Apr 5, 2018

Genesis 24:63-64

This article on Genesis 24:63-64 by Rabbi Pete Tobias is interesting. Rabbi Tobias suggests that Isaac's activity described by the Hebrew verb lasu’ach causes Rebekah to fall off of her camel.  He concludes, "So whatever Isaac was doing, when Rebecca saw it, she tumbled, perhaps in amusement, perhaps in alarm." But this seems to be an over-interpretation. First, as the rabbi notes, lasu’ach is a hapax legomenon. So while there is ambiguity as to what exactly Isaac was doing, there is no reason to think that he was doing anything that was amusing or alarming (although it cannot be ruled out either). Second, while Tobias is correct that a literal reading of v. 64 could be, “She fell off her camel,” it seems that Rebekah's dismount is idiomatic (see 2 Kgs 5:21 where the same verb is used). 

Based on the questionable conclusion that Isaac was doing something humorous or alarming, Rabbi Tobias suggests that "many of the Torah’s stories are intended to amuse and entertain a Biblical audience" and that we should not treat biblical characters "with unnecessary reverence." I think the rabbi is correct in these affirmations but not on the basis of Genesis 24:63-64. This might be a good reminder that knowing the languages might cause you to over-interpret a passage.

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