The Bible has sometimes been called a man’s book, but this is nonsense, at least in the Book of Genesis. Family relationships – husband and wife, parent and child, sibling and sibling, householder and servant – form the core of Genesis.
The Book of Genesis is about people, all sorts of people, told through the medium of an ancient family’s history.
Abraham says: Find a wife for Isaac
1 Now Abraham was old, well advanced in years; and the LORD had blessed Abraham in all things.
2 And Abraham said to his servant, the oldest of his house, who had charge of all that he had, “Put your hand under my thigh,
3 and I will make you swear by the LORD, the God of heaven and of the earth, that you will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell, 4 but will go to my country and to my kindred, and take a wife for my son Isaac.”
5 The servant said to him, “Perhaps the woman may not be willing to follow me to this land; must I then take your son back to the land from which you came?”
6 Abraham said to him, “See to it that you do not take my son back there.
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 swore to me, ‘To your descendants I will give this land,’ he will send his angel before you, and you shall take a wife for my son from there.
8 But if the woman is not willing to follow you, then you will be free from this oath of mine; only you must not take my son back there.”
9 So the servant put his hand under the thigh of Abraham his master, and swore to him concerning this matter.
Rebecca journeys to meet Isaac, Monreale, Sicily, mosaic
10 Then the servant took ten of his master’s camels and departed, taking all sorts of choice gifts from his master; and he arose, and went to Mesopota’mia, to the city of Nahor.
11 And he made the camels kneel down outside the city by the well of water at the time of evening, the time when women go out to draw water.
12 And he said, “O LORD, God of my master Abraham, grant me success today, I pray thee, and show steadfast love to my master Abraham. 13 Behold, I am standing by the spring of water, and the daughters of the men of the city are coming out to draw water. 14 Let the maiden to whom I shall say, ‘Pray let down your jar that I may drink,’ and who shall say, ‘Drink, and I will water your camels’ –let her be the one whom thou hast appointed for thy servant Isaac. By this I shall know that thou hast shown steadfast love to my master.”
15 Before he had done speaking, behold, Rebekah, who was born to Bethu’el the son of Milcah, the wife of Nahor, Abraham’s brother, came out with her water jar upon her shoulder.
16 The maiden was very fair to look upon, a virgin, whom no man had known. She went down to the spring, and filled her jar, and came up.
17 Then the servant ran to meet her, and said, “Pray give me a little water to drink from your jar.”
18 She said, “Drink, my lord”; and she quickly let down her jar upon her hand, and gave him a drink. 19 When she had finished giving him a drink, she said, “I will draw for your camels also, until they have done drinking.”
20 So she quickly emptied her jar into the trough and ran again to the well to draw, and she drew for all his camels.
21 The man gazed at her in silence to learn whether the LORD had prospered his journey or not. 22 When the camels had done drinking, the man took a gold ring weighing a half shekel, and two bracelets for her arms weighing ten gold shekels, 23 and said, “Tell me whose daughter you are. Is there room in your father’s house for us to lodge in?”
Eliezer and Rebecca, Nicolas Poussin
24 She said to him, “I am the daughter of Bethu’el the son of Milcah, whom she bore to Nahor.”
25 She added, “We have both straw and provender enough, and room to lodge in.” 26 The man bowed his head and worshiped the LORD, 27 and said, “Blessed be the LORD, the God of my master Abraham, who has not forsaken his steadfast love and his faithfulness toward my master. As for me, the LORD has led me in the way to the house of my master’s kinsmen.”
28 Then the maiden ran and told her mother’s household about these things.
29 Rebekah had a brother whose name was Laban; and Laban ran out to the man, to the spring. 30 When he saw the ring, and the bracelets on his sister’s arms, and when he heard the words of Rebekah his sister, “Thus the man spoke to me,” he went to the man; and behold, he was standing by the camels at the spring. 31 He said, “Come in, O blessed of the LORD; why do you stand outside? For I have prepared the house and a place for the camels.”
32 So the man came into the house; and Laban ungirded the camels, and gave him straw and provender for the camels, and water to wash his feet and the feet of the men who were with him.
33 Then food was set before him to eat; but he said, “I will not eat until I have told my errand.” He said, “Speak on.”
34 So he said, “I am Abraham’s servant. 35 The LORD has greatly blessed my master, and he has become great; he has given him flocks and herds, silver and gold, menservants and maidservants, camels and asses.
36 And Sarah my master’s wife bore a son to my master when she was old; and to him he has given all that he has.
37 My master made me swear, saying, ‘You shall not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, in whose land I dwell; 38 but you shall go to my father’s house and to my kindred, and take a wife for my son.’ 39 I said to my master, ‘Perhaps the woman will not follow me.’
40 But he said to me, ‘The LORD, before whom I walk, will send his angel with you and prosper your way; and you shall take a wife for my son from my kindred and from my father’s house; 41 then you will be free from my oath, when you come to my kindred; and if they will not give her to you, you will be free from my oath.’
42 “I came today to the spring, and said, ‘O LORD, the God of my master Abraham, if now thou wilt prosper the way which I go, 43 behold, I am standing by the spring of water; let the young woman who comes out to draw, to whom I shall say, “Pray give me a little water from your jar to drink,” 44 and who will say to me, “Drink, and I will draw for your camels also,” let her be the woman whom the LORD has appointed for my master’s son.’
45 “Before I had done speaking in my heart, behold, Rebekah came out with her water jar on her shoulder; and she went down to the spring, and drew. I said to her, ‘Pray let me drink.’ 46 She quickly let down her jar from her shoulder, and said, ‘Drink, and I will give your camels drink also.’ So I drank, and she gave the camels drink also.
47 Then I asked her, ‘Whose daughter are you?’ She said, The daughter of Bethu’el, Nahor’s son, whom Milcah bore to him.’ So I put the ring on her nose, and the bracelets on her arms. 48 Then I bowed my head and worshiped the LORD, and blessed the LORD, the God of my master Abraham, who had led me by the right way to take the daughter of my master’s kinsman for his son.
49 Now then, if you will deal loyally and truly with my master, tell me; and if not, tell me; that I may turn to the right hand or to the left.” 50 Then Laban and Bethu’el answered, “The thing comes from the LORD; we cannot speak to you bad or good.
51 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.”
52 When Abraham’s servant heard their words, he bowed himself to the earth before the LORD. 53 And the servant brought forth jewelry of silver and of gold, and raiment, and gave them to Rebekah; he also gave to her brother and to her mother costly ornaments.
54 And he and the men who were with him ate and drank, and they spent the night there. When they arose in the morning, he said, “Send me back to my master.” 55 Her brother and her mother said, “Let the maiden remain with us a while, at least ten days; after that she may go.” 56 But he said to them, “Do not delay me, since the LORD has prospered my way; let me go that I may go to my master.”
57 They said, “We will call the maiden, and ask her.” 58 And they called Rebekah, and said to her, “Will you go with this man?” She said, “I will go.” 59 So they sent away Rebekah their sister and her nurse, and Abraham’s servant and his men.
60 And they blessed Rebekah, and said to her, “Our sister, be the mother of thousands of ten thousands; and may your descendants possess the gate of those who hate them!”
61 Then Rebekah and her maids arose, and rode upon the camels and followed the man; thus the servant took Rebekah, and went his way.
62 Now Isaac had come from Beer-la’hai-roi, and was dwelling in the Negeb.
The Meeting of Isaac and Rebekah, Friedrich Bouterwek
63 And Isaac went out to meditate in the field in the evening; and he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, there were camels coming.
64 And Rebekah lifted up her eyes, and when she saw Isaac, she alighted from the camel, 65 and said to the servant, “Who is the man yonder, walking in the field to meet us?” The servant said, “It is my master.” So she took her veil and covered herself.
66 And the servant told Isaac all the things that he had done. 67 Then Isaac brought her into the tent, and took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her. So Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.
Rebecca Gives Birth to Esau and Jacob
19 These are the descendants of Isaac, Abraham’s son: Abraham was the father of Isaac, 20 and Isaac was forty years old when he took to wife Rebekah, the daughter of Bethu’el the Aramean of Paddan-aram, the sister of Laban the Aramean.
21 And Isaac prayed to the LORD for his wife, because she was barren; and the LORD granted his prayer, and Rebekah his wife conceived.
22 The children struggled together within her; and she said, “If it is thus, why do I live?” So she went to inquire of the LORD.
23 And the LORD said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples, born of you, shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the elder shall serve the younger.”
Rebecca gave birth to twin sons Esau and Jacob
24 When her days to be delivered were fulfilled, behold, there were twins in her womb.
25 The first came forth red, all his body like a hairy mantle; so they called his name Esau.
26 Afterward his brother came forth, and his hand had taken hold of Esau’s heel; so his name was called Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when she bore them.
27 When the boys grew up, Esau was a skilful hunter, a man of the field, while Jacob was a quiet man, dwelling in tents. 28 Isaac loved Esau, because he ate of his game; but Rebekah loved Jacob.
29 Once when Jacob was boiling pottage, Esau came in from the field, and he was famished. 30 And Esau said to Jacob, “Let me eat some of that red pottage, for I am famished!” (Therefore his name was called Edom.)
31 Jacob said, “First sell me your birthright.” 32 Esau said, “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?” 33 Jacob said, “Swear to me first.”
So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. 34 Then Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of lentils, and he ate and drank, and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.
Rebecca and Jacob Trick Isaac
1 When Isaac was old and his eyes were dim so that he could not see, he called Esau his older son, and said to him, “My son”; and he answered, “Here I am.” 2 He said, “Behold, I am old; I do not know the day of my death. 3 Now then, take your weapons, your quiver and your bow, and go out to the field, and hunt game for me, 4 and prepare for me savory food, such as I love, and bring it to me that I may eat; that I may bless you before I die.”
5 Now Rebekah was listening when Isaac spoke to his son Esau. So when Esau went to the field to hunt for game and bring it, 6 Rebekah said to her son Jacob, “I heard your father speak to your brother Esau, 7 ‘Bring me game, and prepare for me savory food, that I may eat it, and bless you before the LORD before I die.’
8 Now therefore, my son, obey my word as I command you. 9 Go to the flock, and fetch me two good kids, that I may prepare from them savory food for your father, such as he loves; 10 and you shall bring it to your father to eat, so that he may bless you before he dies.”
11 But Jacob said to Rebekah his mother, “Behold, my brother Esau is a hairy man, and I am a smooth man. 12 Perhaps my father will feel me, and I shall seem to be mocking him, and bring a curse upon myself and not a blessing.”
13 His mother said to him, “Upon me be your curse, my son; only obey my word, and go, fetch them to me.”
14 So he went and took them and brought them to his mother; and his mother prepared savory food, such as his father loved.
15 Then Rebekah took the best garments of Esau her older son, which were with her in the house, and put them on Jacob her younger son; 16 and the skins of the kids she put upon his hands and upon the smooth part of his neck; 17 and she gave the savory food and the bread, which she had prepared, into the hand of her son Jacob.
18 So he went in to his father, and said, “My father”; and he said, “Here I am; who are you, my son?” 19 Jacob said to his father, “I am Esau your first-born. I have done as you told me; now sit up and eat of my game, that you may bless me.” 20 But Isaac said to his son, “How is it that you have found it so quickly, my son?” He answered, “Because the LORD your God granted me success.”
21 Then Isaac said to Jacob, “Come near, that I may feel you, my son, to know whether you are really my son Esau or not.” 22 So Jacob went near to Isaac his father, who felt him and said, “The voice is Jacob’s voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau.”
23 And he did not recognize him, because his hands were hairy like his brother Esau’s hands; so he blessed him. 24 He said, “Are you really my son Esau?” He answered, “I am.” 25 Then he said, “Bring it to me, that I may eat of my son’s game and bless you.”
So he brought it to him, and he ate; and he brought him wine, and he drank. 26 Then his father Isaac said to him, “Come near and kiss me, my son.” 27 So he came near and kissed him; and he smelled the smell of his garments, and blessed him, and said,
“See, the smell of my son is as the smell of a field which the LORD has blessed! 28 May God give you of the dew of heaven, and of the fatness of the earth, and plenty of grain and wine. 29 Let peoples serve you, and nations bow down to you. Be lord over your brothers, and may your mother’s sons bow down to you. Cursed be every one who curses you, and blessed be every one who blesses you!”
30 As soon as Isaac had finished blessing Jacob, when Jacob had scarcely gone out from the presence of Isaac his father, Esau his brother came in from his hunting. 31 He also prepared savory food, and brought it to his father. And he said to his father, “Let my father arise, and eat of his son’s game, that you may bless me.”
32 His father Isaac said to him, “Who are you?” He answered, “I am your son, your first-born, Esau.”
33 Then Isaac trembled violently, and said, “Who was it then that hunted game and brought it to me, and I ate it all before you came, and I have blessed him? –yes, and he shall be blessed.” 34 When Esau heard the words of his father, he cried out with an exceedingly great and bitter cry, and said to his father, “Bless me, even me also, O my father!”
35 But he said, “Your brother came with guile, and he has taken away your blessing.” 36 Esau said, “Is he not rightly named Jacob? For he has supplanted me these two times. He took away my birthright; and behold, now he has taken away my blessing.”
The anguish of Esau
Then he said, “Have you not reserved a blessing for me?” 37 Isaac answered Esau, “Behold, I have made him your lord, and all his brothers I have given to him for servants, and with grain and wine I have sustained him. What then can I do for you, my son?” 38 Esau said to his father, “Have you but one blessing, my father? Bless me, even me also, O my father.” And Esau lifted up his voice and wept.
39 Then Isaac his father answered him: “Behold, away from the fatness of the earth shall your dwelling be, and away from the dew of heaven on high. 40 By your sword you shall live, and you shall serve your brother; but when you break loose you shall break his yoke from your neck.”
41 Now Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing with which his father had blessed him, and Esau said to himself, “The days of mourning for my father are approaching; then I will kill my brother Jacob.” 42 But the words of Esau her older son were told to Rebekah; so she sent and called Jacob her younger son, and said to him, “Behold, your brother Esau comforts himself by planning to kill you.
43 Now therefore, my son, obey my voice; arise, flee to Laban my brother in Haran, 44 and stay with him a while, until your brother’s fury turns away; 45 until your brother’s anger turns away, and he forgets what you have done to him; then I will send, and fetch you from there. Why should I be bereft of you both in one day?”
46 Then Rebekah said to Isaac, “I am weary of my life because of the Hittite women. If Jacob marries one of the Hittite women such as these, one of the women of the land, what good will my life be to me?”