24:31 “..O blessed of Hashem..” The Torah now records a prophetic expression placed – unbeknown to him – on Laban’s lips. For his exemplary kindness to Abraham, Eliezer passed from the category of accursed Canaanite, into that of blessed. Laban, however, had thought he was addressing Abraham, because their features were similar. (Midrash).
“..when I have cleared the house..” According to Rashi (citing the Midrash) the phrase implies: I have cleared the house from the defilement of idols. The verb used here, ‘clear’, is generally used in reference to clearing away an obstruction or something which people would find objectionable. Therefore, since Eliezer was the servant of Abraham who had been persecuted for his denunciation of idolatry, the commentators related this word to the idols, since nothing could be more objectionable to a member of Abraham’s household than to lodge in the presence of idols.
“..place for the camels?” – For it is known that not even Abraham’s camels would enter a place containing idolatry.
Why did Laban go to all of this trouble on behalf of a stranger? Because he conjectured to himself: If that man was so generous to my sister only because she drew water for him and his camels, imagine how generous he will be to me if I offer him and his camels lodging and even go through the trouble of cleaning the room for him.
24:32 “..he gave straw and feed..” – Laban provided feed for the animals and water for Eliezer. It would be unlikely that Eliezer himself would fetch water for his own feet and that of his men. (Ramban) First, he gave feed to the animals and only afterwards was food set before the guests (v 33), for one must not partake of food until he has fed his animals, for it is written (Deuteronomy 11:13): ‘I will give grass in your fields for your cattle’, and after that: ‘you shall eat and be satisfied.’ (Midrash HaGadol)
‘…of the men who were with him.” – This is the first time that the Torah explicitly mentions that Eliezer was accompanied by others, although it is alluded to several times.
24:33 “Food was set before him,..” – The Midrashim record a tradition ~ a doctrine believed to have divine authority though not written in scriptures ~ that they placed a deadly poison before Eliezer. In Abraham’s merit, however, the dish was changed: Bethuel ate of it and died later that evening.
“..until I have spoken my words.” – The mission has thus far been successful. Divine Providence led Eliezer on the right path to the home of Abraham’s relatives, and to the girl who, by the test of her character, proved to be worthy of marriage to Isaac. However, there was one obstacle still left ~ the doubt Eliezer had expressed earlier to Abraham: Perhaps the girl would not consent to follow him to Canaan. He, therefore, was resolved to complete his task; he would not eat until the matter was settled beyond doubt.
Verses 34-39 The Recapitulation Radak emphasizes that Eliezer repeated the whole story in order to convince them that God willed this marriage, thus delicately hinting that their refusal would not hinder it.
However, the Torah ~ which contains not a single letter without purpose ~ now proceeds to record at length Eliezer’s recapitulation of the events which led him to Bethuel’s house, when in reality, the Torah could merely have stated, “And Eliezer related to them these things’, etc.
Hoffman notes that it is common for the Torah to repeat a halachic, a law, or a narrative passage because of a meaningful detail which is added in the second version. As we note, Eliezer’s repetition contains several such instruction additions and variations.
24:34 “A servant of Abraham..” – He immediately introduces himself as Abraham’s servant and thereby indicates that that is why he must carry out his master’s mission, even before breaking bread.
The Zohar applies to Eliezer the verse ‘a slave honors his master” (Malachi 1:6), for in spite of all the precious valuables he brought along with him by virtue of which he could have pretended to be whatever he desired, he made no pretentious claims but informed him he was merely Abraham’s slave ~ his purpose being to enhance Abraham’s stature, so they could judge the greatness of his stature.
24:35 When a man wishes to marry a girl, he tells her of his lineage and the lineage of his family, in order to endear himself and his family to her. Eliezer acted accordingly: First he spoke in praise of Abraham and then in the praise of Isaac.
24:36 In mentioning that Sarah gave birth to Isaac after she had grown old, Eliezer was anticipating a possible objection on their part: ‘How can you expect to pair a son of Abraham with a granddaughter of Abraham’s brother Nachor? This son must be an old man!’ Therefore, Eliezer, informed them that Isaac was born only after Sarah was old, and he was still relatively young. Isaac was forty years old at the time.
And, since God performed a miracle, allowing Sarah to give birth to him at the age of ninety, you can be certain that he is a perfect young man, for God would not perform such a miracle for the sake of an ordinary son.
24:37 “..in whose land I dwell.” – Abraham in verse 3 had actually said “in whose midst I dwell.” Eliezer, with great delicacy, changed ‘in whose midst’ to ‘in whose land’. They would have found Abraham’s choice of words offensive. It would have suggested that he had a tendency to be critical of those around him.
24:39 “Perhaps the woman will not follow me?” – When Eliezer discussed with Abraham the possibility that the appropriate woman would not return to Canaan with him, he said ‘perhaps the woman would not ‘wish’ ~ implying that her ‘willingness’ would be a crucial factor. Here, however, he omitted any such reference, saying merely that she will – in fact – not follow. Originally, Eliezer envisioned only that the woman ~ of her own volition ~ might refuse to go to Canaan. Now, however, that he saw Rebecca had no objections, Eliezer realized that her family might hinder her. He therefore makes it clear to them that even if the woman will, in fact, not follow me through no ill-will of her own, but because of family hindrance, Abraham’s oath would be nullified and Isaac would be forced to seek a wife from among the Canaanites. Eliezer alludes to this in verse 41 when he states: “an if they will not give her to you”, making the mission dependent on their consent, rather than, as Abraham had said (v8) on the girl’s consent.
24:41 Eliezer immediately added that although Abraham had complete faith that God would make the mission successful, he was nevertheless prepared for the possibility that his wish would not materialize and the family would not cooperate. Eliezer emphasized this so that they would not miscalculate and believe that his promise to Abraham compelled him to bring back a bride at any price, with the result that he was completely dependent upon them.
24:42 “I came today..” – Today I left and today I arrived. The road contracted for him. In only three hours, he found that he had miraculously completed what would ordinarily be a seventeen day journey. (Rashi)
24:45 “I had not yet finished..” – He mentioned this to further emphasize that the Godly origin of the matter was demonstrated by the immediacy of the response to his prayers ~ coming as it did before he had finished meditating.
24:48 “..and I blessed Hashem..” – Eliezer related this to proclaim his absolute conviction that she was indeed the woman whom Hashem had designated and he is merely seeking their consent to conclude the matter. He further wished to impress upon them that because of his conviction he blessed Hashem, had there been any doubt, such a blessing would have been premature.
24:49 ‘to deal kindly and truly..” – Kindness denotes an action which one is not obligated to do while truth means to fulfill the promise of kindness.
The truth is that it is obviously God’s Will, the kindness is that you comply with His will by consenting to her accompanying me ~ a slave ~ and not insisting that Isaac himself come and fetch her. (Malbim)
“..to the right or to the left..” – To the right refers to the daughters of Ishmael, who lived in the Wilderness of Paran in the south. To the left refers to the daughters of Lot who lived to the left, or north, of Abraham.
24:50 “The matter stems from Hashem.” – The Midrash asks: From when did it stem… i.e. when did God decree this and how did these heathens come to acknowledge it? Rav Chaninah ben Yitchak comments: It stemmed from Mount Moriah ~ in other words it was preordained at Mount Moriah when, as he was descending with Isaac after the Akeidah, Abraham was informed of Rebecca’s birth (22:20-23). The Rabbis stated that Rebecca’s family became convinced as a result of this incident that the marriage was Divinely ordained, as in their statement (v51) ‘let her be a wife to your master’s son as Hashem has spoken’ – the entire narrative of how Eliezer was led to Rebecca, which was a continuous story illustrating God’s Providence, convinced them that it was divinely decreed.
24:52 “When Abraham’s servant..” – This is the only time in the entire chapter when he was given the title ‘Abraham’s servant’. Having accomplished his mission in total obedience to Abraham’s wishes, he feels entitled to such an honored designation. (Hirsch)
24:53 For the purpose of betrothal to Isaac, Eliezer acted as Isaac’s agent and gave Rebecca gifts.
24:55 “Her brother and mother said..” – Where was her father Bethuel? According to an account in the Midrash Aggadah, Bethuel died because the angel who accompanied Eliezer took the poisoned dish which had been set before Eliezer and exchanged it with Bethuel’s. He ate from it and died.
24:56 “Do not delay me now..” – Since everything has gone so smoothly and God so speedily guided my mission, it is obvious that He wishes me to return to my master without delay.
24:57 “Let us call the maiden..” – From this we learn that a woman may be given in marriage only by her consent.
24:58 Radak also points out that they may have been asking her only about when she would accompany the man. Presumably, however, she had already consented to the marriage, even before they expressed their approval to Eliezer (v51). Although this is not specifically mentioned in the text, one would certainly not give his daughter in marriage without first consulting her.
24:59 Whether, as Rashi would interpret, they gave permission reluctantly to avoid her threatened defiance; or as Radak and Ramban would interpret, that they graciously acquiesced to her wishes, it must be noted that once Rebecca expressed her intention, they no longer hindered her. As Abarbanel observes, however, no member of her immediate family accompanied her. Possibly they were angered by her.
“..and her nurse, ..” – According to Seder Olam, the most common Rabbinic chronology, Rebecca was but three years old at the time.
Ibn Ezra, who believes that Rebecca was older and in no need of a nurse, explains that this was the nurse of her infancy. It was usual for a nurse to remain with a girl even after she had grown.
Apparently, they had also sent her maidens with her as well, but they are not specified here as receiving the honor of a family escort. The nurse alone is mentioned as she was the most prominent among them. They are, however, mentioned matter-of-factly in verse 61. (Radak)
The nurse’s name was Deborah, as she is identified in 35:8.
24:60 “..may you come to be mother of thousands..” May you and your offspring be the recipients of the blessings given to Abraham on Mount Moriah. (22:17) May it be His will that these offspring descend from you, as Isaac’s wife, and not from another woman.
However, as the Midrash notes, their blessing was futile since God caused her to remain barren for twenty years, lest the heathens say ~ It was our prayer that bore fruit! For, in fact, Rebecca did not conceive until Isaac prayed for her as it says (25:21): “Isaac entreated Hashem opposite his wife because she was barren, and Hashem allowed Himself to be entreated by him and his wife Rebecca conceived.”
“..and may your descendants inherit the gates of your enemies.” – This blessing appears almost verbatim in God’s blessing to Abraham after the Akeidah in 22:17. As explained there, the capture of the gate, the stronghold of a city, is symbolic of its downfall. Therefore, gate is used in this connotation, the blessing being that her offspring should possess cities by inheriting or seizing their gates.
According to Ha’amek Davar the blessing refers to wise judges and counselors who sit at the gate of a city (19:1). Thus, the blessing was that Rebecca’s descendants should achieve such a reputation for integrity and wisdom that even their enemies would seek their advice.
24:61 According to Sforno, the phrase: ‘the servant took Rebecca’ means that in his capacity as Isaac’s agent, he formally received her as the bride of his master Isaac. Thereby, he became her servant as well and from this point forward, Scripture once again refers to him as the servant rather than ‘the man’, as previously mentioned in this verse.
Note: They left at noon and to prevent Eliezer from being alone with Rebecca at night, the road miraculously contracted for him on his return journey as well, and in three hours, at the time of Minchah, the Afternoon Prayer, they returned home.
24:62 Isaac meets his bride – The Torah narrates that Isaac ‘happened’ to meet them on the road before they entered the city, just as Eliezer’s encounter with Rebecca at the well, etc., occurred by what seemed to be ‘chance’. In reality, it was a result of God’s Providential Will, for ‘God deals righteously with the righteous’. (Radak)
Isaac was returning from Lachai Ro’i which was a place of prayer for him since it was there that an angel revealed himself to Hagar (16:14). He went there to pray at this favorable site where Hagar’s prayers had once been answered. Even before his wife was already approaching ~ as in the same manner of Isaiah 65:24.
“..in the south country.” – According to Midrash, HaGadol, the designation ‘south country’ refers in itself to Hebron since Hebron is specifically described in 35:27 as the place where Abraham and Isaac had lived.
Midrash Sechel Tov elaborates that when Isaac returned from the Academy of Shem and Eber where he studied for three years following the Akeidah, he rejoined his father in Hebron which, as in 12:9, is referred to as the South ~ facing Jerusalem and Mount Moriah ~ in what would become the territory of Judah. Accordingly, it was towards Hebron, to his father, that Isaac was now returning after having gone to Be’er Lachai Ro’i.
24:63 “Joseph went out to supplicate..” – The translation supplicate follows Rashi who explains that it means to pray, as in Psalms 102:1: A prayer of the afflicted when he pours forth his supplication before Hashem.
The follows the Talmud, Berachos 26b, and Midrash, which derive from this verse the tradition that Isaac instituted the Minchah, the Afternoon Prayer. That Abraham instituted the Shacharis, the Morning Prayer, is derived from 19:27; and that Jacob instituted the Aravis, the Evening Prayer, is derived from 28:11.
“Camels were coming!” – The Providential Hand of God was evident when Isaac saw them on his way home. Isaac could not have expected to meet them because it was only yesterday that Eliezer had embarked on what should have been a seventeen day journey in each direction, but which was miraculously shortened to three hours each way.
24:65 “Who is that man walking..” – When Rebecca saw a man walking in the field and turning towards them, she realized that he was approaching them either to greet them or to offer lodging. As was proper for a woman, she reacted by discounting from the camel and stood modestly. Then, as he was still approaching them, she inquired exactly who he was, and upon hearing that he was Isaac, she veiled herself.
Rebecca veiled her face out of awe of Isaac, and shame to be in his presence, as though to indicate that she considered herself unworthy of him. This set the pattern for their subsequent relationship which was unique among the Patriarchs and Matriarchs.
Sarah, Rebecca, and Leah were often assertive in their relationships with their husbands. Rebecca, on the other hand, never confronted Isaac directly. Thus we find that she tolerated Isaac’s favor toward Esau although she knew that Esau had been deceiving his father. When the time came for the blessings to be given, she employed deception to secure them for Jacob.
This sort of relationship was preordained by God in that the transmission of the blessings would take place in a seemingly underhanded manner. The purpose of His plan will be discussed in the succeeding chapters.
24:66 Eliezer reported to Isaac the miracles that had happened ~ how the earth had contracted for him, and how Rebecca had been ready for him in speedy response to his prayers.
24:67 “..brought her into Sarah’s tent..” – and behold, she was as Sarah, his mother. That is, she became like Sarah in every respect. For as long as Sarah was alive, a lamp burned in her tent from one Sabbath eve to another, her dough was blessed, and a cloud, signifying the Divine Presence, hung over her tent. When Sarah died, these ceased, but when Rebecca entered the tent they returned. (Rashi)
“He married Rebecca, she became his wife, and he loved her.” – Hirsch notes that marriage preceded love; the longer they were married, the more Isaac loved her. In this, the first Jewish marriage, the Torah illustrates the principal that has generally been followed by Jews: Jewish marriages are contracted not as a result of passion and romance, but as a result of good judgment and sound reason. If the couple is well suited, the marriage will result in love and happiness. Marriages based on pre-marital infatuation, however, all too often fail the test of married life.
Hirsch continues that the chapter ends with words that exalt and honor that status of a Jewish wife. Isaac was a mature man when his mother died, but he could not be consoled as long as the sweetness and goodness of the Matriarch were gone from the home. In his wife, he found consolation ~ she embodied worth, nobility and greatness.
Ramban says Isaac was deeply grieved for his mother and found no consolation until he was consoled by his wife through his love for her. This love was inspired by her righteousness and aptness of deeds, the only criteria on which the Torah bases the love between a man and his wife.
Thus is the way of the world: a man is attached to his mother during her lifetime. When she dies, he finds comfort in his wife. (Rashi)