When you read “he loved her” in the text, it is remarkable!
I had a roommate in college who had some memorable sayings. He once said that when he married, he would learn to love his wife. That sounds like something good, but it is the reverse of the way many people view it. Often the approach is to fall in love and then marry. Or even fall in love without marriage in the conversation. And, oh, by the way, my roommate did just that--he married and learned to love his wife.
In some cultures marriages are arranged. I have read that that system generally produces marriages that are more stable than in our culture. In one way, I am not surprised, because the parents arranging the marriage probably have more sensible values in mind. The phenomenon of a husband learning to love his wife may exist there as well.
Our example today comes from Genesis 24:67. It’s a great story, and to see all that is involved, you really should read the entire chapter. It’s one episode of a fascinating history. The verse from the King James Version says this: “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.”
The account is not our typical fall-in-love story, but it is not the usual arranged marriage, either. It is rather one that is saturated unmistakably with the providence of God.
Abraham didn’t want just any bride for his son Isaac, so he chose to send his trusted servant to where they had formerly lived, a location about four or five hundred miles away. Obviously, Isaac did not know any girls from there because of the distance involved some time around 2000 B.C. The people there also worshipped the true God, and that was important to Abraham.
The servant traveled in a camel caravan. A scholar suggested that trip required seventeen days one way. So when the servant arrived, he really did not know anyone. But he asked God for help. As he had stopped at the local convenience center, he requested that a girl would come who would allow him to drink from her water jar and offer also to give drink to his camels. And one did.
It turned out that she was Rebekah and actually a relative of marriageable age. The servant gave presents and there was some getting acquainted and story-telling. He did not want to wait around and relax there for long, but rather turn around and head for home with Rebekah. And she agreed.
So our verse, Genesis 24:67, is a concise summary of the most interesting saga. It is important in that the Jewish people came into existence through one of Isaac’s sons, and this line provided the genealogy for Jesus Christ.
But notice the simple statement which in itself is ordinary. “She became his wife, and he loved her.” It is really very much like what my roommate said he would do. There was no courtship as such, there were no social events at which to become acquainted, and they didn’t go to college together. In the plan of God they were brought together, and both of them accepted God’s will.
This Hebrew word “loved” is a huge word. The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament says, “The intensity of the meaning ranges from God’s infinite affection for his people to the carnal appetites of a lazy glutton.” It can express a father’s affection for his children, for his neighbor, or even for God. It can express preference for things concrete and abstract. Here it can express sexual intimacy and more.
As we evaluate from a distance, we can say that Isaac and Rebekah had a successful marriage with possibly some idiosyncrasies. They had none of today’s marriage counseling. But they did have the design God gave in Genesis 2:24, and that would serve them well.
In keeping with that the New Testament in Ephesians 5:22-33, Colossians 3:18-19, and 1 Peter 3:1-7 teaches that the husband should love his wife. That instruction is given regardless of what the wife brings to the marriage. It’s different than the model popularly suggested today. They should be ‘heirs together of the grace of life,’ or another way of saying that is they should both be children of God through faith in Jesus Christ. But beyond that, the husband should learn to love his wife. Isaac did, and the rest is actual history.
Arlie Rauch has retired from 41 years as a pastor, is brainstorming for Valentine’s Day, and can be reached at email@example.com.