and the events which had led him here to the house of Bethuel. Nor could Rebekah’s relatives persuade the servant to stay several days; he insisted on returning immediately the next morning.
So Rebekah had been brought back to Canaan to become the wife of Isaac. Isaac first saw his future bride as he was out walking in the field in meditation. One writer suggests that Isaac was engaged in prayer to God concerning the wife God would provide. Maybe so. At any rate, Rebekah becomes his wife and Isaac loves her. The eligible bachelor is bachelor no more.
So what? The procedures of that day seem so hopelessly out-of-date. Should father arrange for the finding of wives for his sons? Ought such father delegate another to accomplish this goal? I would not want to contend that such is necessary (though I believe that such a method could hardly prove less successful than the method of young men and women choosing their own partners—judging by the divorce rate in the world today). Yet the account should prove very instructive for Christian young people. You want a guide, a standard, in choosing life’s partner? You have it here.
What are the popular standards? Popularity? Good looks? Physical attraction? Riches? But none of these are suggested in the love story of Isaac and Rebekah. Yes, Rebekah was “fair to look upon,” but no emphasis is placed upon that; Isaac did not marry her for such a reason.
We have actually been what might be called “brain-washed” about the relationship between boy and girl and the basis for sound marriage. Much is made of love today. Nor is there any spiritual content in it; it is purely earthly, physical. Now none could deny that there are physical attractions between boy and girl; God created the man and the woman that they might also desire to live together as husband and wife. But together with that must go the far deeper and more important spiritual affinities. The “love songs” of this world cannot and do not even try to express these.
Notice first, Abraham insists (and this is without doubt with the concurrence of Isaac) that his son cannot marry one of the heathen in Canaan. Why not? There can be no union between light and darkness. The Canaanite is to be dispossessed of the land in order that the seed of Abraham might dwell there. How improper it would have been then to form an alliance with such! Besides this, such union would have represented an attempt of Abraham to obtain the land through unholy alliance—rather than reliance upon the promise of God. Isaac may not marry one of the heathen Canaanites. Nor have the “rules” changed today for the Christian. We may not seek a marriage relationship for earthly, material reasons. Marriage has more than purely earthly goals for the Christian.
Secondly, marriage must serve the realization of the promise of God; it might never be a relationship in which that promise is denied. Again Abraham (with the concurrence of Isaac) insists that Isaac is by no means to leave the land of Canaan. The servant suggests that possibly the girl he would find in Haran for Isaac would refuse to leave home. Would that not be well within the realm of the possible? It would not be easy for her to leave father and mother—never to see them again. Should the servant then take Isaac to the land of Haran? But that suggestion Abraham emphatically rejects. The land of Canaan is the promised land. By faith Abraham had gone from Ur of the Chaldees in order to dwell as a pilgrim and stranger in Canaan. Again, by faith, Abraham saw this earthly Canaan as a type and shadow of that which was to come. Should Isaac renounce the type and shadow (hence the reality) in order to enter into a favorable marriage? God forbid. Under no circumstances is Isaac to do that. The promise of God is of central importance. And this principle continues also today. No marriage relationship ought to be entered that would in any way be a denial on our part of that glorious promise of God. Marriage cannot be based upon “love at first sight,” nor upon merely physical desires, but especially upon the desire of two young people to rejoice in the promise of God together. That motive ought to be seen also in dating.
Nor must prayer be forgotten. Isaac was meditating in the field; I would like to think that this was concerning his impending marriage. The servant prays for the direction of God in selecting the wife for Isaac. Ought that not yet be done? We need not expect some special sign as was given to Abraham’s servant. But God hears and answers the prayers of His saints. Yet, as by His hand, He sends husband or wife according to His purpose. When seeking for a wife becomes a matter of prayer, then the Christian will surely find not the “girl of his dreams”, but, the girl of his prayers.