Ann Landers received a letter from a reader that went like this:
Dear Ann Landers:
Why would any husband adore a lazy, messy, addlebrained wife? Her house looks as if they’d moved in yesterday. She never cooks a meal. Everything is in cans or frozen. Her kids eat sent-in food. Yet this slob’s husband treats her like a Dresden doll. He calls her “Poopsie” and “Pet,” and covers the telephone with a blanket when he goes to work so she can get her rest. On weekends he does the laundry and the marketing.
I get up at 6 a.m. and fix my husband’s breakfast. I make his shirts because the ones in the stores “don’t fit right.” If my husband ever emptied a wastebasket, I’d faint. Once when I phoned him at work and asked him to pick up a loaf of bread on his way home, he swore at me for five minutes. The more you do for a man, the less he appreciates you. I feel like an unpaid housekeeper, not a wife. What goes on anyway?
—The Moose (That’s what he calls me.)
Ann’s response is classic. She responded:
A marriage license is not a guarantee that the marriage is going to work, any more than a fishing license assures that you’ll catch fish. It merely gives you the legal right to try.202
I share this bit of sage wisdom with you because it surfaces a very pertinent caution as we approach Genesis 24. We all know that this chapter, the longest in the book of Genesis, is devoted to a description of the process of finding a wife for Isaac. Finding the right woman is absolutely essential. But as important as this is, finding the right person does not insure a godly marriage. As Ann Landers put it, “It only gives us the right to try.”
Excessive emphasis on finding the right wife or husband can have some disastrous effects for those already married. It is possible for someone to conclude that they have married the wrong person. I know of one well-known preacher who strongly implies that if you have not married the right person, you should get a divorce and try again.
We who are married need to study this passage for what it teaches us on the subject of servanthood and seeking the will of God. When it comes to the subject of marriage, there is much here to instruct us as parents who wish to prepare our children for marriage. But so far as our own partners are concerned, we need to place far more emphasis upon the matter of being the right partner rather than upon finding the right partner.
The thrust of our study, then, will be to study the search for Isaac’s wife within its cultural and historical setting and then to look into the implications of this passage for servanthood, seeking God’s will, and marriage.
Sarah had been dead three years, and Abraham was now 140 years old, “advanced in age” as Moses described it.203 While death was still 35 years away, Abraham had no reason to presume that he would live to such an age, so he began to make preparations for his passing. His greatest concern was the marriage of Isaac to a woman who would help him raise a godly seed, even as God had previously made clear:
For I have chosen him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice; in order that the LORD may bring upon Abraham what He has spoken about him (Genesis 18:19).
Abraham entrusted the responsibility of finding a wife for Isaac to no one less than his oldest and most trusted servant. It is possible, though not stated, that this servant was Eliezer of Damascus. If this is true, the greatness of this servant is the more striking, for his task was for the benefit of the son of Abraham, who would inherit all that might have been his:
And Abram said, ‘O Lord GOD, what wilt Thou give me, since I am childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?’ (Genesis 15:2)
The devotion of this servant to his master and to his master’s God is one of the highlights of the chapter. His piety, prayer life, and practical wisdom set a high standard for the believer in any age.
The servant, whatever his name, was commissioned to secure a wife for Abraham’s son Isaac. Only two stipulations were stated by Abraham: the wife must not be a Canaanite (24:3), and Isaac must not, under any circumstances, be taken back to Mesopotamia, from whence God had called him (24:6).
These two requirements promote separation while preventing isolation. Isaac’s presence in the land of Canaan, even when he did not possess it, evidenced his faith in God and developed devotion to and dependence upon God alone. It also served as a means of proclaiming to the Canaanites that Yahweh alone was God. Abraham and his offspring were missionaries in this sense.
While they lived among the Canaanites, they were not to become one with them by marriage. To move back to Mesopotamia would be isolation. To live among them but to marry a God-fearer would serve to insulate Isaac from too close a relation with these pagans. Thus, a wife must be secured from among the relatives of Abraham while, at the same time, Isaac was not allowed to return there himself.
The basis for Abraham’s decision to secure a wife for his son and the stipulations made are explained in verse 7:
The LORD, the God of heaven, who took me from my father’s house and from the land of my birth, and who spoke to me, and who swore to me, saying, ‘To your descendants I will give this land,’ He will send His angel before you, and you will take a wife for my son from there (Genesis 24:7).
First and foremost, Abraham’s actions were based upon revelation. God had promised to make Abraham a great nation and to bless all nations through him. It was not difficult to conclude that Abraham’s son must himself marry and bear children. Thus, while not a specific command, it was the will of God for Isaac to marry. Furthermore, it was determined that Isaac must remain in the land of Canaan. God had promised “this land” (verse 7) to Abraham and his offspring.
In addition, Abraham instructed his servant to seek out a wife for his son with the assurance that God would give divine guidance. “His angel” would be sent on ahead to prepare the way for the servant. Abraham thus acted upon revelation he had previously received, assured that additional guidance would be granted when needed. His faith was not presumption, however, for he allowed for the possibility that this mission might not be God’s means of securing a godly wife for Isaac: “… But if the woman is not willing to follow you, then you will be free from this my oath; only do not take my son back there” (Genesis 24:8).
What a wonderful example of faith in God as One Who guides His people. Abraham sent his servant, assured that God had led by His Word. Abraham sought a wife for his son, assured that God had prepared the way and would make that way clear. Abraham also allowed for the fact that God might not provide a wife in the way he had planned to procure her and thus made allowance for divine intervention in some other way.
While the oath that was sworn is unusual, occurring elsewhere only in Genesis 47:29, it is, without a doubt, a genuine act, probably common to that culture and time.204 We do know from the context that it was a solemn oath and one that must have been taken seriously by the servant. The significance of this mission is thereby underscored.
Imagine for a moment that you had been given the commission of Abraham’s servant. How would you possibly go about finding an acceptable wife for Isaac? What an awesome task this must have been. It may have appeared to be like finding a needle in a haystack. Naturally you would make adequate preparations, as the servant did, and journey to the land from which Abraham had come where his relatives still lived. The “city of Nahor” (verse 10) may have been Haran or near it (cf. 11:31-32).
A younger servant would probably have gone about this task in a very different manner. I can imagine him coming into town, advertising the fact that he worked for a very wealthy foreigner with a handsome, eligible son who was to be his only heir. His intention to find a bride would have been publicized, and only one lucky girl was to be chosen. To select such a bride the servant might have held a “Miss Mesopotamia” contest. Only those who were the most beautiful and talented would be allowed to enter, and the winner would become the wife of Isaac.
How different was the methodology of this godly servant. When his small caravan came to the “city of Nahor,” he immediately sought the will and guidance of God in prayer:
And he said, “O LORD, the God of my master Abraham, please grant me success today, and show lovingkindness to my master Abraham. Behold, I am standing by the spring, and the daughters of the men of the city are coming out to draw water; now may it be that the girl to whom I say, ‘Please let down your jar so that I may drink,’ and who answers, ‘Drink, and I will water your camels also’—may she be the one whom Thou hast appointed for Thy servant Isaac; and by this I shall know that Thou hast shown lovingkindness to my master” (Genesis 24:12-14).
Wisdom had brought him this far. He was in the right city, the “city of Nahor,” and he was at a good spot to observe the women of the city as they came to the spring for water. But how could he possibly judge the most important quality of a godly Christian character? Months, even years, of observation might be required to discern the character of the women he interviewed.
The plan which this servant devised testifies to his wisdom and maturity. In one sense it seems to be a kind of “fleece” (cf. Judges 6:36-40) put out before the Lord. It would serve as a sign to the servant that this was the right woman to approach for his master as a wife for Isaac. In reality, the servant sought to test the woman rather than God. Camels are known to be very thirsty creatures, especially after a long trek in the desert. To give the servant a drink was one thing. To give a drink to the men and then to satisfy the thirst of the camels was an entirely different matter. The servant did not plan to ask the woman for water for his camels, only for himself. She could thus meet his request quite easily, while sensing no obligation to meet the total needs of the caravan. Any woman who was willing to “go the extra mile” in this matter was one of unusual character.
It was a wonderful plan, and the servant committed it to God in prayer. This unusual request reflected deep insight into human nature as well as dependence upon divine guidance. His petition was not to be denied. Indeed, it was answered even before the request was completed:
And it came about before he had finished speaking, that behold, Rebekah who was born to Bethuel the son of Milcah, the wife of Abraham’s brother Nahor, came out with her jar on her shoulder. And the girl was very beautiful, a virgin, and no man had had relations with her; and she went down to the spring and filled her jar, and came up (Genesis 24:15-16).
Rebekah was, indeed, the right woman for Isaac. She was the daughter of Bethuel, Abraham’s nephew. Beyond this, she was a beautiful woman who had maintained her sexual purity—essential to the preservation of a godly seed. Seemingly, she was the first to appear and the only woman there at the moment. Everything the servant saw suggested that this woman was a candidate for the test he had devised.
Running to the woman, he asked for a drink. She quickly responded, lowering her jar and then returning time after time for more until the camels were satisfied. Not until the camels were thoroughly cared for did the servant speak up. While the woman’s evident beauty may have satisfied the standards of lesser men, the test was to be allowed to run its course. Adorning the woman with golden gifts, the servant proceeded to determine her ancestry. When this qualification was satisfied, the servant bowed in worship, giving the glory to God for His guidance and blessing:
Then the man bowed low and worshiped the LORD. And he said, ‘Blessed be the LORD, the God of my master Abraham, who has not forsaken His lovingkindness and His truth toward my master; as for me, the LORD has guided me in the way to the house of my master’s brothers’ (Genesis 24:26-27).
While the servant worshipped, Rebekah ran on ahead to report what had happened and to begin preparations for the guests that would be coming. Rebekah’s brother Laban is introduced to us here.205 His devotion to material wealth is suggested by his response:
And it came about that when he saw the ring, and the bracelets on his sister’s wrists, and when he heard the words of Rebekah his sister, saying, ‘This is what the man said to me,’ he went to the man; and behold, he was standing by the camels at the spring. And he said, ‘Come in, blessed of the LORD! Why do you stand outside since I have prepared the house, and a place for the camels?’ (Genesis 24:30-31)
Having found the woman who should be Isaac’s wife, the servant now had to convince the family that Abraham’s son Isaac was the right man for Rebekah. The fact that Rebekah would need to move far away was an obstacle which must be overcome by strong argumentation. This delicate task was skillfully handled by the servant. The urgency of his mission was indicated by his refusal to eat until the purpose of his journey was explained.
First, the servant identified himself as a representative of Abraham, Bethuel’s uncle (verse 34). This would have set aside many objections of these relatives, who were concerned to protect the purity of Rebekah’s descendants. Then the success of Abraham was reported. Abraham had not been foolish to leave Haran, for God had prospered him greatly. By inference, this testified to Isaac’s ability to provide abundantly for the needs of Rebekah, who was not living on a poverty level herself (cf. verses 59, 61). Isaac was said to be the sole heir of Abraham’s wealth (verse 36).
If the law of proportion can teach us anything, it must be that what is described in verses 37-49 is much more vital to the servant’s purposes than verses 34-36. The most compelling argument he could possibly provide was evidence that it was the will of God for Rebekah to become the wife of Isaac. He accomplished this by recounting all that took place from his commissioning by Abraham to the conclusion of his search at the spring. The conclusion of the servant’s presentation is compelling:
And I bowed low and worshiped the LORD, and blessed the LORD, the God of my master Abraham, who had guided me in the right way to take the daughter of my master’s kinsman for his son. So now if you are going to deal kindly and truly with my master, tell me, and if not, let me know, that I may turn to the right hand or the left (Genesis 24:48-49).
The forcefulness of the servant’s presentation was not missed. Laban and his father responded:
“… The matter comes from the LORD; so we cannot speak to you bad or good. Behold, Rebekah is before you, take her and go, and let her be the wife of your master’s son, as the LORD has spoken” (Genesis 24:50-51).
With permission granted for Rebekah to marry Isaac, the dowry gifts were brought forth and presented to the members of the family (vs. 53). Again the servant acknowledged the hand of God in these affairs and worshipped Him gratefully (verse 52). With these matters disposed of, they ate and drank, and the servant and his party spent the night.
In the morning when the servant expressed his desire to be on his way back to his master, Rebekah’s mother and brother expressed their wish to delay her departure. No doubt they knew that they might never see Rebekah again, and so they wished to have some time to say their farewells. The servant, however, pressed them to let her go immediately, and so Rebekah was consulted on the matter. Since she was willing to leave without delay, they sent her off with a blessing.
This blessing, combined with the response to the servant’s claim that God had led him to Rebekah, helps me to understand why Abraham insisted that Isaac’s wife be obtained from his close relatives in Mesopotamia. To some extent Bethuel and his household must have shared a faith in the God of Abraham. They quickly responded to the evidence of divine guidance as recounted by the servant (verses 37-49, 50-51). Their blessing on Rebekah is, in my estimation, a reflection of their faith in Abraham’s God and His covenant. The blessing they pronounced too closely parallels God’s covenant promise to Abraham to be coincidental:206
“And I will bless her, and indeed I will give you a son by her. Then I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples shall come from her” (Gen. 17:16)
“May you, our sister, become thousands of ten thousands, And may your descendants possess the gate of those who hate them” (Gen. 24:60)
“Indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens, and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies” (Gen. 22:17)
The mission had been accomplished, and now Rebekah walks in the steps of her great uncle Abraham. She, like he, was led by God to leave her homeland and relatives to go to the land of Canaan.
Isaac had been in the field meditating207 as the evening hours approached (verse 63). As he lifted up his eyes he beheld the caravan approaching. While it is somewhat conjectural, I believe that Isaac, like the servant earlier, had been praying about this task of finding a wife. Isaac could not have been unaware of the mission on which the servant had been sent, and surely Isaac could not have been uninterested in its outcome. For this reason I believe that Isaac was engaged in prayer for the servant that his mission would prosper. As in the case of the servant, Isaac’s prayer was answered even before it was completed.
Rebekah looked with interest upon the man who was approaching them. She asked the servant about him and learned that this man was her future husband. Appropriately, she covered herself with her veil.
Verse 66 may seem incidental, but I think it reports a very essential step in the process of seeking a wife for Isaac. Abraham was convinced that Isaac needed a wife like Rebekah. The servant, too, was assured that Rebekah was the one for Isaac and had succeeded in convincing her family of this fact. However, let us not overlook the fact that Isaac, too, needed to be assured that Rebekah was the woman God had provided for him. The servant’s report, while not repeated, must have been almost identical to the one recorded in verses 37-48. We know from verse 67 that Isaac was assured that Rebekah was God’s good and perfect gift for him.
Much is compressed into the final verse of this chapter. Isaac took Rebekah into his mother’s tent, and she became his wife. His love for her blossomed and continued to grow. His marriage gave Isaac consolation for the death of his mother.
Genesis 24 is a chapter that is rich in lessons for our lives, but I would like to focus upon three avenues of truth contained in our text: servanthood, guidance, and marriage.
Some have seen in Genesis 24 a type of the Trinity. Abraham is a type of the Father, Isaac of the Son, and the servant of the Holy Spirit. While this may be a good devotional thought, it does not seem to me to be the heart of the message for Christians today. Also, the analogy seems to break down frequently.
Rather than seeing him as a type of the Spirit, I see the servant as a model for every Christian, for servanthood is one of the fundamental characteristics of Christian service:
“But it is not so among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all” (Mark 10:43-44).
The servant of Abraham was marked by his eager obedience and his attention to the instructions given him. He diligently pursued his task, not eating or resting until it was completed. There was a sense of urgency, perhaps a realization that his master believed there might not be much time left. At least he was convinced that his master felt the matter was one of urgency. The servant’s diplomacy was evident in his dealings with Rebekah and her relatives. Perhaps the two most striking features of this servant are his wisdom and devotion. Abraham had obviously given this man great authority, for he was in control of all he possessed (24:2). In this task he was also given a great deal of freedom to use his own discretion in finding a godly wife. Only two lines of boundary were drawn: he could not take a wife from the Canaanites, and he could not take Isaac back to Mesopotamia. The plan which the servant devised to determine the character of the women at the spring was a masterpiece.
Perhaps the most striking feature of all was his devotion to his master and to his master’s Master. Prayer and worship marked this man out as being head and shoulders above his peers. He was a man with a personal trust in God and who gave God the glory. This godly servant leaves us with an example in servanthood surpassed only by the “suffering servant,” the Messiah, our Lord, Jesus Christ.
Most of us have already found the mate for our married lives. As a result we should consider this passage in the broader context of the guidance which God gives to His children. Perhaps no Old Testament passage illustrates the guiding hand of God as well as this portion in the book of Genesis.
First, we see that God directs men to get under way through the Scriptures. Nowhere is Abraham given a direct imperative to seek a wife for his son, but he does act on the basis of a clear inference from revelation. Abraham was to become a mighty nation through his son Isaac. Obviously Isaac must have children, and this necessitated a wife. Since his offspring would need to be faithful to God and to keep His covenant (cf. 18:19), the wife would need to be a godly woman. This implied that she could not be a Canaanite. Also, since God had promised “this land,” Isaac must not return to Mesopotamia.
Second, we see that God guides His children once under way by “his angel” (24:7). I believe that all true Christians are led by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:14). He prepares the way for us to walk in His will and to sense His leading. We must proceed in faith just as Abraham did, knowing that God does guide.
Third, the will of God was discerned through prayer. The servant submitted a plan to God whereby the woman who was to be Isaac’s wife would become evident. This was no fleece but rather a test of character. The servant could thereby determine the character of the women he would meet. God providentially (through circumstances) brought the right woman to the servant, and by her generous act of watering the camels she evidenced that she was His choice for Isaac’s wife.
Finally, the will of God was discerned through wisdom. No doubt Abraham sent this servant, his oldest and most trusted employee, because of his discernment. He obediently went to the “city of Nahor” and stationed himself beside the well where all the women of the city must come daily. Humbly he prayed for guidance, but wisely he proposed a plan which would test the character of the women he would encounter. There was no spectacular revelation, nor did there need to be. Wisdom could discern a woman of great worth.
For those of us who are not married or who are and have children who must face this choice, a number of principles undergird this story of the selection of a godly wife for Isaac.
First, a godly mate should be sought only when it is certain that marriage will achieve the purposes God has for our lives. Isaac needed a wife because he must become a husband and father to fulfill his part in the outworking of the Abrahamic covenant. While it is the norm for men to marry, let us not forget that the Bible informs us that it is sometimes God’s purpose to keep some of His servants single (I Corinthians 7:8-24). Marriage should only be sought for those who will achieve God’s purpose by having a mate and, perhaps, a family.
Second, if we would have a godly mate we must wait for God’s time. How often I have witnessed men and women marrying hastily, fearing that the time for marriage was quickly passing them by. They married those who were unbelievers or uncommitted because they concluded that anyone was better than no one. Isaac was 40 years old when he married. By some standards that was about 10 years late (cf. Genesis 11:14,18,22). It is well worth waiting for the mate of God’s choice.
Third, if we would have a godly mate we must look in the right place. Abraham instructed his servant not to look for a wife among the Canaanites. He knew that his relatives feared God and that their offspring would share a common faith. That is where the servant went to look, no matter if it were many dusty miles distant.
I do not know why Christians think they will find a godly mate in a singles bar or some other such place. I do not fault any Christian for attending a Christian college or attending a church group with the hope of finding a marriage partner there. If we wish a godly mate, let us look where godly Christians should be. If God does not provide one in this way, He can certainly do so in His own sovereign way.
Fourth, if you would have a godly mate you must seek godly qualities. I notice that Abraham’s servant did not evaluate Rebekah on the basis of her physical appearance. If he had she would have passed with flying colors (cf. 24:16). To the servant beauty was a desirable thing, but it was not fundamental. The woman he sought must be one who trusted in the God of Abraham and who had maintained sexual purity. Fundamentally, she must be a woman who manifested Christian character as reflected in her response to the request for water. This servant knew from experience and wisdom the qualities which are most important to a successful marriage. Just being a woman who believed in the God of Abraham was not sufficient. Just because one is a Christian does not make them a good candidate for marriage.
Fifth, he who would find a godly mate should be willing to heed the counsel of older and wiser Christians. Do you notice how little Isaac had to do with the process of finding a wife? Isaac, if left to himself, may never have found Rebekah. The first pretty girl or the first woman to profess a faith in God might have seemed adequate. The servant was unwilling to settle for second rate. Not only were Abraham and his servant a part of the process, but Rebekah’s family also had to be convinced of God’s leading. Anyone who fails to heed the counsel of godly Christians who are older and wiser is on the path to heartache.
Finally, he who would have a godly mate must be willing to put emotional feelings last. Look again with me at verse 67:
Then Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent, and he took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her; thus Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death (Genesis 24:67).
Do you notice that love came last, not first, in this chapter? Isaac learned to love his wife in time. Love came after marriage, not before it. That leads me to a principle which many Christian counselors often stress: ROMANTIC LOVE IS NEVER THE BASIS FOR MARRIAGE—MARRIAGE IS THE BASIS FOR ROMANTIC LOVE.
Here we see a good reason for a Christian making the decision never to date an unbeliever. A Christian should carefully screen any person before he or she would even consider going out on a date with them. Dating frequently leads to emotional involvement and physical attraction. Romantic love is a wonderful emotional feeling, but it will never sustain a marriage. Do not put yourself in a situation where romantic love can grow until you are certain that you want it to grow.
Everything in our culture runs contrary to this principle. Romantic feelings are exploited by Madison Avenue and are continually set before us in an exciting light on the television screen. Love is a wonderful thing, a gift from God, but let love come last, not first, if we would find a godly mate.
I believe that God has a special person chosen from eternity past as a mate for those for whom He has purposed marriage. I believe that God will surely guide us to that mate by using Scripture, prayer, counsel, wisdom, and providential intervention. I believe that we will be able to recognize this person, convinced most of all by the fact that they have manifested a godly character. May God help us to encourage our children and our friends to trust God and obey Him in the selection of a mate. For those of us who are married, may God enable us to be the godly mate that His Word says we should be.
204 Some explanations of this oath have gone beyond the facts. The remarks of Stigers seem to reflect the most careful and balanced explanation: “Genesis 24:2 and 47:29 have a strange form of the oath, the hand of the one from whom an oath is taken being put under the thigh of the person taking the oath. No data from contemporary times have as yet come to light to explain this action, but conceivably it might appear one day from the land of Haran from which Abraham came, or perhaps from Canaan. But--and this is important--no explanation of the meaning of the manner is presented; however, it does appear to represent a serious, important matter going beyond the casual promise. It is related not to show its importance, but as part of an understood, legitimate custom, though unexplained, which no second party legitimately could refuse, and therefore we must perceive this to be an eyewitness account.” Harold G. Stigers, A Commentary on Genesis (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1976), p. 16.
The response of the family is interesting, for not the father, but the brother, speaks first. We may conclude then, that Laban has the stronger position and a definite function in the family equal to that of the father. Afterward, it was Laban and the girl’s mother who received gifts. The Nuzu tablets throw light on the arrangement. What is seen in Rebekah’s household is a fratriarchy or the exercise of family authority in Hurrian society by which one son has jurisdiction over his brothers and sisters. So Laban with his mother decides to put the matter of prompt departure up to Rebekah (v. 58). This independence of action is also reflected in the Nuzu documents concerning the wife of one Hurazzi who said, ‘With my consent my brother Akkuleni gave me as wife to Hurazzi.’ This parallels the biblical incident as to circumstances of the question to the bride, the decision by Laban to ask her, and her answer. (Stigers, Genesis, p. 201.)
206 I must therefore disagree with Kidner, who views the similarity as accidental or unintentional: “The family of Rebekah little knew that their conventional blessing echoed God’s pregnant words to Abraham (22:17).” Derek Kidner, Genesis (Chicago: Inter-Varsity Press, 1967), p. 149. Rather, I would concur with Stigers, who writes: “When they called for a myriad of thousands for Rebekah, they were asking for boundless numbers of God’s people, in harmony with 12:2a and 22:17. When they spoke of descendants possessing the gates of their enemies, they were calling for, even predicting, the ultimate triumph of the people of God, the Israelites (cf. Rev. 4:10; 12:5; 20:4). It is thus seen why Abraham sent to Padan-Aram for a wife for Isaac: these people shared the same hope.” Stigers, Genesis, p. 201.
In the light of Joshua 24:2, we must not make too much of the “faith” of Abraham’s relatives in Mesopotamia: “. . . Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘From ancient times your fathers lived beyond the River, namely, Terah, the father of Abraham and the father of Nahor, and they served other gods.’” We know, for example, that Laban possessed household gods, which Rachel took when Jacob left to return to Canaan (Genesis 31:30-32). Nevertheless, it seems that Bethuel and Laban acknowledged the God of Abraham (cf. 24:51) and were thus somewhat less affected by the pagan religions than the Canaanites.
207 “The verb translated meditate (suah) is found as yet only here, so its meaning is uncertain. But as LXX understood it so, and a similar form siah can mean this, the translation is eminently reasonable.” Kidner, Genesis, p. 149.