A strange man comes to town, bearing heavy gold jewels, looking to “acquire” a wife for his master’s son. He sees a pretty young woman, finds the responsible man, and they set terms, agreeing that the girl will be sent off with this stranger to a foreign land. That is one way to tell the story of Abraham’s servant and his quest to find a wife for Isaac. I have left out the context deliberately in order to highlight the inherent drama and even terror of this incident.
Harold Bloom taught many years ago that we cannot read familiar texts like the Bible and even Shakespeare with fresh eyes, because we already “know” them before we have read them. We know that this transaction is benign and all within a family; and that it is indeed divinely ordained that Rebecca will become a matriarch, literally, the mother of Israel. We also know that Rebecca is no weakling—she controls her own destiny from the moment the stranger enters town, and she will exert control over all of the men of her family—Laban, Isaac, Esau and Jacob—even when ceding to them formal power. Continue reading