Discussing Torah matters because the Torah matters

Judah in Three Acts

Judah seems incongruent at first glance, almost like two different people. The guy he is in Genesis 37 versus the guy he is in Genesis 44 is worlds apart. That said, Judah starts to make more sense if we understand that his story in Genesis follows a classic three act structure. 

Act 1, the Set Up, is Genesis 37; the major plot point is when Judah instigates the sale of Joseph. Act 2, the Confrontation, is Genesis 38; the key plot point is when Tamar confronts Judah with his belongings. Act 3, the Crisis & Resolution, is Genesis 44 when Judah must choose whether to step out and save Benjamin from slavery. These three acts might be called, in order: the sin, the din, and the win. Let’s review all three, but not in chronological order for dramatic reasons which will make sense later. 


Act I: The Sin

Genesis 37: The Judean wilderness. 


Joseph is struggling for breath at the bottom of a dusty pit. His older brothers are sitting down for lunch, the scratches drawn by Josephs fingernails still red on their forearms. A merchant caravan appears on the hillside; the caravan is traveling in the direction of Egypt. Judah spies an opportunity. “Brothers,” he says, “what profit is it if we kill our brother and conceal his blood?” His pitch to them is a simple one: Let the slavers in Egypt do the killing so the blood will be on their hands, not ours. Plus, as an added bonus, well score a quick profit in the meantime.

After agreeing to the idea, the brothers return to the pit and hoist Joseph back to the surface. For a moment Joseph thinks they’ve had a change of heart, but sadly it is quite the opposite. They have merely returned to make his disappearance irrevocable. 


Since Judah had proposed the idea to sell Joseph, it seems natural that Judah would now lead the negotiation of his sale. In any case, the merchants purchase Joseph for 20 shekels and go on their way. 


Judah and his brothers come to find themselves involved in a cover-up. They immerse Joseph’s robe in the blood of a goat. Days later they present it to their father Jacob and, in an Oscar-worthy performance, they tell him, “This coat we have found – Identify please (ha’ker na in Hebrew) if it is your son’s robe.” Jacob identifies the robe in horror. He cries out, “It is my son’s robe! A fierce animal has devoured him. Joseph is no doubt torn to pieces.” Jacob then rips his garment and puts on sackcloth. He mourns at the loss of his son for many days, weeping (v.34). 


As time passes, the brothers (including Judah) try to comfort their father but he is inconsolable. Their father Jacob insists, “No, I will continue to mourn until I join Joseph in the grave.” It is noteworthy: Jacob is a man who has physically wrestled with God, but now he will spend the next twenty years wrestling spiritually with God. “Lord, how could You let a wild animal devour my beloved son?” Which wrestling match do you think Jacob found more difficult? Which struggle gave him more of a limp?


Having to witness their father shrivel into a shell of his former self, Judah – the ringleader of Josephs disappearance – becomes a target of resentment among the brothers. After all, it is easier to blame Judah than blame themselves. They reason: if we had left Joseph in the pit as originally planned, Rueben would’ve returned and pulled him to safety, and today everything would be fine and normal among us at home. Instead though, nothing is the same. Jacob’s crestfallen spirit hangs like a dark cloud over the entire family. 


Be that as it may, the brothers continue to keep the secret a secret. This is a telling insight! From it we glimpse Judah’s stature among the brothers. We know that all the sons of Jacob tried to comfort their father, yet not one of them pointed a finger at Judah. Not one of them ratted him out – not even Rueben! History tells us that Judah will go on to be the predecessor of kings and leaders, and for his part Judah seems to be a natural leader as evidenced by the cooperation and loyalty of his brothers. Judah possesses the gift of influence or perhaps authority. Whether he wields his influence for good or evil is, ultimately, his choice to make. But we see its affect on those around him: the brothers watch their father agonize over a false narrative, yet they stand by Judah even while they endure the disintegration of their own self-respect.


Judah will deservedly merit their respect (and ours) in Act III. Act III is found in Genesis 44, a chapter in which Judah wields his gifts for the good. 



Act III: The Win

Genesis 44: Egypt’s sprawling palace with towering ceilings, 20 years later.

Joseph has become viceroy of the most dominant superpower on earth. He doesn’t answer to the name Joseph anymore. In this place he is Zaphenath-Paneah (Gen. 41:45). And seated in the heights of a royal palace, Zap looks right at home. Zap looks, acts, and speaks like an Egyptian overlord, an intimidating power-player on the world’s biggest stage. 


Having been reacquainted with his long-lost brothers, the unrecognizable Joseph makes a genius, 4D-chess type move. The move resets the table to see if his brothers will show the same ruthlessness that he remembers. He creates a scenario in which a certain opportunity again presents itself to his brothers, absent their father. The scenario will put Rachel’s other son (Benjamin) in the ejection seat. Will they press fire? Will they rid themselves of Benjamin as they rid themselves of Joseph? 


Joseph frames Benjamin for a theft he did not commit. Joseph then summons the boy to receive due punishment for the crime: that is, a life of slavery in Egypt. But Judah (of all people!) steps forward and puts his life on the line. In earnest he tells Joseph, “What can we say, my lord? God has uncovered your servants’ guilt. We are now your slaves.” 


Joseph moves another chess piece. “No, he says, you go back to your father in peace. Just leave me Benjamin, the boy guilty of theft.”


Judah counters because he isn’t the same man as before. Not only has Judah witnessed what the loss of a son can do to his father, Judah himself has experienced the loss of a son – two in fact. He replies to Zaphenath-Paneah, “Pardon your servant, my lord, but let me speak a word to you.” 

Here the scene resembles a high-stakes courtroom drama. Judah approaches the bench with his brothers behind him, eyes wide and uncertain. 


In a quiet voice, Judah, an old shepherd, speaks personally to the royal looking down at him. He tells Zaphenath-Paneah (and I’ll paraphrase), “Do not be angry with me. I recognize that you are equal to Pharaoh himself. But listen, our father loves this boy in a special way. Our dad didn’t want him to come to Egypt but we insisted. If we now return without him, my dad will most assuredly go to his grave in grief. You must understand that I personally guaranteed the boy’s safety. I said, ‘Father, if I dont bring him back, I will bear the blame for the rest of my life.’” 


The sun-wrinkled eyes of the old shepherd gaze into the eyes of a powerful man, eyes darkened and carefully-etched by Egyptian make-up. The shepherd surrenders. “Please, let me stay behind as your slave in place of the boy. Let the boy go back. I mean how can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me? No! Do NOT let me see the misery that would come upon my father.”


This is Judah’s redemption moment. Joseph is so touched by Judah’s transformation that he commands the palace servants to leave at once. Only after the last servant has exited the room does the Egyptian overlord reveal his true identity to the brothers. 


For us, the audience reading this story ~4000 years later, a question emerges. How does this guy Judah go from the wicked, self-serving opportunist of Act I to the selfless, family-first heroism of Act III? At this point our main character, Judah, seems totally incongruent. How do we reconcile the contradictions?  

The answer lies in Act II, i.e. Chapter 38. In Chapter 38 we witness Judah’s turning point, or, if you prefer, his breaking point. So let’s rewind to Chapter 38 and see what happens. 



Act II: The Din

Genesis 38: Canaan, in the decades between Chapter 37 & 44. 


Chapter 38 is the middle act in Judahs story. I call it “The Din” because din is a Hebrew word meaning to judge, to vindicate, or to strive with. In Genesis 38 we encounter Judah’s “come to Jesus” moment, a time in which the Hebrew word din very much applies. Here’s a summary of the chapter along with a few strategic call outs. 


Judah leaves his brothers at the beginning of the chapter (Gen. 38:1). 

No surprise here! Given the level of tension that exists among the brothers following the sale of Joseph and their father’s ensuing depression, Judah leaves his home because he wants to get away from the mess that he has caused. He is running away from his past in hopes he can quiet a guilty conscience. 

Judah marries a Canaanite woman (38:2). 

Indicative of a man who’s breaking ties with his Hebrew family.

Judah and his Canaanite wife have three boys, all of whom reach the age of marriage before the end of the chapter (38:3-14). 

In terms of its timespan, Genesis 38 is a long chapter. It spans close to two decades. 

Reading the chapter, we learn that Judah’s oldest son is put to death by God due to his evil deeds. This makes the man’s wife, Tamar, a widow. Tamar is then married to Son #2 as was custom in those days. But then unfortunately, Son #2 is put to death by God due to his evil deeds. Tamar, again a widow, is supposed to be given to Judah’s third son. However, the third son is too young to be married for the time being. So Tamar goes off to live with her parents while she waits on further word from Judah. 

After a long time Judah’s wife passes away. Judah becomes a widower. As a widower, Judah travels to a town where he encounters a veiled prostitute. For temporary payment, he gives her his staff, his seal and its cord. They sleep together and he leaves. A few weeks pass. Through a series of revelations, he discovers that he’s been robbed by the prostitute. He’ll never see his personal belongings again, or so he thinks. He decides to bury the matter because he doesn’t want to be a laughingstock among the townspeople. 

Three months later he learns that his daughter-in-law, Tamar, has become pregnant. The surprise pregnancy is problematic in his eyes, because she is the widow of his first two sons and she has yet to be married to his third son. How can she be pregnant if not for an act of adultery? Furious, he calls for her execution in public. “Bring her out and burn her to death!” he declares. The townspeople go along with Judah’s verdict. They bring her out to be killed, both her and the unborn life inside her. 

But Tamar does the most unexpected thing. She sends private word to Judah, saying, “I am pregnant by the man who owns these.” Lo and behold, the items that she references are Judah’s personal belongings: his staff, his seal and its cord. Her message adds (and this is key), “Identify please (ha’ker na) whose seal and cord and staff these are.” 


Without realizing it, Tamar employs the same language that Judah used when he and his brothers presented the torn and bloodied robe of Joseph to their father. A flashback jolts Judah to his senses. Judah hears her words in a way that only Judah can hear. They land with all the force of the Holy Spirit. He melts. Judah reverses course and stops the execution. She is more righteous than I, he says, since I did not give her my son. 

His remark warrants some thought. In various ways Judah and Tamar are alike. Judah deceived his father; Tamar deceived her father-in-law. Both Tamar and Judah, a widow and widower, slept with someone out of wedlock. And yet, according to Judah, Tamar is the more righteous. How can this be? 


  • Judah’s haker na was a manipulation: it was contrived to cover up Judah’s evil deed of selling Joseph. 
  • Tamar’s ha’ker na was a plea to live: it was a plea made with such discretion that it covered up Judah’s evil deed of sleeping with a prostitute

By sending word to him rather than blurting it out or making a big show of it, she kept Judah from becoming the thing he most feared: a laughingstock. She also put her future in his hands. Judah, having repossessed his belongings, could have denied her message and followed through with her execution – a brand new cover-up of epic proportions. But this time around, Judah chooses a better path. He recognizes that Tamar did the same thing that he did, but she did it in the opposite direction: toward the good rather than the bad, toward life rather than death. 

The next time you and I see Judah, he is once again living alongside his brothers and their father. He is a changed man, a man who will go on to do what he does in Act III, Chapter 44, standing up for Benjamin and putting his own life on the line. 

My Take on Gentile Inclusion - Helpful Parallels

In my view, the Torah provides two pictures to help us understand Gentile inclusion into the commonwealth of Israel and the covenants of promise (Ephesians 2:12). 

  • First: Jacob's adoption of Ephraim and Manasseh. 
  • Second: the mixed multitude's presence at Sinai. 

Let's start with the first. To begin we glean a clue from the First Century. 

Jesus would have been known as Jesus son of Joseph among His contemporaries. As far as I am concerned, this has a strategic double-meaning. (Why is it strategic? Because God created the genius of all the best poets. As such, He is doesn't stumble into coincidences.) The character of Joseph in Genesis portrays the person of Jesus son of Joseph. In Genesis, Joseph has two sons during his residence in Egypt – that is – the Gentile world. Their names are Ephraim and Manasseh. Ephraim and Manasseh (E&M) are Gentiles according to currently-held, centuries-old Jewish law. Why? Because both were born of a Gentile mother in Egypt. And growing up in Egypt, E&M knew only the Gentile version of Joseph. They knew little of their father's Jewish life. They knew, perhaps, that his Jewish brothers had rejected him, had put him in the ground, had sold him for silver, had passed him off to the Gentile world, had vetoed his place among the family. Indeed, E&M esteemed their father's Jewish day to be of very little worth. It was an offense, in ways. Their immediate contribution to Joseph's story had aged quite poorly. 

Fast forward. 

Jacob Israel adopts Ephraim and Manasseh as sons of his own. With a careful read of Genesis 48, the cosmic curtain pulls back to give you a peek into the truths revealed later in Romans 11. How so? Because in Genesis 48, Israel tells Joseph that his sons "are mine, as Rueben and Simeon are." In other words, the father grafts in Jospeh's Gentile sons as if they were his own – and not only that, he elevates them to the firstborn position! We must run our finger up against this to catch the undercurrent that carries the entire climax of Genesis. Israel the father pictures God the Father; Joseph the son pictures Jesus the Son; E&M picture us Gentiles being grafted into the house of Israel by way of our personal relationship with Jesus.

Later in Exodus, the sons and daughters of Ephraim and Manasseh leave behind everything they have ever known. They leave Egypt and all of its trappings to travel along with the families of Jacob toward a place entirely unknown. Whereas the other tribes/familes are returning to a place they came from, the tribes/families of E&M are traveling to a place that is alien to their origin story. They are nevertheless determined: they belong to Israel now, not to Egypt – even though their fathers E&M have never been to the land of Israel! The tribes of E&M represent us Gentiles who find our place in the family of Abraham. We are not Jewish but we do inherit the covenants of promise and the commonwealth of Israel. Recall, Jacob didn't adopt Ephraim and Manasseh. Israel adopted them. From this we derive an insight: we Gentiles are not the sons of Jacob, but we are the sons of Israel – products of the one who wrestled with God and persevered, albeit with a limp.

Let's jump to the second picture: 

At Sinai, God gave His Torah to the Israelites. Right? Well yes, but when we say it this way, we tend to think of "the Jews" and no one else. But what about the great mixed multitude that went out of Egypt with the Jews? Those Gentiles who saw the judgement of Egypt and experiences a change of heart? This Gentile multitude recognized that the God of the Hebrews was indeed the one true God, and they gave Him their allegiance. Maybe they put the blood on their doorposts; maybe they lost a firstborn son. Whatever the case may be, they left Egypt and risked their lives on that decision. Not only was this multitude a big crowd of Gentiles, it was a crowd of Gentiles that (I believe) represented every nation on earth. How can I say this? Genesis 41:56 says that a great famine was over "all the face of the land." (Read the various translations and you get the sense that the whole civilized world was affected. The world's population at the time was largely concentrated in and around that area of the globe.) This famine brought people from all over the known world to Egypt. Some came and went, others came and stayed. I believe God used the famine to bring a mixed multiple of people into Egypt so that, in time, He could draw them out and bring them to Sinai. This speculation aside, a great mixed multitude of Gentiles was nevertheless present at the foot of Sinai and they, too, had a Pentecost experience when God gave them the Torah. These Gentiles came to see themselves as partakers in the covenants of promise, members of the commonwealth of Israel. God didn't just give His Torah to Jews; He gave it to Gentiles too. He gave it to His people, the kahal, the sons of Israel. 

These two pictures inform my thinking on a number of items. That said, I look at the elders in Acts and I appreciate the wisdom of their light-handed approach to things regarding the Gentiles. They leave it so open-ended. In Acts 15, they give four basic laws which get Gentiles through the door of synagogue (see Acts 15:21). In synagogue, they would hear the Torah read, learn about their God, learn background about their Messiah, learn about the commandments. Where they went from there would a personal journey, but the elders had to assume that Scripture (ie. the Old Testament) would speak for itself. (Remember: there was no "New Testament" at the time.)

Buried Treasure: Rachel’s Last Call for Confession

There’s a treasure of a story buried beneath the topsoil of Genesis 31-35. The characters in focus are Jacob, Rachel, and Laban. We join the plot as Jacob prepares to flee his father-in-law, Laban, without telling him. Jacob will take with him a caravan of family members, servants, animals and possessions. Little does he realize, his beloved wife Rachel is about to steal her father’s idols.

Alone in Labans dwelling, a question crosses Rachel’s mind as she pockets the idols. “How am I going to get away with this?” Rachel realizes that Laban will soon discover that his idols are gone, and he will link their disappearance to Jacob. But Rachel reasons with herself: no, Laban won’t go so far as to pursue Jacob into the hills. Laban is more likely to replace the idols and leave the matter alone. 

Why does Rachel take her father’s idols? 

Here are five potential motives. 

1.    A noble act: She takes them from Laban as a kind of rescue, to wean her father away from idol worship. “If the idols can’t save themselves, then they can’t save you, Laban. You need to wake up to the truth.” 

2.  A prudent action: Laban’s idols are “oracles” according to Rabbi Hirsch. With this reading, Rachel recognizes that behind these idols are real and dark supernatural forces. She doesn’t want these forces to tell Laban the whereabouts of Jacobs location. So, by taking the oracles, she is buying time. “Ill steal the idols so Laban can’t consult them and learn our location.”

3.    A sentimental attachment: She grew up with these idols and now she simply can’t let them go. Almost like a teenage girl packing her time-raggled stuffed animal as she travels off to college. Or maybe like a Christmas nativity set from your childhood that you can’t seem to part with. “I’m taking these because I want something that reminds me of home.”

4.   A business moveIt’s been pointed out that there was a tradition in ancient Mesopotamia that he who possessed the family gods possessed certain rights over the household. As revealed in Genesis 31:14, Rachel knew that her father had no intention of passing a share of his estate to her and her sister, Leah. So Rachel thinks, “I’ll take these idols so we can return after my father’s death and lay a claim to our inheritance.” (Proponents of this explanation reference the fact that Laban accepts the theft of his idols only after he receives a guarantee that Jacob will not cross a particular boundary line between them. Laban knows then that his sons’ inheritance will be protected; Jacob will not return and lay claim to any piece of Laban’s estate.)

5.    An act of spite: Rachel is so fed up with Laban that she wants to hit him where it hurts the most. “I’m going to steal these idols because I know how much they mean to my father, and he deserves to hurt after the way he’s treated me, after the way he ruined what should have been my wedding night.” 

These potential motives deserve consideration, and perhaps all factor in to some extent. The narrative provides two clues which may help us clarify the matter some. 

Clue #1: she doesn’t tell Jacob about the theft. 
Clue #2: she still possesses the idols after 10 days! 

Clue #1 leads me to believe that a guilty conscience is involved, thereby ruling out “the noble act” idea. Had it been a noble act, she would’ve told Jacob. 

Clue #2 leads me to believe that “the prudent move” isn’t the answer either. Had she just been trying to prevent Laban from consulting his oracles, she could’ve buried the idols at the first opportunity, her goal having been accomplished. Clue #2 also leads me to believe that “the act of spite” isn’t her primary motivation either. Had it been a simple act of spite, she would’ve discarded or destroyed them soon after their departure. There’s no need to keep incriminating evidence any longer than necessary. But as we know, Rachel was still holding on to them after 10 days!

“The business move” isn’t compelling because she already knows that Jacob is a wealthy man returning to a wealthy family. Rachel doesn’t need to claim additional riches from her father Laban. Besides that, this motivation doesn’t seem true to her character in my opinion.  

Does she take the idols due to sentimental attachment? Possibly. The tokens of our childhood can be difficult to let go of, especially if we derive a level of emotional security from them. Still, I don’t find this reason compelling in and of itself. 

There is another explanation, a sixth possibility. Dennis Prager puts it well: “Rachel surely believed in the God of Jacob, but she might well have still believed in the power of idols with which she grew up. When people believe in many visible gods, it takes a very long time to get them to believe in one invisible God. Rachel’s behavior may have been similar to that of Neils Bohr, the Nobel-prize winning physicist who was said to keep a rabbit’s foot in his laboratory. When an astonished visitor asked, ‘But surely, professor, you don’t believe in a rabbit’s foot?’ Bohr responded, ‘Of course not. But they say a rabbit’s foot brings you luck whether you believe in it or not.’”

Rachel was desperately anxious to have a child (Gen. 30:1) and then, later on, desperately anxious to have a second child. Prager points out that Rachel may have taken the idols because she was open to utilizing all means necessary toward procuring her goal, including mandrakes, Jacob’s God, and perhaps also the gods from her father’s household. This point, I believe, explains Rachels motivation in the most satisfying way. 1) She’s an anxious person by nature, 2) she is desperate to have children, and 3) she’s hedging her bets.

Ten days after leaving, the unexpected happens. Laban catches up to them and confronts Jacob about the disappearance of the idols.  

Jacob is flabbergasted by the accusation. Even still, a simple assurance from Jacob that he did not steal the idols would suffice at this point. Instead, Jacob makes an audacious declaration to Laban. “Anyone with whom you find your gods shall not remain alive!” (31:32).

Remember now: Jacob, the grandson of Abraham, has inherited the power to bless and to curse. His words carry weight. They have an effect. Furthermore, how do you think his words washed over Rachel who was also present at the scene?

Dennis Prager comments, “We are all occasionally tempted to make these types of grandiose avowals, but they are risky and rarely necessary. Jacob’s statement turns out to be highly risky—and unnecessary, as it does not deter Laban from searching the tents in Jacob’s camp.” Even more than risky and unnecessary, it is harmful because, in this moment, Rachel cements the secrecy of her sin. Suddenly the theft threatens her future, her very life. Her husband’s condemnation is so strong that the possibility of her ever admitting the truth to him is here and now smothered.

Laban resorts to searching the tents. But why? Why doesn’t he believe Jacob’s denial of guilt? “Because Laban regularly deceived people. People who lie assume everyone else does, too. This is the built-in punishment of the dishonest: they go through life convinced they are constantly being deceived” (Prager).   

Laban starts his search beginning with his top suspects: Jacob, then Leah, then the two maidservants. His youngest daughter Rachel is the least suspected of all, evidenced by the fact that Laban visits her tent last. As he closes in on her tent, I am reminded of Achan in Joshua 7. 

  • Just as Achan took from Jericho “some of the devoted things,” Rachel had taken from Laban some of his devoted things. 
  • Just as Achan endured an agonizing countdown before being singled out from his family, so too Rachel endures an agonizing countdown as Laban closes in on her and her secret. 
  • Just as Achan hid the stolen gold and silver in the ground beneath his tent, now Rachel hides the stolen idols in a saddle beneath her in a tent. 

Of course, death was Achan’s sentence. If discovered, what will come of Rachel? 

As Laban enters her tent, Rachel tells him, “Let not my lord take it amiss that I cannot rise before you, for the period of women is upon me.” Laban takes Rachel at her word. He does not look under the cushion because it would have been inconceivable to him that Rachel would run the risk of menstruating on his gods. Moments later he exits the tent empty-handed, and Rachel breathes a sigh of relief believing that she is off the hook. But is she really? 

We read that after Jacob and Laban part ways, Jacob arrives safely at the city of Shechem and buys some adjacent land (33:18-19). Not long after, something crazy takes place (Genesis 34). As a result, the women and children of Shechem fall under Jacob’s authority (34:27-29). Jacob wants to leave the area because he is worried about the neighboring Canaanites (34:30). God gives him directions to go to Bethel. Jacob obeys, but before leaving Jacob commands all who are with him to bury their idols under an old oak tree. He does not want any foreign deities to join them on their journey to Bethel. 

The widows of Shechem approach the old oak tree as commanded and discard their idols, one by one, into a pit. The question is – is Rachel still harboring Laban’s idols? And if so, does she bring them forward in this moment? Because this (we can agree) is her opportunity to do it! In fact, it may well be her last call for confession, because the Bible tells us that her untimely death is just around the corner. The Bible doesn’t specify what Rachel does with the idols. We as readers are given no closure in this regard. Labans idols are last seen with Rachel sitting on them as she guards her sin from everyone who is important in her life. What happens to the idols after that moment remains a mystery to this day. 

Nevertheless, here is a way to demystify the story with a measure of plausibility. We teleport ourselves to that afternoon underneath the old oak at Shechem. There, with Jacob and pregnant Rachel standing next to us, we watch the Shechemite women – widow after widow after widow – step forward to deposit a household idol into this pit under the oak tree. What is not so obvious is that Rachel envies their ability to surrender their idols. She thinks of the idols that secretly remain in her possession. They are stowed away among her belongings. She has come to resent them in a way, but she is extremely protective of the saddle that they stay inside. She is pregnant, after all, and miscarriages are common.

Believing all idols to have been discarded, Jacob leaves Shechem and travels southward with the rest of his caravan. The caravan makes a stop in Bethel and then travels onward to Bethlehem. Along the way Rachel goes into labor and gives birth to a son. She names the baby Benoni, “son of my sorrow.” She then dies unexpectedly during childbirth.

Okay yall – here is the question I have been building up to, a question that cant be answered with certainty but a question that still merits some consideration. Is Rachel’s premature passing a result of the curse that Jacob pronounced over her life without realizing it? Recall, Jacob had declared death to the person who stole Laban’s idols. He did not know who the curse would fall upon. Still his words carry the weight of God’s promise to Abraham, that whoever dishonors you I will curse (Gen. 12:3). And then, given Rachel’s failure to confess and seek correction, had Rachel unknowingly sealed up its lethal affect?

Her departing words express sadness as she names her son Benoni. We might wonder: what if her sorrow was made worse by unresolved guilt? She knows that Labans idols still hide in a pouch inside her tent. She knows that Jacob will discover them over the course of time. But perhaps she takes this knowledge with her to the grave. 

We know that Jacob struggles in the wake of Rachel’s death. He withdraws from the rest of his family. Genesis 35:21-22 describes that dark period. Rabbi Hirsch translates the original Hebrew in a way that renders a unique insight. We key in on one specific detail: “[Jacob] journeyed on [from the place that Rachel was buried] and pitched his tent at some distance from the herd tower. When [Jacob] was residing in that land, Rueben . . . placed his couch beside his father’s concubine so that [Jacob] heard of it.” What is the meaning of this detail: at some distance from the herd tower? Hirsch writes, “It is possible that the tent pitched by Jacob is the tent that Jacob formerly shared with Rachel. Thus, the meaning would be: Jacob pitched [the tent that he and Rachel used to share] at some distance from the herd tower around which the rest of his family had encamped.” 

So to say, Jacob withdraws from the rest of the family due to his grieving Rachel. Whereas Jacob resided among them when Rachel was alive, he isolates himself in the days or weeks following her death. And it is during this absence that Jacob’s oldest son makes a salacious move and sleeps with his concubine.

We can imagine a moment during this timeframe. It might have gone like this: A servant breaks off from the camp and travels over to Jacob’s tent, distant and isolated. The servant goes in to tell Jacob about the outrageous act committed by his oldest son Rueben. But Jacob, for the time being, is too detached to be outraged, too exhausted to seek action. At first the servant cannot understand why. But then Jacob gestures toward a pouch that is folded up in the corner of the tent. Out of the bag, the servant pulls a number of carved objects into the firelight. The objects are unmistakable. The objects are Laban’s idols. 

This telling sure seems plausible to me! I mean what if something like this happened? What if, following the burial of Rachel, Jacob stumbled upon her long-held secret? And perhaps Jacob, wide-eyed and white-faced, couldn’t help but remember the words he so rashly blurted out over the thief’s life

Genesis 26: A Flashback

Alright. I’m convinced. 

Genesis 26 is backstory. It’s a flashback. It’s an excerpt from a previous time. Now I know it’s a stretch to say this because the narrative doesn’t typically break from the forward progress of time, but we do have some examples. Exodus 10:27-29 & 11:4-8 seem to be out of order, for instance. The earlier passage seems to occur after the later passage takes place. Another example of the text breaking from linear time is Genesis 2. Chapter 2:1-3 tells about Day 7 of creation, but then 2:4-25 goes back in time to revisit Day 6 with more detail. All of this is just to say, revisiting something from the past isn’t unheard of in the Torah. It is rare but it happens. We’d have to ask, though: why a flashback in Genesis 26?

Well first things first. What is flashback?

Flashback is a literary device used to create a background to the present situation. An author uses this device as an opportunity to provide insight and meaning within the story at hand. Flashback is one of the most common and recognizable writing techniques, and, when executed well, one of the most effective.

There is generally a trigger, something that causes the narrator to recall a particular event or detail from the past. The trigger is explored/explained in the flashback itself which serves to provide new information to the reader. 

With this in mind, let me make the case that Genesis 26 is actually a flashback. Start by noting that Genesis 26 tells the story of Isaac and Rebekah living among the Philistines in a city called Gerar. The account says they lived there for a long time (26:8). And yet, no mention of their twin boys, Jacob and Esau, is made in association with their time in Gerar. In fact, the boys are not a factor at all! While Isaac acts like Rebekah is not his wife, not one Philistine asks, “Then who do these boys belong to? Indeed, the whole charade between “unmarried” Isaac and “unmarried” Rebekah appears to be uncomplicated by the presence of kids. Of course, we can make perfect sense of this if we read it as a flashback, an excerpt from a previous time. When they lived in Gerar, they hadn’t had kids yet!

This would make sense of the Narrators storytelling, too. The flashback is triggered by Esau selling his birthright to Jacob in Genesis 25. “Esau despised his birthright” is the final statement of chapter 25. We turn the page to chapter 26 and suddenly the reader is transported back in time. Where do we land? We land at the moment that God goes to Esau’s father, Isaac, and endows him with all that was given to Abraham. In other words, when Esau trades away his birthright for a pot of beans, it’s as if the Narrator calls a time-out. He’s like let’s go back and understand the magnitude of this birthright. Because––clearly––Esau has forgotten it, or he underestimates it, or something. I don’t want you to do the same. 

The flashback commences. We find ourselves witnessing a time from years past when Isaac and Rebekah are living among the Philistines in Gerar. They live here “for a long time” (Genesis 26:8). Their marriage is a total secret. The locals don’t realize the two of them are married because Isaac is lying to everyone, acting like his wife Rebekah is actually his sister. Why lie? Because he is afraid! He is acting out of fear. And this tells us something about him. It tells us that Isaac can sometimes lose sight of the big picture because what’s in front of him is the most pressing thing. He’s a godly man, for sure, but the danger in Gerar is clear and present, and God’s larger-than-life promises are, well, larger than life. So he loses sight of the big picture and decides to lie about his situation. And no one knows that better than his own wife, Rebekah, who has to pretend to be Isaac’s sister “for a long time.” She knows it’s deceitful on their part, yes, but the ends justify the means. 

The flashback ends when we reach the final two verses in Genesis 26. We’re now back where we left off at the end of Genesis 25. Esau abruptly re-enters the frame. Esau thought little of his birthright the last time we saw him, and now we see him thinking little of his family name as he intermarries with the Hittites. Still, he is rubbing his hands together in anticipation for his father’s blessing. 

Time out! Important context ahead:
Here’s the birthright and the blessing in a nutshell.

Birthright: the responsibility to take care of the family and the estate. 
Blessing: the means with which to carry out that responsibility.
Whoever has the birthright (typically the firstborn son) needs to get the blessing,
because the blessing is the means with which to carry out the birthright. 

In this case, the firstborn son should not receive the blessing because, legally, he is not the firstborn son anymore! Esau sold his his firstborn status to Jacob. Jacob took on the responsibility of the firstborn son through that transaction. So Jacob, now technically the firstborn, is the one to whom the blessing should go. And his mother Rebekah knows this with such certainty. (After all, God told her long ago that the older would serve the younger.) But Rebekah also knows her husband well. She knows that her husband can, at times, lose sight of the big picture. He did it in Gerar and he is about to do it again. If he gives the blessing to Esau, it will be a mistake he cannot undo. And so, with the courage she learned as an unmarried” women living among the Philistines, it is decided: she will make a bold move. She will be deceitful, yes, but the ends justify the means.  

In time, her husband would learn the truth. Isaac would learn that Rebekah was behind the scheme to switch Jacob for Esau. And Isaac would have been furious with her had it not been for one important discovery. He discovers that the birthright belongs to Jacob, not Esau! He discovers that Jacob has legally come to possess the firstborn status! So Isaac can’t be too angry with Rebekah, because Rebekah protected him from a terrible mishap. That is, to give the blessing to someone who does not possess the birthright in God’s eyes. 

Still, a very daring maneuver on Rebekah’s part, to instigate this whole son swap, to risk her good name on a move so audacious. But she is no stranger to risk. She learned to accept risk during her long stay in Gerar, going out as a “single” woman among the Philistines. While Isaac was afraid, Rebekah learned how not to be afraid. She certainly wasn’t too afraid when she told her son Jacob, “My son, [if this ploy doesn’t work], let the curse fall on me. Just do what I say; go and get the ingredients [of the stew] for me.”

Can you see why I like to read Genesis 26 as flashback? Let me speak broadly. 

- God is the ultimate author. The Torah is His book. If a human author can use flashback as a literary device to tell a story more powerfully, why can’t God do it in His book? 

- If Genesis 26 is a flashback, it makes sense of why Jacob and Esau aren’t a factor in Gerar. It explains why Isaac and Rebekah can pretend to be unmarried. 

- Genesis 26 (the flashback) is wedged between Jacob’s receiving the birthright and Jacob’s receiving the blessing. In my eyes, it makes sense to go back in time at this moment because rewinding the timeline to visit Isaac and Rebekah in Gerar pertains to both the birthright and the blessing! 
- We see the magnitude of the birthright that Esau so casually gave away. 
- Through the flashback, we see where Isaacs blessing gets its teeth spiritually and physically.  
- We see how Rebekah garnered the courage to make the decision she made, and perhaps why she was okay with a measure of deceit so long as the ends justified the means. 
- We see why Isaac would have loved his wife even after she deceived him. After all, she had put up with his deception in Gerar for such a long time, and she’d done so at her own risk.  
- Finally, reading Genesis 26 as flashback yields a window into a beautiful moment. Remember when the king of Gerar spies Isaac and Rebekah being intimate with each other in Genesis 26:8? I like to think this detail captures when their twins, Jacob and Esau, were conceived. 


Genesis 20 is scandalous! I’m telling you, this is juicy stuff. First we have to understand that Abraham is no small character among the people of his day. People know him. He’s a very wealthy man (Genesis 13:2). He has dealings with kings and pharaoh (12:16; 14:17-18). His possessions are great (13:6). He has numerous servants and herdsmen––more than 300 men work for him (14:14)! And those 300 men presumably have wives and children of their own. Suffice to say, Abraham’s name carries quite a bit of recognition in the region.

In Genesis 17, we read that Abraham circumcises “all the men of his house, those born in the house and those bought with money from a foreigner” (17:27). From this we see that Abraham is also well known for his covenant relationship with God. Everyone in his household is aware of it. They are part of it. They know of God’s promise to make Abraham a great nation. And God has made it very clear that He will do so through Sarah, Abraham’s wife.

So now get this: Abraham gives his wife Sarah to King Abimelech! Sarah stays in Abimelech’s house for at least one night. We turn the page to Genesis 21 and guess who’s pregnant?! Sarah!

Said at a whisper: Is Sarah pregnant with Abimelech’s baby?

You and I know better––of course she’s not. The Torah is clear: Abimelech does not touch Sarah (see 20:4, 20:6). Upon returning her to Abraham, Abimelech gives Abraham a thousand pieces of silver as a sign of her innocence in the eyes of all who are with them. He tells her, “...before everyone you are vindicated” (20:16).  

But then she’s pregnant. And you know how it is. During those long days out in the field, the shepherds get to talking. The wives of the shepherds get to talking. “Did you hear Sarah’s pregnant?” “Oh? Didn’t she spend the night at Abimelech’s house somewhat recently?” “Well Abimelech said he didn’t do anything with her.” “Oh yeah, right...” 

Modern American pop-culture tends to be critical, cynical, and celebrity-obsessed. If this story were to occur in America today, the front page of the tabloids would read like this: “SCANDAL! SARAH PREGNANT WITH PHILISTINE BABY.” It would have a paparazzi picture of Abraham, head down, set beneath a snapshot of Sarah and Abimelech disappearing behind closed doors. The edition would probably sell well, despite it being very, very untrue. 

I’d sooner believe the Torah than a tabloid. There’s a verse in Genesis 25 that I love because it relates to this so-called “scandal.” It’s verse 19 and it starts this way: “These are the generations of Isaac: Abraham fathered Isaac, and Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah . . .”

Actually, that’s not how it reads. Did you notice anything missing? I removed a portion that God included on purpose. I like to think He included it to quell the rumors that arise from Genesis 20. Here’s what it actually says (and note the redundancy): “These are the generations of Isaac, Abraham’s son: Abraham fathered Isaac, and Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah. . .”

It would have been enough to say simply Abraham fathered Isaac, but it also says “...Isaac, Abraham’s son” as if to stress the fact that Isaac is indeed the son of Abraham. God is leaving nothing to question. Isaac is, without a doubt, Abraham’s son. Despite what you may hear in the fields, the son is Abraham’s!

Can you think of anyone else in the Bible whose birth was under “scandalous” circumstances?

Genesis 23: Part of a Larger Portrait

Genesis 23 begins with the death of Sarah in Hebron. Abraham gets word of her death and goes to weep over her. The language implies that they are separated when she passes away. 

When Abraham breaks from his mourning, he rises to find a place worthy of Sarah’s burial. “His wife is to rest in a place that will be her permanent, everlasting burial site, and for this purpose Abraham seeks to acquire a piece of land in perpetuity. For many years he has dwelt in Canaan as a stranger; despite all his wealth, he has never sought to acquire even a square foot of land. After all, his calling is to be a wanderer. But now the necessity to bury his wife forces him, for the first time, to make a permanent acquisition of land. His wife’s grave is to be the first bond that will tie him to the land; it is to be the place that will draw him and hold him” (The Hirsch Chumash, Bereshis, pg. 503).

He goes to the Hittites in Hebron and there, at the city gates, he negotiates a real estate deal. Abraham has a certain cave in mind so he speaks directly to the property owner. The owner prices the property at 400 shekels. A high price according to all commentators, but without complaint Abraham pays the 400 shekels in full. Having acquired the property, he buries his wife in the cave at the end of the field. In time, this cave will become the burial site of Abraham himself, as well as that of Isaac and Rebekah and even Jacob and Leah. Today the cave––a very holy site––can be visited in Hebron. 

Examining the whole of Genesis 23, we’ll find that the chapter is characterized by ongoing repetitions. Every point is repeated and reiterated. Verse 17 enumerates literally every article of the property: “So the field of Ephron in Machpelah, east of Mamre––the field with the cave in it and all the trees in the field, throughout its whole area––was made over to Abraham as a possession in the presence of the Hittites, before all who went in at the gate of his city.” The narrative adds further: “…the cave of Machpelah, before Mamre, that is Hebron in the land of Canaan . . . the field and the cave deeded to Abraham by the sons of Heth as a property for a burial place” (23:19-20). The Torah leaves no room for ambiguity as it itemizes the conditions, the details, and the witnesses involved. In this way Genesis 23 constitutes a kind of legal document, a contract or a deed with all of its stipulations. After all, this chapter marks one of the most historic transactions ever made: the first piece of Holy Land ever procured by a Hebrew. If for nothing else, Genesis 23 is significant for this reason alone.

It is significant for other reasons, though. Let’s stand back and behold the wider panorama into which Genesis 23 fits. In Genesis 23 Abraham procures a field. In Genesis 24 Abraham procures a bride for his son Isaac. I love that a field and a bride are procured in back-to-back chapters. Permit me to elaborate. 

A theme we find in Scripture is that the field and the bride are connected. The two go together. The story of Ruth is our classic example. In the last chapter (Ruth 4), a man named Boaz tries to sell a parcel of land (4:3-4). The potential buyer offers to buy it. Boaz says, “The day you buy the field you also acquire Ruth the Moabite” (4:5). It’s like: You want the field? Then you have to take the bride as well. But now the buyer declines. He wants the field but he doesn’t want to marry Ruth the Moabite. So he tells Boaz, “You buy it for yourself” (4:8). So Boaz does. Boaz himself redeems the field and the bride. 

In the New Testament Jesus says that “the field” represents the world (Matthew 13:38). Jesus then tells two short parables that run like this: 

(#1) “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” 

(#2) “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls. Upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.”

In both parables, a man gives up all that he has in order to acquire that which he truly desires. But in the first illustration, the man buys the field to get the treasure. In the second illustration, the man buys only the treasure itself. And what is the treasure? One pearl of great value. Now interestingly, Proverbs 31:10 (CJB) associates the pearl with the great value of an excellent wife. Making the connection, we see this theme of the field and the bride sneaking up through the cracks. Jesus will give up all that He has to purchase the field and the treasure, the pearl of great value––the excellent wife. 

In Romans 8:19, 22-23, Paul writes that the world is longing for redemption just as we––the Bride of Messiah––are longing for redemption. The world and the Bride are in this together: both fallen, both groaning, both eagerly awaiting the return of our Redeemer. Our need for redemption traces back to when man sinned and the earth was cursed “because of you” (Genesis 3:17). Everything comes full circle when the earth is made new and the Bride is presented at the end of the story. All of this to say simply, the field and the bride are connected. It is quite lovely that they are procured in back-to-back chapters in Genesis. 

We return to the panorama into which Genesis 23 fits. In sight now are chapters 22, 23 & 24.

Looks a lot like the New Testament, doesn’t it? The Father gives up His only begotten Son, Jesus. What follows is the death of His beloved Jerusalem. Jerusalem’s tent goes vacant as her people go into hiding, or “underground” so to speak. The Father sends His Holy Spirit into the world to seek a Bride for His Son from among the nations. The Holy Spirit returns the Bride to His Son. The Son brings his Bride into the New Jerusalem where He is with her. The whole earth is theirs because the field has been purchased at no small price. 

This deserves a little unpacking. First, a look at Jerusalem. We see Jerusalem through Sarah: Sarah passes away and her tent is vacated, though Isaac and his bride will, in time, inhabit his mother’s tent (Genesis 24:67). Sarah is a mother, and note how Jesus personifies Jerusalem as a mother:

“And when Jesus drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you...’” (Luke 19:41-44).

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord’” (Matthew 23:37-39).

Following the tragic events in 70 AD, God’s beloved Jerusalem passes away, the Father mourns, and her tent becomes desolate. But the story is not over. God sends His Spirit to return a Bride to the land. And here, in this special place, His Son and the Bride take up residence. From that day on, they never depart from the land just like Isaac and his bride never left the land.  

What an amazing thing to consider: that the whole of the New Testament is hinted at here in Genesis 22, 23 & 24!

Lets part with one last note about Genesis 23. It is a detail revealed only in the Hebrew. The high price that Abraham paid to secure the field in perpetuity was 400 shekels. 400 is the value of the last letter in the Hebrew alphabet, the letter tav (ת). The letter tav represents a cross. And that is perfect, because it is with the cross that God paid in full to acquire the title deed of the earth (see Revelation 5:9), thus securing a place in which His family can spend their future together at rest––not dead but forever alive.

Genesis 24: Eliezer and the Holy Spirit

Weighing in at 67 verses, Genesis 24 is the most heavyweight chapter in all of Genesis. 

In a book of stories so epic that each story could, by itself, fill up shelves and shelves of books, it’s extraordinary that this particular story about a servant’s mission to find a bride and bring her back to the masters son occupies more space than any other story. Why is this? Does it really deserve so much real estate?

Genesis 24 reminds me of a scene where two guys are flying over the Pacific Ocean in a commercial airliner. Hours and hours go by, and one guy keeps looking out the window. Finally he turns to the other guy and says, “Man, the ocean is big.” The other guy says, “Yeah and that’s just the top of it.” This chapter, the biggest in Genesis, is just like that: broad but very deep. Half-jokingly, I like to say that Genesis 24 is where God sits down and says, “I’d like to tell you a little bit about the Holy Spirit.”

Who is Eliezer?

Eliezer is Abraham’s #1 servant. We learn of him back when Abraham says that if he should remain childless, the heir of his house would fall to Eliezer of Damascus (Genesis 15:2). From this comment we gather that Eliezer of Damascus is Abraham’s chief steward, a servant so esteemed that he could have inherited Abraham’s estate. Well, rolling the clock forward, it is the same guy who scores the leading role in Genesis 24. Abraham commissions his lead servant to find a bride for his beloved son Isaac. But interestingly, Eliezer is named not even once in Genesis 24. Instead, the chapter refers to him as “Abraham’s servant” or as “the servant,” the man who “had charge of all that Abraham had” (24:2). It is by design that Eliezer is not named as an individual separate from Abraham. He is to be seen as an extension of Abraham in this chapter. And we will see why that is important. 

To summarize the longest chapter in Genesis, grant me two paragraphs. (And note: I am going to call Eliezer by name, but remember he is never called by name in the text.) To begin, Abraham tells his head servant (Eliezer) to go and find a bride for his son Isaac. Eliezer swears to do so and departs on a long journey. He eventually comes upon a well where he sits down and prays. An attractive woman named Rebekah approaches the well. Eliezer runs over to her and requests a small drink. She gives him a drink and then she says, “I will draw water for your camels also.” Eliezer watches in amazement as she draws water for his ten camels. When she finishes watering the camels, Eliezer gives her a golden nose ring weighing one half-shekel and two bracelets weighing ten shekels (that is, one shekel’s weight for each camel she watered). He says to her, “Please tell me whose daughter you are. Is there room in your father’s house for us to spend the night?” When she invites him to her house, Eliezer bows and worships God.

Arriving at Rebekah’s house, we meet her brother: Laban. Laban invites Eliezer inside and Eliezer tells the family who he is, what mission he is on, and what took place earlier at the well. Laban listens to the story and realizes that this pairing is a match made in Heaven. Laban says, “Take her and go, and let her be the wife of your master’s son, as the Lord has spoken.” Again Eliezer bows. He brings out garments and jewelry of gold and silver, and gives those to Rebekah. He then gives precious things to Rebekah’s brother and mother. They all eat and drink together, and Eliezer spends the night. In the morning, Rebekah and Eliezer set out together. A journey ensues, a journey in which Eliezer is returning to his home alongside Abraham and Isaac, while Rebekah is venturing toward her new home, a home she has never seen, as she follows Eliezer wherever he takes her. [Spoiler alert: you are on this journey! This is the journey you take as a Christian being led by the Holy Spirit! Even though you have not laid eyes on the Son yet, already you are His Bride.] Soon enough, Eliezer and Isaac’s bride-to-be reach their destination. Rebekah sees Isaac in the distance. She asks Eliezer, “Who is that man walking in the field to meet us?” Eliezer says, “That is my master [Isaac].” She dismounts the camel and veils herself. Eliezer greets Isaac first, telling him everything that he has done. Isaac then takes Rebekah into the tent of Sarah and there Rebekah becomes his wife. “He loved her,” we are told by the very last verse.

Zooming out, we look at the characters more broadly to hear a story more profound: Abraham is the Father. Isaac is the Son. The father’s servant, Eliezer, is the Holy Spirit. Rebekah is, well, you––the Son’s Bride.

Since Eliezer scores the starring role in this chapter, we will keep the focus on him. Here are 16 ways to answer this question: What does Eliezer teach us about the Holy Spirit?
  1. The Holy Spirit goes into the world to seek and retrieve a Bride for the Son.
  2. The Holy Spirit is sent by the Father on the Son’s behalf. 
  3. Eliezer works to fulfill God’s covenant with Abraham. So, too, the Holy Spirit works to fulfill God’s covenant with Abraham. 
  4. Eliezer is not mentioned by name in Genesis 24 because he is an extension of Abraham himself. Eliezer’s identity is connected to the master. The two characters are intertwined. So, too, the Holy Spirit’s character is intertwined with the Father.  
  5. Three times in one chapter we see Eliezer bowing and worshipping the Lord. The Holy Spirit finds expression in humility, worship, and prayer. 
  6. Eliezer is a war hero, one who goes into battle to rescue the lost. Although this detail comes from a separate story in Genesis 14, still it serves as a picture of the Holy Spirit.
  7. In Genesis 24, Eliezer does not act according to human logic. If Eliezer had acted logically, he would have entered the city and asked for the whereabouts of Abraham’s extended family. Then he would have knocked on their door, introduced himself, and asked to meet their daughters. Of course, this is not what Eliezer does at all! Instead, he visits a well from which the entire community draws water. He then prays that the first girl to give him water would be the one for Isaac. Is this what you would have done? No! Because it’s a strange strategy, isn’t it? It doesn’t make a lot of sense on paper. And yet, it works. And it teaches us something about the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit isn’t too concerned with making sense on paper. The Holy Spirit defies formulas, defies description, defies the boundaries of common human logic. His ways are higher than our ways. 
  8. In the story, Eliezer runs to Rebekah (24:17). With eagerness he initiates their interaction. Likewise, the Holy Spirit eagerly runs to you. But you must respond. 
  9. If you are unwillingly to respond, God does not hold the Holy Spirit responsible. (See 24:8.)
  10. Eliezer gives Rebekah a ring for her nose (not for her ear or her finger). The nose is where life is breathed in. God breathed into man’s nostrils the breath of life. All to say, the Holy Spirit adorns those areas where God has entered your being and given you life. 
  11. Eliezer doesn’t pass out applications and select the most qualified applicant. He doesn’t look for the richest girl. He doesn’t stage a beauty contest. Instead he looks for a girl with kindness and compassion in her heart. Notice, his test involves two aspects: Part 1 is a spoken request: “I am thirsty.” Part 2 is an unspoken request, a need that is not verbalized: my camels are thirsty too! Rebekah not only meets the spoken need, she also satsifies the unspoken need. She sees beyond the obvious; she discerns something more. This is the kind of person that the Holy Spirit gets excited about. 
  12. Eliezer may manage Abraham’s estate, but Isaac is the owner of Abraham’s estate. There is a similar dynamic between the Holy Spirit and Jesus. The Holy Spirit may manage certain affairs, but everything ultimately belongs to the Son. Reference John 16:13-15 where the Son says, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority . . . He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” The authority belongs to the Son and the Spirit serves His purposes. 
  13. In Genesis 24, Eliezer and Rebekah meet at a well and then go to her house. At her house, their special encounter at the well is relayed to her family. This is an important moment for Rebekah. As she listens to Eliezer retell the story, she comes to understand more about herself. Think about it: back when she was drawing water for the camels, she was focused only on the task at hand. She had no idea what would come of her actions. She doesn’t put it all together until she hears it through Eliezer’s voice as he recounts the events later on. Then something special takes place. It works the same way with our own testimony. Any time we reflect on our past and consider how God brought us to Him, we recount certain moments that, at the time, may have seemed mundane or commonplace. But later we perceive them differently. Those moments become special to us once we hear them through the voice of the Spirit. 
  14. Eliezer gives gifts, garments, and precious things. Some translations say costly ornaments but mine says precious things. Note, though, “This term rendered precious things, as found in Songs 4:13, is used to express exquisite fruits or delicacies” (Source). Rashi concurs: he translates Genesis 24:53 to say delicious fruits. In other words, Eliezer gives gifts, garments, and delicious fruits (Source). I like this translation best because it yields an insight. Eliezer gives gifts to the bride, but the delicious fruits he gives to Rebekah’s family. The fruits are not for Rebekah, after all. The fruits are because of Rebekah, yes, but they are for the others. In like manner, the Holy Spirit gives us gifts (1 Corinthians 12). Meanwhile, the fruit of the Spirit are for everyone around us. 
  15. Eliezer doesn’t like delay. When Laban wants Rebekah to stay another ten days before leaving, Eliezer tells him, “Do not delay me” (24:56). Eliezer doesn’t want to wait around. He wants to act. This is indicative of the Holy Spirit. 
  16. On her journey to meet Isaac, Rebekah is carried by the camel that she watered the night before. It’s like her good deeds service the thing that bring her to the son, while Eliezer leads the way. During her journey with Eliezer, Rebekah does not see Isaac. She merely anticipates meeting him in person. Finally, at the end, she lays eyes on him. She asks Eliezer, “Who is that man walking toward us?” And Eliezer says, “That is my master.” I love this so much because we journey toward a Messiah whom we have never met in person. But we come to know Him in advance through what the Spirit reveals to us as we walk together. In time, the Spirit will introduce us to one another in person.