Eliezer Chooses Rebecca to be Isaac's Bride

12th-13th century
Cathedral of the Assumption, Monreale, Sicily

In Genesis 24 Abraham has sent his chief steward to Mesopotamia to find an appropriate bride for Isaac. The steward's name is not given in the chapter, but at 15:2 he is called Eliezer. As women gather at a well near Nahor he has asked God to indicate which one he should choose by having her say, "Drink, and I will give thy camels drink also." Rebecca says just that, so Eliezer knows she is the one.

In the first mosaic Eliezer is the man standing closest to Rebecca, who is now watering the camels as promised. (That the other men are subordinates can be seen in the second panel, where they walk with their staffs while Eliezer and Rebecca ride camels.) The inscription reads REBECCA DAT POTUM SERVO ABRAHE ET CAMELIS SUIS, "Rebecca gives drink to the servant of Abraham and his camels."

In the second mosaic, Eliezer and Rebecca leave Nahor on their journey to Isaac's abode in "the south country," Rebecca riding side-saddle on her camel while Eliezer sits astride on his. At the well Eliezer had given Rebecca gold earrings and bracelets, and in Rebecca's home he added "vessels of silver and gold, and garments." Now she is wearing the bracelets and earrings, and presumably her sumptuous mantle is one of the new garments.

Rebecca returns the gaze of the viewer while holding her left hand palm-out, as is common in images of Mary at the Annunciation. She also has a blue mantle such as Mary wears in many portraits. And she is a virgin. For the exegetes Rebecca is a figure of the Church, with which Mary is also closely associated.1

View the first image and the second image in full resolution.
Read more about Isaac and Rebecca.

Photographed at the cathedral by Richard Stracke, shared under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.

1 See my page on Ecclesia: the Church and Glossa Ordinaria, I, 282-85.