One of my favorite T.V. shows of all time was without a doubt Breaking Bad written by Vince Gilligan and staring Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul. Not only was the narrative fascinating and the cinematography beautiful, but the way the story was told was truly masterful.
While there are any number of things about this show I could discuss, for our purposes I want to highlight one specific technique Gilligan used throughout the show in order to speed up the narrative. Over the course of five seasons the Time Compression Montage became a signature of Breaking Bad often occurring at the beginning of an episode or season.
For those unfamiliar with this technique, Time Compression Montage is used to quickly show a specific time sequence, either in the life of a character or group of characters, covering a period of a few weeks or several months. What this technique allows the storyteller to do is fill in certain plot gaps in order to advance the story without dedicating a whole lot of time.
For example… There is a point in Breaking Bad where the main characters Walter White and Jesse Pinkman begin cooking meth in homes contracted out for extermination, but since the next major plot development doesn't happen until they’ve been at this job for a few months…
Instead of simply skipping over what this season of their lives looked like, Gilligan shows a quick, truncated version of those months by speeding up and splicing together footage of Walter and Jesse going about their daily routine in order to demonstrate how they eventually get into the situation when the story slows back down to the meat of the narrative.
Here’s why I bring this up… I can fully admit we haven’t exactly been working our way through Abraham’s life at a break-neck speed mainly because the subject matter we’ve been looking at is essential to the larger story Moses is telling. However, setting Genesis 22:1-19 aside (a story we looked at last week) the last few verses of Genesis 21, 22, and all of chapters 23 and 24 Moses uses this Time Compression Montage to move the story forward.
As such this morning, instead of unnecessarily slowing things down in order to dig deep into the text, because these sections are largely narrative-driven designed to transition the audience into new material we’re going to move through them as quickly as Moses intended.
Genesis 21:22-32, “And it came to pass at that time that Abimelech and Phichol, the commander of his army, spoke to Abraham, saying, ‘God is with you in all that you do. Now therefore, swear to me by God that you will not deal falsely with me, with my offspring, or with my posterity; but that according to the kindness that I have done to you, you will do to me and to the land in which you have dwelt.’
And Abraham said, ‘I will swear.’ Then Abraham rebuked Abimelech because of a well of water which Abimelech’s servants had seized (“violently taken away”). And Abimelech said, ‘I do not know who has done this thing; you did not tell me, nor had I heard of it until today.’ So Abraham took sheep and oxen and gave them to Abimelech, and the two of them made a covenant (the process was similar to the covenant God made with Ab in Genesis 15). And Abraham set seven ewe lambs of the flock by themselves.
Then Abimelech asked Abraham, ‘What is the meaning of these seven ewe lambs which you have set by themselves?’ And he said, ‘You will take these seven ewe lambs from my hand, that they may be my witness that I have dug this well.’ Therefore he called that place Beersheba, because the two of them swore an oath there (Beersheba literally means “the well of the sevenfold oath”).
Thus they made a covenant at Beersheba. So Abimelech rose with Phichol, the commander of his army, and they returned to the land of the Philistines. Then Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba (literally he planted a grove of trees), and there called on the name of the Lord, the Everlasting God (new name signifying His continuous existence). Abraham stayed in the land of the Philistines many days.” Note: While the word Philistine wasn’t in use in Abraham’s day, it was when Moses wrote.
For context this exchange between Abraham and Abimelech occurred sometime between the dismissal of Hagar and Ishmael (first half of Genesis 21) and the story of Abraham offering Isaac we looked at last Sunday (Genesis 22). Either way its been anywhere between 5 to 25 years since Abraham and Abimelech had their first interaction back in Genesis 20.
It’s with this in mind I believe there are two reasons this story was included by Moses into the Genesis record: First, in the macro sense, by explaining the origins of Beersheba and Ab’s treaty with Abimelech, Moses is establishing the legal southern border of the Promised Land. Note: In Genesis 14 he set the area of Dan as the northern boarder.
All throughout the Old Testament you will find the land God had given to the descendants of Abraham (Israel) described as being “from Dan to Beersheba.” Additionally, this treaty will become important in a later exchange that occurs between Isaac and Abimelech.
Secondly, in a more micro perspective, I’m convinced Moses includes this particular story to illustrate the fact that God can redeem even a tarnished reputation. Don’t forget Abraham hadn’t exactly been a great witness to Abimelech in their initial interaction. Abraham lied to him about being Sarah’s husband and then refused to own his mistake when confronted.
It really is amazing that Abimelech now concedes that “God was with Abraham in all that he did.” While the text doesn’t specifically say what happened to change his perspective, the truth is that God’s grace working through Abraham - over time - restored his reputation.
** Fast-forward through Genesis 22:1-19 **
Genesis 22:20-24, “Now it came to pass after these things that it was told Abraham, saying, ‘Indeed Milcah also has borne children to your brother Nahor: Huz his firstborn, Buz his brother, Kemuel the father of Aram, Chesed, Hazo, Pildash, Jidlaph, and Bethuel.’ And Bethuel begot Rebekah (Rebekah is the granddaughter of Abraham’s brother). These eight Milcah bore to Nahor, Abraham’s brother. His concubine, whose name was Reumah, also bore Tebah, Gaham, Thahash, and Maachah.” Note: The only point of this passage is to introduce us to Rebekah so we’ll continue on…
Genesis 23:1-2, “Sarah lived one hundred and twenty-seven years; these were the years of the life of Sarah. So Sarah died in Kirjath Arba (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan, and Abraham came to mourn for Sarah and to weep for her.”
It’s interesting that Sarah is the only woman in the Bible who’s age is recorded. My guess is when she got to heaven Sarah put an end to this practice. We’re told she died in “Hebron” which is also significant. The word literally means “fellowship.” Sarah, this great woman of faith, spent her final days in the land of promise and in the place of fellowship.
The text also indicates Abraham (for some unexplained reason) wasn’t with Sarah when she died implying she probably passed unexpectedly. We read upon word of her death “Abraham came to mourn and to weep for her.” Imagine what that must have been like!
Genesis 23:3-6, “Then Abraham stood up from before his dead, and spoke to the sons of Heth (local Canaanite leaders), saying, ‘I am a foreigner and a visitor among you. Give me property for a burial place among you, that I may bury my dead out of my sight.’ And the sons of Heth answered Abraham, saying to him, ‘Hear us, my lord: You are a mighty prince among us; bury your dead in the choicest of our burial places. None of us will withhold from you his burial place, that you may bury your dead.’”
Let me quickly explain what’s going to happen in this chapter… Abraham wants a specific piece of land to act as a burial ground for not just Sarah, but ultimately he along with his entire family. Though it appears the “sons of Heth” want to honor Abraham by giving him the land, what will take place is really nothing more than a normal Middle Eastern negotiation.
Genesis 23:7-20, “Then Abraham stood up and bowed himself to the people of the land, the sons of Heth. And he spoke with them, saying, ‘If it is your wish that I bury my dead out of my sight, hear me, and meet with Ephron the son of Zohar for me, that he may give me the cave of Machpelah which he has, which is at the end of his field. Let him give it to me at the full price, as property for a burial place among you.’
Now Ephron dwelt among the sons of Heth; and Ephron the Hittite answered Abraham in the presence of the sons of Heth, all who entered at the gate of his city, saying, ‘No, my lord, hear me: I give you the field and the cave that is in it; I give it to you in the presence of the sons of my people. I give it to you. Bury your dead!’ Then Abraham bowed himself down before the people of the land; and he spoke to Ephron in the hearing of the people of the land, saying, ‘If you will give it, please hear me. I will give you money for the field; take it from me and I will bury my dead there.’
And Ephron answered Abraham, saying to him, ‘My lord, listen to me; the land is worth four hundred shekels of silver. What is that between you and me? So bury your dead.’ And Abraham listened to Ephron; and Abraham weighed out the silver for Ephron which he had named in the hearing of the sons of Heth, four hundred shekels of silver, currency of the merchants.
So the field of Ephron which was in Machpelah, which was before Mamre, the field and the cave which was in it, and all the trees that were in the field, which were within all the surrounding borders, were deeded to Abraham as a possession in the presence of the sons of Heth, before all who went in at the gate of his city. And after this, Abraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field of Machpelah, before Mamre (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan. So the field and the cave that is in it were deeded to Abraham by the sons of Heth as property for a burial place.”
Once again, as to the overarching reason this story is included by Moses in the Genesis record, it was necessary to wrap up the story of Sarah, as well as explain the fact Abraham (and therefore his descendants) had a legal claim to this field in “Machpelah.”
Genesis 24:1, “Now Abraham was old, well advanced in age; and the Lord had blessed Abraham in all things. So Abraham said to the oldest servant of his house (Note: In Genesis 15:2 we’re told this servant was named Eliezer), who ruled over all that he had, ‘Please, put your hand under my thigh, and I will make you swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and the God of the earth, that you will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell; but you shall go to my country and to my family, and take a wife for my son Isaac.’”
Genesis 24:5, “And Eliezer said to Abraham, ‘Perhaps the woman will not be willing to follow me to this land. Must I take your son back to the land from which you came?’ But Abraham said to him, ‘Beware that you do not take my son back there. The Lord God of heaven, who took me from my father’s house and from the land of my family, and who spoke to me and swore to me, saying, ‘To your descendants I give this land,’ He will send His angel before you, and you shall take a wife for my son from there. And if the woman is not willing to follow you, then you will be released from this oath; only do not take my son back there.’ So Eliezer put his hand under the thigh of Abraham his master, and swore to him concerning this matter.”
Genesis 24:10, “Then Eliezer took ten of his master’s camels and departed, for all his master’s goods were in his hand. And he arose and went to Mesopotamia (Western Iraq along the Euphrates River), to the city of Nahor (founded by Abraham’s brother Nahor who’s granddaughter was Rebekah). And he made his camels kneel down outside the city by a well of water at evening time, the time when women go out to draw water.
Then he said (more accurately “he prayed”), ‘O Lord God of my master Abraham, please give me success this day, and show kindness to my master Abraham. Behold, here I stand by the well of water, and the daughters of the men of the city are coming out to draw water. Now let it be that the young woman to whom I say, ‘Please let down your pitcher that I may drink,’ and she says, ‘Drink, and I will also give your camels a drink’ - let her be the one You have appointed for Your servant Isaac. And by this I will know that You have shown kindness to my master.’”
Genesis 24:15, “And it happened, before he had finished speaking, that behold, Rebekah, who was born to Bethuel, son of Milcah, the wife of Nahor, Abraham’s brother, came out with her pitcher on her shoulder. Now the young woman was very beautiful to behold, a virgin; no man had known her. And she went down to the well, filled her pitcher, and came up. And Eliezer ran to meet her and said, ‘Please let me drink a little water from your pitcher.’
So Rebekah said, ‘Drink, my lord.’ Then she quickly let her pitcher down to her hand, and gave him a drink. And when she had finished giving him a drink, she said, ‘I will draw water for your camels also, until they have finished drinking.’ Then she quickly emptied her pitcher into the trough, ran back to the well to draw water, and drew for all his camels (10 camels who can drink 20g). And the man, wondering at her, remained silent so as to know whether the Lord had made his journey prosperous or not.”
Genesis 24:22, “So it was, when the camels had finished drinking, that Eliezer took a golden nose ring weighing half a shekel, and two bracelets for her wrists weighing ten shekels of gold, and said, ‘Whose daughter are you? Tell me, please, is there room in your father’s house for us to lodge?’ So Rebekah said to him, ‘I am the daughter of Bethuel, Milcah’s son, whom she bore to Nahor.’ Moreover she said to him, ‘We have both straw and feed enough, and room to lodge.’
Then Eliezer bowed down his head and worshiped the Lord. And he said, ‘Blessed be the Lord God of my master Abraham, who has not forsaken His mercy and His truth toward my master. As for me, being on the way, the Lord led me to the house of my master’s brethren.’ So Rebekah ran and told her mother’s household these things.”
Genesis 24:29, “Now Rebekah had a brother whose name was Laban, and Laban ran out to the man by the well. So it came to pass, when he saw the nose ring, and the bracelets on his sister’s wrists, and when he heard the words of his sister Rebekah, saying, ‘Thus the man spoke to me,’ that he went to the man. And there he stood by the camels at the well. And he said, ‘Come in, O blessed of the Lord! Why do you stand outside? For I have prepared the house, and a place for the camels.’
Then Eliezer came to the house. And Laban unloaded the camels, and provided straw and feed for the camels, and water to wash Eliezer’s feet and the feet of the men who were with him. Food was set before Eliezer to eat, but he said, ‘I will not eat until I have told about my errand.’ And Laban said, ‘Speak on.’
So Eliezer said, ‘I am Abraham’s servant. The Lord has blessed my master greatly, and he has become great; and He has given him flocks and herds, silver and gold, male and female servants, and camels and donkeys. And Sarah my master’s wife bore a son to my master when she was old; and to him he has given all that he has.
Now my master made me swear, saying, ‘You shall not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, in whose land I dwell; but you shall go to my father’s house and to my family, and take a wife for my son.’ And I said to my master, ‘Perhaps the woman will not follow me.’ But he said to me, ‘The Lord, before whom I walk, will send His angel with you and prosper your way; and you shall take a wife for my son from my family and from my father’s house. You will be clear from this oath when you arrive among my family; for if they will not give her to you, then you will be released from my oath.’
And this day I came to the well and said, ‘O Lord God of my master Abraham, if You will now prosper the way in which I go, behold, I stand by the well of water; and it shall come to pass that when the virgin comes out to draw water, and I say to her, ‘Please give me a little water from your pitcher to drink,’ and she says to me, ‘Drink, and I will draw for your camels also,’ - let her be the woman whom the Lord has appointed for my master’s son.’
But before I had finished speaking in my heart, there was Rebekah, coming out with her pitcher on her shoulder; and she went down to the well and drew water. And I said to her, ‘Please let me drink.’ And she made haste and let her pitcher down from her shoulder, and said, ‘Drink, and I will give your camels a drink also.’ So I drank, and she gave the camels a drink also. Then I asked her, and said, ‘Whose daughter are you?’
And she said, ‘The daughter of Bethuel, Nahor’s son, whom Milcah bore to him.’ So I put the nose ring on her nose and the bracelets on her wrists. And I bowed my head and worshiped the Lord, and blessed the Lord God of my master Abraham, who had led me in the way of truth to take the daughter of my master’s brother for his son. Now if you 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.”
Genesis 24:50, “Then Laban and Bethuel (Rebekah’s brother and father) answered and said, ‘The thing comes from the Lord; we cannot speak to you either bad or good. Here is Rebekah before you; take her and go, and let her be your master’s son’s wife, as the Lord has spoken.’ And it came to pass, when Eliezer heard their words, that he worshiped the Lord, bowing himself to the earth. Then he brought out jewelry of silver, jewelry of gold, and clothing, and gave them to Rebekah. He also gave precious things to her brother and to her mother.
And Eliezer and the men who were with him ate and drank and stayed all night. Then they arose in the morning, and he said, ‘Send me away to my master.’ But her brother and her mother said, ‘Let the young woman stay with us a few days, at least ten; after that she may go.’ And Eliezer said to them, ‘Do not hinder me, since the Lord has prospered my way; send me away so that I may go to my master.’ So they said, ‘We will call the young woman and ask her personally.’ Then they called Rebekah and said to her, ‘Will you go with this man?’ And she said, ‘I will go.’”
Genesis 24:59, “So they sent away Rebekah their sister and her nurse, and Abraham’s servant and his men. And they blessed Rebekah and said to her: ‘Our sister, may you become the mother of thousands of ten thousands; and may your descendants possess the gates of those who hate them.’ Then Rebekah and her maids arose, and they rode on the camels and followed the man. So Eliezer took Rebekah and departed. Note: This would have been a 500 mile journey that would have taken around 2 months.
Now Isaac came from the way of Beer Lahai Roi, for he dwelt in the South. And Isaac went out to meditate in the field in the evening (“meditate” or “suwach” in the Hebrew means to “commune” or “muse” - this is the only time this particular word is used in the Bible); and he lifted his eyes and looked, and there, the camels were coming.
Then Rebekah lifted her eyes, and when she saw Isaac she dismounted from her camel; for she had said to the servant, ‘Who is this man walking in the field to meet us?’ The servant said, ‘It is my master.’ So she took a veil and covered herself.” (In the Hebrew the idea behind “dismounted” is that when Rebekah found out the man approaching was Isaac she immediately went to cover herself and ended up falling off her camel.)
And Eliezer told Isaac all the things that he had done. Then Isaac brought Rebekah into his mother Sarah’s tent; and he took Rebekah and she became his wife, and he loved her. So Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.”
As we seek to wrap up this section with the few minutes we have left I want to begin by looking at the typological nature of this story before we address the practical. First, it’s important you keep in mind the context by which this story begins. The last time we’ve seen Isaac his father Abraham had taken him up to Mt. Moriah to offer him as a sacrifice.
And while God stayed Abraham’s hand and provided a ram in Isaac’s place, we noted last Sunday how this entire story was a picture of the ultimate Father offering His only Son Jesus on that exact same mountain to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.
What’s interesting is that this story in Genesis 22 ends with Abraham returning alone without Isaac. In a sense Isaac completely disappears from the narrative not to be physically seen again until the very end of Genesis 24 when he comes out to receive his bride Rebekah.
Also consider that while Isaac has been off the scene it was the heart of his father Abraham intent on securing a bride for his son. In order to do this Father Abraham didn’t go to fulfill the task himself, but instead sent a trusted servant by the name of Eliezer to find a bride for Isaac. Note: “Eliezer” literally means “God is help” or simply “The Helper.”
How interesting it was Eliezer who not only went to call out a bride for Isaac, but was the one entrusted by the father to care for her until she could be presented to the groom. In the process it was Eliezer (not the father or son) who met, chose, called, and cared for the bride as they both embarked on a long journey that ultimately end with her presentation to the son.
Consider the overarching picture… After Jesus was sacrificed on Moriah He also physically leaves the scene while His Father sends into the world a Helper (the Holy Spirit) charged with the task of calling out a bride for His Son. Note: Paul builds on this imagery of the church being the “bride of Christ” in Ephesians 5.
And while we, as His chosen bride, continue upon this long journey that will ultimately end with Jesus coming out of heaven to receive us unto Himself, it is still the job of the Holy Spirit to care for the bride in the meantime. The Spirit’s job in this world is to call out a bride, care for that bride by giving her gifts, and in the end safely bring her to Jesus!
And yet, it should also be pointed out that, as illustrated by Rebekah, while the Father sent the Spirit - the Son eagerly waits for the arrival of His bride - and the Spirit is tasked with making the appeal… You to are left with a choice… “Will you go?”
Rebekah had been called by Eliezer with the appeal that their was awaiting for her a groom that would provide her an entirely new life; and yet, the only way she’d enjoy this calling and all the wonderful things that would come with it would be for her to say, “I will go!” This young women demonstrated amazing faith in that she was willing to begin a journey to a groom she’d never seen. And like Rebekah, the Spirit invites you to do the same. Are you willing?
Aside from this let’s close by looking at two practical lessons from this story: First, Eliezer had been given a task that took him into the unknown. He’d been charged to find a women God had appointed for Isaac to marry. It was like looking for a needle in a haystack. With this in mind, though critical Eliezer be led by the Lord how was he to do this?
Initially, it’s true Eliezer concocted a test based upon providential circumstances in order to decipher the will of God. That said… Please understand this is not always a wise approach. To this point Pastor David Guzik wrote, “Generally speaking, circumstances alone can be a dangerous way to discern God’s will. We have a way of ignoring circumstances that speak against our desired outcome or we attribute those circumstances to the devil.”
Aside from this notion, there were two additional components to Eliezer fulfilling the will of God we should be mindful of… First and foremost, he prayed. When it was all said and done Eliezer communicated to the Lord a sincere desire to be led by the Lord and do His will. But secondly, it’s also important to point out aside from praying, Eliezer acted. In verse 27 he said, “As for me, being on the way, the Lord led me to the house of my master’s brethren.”
Though uncertain where to go or even what to do, Eliezer trusted the Lord enough to remain active. He traveled to Haran, found a well, after seeing Rebekah; approached her, asked to stay at her house, spoke with her father and brother, etc. Concerning following God, always keep in mind it’s a whole lot harder to steer a parked car than one on the move.
Aside from the practical lesson of walking in God’s will, there is also a lesson from this story pertaining to finding a spouse… DON’T! While it’s true our culture is radically different from theirs, it’s important to point out neither Isaac or Rebekah were actively looking for a mate!
Instead, they were both focused on serving the Lord completely content with the life God had given them. Understand, their connection took place for only one reason… The father had determined the time was right and the Spirit did the work of bringing them together.
It’s amazing, but there was no doubting and no wrestling. When the opportunity came along her path Rebekah simply recognized God’s hand and was willing to submit to His will. And what was Isaac doing… He was in a field spending time with the Lord. You see Isaac and Rebekah had a successful marriage for one reason - The Spirit was in it and behind it!
Finally… I also want to point out that both Rebekah and Isaac were sensitive enough to the Spirit’s leading that when He moved they followed. Rebekah was so confident God was behind this that she didn’t hesitate to jump at the chance to embark on an exciting journey.
Beyond this… There is wisdom to the fact that when God did bring a virtuous women along Isaac’s path he didn’t drag his feet marrying her. Fella’s, let me give you three easy criteria for a wife: (1) Is she Godly? (2) Are you attracted to her? And (3) Is she interested in you? If you can honestly say yes to all three, then I suggest you marry her!
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