Bible studies with Don Isaac Abravanel’s commentary (also spelled Abarbanel) has withstood the test of
“And I will make you swear by God, the God in heaven and the God of
the earth, that you shall not take a wife for my son of the daughters of
the Canaanites, among whom I dwell. But you shall go unto my country,
and to my kindred, and take a wife for my son, even for Isaac.”
Don Isaac Abravanel (1437-1508) was a preeminent Jewish thinker, scholar, and prolific Biblical
commentator. In Genesis chapter 24, Abraham turns his attention to finding the right wife for Isaac.
Abravanel asks about Abraham’s precondition. Why was it crucial that Isaac’s wife hail from the
patriarch’s homeland? What was his objection to the local, Canaanite girls? Certainly, it had nothing to
do with Canaan’s affinity to idol worship, though Abraham found it wholly despicable. In that
department, the patriarch’s homeland was on the same page, sharing those irreverent mores.
Abravanel gives two answers. The first one takes into account Abraham’s awareness of, and sensitivity
to, Noah’s curse: “And Noah awoke from his wine, and he knew what his youngest son had done unto
him. And he said, cursed be Canaan.” The patriarch was adamant that his blessed Isaac would not marry
a woman born to an accursed nation. Water and oil.
Here is a second rationale behind Abraham’s qualification for his son’s wife. God had promised the Holy
Land to Noah’s son Shem. Though Canaanites, at present, ruled the land, that would not always be the
case. In time, and in accordance with divine will, Shem’s descendants would wrest control of the land of
Israel away from Canaan, liberate it, and take possession of it. Abraham traced his lineage to Shem. He
was not about to let Isaac marry a Canaanite girl, for that union would effectively enable Canaan to take
hold of the Holy Land, in violation of God’s promise to Shem. Shem, and only Shem was the legitimate
heir to the land.
Abravanel lists other reasons for Abraham’s conduct, concerning his son’s wife. Please see Abravanel’s World of Torah: Bereshit