Rebekah certainly ranks as a key figure among God’s chosen people. She was the wife of Isaac, mother of Esau and Jacob, Abraham’s great-niece and daughter-in-law (Gen 24:67). We first learn of Rebekah’s existence in Gen 22:20-24. This passage prepares us for her entry into Abraham’s family by telling us about Nahor, Abraham’s brother. This is when we discover that Nahor had many sons by his wife and a concubine and that he also had a granddaughter named Rebekah.1
A Decision Of Faith1
After Abraham’s wife, Sarah’s death, he sent the eldest servant of his house (Gen 24:2-10) to find a wife for his son Isaac. This would be his most trusted servant, his chief steward. Abraham made him swear that he would go to Abraham’s homeland, to his family, to find a wife for Isaac. He did not wish to seek a woman from the pagan cultures around Canaan for his son. Entrusted with such an important mission, Abraham’s servant asked for a sign from God to ensure success. He never doubted that God would lead him to the young lady most suitable for his master’s son. The test he conceived was very straightforward. He would ask a young woman to draw some water for him to drink. The right woman would not only do this for him, but would also offer to draw water for his camels.
When Rebekah came to the well, the servant proceeded to test her. Rebekah drew water for the servant to drink and willingly volunteered to draw water for the camels, a task normally performed by a servant. As the servant revealed to Rebekah and her family the purpose of his mission, they would have realized that Abraham was a wealthy man, and Isaac would inherit his wealth. It would be a noble marriage for Rebekah.
She agreed to the proposal. This seems a simple enough thing to do when we read the story, but imagine being in the situation. One day, out of the blue, a stranger appears at your house in a limousine laden with expensive presents. He claims to be a representative of your father’s long-lost brother and offers you a position of importance in your uncle’s household. He tells you a story of how God guided his path as he searched for you, his employer’s long-lost family, leading him to finally find you in a miraculous manner. He asks you to leave everything you’ve ever known and go with him to a remote place very far away; inaccessible by normal means of transportation.
In our modern world, this situation would certainly cause a degree of suspicion. However, we would be able to check out this stranger’s identity fairly easily. In fact, he should have some form of identification on him. The identity of the man claiming to be your uncle could be confirmed, and you would even be able to speak to him on the telephone. No matter how remote the place was, there would be helicopters or motorboats to make travelling possible, and you could e-mail your family. Technology gives us many options. Even so, the possibilities that it could be a hoax is still possible.
Rebekah did not have these options. She could not telephone Abraham to confirm his identity or that of the servant. She had to believe and trust what the servant was stating was indeed true. It also required her to leave the home and the only family she had known all her life. The distance meant that the chances of ever seeing her family again were slim. It was a courageous decision for a young girl to make, and one which must have been influenced in some way by faith—faith in the God who guided the servant to her.
Abraham is often used to exemplify faith in action. Heb 11:8-10 talks about Abraham who went forth from his homeland when God called to him. He did not know where he was going. When he died, he had not seen this great nation; his descendents as many as the stars. Yet, he believed that it will happen. Heb 11:1 says, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Abraham’s hope in God’s promises remained strong until his death.
It’s hardly mentioned, but Rebekah’s willingness to go to Isaac is similar to Abraham’s faith. She did not hear God calling directly to her, just a servant whose loyalty and faith in God touched her and made her believe that what he promised was true. Like Abraham, she set out into the unknown with nothing more than the knowledge that God had a hand in this matter and the conviction that it was the right thing to do.
Gen 24:57-58 indicates that Rebekah had a choice in the matter. She was asked if she would go with the servant, and she agreed. The childlike simplicity of her faith is touching and should be an example for us. Jesus Himself told us to have a simple, childlike faith. “Assuredly, I say to you,” He said, “whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” (Mk 10:15) Rebekah’s faith at this point serves as an example. She was rewarded for it with a wonderful marriage and a husband who loved her deeply.
Rebekah’s life changed upon becoming Isaac’s wife. She now stood in the line of matriarchs who governed a large and wealthy household. Although Abraham married again after Sarah’s death, we are told that Isaac was the sole inheritor of all that he had (Gen 25: 5, 6). This would give Rebekah significant status within the family.
Her faith complemented her husband’s. When she could not conceive, Isaac prayed on her behalf (Gen 25:21). When she felt the twins within her struggling, and she became concerned about her pregnancy, she prayed to God (Gen 25:22-23). Sarah, her mother-in-law, was also barren. However, Rebekah never chose to give her maid to her husband, an option Sarah took. Rebekah waited with Isaac for twenty long years (Gen 25:20, 26).
We see a woman who waited patiently for her prayer to be answered. Many of us will be able to say with feeling that waiting for God’s time can be very difficult indeed and requires a very firm faith. Once again, Rebekah was courageous enough in faith to wait for God’s time. As Abraham had hoped, his son had a wife who shared his faith, and the whole family prospered with blessings from God (Gen 25:11).
We like our prayers to be answered immediately! Many of us become impatient and even begin to doubt God when He seems not to hear us. Though we experience time flowing past daily, weekly, monthly, annually, God exists in every time—past, present and future. He knows the best moment to grant us our requests, and He also knows which requests may not be granted. If we claim that we trust in God, we must also trust in His judgment. A prayer unanswered does not mean God is not listening. It means that God is asking us to trust in His wisdom. Certainly, we may keep asking, but while we do, we must also find within us the willingness to submit to whatever decision God may make.
Rebekah was a woman who had great faith. She trusted in God to give her children. She trusted in God to reveal to her the reasons for her difficult pregnancy. As the Psalmist wrote: “I waited patiently for the Lord; And He inclined to me, And heard my cry.” (Ps 40:1) We can see God rewarding Rebekah in her life and how He gave her a loving husband and twin sons.“Blessed is that man who makes the Lord his trust…” (Ps 40:4).
Taking Matters Into Her Own Hands1
Faith requires that we trust our all to God, and this is easier said than done.
All along, we can see Rebekah’s faith in action as she relied on the Lord in the decisions she had to make. But when it came to the welfare of her children, she relied on herself more than she relied on God.
When God explained to her the struggles she felt within her during her pregnancy, He revealed that there were two nations in her womb. He also revealed that the older would serve the younger (Gen 25:23). Thus, the destinies of the boys were set. Rebekah did not trust in God to lead events to fulfillment. She took matters into her own hands by helping her younger son deceive his father. She became an unsuccessful parent when she loved Jacob more than Esau. Jacob enjoyed his mother’s favoritism while he observed and experienced his father’s favoritism for his brother. Such behavior from his parents probably served to polarize his feelings for each parent. He certainly showed no loyalty to his father or brother when his mother suggested that he should deceive his father. In orchestrating the situation so that Isaac gave Jacob the blessing reserved for the eldest
son, Rebekah exhibited a faith that had turned from trust into selfishness and manipulation. She thought that she could take matters into her own hands. She brushed aside consideration towards others for the sake of Jacob.
“There are many plans in a man’s heart, Nevertheless the Lord’s counsel–that will stand” (Prov 19:21). Many things are ordained by God. As His created beings, we must bow to the fact that what God has ordained will come about. There is nothing we can do that will change the situation once God has decided. If we force matters, as Rebekah did, unfortunate consequences will result, perhaps causing grief and hatred. If Rebekah did nothing, she would have witnessed God’s will in action, and the older would still serve the younger, for He had ordained it so. The difference is that when it is God who arranges matters, no one gets hurt, and we are blessed for our trust in Him.
The Repercussions Of Faithlessness1
When Rebekah used her human ingenuity to twist the situation, she caused deep hatred and enmity between the two brothers, which had serious repercussions on the people of God. She, also, suffered separation from her favorite son for the rest of her life, since she was forced to send Jacob to her brother’s home in order to save him from his brother’s wrath. Just as she could not expect to see her family again, Jacob could not expect to see his dearest mother again.
The consequences of her actions rippled through many generations into the future. Esau became the father of a great nation, which was later known as the Edomites. The Edomites became staunch enemies of Israel, finding every opportunity to take vengeance on the Israelites, even though they were brothers:“For violence against your brother Jacob, Shame shall cover you, and you shall be cut off forever. In the day that you stood on the other side– In the day that strangers carried captive his forces, When foreigners entered his gates And cast lots for Jerusalem– Even you were as one of them” (Obad verse10-11). From these verses, we can see that much later on in history, Edom collaboratedwith the enemies of Israel. Whenthe Israelites were taken captives, Edom stood by with the enemies. Indeed, the descendents of Esau continued to seek vengeance against Israel, with disastrous consequences for them: Thus says the Lord God: “Because of what Edom did against the house of Judah by taking vengeance, and has greatly offended by avenging itself on them…I will also stretch out My hand against Edom…” (Ezek 25:12, 13).
We will never know what might have been if only Rebekah had not taken things into her own hands. Perhaps the two nations would not have been enemies. Perhaps Esau’s descendents might have had a chance for redemption. During our struggles through life or some circumstance, we learn to trust in God because we see no other way. We place our hopes in Him when we need His help. Rebekah placed a great deal of trust in God when she had to make what must have been the most important decision in her life—her marriage. She also kept her faith in God when she wanted to start a family, and could not.
We are more likely to cling to our faith when something crucial is at stake in our lives. The danger comes when we take matters into our own hands and forget that the Lord is the final director of our lives. Therefore, we need to do according to His will at all times, and not just during times when we are faced with what seems to be the impossible. For every action—every act of faith—there are consequences, and by them we will stand before God in judgment. May the Lord have mercy upon us.
Examples of God’s Promises – Three Cycles God takes us through in response to receiving God’s promises made in faith.
Promise: Rebekah was destined to marry Isaac and because of her childlike faith in the servant, she was fulfilling the promise.
Provision: Because of her faithfulness, she was rewarded with a wonderful marriage and a husband who loved her deeply.
Promise: Isaac and Rebekah knew of the promise that God gave to Abraham. Rebekah and Isaac prayed and waited to have children. They were obedient and didn’t try to take the situation into their own hands.
Provision: It took 20 years before Rebekah had her first children, twins. They stood strong and steadfast on the Word and were focused on God. She didn’t allow her emotions and feelings interfere with the promise.
Promise: Rebekah was given a revelation from God on the purpose of her two sons; Jacob and Esau.
Problem: Instead of relying on the Lord to fulfill the promise, she allowed her flesh to be caught up in the moment. The problem exists to this day. We can only imagine how the situation would have played out if she would only stay still and move when the Lord told her to.
Provision: God is a faithful and awesome God. When he says it, it will happen. Even though Rebekah intervened in the process, Isaac did receive the blessing and promises of a first child. When we intervene in the process to try to help God, we not only disobey, but we hurt ourselves and future generations.