صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

fications, which he deemed most desirable in a companion worthy of his master's son. She who could be thus complaisant and obliging to a stranger, would certainly conduct herself well in the relation of a wife. It is a natural inquiry, whether the servant did right in thus fixing in his own mind upon a sign, and apparently prescribing it to God as a test of the selection about to be made. In reply, we may observe: (1.) That the event seems clearly to prove that the proceeding received the divine approbation, if it were not in fact of divine suggestion. (2.) Let the circumstances of the case be considered : It does not appear that any particular individual or particular family had been designated by Abraham, to whom his servant was to apply. All was uncertainty in this respect; and yet a choice was to be made without any great delay, which might have been attended with special inconveniences on all sides. The exigency, therefore, was peculiar, and the servant seems to have determined to do what common prudence would have dictated to any sensible man, under similar circumstances. Being an entire stranger to all the people of the city, he resolved to take his stand at the public watering-place, and judge as well as he could, from the deportment of the young women, which of them promised fairest to possess the requisite endowments of person, temper, and manners. All this, as far as we can see, was both proper and politic under the circumstances; and being an habitually pious man, when once he had fixed upon a definite course of action, he looks up to God and implores his blessing upon it. This was all. But his conduct, except in imploring the divine blessing upon whatever he underlook, is evidently no rule for us in the ordinary transactions of life.”

A prayer offered, with such a reliance upon the divine faithfulness, was sure to be answered. That answer was direct and immediate. The damsel came forth, whom the steward would have chosen before all others. He enters into conversation with her. This leads to an invitation to her

father's house, where Eliezer states the object of his visit, and relates the various circumstances, which had brought him acquainted with the family, whose hospitality he was enjoying. The hand of the Lord was acknowledged in the whole transaction, and the question is referred to Rebekah, whether she will return with Eliezer, and become the wife of Isaac. “ Wilt thou go with this man?" was the simple question propounded; and the direct and artless reply of Rebekhah does her the highest honor, " I will go."

On learning the success of his negotiation, Eliezer, prompted by a sense of the kindness of God, pours forth his heart in expressions of gratitude. Shortly afterwards, he takes his departure with Rebekah in charge, the latter having received the blessing of all whom she left behind. The journey home was prosperous. Isaac meets his bride, while walking out to meditate at even tide, and Eliezer introduces him to her. He conducts her to his mother's tent; she becomes his wife, and, it is added, " he loved her,” a declaration which cannot, in truth, be made of all men in respect to their wives, but which we should expect would be true of one in whom, and for whose welfare, God had so kindly and sig. nally interested himself.

GENESIS

PRAYER OF JACOB.

And Jacob said, O God of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac, the Lord

which saidst unto me, Return unto thy country, and to thy kindred, and I will deal well with thee. I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which thou hast shewed unto thy servant : for with my staff I passed over this Jordan, and now I am become two bands. Deliver me, I pray thee, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau : for I sear him, lest he will come and smite me, and the mother with the children. And thou saidst, I will surely do thee good, and make thy seed as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.-Gen. xxxii. 9--12. THE prayer

of Jacob is one of the most devout, fervent, and successful prayers recorded in the Inspired Volume

It was offered, under circumstances of peculiar perplexity and solicitude; and, as is common in such cases, there is manifest, on the part of the patriarch, a directness and an urgency well adapted to secure the blessing of Him, who has said, "The effectual, fervent prayer," i. e. the intensely fervent prayer "of a righteous man availeth much."

Jacob and Esau were twin brothers, and sons of Isaac and Rebekah. As they grew up to manhood, they evinced dispositions of a widely different character. Jacob proved to be meek and peaceable, contenting himself with the duties and pleasures of a pastoral life; while Esau gave preference to the more stirring and adventurous pursuits of the chase, which the better accorded with a nature comparatively restless and intractable.

In process of time, an event occurred in the family, which involved consequences of a serious and lasting nature. One day, Jacob had been preparing some pottage, when Esau returning from the field, weary and faint, requested some of it. Jacob seized the opportunity of proposing to exchange the pottage for the birthright of the family, which, in virtue of his being the elder, belonged to Esau. Both, probably, , understood the value of this birthright. But Esau, with an indifference to spiritual blessings and privileges, which can only be accounted for, upon the supposition that his heart was not right towards God, accedes to the proposal and for “one morsel of bread," quitclaims interests of inestimable value.

Whether Jacob was just and kind in taking advantage of his brother's necessity, may be questioned. But it is probable that he had daily proofs of the light estimation, in which Esau held the birthright. They were at this time, forty years old; an age, one would think, at which they were capable of appreciating a negotiation of the kind. And, more. over, Esau made no overtures to cancel the bargain, but "eat and drank, and rose up, and went away," as if he were satisfied with the equivalent which he had obtained.

For thirty-seven years, according to Dr. Hales, following the above purchase, no mention is made in the sacred narrative of the transaction. But, at length, when Jacob had reached his 77th, and Isaac his 137th year, the latter, by some means anticipating death at no distant day, proposes to confer on Esau the blessing of primogeniture; and, as a concomitant of the ceremony in such cases, he directs him to prepare “savory meat, that I may eat,” says he, “and bless thee before I die."

By an artful expedient, or, as it has with greater truth been characterized, by a “crooked policy” of Rebekah, Jacob is made to personate his brother, and receives the blessing which Isaac intended for Esau. This blessing now belonged to Jacob by right of purchase, and most unnecessary, as well as criminal, was the stratagem devised by Rebekah, in behalf of her favorite son.

Consequences disastrous to the peace of the family immediately follow. Esau, maddened in view of his loss, threatens the life of Jacob. The deepest anxiety and distress pervades the bosom of the unhappy mother. She parts with him to see him no more; while he, to escape an incensed brother, is obliged to commence a long and perilous journey, alone and unbefriended, to his mother's relatives in the land of Mesopotamia.

On arriving at the place of his destination, he enters the service of Laban, his uncle, with whom he spends twenty years. He marries, and rears a large family; is oppressed, and even cruelly treated by his selfish and mercenary fatherin-law; yet is prospered and becomes rich.

At the expiration of twenty years, God directs him to return to the land of his fathers. Accordingly, collecting his family and flocks, he commences his journey. Passing over the difficulties in which for a time he is involved with Laban. we arrive at the interesting incidents connected with his renewed intercourse with Esau, and the sore trial which preceded it.

A sore trial! God had bid him return; and yet he suffers him to be brought into great distress, and the most painful apprehensions. For some years, Esau had been residing in mount Seir, where he had become rich and powerful. But Jacob had no evidence that his former enmity had abated. He had once threatened his life, and who could say that his resentment might not enkindle, and not only himself, but his wives and children, fall victims to his unabated fury? Jacob was afraid. And God leaves him to the painful recollection of his sin, which had originally excited the anger of Esau.

With great prudence, however, Jacob takes measures to propitiate his offended brother. At some distance he encamps, and sends messengers forward to inform Esau of his return; and to assure him that it was not with any intention of assuming the honor of precedency, or of claiming the double portion, to which he might seem to be entitled. God had prospered him, and he was contented. But this prudential step, for a time, only adds to his cumulative trouble and anxiety. The messengers return. They had seen Esau. They had deliv. ered their message. He had made no reply, but was on his march, at the head of four hundred men !

What his real purpose was, Jacob is left to conjecture. But his fears are by no means allayed by the news of his approach. If disposed for peace, why comes he with the imposing and threatening array of four hundred men ? There was ground for increased alarm, and to the eye of the patriarch, there seemed, at length, but one path of safety; one, and one source only of protection; God must help, or ruin is before them.

Jacob now hastily divides his company into two bands, that if Esau should come and smite the one, the other might possibly escape. Having done this, his last expedient is to present his case, with all its perplexities and dangers, to the notice of his covenant God.

In the first place, he approaches God, as the God of his

« السابقةمتابعة »