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Genesis 24:1-9 (CSB): Abraham was now old, getting on in years, and the Lord had blessed him in everything. 2 Abraham said to his servant, the elder of his household who managed all he owned, “Place your hand under my thigh, 3 and I will have you swear by the Lord, God of heaven and God of earth, that you will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites among whom I live, 4 but will go to my land and my family to take a wife for my son Isaac.”

5 The servant said to him, “Suppose the woman is unwilling to follow me to this land? Should I have your son go back to the land you came from?”

6 Abraham answered him, “Make sure that you don’t take my son back there. 7 The Lord, the God of heaven, who took me from my father’s house and from my native land, who spoke to me and swore to me, ‘I will give this land to your offspring’—he will send his angel before you, and you can take a wife for my son from there. 8 If the woman is unwilling to follow you, then you are free from this oath to me, but don’t let my son go back there.” 9 So the servant placed his hand under his master Abraham’s thigh and swore an oath to him concerning this matter.

Why did it matter so much to Abraham that he made his servant swear an oath not to take Isaac back to Abraham's homeland? Abraham talks about God's promise to Abraham to give him the land, but it's not like Isaac going on a short trip elsewhere would invalidate God's promise. So what did Abraham care so much about this?

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We know that Abraham came from north Mesopotamia - Paddan Aram - and settled in Canaan. The journey from Hebron to Nahor in the district of Haran is about 550 miles.

It may be true that Isaac going on a short trip would not invalidate God's promise, but this was no short trip to be undertaken lightly! Imagine traveling from Sydney to Brisbane. It may only be 455 miles by aeroplane and 572 miles by car, but how long do you think that would take by camel? Not less than three weeks (with a following wind and no bandits).

Then there is the fact that Abraham's senior servant was directed by God to meet Rebekah, who happened to be the granddaughter of Nahor, his brother.

Imagine if Isaac (who was 40 years old) had gone to Haran and had been welcomed by his father's kin and members of his tribe, having laid eyes on Rebekah. Oh, what a temptation to remain in their tents, being treated as an honoured guest! Oh, what a possibility that Nahor and Rebekah's mother would have tried to persuade Isaac to stay with them, marry Rebekah and set up home in the district of Haran.

As it was, they tried to prevent Abraham's senior servant from returning immediately, but he would have none of it. He was on a mission - God's mission - and he would not be swayed. A besotted young man might have been less determined and more easily persuaded, especially in view of that arduous return journey, one that would take longer because there would now be a caravan of people and goods to transport.

Abraham knew what he was doing when he sent his senior servant on this mission. But perhaps the main reason for keeping Isaac at home was to ensure that Rebekah would literally step out in faith and go to a strange land to marry a man she had never seen. As it turned out, Rebekah's brother and mother blessed her (Genesis 24:60) and sent her on her way - all part of God's divine plan.

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And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.

Similarly, when the LORD wanted to take a "woman" out of mankind to bring forth a "Son" who was to be both a Savior as well as the King of kings, we see in Genesis 12:1-3 the following profound marriage proposal:

Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed. (My emphasis)

That "woman" is identified in Revelation 12:1-5 as follows:

And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars: And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered. …….. . And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne. (My emphasis)

Yet, even after the Lord previously proposed (Gen 12:1-3, supra), Abram refused to leave his fathers house, or even leave his kindred. Rather, Abram even went with his wife, Sara, with his daddy, Tera, along with his nephew, Lot, into the land of Cannan, as shown in Gen 11:31-32:

And Terah took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran his son's son, and Sarai his daughter in law, his son Abram's wife; and they went forth with them from Ur of the Chaldees, to go into the land of Canaan; and they came unto Haran, and dwelt there. And the days of Terah were two hundred and five years: and Terah died in Haran.

FINALLY, Abram told Lot that they must part--Abram must become separated unto the Lord. Only after Abram seperated himself from the last member of his father house, do we find this very beautiful marriage covenant in Genesis 13:14-16:

And the LORD said unto Abram, after that Lot was separated from him, Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward: For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever. And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered. (My emphasis)

That nation, Israel, is that wife of God, greatly loved, that brought forth that Son, the seed of the woman. God even changed Abram's name to Abraham, designating him as being the father of that, and many other nations, which is now history.

As to going back to the Ur of the Chaldees, that would be like leaving "her husband" and going back home to daddy or mommy. Israel was married, and knew it.

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In answer to the question, Joshua gives us this extra context:

“Joshua said to all the people, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘Long ago your ancestors, including Terah, the father of Abraham and Nahor, lived beyond the Euphrates River and worshiped other gods.” (Joshua 24:2 CSB17)

“<14> “Therefore, fear the LORD and worship him in sincerity and truth. Get rid of the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and worship the LORD. <15> But if it doesn’t please you to worship the LORD, choose for yourselves today: Which will you worship—the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living? As for me and my family, we will worship the LORD.”” (Joshua 24:14–15 CSB17)

There was always the real and present danger of the Lord's people to turn away from the truth to foreign gods. In the land where Abraham lived, there was the danger of the Canaanite gods. Up in Aram there was the same danger. For the gods that Terah had worshipped in Ur, he took with him to Aram. We see concrete evidence of this later on when Jacob takes the trip back to Aram years later. Rebekah's brother, Laban says this to Jacob:

“<29> I could do you great harm, but last night the God of your father said to me, ‘Watch yourself! Don’t say anything to Jacob, either good or bad.’ <30> Now you have gone off because you long for your father’s family—but why have you stolen my gods?”” (Genesis 31:29–30 CSB17)

Notice the open admission that even though the Lord appeared to him, nevertheless he was very concerned about the theft of his own gods.

In short, the spiritual survival of his son and inheritance was at stake. The serious threat required a serious warning and oath.

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It is forbidden because the old land represents sin like Egyptian slavery to sin. There was a great chance of permanently settling back there with the sinful dirty ancestors after being tempted of the pleasures and comfort. This passage shows a believer of God makes a commitment never to return to sin, or make it as hard as possible, the chance of falling into temptation. It is why the law of Moses requires great details to disassociate with the surrounding dirty nations which ranges from dietary to the fabric of clothing and even physical appearances such as not imitating the hairstyles of the wicked cultures (Lev 19). This extreme xenophobia or hatred to the pagan dirty sinners is rooted in the hatred to sin and love to the holy perfect God.

John Gill comments,

beware thou, that thou bring not my son thither again; for the command to come out of the land of Chaldea, never to return more, and to come into the land of Canaan, and there abide, respected both Abraham and his posterity; and besides, it was dangerous for Isaac to go into a family, where, though there was some knowledge of the true God, yet there was much superstition and idolatry in it, as appears by various hints in the sequel of this history, lest he should be corrupted, and degenerate from the true religion.

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Don't Go Back There are several reasons why it would not have been wise for Isaac to venture back to his ancestor's homeland:

1. As Leslie had pointed out, there would have been a strong temptation for Isaac to stay because of the insistence of Rebecca's relatives. (Genesis 24:55-58) Just being around kinfolk would have been a strong draw to prevent Isaac from going back to the Promised Land which God had given to Abraham through covenant---which eventually had redemptive purposes for all mankind! In thy Seed shall all the nations be blessed.

2. There was also the danger of Isaac resorting back to worshipping the idolatrous, false gods of that region of Mesopotamia. Abraham's blessing was intricately tied in to the worship of Jehovah God, creator of heaven and earth. The relatives of Abraham in Haran still worshiped idols. All would have been lost if Isaac succumbed to idolatry. (Genesis 12:8, 31:19,32 father's idols)

3. Notice that the land up north amongst the rivers of Mesopotamia were more like paradise in comparison to the rocky mountains of southern Israel, and the Negev. The lure of the pleasant landscape would have been attractive to Isaac as a place to raise a family. Going from water hole to water hole in the south, trying to raise goats and sheep on scraggy brush would not have been as desirable. (Famine prone Genesis 12:10; 41:57)

4, The land of Abraham's sojourn was populated with strangers to Abraham's clan. Some were outright bandits. (Genesis 15:19-21, Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaims, Amorites, Canaanites Girgashites, Jebusites; 37:1) At times there was conflict with them, and only Abraham's strategy saved the day. But in Haran, Isaac would have been surrounded with kinfolk he could relate to, so he might have been tempted to rest his bones up there, and not return to the "Promised Land," frustrating God's plans.

5, And lastly, Abraham knew what his devious kinfolk were like! Isaac would have been taken advantage of by their chicanery---as is evidenced by the future run in that Jacob had with Laban. The personality (spiritual DNA) of the clan was not that sanctified. Abraham didn't want Isaac to pick up on those habits. (Jacob later exhibited such bad character (through heredity?). (Genesis 31:7, deceived me... ten times; 31:32 stolen; 27:12; deceiver? And his mother said, Upon me by thy curse 27:13)

Sufficient were the several reasons why Abraham had the insight and wisdom to instruct his Servant not to allow Isaac to return to Haran. But the New Testament provides insight and puts this question into perspective in Hebrews' "Faith chapter":

By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither went. By faith he sojourned in the land promise, as in a strong country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob,the heirs with him of the same promise; for he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God...

And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, thetis, a heavenly; wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared for them a city! (Hebrews 11:8-10, 15-16)

If Isaac ventured back up to the country from whence Abraham came he would have seen all the homes of brick and mortar, all the walled villages protected from invaders, the snug cottages with gardens...and all these were much more secure and comfortable than the tents he was living in. Tents he had to pitch up and then tear down as a wandering nomad. Tent living subject to the oppressive siroccos, the cold nights, and the threat of bandits. And all the wandering like a sojourner in a strange land.

The temptation would have been too great to not stay in Canaan. And he would have lost out on the great Promise God had made for him and his future descendants. The promises to Abraham would have been nullified.

But Abraham knew the awesome blessing and favor God had given him, and he wasn't about to let anything stand in its way...according to the scriptures in Hebrews 11! Isaac therefore must not return back north to the country they had come from.

And this what the walk of faith in life is all about. 1 Corinthians 5:7: We walk by faith, not by sight.

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  • These could be good reasons, but they do seem like speculations. Is there anything concrete in the text of Genesis that indicates any of these reasons? (This is the problem with most answers on this question.)
    – curiousdannii
    Oct 11, 2023 at 21:05
  • @ curiousdannii-As in much of exegesis, there are logical inferences that can be drawn from the foundation of scriptural references. Circumstantial evidence can be substantial, or it can be speculation, as you pointed out. The cultural and geographical context of Genesis seems to infer validly the above possibilities. But I wouldn't start a new denomination over it! Peace.
    – ray grant
    Oct 11, 2023 at 22:04
  • @ curiousdannii - See the verses in Hebrews 11:8-16 for more substantial reason given to aid in answering this question! A biblical commentary, not a theologians, indeed, eh?
    – ray grant
    Oct 23, 2023 at 21:09
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The answer is simple:

Isaac is mourning the death of his mother. Sarah has just died in Chapter 23 Verse 1-2:

Genesis‬ ‭23:1‭-‬2‬ ‭NASB2020‬‬

1 Now Sarah lived 127 years; these were the years of the life of Sarah. 2 Sarah died in Kiriath-arba (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan; and Abraham came in to mourn for Sarah and to weep for her.

Then in Chapter 24 Verse 67, it is further confirmed that Isaac was grieving.

‭‭Genesis‬ ‭24:67‬ ‭NASB2020‬‬

Then Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent, and he took Rebekah, and she became his wife, and he loved her; so Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.

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    Please connect the dots - why does that mean Isaac shouldn't go back to Abraham's homeland?
    – curiousdannii
    Oct 8, 2023 at 8:42
  • As it’s currently written, your answer is unclear. Please edit to add additional details that will help others understand how this addresses the question asked. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center.
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    Oct 8, 2023 at 13:27

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