Wee word study: Being in the way

“And the man bowed down his head, and worshipped the LORD. And he said, ‘Blessed be the LORD God of my master Abraham, who has not left destitute my master of his mercy and his truth: I being in the way, the LORD led me to the house of my master’s brothers.'” Genesis 24:27

As an addendum to our family, eight and six years after my brothers were born, I often felt like a bother, a nuisance. In the way.

It is comforting for me to read Genesis 24 (the whole chapter), in which Abraham sends a trusted servant back to the old country with ten camels to secure a wife for his son Isaac. The servant has misgivings–“What if she won’t follow me?”–but Abraham assures him, “The LORD, before whom I walk, will send his angel with you, and prosper your way.”

When the servant-cum-camels reaches the old country (Mesopotamia) he sets conditions for God to meet so he’ll recognize the woman God has picked for Isaac. Sure enough a woman “very fair to look on and a virgin” comes along and unknowingly fulfills the conditions (watering him and all the camels). She turns out to be Abraham’s great-niece–and she’s willing to drop everything to travel to a foreign country with this stranger and marry her second cousin, whom she has never met.

The servant is ecstatic, puts rings on her fingers and bells on her toes (so to speak), lets her brother invite him to dinner and recounts to the family his assignment and every detail of his journey before he’ll take a single bite of food.

For me, the high point of this very middle-Eastern romance (Rebekah may not have even known Isaac’s name until she met him later in a field in Canaan) is when the servant, describing to Rebekah’s family how he obeyed his master and how God set before him the perfect choice, says, “I, being in the way, the Lord led me. . .”

Sometimes even those of us who feel in the way can be smack dab in the middle of God’s will and be one of the dots God is connecting to do something wonderful.

Of course you have to use certain translations to get that slant on it. In Hebrew it’s just anoki badderek–“me, the way”–which most translations render, “As for me.” But that doesn’t capture the wonder at all.



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11 Responses to Wee word study: Being in the way

  1. Is this the rickety King James that’s quoted here? The ESV translates that part of the verse as “…the Lord has led me in the way to the house of my father’s kinsmen.” Something similar will be found in most modern translations. It has nothing to do with our English colloquial expression regarding someone being “in the way.”

  2. I find it difficult to believe, by the way, that Isaac and Rebekah would not have told each other their names during the long journey back to Canaan!

  3. Jessica says:

    Richard, you keep objecting to things I haven’t said. Read twice, respond once.

  4. Jessica says:

    The Rickety King James, the King James Bible (Cambridge edition), King James 2000 Bible, American King James, plus Darby Bible Translation, Webster’s Bible Translation, and Young’s Literal Translation.

    I should have said, “Of course you have to use certain translations to get that reading” (rather than “slant.”) I know the Bible doesn’t mean if we’re a nuisance we’ll necessarily be in God’s will. Your literalism is so long it trips you up, Richard. But I don’t mind being prodded to be more precise.

    To understand why it is comforting to know you can still be in God’s will and part of His plan even if people consider you a bother or a waste of time, you have to have been there. If the shoe doesn’t fit, don’t wear it.

  5. Well, you’re the one who wrote: “Rebekah may not even have known Isaac’s name until she met him later in a field in Canaan.” So, it’s hard to imagine the servant not telling her the name of his master during the long ride back. Why would she not know that until later?

  6. Hey, I’m just responding to your making the intellectual jump from an awkwardly worded translation (“I being in the way”) to the non sequitur of it meaning the same thing as our colloquial expression! LOL

  7. Jessica says:

    Richard, it’s a literary device called exaggeration to make a point. Of COURSE she would have asked that, first thing–and as much as she could in addition to that! My point was merely, she didn’t know much about him, certainly not the kind of things a woman wants to know about the man she is committing her whole future to. Like, what did he look like? I would have been mildly curious about that. (Again, humor for effect.) Did the servant pull out his cell phone and show her a picture of him? How tall was he? Did he have bad teeth and bad breath? Did he snore? And, above everything (since she already knew his faith in Jehovah was solid), would he treat her gently and with respect?

    On the other hand, although she would have known his name how could Jacob know her name until she arrived in person? Could the servant text him ahead of time? I love the order of events in Genesis 29 when Jacob and Rebekah’s son Isaac meets his future bride, Rachel. When he saw her for the first time, 1) he rolled the stone from the mouth of the well and watered her father’s sheep, 2) kissed her, 3) lifted his voice and wept, 4) intoduced himself.

    Rebekah’s submission to the will of God for her life–and the prospect of adventure–is remarkable. She was an amazing woman. God chose well (as always).

  8. Richard just “doesn’t get it” but I did. I am catching up on a week’s worth of blogs tonight because next week looks busier than usual. I got it. I like to isolate phrases,or words sometimes and pull them out of context if it has been a blessing to me. I saw your point exactly. In fact, I liked thinking that maybe I am a “dot” that can connect something wonderful in God’s plan. I really liked that. And I do really use and like best the Geneva Bible which is very very close to the KJV. :You probably read my blog on it recently.

  9. The Bible is to be understood, always, in context. That’s why the words are strung together into sentences and paragraphs. (sigh…)

  10. You, Richard, have made your point, and I have made mine. I will never limit the Holy Spirit by determining ahead of time HOW to read the Word of God. If one or two words jump out at me with something meaningful or challenging, that is up to Him. The Holy Spirit will always be my teacher. Most of the time, I prepare Bible studies in a contextual framework. But when I just read the Bible for my spirtual food, not so. I say with Samuel, “Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth.” So, I don’t fit in your mold. That’s okay. You, be you. I’ll be me.

  11. In other words, for you, the Bible has a nose of wax, which you may twist any which way you subjectively please to get the meaning you want, at any particular moment. Unfortunately (or, rather, *very* fortunately), God did not intend the Bible to work that way.

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