As we continue with the matriarchs of the Bible – those women who are part of the forming of the Nation of Israel – Rebekah is next on our list.
We first meet Rebekah in Genesis 24. When Abraham was up there in years, he decided he needed to find Isaac a wife. This was pretty common in ancient culture – the parents picking out or strongly shoving, er, nudging their children in a certain direction. So, Abraham sent out his trusted servant back to the land his family was from, to seek out a wife for Isaac among his family. Marrying a relative was also a cultural norm back then.
The servant, realizing the great trust he had been given, prayed that God would make it really clear to him which girl was the one for Isaac. He asked that when he asked her for a drink, not only would she give it to him, but offer to water all his camels as well.
When he arrives in Nahor, he heads to the nearest well – which was pretty much a great place to gather information and find the person you were looking for – and here comes Rebekah. The Bible describes her as both beautiful and a virgin.
When the servant asks her for a drink, she gives it to him and then offers to water all his camels. He starts praising the Lord and loads her down with gold and jewels. She runs back to show her family, and the deal is pretty much done. Not only was the this stranger offering Rebekah marriage to her cousin, but the cousin was apparently very rich. This was really a no-brainer for the family as far as marriage matches went.
We see the first glimpse of Rebekah’s character here. Her family asks her if she would like to wait a few days before setting off with a complete stranger to marry another complete stranger. She says, “No, I’ll go with him.” Then she jumps on her camel and sets off. We can definitely see that Rebekah, whatever other shortcomings she might have had, was adventurous and strong.
Although they seemed to have very different personalities, Rebekah and Sarah also had a few things in common, too. Not only were both extremely beautiful, but neither was very fertile. Rebekah and Isaac were married 20 years before she became pregnant with twins.
The twins fought in her womb so she sought the Lord herself to see what the deal was, and God told her that the younger would be over the elder. Here is another clue to her character – she had her own relationship with God and felt comfortable going to Him.
The time for the birth came, and if you are familiar with the story at all, you know that Jacob came out holding onto Esau’s heel. Their rivalry began, quite literally, at birth.
Over the years, Esau became Isaac’s favorite, and Jacob was his mother’s favorite. This favoritism proved to be a really bad idea. It divided not just Jacob and Esau, but also Isaac and Rebekah, and each parent with the other parent’s favorite child, as well.
When it came time to pass on the blessing to the oldest son, Rebekah decided she needed to step in and “help” God. I can criticize her for this, but honestly, how many times do I feel the need to help God when circumstances seem impossible? Way more than I’d like to admit.
Rebekah, like Sarah, waited until it seemed impossible that God was going to intervene and then she stepped in to fix the problem. It wasn’t until the circumstances seemed impossible – in this case, the blessing of Esau was imminent – that Rebekah stepped in to help out.
Not only did God NOT need Rebekah’s help to fulfill His plan, though, but the way Rebekah went about it was problematic – she lied and deceived Isaac by passing Jacob off as Esau.
It’s interesting that Jacob protested – not because he thought it was wrong, but because he was afraid he’d get caught. When Jacob voices his concern that if Isaac finds out he could curse Jacob, Rebekah reassures her son that she’ll take the curse for him.
Again, Rebekah wants to help her son but does it in the wrong way – by deception and hurting the relationship not just between father and son but between brothers. Not to mention, her actions couldn’t have been very good for her marriage either.
Jacob is successful in fooling Isaac, and receives the blessing. BUT, there are heavy consequences to this “success” for Rebekah. While she wasn’t officially cursed, things don’t turn out the way she had envisioned either.
Esau is outraged and starts immediately plotting Jacob’s demise as soon as Isaac is dead. Rebekah convinces Isaac to send Jacob to her brother Laban under the guise of finding a wife, but really to let Esau cool down. She thinks it will be for only a short time, but she never sees her son again, dying before he returns some 20 years later.
Rebekah was sincere in her desire to help, but by jumping in without God’s direction, she never saw her favored son again. She never knew his wives or helped in the birth of his children. She never held her grandchildren or saw them grow. Not only that, she hurt her relationship with her husband and her remaining son. Nothing is mentioned about those relationships after the fact, but it does make you wonder if she spent the rest of her days living in loneliness because of the strained relationships with her husband and son.
This is kind of theme we see in the women early in the Bible – wresting control from God and doing what they think is best. Unfortunately, even though they mean well, the results of their “fixing” things always brings about more problems and heartache than the original problem.
There are several lessons from Rebekah – both good and bad. First, she was adventurous and fearless. Those are good qualities to have. They allowed her to leave her home and head into the unknown with confidence. She also sought God out when she had a problem – at least in the beginning. She obviously believed what God told her.
However, we can also learn from her penchant for favoritism among her sons and her desire to “fix” things when circumstances seemed to indicate God’s plans just weren’t going to work out. If she would have just waited and trusted, the last half of her life would have been much different – certainly much happier – but she didn’t and she died without ever seeing Jacob again.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” Prov. 3:5
What is God asking you to trust Him with, that you just don’t understand? Are you trying to fix it or are you willing to wait on God’s perfect timing?