31 Days of Women from Scripture
Lessons from Rebekah
In both of the first two lessons – Eve and Sarah – We talked about the fact that God worked through their circumstances to achieve His ends. We also saw that this does not always make sense to our way of thinking. After all – for God’s plan to mankind to work, why was Eve allowed to sin? How does Cain murdering Abel fit into things? How does Sarah making impatient decisions work out for good? As we saw in both lessons – standing alone, they did not work out for good. Add God to the mix and He worked them out to the benefit of His plan. The short answer to “why?”, is that we needed to recognize our need for a Savior. Therefore God did not stand in the way of man’s freewill to choose sin. He had a plan for dealing with that all ready to go (Eph. 1:3-14; 1 Cor. 2:6-13)! In Rebekah’s story, we will see more of this.
We first come upon Rebekah in Genesis 24:15-16. Sarah has died. Abraham wishes to see Isaac settled. He sends his oldest and most trusted servant (Gen. 24:2) back to Abraham’s brother’s family to seek a wife for Isaac. He wants a wife from within the family, but he does not want Isaac to go back to the country from which Abraham came. His brother, Nahor, had a son, Bethuel, who had a daughter named Rebekah (Gen. 22:20-23) and a son named Laban (Gen. 24:29).
The servant inquires of God for help to know the right girl when she comes. In walks Rebekah. She is heading to the well to get water for her family’s animals. She is described as “very beautiful, a virgin, and no man had had relations with her”. Her purity was something noticeable! Often in wealthy and royal families the virgin daughters were given garments that distinguished them as such (2 Sam. 13:18). Widows and harlots had clothes that designated their status too (Gen. 38:14-15). So different from today! Rebekah is called beautiful – but the only we know that defines her beauty is the fact that she has kept herself a virgin. Her inward character was reflected in her outward appearance (1 Tim. 2:9-10; 1 Pet. 3:3-4).
The servant stops her in the middle of her work. She does not know him. Yet, she responds ready to be of help to him. I am always impressed with the fact that she did so “quickly” (Gen. 24:18). She did not make a lot of inquiries. She simply met his need. Then she went above and beyond – she also cared for his camels “until they have finished drinking”. According to National Geographic, camels can drink about 30 gallons of water in 13 minutes. The servant had TEN camels (Gen. 24:10). She was not offering to put a bowl of water out for a thirsty puppy dog! Rebekah volunteered to WORK. She had one jar that she had carried out on her shoulder. Water needed to be drawn up from the well. No matter how large her jar was, it certainly did not hold 300 gallons of water. In verse 20 we see the word “quickly” again, and she “ran back to the well to draw”. She did so until all of his camels were watered. Rebekah showed a good work ethic, a kind heart, and a servant’s attitude.
The servant is convinced that this is the woman God wants him to choose for Isaac. He asks who she is and if it is possible for him and his group to lodge within her father’s household. She assures him that they have plenty of room and then she RUNS to let the family know what has happened. There is no hesitancy to be hospitable to this man. She is aware of her family’s ability to share with others, and she has obviously been taught to freely do so. Her quick actions will make it easier for others to prepare food for these men and for sleeping arrangements to be made.
Laban, her brother, RUNS out to meet the man at the spring. (There is that “running” again! This family did not sit back and wait for life to come to them, they went after it!) He warmly welcomes the man to stay. Food is prepared and brought to him, but the man will not eat until he has completed the business that brought him. I can see why he was such in Abraham’s employ for so long, can’t you? He explains why he is there and how he encountered Rebekah. Laban agrees quickly that Rebekah may go.
The next morning the servant is ready to go. Naturally, the family expected to have some time with Rebekah to prepare her for the trip and to say their good-byes. Laban suggests that she stay for ten days, and then head back with him to Abraham. The servant refuses, because God’s hand is in this matter and he wants to return to his master. Her mother and Laban ask Rebekah what she wants to do. Her response is, “I will go.” No indecisiveness, no coyness. Just a simple, “I will go.” They do not hinder her. They bless her and send her on her way with her servants.
After the long trip back from Mesopotamia (Gen. 24:10), the party comes near to where Isaac is staying in the Negev. He sees camels coming, she sees a man in the distance. She was looking ahead! The party arrives, Isaac is filled in on all that has happened. Isaac takes Rebekah into Sarah’s tent and she becomes his wife. Genesis 25:20 tells us that Isaac was 40 years old when Rebekah became his wife. So it had been ten years since the death of his mother. Rebekah’s coming was the first thing that gave him comfort. As we saw with Adam and Eve, a wife completes what is missing from the life of a man.
Nineteen years later, Rebekah and Isaac do not yet have any children. Isaac prayed for her, and the Lord healed her so that she could conceive (Gen. 25:21-26). The pregnancy is a difficult one. She is bearing twins and they are constantly moving, “struggling within her”. Rebekah prays to God to learn what is going on, because she fears this is not right. The Lord explains to her that two nations are in her womb. One nation will be stronger than the other. The older will serve the younger. Rebekah’s knowledge of this will affect the family from here on out.
When it is time to deliver, the first baby is born and they call him Esau, which means “hairy”. The second baby is delivered holding on to Esau’s heel, so they named him Jacob, which means “supplanter”.
When the boys grow up, Esau was a skillful hunter and Jacob stayed near the tents. Isaac preferred Esau and Rebekah preferred Jacob. This favoritism plays right into the order of things for prophecy to be fulfilled. Jacob buys Esau’s birthright, and Esau sells it freely, over a bowl of red stew. Apparently it was a story told far and wide, because Esau was known by a new name, Edom meaning “red”, because of it. Esau does not value his birthright very highly, and Jacob does not value his relationship with his brother very highly. We see a path laid out, and because of the favoritism and things that happen later – I suspect Rebekah filled Jacob’s head with the fact that HE was to be the greater of the two boys. Playing favorites between your children is not good for them individually or for the family as a whole.
Here the scripture diverts our attention because of a famine that hits the area (Gen.26:1). Isaac goes down to Gerar, obviously intending to go to Egypt because God appears to him and tells him to stay in the land that God will give him. This is the promise that was made to Abraham, and God is now making it to Isaac (Gen. 26:2-5). Does Gerar sound familiar to you? It should. Abraham and Sarah were there before Isaac was conceived! Abimelech was the king of Gerar. I do not know if this Abimelech who is king of the Philistines is the same Abimelech or a descendent, but he has a similar issue with Isaac and Rebekah that was had with Abraham and Sarah. Isaac had told the lie that she was his sister because he was afraid they men of the area would kill them over her “for she is beautiful” (Gen. 26:6). This mother of grown twin boys is still seen as beautiful. Beautiful enough that her husband is afraid someone will take her from him! This time around though, the couple is found out because the king looks out his window and he sees Isaac caressing Rebekah in what was obviously not a brotherly manner! This is the same Hebrew word that is translated “laugh” when Sarah heard she was going to have a child in her old age and “mocking” when Sarah turned against Ishmael in his teen years. The implication is that Isaac and Rebekah enjoyed each other! They were playing, snuggling, caressing, touching – I do not know exactly what. But Abimelech knew it was no behavior for brother and sister (Gen. 26:9). Even though Rebekah and Isaac were having issues in regards to their children, they still played together. As a wife, never lose your ability to “frolic” with your man. Laugh together; cuddle together; go on dates together – even when you cannot afford to do more than a picnic on the living room floor. Keep that spark alive. If it has dimmed, do your part to reawaken it!
Abimelech makes certain that no one approaches Rebekah (memories of what happened in the past I wonder). Esau marries two Hittite women, and this brings grief to Isaac and Rebekah. After a time they go back home.
Isaac has grown old and he could not see well. He knows he will die soon, so he asks a favor of Esau. He wants some good to meat to eat. Rebekah is listening at the door. She is ready to put a plan into place. She instructs Jacob to go get two goats and so she can prepare them in the way that Isaac prefers. Her goal, “that he may bless you before his death”. Jacob does not blink at the deception – his only concern is that he will be found out because his skin is smooth while Esau’s is hairy. He says, “Perhaps my father will feel me, then I will be as a deceiver in his sight, and I bring upon myself a curse and not a blessing.” (Gen. 26:12). Interesting how he worded it, “as a deceiver” rather being a deceiver, which he most certainly was. It was about the appearances and being caught that was his concern. Getting a curse instead of nothing was a worry. Rebekah tells him not to worry about it and to just go do what she said.
Rebekah prepares the food. Then she dresses Jacob in Esau’s clothes and puts the skins of the goats she cooked for Isaac on Jacob’s hands and neck. She is very thorough! I cannot imagine what all the servants were thinking watching these things go on, surely someone saw it!
So this is where Rebekah and Jacob have come to in their old age. Divided over the boys, and she is focused upon getting that blessing and fulfilling that prophecy for HER boy. In the aftermath of Jacob stealing Esau’s blessing (in addition to the before purchased birthright), Esau is unhappy, to put it mildly. He has every intention of killing Jacob once Isaac is dead (Gen. 27:41). Rebekah finds out about this, warns Jacob, and send him away to her brother Laban. She tells what she must know is another lie – that Esau will get over this in a few days and forget what has been taken from him (Gen. 27:45). Would you forget so easily the loss of a full inheritance of a wealthy father like Isaac? She then turns and lies to Isaac, telling him that she is so weary of Esau’s wives her life will be worthless if Jacob too marries a Canaanite girl (Gen. 27:46). She may have been weary of Esau’s wives – as they were from the beginning – but it was not the reason for sending Jacob away.
Isaac sends Jacob away. Esau tries to improve his circumstances with his parents by marrying another girl, but one from Ishmael’s family. A desperate attempt to find approval from a mother who does not care for him, and his father who can only give him approval now. All physical and financial shows of blessing are gone. This is the family they have come to be.
Rebekah’s story started with her being a benefit to her husband. Their first twenty years together, they did not have children, but they had love for one another. Isaac prayed on her behalf that she be able to conceive a child. Hannah in 1 Samuel, for example, prayed for herself that she be able to conceive, but her husband did not. Isaac played an emotional, spiritual, and physical role in creating a family with Rebekah. It ended with Rebekah taking advantage of Isaac’s age and deteriorating health to elevate her favorite son. We are not told of her death. Her legacy is the scheming against Esau and Isaac.
So what can we take away from Rebekah that we might do better ourselves? I read Rebekah and I want to work to keep my marriage as hers was in the beginning. I want to watch myself with our five daughters and be sure that I am not showing favoritism among them. I want to have a relationship with my husband that is obviously one of a loving married couple and not just two friends who fill the spaces in each other’s lives.
We do not see Rebekah calling on the Lord for help after the boys have been born. 1 Timothy 2:15 says that through bearing children, if she continues in FAITH, LOVE, and SELF-RESTRAINT, a woman will be preserved. 1 Timothy 5:14 tells younger widows to marry again, have children, and keep house to “give the enemy no occasion for reproach.” Raising children can either grow your spiritual life or break it – depending upon your focus. We saw both Eve and Sarah naming their children to reference God’s part in those children being there. Rebekah’s focus was upon the physical – Esau’s looks and the hope that Jacob would prevail. As a family legacy, I think Rebekah’s is one that should be avoided. The hopeful early days of her marriage however, and her eager spirit to do for others are definitely something I can take away and grow in!