Hilarious Story: The Name of Abraham’s Servant REVEALED!

Abraham's Servant Put and Put's Wife Narendra Carrying their Baby Modi
Abraham’s Servant Put and Put’s Wife Narendra Carrying their Baby Modi

True story, told with permission:

Dr. Dan Olinger was once an editor for Faith for the Family magazine, a publication of Bob Jones University. It was his (occasional and usually unenviable) task to review unsolicited submissions to the magazine. He had to read these and write courteous thanks-but-no-thanks letters.

One submission, however, caught his attention. It was actually quite good. It was a short piece of historical fiction based on the events of Genesis 24, the story of Abraham’s servant searching out a bride for Isaac. The story was well written and interesting, and the added details were plausible and faithful not to contradict any details in the biblical text. The author had clearly paid attention to Genesis 24.

But there was one oddity Dan noticed. The author had given Abraham’s servant a name: “Put”—apparently pronounced like the golf stroke (“putt”). “Put” was sent to Abraham’s kin. “Put” met Rebecca at the well. “Put” brought Rebecca back to her new husband.

“Put”? Dan thought for sure that the Bible hadn’t given this servant a name in Genesis 24. If anything, the guess that this servant was “Eliezer of Damascus” (Gen 15:2) would seem more likely than “Put.”

So Dan pulled out his King James Bible and turned to Genesis 24. This is what he read—and note the punctuation and capitalization:

24:1 And Abraham was old, and well stricken in age: and the LORD had blessed Abraham in all things.

2 And Abraham said unto his eldest servant of his house, that ruled over all that he had, Put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh:

3 And I will make thee swear by the LORD, the God of heaven.

“Put”! There he was! Abraham said to his oldest servant, the one that ruled over all Abraham’s possessions, the servant named Put, “I pray thee—thy hand under my thigh.”

Dan howled (and I did, too, when I heard this story). The lack of quotation marks and the presence of a capital-lettered word in the middle of a sentence both make the mistake a very natural one. Read it again and you’ll see. The only thing indicating that the writer’s read is wrong is that “Thy hand under my thigh” sounds incomplete.

One thing I’ve never heard King James Only folks address is the misunderstandings caused by the differing rules of punctuation employed by the KJV translators. They used the resources available to them. The KJV translators did nothing wrong. But it’s not just English words that have changed over 400 years. Punctuation, spelling, and syntax have changed, too. A lot of the colons and semi-colons in the KJV might as well be random symbols—Ƣ Ơ ȹ ʭ ფ. At best, they mean absolutely nothing to modern English readers, even and especially skilled ones. At worst, KJV punctuation can mislead English readers who “read” a different version of the language.

Author: Mark Ward

PhD in NT; theological writer for Faithlife; former high school Bible textbook author for BJU Press; husband; father; ultimate frisbee player; member of the body of Christ.

3 thoughts on “Hilarious Story: The Name of Abraham’s Servant REVEALED!”

  1. OK, one correction. I was not “the” editor of *Faith*; that was Elaine Fremont, whose memory tenderizes my heart to this day. I was “an” editor, and fortunately in this instance, the one she passed this particular unsolicited manuscript along to.

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