The Camel Test

Abraham sends his servant Eliezer (אֱלִיעֶזֶר/help of God) to find a wife for his beloved son Isaac from along his family, “you will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell, but will go to my country and to my kindred, and take a wife for my son Isaac” (Gen. 24:3-4).

Eliezer arrives in Nahor with ten camels, and others treasures in tow as a sign of Abraham’s wealth. He settles by the city well, and formulates a plan: “Let the young woman to whom I shall say, ‘Please let down your jar that I may drink,’ and who shall say, ‘Drink, and I will water your camels’—let her be the one whom you have appointed for your servant Isaac. By this I shall know that you have shown steadfast love to my master” (Gen. 24:14).

She must offer water to both Eliezer and his ten camels? An extraordinary test for an extraordinary mission. This young woman, Rebecca, would draw roughly 100 gallons of water for the camels, in addition to the water draw for her regular chores. This was a test of kindness.

Abraham is known for his faith, see Genesis 15:6 or Romans 4; yet, he is also recognized for his kindness: חֶסֶד/ḥeseḏ. This Hebrew word is difficult to convey in English. It describes so much with so little. Rabbi Dr. Jonathan Sacks defines hesed this way, “What is hessed? It is usually translated as ‘kindness’ but it also means ‘love’ – not love as emotion or passion, but love expressed as deed. Theologians define hessed as covenant love … Hessed is the love that is loyalty, and the loyalty that is love.” Sacks further explains that while tzedakah (charity) can be a gift or a loan of money, hessed is a gift of ourselves to the human other.

Hesed – kindness, loyalty, love – is a powerful, albeit simple word. In the Hebrew Scriptures it describes the covenant relationship of the Lord with Israel, and ultimately, how our human relationships are to be modeled in action.

The cultivation of kindness (חֶסֶד) begins in the home, with children observing the kindness displayed by their familial influences. From generation to generation, לדור ודור/le’dor va’dor, the kindness shown to neighbors develops in the context of family.

Abraham is said to have been an initiator of kindness. In other words, he did not wait to act in a kind manner, he was looking for the occasion to do so. We find this trait in Rebecca, as she initiated the kindness shown to Eliezer’s camels: “When she had finished giving him a drink, she said, “I will draw water for your camels also, until they have finished drinking” (Gen. 24:19).

It is important to note that Rebecca was not a peasant girl. She was from a family of position and social standing. In this we discover the heart of kindness: to bend or reach down. She reached down and showed kindness to Eliezer, by giving him water, and to the camels, by drawing water for them. The test of the camels designed by Eliezer was a test of kindness. Certainly in Eliezer’s mind a bride of Isaac would have to possess the qualities of the house of Abraham. She did.

The lesson we learn from Rebecca is simple, yet, as always, difficult. She challenges us to walk out the covenant commitment of kindness. To walk in a manner that is selfless, and attuned to the need of the wider community around us. From the Word, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Mic. 6:8). As Yeshua/Jesus expressed it: “Therefore, do unto others as you would have them do unto you: for this is the law and the prophets” (Matt. 7:12).

The name Rebecca (רִבְקָה/riḇqâ) means to ensnare. Yet, when used for a girls name, it implies to ensnare with beauty. It was not Rebecca’s outward beauty that caught Eliezer’s attention, but the beauty of her kindness. We, dear friends, can look beautiful, righteousness, perfect on the outside, but inward be filled with dead men’s bones (Matt. 23:27). This moment in Rebecca’s life demonstrates that the outer appearance is secondary to the inner beauty that reaches out and blesses those in their moment of weakness and vulnerability.

Those born-again, now drawn close to the Living God in Messiah Yeshua by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, shine out the quality of kindness exampled in the House of God. As He reached down to us, filling and refreshing us, we reach out to those around us in like manner. Let us imitate this (Eph. 5:1), to the glory of our Father, not ensnaring by an outer appearance of righteousness, but catching people up in His kindness that refreshes them in an exhausting world.

As Peter writes: “But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control [a]perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (II Pet. 1:5-8).

As a Bride preparing, His fruit will come forth, and in the watering we will be caught up in Him, by His kindness.

Be well. Shalom.