Mothers in the Bible – Rebekah

“So they said,’We will call the young woman and ask her personally.’  Then they called Rebekah and said to her, ‘Will you go with this man?’ And she said, ‘I will go.'”  Genesis 24:57-58

 After Sarah died, Abraham called his most trusted servant to him and gave him the task of finding a wife for Isaac.  The servant was only to look among Abraham’s relatives, going back to the country of his birth to do so.  The servant was not to look among the Canaanites where Abraham lived, nor was he to take Isaac away from Canaan.  If no wife could be found among Abraham’s relatives that was willing to come back with him to Canaan, the servant would have been released from the job.

When the servant got to the city of Abraham’s birth, he saw that it was the time that the young ladies of the city were coming out to the well to draw water.  He prayed that the Lord would direct him to the right girl by having her come to the well and offer not only to give him a drink, but to draw water to give a drink to the 10 thirsty camels in his caravan.   That was a pretty tall order, but the servant had no sooner finished praying than a young lady came to the well and drew a pitcher of water.  The servant asked her for a drink from her pitcher.  When he had finished drinking, the young lady said, “I will draw water for your camels also, until they have finished drinking.”

Talk about a quick and complete answer to prayer!  The servant seemed certain enough that this was the right girl that he took out jewelry for her, but he still needed confirmation.  He asked her whose daughter she was, and whether or not there would be room in her father’s house for his caravan to stay.  The Lord had indeed led him, for the young lady was the granddaughter of Abraham’s brother.

The servant was warmly welcomed into the home, and he quickly made known his errand.  The young lady, whose name was Rebekah, was asked whether or not she was willing to go with the servant  when he started his return journey the next day, and she answered, “I will go”.  She was sent off with the blessing of her family, who said to her, “Our sister, may you become the mother of thousands of ten thousands; and may your descendants possess the gates of those who hate them.”

The entourage returned to Isaac, and Rebekah became his wife.  We read that Isaac loved her, and so was comforted after his mother’s death.

Although the Lord had promised Abraham that it would be through Isaac’s descendants that His covenant would be established, and in spite of the blessing given her by her family, Rebekah was barren.  Isaac pleaded with the Lord on behalf of his wife, and Rebekah finally conceived twins.  The twins fought even in her womb, and she was afraid that something was wrong.  The Lord told her that the struggling twins were the beginnings of two nations.  He also told her that, in contrast to the custom of the day, the older would serve the younger.

Twenty years after getting married, Rebekah gave birth to her twin boys.  The first came out red and hairy, and was named Esau (or hairy).  The second came out holding onto Esau’s heel, so they called him Jacob (or supplanter).  Esau grew up to be a skillful hunter who was happiest outdoors, while Jacob was mild-mannered and happier close to home, cooking among other things.  Unfortunately, Isaac and Rebekah each had their favorite, with Isaac preferring Esau and Rebekah preferring Jacob.  I’m sure that didn’t help matters when it came to sibling rivalry!

At some point after reaching manhood, Esau came in from the field so hungry that he was willing to trade the birthright that was rightfully his as the eldest for a mere meal of stew and bread that Jacob was cooking.  I don’t know whether or not Isaac and Rebekah were aware of this exchange, but it was the beginning of the fulfillment of the prophecy given to Rebekah.  Rather than trusting God to complete the prophecy however, Rebekah took matters into her own hands some years later.   At the age of 40, Esau married two wives from among the local people, and the Bible says that they were a grief of mind to Isaac and Rebekah.

As Isaac aged, he became blind, and it got to a point where he believed he was near death.  (It would actually be several more decades before he died.)  He told Esau to go hunting and prepare him his favorite meal, and he would give him the blessing customarily given to the eldest son.  Rebekah overheard the plans and decided that she would make sure Jacob got that blessing instead of Esau.  She devised an elaborate plan to deceive blind Isaac, even overcoming the differences in the twins.  Esau was hairy and smelled of the outdoors, while Jacob was smooth and did not smell like he spent as much time outdoors.  Rebekah used 2 goat kids to cook a meal like the one Esau was going to prepare, put Esau’s clothes onto Jacob and covered his hands and neck with the skin of the goat kids, and told him to go in to Isaac pretending to be Esau.  When Jacob protested that he would bring a curse on himself rather than a blessing if he were found out, Rebekah told him to obey her voice, and any curse would be on her.

The plan worked, and Isaac blessed Jacob.  Included in the blessing were these words:  “Let peoples serve you, and nations bow down to you.  Be master over your brethren, and let your mother’s sons bow down to you.  Cursed be everyone who curses you, and blessed be those who bless you!”

Of course, when Esau returned and discovered that his blessing had been taken, he was in a murderous rage, promising to kill him as soon as their father died.  To protect Jacob, Rebekah went to Isaac and complained about Esau’s wives, asking him to send Jacob to her brother to find a wife.  Isaac agreed, and sent Jacob away to his uncle’s house to find a wife.

Rebekah never saw Jacob again.  Jacob ended up staying with his uncle for 20 years, and Rebekah was no longer living when he returned.  (Isaac, however, lived quite a few more years after Jacob returned.)  Perhaps that was the curse she received for her scheme.  However, the Lord’s promise was indeed fulfilled in Jacob, whose name was later changed to Israel.

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