The opening verses of our chapter show us that Abraham remained true to the call of God, that had originally reached him; and that, not only for himself but for his children and household after him; thus justifying the Lord's estimate of him, as expressed in Genesis 18: 19. Verse 7 supplements this by showing the full confidence he had that the Lord would support this faithful adherence to His word. Twice in these verses does he speak of the Lord God of heaven. Heaven has been mentioned several times before, but this is the first time God has been so designated. In the light of what is revealed in Hebrews 11, it is not surprising that Abraham knew God in this way, especially as Stephen has informed us that it was "the God of glory" who appeared to him at the outset.
The God of heaven is far above all the little storms and frustrations that fill our small world. He does as He pleases, and so the servant is sent forth with the assurance that direction would be given by God's angel, leading him to the suitable wife for Isaac. The mission was only to fail if the chosen woman was not willing to follow the servant to the waiting bridegroom.
It is worthy of note that the first oath recorded on God's part is that of Genesis 22: 15-18, which was fulfilled in the raising up of Christ, the promised Seed. The further oath, which is before us here, is connected with Abraham's servant, who is a type of the Holy Spirit, sent forth to secure the bride for Christ, the true risen Seed. We may be sure that His mission will be carried to a more successful and perfect issue than that of the servant in the story before us.
The servant departed, fully equipped by his master since he had control of his master's goods. It is evident how this suits the type we have indicated. Moreover, the servant addressed himself to his mission in a prayerful spirit, though the way he addresses God, as recorded in verse 12, shows that his knowledge of God was of a second-hand nature. He knew Him as Abraham's God rather than as his own. In this he fails from the typical point of view.
And this leads us to remind readers that no type is perfect in all its particulars. Hebrews 10: 1 would lead us to expect this, for what it states is as true of patriarchal days as of the time of the law. We have not the very image of the Antitype but only the shadow of Him or it. Now a shadow gives us but little in the way of detail. We get an outline and can discern, for instance, whether a shadow is that of a house or a tree, without knowing where are the windows in the former or the branches in the latter. If we recognise this limitation in the types we shall be saved from the effort to force meanings into small details connected with the person or incident forming the type, which so often ends in what is fanciful and imaginary.
But in spite of this feature in the servant's prayer, it was of a most intelligent nature, and it met with a remarkable and immediate answer. He was confident that the God-provided damsel would be of a gracious and willing spirit, as evidenced by her response to his request, and so it came to pass, and that at once.
The answer came before he had done speaking. Rebekah arrived and acted with all the grace he had specified. Moreover she was a "chaste virgin," such as Paul desired the church at Corinth should be for Christ, and such as the completed church will be by the work of God when she meets her heavenly Bridegroom in the air at His coming. The answer was complete as well as immediate. She was of the right kindred and there was accommodation in her father's house. The servant had just to bestow on her golden ornaments, as an earnest of what was to come, and then bowing his head he worshipped the Lord.
Laban now comes into view. For some reason Bethuel, though the father, does not take the prominent place that was customary. He was alive as verse 50 shows, but retired into a secondary place. Presently we hear more of Laban in his dealings with Jacob, and his self-seeking character comes clearly to light. But a trace of it is at once revealed here. His effusive welcome of the servant was connected with his sight of the costly gifts already bestowed on his sister. But over all this rested the hand of God, pursuing that which He purposed.
The servant, however, was true to his master and full of his errand. He would not even eat before he had delivered himself of his charge.
He had only one thing before him. He had not come to enrich Bethuel's house or to improve conditions in Mesopotamia, but to take out of both a bride for Isaac. Here we see a striking type of the Holy Spirit and His mission, which is not to improve world conditions but to take out of the Gentiles "a people for His Name" (Acts 15: 14).
To this end the servant retired into the background. He confesses, "I am Abraham's servant." In verse 37 he speaks of Abraham as "my master," and in verse 65 we find him saying to Isaac, "It is my master." So both the father and the son were master to him, and his mission was to extol both. In verse 35 he speaks of the greatness and wealth of Abraham. In verse 36 he speaks of the son, and as to him he testifies that the father had given to him "all that he hath." This at once reminds us of John 3: 35, "The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into His hand." At this point in the story Isaac typifies the risen Christ, as we have already said.
Consequent upon the resurrection and ascension of Christ comes the mission of the Holy Spirit, which the Lord Jesus described in anticipation in John 16: 15, "All things that the Father hath are Mine; therefore said I, that He shall take of Mine, and shall shew it unto you." How all this is typified in the chapter before us is very plain.
Having recounted the greatness of his masterâ€”both father and sonâ€”the servant related how his way had been opened up and ordered of God. This was evidence that, "The thing proceedeth from the Lord," as both Laban and Bethuel recognized, and hence they gave their consent to Rebekah's departure and left the final word to her, though they pleaded for delay.
Before the ultimate decision was made, but in the certainty of it being made, the servant bestowed on Rebekah gifts, which were an earnest of the wealth she was going to inherit as the wife of Isaac. Her relatives also were made to experience the bounty of Abraham. All this was also a seal upon her betrothal to Isaac, so that we may see here a type of the Holy Spirit as both Seal and Earnestâ€”the Seal securing us for the Divine calling and purpose, and the Earnest being the pledge of the inheritance yet to be ours in its fulness in the coming age.
Verse 54 shows that the servant's mission was of a character that permitted no delay. On the day of arrival the betrothal took place: on the morning of the next day he would be off to his master. For Rebekah the new link was established, so the old link with kindred and country was at once to be broken. This is a wholesome reminder for us that, being linked by the Spirit to the risen Christ, our old links with the world are broken. It is a sad fact that all too many Christians attempt to hold on to Christ with one hand and yet grip the world with the other, but it can only be done for a little while and at very heavy cost and loss.
Rebekah's relatives pleaded for delay, and so often do the relatives of believers today, and if we have no relatives to do this our own foolish hearts will do it even more effectively. The servant, however, would brook no delay, so the question was put to Rebekah, for the ultimate decision rested with herâ€”"Wilt thou go with this man?'' Was she prepared to entrust herself to the servant, who was acting on behalf of Isaac, and to do so at once? Her answer was simple and decisiveâ€”"I will go."
Here again we may see a type or analogy that may very well search our hearts. Believing the gospel of our salvation, we have been sealed by the Holy Spirit, but have we made such a committal of ourselves to Him as is indicated in the story before us? Happy is that Christian who at conversion, or very soon after, is so committed to the leading of the Spirit, who indwells in order to glorify Christ, that the old links with the world are thoroughly broken, and to reach Christ in His glory becomes the goal. The spirit of this we see exemplified in Paul, as he has put on record in Philippians 3. May we all go in for this so really that everybody may see that we have made the great decision, "I will go."
Rebekah's decision made, her relatives released her with their blessing. "Thousands of millions" sounds somewhat exaggerated, but we understand that "ten thousand" would be a more exact translation than "million." With that correction we have to admit that their blessing has come to pass, but only as the fruit of her going forth to Isaac under the leadership of the servant.
It has often been pointed out that the journey across the desert, however long it took, is related here as though it had been all accomplished within a day. Verse 54 speaks of "the morning," when the journey started, verse 63 mentions "the eventide," when the journey finished, and Isaac met his bride. It is worthy of note that he did not receive her, seated in state in his father's tent, but as one who had gone forth to meet her. The servant recognized the lonely man, walking in the field so meditatively, as his master, and this knowledge he communicated to the bride, who thereupon veiled herself, that hidden from other eyes she might be presented to him.
All this very strikingly befits the type we are considering. At the end of the church's pilgrimage the heavenly Bridegroom will come forth into the air to meet her, and then introduce her into His Father's house. At that glad moment she will be veiled in the all-resplendent light of His glory. Every eye will be upon Him rather than upon her. Later, as we know, the saints will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father; and at the present time the church is not veiled but in the place of witness as the pillar and ground of the truth. But at the end of the journey the Bridegroom will be everything, and the present mission of the Holy Spirit will be brought to a perfect conclusion.
The last verse of our chapter tells us that in acquiring his bride Isaac forgot the sorrow occasioned by the death of his mother. Sarah here typifies Israel, out of whom Christ came as concerning the flesh. At the present time Israel is disowned nationally, but the blank thereby created has been filled, and more than filled, by the calling out of the church under the hand of the Spirit.
As we commence Genesis 25, the typical character of the history ceases. We are permitted to know that Abraham had other wives and many sons, no one of which had anything like the importance of Isaac, or even of Ishmael, who had much earlier been dismissed. All the others were sent away into the east country, out of which he had been called. Evidently he realized that the call of God had been personally to himself and to his seed after him, and did not extend to his other children. All that he had was given to Isaac as the son of promise. Beyond this fact we are not told anything of his closing years. In this he stands in contradistinction to Jacob, as we see in Hebrews 11. The man whose life was poor and chequered ends with a striking display of faith on his deathbed. The man who walked habitually with God testified by his life, and needed no such bright display at the finish. We only know that he lived 175 years, and he was buried in the purchased field at Mamre by his sons Isaac and Ishmael. The line of faith continued in Isaac, and upon him the blessing of God rested.
Another of the divisions of this book begins at verse 12. The "generations" of Terah began in Genesis 11: 27, and have continued to this point. Ishmael represents the rejected line and his generations are related first and with great brevity, for the generations of Isaac start with verse 19. His years were 137, and his sons became princes of some renown, since some of their names became of note and occur again in Scripture. Yet eight verses suffice for his story since he typifies the first man who has to be removed for the introduction of the Second. We shall notice the same feature when we come to Esau and Jacob.
The main line of the history is resumed when we come to the generations of Isaac. He was not nearly so striking a character as Abraham, yet he knew the Lord for himself, and when Rebekah proved to be barren he entreated the Lord for her and was answered in the birth of twin sons. Rebekah also had learned to turn to the Lord for an answer to her question. In the reply that the Lord gave her we find enunciated another great principle that characterizes God's purpose and which runs all through Scripture. It is that of election. The principle had operated from the outset, but here it comes fully to light. God declares His choice before the children were born, or had had any opportunity of doing either good or evil, as is so plainly declared in Romans 9: 10: 12.
Esau and Jacob, not yet born, were declared to be two nations and also " two manner of people," and the elder was to serve the younger. When born the prediction was clearly verified. They were entirely different in physical appearance, in habits and mental make-up. The one a skilful hunter, a lover of the open air; the other a plain or homely man, fond of tent life. All this would have been obvious to the ordinary onlooker, but it is the incident at the end of the chapter that discloses the real rift between them, that the onlooker might never have discerned.
Of the two Esau was the elder by a mere matter of a few minutes, still the birthright would naturally have been accounted his. The birthright became the great test, and in their attitude to it we can see they were indeed two manner of people. Jacob coveted it and Esau despised it What was involved in the birthright ? The one who possessed it was in the direct line, moving on toward that "Seed," in whom all nations were to be blessed. The birthright led to CHRIST.
So here we have in typical form the first intimation of the truth expressed in the well-known lines,
"What think ye of Christ is the test,
To try both your state and your scheme."
though we must not suppose that either of the two young men fully realized what the birthright meant. Still they knew that it carried with it a blessing from God. This Jacob greatly desired, whilst to Esau it signified practically nothing. He was willing to barter it for the transient satisfaction produced in a hungry man when he has devoured a good meal of pottage. The bargain was struck and thus Esau despised his birthright and lost it. But even on Jacob's side the deal was not a creditable one. It was a case of seeking a right thing in a wrong way. He did not get the blessing then. Later he did get it from his father, but he only got it from God when subsequently he was brought face to face with Him, as recorded in Genesis 32: 29.
In a word, Esau despised the spiritual and chose the material. Jacob desired the spiritual. The majority of the men of the world agree with Esau and follow Him. We Christians agree with Jacob in desiring the spiritual.