After last week, the lectionary passage for Sunday is quite the relief. Abraham is not being a jerk. God is not giving any unreasonable commands. A woman gets to make her own, more or less autonomous choice about her future, which is a rarity in that time. Despite this being an arranged marriage, Isaac and Rebekah appear to like each other right from the outset. Isaac receives some comfort in the midst of his grief over his mother’s death.
There are many things I want to know about this narrative that the Bible does not tell me. How long was it between the binding of Isaac and Sarah’s death? How are things with Isaac and Abraham at this point? Why does this text see fit to tell me how many camels the servant took with him to Nahor, but not whether Isaac and Abraham are even speaking?
And to the lectionary decision makers, why have you given me the recounting of the events to Laban, instead of the story as it happens? And why have you chopped it up into bits and pieces and cut out some of the verses? I will not be taking your advice on Sunday.
Right now I am focusing on two parts of this passage. First, Rebekah’s unusual amount of autonomy. She offers a drink to the servant. She chooses to draw extra water for the camels. She extends the hospitality of her home. She makes the decision to travel to a far off land and marry a stranger, and to do so immediately, not in a number of days. She is named and she speaks, in a book full of anonymous and silent women.
Second, the comfort that is offered to Isaac through relationship. His relationships with his father and with God are tense, if not broken. His remaining good relationship, with his mother, comes to an end. But still there is comfort to be had in the midst of grief. Sometimes this comes through romantic partnership, as it does for Isaac; sometimes it comes through friendship, or other family, or a community. But the way that both God and Abraham try to repair the breach is to offer the comfort of relationship – if not with them, with another. God cares about our grief, our comfort, and our relationships with other people.
Preachers, where are you going with this text? Non-preachers, what questions or thoughts do you have about Isaac and Rebekah?