Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The First Romance

My religion students are reading the Old Testament this year, and they were very intrigued by the story of Isaac and Rebekah. It is as pure and beautiful as any love story, and the customs shown are truly remarkable.

As you may remember from reading the story, Isaac was coming of age to marry (about 4o) when Abraham decided to send his servant back to his kinsfolk to find a suitable wife for his son. The servant, after a long journey and much prayer, decides that he will wait by the well for the women to come and get water. The first with the generosity to give water to him and water his camels is the girl for his master's son, Isaac. So far, its interesting to note that the servant does not first seek out those with good connections, good families or with a hefty dowry. His first test is one of generosity, hospitality and - of course, beauty.

So, the servant waits and along comes Rebekah who readily offers to water the camels after serving the servant. The servant, in exchange, gives her a NOSE-RING (oh yes. Genesis 24:22 maybe he was worried that he couldn't get a ring size correct) and bangles and asks to stay with her family. When the family hears the tale, and the request for Rebekah to marry their kinsman's daughter (Rebekah was actually Sarah's niece) their response is: "This thing that comes from the Lord; we can say nothing to you either for or against it. Here is Rebekah, ready
for you."

This story gets even better. Of course, the servant gives abundant gifts of gold and silver to Rebekah, as well as to her mother and brother (interesting, no dowry from her side...) and they return to Abraham's house.

Here's the best part. Not only has God allowed the servant to find a generous woman for Isaac, but when the camel train approaches, Rebekah sees Isaac from afar - inquires about him, and immediately covers herself with her veil as a show of modesty. Isaac falls in love with her at first sight, and they live happily ever after. Someone pointed out to me once that this is the only marriage of the great patriarchs that is completely monogomous.

Strangely, Rebekah was working outside the home when she met with the servant. She needed to provide no dowry. And these two facts never detracted from her virtue.

Things that make you go "hmmm..."

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