Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Corroborating Biblical History Using Undesigned Coincidences: Isaac and Rebecca Revisited

In a previous article I posted at this site, I argued for the historical veracity of the story in Genesis 24, wherein Abraham sends out a servant to the city of Nahor in Mesopotamia in search of a wife for Isaac. I did so using a form of undesigned coincidence which I call the uniformity of expressive silence (please see my article for a full discussion on that). Here, I want to present an additional corroborating case of an undesigned coincidence.

According to our text in Genesis 24, who was Rebecca (the woman who would become Isaac's wife) in relation to Abraham? In verse 24, Rebecca tells the servant,
I am the daughter of Bethuel the son of Milcah, whom she bore to Nahor.
Who is Nahor? We find out in Genesis 11:26:
When Terah had lived 70 years, he fathered Abram, Nahor, and Haran.
Thus, we learn that Nahor is Abraham's own brother! We are also told this in Genesis 22:20. This information is not given to us in Genesis 24, although the servant does say in verse 27,
As for me, the Lord has led me in the way to the house of my master's kinsmen
The text then does tell us that Rebecca was one of Abraham's kinsmen. For the precise relationship, however, we have to go to Genesis 11:26.

This is rather strange, since it appears then that the grand daughter of Abraham's brother Nahor is to be the wife of Isaac, Abraham's son. Think about what this means. Someone of the third generation on the side of Nahor is to be married to someone of the second generation on the side of Abraham.

How can we make sense of this? Turn over to Genesis 18:11-12, in which we read of the response of Abraham's wife, Sarah, after God promises that “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife shall have a son,”:
Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in years. The way of women had ceased to be with Sarah. So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?”
In other words, Sarah had been for a long time barren, and she was now well past the age of child bearing. This makes sense of how someone of the third generation on Nahor's side could marry someone of the second generation on Abraham's side. But note that this is not spelled out in the text. It is only by putting these jigsaw pieces together -- from Genesis 24:24, Genesis 11:26 and Genesis 18:11-12 -- that we find illumination of what was going on. This is the sort of pattern we expect in a record of history, not a work of fiction.

Indeed, this case of undesigned coincidence corroborates a miraculous element of the narrative -- namely, that Sarah conceived Isaac when she was of old age, something she would naturally not be expected to do. There are many more cases of undesigned coincidences throughout the Scriptures. I will continue to document them on this blog.

1 comment:

ACampbell said...

This analysis effectively highlights an intriguing aspect of the narrative in Genesis 24. By drawing attention to the familial relationship between Rebecca and Abraham through Nahor, the commentator underscores the subtle but significant details present in the text. This adds depth to the understanding of the story's context and historical background, reinforcing the argument for its authenticity. If you're looking to delve deeper into the historical context, you might consider exploring further by buy history research paper .