Most literature belongs in a particular genre and most genres have rules or conventions that govern the narrative.
For example, if you were to read a romance novel, you’d expect the hero and heroine to meet in the first chapter. You’d expect, in spite of conflict, that eventually they would find each other and there would be a happy ending.
Within those conventions there’s plenty of room for variety.
The Bible uses such conventions with some fascinating results.
Let’s meet the betrothal convention. In this story type, we have the following rules:
- Hero or his surrogate travels to a foreign country
- He encounters a girl, a maiden, the daughter of so-and-so – at a well
- Someone – the hero or the girl – draws water from the well
- The girl hurries – needs to be running/hurried – home to bring news of the stranger
- A betrothal occurs, usually after sharing a meal with the family.
Our first betrothal story occurs in Genesis. Abraham sends his servant, his surrogate to search for a wife for his son. The surrogate travels to a foreign country and comes to a well.
Since the custom was for the young women to draw water there, it was a good place to camp. There he meets Rebekah, who draws water for him and his camels. Then she runs home to tell her family about the stranger.
Her brother, Laban, comes out to invite the servant to a meal with the family. The betrothal is made and Rebekah goes with the servant to Abraham’s land where she marries Abraham’s son, Isaac.
This narrative established the betrothal narrative structure. The next one will stretch at the edges of the conventions a bit – for a very good reason.
We’ll take a look at that narrative next week.