Rebecca and the Camels (Genesis 24)

In the story of finding a wife for Isaac Abraham entrusts his manservant, whom we presume to be Eliezer of Damascus to find a wife for him. And where Abraham instructs him strictly that on no account should his son Isaac take a wife of the Canaanites, (the land in which he was living) as did Esau.

And I will make you swear by the Lord, the God of heaven, and the God of the earth, that you shall not take a wife for my son of the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I live: (Genesis 24: 3)

And Abraham said to him, Beware that you bring not my son there again: (Genesis 24:6)

The mission of Abraham’s manservant and its associated symbolism directs us to understand that he is not looking for a wife for Isaac, but looking for the mother of the 3rd patriarch – Jacob.

The main theme of the story is the mission of Abraham’s manservant to find a wife for Isaac, but if we look at the story carefully we find it is all about camels and a well.

Genesis 24:

10. And the servant took ten of his master's camels, and departed; for all the goods of his master were in his hand; and he arose, and went to Mesopotamia, to the city of Nahor:
11. And he made his camels kneel down outside the city by a well of water at the time of the evening, the time that women go out to draw water:
12. And he said, O Lord God of my master Abraham, I beseech you, send me good speed this day, and show kindness to my master Abraham:
13. Behold, I stand here by the well of water; and the daughters of the men of the city come out to draw water:
14. And let it come to pass, that the girl to whom I shall say, Let down your water jar, I beg you, that I may drink; and she shall say, Drink, and I will give your camels drink also; let the same be she whom you have appointed for your servant Isaac; and thereby shall I know that you have shown kindness to my master:
15. And it came to pass, before he had finished speaking, that, behold, Rebekah came out, who was born to Bethuel, son of Milcah, the wife of Nahor, Abraham's brother, with her water jar upon her shoulder:
16. And the girl was very pretty to look upon, a virgin, and no man had known her; and she went down to the well, and filled her water jar, and came up:
17. And the servant ran to meet her, and said, Let me, I beg you, drink a little water from your water jar: 18. And she said, Drink, my lord; and she hurried, and let down her water jar upon her hand, and gave him drink:
19. And when she had finished giving him drink, she said, I will draw water for your camels also, until they have finished drinking:
20. And she hurried, and emptied her water jar into the trough, and ran back to the well to draw water, and drew for all his camels: 21. And the man wondering at her held his peace, to see whether the Lord had made his journey successful or not:
22. And it came to pass, as the camels finished drinking, that the man took a golden ear ring of half a shekel weight, and two bracelets for her hands of ten shekels weight of gold:
29. And Rebekah had a brother, and his name was Laban; and Laban ran out to the man, to the well:
30. And it came to pass, when he saw the ear ring and bracelets upon his sister's hands, and when he heard the words of Rebekah his sister, saying, Thus spoke the man to me; that he came to the man; and, behold, he stood by the camels at the well:
31. And he said, Come in, you blessed of the Lord; why do you stand outside? for I have prepared the house, and room for the camels:
32. And the man came into the house; and he ungirded his camels, and gave straw and provender for the camels, and water to wash his feet, and the feet of the men who were with him:
33. And there was set food before him to eat; but he said, I will not eat, until I have told my errand; And he said, Speak on:
34. And he said, I am Abraham's servant:
35. And the Lord has blessed my master greatly; and he has become great; and he has given him flocks, and herds, and silver, and gold, and menservants, and maidservants, and camels, and asses:
42. And I came this day to the well, and said, O Lord God of my master Abraham, if now you do prosper my way which I go:
43. Behold, I stand by the well of water; and it shall come to pass, that when the girl comes forth to draw water, and I say to her, Give me, I beg you, a little water from your water jar to drink:
44. And she says to me, Both drink you, and I will also draw for your camels; let the same be the woman whom the Lord has appointed out for my master's son:
45. And before I had finished speaking in my heart, behold, Rebekah came forth with her water jar on her shoulder; and she went down to the well, and drew water; and I said to her, Let me drink, I beg you:
46. And she hurried, and let down her water jar from her shoulder, and said, Drink, and I will give your camels drink also; so I drank, and she made the camels drink also:
61. And Rebekah arose, and her maids, and they rode upon the camels, and followed the man; and the servant took Rebekah, and went his way:
62. And Isaac came from the way of the well Lahairoi; for he lived in the Negev:
63. And Isaac went out to meditate in the field at the evening time; and he lifted up his eyes, and saw, and, behold, the camels were coming:
64. And Rebekah lifted up her eyes, and when she saw Isaac, she lighted off the camel:

The Camels

Throughout the text the camels become the main focus of the story. The manservant’s assessment of whether he has found an appropriate wife for Isaac is based upon whether the girl provides water for the camels and on the whole her treatment of the camels.

In the whole of story contained in Genesis 24 the word camel appears 17 times: whereas in the whole five books of the Torah it only appears a total of 24 times. So why is ‘camel’ mentioned so many times?

As we know 17 is the numerical value for ‘good’ or tov טוב 9+6+2 =17 in Hebrew and indicates that a radical change is going to happen (see hyperlink 17). What exactly is this change? The manservant takes 10 camels with him on his mission. Ten is represented by the letter yod, the second decane of the letter aleph indicating a ’conscious’ form of God and suggesting that the whole mission was guided by God.

The word ‘camel’ tells us:

 

  • Rebecca will be the mother of the third patriarch (Jacob),
  • That the patriarch will be male, and
  • He will be one of a twin and he will lead a life of doubles: two wives (Rachel and Leah), two maidservants (Zilpah and Bilpah), two names (Jacob and Israel).

 

Let us examine the word camel which is gamal גמל in Hebrew; camel is not only the symbol of the third letter of the alphabet, gimel ג, (see hyperlink table of numerical values), but it is spelt the same - gimel-mem-lamed.גמל The camels are therefore symbolic of the letter gimel ג and the number 3.

Three is related to the third sign of the zodiac Gemini, the twins, which represent duality. Even the form of the Hebrew letter gimel, ג, demonstrates duality where it is divided at the base.

A small trick in Gematria called milui, meaning full, where, in order to obtain deeper interpretation of a word, each letter of the word is expanded as a word itself. Hence if we break the word gamal into its three letters gimel-mem-lamed גמל then we take each of the three letters:

gimel ג is spelt gimel-mem-lamed גמל =3+40+30;

mem מ is spelt mem-mem ממ= 40+40

and lamed is spelt lamed-mem-daled למד = 30+40+4.

The total value is 227, which is the same value as zachar זכר (zayin-caph-resh =7+20+200) meaning ‘male’.

Hence if we read the passage above in a different light, the 10 camels represents an instruction from God – not of Abraham - to find the mother of the future seed of Isaac who is the first Jew born of the pure seed of Abraham after the circumcision and the first Jew to undergo circumcision on the 8th day (See hyperlink 8). The test that the manservant is giving to Rebecca is how she regards the camels, for they are not only symbolic of the third patriarch (zachar) male, but also of his twin (Gemini) brother, Esau, father of Edom. And indeed she regards the camels well; she draws water for them, provides them fodder, feed and shelter and finally she rides on them to meet Isaac at Beer Laharoi. So it is that camel is mentioned 16 times in the plural and 1 time in the singular. The only time it is mentioned in the singular is when Rebecca is riding the camel (zachar – male) to meet Isaac as future mother to Jacob, the third patriarch.

The Well

In a similar context we investigate the word for ‘well’ which appears 10 times. In the English text the word ‘well’ is used continuously, however in the Hebrew text ‘well’ (be’er באר in Hebrew) is only used twice and the text is dominated by the word Ein which really means ‘a spring’ and spelt עין ayin-yod-nun with a numerical value of 70-10-50 =130.

A spring is different in concept from a well, and means a continuous source of ‘living’ water, fresh and pure. The value 130 is the same value as both Sinai and ladder, (See hyperlink Jacob’s ladder) and is a decane above 13 which is the gematrical value for the word ‘one’, achad, אחד 1+8+4 =13 symbolizing God (See hyperlink The Aleph: head of bull, the name of God yin and yang). So the story would suggest that the chance meeting of the manservant with Rebecca was at the intervention of God, and in her association with the well or spring and her treatment towards the camels, reflects a pure and new source of life that will bring continuity to the Hebrew race and her as the mother of the third patriarch.

Rebecca the Virgin

In Genesis 24:16 when the manservant first saw Rebecca at the spring:

And the girl was very pretty to look upon, a virgin, and no man had known her; and she went down to the well, and filled her water jar, and came up: (Genesis 24:16)

The question arises why there is duplication in the term a ‘virgin’, and ‘no man had known her’, for indeed a virgin certifies the fact that no man had known her therefore the second phrase is superfluous? The Hebrew word for virgin is betula, בתולה spelt beth-taf-vav-lamed-heh = 2-40-6-30-5 =443. It is the same value as Beth El בית אלspelt beth-yod-taf-aleph-lamed =2-10-400-1-30=443 meaning the House of God. And, as we will note in the story of Jacob’s ladder (See hyperlink Jacobs ladder) – it is the name given to the place where Jacob set his altar after his dream in which he was told: And your seed shall be as the dust of the earth…. and in you and in your seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed: (Genesis 28:14).

It is also the same place near which Abram placed an altar in the heart of the Land of Canaan that God promised he would inherit (Genesis 12:8). And, as we saw is related to the numerical value for the Messiah. (see hyperlink H’Ai)

So the fact that Rebecca was a virgin, was not in reference to her physical state but rather her relationship to God and the spring of life and which is re-emphasised through the promise of God to her son Jacob in the story of Jacob’s ladder as indicated in the verse above.

And…

Finally, throughout Genesis 24 in which this story is contained 59 or the 65 verses begin with the word ‘And’ ‘ve in Hebrew, indicating a process of continuity and connectivity between the previous chapter 23 in which Isaac’s mother Sarah had died and the need and time for him to find a wife at the age of 40.

 

 
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