Rebekah and The "Happily Ever After" We All Crave

Isaac, the son of promise, buries his mother Sarah at the age of 37 (Genesis 23:1). God had brought life from Sarah’s dead womb at age 90. Only imagine the tender affection showered on her boy in those 37-years. No doubt, Isaac was greatly affected by the passing of his mother.

In Genesis 24, a chapter after Sarah’s death, Abraham tasks his chief servant with the mission of finding a wife for his son. The servant was to travel to Abraham’s native country and family in search of Isaac’s bride (Genesis 24:1-9). He journeys hundreds of miles to the city of Nahor – Abraham’s brother (Genesis 22:20) – and arrives precisely at the time when the women are drawing water from the town’s spring--God is sovereign, even in His timing.

The servant--most likely Eliezer of Damascus (Genesis 15:2)--is careful with his duty and prays, asking God to reveal His choice of a wife from among the women. His prayer follows:“Let the young woman to whom I shall say, ‘Please let down your jar that I may drink,’ and who shall say, ‘Drink, and I will water your camels’—let her be the one whom you have appointed for your servant Isaac” (Genesis 24:14).

Before he has finished praying, Rebekah, a granddaughter of Nahor, comes walking. The servant requests a drink and Rebekah offers water without hesitation. She also proceeds to water his camels (Genesis 24:15-21). Now a single camel can hold up to 25-gallons of water. Rebekah quenches ten of these creatures. Certainly, the extent of her willingness and hospitality ought to challenge us!

The young woman is immediately chosen for Isaac and–like her uncle Abraham before her, she willingly leaves home, country and family for an unknown land (Genesis 12:1). She is escorted to her husband who receives her with love. Isaac takes Rebekah into the tent of Sarah and he is comforted by his wife after the death of his mother (Genesis 24: 67).

And in some ways, Rebekah does resemble Sarah. Isaac marries at the age of 40 but will not embrace children until he is 60-years-old. Barrenness, Sarah’s despair, plagues Rebekah for twenty long years. In the end, Isaac prays for his wife and the LORD blesses them with twin sons–Esau, the eldest (Isaac’s favorite), and his brother, Jacob (Rebekah’s pet) (Genesis 25:19-27).

During her pregnancy, God tells Rebekah that her firstborn would serve his younger brother. God’s elective purposes would prevail over custom. The Abrahamic blessing of land and descendants would be granted to Jacob, not Esau (Romans 9:10-13).

Did Rebekah share this word with her husband? If so, Isaac seems to ignore it. Isaac is said to have prayed for his wife, did he also pray concerning this message? Or perhaps disregarding common custom was simply too strange--particularly when it deprived his favorite son? Whatever his reason, Isaac resolves to bless Esau rather than Jacob. When Rebekah overhears the decision, she quickly formulates a plan to overrule her husband. She disguises Jacob as Esau and the younger son is blessed in place of the elder (Genesis 27:1-29).

Rebekah had a husband who–in this instance–either did not know or did not trust God’s word. And while Rebekah appears to believe God concerning the election of her younger son, she certainly didn’t look to God Himself  to prove His word. Had the LORD been her confidence, prayer, and not deception, would have been her answer to Isaac’s plan.

Perhaps God would have displayed His glorious providence in some majestic way had Rebekah called Jacob for prayer rather than for scheming. Certainly, Scripture (see the Book of Esther!) gives evidence of God’s prevailing word over man’s determination. Rather, Rebekah seeks to bring God’s word to pass by her own wisdom and as a result, she never sees her favorite son again (Genesis 28:1-5). Jacob is forced to flee the family at the threat of scornful Esau and he returns to Canaan after Rebekah’s death.  

Rebekah’s story is the stuff of movies. A beautiful maiden providentially chosen by God through her own willing service of a stranger; she boldly and courageously leaves home for an unknown land; she enters marriage with the promise of love; and even the bitterness of infertility is chased away by the gift of twins! There should have been a happily ever after. Rather, the story is told, not as a fairy tale but, as the drama of a post Genesis 3 family.

The deception that began in Eden slides its way to Genesis 24 in the story of Abraham's family. But the God of Eden is also in the chapter. And His Genesis 3:15 promise is not overcome by the sin of Adam's offspring. The Snake-Crusher, a distant son of Rebekah herself, would come (Matthew 1:2). And in His perfect obedience, death, resurrection, and return, we will find the complete and happy ending our souls long for (Revelation 21:4-5).

*Thanks for reading! This post is part of my Mothers in the Bible Series; we are looking for glimpses of the gospel in the lives of biblical women--from Eve to Mary, the mother of Christ. Click here to see other writings. And please let me know your thoughts!