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B'resheet/Genesis 24:58 And they called to Rivkah and they said to her. "Will you go with this man?" And she said, "I will go."
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Commentators suggest that this is the climax or high point of the whole narrative block known as the wooing of Rivkah. But before we look at that in detail, let's set the backdrop for how we arrived at this point. The chapter starts with Avraham sending his most senior servant under oath back to the land of his birth to get a wife for Yitz'khak his son. The servant goes, "taking with him all the bounty of his master" (B'resheet 24:10, NJPS) and on arrival in Aram-naharaim prays that the girl ofHaShem's choice will offer both him and his camels water. This duly happens, the girl is disclosed to be Avraham's great-niece and the marriage negotiations are concluded with "objects of silver and gold, and garments" (v. 53, NJPS) being given to Rivkah and "presents to her brother and her mother" (ibid., NJPS). Walter Brueggemann writes that "these four themes together provide ways to think theologically about this narrative: (1) blessing from G-d and to G-d, (2) prosperity, (3) steadfast loyalty and fidelity, and (4) G-d's leadership ... The narrative reflects the conviction that all events are under Yahweh's providential care. He will bring events to a good end."1
Picking up the theme of guidance or divine leadership, Gerhard von Rad explains that "the story of the wooing of Rivkah is a tacit account of guidance: it makes Avraham express his confidence in G-d's guidance; the sign which the servant prayed for is granted without any miracle whatsoever; Laban too speaks of Jahweh as having guided the matter, although providence had been exercised in quite a hidden way. ... At the moment when the girl offered to supply the servant and the camels with water, Jahweh's providence had already achieved its purpose."2 Now the story reaches its crunch point: will Rivkah agree to go or delay hoping for some alternative. When all is said and done, Canaan is a very long way to go to marry someone whom you have never met and without the support of family - who, in all likelihood, you will never see again - to help you escape if it all goes wrong!
Some modern translations obscure the link between the family's slightly impertinent question and Rivkah's decisive answer, softening the response from "I will go" to simply "I will". The Hebrew text, however, uses the same verb for both the question and the response. is the Qal 2fs prefix form of the root , to go or walk, prefaced with an interrogative hay to form the question, "Will you go?", while is the Qal 1cs prefix form of the same root. Rivkah answers the question in exactly the same way it is asked. The early Sages comment on this transaction: "Rabbi Uanina, the son of Rabbi Adda, said in Rabbi Isaac's name: They hinted to her, 'Will you actually go?' [as if in a tone of surprise] and she said, 'I will go'. I go in spite of you, whether you wish it or not" (B'resheet Rabbah 60:12).Rashi comments, "'I will go: - On my own, even if you do not wish'. This is implied by 'I will go', rather than simply yes."
TheRashbam says that "this was the polite thing to do. They were asking her, 'Even though the Holy One wants the match - Will you go with this man? Or will you wait a while and go with someone else?' This, despite what we read in m. Ketubot 5:2 and b. Ketubot 57a: 'A virgin is allowed twelve months in which to prepare her trousseau.' Rivkah replied, 'I have no intention of delaying just to adorn myself.'" The Abravanel clarifies that "the question was not whether she wanted to marry Yitz'khak, but whether she was willing to go now, without her mother and brother, or, more respectably, in a year or so, with them." Not so, says Gersonides, "She had no problem leaving her family." The Baal HaTurim points out that the final letters of the words , "with this man", spell the name , Moshe, and claims that "this alludes to the phrase 'according to the law of Moshe and Israel' which is part of the bridegroom's declaration to his bride at the marriage ceremony. They said to Rivkah, 'Go according to the laws of Moshe and Israel.'"
Returning to Rivkah's one-word answer in our text, why was it so important? Emphasising that "Rivkah answers in one word, simply yet decisively: 'I-will-go'", Leon Kass explains that "Rivkah courageously and willingly leaves her father's house in Haran, exactly as Avraham had done a generation before, to go to Canaan. She has a mind of her own and knows her own mind, consenting without hesitation to the proposed marriage."3 The clue to the importance is the reference to Avraham: not that he has just sent his servant back to the family in Aram-naharaim to get a wife for his son, but he left his father's house in Aram-naharaim to go to Canaan. Bruce Waltke agrees, adding that "seemingly against her family's wishes, she complies with the L-rd's direction, matching Avraham's faith to leave the family."4 Gordon Wenham connects Avraham, Laban and Rivkah: "Like Laban's 'Take her and go' (B'resheet 24:51), Rivkah echoes Avraham's initial opening command, 'You must go' (v. 4). Indeed, it aligns her with Avraham, who was told to 'Go ... from your father's house' (12:1)."5
Going is clearly important; actually doing the going, rather than just talking about it. We can see this process being worked out when the time came to end the Babylonian exile. In Isaiah chapter 52, written at least a hundred and fifty years before it would be put into practice, the prophet lays out the sequence of events. In the first two verses, Israel is told that it is now time to wake up and start paying attention: "Awake, awake, O Zion! ... Arise, shake off the dust ... Loose the bonds from your neck, O captive one, Fair Zion!" (Isaiah 52:1-2, NJPS). Next, Israel is told that "You were sold for no price, And shall be redeemed without money" (v. 3, NJPS) - there are no financial barriers to return, followed by an announcement to both Israel and the world that this is now happening: HaShem will "bare His holy arm In the sight of all the nations, and the very ends of earth shall see the victory of our G-d" (v. 10, NJPS). Finally, the command is given: "Depart, depart, go out from there; touch no unclean thing; go out from the midst of her; purify yourselves, you who bear the vessels of the L-RD" (v. 11, ESV) and the people are guaranteed safe passage home as "the L-RD is marching before you, The G-d of Israel is your rear guard" (v. 12, NJPS). The prophet has been talking up the return for the past twelve chapters, stirring public opinion, bring hope and imagination outside the box of exile. Now, the time has come to act: to say that they are going home and to get up and walk!
During His last few days in Jerusalem, being challenged each day by the religious leaders, Yeshua told a parable about man who had two sons. The parable is only preserved by Matthew, so let's hear how he reports Yeshua's words. "Give me your opinion", He begins, "a man had two sons. He went to the first and said, 'Son, go and work today in the vineyard.' He answered, 'I don't want to'; but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to his other son and said the same thing. This one answered, 'I will, sir'; but he didn't go" (Matthew 21:28-30, CJB). That sounds quite like modern family life! Yeshua asks His audience which of the two sons actually did what the father wanted and, quick as a flash, back comes the obvious answer: the first. No flies on them, right? What matters is not the sons' initial verbal response, but what they actually did. The son who obeyed his father got off his backside - even though he had at first said 'no' - and went and did the work. The other son, who gave the positive answer, "Yes, yes," didn't get around to going anywhere or doing anything. We don't know if he forgot, got tied up with something else or had intended not to go from the start; it doesn't matter - he just completely failed to follow through and do what he had said.
Rivkah responded to the call to leave her family with faith. She wouldn't delay, but was prepared to act immediately, following the model of Avraham. Avraham's servant had been completely open about Avraham's faith and the role of HaShem in providentially guiding him to finding Rivkah and her family. Rivkah echoed that faith and put it into action. Noticeably, while Yitz'khak was a largely passive figure, it was Rivkah who inherited Avraham's role as the leader of the next generation.
Are you going somewhere with Yeshua? Have you left already, or are you still talking about it? It's time time to stop talking and move on out - there's work to be done in the vineyard and the Father has called us to join Him in the harvest in these days!
1. - Walter Brueggemann, Genesis, Interpretation, (Atlanta, GA: John Knox Press, 1982), page 200.
2. - Gerhard von Rad, Old Testament Theology, Vol 1, (London, SCM Press, 1975), page 51.
3. - Leon R. Kass, The Beginning of Wisdom: Reading Genesis, (Chicago, IL: Chicago University Press, 2003), page 327.
4. - Bruce K. Waltke with Cathi J. Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2001), page 331.
5. - Gordon Wenham, Genesis 16-50, Word Biblical Commentary, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1994), page 150.
Further Study: Ezekiel 33:31-33; Matthew 23:1-3
Application: Are you hanging on and hoping for the best or have you answered Yeshua's call to follow Him? Today is the day for taking action - He is calling us right now to get involved with Him in fulfilling our destiny and extending His kingdom.
Comment - 09:12 24Oct21 Joshua VanTime: I am going! Thank you for the Ruach inspired drash to action the call of Messiah Yeshua.
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© Jonathan Allen, 2021
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