Then the servant left, taking with him ten of his master’s camels loaded with all kinds of good things from his master. He set out for Aram Naharaim and made his way to the town of Nahor. He had the camels kneel down near the well outside the town; it was toward evening, the time the women go out to draw water.
Then he prayed, “Lord, God of my master Abraham, make me successful today, and show kindness to my master Abraham. See, I am standing beside this spring, and the daughters of the townspeople are coming out to draw water. May it be that when I say to a young woman, ‘Please let down your jar that I may have a drink,’ and she says, ‘Drink, and I’ll water your camels too’—let her be the one you have chosen for your servant Isaac. By this I will know that you have shown kindness to my master.”
Before he had finished praying, Rebekah came out with her jar on her shoulder. She was the daughter of Bethuel son of Milkah, who was the wife of Abraham’s brother Nahor. The woman was very beautiful, a virgin; no man had ever slept with her. She went down to the spring, filled her jar and came up again.
The servant hurried to meet her and said, “Please give me a little water from your jar.”
“Drink, my lord,” she said, and quickly lowered the jar to her hands and gave him a drink.
After she had given him a drink, she said, “I’ll draw water for your camels too, until they have had enough to drink.” So she quickly emptied her jar into the trough, ran back to the well to draw more water, and drew enough for all his camels. Without saying a word, the man watched her closely to learn whether or not the Lord had made his journey successful.
- Genesis 24:10-19
I was reading Genesis 24 the other day, and I thought of my first trip to India. For a month, our driver took me and my companions through rural areas of Maharashtra from Karnala to Dolvi. The only big town along the way was Pen. Yet, just past the railroad crossing, there was a small village. Our timing on getting to work coincided with the morning trip for water at the well next to the road in that village. When I returned seven years later, the highway bypassed this small village. Seeing the ladies is one of the things that I missed on that second trip.
The ladies were always laughing. They all helped each other. To get two or even three pots of water on your head required someone to help you. Thus, fetching water was a social activity. Those who think social media is actually social haven’t fetched water in a small village in India.
I only saw one sad woman upon her return home with water. The driver flew by in a hurry to get to work one day on my second trip, this time from Alibag to Dolvi and a different village. The woman was carrying her single pot of water in her arms, not on her head. Did she arrive at the well too late for help? Did she have an accident, falling and spilling her water? Was she mugged? Usually most women would have multiple pots. As she faded in the distance behind us, I grieved for her.
Now let’s look at Rebekah in a new light. I’ve seen videos of theologians who go to a well that they think might be the well of this story. To draw up water meant to lower a pot from some distance. This might have been without a pulley, requiring the woman to lift, hand over hand. Consider the earthen pots of the day. It had to weigh a great deal. If the pot were too large, it would take a few people to draw the water up. If the pot were too small, it would take too many lifts. Note that water weighs about 8 pounds per gallon or about a pound per pint. Water is heavy. The pot is heavy. Rebekah may have been beautiful as the scriptures say, but she had to have strong arm muscles.
Now, let’s look at the scene in this passage and relate it to the small village in India. The servant has arrived early. He knows the routine. The women have already washed the clothes in the stream; they have already gathered the firewood for the men to make a fire for breakfast; and now, soon after dawn, they are making their third long trek of the morning. (By the way, Rebekah had to have strong legs, too.) The presence of the servant was a disruption in their daily social fetching of water. I am sure that the women of the village had a set routine of drawing water, filling jugs, placing jugs on heads. They laughed and gossiped, but they had a set routine. The approach of the servant broke that rhythm. Yet, Rebekah was not fazed by the interruption. The more, the merrier.
Rebekah, who had enough work to do already, offers to give the stranger water and to also water his camels. Did she have no concept of ‘stranger danger’?
No, God was at work.
How have you drawn water? I have dipped a cup into the Fountain of Youth in St. Augustine, Florida. I have raised water using a pulley from a well. I have dipped a carved gourd into a well and drunk from it. I have filled my canteen in a filthy stream and added iodine tablets, along with a prayer. I have boiled water from streams high in the New Mexico mountains. Yet, none of these had the social impact of fetching water at the village well with all of my friends. And none had the impact of a stranger asking Rebekah for a drink.
The picture is of three women walking the path back home from the well. I was struck by so many things during that month in India. The abject poverty combined with the happiness of the country people was one of the things that I noticed most. Outside of Mumbai and other big cities with their beggars and thieves, the country folk were happy. They had no vision of a better life, so they enjoyed the life that they had. I used a Charles Spurgeon quote yesterday. Charles Spurgeon wrote, “The heathen misrepresent God by worshipping idols; we misrepresent God by our murmuring and our complaining.”
I have a short list for Santa this year. Actually, my anticipated needs are too expensive, so they’ll wait until the needs are more pressing. For Christmas, I want Joy, Peace, and Contentment. Murmuring and complaining among Christians can stop, and usually must stop, one person at a time. The way to stop the murmuring and complaining is to be content, have faith, and love God even more. God will provide, just as He provided Rebekah as a wife for Isaac.