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Rebekah in the Bible, is one of the most prominent women in scripture.
The second (after Sarah) of the matriarchs in the ancestor stories of Genesis.
The beautiful narratives in Genesis 24–27 describe how she becomes Isaac’s wife, gives birth to twin sons after years of barrenness, and gains the primary place in the lineage for her younger son, Jacob. He is destined to become the ancestor of all Israel.
While challenging to accept for some, her deception in manipulating Isaac for Jacob’s benefit shows her to be an admirable and assertive woman.
Rebekah was the beautiful and intelligent daughter of Bethuel, the great-niece of Abraham, and the sister of Laban. Rebecca married Isaac, the son promised to Abraham and Sarah.
She bore two sons, Esau and Jacob. The nation of Israel came from Jacob, and the line of Esau became the Edomites.
The Meaning of Rebekah’s (Rebecca’s) Name
The Hebrew meaning for the name Rebecc” is “to tie firmly” or “a noose.” Related to a female, the name suggests her beauty by means of which men are snared or bound.
Another meaning of Rebekah is that of “captivating,” according to BibleGateway.
As her name reflects, Rebekah in the Bible was a woman of captivating beauty. In Genesis, it was noted “the young woman was very attractive in appearance, a maiden whom no man had known.”
The Story of Rebekah in the Bible
The story of Isaac pursuing Rebekah unfolds in the longest chapter in the Book of Genesis.
After Sarah’s death, Abraham sent out his servant (unnamed) to his hometown of Aram Nahariam to select a bride for their son Isaac. The servant was loaded with clothing, jewelry, and gifts for the bride and her family.
Before the servant left for his journey, he worried that the woman would not return with him. Abraham allayed his worries by telling the servant that he would be “free from this oath” if the woman was unwilling to return with him.
During the journey, he prayed to God to make him successful and show kindness to his master. He then asked God for a sign to know which woman God had chosen for his master’s wife.
Before the servant even finished his prayer, a young woman appeared with a jar on her shoulder and went down to the spring to draw water.
The woman was Rebekah, and the servant spoke with her. After some reluctance, Rebekah’s father and brother agreed for her to leave with the servant to marry Isaac.
When Rebekah reached Abraham’s home, she saw him praying in the afternoon. His spirituality captured her attention, and before long, it was revealed that he was indeed her husband-to-be! The two married soon after in his mother’s tent.
She was so beautiful that Isaac tried to pass her off as his sister at a time because he was worried that other men might be jealous and kill him to claim Rebekah as their own.
It is interesting to note that in Genesis 24:67, Isaac declares his love for her. It is the first time a woman in the Hebrew Bible whom marital love is communicated.
Rebekah’s Marriage to Isaac and Her Barrenness
When Rebekah failed to become pregnant after 20 years of marriage, Isaac prayed for a child, and God heard his prayer.
When Rebecca became pregnant with twins, she was concerned because “struggled together within her: So she “went to inquire of the LORD.”
The oracle of God addresses her when she’s pregnant, and He states that two nations will contend with each other in the womb.
This prophecy foreshadows the tensions that will represent the relationship between Rebekah’s sons, Jacob and Esau, throughout their lives. The brothers would become ancestors of Israel and Edom.
It is fascinating to see how Rebecca fooled her husband, Isaac. She knew Esau was the firstborn son and had a right over everything, but she still manipulated things for Jacob (the younger) to receive the blessing instead!
Isaac was of an elderly age; scholars estimated between the age of 132 and 137 and wanted to bestow the blessings to his sons before his death.
Knowing that his death was nearing, Isaac asked Esau to:
Rebecca overheard Isaac’s request and told Jacob to:
By doing this, Isaac would believe Jacob to be Esau and give the younger son the firstborn’s blessing.
Jacob was worried that this plan to deceive his father might fail, even with Isaac’s deteriorating vision because Esau was a hairy man and Jacob was clean-shaven.
Jacob’s mother, Rebekah, thought that if he dressed in Esau’s clothing and put the hairy skins of young goats on his hands, it would make him look and feel like Esau.
Jacob approached his father, and Isaac requested that Jacob “come near” so he could be sure that it was Esau. Isaac remarked:
The deception was successful as Isaac requested the food he had wanted and then proceeded to bless Jacob. The farce continued when Isaac requested his son to “come near and kiss me, my son.”
This deception was successful and, in fact:
So he came near and kissed him. And Isaac smelled the smell of his garments and blessed him and said,
The charade was finally revealed when Esau returned. Unaware the blessing was given to his brother:
Isaac realized he was deceived and told Esau, “Your brother came deceitfully, and he has taken away your blessing”
The series of events caused Esau to hate his brother and threaten to kill him. Rebekah told Jacob how Esau would kill him and advised that he should escape to her brother Laban’s house until the anger fades and Esau forgets what he has done.
Rebekah’s behavior in securing the birthright for her favored son Jacob and protecting him from Esau’s wrath by having him sent away has been seen as problematic.
However, the biblical text is clear about God’s intention to have Jacob continue the lineage. This means that through this ruse, Rebekah has carried out His will.
The Jewish tradition of elevating Rebekah is apparent in how they portray her as a righteous woman and even prophet. Her resourceful trickster side serves God, preserving the ancestral lineage of her people.
The circumstances surrounding Rebecca’s death are not disclosed in the Bible. Her burial place, however, is mentioned in Genesis 49:29-31.
The story of Rebekah shows God’s providence, prayerful intervention, and how He can work through our mistakes to carry out His will.
Lessons From Rebekah in the Bible
There are several lessons that we can learn from Rebekah’s life and that we can apply to our own lives.
1. Marriage is Built on Love AND Faith
The story of Isaac and Rebekah teaches that marriage is built not just on love but on faith.
The story of Rebekah highlights the importance and power that faith has in our lives.
Isaac and Rebekah’s relationship provides a great example of how love can exist in the face of uncertainty. Rebekah had to act in faith to choose to leave her family for a man she didn’t know and to marry him.
Marriage is more than just romantic affection. It has deep roots in faith, as well.
God MUST be at the center of a marriage. Without Him at your union’s head, you will be relying on only love. Through faith, God can help you withstand the rocky roads that marriage will face.
2. We Must Let God Carry Out His Plan
Rebekah tried to take matters into her own hands, but as we know from Sarah, this never works out as we expect it to.
It’s easy to grow impatient or anxious when God doesn’t move within our timeframe – but there’s a beauty in waiting for Him that can never be matched by anything else.
God is in charge of our lives; we should never try to hurry Him or take matters into our own hands. The best option always lies in waiting on the Lord until He accomplishes His will in our lives.
3. God Heals our Hurt With New Relationships.
When Abraham sought a wife for his son, he had recently been widowed and was a very old man. Until Sarah died, Isaac enjoyed a close relationship with his parents.
Sarah’s death left a considerable void in Isaac’s life, which may be what motivated Abraham to seek a wife for his son.
God used the new relationship with Rebekah to help heal their hurt from losing his mother.
We all experience the loss of people in our lives, but because God said that it is not good for man to be alone, He will often bring new ones into your life to replace what was lost.
4. Favoritism Hurts Families
We can see from Rebekah’s story that showing favoritism is harmful to families. We see in the Book of James that favoritism is a sin!
5. God Answers Prayer, But Not Always When We Expect Them
For many years after Isaac and Rebekah were married, Rebekah was unable to bear children. Like many in his situation, Isaac prayed.
When you read this, it seems pretty straightforward. Rebekah could not have children, Isaac prayed, and she had children. It appears, however, that the prayer was not immediately answered, as we see a few verses later.
Isaac was a man who had been praying for twenty years before God answered his prayer. This is another important lesson from Rebekah in the Bible. God does answer prayer but doesn’t always do it in our expected timeframe.
We should never confuse delay with denial. God may be delaying the answer for our good, but that does not mean he has denied us!
However, delay can be a denial, but we should not always assume that it is so.
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6. God’s Plan Will Always Prevail
It is comforting to know that God still used Rebekah despite her failings and deception. His plan was not prevented because of her misguided actions. In fact, God used it to orchestrate the fulfillment of His purpose.
God is all-powerful and all-knowing. Our sin and shortcomings can not thwart His plans.
7. Isaac and Rebekah Showed That God Was First in Their Marriage
Throughout the story of Isaac and Rebekah in the Bible, we see evidence of their relationship with God in their lives and their marriage. As mentioned earlier, when Rebekah could not bear children, Isaac prayed. When the children were wrestling in Rebekah’s womb, she prayed.
When God confirmed His promise with Abraham regarding his son Isaac, he built an altar and worshipped the Lord.
Throughout their lives, there was always a consistent demonstration of how much Isaac and Rebekah in the Bible people trusted in Him; This should be an example to us!
Through every circumstance or situation, we face throughout life- we must demonstrate that our relationship with God is our primary focus and that we trust in Him to meet our every need.
Though not as expansive in scripture as the story of Abraham and Sarah, we still see how their faith impacted them.
Isaac and Rebekah in the Bible were not perfect, yet they still played an essential role in God’s plan for the future nation of Israel and how he would use them as examples throughout history.
God uses imperfect people to accomplish His perfect will. Thankfully he is still doing that today and as He has throughout history! And, He will use you and I, too!
A Prayer to Live Out the Lessons We Can Learn From Rebekah in the Bible
Lord, I know that you are the almighty God of all. Help me today as my will gets in the way, and any plan stands between your plans for what should happen today or in the future.
Please give me eyes to see things the way you do and allow me to be a vessel for you to work through.
May you be glorified in my actions, relationships, and thoughts today. Help me keep the eyes of my heart on You as I engage with people around this world; each face is an opportunity for Your mighty work!
May your grace empower me so that in all of my actions today, I can feel the power from you. Guide every thought toward worshiping at Your feet because only You are worth it!
In your name, I pray. Amen.
Resources for Rebekah in the Bible
You may enjoy this video on the story of Isaac and Rebekah in the Bible:
Or one of these recommended resources about Rebekah in the Bible:
Rebekah (Wives of the Patriarchs Book #2) by Jill Eileen Smith
Rebekah (Women of Genesis) by Orson Scott Card
The Most Misunderstood Women of the Bible: What Their Stories Teach Us About Thriving by Mary E. DeMuth
Fearless Daughters of the Bible: What You Can Learn from 22 Women Who Challenged Tradition, Fought Injustice and Dared to Lead by J. Lee Grady
I ISAAC TAKE THEE REBEKAH by Ravi Zacharias
ESV – “Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”