Chapter 16

1. NOW when Abraham, the father of Isaac, had resolved to take Rebeka, who was grand-daughter to his brother Nahor, for a wife to his son Isaac, who was then about forty years old, he sent the ancientest of his servants to betroth her, after he had obliged him to give him the strongest assurances of his fidelity; which assurances were given after the manner following : - They put each other's hands under each other's thighs; then they called upon God as the witness of what was to be done. He also sent such presents to those that were there as were in esteem, on account that that they either rarely or never were seen in that country, The servant got thither not under a considerable time; for it requires much time to pass through Meopotamia, in which it is tedious traveling, both in the winter for the depth of the clay, and in summer for want of water; and, besides this, for the robberies there committed, which are not to be avoided by travelers but by caution beforehand. However, the servant came to Haran; and when he was in the suburbs, he met a considerable number of maidens going to the water; he therefore prayed to God that Rebeka might be found among them, or her whom Abraham sent him as his servant to espouse to his son, in case his will were that this marriage should be consummated, and that she might be made known to him by the sign, That while others denied him water to drink, she might give it him.

2. With this intention he went to the well, and desired the maidens to give him some water to drink: but while the others refused, on pretense that they wanted it all at home, and could spare none for him, one only of the company rebuked them for their peevish behavior towards the stranger; and said, What is there that you will ever communicate to anybody, who have not so much as given the man some water? She then offered him water in an obliging manner. And now he began to hope that his grand affair would succeed; but desiring still to know the truth, he commended her for her generosity and good nature, that she did not scruple to afford a sufficiency of water to those that wanted it, though it cost her some pains to draw it; and asked who were her parents, and wished them joy of such a daughter. "And mayst thou be espoused," said he, "to their satisfaction, into the family of an agreeable husband, and bring him legitimate children." Nor did she disdain to satisfy his inquiries, but told him her family. "They," says she, "call me Rebeka; my father was Bethuel, but he is dead; and Laban is my brother; and, together with my mother, takes care of all our family affairs, and is the guardian of my virginity." When the servant heard this, he was very glad at what had happened, and at what was told him, as perceiving that God had thus plainly directed his journey; and producing his bracelets, and some other ornaments which it was esteemed decent for virgins to wear, he gave them to the damsel, by way of acknowledgment, and as a reward for her kindness in giving him water to drink; saying, it was but just that she should have them, because she was so much more obliging than any of the rest. She desired also that he would come and lodge with them, since the approach of the night gave him not time to proceed farther. And producing his precious ornaments for women, he said he desired to trust them to none more safely than to such as she had shown herself to be; and that he believed he might guess at the humanity of her mother and brother, that they would not be displeased, from the virtue he found in her; for he would not be burdensome, but would pay the hire for his entertainment, and spend his own money. To which she replied, that he guessed right as to the humanity of her parents; but complained that he should think them so parsimonious as to take money, for that he should have all on free cost. But she said she would first inform her brother Laban, and, if he gave her leave, she would conduct him in.

3. As soon then as this was over, she introduced the stranger; and for the camels, the servants of Laban brought them in, and took care of them; and he was himself brought in to supper by Laban. And, after supper, he says to him, and to the mother of the damsel, addressing himself to her, "Abraham is the son of Terah, and a kinsman of yours; for Nahor, the grandfather of these children, was the brother of Abraham, by both father and mother; upon which account he hath sent me to you, being desirous to take this damsel for his son to wife. He is his legitimate son, and is brought up as his only heir. He could indeed have had the most happy of all the women in that country for him, but he would not have his son marry any of them; but, out of regard to his own relations, he desired him to match here, whose affection and inclination I would not have you despise; for it was by the good pleasure of God that other accidents fell out in my journey, and that thereby I lighted upon your daughter and your house; for when I was near to the city, I saw a great many maidens coming to a well, and I prayed that I might meet with this damsel, which has come to pass accordingly. Do you therefore confirm that marriage, whose espousals have been already made by a Divine appearance; and show the respect you have for Abraham, who hath sent me with so much solicitude, in giving your consent to the marriage of this damsel." Upon this they understood it to be the will of God, and greatly approved of the offer, and sent their daughter, as was desired. Accordingly Isaac married her, the inheritance being now come to him; for the children by Keturah were gone to their own remote habitations.