Calvary Road Baptist Church

“REBEKAH’S ‘CONVERSION’”

Genesis 24

 

Let me introduce you to a specialized method of prophetic scripture known as a type. “A type may properly be defined as a person, institution, or event in the old dispensation which was designed to prefigure a corresponding person, institution, or event in the New.”[1] Understood in this way, a type is seen to be much more than a coincidence, much more than an accident, and much more than a similarity to a person, institution, or event that follows in the New Testament. A type is properly understood to be an intentional historical foreshadowing, a providential preliminary glimpse of something profoundly significant. Here is a theological definition of typology:

 

Differing from a symbol or an allegory, a typology is a representation of an actual, historical reference. According to Christian exegesis, biblical typology deals with the parallels between actual, historical (usually OT) figures or events in salvation history and their later, analogous fulfillment. Often NT events and figures are typologically understood and interpreted according to an OT pattern (e.g., creation and the new creation, Adam and Christ, the exodus and NT concepts of salvation). On this basis typology became one of the four prevalent ways (together with the literal, the analogical and the spiritual) of interpreting Scripture in the Middle Ages.[2]

 

With a handle on what a type is in the Bible, please turn to Genesis chapter 24, a portion of scripture that is rich in typology.

This chapter records a number of types, ancient people, and events that God placed in gospel history to bear striking resemblances for the purpose of illustrating vital gospel truths. As we read, look for these types: Abraham is a type of God the Father. The unnamed servant is a type of the Holy Spirit of God. Isaac is a type of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Rebekah is a type of the Bride of Christ. Consider the whole story that unfolds in Genesis chapter 24 as a prefigurement of what happens when someone becomes a Christian:

 

1      And Abraham was old, and well stricken in age: and the LORD had blessed Abraham in all things.

2      And Abraham said unto his eldest servant of his house, that ruled over all that he had, Put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh:

3      And I will make thee swear by the LORD, the God of heaven, and the God of the earth, that thou shalt not take a wife unto my son of the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell:

4      But thou shalt go unto my country, and to my kindred, and take a wife unto my son Isaac.

5      And the servant said unto him, Peradventure the woman will not be willing to follow me unto this land: must I needs bring thy son again unto the land from whence thou camest?

6      And Abraham said unto him, Beware thou that thou bring not my son thither again.

7      The LORD God of heaven, which took me from my father’s house, and from the land of my kindred, and which spake unto me, and that sware unto me, saying, Unto thy seed will I give this land; he shall send his angel before thee, and thou shalt take a wife unto my son from thence.

8      And if the woman will not be willing to follow thee, then thou shalt be clear from this my oath: only bring not my son thither again.

9      And the servant put his hand under the thigh of Abraham his master, and sware to him concerning that matter.

10     And the servant took ten camels of the camels of his master, and departed; for all the goods of his master were in his hand: and he arose, and went to Mesopotamia, unto the city of Nahor.

11     And he made his camels to kneel down without the city by a well of water at the time of the evening, even the time that women go out to draw water.

12     And he said, O LORD God of my master Abraham, I pray thee, send me good speed this day, and shew kindness unto my master Abraham.

13     Behold, I stand here by the well of water; and the daughters of the men of the city come out to draw water:

14     And let it come to pass, that the damsel to whom I shall say, Let down thy pitcher, I pray thee, that I may drink; and she shall say, Drink, and I will give thy camels drink also: let the same be she that thou hast appointed for thy servant Isaac; and thereby shall I know that thou hast shewed kindness unto my master.

15     And it came to pass, before he had done speaking, that, behold, Rebekah came out, who was born to Bethuel, son of Milcah, the wife of Nahor, Abraham’s brother, with her pitcher upon her shoulder.

16     And the damsel was very fair to look upon, a virgin, neither had any man known her: and she went down to the well, and filled her pitcher, and came up.

17     And the servant ran to meet her, and said, Let me, I pray thee, drink a little water of thy pitcher.

18     And she said, Drink, my lord: and she hasted, and let down her pitcher upon her hand, and gave him drink.

19     And when she had done giving him drink, she said, I will draw water for thy camels also, until they have done drinking.

20     And she hasted, and emptied her pitcher into the trough, and ran again unto the well to draw water, and drew for all his camels.

21     And the man wondering at her held his peace, to wit whether the LORD had made his journey prosperous or not.

22     And it came to pass, as the camels had done drinking, that the man took a golden earring of half a shekel weight, and two bracelets for her hands of ten shekels weight of gold;

23     And said, Whose daughter art thou? tell me, I pray thee: is there room in thy father’s house for us to lodge in?

24     And she said unto him, I am the daughter of Bethuel the son of Milcah, which she bare unto Nahor.

25     She said moreover unto him, We have both straw and provender enough, and room to lodge in.

26     And the man bowed down his head, and worshipped the LORD.

27     And he said, Blessed be the LORD God of my master Abraham, who hath not left destitute my master of his mercy and his truth: I being in the way, the LORD led me to the house of my master’s brethren.

28     And the damsel ran, and told them of her mother’s house these things.

29     And Rebekah had a brother, and his name was Laban: and Laban ran out unto the man, unto the well.

30     And it came to pass, when he saw the earring and bracelets upon his sister’s hands, and when he heard the words of Rebekah his sister, saying, Thus spake the man unto me; that he came unto the man; and, behold, he stood by the camels at the well.

31     And he said, Come in, thou blessed of the LORD; wherefore standest thou without? for I have prepared the house, and room for the camels.

32     And the man came into the house: and he ungirded his camels, and gave straw and provender for the camels, and water to wash his feet, and the men’s feet that were with him.

33     And there was set meat before him to eat: but he said, I will not eat, until I have told mine errand. And he said, Speak on.

34     And he said, I am Abraham’s servant.

35     And the LORD hath blessed my master greatly; and he is become great: and he hath given him flocks, and herds, and silver, and gold, and menservants, and maidservants, and camels, and asses.

36     And Sarah my master’s wife bare a son to my master when she was old: and unto him hath he given all that he hath.

37     And my master made me swear, saying, Thou shalt not take a wife to my son of the daughters of the Canaanites, in whose land I dwell:

38     But thou shalt go unto my father’s house, and to my kindred, and take a wife unto my son.

39     And I said unto my master, Peradventure the woman will not follow me.

40     And he said unto me, The LORD, before whom I walk, will send his angel with thee, and prosper thy way; and thou shalt take a wife for my son of my kindred, and of my father’s house:

41     Then shalt thou be clear from this my oath, when thou comest to my kindred; and if they give not thee one, thou shalt be clear from my oath.

42     And I came this day unto the well, and said, O LORD God of my master Abraham, if now thou do prosper my way which I go:

43     Behold, I stand by the well of water; and it shall come to pass, that when the virgin cometh forth to draw water, and I say to her, Give me, I pray thee, a little water of thy pitcher to drink;

44     And she say to me, Both drink thou, and I will also draw for thy camels: let the same be the woman whom the LORD hath appointed out for my master’s son.

45     And before I had done speaking in mine heart, behold, Rebekah came forth with her pitcher on her shoulder; and she went down unto the well, and drew water: and I said unto her, Let me drink, I pray thee.

46     And she made haste, and let down her pitcher from her shoulder, and said, Drink, and I will give thy camels drink also: so I drank, and she made the camels drink also.

47     And I asked her, and said, Whose daughter art thou? And she said, The daughter of Bethuel, Nahor’s son, whom Milcah bare unto him: and I put the earring upon her face, and the bracelets upon her hands.

48     And I bowed down my head, and worshipped the LORD, and blessed the LORD God of my master Abraham, which had led me in the right way to take my master’s brother’s daughter unto his son.

49     And now if ye will deal kindly 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 Bethuel answered and said, The thing proceedeth from the LORD: we cannot speak unto thee bad or good.

51     Behold, Rebekah is before thee, take her, and go, and let her be thy master’s son’s wife, as the LORD hath spoken.

52     And it came to pass, that, when Abraham’s servant heard their words, he worshipped the LORD, bowing himself to the earth.

53     And the servant brought forth jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment, and gave them to Rebekah: he gave also to her brother and to her mother precious things.

54     And they did eat and drink, he and the men that were with him, and tarried all night; and they rose up in the morning, and he said, Send me away unto my master.

55     And her brother and her mother said, Let the damsel abide with us a few days, at the least ten; after that she shall go.

56     And he said unto them, Hinder me not, seeing the LORD hath prospered my way; send me away that I may go to my master.

57     And they said, We will call the damsel, and enquire at her mouth.

58     And they called Rebekah, and said unto her, Wilt thou go with this man? And she said, I will go.

59     And they sent away Rebekah their sister, and her nurse, and Abraham’s servant, and his men.

60     And they blessed Rebekah, and said unto her, Thou art our sister, be thou the mother of thousands of millions, and let thy seed possess the gate of those which hate them.

61     And Rebekah arose, and her damsels, and they rode upon the camels, and followed the man: and the servant took Rebekah, and went his way.

62     And Isaac came from the way of the well Lahairoi; for he dwelt in the south country.

63     And Isaac went out to meditate in the field at the eventide: and he lifted up his eyes, and saw, and, behold, the camels were coming.

64     And Rebekah lifted up her eyes, and when she saw Isaac, she lighted off the camel.

65     For she had said unto the servant, What man is this that walketh in the field to meet us? And the servant had said, It is my master: therefore she took a vail, and covered herself.

66     And the servant told Isaac all things that he had done.

67     And Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent, and took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her: and Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.

 

Were you able to see the romance of redemption in Genesis chapter 24? Did you see the glorious gospel foreshadowed approaching 4,000 years ago, some 18 centuries before the birth of Christ?

Walk through the chapter with me once more, considering each of the personalities and the events as they unfold:

 

First, WE SEE ABRAHAM, A WONDERFUL TYPE OF GOD THE FATHER

 

How is Abraham like God the Father? He is like God the Father in a number of ways:

First, Abraham is like God the Father in offering his beloved son. You remember how much Abraham loved his son, Isaac. He loved him so much that God used Isaac as a display of Abraham’s faith by commanding him to offer Isaac as a sacrifice. We saw that back in Genesis 22.2, where God describes him to Abraham as “Isaac, whom thou lovest.” As Abraham, the type, offered his son Isaac, so God the Father, in fulfillment of the type on Calvary’s cross, actually did offer His Son, Jesus Christ.

Next, Abraham is like God the Father in seeking a bride for His Son. I will touch on this more fully in a few moments, but consider God’s great motive for obtaining a bride for the Lord Jesus Christ. Do you think Abraham’s love for Isaac has diminished with the passing of his mother, Sarah? Or, do you think his love for his son is now more keenly felt?

Finally, Abraham is like God the Father in sending His unnamed Spirit to fetch a bride for His Son. We frequently think about God sending His only begotten Son to die on the cross to provide for the salvation of sinners, but keep in mind that the Holy Spirit was also sent forth among men after the Savior ascended to the Father’s right hand on high, to call out for God’s Son those who would comprise the bride of Christ. The sending forth of the unnamed servant, then, predicts the sending of the Holy Spirit to deal with men’s hearts and to persuade them to embrace Jesus Christ as their savior, making them part of that company of church age Christians we know to be the bride of Christ.

 

Next, WE SEE ISAAC AS A WONDERFUL TYPE OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST

 

Isaac may be the most obvious type of Christ found in the entire Bible. He was the miracle child given by God to Abraham and Sarah in their old age, whose birth was predicted. When he had grown, he went through a death and resurrection type of experience, when Abraham offered him in accordance with God’s command, and would have slain him in obedience to God’s directive had God not intervened at the last moment.

A picture of our Savior in so many ways, Isaac’s bride was to be called out from the land of her birth, just as the bride of Christ is comprised of a people called out from this wicked world. He was the heir of his father, just as the Lord Jesus Christ is the heir of His heavenly Father.

Finally, notice that as Isaac did not go forth to secure for himself a bride, so the Lord Jesus Christ does not go forth to secure for Himself His bride. As Isaac’s bride was brought to Him, so the Lord Jesus Christ’s bride is comprised of those who are brought to Him by the convicting, and the convincing, and the wooing of the Spirit of God. “Come unto me,” are the words those who comprise the bride of Christ have responded to.

 

Third, WE SEE THE UNNAMED SERVANT AS A TYPE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT OF GOD

 

This is perhaps the clearest and most easily recognizable type found in this chapter of God’s Word.

Why is the eldest servant in Abraham’s house not named, especially since he was the servant that ruled over all that Abraham had? We suspect that he is elsewhere identified as Eleazar of Damascus, though he is not named here. Why not? Because this unnamed servant typifies the Holy Spirit, that’s why.

Consider, in addition to the absence of a name, just like the Holy Spirit, which is His description and not His name, that he was dispatched on an important mission by the father, that his task was to secure a bride not presently known by the father’s son, and that he needed to secure a bride who was willing to embrace as her own one she had never before seen.

From verse 8, we are reminded that this as yet unknown bride must be willing. So, the unnamed servant travels a great distance, to a foreign land, and encounters the prospective bride. He does not overrule her will, but employs gentle persuasion. How like the Holy Spirit’s work in the life of a sinner.

The unnamed servant gave her tokens of his goodwill, a golden earring and bracelets, just as the Holy Spirit oftentimes blesses those who listen to gospel preaching with a bit of order added to their previously chaotic lives, and with other tokens that bespeak the untold riches that are at his disposal. Thankfully, this prospective bride was not immediately satisfied with these small tokens, as are so many these days who respond a little to the ministry of the Holy Spirit and then falsely conclude they are thereby truly converted. This young woman is not yet a bride, for the unnamed servant has just begun his important work.

Beginning with verse 23, he asks questions, probing in a manner not unlike the Holy Spirit’s heart work, to discover the sinner’s situation to him. He was not willing to eat the food set before him, verse 33, because his mission was urgent. How like the Holy Spirit to want to deal with sinners now, and how like sinners to want the Holy Spirit to deal with them later. We can be thankful this young woman and her family bowed to the will of the unnamed servant to listen straightway.

When allowed to speak, he identified himself as Abraham’s servant, a great master with flocks, livestock, servants, and enormous wealth. How like the Holy Spirit this is, to brag on the greatness and majesty of God the Father. Then the servant spoke of his master’s son, Isaac. He bragged on him, and extolled his virtues, pointing out that he was his master’s heir, portraying him as a glorious and very suitable bride groom. The Holy Spirit does the very same. In John 16.15, Jesus said about the Holy Spirit, “He shall glorify me.”

The unnamed servant, so much like the Holy Spirit, seeks to persuade the prospective bride to consent to be joined to a groom not yet seen, relying on the witness and testimony of another to alter the course of her whole life. Keep in mind that this girl will never again see her family if she consents. She will leave the only home she has ever known, becoming as much a stranger and a pilgrim in a foreign land as her prospective husband and his father are.

The servant’s task is so pressing. He therefore urges an immediate decision. Her father cannot decide for her. Her mother cannot decide for her. Her brother cannot decide for her. The unnamed servant will not impose his will upon hers, though he legitimately makes use of everything at his disposal to persuade her to embrace as her own his master’s son.

 

Fourth, WE SEE REBEKAH AS A TYPE OF THE BRIDE OF CHRIST

 

Notice the progress of Rebekah throughout Genesis 24, with so many similarities Christians can identify with in our own experiences.

The unnamed servant pleads his case to Rebekah and her family from verse 34, where he begins by saying “I am Abraham’s servant,” onward to their consent in verse 51, “Behold, Rebekah is before thee, take her, and go.” Sounds fine, doesn’t it? However, notice what Rebekah’s brother and mother say the next morning, in verse 55: “Let the damsel abide with us a few days, at the least ten; after that she shall go.” So frequently, family members who have no objection to you becoming a Christian, have many objections to you actually living for Christ.

Rebekah is now faced with a challenge. Does she yield to the guidance and prompting of the unnamed servant, or does she bow to the wishes of her family members? Does the Christian go on in the Christian life, or does the Christian embrace Christ without progress toward Him. The dilemma Rebekah faces is very much like the perplexing problems every Christian faces. Do I bow to the wishes of the familiar faces of family and longtime friends, or do I move ahead in my Christian life to do those things which are pleasing to my savior? This reminds me of First Peter 1.8, where Peter describes his reader’s attitudes toward the Savior: “Whom having not seen, ye love.” When it finally came time to make the decision about the course of her life, verse 58, “. . . they called Rebekah, and said unto her, Wilt thou go with this man? And she said, I will go.”

Nothing is told to us of their journey back to Abraham and Isaac, which took several months over many hundreds of miles. However, her journey with the unnamed servant had to parallel the Christian life in so many ways. The Spirit of God woos and persuades. The sinner responds, and the Christian life begins. Now imagine Rebekah talking to the unnamed servant day after day during their journey, asking him question after question about her future groom, gradually learning to love more fully this one she has never seen, growing more and more eager for the day she longs for, when she will finally be presented to the one she has forsaken all others for.

Then comes the day. Isaac first saw her at a distance. She then saw him at a distance, and when asked, the servant identified the far off figure as “My master,” a fitting title for his master’s heir. At last the long and tiring journey has come to an end. Therefore, in preparation for their first face to face meeting, Rebekah “took a vail, and covered herself.”

Leupold informs us that this was more than what we would normally think of as a veil, being much larger, and “used to wrap around both face and body. The covering in this instance is a sign of modesty and respect. Rebekah may be courageous, but she is not marked by unseemly boldness.”[3] Sarna points out that veils were exceptions in the Middle East, where wives generally went about unveiled. “There is evidence, however, that the veiling of the bride was part of the marriage ceremony.”[4]

Rebekah’s betrothal to Isaac under the watchful eye of the unnamed servant parallels the Christian’s conversion experience. Her long journey with the unnamed servant to be united in marriage to Isaac speaks of the Christian’s life, in which we learn more about the One we anticipate meeting face to face. The Rapture is anticipated with Rebekah’s face to face meeting with her beloved, where Isaac “took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her,” verse 67.

 

Do you see the old, old story in this account of Abraham, his unnamed servant, his beloved son Isaac, and the bride Rebekah? I do. It is a story of love, of persuasion making use of wonderful truth, of faith in response to evidence of things not seen, of courageous commitment, and ultimately of the fulfillment of her hope. It really is the gospel story told in the unfolding of real people’s lives.

If you were to wonder where in this love story the life of a Christian in this auditorium can be found, the answer is quite simple. Take a Christian, any Christian. One truly born again was once approached by the Holy Spirit of God as He was dispatched by the heavenly Father to prepare the bride of Christ. Bragging on God the Father and extolling the virtues of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Spirit persuaded the object of God’s affections to exercise faith in One never before seen, relying on the witness of the Spirit of God.

With that faith in Christ, the new Christian’s life journey under the tutelage of the Holy Spirit was undertaken. My journey began on March 31, 1974. Whenever your journey began when you were converted, you and I are now in a position much like Rebekah’s journey across the desert on camels. We have never seen the One we long for, but through Bible study and prayer, we seek to know more about Him from the Holy Spirit of God who accompanies us.

Someday in our journey, we hope sooner than later, we shall meet Him face to face. He will see us and we shall see Him, and He shall take us to become His wife, and He will love us. He will quickly take us away from here, and things will never be the same. Of course, this love story we find in Genesis 24 is a type that falls far short of the reality it prophetically points to, since Isaac did not suffer and bleed and die on a cross in order to win his bride. However, my savior, who Isaac foreshadows, “shall see of the travail of His soul and shall be satisfied.”

Though the unnamed servant of Abraham was dispatched to secure one woman to be Isaac’s wife, reality departs from the type when you understand that the Spirit of God is still being sent forth by the Father to secure numerous people to become a part of the bride of Christ. It happens when the Spirit of God deals with you, convicts you, persuades you, shows you your lost condition and then points you to the glorious Savior. If you will trust this One the Spirit seeks to exalt to you, He will then travel with you through your Christian life to safely deliver you to His presence, where you will then see Him face to face.



[1] John R. Sampey, Syllabus for Old Testament Study (Nashville, Tenn.: Southern Baptist Sunday School Board, 1924), p. 266, cited in Russell Bradley Jones, A Survey of the Old and New Testaments, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1957), page 89.

[2] Stanley J. Grenz, David Guretzki & Cherith Fee Nordling, Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms, (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1999), page 117.

[3] H. C. Leupold, Exposition Of Genesis, Vol II, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1942), pages 685-686.

[4] See footnote on Genesis 24.65 in Nahum M. Sarna, The JPS Torah Commentary - Genesis, (Philadelphia, PA: The Jewish Publication Society, 1989), page 170.

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