Friday, December 12, 2008

Genesis 24:28-32 Rebekah's Brother, Laban

Genesis 24:28-32: Then the girl ran and told her mother’s household about these things. Now Rebekah had a brother whose name was Laban; and Laban ran outside to the man at the spring. And it came about that when 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. And 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?” So 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.

Between the previous verses and these ones, Abraham’s servant must have given Rebekah the ring and bracelets he had brought for this purpose for later in this portion of scripture we read that her brother had noticed them. So Rebekah, filled with excitement, runs to her house and tells them about all that had happened. If she were like any other young lady, we can assume that her excitement stemmed primarily from the gifts that she had received from the servant. What young woman would not rejoice when given such jewelry? Being married, having two married daughters and two young granddaughters I can assure you the reaction is innate in women, mastered early in life and maintained well right up into ones senior years. However, it is also possible that Rebekah was excited about having had an opportunity to serve a stranger and his entourage the way she did. After all, that is what she had been taught to do and she now had an opportunity to practice what she had learned. Finally, Rebekah’s joy could have been partially due to the opportunity of having this stranger and those traveling with him stay at her house.

It is appropriate to stop and ask a question here. Were the gifts that Rebekah received a bribe or simply a gift of appreciation? She had already given the servant and his company the drink they needed which would indicate appreciation. However, the gifts were given to her before he asked for accommodation for himself and those that were with him, which could indicate a bribe. We also know that she knew nothing of the servant’s purpose for his trip at this point. I believe the gifts had a dual purpose being given both as in appreciation of her kindness but also in hope of her being open later on to joining Abraham’s family in marriage to Isaac. Certainly there was no expectation that they would be returned if she decided not to do so.

Listening to her tell her story excitedly is her brother Laban. Although we are not given his age relative to hers, it is possible to assume that he either was older or at least played the role that a protective older brother would play. Immediately Laban runs outside to the spring to see who this man was and check matters out for himself.

Rebekah had shown her family including Laban the ring and the bracelets and told them what Abraham’s servant had said to her. In a situation like this, there is absolutely nothing wrong with another member of the family wanting to get involved as Laban did. Family members today are much more independent than they were in those days and perhaps much more independent than is appropriate or wise. Today, we often hear of family members at a very young age telling their siblings or even their parents to “mind their own business”. I am not convinced that is how God intended it.

As Laban greets Abraham’s servant, he points towards his house and invites him in, calling him “blessed of the Lord”. Whether Laban is sincere in using this salutation for the servant or not is not known. If so, however, it is proof that he was indeed a fellow believer and worshipper of the God of Abraham.

What is more problematic to me is that he told the servant that he had “prepared the house, and a place for the camels”. Was that indeed the truth? Did he have time to do so? While cynics may argue that he did not and had not, the issue could be explained as follows: Rebekah runs in and tells her story; Laban as perhaps the older brother decides to go and see the man and reinforce her invitation to him; as he is leaving the house he gives orders to the servants to get the house ready and to make room for the camels. [This is an excellent example of a report in scripture that may be questioned if one is so inclined. But, for the believer, it can easily be accepted as truth because there are possible feasible explanations.]

To be fair, Laban did a lot of work himself once the servant accepted his invitation. He unloaded the camels, gave them straw and feed, and then got water to wash the servant’s feet and the feet of those with the servant. While perhaps these were all customs of the day that needed to be followed, it is reassuring to know that Rebekah’s brother followed them willingly. Hospitality continues to be a major theme in the story of Abraham. As I write these words today, Christians are preparing to celebrate Christmas, the birth of Christ, in less than two weeks. And as I reflect on the world scene, I realize society seems devoid of love (what Jesus was all about) even though a few years back the song What the World Needs Now is Love was a big hit. Perhaps as Christians we need to start with hospitality and spending time with people. Love will be a natural outflow of that.

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