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Isaac was a good youth. He was now about twenty years old. He had learnt to love and serve God. It does not appear that he tried one moment to resist his good old father, who was one hundred and twenty years of He had gone with delight to worship God and join in the sacrifice; and now he was to be the offering—he gave himself willingly up. Oh, how must God love such obedient hearts !
Here, my dear young reader, let me tell you, that through life God will require you to give up many things to him, as he did require of Abraham to give up his son. And
must learn to do it without a murmur at what he does, for he doth all things well.
And now “Abraham stretched forth his hand and took the knife to slay his son.”—It is enough. God has tried him. He is willing to obey his commands, but God does not want innocent blood. “And the angel of the Lord called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham, lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him ; for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, from me.” Now the trial was over. God had proved Abraham, and, like pure metal passed through the fire, he found him very precious. His faith had not failed.
“ And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold, behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt-offering in the stead of his son."
You see that when God had tried the love of Abraham, he had kindness in reserve for him after all, and spared his son. Isaac must then have been dearer to him than ever, and God for his goodness dearer to them both.
This history reminds us of the love of God, in giving his Son, his only Son, for a sacrifice for us. “God so loved the world, that he gave his onlybegotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him might not perish, but have everlasting life.” “He spared not his own Son, but freely gave him up for us all !" “Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sins of the world.” It was to point to his sacrifice, and to show that one better than all others together should come, that Abraham and all the pious then offered sacrifices to God. And these never ceased till Jesus Christ came, who is called the “offering once for all.” Then all sacrifices were over, for Jesus had bled and died for the sins of a guilty world.
The Death of Sarah,
GENESIS XXII. 1, 2. “ And Sarah was an hundred and seven and twenty years old: these were the years of the life of Sarah. And Sarah died,” and we read that “Abraham came to mourn for Sarah, and to weep for her:" for he was probably at a distance, feeding his flocks, when she died. It is very affecting to lose our friends. And no doubt Isaac wept for Sarah too. And would not you, if you were to lose your dear mother from whom you have received so much kindness? But if we lose our friends, and they and we love Jesus Christ, we may hope to meet again in a better world.
We are told that Abraham bought a burying-place, of one whose name was Ephron, and he paid for it at the gates of the city called Mamre, afterwards known by the name Hebron. The gates or ways into the city, like Temple-bar in London, and many other archways in other places, had, it is thought, rooms over them, where the chief men settled all matters of right among the people. Here Abraham agreed for the price, and paid the money for the burying-place. “And Abraham weighed to Ephron the silver he was to pay; for they did not count out small bits of gold and silver for pounds and shillings as we do now, but they weighed them out in quantities as we do many other things. The weight was four hundred shekels of silver! Now, a shekel of silver was worth about half-a-crown ; and so the field of Machpelah before Mamre, and the burying-place in it, cost Abraham about fifty pounds.
Abraham buried his wife in the cave of the field of Machpelah before Mamre, in the land of Canaan. It was usual in those times, and in that country, to bury people in caves, which were like little chambers, cut out of the side of some hill, or vaults bricked or arched over; and here the whole of a family would lie together. This is “the house appointed for all living;" and though we may have no other spot on earth, we must all have a burial-place; or though we may own ever so much of the earth, a barialplace must be our only lot in the earth at last.
The Marriage of Isaac and Rebekah.
GENESIS XXIV. 2-4. Abraham was now one hundred and forty years old, for he was one hundred years old when Isaac was born, and Isaac was forty years old when
he married Rebekah. Like a kind father, he was desirous of his son doing well and being happy in life, and he wished to see Isaac married. But as there were people who served false gods all around him, he would have his son take care not to choose any one of them for a wife ; he therefore called bis steward, who was the head servant of his house, and no doubt a good and faithful man, and he desired him to take an oath, or give his solemn word, that he would go among his relations, where the true God was Forshipped, and seek him a wife.
The servant put his hand under Abraham's thigh; and this was a sign used at that time to show that he swore, or promised faithfully,--for by swearing is not meant in this case the use of any wicked words ; Abraham was too good a man to want such words to be used — he would rather have reproved any one for using them.
And see here what respect good servants deserve from their masters, and their masters' children ; Abraham trusts this matter entirely with his servant, and Isaac no doubt approved of it, for he was old enough to have objected.
And now the good servant, having sworn to his master, set out on his way to the city of Nahor, or where Nahor lived, who was Abraham's brother. This city was called Haran, and was in the country called Mesopotamia. "And the servant took ten camels, of the camels of his master, and departed: for all the goods of his master were in his hand,” or trusted to his care.
The camel is a very useful beast in the eastern parts of the world, and rich people had then, and still have, great numbers of these animals: they are very strong, and will carry very large loads—as much as a thousand pounds
in weight. Some have two humps on their back, and some have one; they will go long journeys through hot deserts without any water. Abraham's servant took ten of these, laden with presents for the expected wife of Isaac and her friends.
Having ended his journey of several days, he made his camels to kneel down without the city by a well of water, at the time of the evening-even the time that women go out to draw water.
Camels are early taught to kneel, that they may take rest, and be loaded and unloaded, as they are very high.
The women went to the well in the evening to draw water; and in Arabia, to this day, the women do the same.
And now Abraham's servant prayed to God that he would direct, in his providence, that the young woman who should offer him and his camels to drink, should be the wife of Isaac.
We can never hope for a blessing on any thing that we do that is important in life, unless we pray to God for it.
When the servant had done praying, Rebekah, who was the daughter of Bethuel, Abraham's brother's son, came to the well, and brought a pitcher on her shoulder; and she was very kind, and good-natured, and obliging, and did present the servant and his camels with water ; and as there were ten camels, it was no small trouble.
All this must have pleased the good servant, or rather the steward ; and with all this we learn that “the damsel was very fair to look upon,” but her beauty would have been nothing, if she had not had good temper.
You must not wonder at Rebekah going to draw the water, for it was quite usual then, and in that country, for persons of the first rank to be so employed. Industry is no disgrace to any rank, but idleness always is.
The steward now hoped that his journey would succeed, and he gave Rebekah a golden ear-ring and two bracelets for her arms, which together weighed ten shekels and a half, every shekel of gold being worth about eighteen shillings.
The steward next asked her about her relations, and inquired if they could give him a lodging for himself and camels.
In that country it is quite usual still, for those who have large houses, or roomy tents, to show the same politeness and hospitality to travellers. They have large court-yards for the beasts, and plenty of room for any friends or respectable strangers.
Having so far succeeded, the good man “ bowed down his head, and
worshipped the Lord," or thanked God. We ought always to thank God for all our comforts.
And now Rebekah, having learnt who he was, ran and told her mother : the women lived in apartments by themselves, as they still do in the East. And then her brother Laban soon learnt the news; and he ran out to the man, and invited him in, and told him he had room for himself and camels. .
** 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 men's feet that were with him.”
Laban's father was perhaps dead, or not able to move about with age, and so Laban was the acting master of the house.
And now the steward told about his master's wealth, and that he had a son born in his old age, and what had passed between him and his master about Isaac's marriage, and what he had prayed, and what had happened at the well.
When he had finished, Laban and Bethuel agreed to let Rebekah go, as they saw God's will was in the matter. This Bethuel is thought to have been a younger brother of Rebekah, and not the father. And they blessed Rebekah, or expressed the kindest wishes for her, that she might be comforted in her children, and that they might be many, and overcome all their enemies.
"And Rebekah arose, and her damsels, and they rode upon the camels, and followed the man; and the servant took Rebekah, and went his way.”
And it happened that Isaac was walking in the field on the evening of their arrival; and seeing them coming, he went towards them. And Rebekah inquired of the steward who he was; and as was, and is, the castom of that country, she put a veil on her face as a token of modesty on meeting Isaac; for nothing in a female is so lovely as modesty in behaviour.
And now the different customs required were all gone through, and Isaac took Rebekah to be his companion for life ; and he loved her : and Isaac was comforted after his mother's death.
The Death of Abraham.
GENESIS Xxv. 8-10. Here is death again. Abraham gave up the ghost, that is, yielded back his spirit to God who gave it; and he was buried in the same tomb with Sarah Abraham married after he lost Sarah, and he lived to be an