So they called Rebekah and asked her, “Will you go with this man?” “I will go,” she said. So they sent their sister Rebekah on her way, along with her nurse and Abraham’s servant and his men. And they blessed Rebekah and said to her, “Our sister, may you increase to thousands upon thousands; may your offspring possess the cities of their enemies.” Then Rebekah and her attendants got ready and mounted the camels and went back with the man. So the servant took Rebekah and left. Now Isaac had come from Beer Lahai Roi, for he was living in the Negev. He went out to the field one evening to meditate, and as he looked up, he saw camels approaching. Rebekah also looked up and saw Isaac. She got down from her camel and asked the servant, “Who is that man in the field coming to meet us?” “He is my master,” the servant answered. So she took her veil and covered herself. Then the servant told Isaac all he had done. Isaac brought her into the tent of his mother Sarah, and he married Rebekah. So she became his wife, and he loved her; and Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.
Rebekah is first mentioned in the genealogy of the descendants of Nahor, Abraham’s brother (Genesis 22:20-24). When the pilgrims set out from the Ur of the Chaldees, Nahor was one of the party, and settled down at Charran where Terah, his father, died. Among Nahor’s sons was Bethuel who, by an unknown wife, became the father of Rebekah, the sister of Laban. Rebekah married Isaac the son of Abraham, by whom she had two sons, Esau and Jacob.
The story of Isaac and Rebekah as a love lyric full of romance and tender beauty has been retold times without number, and is a charming record that never loses its appeal. Such an idyllic narrative is almost too familiar to need rehearsal, and too simple to require comment, yet because it constitutes one of the most romantic scenes in the Bible, its “moving scenes, so fresh and artless in their old world simplicity” have a pertinent appeal for present-day society. Ancient Bible histories with their arrestive characters and remarkable sequence of events and fortunes never fail to leave an indelible imprint on our hearts. The chapter recording how a wife was found for Isaac (Genesis 24) presents a link in the chain of events leading up to— That far-off Divine event to which the whole creation moves. Through the marriage of Isaac and Rebekah, Abraham saw that day of Christ in which the church should become the Bride of Christ.
Almost two millenniums after the days of the patriarch whom God spoke of as His “friend,” there were those who considered it a privilege to belong to the race having Abraham as its fountainhead. To be “a son of Abraham” or a lineal descendant of such a grand, great old divine was an honor, but Isaac enjoyed a still greater advantage for Abraham was his own natural father. What a rich dowry of blessing must have been Isaac’s because of such a close relationship. He had the inspiration of his father’s godliness, and the benefit of his prayers and wise counsels—even in the matter of securing the right kind of wife.
Abraham’s opposition to idolatry is seen in his request that the partner for his son, Isaac, must not be “of the daughters of the Canaanites” (Genesis 24:3). As he had refused a grave for his wife, Sarah, amongst the sepulchers of the Hittites (Genesis 23), so a wife for their son must not be sought among their daughters. Thus it came about that Abraham’s trusted, godly servant, Eliezer, was divinely guided to Haran where Nahor, Abraham’s brother settled. Too feeble to make the journey himself, Abraham gave his servant the most careful instructions, and impressed upon him the solemn significance of his mission. Confident as to the result of the search for a suitable wife for Isaac, Abraham assured the earthly seeker that he would be guided by God’s angel. Eliezer, the intelligent, prudent, obedient and praying servant went forth. Seeking a sign of divine guidance, not to prove God’s faithfulness, but for his own direction in the choice of a woman of character as a wife for his master’s son, the servant came to Nahor’s well at Nahor, and saw in Rebekah who had come to draw water the answer to his prayer and quest.
Eliezer lost no time in telling Rebekah who he was, and from whom he had come, and the purpose of his search. He revealed his tact in the way he wooed and won the heart of Rebekah. The gifts he bestowed upon her and the good things he said of his master, secured the favor of Rebekah’s family who gave its consent to the proposed marriage. Faced with instant departure from her dear ones, Rebekah is given her choice—“Wilt thou go with this man?” Without hesitation, feeling that she, too, was following the leading of God, as Eliezer had, Rebekah replied in a firm voice, “I will go.”
The caravan set out for Abraham’s home, and now we come to a superb touch in the romantic story. Isaac was out in the fields at eventide for his usual period of meditation. He saw the approaching camels and sensed the success of Eliezer in the choice of a wife. Reaching Isaac, Rebekah, according to custom, veiled her face, and the end of this exquisite poem of the meeting of bride and bridegroom is stated in most expressive terms—“Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent, and took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her.”
Marrying “sight unseen” is a most dangerous venture, but in this case it was successful because “the angel of the Lord” had directed the events leading up to the union. When Rebekah saw the handsome, mild-mannered and meditative Isaac, her heart went out to him. As for Isaac, a man of forty, and some twenty years older than Rebekah, he instantly loved the most beautiful woman he beheld, and she remained his only love.
Motherhood came to Rebekah somewhat late in life when Isaac was an aging man. For twenty years she had been childless, and conscious of God’s promise that the Abrahamic Covenant could not be broken, Isaac entreated God that his long barren wife might conceive. He graciously answered his earnest intercession (Genesis 25:19-34). As his prayer was in the line of God’s purpose, it was sure of an answer (1 John 5:14). The years of waiting on the part of Isaac and Rebekah show that God has His own time for the fulfillment of His purpose. Like coral strands beneath the sea, So strongly built and chaste, The plans of God, unfolding, show No signs of human haste.
In an age of almost universal polygamy, Isaac took no handmaid, concubine, or second wife. Rebekah and he were bound together by the bonds of a mutual affection, and although childless, yet became the parents of two sons who were destined to be the progenitors of different nations. But when Rebekah became the mother of twins—the first of two Bible women mentioned as giving birth to twins—the other was Tamar (Genesis 38:27)—somehow she changed and was a different character from the young bride who rode south so gaily to meet her lover in Canaan, as our next glimpse of her will show.
The opposite characters of Rebekah’s twins, Esau and Jacob, brought into sharp focus the dark side of their mother. As Esau was the first to emerge from her womb he had the precedence and was thus the heir of two things, namely “the sovereignty and the priesthood, of the clan—the birthright and the blessing. The birthright was the right of succession.... The blessing was something to be given during the lifetime of the father.” We learn that as the boys grew, “Esau was a cunning (skillful) hunter, a man of the field; and Jacob was a plain man, dwelling in tents.” At the time of their birth, Jacob seized his brother’s heel—an incident prophetic of the day when he would supplant Esau. Often in children there are characteristics predictive of the manner of adults they will be.
The divergence of Rebekah’s twins in temperament, inclination, occupation, and religious aspirations is most apparent. Esau was wrapped in a raiment of hair, a rough man of the wilderness, a clever hunter with something of the wild daring spirit of the modern Bedouin. Jacob was the opposite of his brother. He preferred a fixed abode, to dwell in his tent rather than roam the desert. Esau was probably more brilliant, attractive, forceful, daring than his twin brother. Jacob, in spite of his weaknesses and mistakes was the finer character, and on the whole truer to the Lord and more fitted to possess the blessing of the birthright. Further, there was the difference of regard on the part of Isaac and Rebekah toward their two sons that resulted in sorrow and separation.
Isaac loved Esau, but the love was somewhat sensual. He loved his son “because he did eat of his venison.” Such love is of a carnal nature, for love in its highest sense has regard not so much to what the loved one gives as to what he or she is.
Rebekah loved Jacob, not because he was more of a “homebody” than his brother, or possessed a more loving nature than he, but because Jacob was the Lord’s preference (Romans 9:13). Esau thought so lightly of the birthright that he was willing to sell it for a mess of pottage, and be guilty, thereby, of the sin of profanity (Hebrews 12:16). Jacob, however, recognized the solemnity of the birthright and wished to possess it. Esau thought of it as of no more value than a mouthful of food, but Jacob knew something of the sacred significance of the birthright and was therefore a more fit channel through which the blessing of God could flow to the seed of Abraham.
The destiny of her favorite son, Jacob, was strongly influenced by his mother’s strong-mindedness, and thus she became the authoress of the treacherous plan to deprive Esau of his father’s blessing. Isaac is old, feeble and blind, and informs the members of his household that the time has come to give Esau, officially, what was left to him after selling his birthright, namely, the blessing which carried with it the recognition of his headship, the ratification of the birthright. So Isaac told his favorite son to take his bow and arrow and go into the fields, hunt for his much-liked venison, and make a savory meal. At that time, and for centuries in the Orient, a meal taken together was a common symbol of a saved pledge when father and son partook together. In such an hour of sacred fellowship the father bestowed upon the elder son his rank and place.
Rebekah overheard, and her deceitful heart was stirred to action. She set about to thwart her husband’s purpose. Her favorite son must not be displaced, and her hopes for him dashed to the ground, by the impetuous hunter whom Isaac loved. Cunningly she devised the plan of impersonation. While Esau was out in the fields hunting, Rebekah told Jacob to go to a flock nearby and bring two kids for her to dress and cook and pass off as venison. While cautious about his mother’s duplicity, he had no conscience against it. What made Jacob hesitant was the fact that his brother was a hairy man, while his own skin was smooth, and that if his father felt him and sensed the deception, he would not bless him, but curse him.
Rebekah, however, was equal to this fear of Jacob, and he followed the counsels of his treacherous mother. He put the skin of the kids upon his hands and upon his neck, thus making himself feel and smell like Esau, and so deceived his aged, blind father. Doubtless Rebekah stood nearby in convenient concealment to see how her ill-conceived ruse would succeed. Smelling Esau’s clothes, and feeling the false hairy hands, Isaac was a little doubtful and said, “The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau.” But reassured by the repeated lies of Jacob, the deceived father bestowed the unalterable blessing upon his son, and Jacob, by fraud, became the father of Israel’s race. To his discredit, he played the role successfully which his mother had drilled into him with masterly skill. Covetous of the sacred, patriarchal blessing for her favorite son, Rebekah felt she had to resort to duplicity to gain her ends, and in doing so she prostituted parental authority. “My son obey my voice” (Genesis 27:8), and Jacob the misguided son obeyed, and in his subsequent career bore the bitter fruit of his conduct when Laban deceived him regarding Rachel.
When Esau found that he had been robbed of his blessing through the cunning scheme of his mother, he became a remorseless avenger and swore the death of his brother who was forced to flee for his life to Haran, some 500 miles away. Rebekah never saw the face of her much-loved son again. To add to her reproach she had to endure the grief of seeing her other son marry heathen women. Esau’s heathen wives caused Rebekah to be weary of her life (Genesis 27:46). Esau received a promise from his father that he would be the progenitor of a great nation—the Edomites—and much misery accrued to Israel because of Edom. The wrath of Esau’s enraged blood boiled in the blood of Herod the Idumean on the day he reviled the Man of Sorrows.
Almost the last picture we have of Rebekah is when she tearfully witnessed the hasty departure of her favorite son. “A strong-minded, decisive girl had grown into an autocratic matriarch,” and ends her days a brokenhearted woman. When she died we are not told. Isaac, although much older than Rebekah, was still living when Jacob returned to Canaan over 20 years later. It is assumed that she died during Jacob’s long absence, and was buried in the cave of Machpelah near Hebron (Genesis 49:31). A fitting epitaph for her grave would have been, “Died of a broken heart.”
Source: Bible Gateway / Her Name Is Woman (By Gien Karssen)