Genesis 24-26: The virgin bride of Christ

1.  “It is not good for man to be alone”: Isaac and Rebekah (Genesis 24)

2.  Abraham, Keturah, Isaac and Ishmael (Genesis 25:1-28 )

3.  Jacob and Esau – birthright = stew? (Genesis 25:19-34)

4.  Isaac and the Philistines (Genesis 26:1-33)

5.  Esau and the Hittites (Genesis 26:34-35)

1.  “It is not good for man to be alone”: Isaac and Rebekah (Genesis 24)

v.2 – Abraham’s servant, “the oldest of his household, who had charge of all that he had” is told to swear by the LORD, God of heaven and earth (note, not only the God of Abraham!), that he is to take a wife from his country and his kindred.  What kindred would that be?  The Hebrews!  And there shall the chief servant take a wife for his son Isaac.

This is an amazing prophecy to the work of the Great Commission.  The gospel is presented in a short few verses (v.2-4).  To make things simpler:

(a)  Abraham = The Father

(b)  Isaac = The Son, the Bridegroom

(c)  Chief Servant = The evangelist, steward of the earth

(d)  Wife = The bride

Let’s work through these representations.  In Genesis 22 we saw Abraham sacrifice Isaac, and that it is a direct parallel to his sacrifice of Christ himself.  Does the typology end there?  Absolutely not.  Here, the chief servant of the Son’s Father asks the chief servant of his house to find Isaac, his only beloved Son, a wife.  And yes – that is much of our mission in life today.  To serve our Master, our Father, by finding more men and women to add to the bride.  And many things are taught in Genesis 24.

Firstly, we swear by the LORD that we will not take a wife from the adulterous Canaanites.  What I mean here is that the Canaanites are not lovers of LORD Jehovah, Yahweh, Adonai, Abba… rather, they are lovers of their own idols of their own makings.  Such is the definition of spiritual adultery – and as represented by the Canaanites.  Thus, it isn’t merely a case of Abraham seeking a physical family – he is seeking a spiritual family to build up God’s kingdom.  So, in everything we do in our evangelism, we are seeking to find a Christian bride, a bride who loves Christ and who will honour Christ.  A spiritual Canaanite simply will not do, but completely contradict the point of evangelism.  Hence the odd statement from the servant: “Perhaps the woman may not be willing to follower me to this land.  Must I then take your son back to the land from which you came?” (v.5)

Charles Spurgeon has this to say:

“If she will not come to Isaac, shall Isaac go down to her?  This is the suggestion of the present hour:  if the world will not come to Jesus, shall Jesus tone down his teachings to the world?  In other words, if the world will not rise to the church, shall not the church go down to the world?  Instead of bidding men to be converted, and come out from among sinners, and be separate from them, let us join with the ungodly world, enter into union with it, and so pervade it with our influence by allowing it to influence us.  Let us have a Christian world”.

Thus, though the steward be prudent, there is a sense of fear.  “What if the gospel will fail?”  “What if no one will believe the report?”  “What if the bride is unwilling?”  These are all statements of insecurity – but Abraham’s response is exactly that of the response of the Father when he sends us to find more to add to the Son’s bride; his response is “See to it that you do not take my son back there (v.6)”.  He maintains that his Son stay put.  It is for the wife to come to the Son, because the work is complete.  The promise has already been made.  Although the promise hasn’t been fulfilled, it is de facto completed.  “To your offspring I will give this land’, he will send his angel before you, and you shall take a wife for my son from there”.  (v.7)

This isn’t just some hasty statement – Abraham is saying that the promise will be fulfilled – and that Jesus, God’s chief Sent One, will be before the servant, the evangelist.  In the same way should we regard evangelism – it is not ‘ours’ to control, however eloquent we might be.  It is by the power of the Angel, by the power of the Spirit, that anyone can come to join as the bride of Christ.

Here, the chief servant goes to find the wife – not blindly, but with the sense given to him by the instruction of Abraham.  He seeks first the instruction of the LORD as well – “O LORD, God of my master Abraham, please grant me success today and show steadfast love to my master Abraham”.  He asks for a sign, he asks for confirmation.  “Let the young woman to whom I shall say, ‘Please let down your jar that I may drink'”.  In the same way should we ask for confirmation and not to rush into the open and preach like a mad-man.  Indeed, Paul confirms that he is sent from the LORD, as do all the evangelists.  The shipwreck is there to stop him, when the LORD wanted him to go elsewhere.

Then, in v. 22-30, the chief servant Eleazar of Damascus prepares the gift of inheritance.  Gold ring and two bracelets for Rebekah’s arms weighing ten gold shekels, after understanding that her heart is open.  How does he know?  Because of the fulfilled promises – that she is from the line of Shem, the line of Nahor, Abraham’s brother.  She gave Eleazar a drink and watered his ten camels.  Now she is given the possession of the inheritance – but that is merely a foretaste, a firstfruit, of the marriage to come.  Like the dove which took an olive leaf (Genesis 8:11), like a king’s signet ring (Esther 8:8), is it a foretaste of the true communion with the High King, the Father.  This ring represents the Holy Spirit, the gift of inheritance; the bracelets are adornments of righteousness which we receive by Christ’s blood (Job 29:14).

Yet, if the woman refuses?  Then the chief servant shall be clear from this his oath: only bring not his son to the woman.  If we therefore faithfully preach the gospel without watering it down, then even though numbers have not been added to the saved, it is fine – we can keep enduring, but we have stood firm.  The blood is not on our hands (Ezekiel 3:20).

And what of the significance of a virgin woman?  For he is to be the bride’s First Love (Revelation 2:4), as the bride is Christ’s first love – and in Him will Rebekah become “thousands of ten thousands, and may [her] offspring possess the gate of those who hate Him” (Genesis 24:60).  This proclamation shows the forward looking nature of the Arameans then – they remembered God’s covenant with Adam (Genesis 3:15), with Seth, with Noah, with Abraham.  She may cover herself with a wedding veil (v.65), whilst still wearing the ring and bracelets of inheritance and righteousness, but that veil will only be temporary, until the day it is torn completely apart on the great Wedding Day between the Son and his Bride.  For now, the veil will last as we are still merely engaged to Christ.

“So Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death” (v. 67).  It is not good for man to be alone.  And what an awesome picture of evangelism and marriage to cure Isaac of his loneliness, which is not good.  So, it is also not good for Jesus to be alone – and the Father and the Spirit have been working hard since Day 7 of creation to build up the church and body of Christ.

2.  Abraham, Keturah, Isaac and Ishmael (Genesis 25:1-28 )

Abraham took another wife – and by now, despite being over 100 years old (and that he had previously had serious difficulties bearing children), he is bearing many.  The sons of Midian will later lead to Jethro, the priest whom Moses will meet, and his very father-in-law.  Yet, the sons of his concubines he merely gave gifts, but sent them away from Isaac to the eastward to the east country.  Abraham is working hard to maintain the Israelite line without corruptions, that the sons of concubines may not be related to the Promised Son.

Here is a table which I prepared for easy reference of the genealogy in this chapter, the new sons of Abraham, and the sons of Ishmael.

So, what’s interesting is that Ishmael returns to bury Abraham!  However, we don’t know where he came from and how he heard the knews.  That appears unimportant – what is starking is his uninvolvement besides the burial.  His name is mentioned, and then instantly forgotten – for after the death of Abraham, God blessed Isaac his son (v.11).  Could Moses have added another line…”and Ishmael as well” to v.11?  There is a very good reason he is omitted, because he is not part of the chosen line.  What we finally hear about him is that God has fulfilled his promise to him – that 12 princes have come from his line.  But, like the Kenite genealogy, his people settled from Havilah to Shur, opposite Egypt in the direction of Assyria.  Unlike Abraham, Sarah, and later Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob… Ishmael’s line settled not in Canaan,  he was however gathered to his people eventually in Assyria.  Like Lot, he chose to settle with the world, and not with the LORD, and it is no surprise that we find the Assyrians later becoming enemies of the LORD.

3.  Jacob and Esau – birthright = stew? (Genesis 25:29- Genesis 26:33)

It seems that Jacob and Esau have had their personality predicted from birth.  “Two nations are in your womb and two peoples from within you shall be divided”.  Essentially, speaking of the Israelites (as Jacob shall later be renamed Israel after his struggle with the Angel of the Lord, Jesus) vs. the Edomites as to even reward an entire book speaking of the judgment against Esau’s line:

10(M) Because of the violence done to your brother Jacob,
shame shall cover you,
(N) and you shall be cut off forever.
11(O) On the day that you stood aloof,
(P) on the day that strangers carried off his wealth
and foreigners entered his gates
(Q) and cast lots for Jerusalem,
you were like one of them.
12(R) But do not gloat over the day of your brother
in the day of his misfortune;
(S) do not rejoice over the people of Judah
in the day of their ruin;
(T) do not boast[e]
in the day of distress.
13(U) Do not enter the gate of my people
in the day of their calamity;
(V) do not gloat over his disaster
in the day of his calamity;
do not loot his wealth
in the day of his calamity.
14(W) Do not stand at the crossroads
to cut off his fugitives;
do not hand over his survivors
in the day of distress. (Obadiah 1:10-14)

And here we have two nations – one labelled “red”, the Edomites, because of his desire for red stew.  Another called “Jacob”, meaning “he takes by the heel” or “he cheats”.  What a way to describe two nations!  One that is cheating, full of struggle; another that desires food and short-term fulfillment over the long-term promise!  Esau’s desire for red stew even preceded that of his birthright!  “I am about to die” (v.32) he says!  Like Eve was about to die if she didn’t eat the fruit from the tree of good and evil?  Like Judas was about to die if he didn’t betray Jesus?  Like Balaam was about to die if he didn’t curse Israel?  Such is the mindset of the sinner… “I am about to die”.  It is a statement not of desperation – it is simply whining!  And yet, despite Jacob’s questionable methods, he planned far ahead.  He wanted the birthright.  He didn’t want to die, physically and even in the long-term – spiritually.  Yet, Edom wanted to live now, live fast… and die not only young, but die forever.  A stew for his birthright – quite clearly, “he despised his birthright”.

4.  Isaac and the Philistines (Genesis 26:1-33)

Isaac settled in Gerar, because the LORD told him so.  He didn’t go with his ‘rationale’ – he didn’t go with good foresight in planning (though that may be helpful in certain situations).  But he went there, simply because the LORD said so.  What great reverence!

Unfortunately, he feared the men of the place and lied about his wife being his sister, much like his father.  And to the same people like his father!  What is most interesting however is that this chapter maps out in far more detail about Isaac’s life than Abraham’s time with Abimelech in Genesis 20.  We have the Philistines:

(a) envying him (v.14) – an emotion expressed by filling up Abraham’s servants’ dug-out wells with earth.  Abraham respons by encamping in the Valley of Gerar and digs the wells again, giving them the names his father had given them previously.

(b) contending with him (v.20) – that the herdsmen of Gerar quarreled with Isaac’s herdsmen over the water which Isaac had found.  Yet Isaac is gracious once more; he leaves to another land, digs another well, and named that well Rehoboth (meaning broad place/room) rather than Sitnah (meaning enmity).  We can tell that Isaac is a man very much unlike Jacob and Esau who struggle against one another.  Rather, Isaac is gracious and seems to be looking to the LORD over everything.  Such is the stark contrast between the Philistines who contend with Isaac for something as a personal gain; but Isaac relinquishes it, just to be equally blessed but to give thanks to the LORD exclusively for that blessing.

(c) admiring him (v.28-29) – “We see plainly that the LORD has been with you, that you will do us no harm, just as we have not touched you and have done to you nothing but good and have sent you away in peace.  You are now the blessed of the LORD”.  What sarcasm from the Philistines!  They want to keep face; but they must admit that they admire Isaac, because he is the “blessed of the LORD”.  The problem, however, is that a Christian may misread this history and say that you can only be blessed after such trials.  NO.  read v.3 – “I will be with you and will bless you”, and v. 4 – “…And in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed”.  This is more of God’s promises – one-sided promises.  He establishes this covenant which he later fulfills by himself.  Though it is through the word of the Philistines that his ‘blessedness’ is established, Isaac is by no means perfect.  We saw that in his fear of the people of Gerar when he said his wife is merely his sister.  Yet, like Abraham, he has faith in Christ, the truly blessed man – the only one who is blessed and can bless others.  It is important to note that Isaac depended not on himself, for Jesus appeared to him twice in this chapter, firstly before he set off as a wandering pilgrim, inevitably meeting enemies and insecurities (v.2); and secondly in the midst of his difficulties in v.24-25.

The oath between Philistines and Isaac is interesting.  It doesn’t last.  We see that more clearly when Samson fought the Philistines in the book of Judges.  Yet, God’s promises, his oath to us, lasts.  There may be water in the well of oath now, but that water can be easily filled with earth again by the Philistines.  But God’s oaths are never-failing.

5.  Esau and the Hittites (Genesis 26:34-35)

Finally, we end on a solemn note with Esau marrying a Hittite.  Such is the pain and trouble which Isaac’s father had tried to prevent.  And yet, such is the case when a Christian marries a non-Christian.  Contradictions, compromises and troubles are inevitable – not only that, but it is a clear misrepresentation of the gospel.  Can you see Jesus being preached when Christ comes to the world and marries his adulterous church?  Or can you see Jesus being preached when the church, his bride, conforms to him single-heartedly after his initiative work on the cross before the foundations of creation?  (Revelation 13:8 )

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Genesis 24-26: The virgin bride of Christ

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