After burying his own wife, Abraham turns his attentions to finding a wife for their son, Isaac. Knowing as he does that Isaac is meant to be his spiritual heir, not just any woman will do. Nor may Isaac leave the Holy Land for any reason. Therefore, Abraham charges his trusty servant to select a wife for Isaac from among Abraham’s own kin back in Aram-naharaim. If the woman the servant finds refuses to come, Abraham assures him he has at least done his duty. The servant swears to uphold Abraham’s requests and he sets off, with ten camels and an array of gifts in tow.
When the servant arrives at the well on the outskirts of town, he turns to God for direction. He sets a sign for himself: the woman who not only offers him water, but his camels, too, is the right one for Isaac. Before he even completes his prayer, the servant spies young Rebecca, daughter of Bethuel and granddaughter of Abraham’s brother, Nahor. He asks her for water, and she replies by giving it to him, then watering all his camels. Watching her work, the servant becomes convinced that this woman is destined to marry his master’s son, and he brings forth the jewelry which he carried for that purpose. He asks who her family is and if they will take him in overnight. She confirms her identity and invites him to stay with her family. The servant responds by thanking God for bringing him to the right place.
The Israel Bible discusses the significance of the caravan which the servant brought with him. The Hebrew word for camel, gamal, also means ‘to be independent’. It is used throughout the Bible to describe weaning children or ripening fruit (see Genesis 21:8, Numbers 17:23). According to Rabbi Natan Slifkin, the camel earned this name because it is “able to survive in the absence of water for many months.” How fitting that this symbol of independence carried back Rebecca, who made an independent choice to join Isaac in the Holy Land of Israel!
Virtual Classroom Discussion
Why do you think the servant asked God for a sign? Do you think it was a good one? Why or why not?