Abraham set his affairs in order

Abraham, weary from years of desert wandering, took steps to secure a worthy wife for his son Isaac.
Sometime after Abraham buried his beloved wife and friend beneath the restless sands of Canaan, he became aware that the sands of time were running out on him too. The need to secure a wife for Isaac became a pressing priority. He had to ensure the preservation of his seed and the continuance of his great covenantal inheritance.

His inheritance demanded careful stewardship. Even at that late stage of his amazing journey, Abraham could have faltered, but he was far too determined to let anything slip.

Isaac needed a wife and Abraham’s last act in this life would involve the betrothal of his son to a woman worthy of that great blessing. In this, Abraham displayed enormous respect for the value of a woman, as mother and wife, something that has been somewhat lost to the Aramaic nations of the present age.

The old man knew the immense role a woman would play in raising his grandchildren, whilst supporting Isaac and holding him true to his heritage – after all he had walked most of his life with a profoundly noble woman who had made such a difference in the way things had turned out for him and Isaac.

Thus Abraham took great care to find a woman capable of stewarding their priceless heritage – time vindicated his actions, for she would ultimately play the telling role in avoiding a travesty of Isaac’s poor judgment, by ensuring that the blessing transferred to their more worthy heir, Jacob.

Perhaps Abraham took the trouble to secure a strong woman out of wariness for some unspoken weakness in Isaac, but in all fairness Isaac had to hold his ground as a solitary individual in a cultural wilderness of many competing influences. Rebekah’s intervention reflected the perspective that a wife should bring to a marriage in times of ambiguity.

Abraham reflects just how high a price he had paid to come as far as he had, by asking his servant, Eliezer, to go and find a wife for Isaac whilst making sure not to take his son back to his homeland and the gods thereof. He did not lightly entrust that burden to Eliezer. He bound him to a solemn oath that required his loyal servant to place his hand under Abraham’s thigh (a euphemism for touching his genitalia). Although such an oath was common practice, its symbolism related to the entrusting of an old man’s legacy to a trusted servant (it was enacted by Abraham in Genesis 24:2 and by Jacob in Genesis 47:29, with both accounts providing a pattern for valid interpretation).

His reasons for wanting a wife drawn from his ancestral home also reflected specific values. His people were the Semitic descendants of Noah. We read in Genesis 22:20-24, that Nahor, his brother, who had remained behind in the Chaldees, had produced twelve sons by his wife Milcah and a further eight sons through his concubine. The twelve sons of Nahor were to become twelve fathers of Aramaic tribes, just as Jacob would ultimately father the twelve tribes of Israel.

So there was a racial and a strategic consideration behind Abraham’s instructions to find a wife for Isaac in his brother’s house. Thus the sons of Shem (Semites) remain a distinct race to this day. They were Abraham’s only countrymen and he was careful not to cross-breed into other cultures. There could not have been a spiritual reason, for the peoples of Mesopotamia were no less pagan than the Canaanites. The reason had to be racial and related to the instinct for preservation that was later ingrained into Jewish culture.

© Peter Eleazar at

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