Especially one where the bride and groom don’t meet until their wedding day?
That’s what happens in today’s reading from The Daily Bible, Genesis 24.
Abraham, at least 137 years old, was no doubt aware of how lonely his faithful son Isaac must have been, having lost his own dear wife Sarah and mourned and buried her. Isaac apparently had never married, looking after his elderly parents and the shepherding empire his father had amassed. And he was exactly a century younger than his dad.
So Abraham, perhaps too old to travel to his homeland, sent his chief servant with the instruction to find a wife for Isaac among Abraham’s kin. Arranged marriages appear to have been the custom of the time; remember Hagar acquiring a wife for Ishmael (Genesis 21:21)? Just so we don’t think the custom uncivilized or doomed to failure, let’s try to keep it in mind that it has persisted in a good number countries for thousands of years, where the divorce rates of many are significantly lower than our own! (And, although adoption practices differ, Angi and I were selected by the birth-parents of our children to love and raise and care for their babies. That worked fine for us. We didn’t go to a baby buffet and pick the ones we thought were the cutest. We just got them anyway. And we certainly don’t love them any less!)
The servant – never named, and Abraham has probably long outlived Eliezer of Damascus, whom he thought would inherit his wealth (Genesis 15:2-3) – asked Abraham if the woman he found would not return with him, should he take Isaac to meet her?
Abraham’s reply was an adamant “no;” Isaac is to live in the land God has promised to Abraham and his offspring. He also told the servant that God would “send His angel before you so that you can get a wife for my son from there.” And he made the servant swear an oath that he would not do that, with “his hand under the thigh of his master Abraham.”
(Now, that’s a custom we can do without.)
The servant took ten camels, provisions and a dowry of no small amount of wealth, set off – and prayed as he came to the town where Nahor lived. We knew, thanks to a preview in Genesis 22:20-24, that a girl named Rebekah was among his master’s kin. Abraham and the servant may have known that, too. So did God.
He knew she lived there. She was the one for whom the servant – and doubtless Abraham and Isaac – had prayed. Rebekah was beautiful (v. 16) and probably a generation younger than Isaac, I’d guess.
She came to the well where the servant had parked the camels, gave him a drink and offered to give water to the camels as well. That was just the sign that the servant had prayed for.
So he gave her an engagement ring. A nose ring, actually, and several bracelets, and asked if he could stay the night at her family’s compound. She said yes – and his immediate reaction was to bow down and worship the Lord for directing him there.
Rebekah brought her brother Laban to this servant and his fellow-servants, and after they had taken care of the camels, they offered him dinner. But he couldn’t eat until he had shared the whole story with them.
Now, when I’m writing, I usually don’t repeat something unless I want to emphasize it. The writer of Genesis quotes the servant as he recounts to Rebekah’s family, almost word-for-word, the story of the search. I have the annoying habit of usually inserting, “Did you get that?” between the telling and the retelling; fortunately, this writer doesn’t. But he leads you to the same conclusion that Laban and Rebekah’s father Bethuel reached:
Laban and Bethuel answered, “This is from the LORD; we can say nothing to you one way or the other. Here is Rebekah; take her and go, and let her become the wife of your master’s son, as the LORD has directed.” ~ Genesis 24:50-51
But in the morning, the family had second thoughts about losing their beautiful and industrious young treasure to the family of a truly distant relative, and begged the servant to let her stay another ten days. The servant was so excited, he had wanted to take her that morning – probably so that he could tell his master the story all over again. They left the departure date up to Rebekah, today or ten days. “Will you go with this man?” they asked. “I will go,” she said.
So they sent her and her servant with their blessings (and no doubt their tears), and she made ready, mounted a camel, and went where she had never been before.
Just like her father-in-law-to-be.
At the end of their journey, Isaac was in a field, possibly meditating, when he looked up and saw their camels. I’ll let the writer take it from here:
Rebekah also looked up and saw Isaac. She got down from her camel and asked the servant, “Who is that man in the field coming to meet us?”
“He is my master,” the servant answered. So she took her veil and covered herself.
Then the servant told Isaac all he had done. Isaac brought her into the tent of his mother Sarah, and he married Rebekah. So she became his wife, and he loved her; and Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death. ~ Genesis 24:64-67
There you have it. They met on the day of the wedding. At least it sounds like that! No doubt there were all kinds of celebratory preparations and ceremonies and feasts.
Was it true love at first sight?
The text says he loved her; it doesn’t say she loved him, or that it all happened right away. That sort of thing happens in romance novels, but hardly ever in real life.
Isaac and Rebekah had a good start, though. They both seemed to recognize God’s will in their lives, and to be willing to let it carry them together where He would. That kind of faith and trust is a good beginning to a lasting relationship. It is no guarantee that there will not be challenges, yet it is a great blessing for a couple to share a faith in the God who will lead them through challenges together.
That, you see, is true love.