I remember my first date with my husband. We had been friends for months, but had never gone out on our own. By that point, we both liked each other quite a bit, and looking back now we laugh about how nervous we were. I remember tripping on my way into the restaurant, almost knocking over my water glass on multiple occasions, and talking a mile per minute. Luckily, he found that charming, and a couple years later we got married.
Those first moments, conversations, and dates can feel so exciting that we get a little bit clumsy. And that’s true even in Genesis.
In Genesis 24 we meet Rebekah. Abraham has sent a servant out to find a wife for Isaac, and the servant finds her near a well (for more on this, read We Met At A Well). The chapter is actually rather long (you can read it here), but this is my summary: The servant expects to meet a woman at a well who draws water for him and for his camels. Rebekah does exactly that, and he rewards her with jewelry. Rebekah’s brother Laban then sees Rebekah wearing the jewelry, and offers the servant hospitality. From there, the servant discusses with Rebekah and her family the possibility of her becoming Isaac’s wife. Eventually, everyone agrees, and the servant and Rebekah return to find Isaac.
Here’s where the story gets especially sweet: In verses 63 and 64, we learn that Isaac had gone out to the field to meditate, and he looks up to see Rebekah with the herd of camels approaching in the distance. Then Rebekah looks up, sees Isaac, and she falls off her camel.
The English translations do a lot of work to try to make this scenario sound more dignified. The King James Version says she “lighted off” her camel, the English Standard Version says she “dismounted from” her camel, and the New International Version says she “got down from” her camel. They’re being gracious.
If the writer wanted to keep Rebekah dignified and controlled, he would have used the word tsanach. We find it in Judges 1:14, when Aksah gets down from (tsanach) her donkey to make a request of her husband. Rebekah doesn’t tsanach, though.
The word here is naphal — it’s the same word used to describe Abraham falling on his face before God (Gen. 17:3) and Joseph’s brothers falling down before Joseph (Gen. 44:14 and 50:18). In these instances, the people feel so overcome with emotion that they fall over. And upon seeing her betrothed, Rebekah naphal‘s from her camel as well.
This is a sweet and tender moment in the biblical story. One that demonstrates how those early stages of love can make us feel overwhelmed and even clumsy. And it tells us that those are holy moments.
We are meant to feel surprised by God, and even by one another. Those remarkable moments when we feel caught off guard and overwhelmed by the circumstances we encounter can change what we know about ourselves and how we see the world. While we may feel embarrassed about our giddiness and joy, we see God in this text bless Rebekah for it. Let’s take the time today to remember a few of those joyful, silly, even clumsy moments, and celebrate them, knowing that God created us to feel overwhelmed and in awe of the love He has for us, and the love we find around us.