Friday, June 16, 2017
Abraham was now a very old man, and the Lord had blessed him in every way. One day Abraham said to his oldest servant, the man in charge of his household, “Take an oath by putting your hand under my thigh. Swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and earth, that you will not allow my son to marry one of these local Canaanite women. Go instead to my homeland, to my relatives, and find a wife there for my son Isaac.” The servant asked, “But what if I can’t find a young woman who is willing to travel so far from home? Should I then take Isaac there to live among your relatives in the land you came from?” “No!” Abraham responded. “Be careful never to take my son there. For the Lord, the God of heaven, who took me from my father’s house and my native land, solemnly promised to give this land to my descendants. He will send his angel ahead of you, and he will see to it that you find a wife there for my son. If she is unwilling to come back with you, then you are free from this oath of mine. But under no circumstances are you to take my son there.” So the servant took an oath by putting his hand under the thigh of his master, Abraham. He swore to follow Abraham’s instructions. Genesis 24:1-9(NLT)
Promises are important! We make promises over many issues of life. Brides, grooms and the communities that are witnesses at weddings vow promises of fidelity and support. Officials make promises to faithfully discharge the duties of their offices. Children promise to be BFF’s (Best Friends Forever).
Abraham knew the promise God had made to him about where his descendants should be was so important, he made his servant swear an oath, a binding promise that in finding a bride for his son Isaac, he would never choose a Canaanite woman.
The ceremonial swearing of Abraham’s servant was quite different from our typical oath-taking, where we place a hand on the Bible, raise the right hand and make our promise. Abraham had the servant put his hand under Abraham’s thigh.
The thigh was the seat of generative power, and the region of sacramental consecration, and to put the hand under the thigh was to acknowledge and pledge obedience to him who requires the oath.[ii]
Generative power, or the origin of “seed” for procreation of the species, was (and is) the central focus of heritage. Let’s face it, you don’t leave your name and whatever estate you may have accumulated to just anybody; heirs are important. To “swear” by the hand under the thigh was to put the future on the line.
In addition, the servant, by placing his hand under Abraham’s thigh, was bringing into view the significance of the special mark of God’s chosen people, circumcision. This was putting history and faithfulness to God in the mix of this promise.
Abraham was requiring his servant to swear by everything sacred and holy, past, present, and future, that he would keep the promise. This was not exactly a BFF promise on Facebook, given today and forgotten before the day ends.
Jesus’ appearing in Bethlehem was the fulfillment of God placing his own hand (so to speak) under his own thigh, and promising He would come to redeem us from sin and death.j
[ii] Barnes’ Notes on the Old Testament, Electronic Edition ©1999, Parsons Technology, Inc