Rebekah, Isaac’s Wife

Rebekah, Isaac's wifeRebekah was Isaac’s wife. The granddaughter of Abraham’s brother Nahor, she was Abraham’s grandniece. Nahor remained in Harran when Abraham left that country in obedience to God’s command and traveled to Canaan. In our first encounter with Rebekah, she arrives at the town spring carrying a clay water jar on her shoulder. The Bible described Rebekah as beautiful and as an unmarried virgin (Genesis 24:15-16). She was identified as a “woman;” most likely she was in her mid-teens (13-17 years of age). Seeing Eliezer, a traveler at the spring, Rebekah offered to draw water for Eliezer to drink and to provide water for the 10 camels in his caravan. Not only was Rebekah beautiful, but she extended herself to welcome and aid a traveler whom she did not know. When Eliezer asked Rebekah if there was room in her family’s home to spend the night, Rebekah invited Eliezer to spend the night in her family’s home. She issued the invitation without first consulting her mother or male family members, a move that indicated a confidence not always found in young women.

At the family’s home, Eliezer told Rebekah’s father (Bethuel) and brother (Laban) that he came from Abraham. He journeyed to Paddan Aram to seek a wife for Abraham’s son (Isaac) from among Abraham’s brother’s family. Both Rebekah’s father and brother assented, when Eliezer asked to take Rebekah to Canaan to be Isaac’s wife. Eliezer wanted to leave immediately for Canaan; however, both Laban and Rebekah’s mother objected. They want Rebekah to remain with the family for 10 or so days to adjust to her leaving and say goodbye. When Eliezer persisted in his desire to start immediately for Canaan, Rebekah was called into the room. Male family members asked her if she was willing to leave her home immediately. Rebekah’s answer was “Yes.” From this interaction we learn that Rebekah was decisive. At the same time, readers who know the character of Laban cannot help but think that Rebekah’s decision to start for Canaan immediately was made to thwart any possible machinations by Laban that could delay her leaving Paddan Aram and marriage to Isaac.

Soon afterward, Rebekah left with Eliezer for Canaan. Consistent with near eastern customs, her father gave Rebekah several attendants, one of whom was Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse. When Eliezer and Rebekah arrived at Abraham’s home in Hebron, Isaac was there, having come from his home further into the Negev Desert. At that time Isaac was about 40 years of age. The first time Rebekah saw Isaac, it was evening; Isaac was in a field meditating. As Isaac saw the caravan approach, he went to meet it. When Rebekah learned the man coming toward them was her future husband, she covered her face with her veil. Her action could have been indicative of her modesty in front of her future husband. On the other hand, covering her face before Isaac could have meant she was betrothed and willing to marry Isaac (NIV-SB, p. 66). The Bible recorded (Genesis 24:66) that Isaac married Rebekah and he loved her. Further, Rebekah comforted Isaac over the loss of his mother, Sarah. What the Bible does not say is that Rebekah loved Isaac.

During the first 20 years of marriage, Isaac and Rebekah had no children. Isaac prayed to God on behalf of Rebekah because she was barren, and God answered Isaac’s prayer. Rebekah became pregnant (Genesis 25:21- ); however, the pregnancy was difficult. When Rebekah asked God why the baby was so active, God told her that she was having twins. From the twins would come two nations and “the older will serve the younger” (Genesis25:23). Rebekah gave birth to twin boys named Esau and Jacob.
As Esau and Jacob grew, they developed two different temperaments. Esau enjoyed spending time in the open country; he became a skilled hunter. In contrast, Jacob was a quiet man, often staying among the tents. Isaac had a taste for wild game and loved Esau who provided the meat for him. In contrast, Rebekah loved Jacob. This is the first time that the Bible recorded that Rebekah loved anyone. Her love was given not to her husband nor to her first born son, but to her second born son, Jacob. Perhaps Rebekah’s preference was related to Jacob being a “homebody” or his resemblance to Isaac whom she first saw in a field meditating. Alternatively, Rebekah’s preference may have been related to God’s revelation that her older son would serve the younger. Whatever the reasons Rebekah created to or added to a family environment where favoritism and partiality reigned.

In the next blog entry, I am going to evaluate Rebekah as a mother.

Copyright March 13, 2016; Carolyn A. Roth

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