Rebekah, one of the four Matriarchs, is characterized by the Rabbis as a prophet and a righteous woman. Yet she is one of the housewives whom Bible readers would have overlooked if not for their famous sons. In the Old Testament time women are assessed by whether they have sons or not. In her case she has twins. But it does not bring her double-happiness. Instead she has had a hard time with the sons and the foreign wives of the older one. This woman may not be viewed positively by some. Why? Because she favors one son over the other and helps her favorite son to carry out a scheme to cheat her husband by taking advantage of his blindness in old age. At the end she is separated from her favorite son and dies without seeing him again. Some may therefore consider her a fool.
But I am going to challenge all the wrong thoughts about her today. Read with me from a new perspective. I pray you receive your fresh revelation as you read this article.
I will look at two persons, mainly this brilliant wife and mother, Rebekah, and her apparently docile husband, Isaac. Many Bible teachers teach about Isaac and brush Rebekah aside. But the Bible clearly places Rebekah at a more strategic historical position than Isaac in terms of shaping the Jewish nation history. Without her there would have been no Jewish nation, nor there be a Christian descendant by faith heritage from Abraham.
Here is a list of Rebekah’s significant roles and the strength of her character which God has put to important use:
- God arranges a servant of Abraham who talks to God and asks God about how to make sure he gets the right woman to be Isaac’s wife. Genesis 24:12-14
- God arranges for Rebekah to arrive at the right time, the right place, and meet the right person —the servant, just as he has asked God for her to show up and do exactly what he expects her to do, a show of kindness and hospitality to a stranger and a traveler. She goes the extra mile too, by showing diligence and kindness to his animals. Genesis 24:15-20
- God designs Rebekah to fit in the great destiny. She is of the same genetic stock of Abraham —being his niece, very beautiful to behold, virtuous (keeping herself pure, still a virgin), hard-working (coming out to fetch water personally and not relying on maids), observant and full of initiatives (by noticing the traveler’s camels need water too and offering to get water for them), knowing her own worth (in not giving herself to any suitor), knowing and expecting her great destiny to come to pass (by waiting for the right spouse no matter how impossible it may seem, because surely by then the whole town’s most eligible bachelors would have tried wooing her).
- She is a well-brought up woman of a well-to-do family, with her own nurse, Deborah and maids. (24:59; 35:8) The Bible finds it important enough to record the name of her nurse. Yet, she learns to do chores like fetching water from the well, cooking excellent cuisine which her husband Isaac loves. Indeed, those skills come to be used at the right moment and divine appointment. (27:9, 17, 25)
- Rebekah is strong and perseverant in character. She was barren for twenty years before she has the twin boys, Esau and Jacob. Rebekah is totally unlike her mother-in-law, Sarah, who could not wait for God’s promise to come true and tried to jump start her destiny by giving her Egyptian maid Hagar to Abraham as a concubine and thus produced a tragedy, Ishmael. (16:2, 15, 21:9) On the other hand, Rebekah waited for her own descendants and kept her lineage pure just as God has wanted.
- Rebekah is intelligent, brave and determined. Why does she choose to go with Abraham’s servant immediately and travel to a distant country to marry a man whom she has never met merely at the words of the servant? She knows God. She has bothered to find out about her distant relatives even before the arrival of that fateful day when she met the reality of her going there to join them and their God and leave her mother, brother and gods (idols) behind. She finds out facts, knows and trusts what God has revealed and confirmed to her, and she makes the right decision with confidence and assurance of her hope. She is not a rash woman who simply takes chance (as many Bible teachers have wrongly taught us). Genesis 24:55-61 24:58 Then they called Rebekah and said to her, “Will you go with this man?” And she said, “I will go.”
- Rebekah has a close relationship with God. She is resolute to walk by faith and fulfill her great destiny. She asks God about her future and He answers. When her twins are conceived, struggling inside her, she asks the Lord and the Lord tells her why, and that the younger twin, Jacob, will excel and rule over the older twin, Esau. (25:23) She believes and stays faithful to God’s words and prophecy.
- Rebekah is married to an unequal, Isaac, a weaker man, given to carnal desire in his old age. Not only he does not believe in God’s prophecy about his twins, he has chosen to favor the older one, who is a carnal man too. Isaac and his wife Rebekah go separate way in the matters of God. Rebekah is the spiritual one who fears God and wants to make sure God’s will be done by hook or by crook. Isaac is the carnal one who cares only for his own physical gratification and forgets about God and His expressed will. 25:27-28 “So the boys grew. And Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field; but Jacob was a mild man, dwelling in tents. 28 And Isaac loved Esau because he ate of his game, but Rebekah loved Jacob.”
- Isaac is weak and fails to be the head of the family. He also fails in teaching and disciplining his two sons in the matters of God. Esau is a godless man who does not fear God and has no interest in God’s purpose in his life. He despises God’s providence of the double blessing for the first born. (25:32, 34) The Holy Spirit describes Esau in Hebrews 12:16, “That no one may become guilty of sexual vice, or become a profane (godless and sacrilegious) person as Esau did, who sold his own birthright for a single meal.” Isaac obviously is not so senile that he does not know his son’s weaknesses and that he does not believe and worship the same God Abraham and Isaac believe and worship. Isaac blatantly married two idol worshipping foreign (Hittite and Ishmaelite) women who caused family strife —they were a grief of mind to Isaac and Rebekah. (26:34-35; 27:46; 28:8-9).
- Isaac is born very rich, as the sole heir of Abraham. But he is a man of his own worth in the world: very successful farmer, sower, live stock owner, shrewd businessman, and negotiator of deals. The Lord blesses him specially because he is the promised heir of Abraham. 26:12-14 He not only prospered, he continued prospering, until he became very prosperous. He could have done better in distributing his wealth and possessions between the two grown sons according to the culture and practice in which he was brought up but he failed to do so despite seeing his sons becoming increasingly hostile to each other. A more decisive and caring father would have done it before the situation got out of hand. When the family tragedy struck he was both old and blind.
- Rebekah decides to take matter into her own hand because she sees an indecisive and incompetent husband who does not carry out his role as the head of the family. She has done her best to repeatedly remind him. She has undertaken to personally educate and coach Jacob since young all about God and his great destiny because Isaac is too busy in the field. She remembers God’s prophecy about her and her prophecy by her brother as well. (25:23; 24:60) She reminds herself not to forget them even though the situation may look helpless with her older rebellious son and her apathetic husband.
- We all know the story of Rebekah initiating a scheme for Jacob to take the blessing of the first born from his father and flee to safety after that. Do you think that Rebekah never thinks of the consequence of her separating from her beloved son, Jacob, the promised heir God has selected? They never see each other again. Knowing her murderous older son Esau, she has prepared for the cost she must pay. True enough, she has willingly paid the price.
- Rebekah has to live with her husband Isaac and the murderous and rebellious godless Esau for the remaining twenty years of her life. Yet she was prepared to do that for the sake of bringing Jacob to his greatness as the promised one for God.
- Rebekah is a woman who knows and lives the power of hope. She endures the loneliness of a visionary. She can envision her son Jacob returning in glory. She can envision how he is being trained from a distance by God to equip him for the greatness God has planned for him. She hears of him getting married and raising all those sons for God. She envisions them becoming many nations. She sees him and his family in her dreams. She knows her hopes are not in vain. Because she has trusted God all her life against all odds. She loves to the point of sacrificing her personal gratification. Isaac is blessed to have such a selfless wife. Otherwise he could not have fulfilled his role as one of the patriarchs for the twelve tribes of the nation Israel.
No, she is no ordinary wife and mother. She really knows God and wants God’s best for her son. And it makes all the difference. —June 21, 2020, Kai