Types in Genesis
Chapters 22 and 23 tell the story of Abraham's climactic meeting with God where he is prepared to offer his son in sacrifice. I said that this episode had three main types that described important features of the Christian faith that was to come:
- The sacrifice of Christ - Isaac's willingness to be sacrificed to obey God's will typifies Jesus' and the Father's willingness to do this.
- Vicarious atonement - The concept of an innocent dying for another is seen when the ram is substituted for Isaac. This prefigures Jesus, the innocent, dying for guilty and condemned man.
- Faith and works relationship - Abraham was considered righteous because he believed but his belief in God naturally led him to works of righteousness, including the sacrificing of his son. The natural outgrowth of one's faith is good works.
Remember also that Abraham's offer of Isaac is not a type for what faith demands but rather what great faith is capable of doing. Just like the natural outgrowth of an apple seed is an apple tree. If you plant the seed and no tree grows then you can assume that the seed is defective, because it has no growth.
If one says he is a believer, calls himself a Christian but there are no good works, no righteousness in his life then we can assume the seed (faith) is dead because it is supposed to produce something if it is alive.
The chapters end with the death of Sarah and some historical information about Abraham remarrying and having six other sons. With Sarah's death it becomes important to Abraham to establish Isaac in his own home and see the next generation begin. The subsequent chapters tell this story and offer us more types that are fulfilled in the New Testament.
Genesis 24 – Search for a Bride
Genesis 24 is the longest chapter in Genesis. It tells the story of Abraham's arrangement to secure a bride for his son Isaac. Isaac was 40 but still trusted his father's judgment in finding him a partner. This was an important choice because through this woman the seed of promise was to continue into the next generation.
1Now Abraham was old, advanced in age; and the Lord had blessed Abraham in every way. 2Abraham said to his servant, the oldest of his household, who had charge of all that he owned, "Please place your hand under my thigh, 3and I will make you swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and the God of earth, that you shall not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I live, 4but you will go to my country and to my relatives, and take a wife for my son Isaac."
- Genesis 24:1-4
The hand under the thigh (some commentators say under the genitals) was in connection with circumcision and related to God's oath represented by circumcision. It was the most solemn of oaths.
The promise is that the servant (steward) would not take a wife from the pagans. Even though an alliance with a local chieftain would be profitable and easier.
Abraham knew that his brother had children and grandchildren and from these he wanted to choose a wife for his son. He does not send Isaac for a number of possible reasons:
- He did not want him to leave Canaan as he had previously done and gotten into trouble each time.
- He did not want Isaac to return through the country where he had been originally marked for sacrifice. It would not fit the "type". Christ died once and did not revisit Golgotha after the resurrection.
- Perhaps he did not want Isaac to become too attached to family and not return to Canaan.
5The servant said to him, "Suppose the woman is not willing to follow me to this land; should I take your son back to the land from where you came?" 6Then Abraham said to him, "Beware that you do not take my son back there! 7The Lord, the God of heaven, who took me from my father's house and from the land of my birth, and who spoke to me and who swore to me, saying, 'To your descendants I will give this land,' He will send His angel before you, and you will take a wife for my son from there. 8But if the woman is not willing to follow you, then you will be free from this my oath; only do not take my son back there." 9So the servant placed his hand under the thigh of Abraham his master, and swore to him concerning this matter.
The servant is unsure of his mission (it is much harder to find a wife when Isaac is not present) and from a small selection. Abraham reassures him that God will lead and bless his mission and if he follows the instructions and fails, he will not be held to the oath.
10Then the servant took ten camels from the camels of his master, and set out with a variety of good things of his master's in his hand; and he arose and went to Mesopotamia, to the city of Nahor. 11He made the camels kneel down outside the city by the well of water at evening time, the time when women go out to draw water. 12He said, "O Lord, the God of my master Abraham, please grant me success today, and show lovingkindness to my master Abraham. 13Behold, I am standing by the spring, and the daughters of the men of the city are coming out to draw water; 14now may it be that the girl to whom I say, 'Please let down your jar so that I may drink,' and who answers, 'Drink, and I will water your camels also'—may she be the one whom You have appointed for Your servant Isaac; and by this I will know that You have shown lovingkindness to my master."
A great caravan is formed and travels to the place where Nahor lives. Once arrived the servant makes an interesting prayer to God. He knew the custom of the young girls drawing water and the usual courtesy of any of them offering him a drink if he asked. What he was searching for was a special kind of person, in a word, a person who would go a "second mile." To water ten thirsty camels was a lot of work and demeaning as well. His prayer was that God would send one who would do it without asking.
This was not impossible, it was specific and within God's will. It also was used as a way of finding God's will where no other indicators existed.
15Before he had finished speaking, behold, Rebekah who was born to Bethuel the son of Milcah, the wife of Abraham's brother Nahor, came out with her jar on her shoulder. 16The girl was very beautiful, a virgin, and no man had had relations with her; and she went down to the spring and filled her jar and came up. 17Then the servant ran to meet her, and said, "Please let me drink a little water from your jar." 18She said, "Drink, my lord"; and she quickly lowered her jar to her hand, and gave him a drink. 19Now when she had finished giving him a drink, she said, "I will draw also for your camels until they have finished drinking." 20So she quickly emptied her jar into the trough, and ran back to the well to draw, and she drew for all his camels. 21Meanwhile, the man was gazing at her in silence, to know whether the Lord had made his journey successful or not.
22When the camels had finished drinking, the man took a gold ring weighing a half-shekel and two bracelets for her wrists weighing ten shekels in gold, 23and said, "Whose daughter are you? Please tell me, is there room for us to lodge in your father's house?" 24She said to him, "I am the daughter of Bethuel, the son of Milcah, whom she bore to Nahor." 25Again she said to him, "We have plenty of both straw and feed, and room to lodge in." 26Then the man bowed low and worshiped the Lord. 27He said, "Blessed be the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who has not forsaken His lovingkindness and His truth toward my master; as for me, the Lord has guided me in the way to the house of my master's brothers."
The next section tells how Rebekah was first to get water and offer to care for the camels. The servant then finds out that she is directly related to Abraham being Isaac's second cousin. He immediately worships the Lord for having so quickly answered his prayer and answered it so perfectly. He gives the girl expensive gifts and enquires if he can stay with her family and she assures him that he can.
28Then the girl ran and told her mother's household about these things. 29Now Rebekah had a brother whose name was Laban; and Laban ran outside to the man at the spring. 30When he saw the ring and the bracelets on his sister's wrists, and when he heard the words of Rebekah his sister, saying, "This is what the man said to me," he went to the man; and behold, he was standing by the camels at the spring. 31And he said, "Come in, blessed of the Lord! Why do you stand outside since I have prepared the house, and a place for the camels?" 32So the man entered the house. Then Laban unloaded the camels, and he gave straw and feed to the camels, and water to wash his feet and the feet of the men who were with him. 33But when food was set before him to eat, he said, "I will not eat until I have told my business." And he said, "Speak on."
We see Rebekah announce the arrival of the servant to her family and they, led by Laban, her brother, went to greet the servant and welcome him into their home.
The custom of the time was to eat first and then discuss any business matters. The servant was very eager to find out if Rebekah would return with him so he refused to eat until they had concluded their business. Of course, during this period of time and in this culture contracting a marriage was like a business dealing with careful negotiations and contracts between the families.
In the long discourse that follows (vs. 34-49), the servant recounts the life and situation of Abraham and his oath to come and find a bride for Isaac among his people. He tells them of his prayer and the wonderful way that God answered him through Rebekah's action.
He finishes by putting the question to them about whether or not Rebekah will accept the proposal and return with him to be Isaac's wife. There is another "type" here and that is the type for the work of the Holy Spirit in going out and seeking the bride of Christ, which is the church.
- He is sent out by the Father on behalf of the Son.
- The Son is not present, but the Holy Spirit is (through the witness of the Apostles, through the Word, through the call of the gospel).
- The Holy Spirit declares the wealth of the Father and the offer of becoming the bride of the Son with all the blessings that this will entail.
- The offer requires a decision, one that will have a lifelong effect on the individual.
50In his birth and relationship with Abraham and his bride, Isaac is used very much as a type for Christ. Then Laban and Bethuel replied, "The matter comes from the Lord; so we cannot speak to you bad or good. 51Here is Rebekah before you, take her and go, and let her be the wife of your master's son, as the Lord has spoken."
52When Abraham's servant heard their words, he bowed himself to the ground before the Lord. 53The servant brought out articles of silver and articles of gold, and garments, and gave them to Rebekah; he also gave precious things to her brother and to her mother. 54Then he and the men who were with him ate and drank and spent the night. When they arose in the morning, he said, "Send me away to my master." 55But her brother and her mother said, "Let the girl stay with us a few days, say ten; afterward she may go." 56He said to them, "Do not delay me, since the Lord has prospered my way. Send me away that I may go to my master." 57And they said, "We will call the girl and consult her wishes." 58Then they called Rebekah and said to her, "Will you go with this man?" And she said, "I will go." 59Thus they sent away their sister Rebekah and her nurse with Abraham's servant and his men. 60They blessed Rebekah and said to her,
"May you, our sister,
Become thousands of ten thousands,
And may your descendants possess
The gate of those who hate them."
61Then Rebekah arose with her maids, and they mounted the camels and followed the man. So the servant took Rebekah and departed.
Here we see the family responding to the idea that if this has been the Lord's will, then they are eager to do it. Normally there would have been preparations and delay but the servant insists on departing immediately and after Rebekah's positive response, they make ready to go the next day.
Again, we see the continuation of the type of the Holy Spirit and His work in forming and bringing the bride of Christ, the church, to God.
- There is a need to make an immediate decision – today is the day of salvation.
- Once the decision is made there is no going back, a new life will begin. (Rebekah would be far from her family and would not likely see them again.)
- Her response was enthusiastic and emphatic. She was ready and willing to leave right away.
- This was God's leading for her life and she was eager to do His will.
- When we know that the gospel is God's way of calling us, we should be eager to follow.
Her family pronounces a blessing on her which reflects God's promise to Abraham, and she leaves with the servant.
62Now Isaac had come from going to Beer-lahai-roi; for he was living in the Negev. 63Isaac went out to meditate in the field toward evening; and he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, camels were coming. 64Rebekah lifted up her eyes, and when she saw Isaac she dismounted from the camel. 65She said to the servant, "Who is that man walking in the field to meet us?" And the servant said, "He is my master." Then she took her veil and covered herself. 66The servant told Isaac all the things that he had done. 67Then Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah's tent, and he took Rebekah, and she became his wife, and he loved her; thus Isaac was comforted after his mother's death.
No mention is made of the journey back, only of the meeting which could be out of a movie scene. The servant probably informed her about her husband to be and introduces them. She is placed in Sarah's tent left empty after her death and then into his own after the wedding.
These people are types for Christ and the church, and their union foreshadows the union of Christ and the church at His return:
- Isaac / Christ
- Promised long before His coming – Luke 1:70
- Appeared at the appointed time – Galatians 4:4
- Conceived miraculously – Luke 1:35
- Assigned a name before birth – Matthew 1:21
- Offered in sacrifice by his father - Genesis 22:9
- Obedient unto death – Philippians 2:8
- Brought back from the dead – Ephesians 1:19-23
- Head of a great nation – Ephesians 1:19-23
- Rebekah / Church
- Her marriage planned long before – Ephesians 1:3
- Accomplishes God's purpose – Ephesians 1:23
- Shares the glory of the Son – John 17:22
- Learned of the Son through a messenger (Holy Spirit) – Acts 2
- Left all to go with the Son – I Peter 1:8
- Accompanied to the Son by the servant – I Peter 3:8-9
- Lives with the Son in union – Ephesians 5:26
1. Be specific
Even though the servant knew he was generally doing God's will, when he was unsure he was specific in his prayer. He did not test God, he simply wanted a clear indication of what God's will was. If there are no instructions from the Word, or good precedents or experience to help form our decisions, we have a good example here to encourage us to be specific when asking God to direct us.
2. Character counts
Note that Abraham wanted a wife for his son that was a believer and of his own family. God provided this and much more:
- She was eager to serve.
- She was fervent in her faith, she was eager to do God's will.
- She was brave, ready to leave her home and go to foreign land and marry a man she had never seen.
We all want our children to marry well but we need to teach them from a young age what it is that they are looking for. They will not always listen but we at least need to inform them of what to look for and what to avoid in a potential marriage partner.
3. It is all about Christ
From beginning to end, the Bible is about Jesus Christ. It was written to introduce us to Him, help us know Him, lead us to Him, help us live with Him, and remain faithful to Him. Every book is about just Him. Whether it is history, theology or type, the central theme of the Bible is Christ and when we have this understanding, we can truly understand the Bible.
- Summarize the oath between Abraham and his messenger and discuss the connection between the "hand under the thigh" and God's requirement for circumcision.
- How can this activity also be a test of faith for those involved? What does this teach us?
- What can we learn about following God's will from Rebekah's family?
- How is the messenger's actions a "type" of the Holy Spirit and the church?
- How are Isaac and Rebekah seen as a "type" for Christ and the Church?
- How can you use this lesson to grow spiritually and help others come into a relationship with Jesus?