A look at Rebekah from the Bible
|Rebekah of the Bible is a bit of a conundrum. Despite being a matriarch, she tends to get a bad rap, seen as favoring one child, the younger one at that, over the other. When we look deeper into the story and at the fine details that are often overlooked, a new story emerges.|
When it was time for Isaac, son of Abraham, to take a wife, his father sent a servant to Canaan to find one suitable for his son. The story is well known. That wife ended up being Rebekah, daughter of Abraham’s nephew, Behuel. She was a kind woman who, sight-unseen, agreed to marry Isaac and left home, bringing her nurse with her. According to the Book of Jasher, she was 10 years old at the time, which is why the nurse came. The Bible states that Isaac married her immediately and fell in love with her. A reoccurring theme is that Rebekah was at first childless but eventually was blessed with twins. God told her: "Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated. One person will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger." (Genesis 25:23). Even in the womb, God knew who his chosen would be, and Rebekah did as well. 20 years after her marriage to Isaac, Esau was born with Jacob gripping his heel on the way out.
From the beginning, according to the Bible, the parents had their favorites. Isaac preferred his hunter son, Esau, while Rebekah preferred her homebody, Jacob. The book of Jasher describes Esau as a "designing and deceitful man," while Jacob was "perfect and wise, learning about the Lord." Jacob was blessed by Abraham and learned from Noah’s sons, Shem and Eber, for 32 years, while Esau had no interest in God.
There are many times the two boys butted heads, but two of those times are more well known. The first was when Jacob exchanged a stew he made for Esau’s birthright. The Bible states that Esau despised his birthright and swore an oath. The Book of Jasher goes into detail as to the circumstances leading up to his exchange. While hunting, Esau got into a huge fight with King Nimrod and his men. Esau surprised them and ended up killing the king by chopping his head off with a sword. He stole the king’s valuable clothes and hid them in his house. After the fight, he was exhausted and thought he was going to die. He told this to Jacob, and in order to preserve the family, he sold Jacob his birthright and his portion of Abraham’s wealth for their actual value.
After this, the world brought much strife to the family. A famine descended upon the land, and they left their home to go to the Philistines in Geran. Here, Isaac, just like his father before him, passed Rebekah off as his sister in order to stay alive. They became rich in this land. When the King found out that Rebekah was already married, he sent them away, saying that Isaac had become too powerful. After they moved away, Esau was married to a woman named Judith. The Bible states that the couple caused Isaac and Rebekah much grief, although it does not go into detail.
This led up to the second famous conflict. Isaac was going blind and wanted to give Esau his blessing in exchange for a meal made of his hunt. Rebekah heard this and told Jacob to trick Isaac into giving his younger son the blessing instead. The Book of Jasher agrees with this account, but once again states that Esau was a deceitful man "who sought to steal the hearts of men." When all was said and done, Esau plotted to kill Jacob, and Rebekah sent Jacob to safety with her brother Laban in Canaan.
In order to get Isaac to agree, they sent Jacob off to find a Canaanite woman to marry. We will get into Jacob’s story in the next chapter. When Jacob and his wives finally come home, Rebekah sends 72 servants from Isaac’s household to meet Jacob. She tells Jacob not to provoke Esau and to give him a present so that Esau will stop trying to kill him. When Rebekah died at 133 years of age, she was deeply mourned by Jacob.
Rebekah’s story is one that I think most mothers of multiple children can relate to. We try very hard not to have favorites. There are times, however, especially as our kids are developing, that they show characteristics closer to ourselves, and we can understand where they are coming from. Sometimes, it seems we are in constant conflict with one but not the other. I love my children equally and would never put one before the other, but I believe that at times it is hard to treat them exactly the same.
Our children respond to things differently, and with the ones that behave more like ourselves, it is easier to find common ground. Especially when our kids are the complete opposite of us, it is hard to find something over which we can bond. We sure do try, though!
In Rebekah’s case, it must have been harder for her, for she knew from the beginning that Jacob was the chosen of God. It is so easy to bond with the child who studies the Lord intently and likes to cook with you. Esau, unfortunately, began to turn away from God. The wives he chose also did not follow the Lord. This is when Rebekah’s will as a mother must have been sorely tested. Toward the end, when she sent 72 servants to meet her youngest, she tried to be a mediator between the two and to broker peace in her household.
Is this not what all of us moms want for our families? Peace? I will always remember something my husband told my oldest son when he said that he hated his sister. (He was 5 and she was in the terrible twos.) He told him that his sister would be with him his entire life. She would be his best friend and would never leave him. So, he should always love his sister, be there for her, and help her, just like she would do the same for him. Our children are our legacy, and the way they treat each other after we are gone, I believe, is the true test of how we raised them.