Last week we began a discussion about the betrothal genre in the Bible with some basic guidelines laid out. Then we examined the first betrothal – that of Isaac and Rebekah – setting the conventions in place.
The second betrothal is also found in Genesis but features a few tweaks to the guidelines – for a purpose.
Jacob, Isaac’s son, left his home and goes to a foreign land. There was no surrogate this time; Jacob was fleeing his brother’s wrath after deceiving him.
But the convention remains. Jacob went to the well to find his uncle Laban and there met Laban’s daughter, Rachel.
She was unable to draw water because of a stone blocking the well. So Jacob moved the stone for her and then watered the sheep. This slight variation on the convention could foreshadow the difficulties Jacob must overcome to actually marry Rachel- and even her difficulty in bearing children for him.
But the convention continues, for Rachel, after meeting Jacob, runs to her home. He eats a meal with the family and the betrothal is secured.
Although we were told immediately that Rebekah was beautiful, in this story we don’t learn of Rachel’s beauty until later – when she was compared to her sister Leah. The convention flexes here to give us understanding about the coming strife between the two sisters.
A third betrothal follows in Exodus when Moses, fleeing Egypt after murdering an Egyptian, arrived in a foreign land: Midian.
There he met the seven daughters of a Midianite priest – at a well where they had come to draw water. Moses had to drive off hostile shepherds before drawing water for the sheep, as the convention requires.
The girls hurried off to tell their father. Their father, Reuel, invited Moses to a meal and Moses was given Zipporah as his wife. All within the convention.
Next week we’ll look at a surprising betrothal story that used the betrothal conventions to an unexpected conclusion.