Thursday, August 26, 2010

Could you repeat that again?

The Bible can be difficult to read and Genesis 24 is a good example.
It tells the story of how Rebekah was chosen to be Isaac’s wife and it is a cute story at its core, but it is told in such a convoluted and repetitive fashion that it makes one’s eyes glaze over trying to read it.
First, we are introduced to the main character of the story who doesn’t even merit a name because he is simply a slave, which is almost as bad as being a woman in the Bible.
It seems that Abraham is getting old and is concerned that his son might wind up marrying one of those despised Canaanites that he lives among. You know - those nice people who called Abraham a “prince” and tried to give him land for free to bury Sarah but were turned down flat.
Well, Abraham calls his chief servant and tells him to go back to the homeland and find Isaac a proper wife among his own people. I guess since Abraham married his half-sister, then the least Isaac can do is marry one of his cousins.
The servant swears an oath to do just that and takes 10 camels and a whole bunch of treasure (remember Abraham sent Hagar out with nothing more than a water skin) and heads off to Nahor. Once there he prays to God for guidance and determines that the first of the local townsgirls who will offer him a drink of water will be the right bride for Isaac.
Sure enough, the first girl to happen along is Rebekah and she immediately satisfies this requirement by not only offering water to the servant but also to all his camels.
That’s pretty much it, except that we get this same story in three versions told nearly back to back. First when the servant prays to God that this is what he wants to happen, secondly when it actually does happen, and third when he goes and describes everything that happened all over again to Rebekah’s father Bethuel.
Then the servant gives everyone fancy gifts including a nose-ring for Rebekah and heads back to Abraham with his prize where he no doubt relays the story for a fourth time. Fortunately, we are spared that last repetition in the text.

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