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A Wife for Isaac (Genesis 24)

Three years have passed since the death of Sarah. Abraham is now 140 years old; Isaac is 40. Feeling his age, and now more sensible that his own time may be short, Abraham begins the process of acquiring a wife for his son. Arranged marriages have become a thing of the past in most, though not all, modern cultures. But in Abraham's day one of the duties of a father was to ensure that a proper mate was selected for his children, especially his sons.

The selection of a wife for a son, especially the firstborn and heir to the position of head of the family, was a serious undertaking. The right woman had to be selected, ensuring the continued stability and prosperity of the family. In some cases the father himself negotiated the purchase of a bride, but in other cases the services of an intermediary (called a malach, angel or messenger, in Hebrew) were employed. Abraham is now old, so he entrusts the responsibility to the steward of his household, here identified as the "the oldest servant of his house, who ruled over all that he had" (verse 2). Most likely this is Eliezer, whom Abraham mentioned in Genesis 15:2-3 as his heir before he fathered children—although it is possible that Eliezer has died by this point. In any case, Abraham imposes a most solemn oath upon his servant, instructing him to return to Abraham's country and kindred in the city of Nahor in northern Mesopotamia, and from them to select a wife. He is strictly forbidden to take Isaac with him.

There are many parallels between the selection of Isaac's wife and the selection of a wife for Jesus Christ, His wife meaning the Church (see Ephesians 5:22-33). Abraham can be seen as a type of the Father, being himself later called the father of the faithful (Romans 4:16). Isaac is a type of Christ, a son born according to promise, whose birth was announced beforehand, and whose conception was miraculous. The servant is a type of the role of the Holy Spirit. Indeed, if the servant was Eliezer, the type is even more striking since his name means "God his help" and God's Spirit is called the Helper (as the Greek word parakletos may be legitimately translated in John 14-16). Of course, all analogies break down at some point—and it certainly does here in the fact that the Holy Spirit is not a person nor an independent agent capable of decision-making on its own. (To learn more, see our free booklet Who Is God?) Still, the analogy appears valid to a point considering that Jesus personified the Holy Spirit in referring to it as a parakletos (in essence, a personal helper or court advocate). Thus we have the Father sending His Spirit to select out and prepare a Bride for His Son. The Bride receives gifts from this agent of the Father (Ephesians 4:8, Romans 11:29, 1 Corinthians 12), agrees to marry one she has never seen (1 Peter 1:8), undertakes a journey with that agent (the journey of this life with the Spirit as a guide), is brought to the Son (Revelation 19), and takes up residence in the tent of Sarah (whose name means "Princess") where the marriage is consummated (which is a type of spiritual union—1 Corinthians 6:16-17). It should also be mentioned that God's ministers (servants) play a role in bringing Christ's bride to Christ. As the apostle Paul wrote to the Church: "For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ" (2 Corinthians 11:2). Through His ministry God calls people to enter into a relationship with Christ, and through His ministry He also provides the gifts of help and instruction to those who respond.

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