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Q&A

Why was it so important to Abraham that Isaac not go back to Abraham's homeland?

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Genesis 24:1-9 (CSB): Abraham was now old, getting on in years, and the Lord had blessed him in everything. 2 Abraham said to his servant, the elder of his household who managed all he owned, “Place your hand under my thigh, 3 and I will have you swear by the Lord, God of heaven and God of earth, that you will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites among whom I live, 4 but will go to my land and my family to take a wife for my son Isaac.”

5 The servant said to him, “Suppose the woman is unwilling to follow me to this land? Should I have your son go back to the land you came from?”

6 Abraham answered him, “Make sure that you don’t take my son back there. 7 The Lord, the God of heaven, who took me from my father’s house and from my native land, who spoke to me and swore to me, ‘I will give this land to your offspring’—he will send his angel before you, and you can take a wife for my son from there. 8 If the woman is unwilling to follow you, then you are free from this oath to me, but don’t let my son go back there.” 9 So the servant placed his hand under his master Abraham’s thigh and swore an oath to him concerning this matter.

Why did it matter so much to Abraham that he made his servant swear an oath not to take Isaac back to Abraham's homeland? Abraham talks about God's promise to Abraham to give him the land, but it's not like Isaac going on a short trip elsewhere would invalidate God's promise. So what did Abraham care so much about this?

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Probably the most important thing in Abraham's life (certainly theologically) is the promise that God made to Abraham regarding his descendants. Gen. 15 18-21. Abraham was a sojourner from in and around Mesopotamia. God called him and his descendants into Canaan.

The first major point with this is that Abraham was called out (read holy...set apart.) It was important his lineage be pure and not intermingled with the existing Canaanites and their practices of idolatry. Isaac must have a wife of his own people.

His servant essentially asks him in v5 what he should do if the woman refuses to follow - and whether he should come out of Canaan.

Abraham clearly states that Isaac needed to remain in Canaan. In the text, we read twice in vs 6 and 8 for Isaac not to be taken to his homeland.

It is clear Abraham is outlining the importance of this aspect of the request.

Immediately following his request abraham recounts how he himself was taken out of his land and promised Canaan - seemingly invoking the promise of how Canaan was given to his descendants.

7 The Lord God of heaven, who (J)took me from my father’s house and from the land of my family, and who spoke to me and swore to me, saying, (K)‘To your [b]descendants I give this land

One possible interpretation of this is that Abraham knew that likely if Isaac went to find his own wife in Mesopotamia amongst his own people, the chance of him coming back was slim to none.

So Abraham, in wisdom and faith asked his servant to go and bring a woman of his own people out and into the promised land.

Further to this, like many patriarchal stories with Abraham and his children, we see a repetition in Jacobs life. In Genesis 28

Isaac called Jacob and blessed him and commanded him, “You must not marry a Canaanite woman. 2 Go to the house of Bethuel, your mother’s father, in Northwest Mesopotamia. Laban, your mother’s brother, lives there. Marry one of his daughters.

Interestingly Isaac does not learn from his father here and sends Jacob to his homeland. This results in Jacob being tricked into spending at least 14 years there, marrying a woman he did not desire. And only managing to return by tricking the man who tricked him in the first place. Of course God uses this to work out his purposes, but it goes without saying this causes Jacob at least some anguish.

I think this story is a great example of faith and common sense in action. Abraham by faith received the promise and believed but he didn't run around making foolish decisions because he received the promise. By being wise in his decision making, he demonstrates the importance and reverence he holds towards the promise, and thus the LORD.

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