The Story of Patriarchs and Prophets
by Ellen G. White
Chapter 15: The Marriage of Isaac
|The attention of Abraham's servant was attracted by the courteous manners of Rebekah. As she came from the well, he met her and asked for a drink of water from the pitcher on her shoulder.
Review and Herald Publ. Assoc.
Abraham had become an old man, and expected soon to
die; yet one act remained for him to do in securing the fulfillment
of the promise to his posterity. Isaac was the one divinely
appointed to succeed him as the keeper of the law of God and
the father of the chosen people, but he was yet unmarried. The
inhabitants of Canaan were given to idolatry, and God had forbidden
intermarriage between His people and them, knowing
that such marriages would lead to apostasy. The patriarch feared
the effect of the corrupting influences surrounding his son. Abraham's
habitual faith in God and submission to His will were
reflected in the character of Isaac; but the young man's affections
were strong, and he was gentle and yielding in disposition. If
united with one who did not fear God, he would be in danger of
sacrificing principle for the sake of harmony. In the mind of
Abraham the choice of a wife for his son was a matter of grave
importance; he was anxious to have him marry one who would
not lead him from God.
In ancient times marriage engagements were generally made
by the parents, and this was the custom among those who worshiped
God. None were required to marry those whom they
could not love; but in the bestowal of their affections the youth
were guided by the judgment of their experienced, God-fearing
parents. It was regarded as a dishonor to parents, and even a
crime, to pursue a course contrary to this.
Isaac, trusting to his father's wisdom and affection, was satisfied
to commit the matter to him, believing also that God
Himself would direct in the choice made. The patriarch's thoughts
turned to his father's kindred in the land of Mesopotamia.
Though not free from idolatry, they cherished the knowledge
and the worship of the true God. Isaac must not leave Canaan to
go to them, but it might be that among them could be found one
who would leave her home and unite with him in maintaining [p. 172] the pure worship of the living God. Abraham committed the
important matter to "his eldest servant," a man of piety, experience,
and sound judgment, who had rendered him long and faithful
service. He required this servant to make a solemn oath before
the Lord, that he would not take a wife for Isaac of the Canaanites,
but would choose a maiden from the family of Nahor in
Mesopotamia. He charged him not to take Isaac thither. If a damsel
could not be found who would leave her kindred, then the
messenger would be released from his oath. The patriarch
encouraged him in his difficult and delicate undertaking with the
assurance that God would crown his mission with success. "The
Lord God of heaven," he said, "which took me from my father's
house, and from the land of my kindred, . . . He shall send His
angel before thee."
The messenger set out without delay. Taking with him ten
camels for the use of his own company and the bridal party that
might return with him, provided also with gifts for the intended
wife and her friends, he made the long journey beyond Damascus,
and onward to the rich plains that border on the great river
of the East. Arrived at Haran, "the city of Nahor," he halted
outside the walls, near the well to which the women of the place
came at evening for water. It was a time of anxious thought with
him. Important results, not only to his master's household, but to
future generations, might follow from the choice he made; and
how was he to choose wisely among entire strangers? Remembering
the words of Abraham, that God would send His angel with
him, he prayed earnestly for positive guidance. In the family of
his master he was accustomed to the constant exercise of kindness
and hospitality, and he now asked that an act of courtesy
might indicate the maiden whom God had chosen.
Hardly was the prayer uttered before the answer was given.
Among the women who were gathered at the well, the courteous
manners of one attracted his attention. As she came from the
well, the stranger went to meet her, asking for some water from
the pitcher upon her shoulder. The request received a kindly answer,
with an offer to draw water for the camels also, a service
which it was customary even for the daughters of princes to perform
for their fathers' flocks and herds. Thus the desired sign
was given. The maiden "was very fair to look upon," and her
ready courtesy gave evidence of a kind heart and an active, energetic [p. 173] nature. Thus far the divine hand had been with him. After
acknowledging her kindness by rich gifts, the messengers asked
her parentage, and on learning that she was the daughter of
Bethuel, Abraham's nephew, he "bowed down his head, and
worshiped the Lord."
The man had asked for entertainment at her father's house,
and in his expressions of thanksgiving had revealed the fact of
his connection with Abraham. Returning home, the maiden told
what had happened, and Laban, her brother, at once hastened to
bring the stranger and his attendants to share their hospitality.
Eliezer would not partake of food until he had told his errand,
his prayer at the well, with all the circumstances attending it.
Then he said, "And now, if ye 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." The answer was, "The thing proceedeth
from the Lord: we cannot speak unto thee bad or good.
Behold, Rebekah is before thee; take her, and go, and let her be thy
master's son's wife, as the Lord hath spoken."
After the consent of the family had been obtained, Rebekah
herself was consulted as to whether she would go to so great a
distance from her father's house, to marry the son of Abraham.
She believed, from what had taken place, that God had selected
her to be Isaac's wife, and she said, "I will go."
The servant, anticipating his master's joy at the success of his
mission, was impatient to be gone; and with the morning they
set out on the homeward journey. Abraham dwelt at Beersheba,
and Isaac, who had been attending to the flocks in the adjoining
country, had returned to his father's tent to await the arrival of
the messenger from Haran. "And Isaac went out to meditate in
the field at the eventide: and he lifted up his eyes, and saw, and,
behold, the camels were coming. And Rebekah lifted up her eyes,
and when she saw Isaac, she lighted off the camel. For she had
said unto the servant, What man is that that walketh in the field
to meet us? And the servant had said, It is my master: therefore
she took a veil, and covered herself. And the servant told Isaac all
things that he had done. And Isaac brought her into his mother
Sarah's tent, and took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he
loved her: and Isaac was comforted after his mother's death."
Abraham had marked the result of the intermarriage of those
who feared God and those who feared Him not, from the days of [p. 174] Cain to his own time. The consequences of his own marriage
with Hagar, and of the marriage connections of Ishmael and Lot,
were before him. The lack of faith on the part of Abraham and
Sarah had resulted in the birth of Ishmael, the mingling of the
righteous seed with the ungodly. The father's influence upon his
son was counteracted by that of the mother's idolatrous kindred
and by Ishmael's connection with heathen wives. The jealousy of
Hagar, and of the wives whom she chose for Ishmael, surrounded
his family with a barrier that Abraham endeavored in vain to
Abraham's early teachings had not been without effect upon
Ishmael, but the influence of his wives resulted in establishing
idolatry in his family. Separated from his father, and embittered
by the strife and contention of a home destitute of the love and
fear of God, Ishmael was driven to choose the wild, marauding
life of the desert chief, "his hand" "against every man, and every
man's hand against him." Genesis 16:12. In his latter days he
repented of his evil ways and returned to his father's God, but the
stamp of character given to his posterity remained. The powerful
nation descended from him were a turbulent, heathen people,
who were ever an annoyance and affliction to the descendants of
The wife of Lot was a selfish, irreligious woman, and her
influence was exerted to separate her husband from Abraham.
But for her, Lot would not have remained in Sodom, deprived
of the counsel of the wise, God-fearing patriarch. The influence
of his wife and the associations of that wicked city would have
led him to apostatize from God had it not been for the faithful
instruction he had early received from Abraham. The marriage
of Lot and his choice of Sodom for a home were the first links
in a chain of events fraught with evil to the world for many
No one who fears God can without danger connect himself
with one who fears Him not. "Can two walk together, except
they be agreed?" Amos 3:3. The happiness and prosperity of the
marriage relation depends upon the unity of the parties; but
between the believer and the unbeliever there is a radical difference
of tastes, inclinations, and purposes. They are serving two
masters, between whom there can be no concord. However pure and
correct one's principles may be, the influence of an unbelieving
companion will have a tendency to lead away from God. [p. 175]
He who has entered the marriage relation while unconverted,
is by his conversion placed under stronger obligation to be faithful
to his companion, however widely they may differ in regard
to religious faith; yet the claims of God should be placed above
every earthly relationship, even though trials and persecution
may be the result. With the spirit of love and meekness, this
fidelity may have an influence to win the unbelieving one. But
the marriage of Christians with the ungodly is forbidden in
the Bible. The Lord's direction is, "Be ye not unequally yoked
together with unbelievers." 2 Corinthians 6:14, 17, 18.
Isaac was highly honored by God in being made inheritor of
the promises through which the world was to be blessed; yet
when he was forty years of age he submitted to his father's judgment
in appointing his experience, God-fearing servant to choose
a wife for him. And the result of that marriage, as presented in
the Scriptures, is a tender and beautiful picture of domestic happiness:
"Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah's tent, and took
Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her: and Isaac
was comforted after his mother's death."
What a contrast between the course of Isaac and that pursued
by the youth of our time, even among professed Christians!
Young people too often feel that the bestowal of their affections
is a matter in which self alone should be consulted—a matter that
neither God nor their parents should in any wise control. Long
before they have reached manhood or womanhood they think
themselves competent to make their own choice, without the aid
of their parents. A few years of married life are usually sufficient
to show them their error, but often too late to prevent its baleful
results. For the same lack of wisdom and self-control that
dictated the hasty choice is permitted to aggravate the evil, until
the marriage relation a galling yoke. Many have thus
wrecked their happiness in this life and their hope of the life
If there is any subject which should be carefully considered
and in which the counsel of older and more experienced persons
should be sought, it is the subject of marriage; if ever the Bible
was needed as a counselor, if ever divine guidance should be
sought in prayer, it is before taking a step that binds persons
together for life.
Parents should never lose sight of their own responsibility for
the future happiness of their children. Isaac's deference to his [p. 176] father's judgment was the result of the training that had taught
him to love a life of obedience. While Abraham required his children
to respect parental authority, his daily life testified that that
authority was not a selfish or arbitrary control, but was founded
in love, and had their welfare and happiness in view.
Find out more today how to get a special discount when you purchase a
copy of Patriarchs and Prophets.
Fathers and mothers should feel that a duty devolves upon
them to guide the affections of the youth, that they may be
placed upon those who will be suitable companions. They should
feel it a duty, by their own teaching and example, with the assisting
grace of God, to so mold the character of the children from
their earliest years that they will be pure and noble and will be
attracted to the good and true. Like attracts like; like appreciates
like. Let the love for truth and purity and goodness be early
implanted in the soul, and the youth will seek the society of those
who possess these characteristics.
Let parents seek, in their own character and in their home
life, to exemplify the love and beneficence of the heavenly Father.
Let the home be full of sunshine. This will be worth far more to
your children than lands or money. Let the home love be kept
alive in their hearts, that they may look back upon the home of
their childhood as a place of peace and happiness next to heaven.
The members of the family do not all have the same stamp of
character, and there will be frequent occasion for the exercise of
patience and forbearance; but through love and self-discipline all
may be bound together in the closest union.
True love is a high and holy principle, altogether different in
character from that love which is awakened by impulse and
which suddenly dies when severely tested. It is by faithfulness to
duty in the parental home that the youth are to prepare
themselves for homes of their own. Let them here practice self-denial
and manifest kindness, courtesy, and Christian sympathy. Thus
love will be kept warm in the heart, and he who goes out from
such a household to stand at the head of a family of his own will
know how to promote the happiness of her whom he has chosen
as a companion for life. Marriage, instead of being the end of
love, will be only its beginning.
Click here to read the next chapter:
"Jacob and Esau"