Abraham was old and well advanced in age, and the Lord had blessed Abraham in all things. Abraham said to the oldest servant of his house, who had charge of all that he had…"Go to my country and to my kindred and get a wife for my son Isaac."
—Genesis 24:1, 4a
In the book Wrestling With Angels, Naomi Rosenblatt quotes Winston Churchill: "Democracy is the worst form of government—except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time." She feels the same way about marriage. “It’s not a perfect institution, because it involves human beings who are innately imperfect…yet in the long run, a good marriage is the best platform for achieving personal growth and fulfillment.”
Although we may flinch at the idea of arranged marriages, the story "Finding a Wife for the Son and Heir" (Isaac) is well worth reading (Genesis Chapter 24) because it’s a marvelous novella, richly detailed, well-paced, and featuring a feisty, strong and magnetic woman, Rebekah. If a movie had been made of this story, Katharine Hepburn would have played Rebekah.
Abraham, now quite old, sends his servant (unnamed) to the old family home in Mesopotamia, to find a proper bride for Isaac. Rosenblatt notes, “Arranged marriages built on similarity of background, traditions, and expectations offer newlyweds a large measure of stability and continuity—two ingredients that are sorely missed in today’s marriages.”
In pre-marriage talks with couples, I suggest that in marriage the word "love" is not primarily an emotion; it is an act of will. Promising to love someone during adversity, sickness, or plain old contrariness is quite a promise, and requires living up to that promise even, or especially, when we don’t want to!
Back to our story: the servant sees Rebekah coming to the local well with her water jar on her shoulder. Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann appreciates the humor of the scene: Rebekah has proper genealogy, good looks and is agile and quick.
Apparently, he says, "The blessings of heaven come packaged for earth." After negotiations with Rebekah’s crafty father Laban, Rebekah returns to Canaan with the servant. There’s even a happy ending: Isaac instantly loves her, they marry and are the only monogamous couple in Genesis.
Where is God in all of this? Where God often is—hidden, yet powerfully present, in ordinary people and very human experiences.
Help us, O God, to see your hand in daily life—in people, places, and events we often take for granted. Amen.
Copyright © 2010 Margaret Jones.