A Servant, Isaac, Rebekah and "Chesed" -- By: Russell Morton

Journal: Ashland Theological Journal
Volume: ATJ 045:1 (NA 2013)
Article: A Servant, Isaac, Rebekah and "Chesed"
Author: Russell Morton

A Servant, Isaac, Rebekah and Chesed

Russell Morton*


Henny Youngman was a well known comedian of the 1950’s through 1970’s. His act largely consisted of playing his violin, poorly, and after strumming a few notes beginning his monologue with the phrase, “I don’t get no respect.” He obviously had no grammar either. How does Henny Youngman relate to Isaac? Perhaps it is this, of all the patriarchs, Isaac gets no respect. Despite God’s promise to Abraham, Isaac is in many ways a transitional character, who falls between the stories of Abraham and Jacob. Even the story of his marriage in Genesis 24 is different from the two other extended narratives which describe how descendants of Abraham first meet the women who will be their wives. While both Jacob, in Genesis 29:1–3 and Moses in Exodus 2:15–22 meet their future spouses at wells outside city gates, Isaac does not meet Rebekah until the day of their marriage. The one who meets her for the first time is an unnamed servant. Isaac does not appear until the very conclusion of the story in Genesis 24:62–67.

This is not unusual for the narratives about Isaac. In Genesis 22, Abraham’s faith is tested when Isaac is offered on Mount Moriah. The story is a glorious example of God’s mercy, when God provides a lamb for sacrifice in place of Isaac, so that Abraham’s son may survive and God’s promises can be fulfilled. Yet, what is remarkable about the story is that Isaac; for all that he goes through, is not the subject of the narrative, but the object who is acted upon. The same is true in Genesis 27, when Jacob steals Esau’s blessing. Isaac is the one who is manipulated. “Only in the two stories in ch. 26 is Isaac an active protagonist and even these narratives are not unique, but have been related twice before, with some variation, about Abraham.”1 Likewise, here, Isaac is the object of the story. Yet, despite the lack of activity on Isaac’s part, this story is of vital significance to the narrative of Genesis, for in this account we see how God is faithful in providing not only a wife for Isaac, but also fulfilling the divine promise to Abraham of Genesis 12:1–3, for if Isaac is not married Abraham cannot become the father of a great nation.

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