Tag: Milcah

Story 39: Isaac’s Beloved

Genesis 24:1-27

Abraham was getting older, and he had lost his beloved wife.  Yet he had been greatly blessed by God in every way.  His mind turned to thoughts of Isaac, his son, and the future that lay ahead of him.  Isaac would inherit all of the vast wealth that Abraham had received from God’s hand over the years.  He would inherit his father’s power and reputation.  Most importantly, he had inherited the promises of God.  As Isaac moved into these high privileges and responsibilities, he needed a wife of his own.  Who would God choose for him to carry on the promises?

Think about how important it was to find a good wife for Isaac.  She would be the mother of all of Abraham’s descendants, the nation that God had promised.  Abraham had hundreds of servants, but for this job, he went to the one whose wisdom and decisions he trusted most.  This was his chief servant, the man whom Abraham had put in charge of everything he had.

Abraham said to him, “‘Put your hand under my thigh.  I want you to swear by the LORD, the God of heaven and the God of earth, that you will not get a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I am living, but will go to my country and my own relatives and get a wife for my son Isaac’” (Genesis 24:2c-4).

This might seem like a strange thing to ask for, but that is simply because we don’t understand the culture of the Ancient Near East.   Abraham was having his most trusted servant take an oath.  They didn’t have cheap pens and paper or computers to create contracts with. There was no overarching governments to enforce the law in Canaan.  Things like spoken oaths and covenants took on an importance that is hard for us to imagine.  A sign of the seriousness of this oath was that the servant made his promise while laying his hands on the very body of Abraham himself.  This oath was binding.  It was a huge responsibility.  If the servant did not carry it out, it was not only a violation against Abraham, the great prince.  It was a violation against God.

Abraham knew the customs and lifestyles of the Canaanite people.  The women of Canaan would bring false worship that violated his sacred faith.  They had ways of living that would bring trouble and strife to their home.  Marrying a Canaanite would bring the family of Abraham and Isaac into allegiance with people who were idolatrous and corrupt…and their wickedness was stubborn.  They sacrificed their children to the gods as a trade to receive blessings from them.  Prostitution was often an integral part their worship practices.  The deeply imbedded habits, cultural customs, and beliefs would not go away because a woman married his son.  In times of pressure, these practices were seen as the answer to the problem.  But Abraham’s answer was to trust his God, to wait on him and pray.  Abraham wanted a woman who was part of the same clan as he and Sarah had been a part of, whose deeply felt beliefs and ways of life would honor their God and bring Isaac honor and peace.

You may remember that Abraham had a brother named Nahor.  He had married Milcah, the daughter of Abraham’s other brother.  In those days, marrying widows who had been married to a brother was common.  It was protection for the family.  It insured that the women in the family were taken care of in a vulnerable land.  Over the years, Milcah had given birth to seven boys, and those boys had grown and begun to have children of their own.  Perhaps a good wife could be found for Isaac from among the grandchildren of Nahor.

Abraham and his great tribal clan were many miles from the family he had left behind.  His servant would have to travel long days on camels to reach there.  He would have to bring a magnificent dowry with him that would display the wealth of Abraham and please the family of the girl.  But he would not bring Isaac.  The family was going to have to decide to give their daughter to Isaac without ever having met him.  The girl would have to leave her family far behind before she ever met her husband.  Abraham’s chief servant was worried that once he had found a wife for Isaac, she wouldn’t want to come with him!  He asked, “‘What if the woman is unwilling to come back with me to this land?  Shall I then take your son back to the country you came from?’”

“‘Make sure that you do not take my son back there,’” Abraham said.  “‘The LORD, the God of heaven, who brought me out of my father’s household and my native land and who spoke to me and promised me an oath, saying, “To your offspring I will give this land”-He will send His angel before you so that you can get a wife for my son from there.  If the woman is unwilling to come back with you, then you will be released from this oath of mine.  Only do not take my son back there.’”

Genesis 24:6-8

 It is interesting that Abraham defined his life by the promises of God.  He understood the meaning of the events of his life according to God’s leading…and through his acts of obedience and response to God.  It was the LORD who brought him out of his father’s land and into the land of promise.  Not because of some psychological tweak in Abraham’s makeup.  Not because circumstances drove him there.  It was because of the hand of God on his life.  And now he saw that hand on Isaac’s life as well.

Abraham had great faith that God truly had prepared a woman to be the wife of Isaac.  The servant put his hand on Abraham’s thigh and swore to bring her back without the presence of Isaac.  Abraham had left that land long before.  It would not do for the family of God to return.

The servant swore an oath on Abraham’s thigh and ventured out for his task.  Some of Abraham’s other servants went along with him.  He took large amounts of gold and silver to bestow on the future bride of Isaac and her family.  He took ten of Abraham’s camels with him.  Camels were very expensive and a sign of great wealth.  If a family were to give their daughter to this servant, they would want to know they were sending her to a life of prosperity.  It was dangerous to travel through the wilderness with so many valuable treasures, but just as Abraham believed, the angel of the LORD was with them.

Abraham’s chief servant journeyed over the miles for many days.  He crossed back through all the lands that Abraham and Sarah had left behind.  It was evening when he arrived at the well of the town where the sons of Nahor lived.  He had the camels kneel down nearby.  As the sun lowered and the heated earth began to cool, the women began to come out to the well with their jugs.  They filled them up with water to use for washing and for cooking food for their families. As they each waited their turn, they chatted with the other women and discussed the day.

It was the perfect time for the servant to see the women of the town.  But there were so many of them!  Abraham’s servant prayed to God for help.  He believed that this task was an important part of God’s plan and that the Lord would guide him in it;

 

“‘O LORD, God of my master Abraham, give me success today, and show kindness to my master Abraham.  See, I am standing beside this spring, and the daughters of the townspeople are coming out to draw water.  May it be that I say to a girl, ‘Please let down your jar that I may have a drink,’ and she says, ‘Drink, and I’ll water your camels too-let her be the one you have chosen for your servant Isaac.  By this I will know that you have shown kindness to my master.’”

 

The servant gave the LORD a way to show which girl was the one that God had specially chosen to marry Isaac.  Now, it was very normal for a member of a town to offer to give a stranger a drink from the town well.  But offering to draw water for camels was a totally different story.  Especially if those camels had just come in from a long journey.  A camel can drink up to twenty-five gallons at a time.  The largest clay pots in that time would have held three gallons of water.  The girl would have to fill her heavy clay jug up eight times for each camel.  There were ten camels!  That means the right woman would have to offer to lift three gallons of water and carry it to the animals eighty times!

That was a very generous thing for Abraham’s servant to hope for! But the servant wanted to be sure that the one he chose for Isaac was truly the will of the Lord.  Any woman who would offer such help was not only kind and generous, but hard working.  God could work through the character of the right girl so that she would do this lavishly generous work for a total stranger.

And sure enough, before God’s servant had even finished praying his prayer, a young woman came out to the well with a jar on her shoulder.  Her name was Rebekah, and she was the daughter of Nahor, Abraham’s brother.  But the servant had no way of knowing that.  She was also very beautiful, and she was a virgin, a pure young woman at just the right age for marriage.  She let her jar down into the water and brought it back up again.

The servant saw her as his prayer ended and rushed over to her, asking for some water. She gave him her jug and said “Drink.”  She must have seen all of his camels, because then she said, “‘I’ll draw waters for your camels, too, until they have finished drinking.’”  Then this beautiful girl set to work, filling up her jugs in the well and pouring out the precious water into the trough for the thirsty camels.  Abraham’s servant watched her as she worked to see if she would truly do as she had said.  If she did, then his trip was abundantly successful.  She was the one that God had prepared for Isaac!

Rebekah filled the trough with water over and over until all ten camels were done drinking.  When she finished, she must have been tired!   But she was rewarded for her humble service to the visitor.  Abraham’s servant went to her and gave her a golden nose ring.  He took two golden bracelets and slid them on her arm.  Each bracelet weighed ten shekels each.  They were worth far more in gold than many farm workers could earn in a year.  They were valuable treasures indeed.    This was an act of great faith by the servant.  He didn’t even know who she was!  He just knew that God had answered his prayer!

“‘Whose daughter are you?’”  He asked her.  “‘Please tell me, is there room in your father’s house for us to spend the night?’”

“‘I am the daughter of Betheul, the son that Milcah bore to Nahor.  We have plenty of straw and fodder, as well as room for you to spend the night.’”

Wow!  The LORD had guided Abraham’s servant right to Nahor’s beautiful granddaughter!

The servant was overwhelmed at how perfectly God had answered his prayer.  He bowed down and worshipped the LORD, saying, “‘Praise be to the LORD, the God of my master Abraham, who has not abandoned His kindness and faithfulness to my master.  As for me, the LORD has led me on the journey to the house of my master’s relatives.’”

 

Story 19: From Shem to Abram

Genesis 11:10-32

When we look at the time between Adam and Noah, there were ten generations of humans that multiplied on the earth.  They became so hardened and wicked that God had to wash the earth clean of their polluting sin.  God started the human race all over again through the sons of Noah.  Two years after the waters of the Flood went down, Shem, the son of God’s great blessing, and his wife had a child, and they named him Arphaxad.  When he grew up, he also had a son, and later that son had a son.  This carried on for ten generations.  Now the Bible points out someone who was born in the tenth generation after Noah.  His name was Abram.  In Scripture, the number ten is a symbol of perfection or completion.  By pointing out the generations broken into groups of ten descendants, the biblical author (who we believe to be Moses) was pointing out that just as with Noah, the time had come for God to move.  He was going to fulfill a new step in His perfect, sovereign plan to save the world.

But first, we have to ask, why did the world need saving?  Hadn’t Noah ushered in a whole new era for the human race?  Hadn’t everything changed?  Did the rebellion continue?  Throughout the those ten generations, had the people become just as wicked as they were right before the Flood?

We already know the answer, don’t we?  We learn a lot when we read the Table of Nations (see Story 16 and 17) and the story of the tower of Babel (see Story 18).  Humanity would utterly reject God once again.  They would choose violence, hatred, and corruption instead of the bright, beautiful goodness and purity of the Almighty Lord.  What was God going to do?

The Lord had already promised not to send another flood.  Now God was going to do a new thing.  He was going to raise up another man of righteous faith.  Only this man would be used by God in a very different way.  God had previously saved the human race from total extinction through Noah’s family. The earth had been cleansed of wickedness by the flood.  Now, God was going to create a nation that would be given a way to continually come to him for cleansing of their sin.  Their pursuit of their righteous Lord would create a purified place on earth so that God’s holy presence could rest among them in the Most Holy Place.  He would be their God, and they would be His people…and they would be a priestly nation that would serve the rest of humanity.

The generations of this nation would come from one man.  He would be the first step in God’s Great Solution to the problem of sin.  For you see, in God’s Great Solution, the problem of sin and death and the horrific curse would be taken care of completely and finally.  One day, humans would be given a new heart.  They would be able to love the Lord and walk in holiness just as they had in the Garden of Eden!

That is all very exciting, but we are rushing ahead of ourselves.  That is the end of the story, and the human race is not there yet.  Those amazing and wonderful things are still to come at the end of time. We await them with great joy!

God’s amazing plan, His Great Solution to the problem of sin, started in the tenth generation after Noah. God would raise up a man of great faith.  This man would be the beginning of a mighty new work.  His life is so important that the Bible stops telling the story of all humanity and the great nations and focuses close up onto this one man’s little world.  We are about to hear his story, and we have a lot to learn.  We can grow to love him, because this man is the great spiritual father of everyone that has faith in God.

The sons of the tenth generation from the line of Shem were brought into the world by a man named Terah.  He had three sons and their names were Abram, Nahor, and Haran.  After they had grown, a terrible tragedy came upon the family.  Haran died.  He had a son and a daughter who were left vulnerable.   In our time, this is a horrible thing.  In those days it was far worse.  The tribal living of the Ancient Near East was brutal and unforgiving.  It was dangerous for a woman to be alone.  What was the family going to do?   The best way to take care of Haran’s daughter was to find her a husband.  They decided that Haran’s daughter, Milcah, would marry Nahor.  He would be her husband and her protector.  Terah and Abram would raise Haran’s son, Lot, and watch over him.

Abram was married to a woman named Sarai, which meant “princess.”  Abram’s wife was very beautiful, and their love for each other was very great.  But over the years, they experienced a terrible grief.  Sarai was barren.  She could not have children.  What terrible pain it must have caused her that she couldn’t give her husband the great gift of a child.  How hard it must have been for Abram to see his wife go year after year without a baby in her arms.  Their future must have seemed dry and pale without the joy of new life.  Why had God withheld from them that beautiful blessing…the privilege of obedience to be fruitful and multiply?  They would each have to depend on God’s comfort and grace. They would have to depend on Him for hope.

Terah decided it was time to leave Ur, the grand city that was their home, and move to the land of the Canaanites.  His sons and their wives went with him.  But along the way, after a long journey, they stopped at a place called Haran and settled there, .  They had traveled five hundred and fifty miles, but they hadn’t made it to the land of Canaan.  They hadn’t reached their goal.  Then, after many years of living at the half-way point, Terah died.

What dark days those must have been for Abram.  There he was in Haran with his barren wife, grieving over his father, and caring for his brother’s son.  And he was still miles and miles from Canaan, the land of their destiny.

Yet Abram and Sarai continued on faithfully bearing the responsibility of caring for Lot, Abram’s orphaned nephew.

Then one day, something remarkable happened.  The LORD came to Abram.  What God said to him is one of the most significant things ever spoken in history:

 

“‘Leave your country, your people, and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.

I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you;

I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.

I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse;

and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.’”

Genesis 12:1-3

 

Wow.  Read that again.  God told Abram to leave everything.  He was to abandon whatever life he had in Haran and go into a strange land.  But with that obedience would come with overwhelming blessings.  God would lead him to Canaan, the land of his destiny.  And for his faith and obedience, the LORD promised to make Abram’s descendants into a mighty nation.

This promise was called a covenant.   If Abram obeyed, God would bind Himself to Abram with a sacred promise that He would never break.  Now remember, when God speaks, things happen!  He created the whole universe by the words of His mouth.  God’s words would also cause things to happen in the future.  Abram could be as certain that God would keep His covenant as he was that the sun would rise every morning.  And what a blessing this covenant would be.

Abram would be like Shem!  He would father an entire people group!  God also promised to make his name great.  God would curse anyone that tried to hurt him. And somehow, God was going to use him to bless all the nations of the world.  What a bright and wonderful hope!  But Abram had to choose to believe it.

When God promised to protect Cain after he murdered his brother, Cain chose not to believe that promise.  He built a fortress city to protect himself instead.  He did it on his own.  When the children of Noah were wandering the earth, they were supposed to scatter to far off lands.  Instead, they stayed together.  They thought they could keep themselves safe apart from the help of God.  They tried to make a great name for themselves apart from God by building a temple.  They did it on their own.

Now Abram would have a chance to show where he put his hope.  He could follow in the ways of Cain and build a life on his own.  Or he could do it God’s way.  He would have to have faith to leave the land of safety and go out into dangerous regions of unknown people and their unknown ways.  He would have to trust God to protect him in ways his forefathers had refused.  Abram would have to have faith that God could create something out of absolutely nothing.  It was impossible for his wife to have children, let alone give birth to a nation.  He would be staking his whole life on a miracle.  

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