“And the LORD said unto her, ‘Two nations are in your womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from your bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger.'” Genesis 25:23
Rebekah, “the woman who’s favoritism brought sorrow,” is the title of a commentary on this woman, wife, and mother from Scripture. Really? REALLY? Is that all one sees when they read the story of Isaac and Rebekah? Is that really how You, Lord, are remembering Rebekah? Is that what You want each of us to get from her God story?
What was Rebekah’s character really like? In Genesis 24 when Abraham’s servant goes to find a wife for Isaac, he sees this woman coming to the well, and she was beautiful. But also, when he asked her for a drink, right away she gave him some and went beyond that to offer drink for all his camels. I hear that giving water to thirsty camels is no easy task! After that, the servant found out that she was hospitable besides. I also think she was excited about things of the Lord, because when the servant is praising the Lord because of the way He has led him to Rebekah and his master’s brethren, she runs back to her house to tell the exciting news. Not only that, but her family was hospitable. They invited the servant in and washed his feet and the feet of those with him. Wow! The Pharisee who invited Jesus over never washed his feet and certainly not any of his disciples’ feet.
Now here is Rebekah, promised to a stranger. She didn’t even have to leave right away with the servant. Her parents wanted her to stay longer. But her response was, “I will go.” She seems like a brave woman to me. That seems rather selfless and I might say, excited about what the Lord is doing, too. I’m sure there are other qualities I’m missing in all the little things she does. And I know that Isaac was smitten with her when he saw her. I’m also thinking that as he was meditating in the field that day, he had probably prayed about his future bride, and then to open his eyes and see her there, an answer to prayer, wow again! And there was something about this Rebekah that he loved and had affection for and there was something about this Rebekah that was comforting to him.
Now for some reason, Rebekah was having trouble conceiving. And Isaac sought the Lord concerning this. Then the Lord allowed her to bear twins. Now these twins “struggled within her.” It wasn’t easy on her and she enquired of the Lord about it. The Lord answered her and said, “Two nations are in your womb, and two manner of people shall be seperated from your bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger.” She heard this and she believed the word of the Lord. I can’t help but think that she told this to Isaac. But either way, she heard the word of the Lord and believed it and didn’t stop believing it.
So Esau is born first, which made him the eldest and Jacob followed behind. The boys grew. Esau became a clever hunter, I suppose a man’s kind of man. But Jacob was just a plain, pious, gentle man remaining around the tents. I suppose that since Esau was a man’s man, his dad Isaac had a special place in his heart for him. Scripture actually says that Isaac loved Esau and really liked his venison he prepared for him, but Rebekah loved Jacob. Now I’m not so sure that what’s being implied isn’t just that each parent identified more with one son than the other. But regardless, Rebekah has the words of the Lord to hold on to.
Now, if I love the Lord, wouldn’t I want that to be what I admire most in my children? But somehow it seems as though Isaac was admiring hunting skill over spiritual awareness. I wonder if Rebekah was more sensitive to the Spirit of the Lord than Isaac? And I wonder at the sensitivity of Esau to spiritual things. Why do I wonder? Because his birthright meant so little to him that he would sell it for some soup. He actually swore over his birthright to Jacob. Now, I’m thinking that our word has always been held to be binding before God. You know, the let your nay be nay and your yay be yay thing. I mean, doesn’t God hate lying? Especially because there is no lie in Him. What is it to swear and renig on the promise? Scripture itself records that Esau despised his birthright.
Now, there comes a famine to the land. And God tells Isaac to stay in Gerar. But Isaac is afraid of the men there that they might kill him to gain his beautiful wife. So he lied about Rebekah and said she was his sister. I’m thinking, “Danger! Danger!” and that danger wasn’t for Isaac but for Rebekah. Why? Because now Isaac has put her in a situation where someone might want to take her for their own. And the king Abimelech notices that Isaac is treating her like a wife and not a sister and he is taken aback. Even he realized the danger in what Isaac had done. He might have caused someone to be guilty because of not sharing the truth. Maybe this pagan Abimelech was more righteous than Isaac because he charged all his people not to touch Isaac or Rebekah or they would be put to death. Hm, its pretty sad when a pagan is more righteous than a believer, isn’t it? But maybe that tells us something about Isaac’s sensitivity to the Lord, or lack thereof.
Now don’t get me wrong here. Isaac is just as human as the rest of us. And I’m not trying to say that Isaac wasn’t walking in faith. But I am saying that Isaac was not perfect. But God didn’t hold that against him, did He? So where does that leave Rebekah?
But I’m so grateful that God loves us despite our failures and our fears. Later, the Lord appeared to Isaac, reminding him, “I am the God of Abraham your father: fear not, for I am with you, and will bless you, and multiply your seed for my servant Abraham’s sake.” I’m not so sure that Isaac was the man his father was, but despite himself, God would bless him for his father’s sake.
Esau chooses some wives who were not God worshippers which vexes his parents. And why doesn’t Isaac think about the appropriateness of passing the heritage on to Esau? Is tradition stronger than the word of God or wisdom? So the point of decision comes, that point where some hold Rebekah so guilty. And Isaac sends Esau out to get some meat and prepare it for him so he can lay the birthright upon him, you know, that birthright that Esau already sold to his brother. And Rebekah hears. What is she to do? Rebekah remembers the words of the Lord. Who should she obey? What should she work toward? If her husband is not obeying or seeing or hearing, should she turn a blind eye? Really? Maybe she was just being wise as a serpent and gentle as a dove. Maybe doing the right thing sometimes brings hard consequences.
What if Rebekah never felt she was to share that word of the Lord with Isaac? I really don’t know if she did or did not. Would that make her less responsible for listening to it herself? What is Rebekah’s responsibility toward listening to the word of God? She became a woman who took on responsibility under the Lord. She became a woman who stood in the gap for her husband and sons. She knew God’s will and she walked in it. She “conspired” with Jacob to make savoury meat and to send Jacob in before Esau arrived back so that Jacob would be blessed in the place of Esau. She was so determined that when Jacob had doubts she was willing to let the curse be on her. She understood the consequences but was willing to pay them.
Yes, deception was used by Rebekah and by Jacob. He lied to his father and said he was Esau. And Isaac pronounced the blessing upon Jacob. But think about it. If Isaac thought it was Esau, why didn’t the blessing stick for Esau since that’s the name he used? But maybe, Isaac was suffering from more than a physical blindness. Maybe he was suffering from a spiritual blindness and this was God’s way to get the blessing on the right man. See, God deals with us in our humanity, as men and women who are human and mere mortals. He deals with us through our right and wrong responses and He can use all of them for His glory. See, Isaac couldn’t discern rightly. Maybe he should have relied on his wife’s discernment more. Maybe he hadn’t payed attention to what she shared. Maybe he was just set in his ways.
Maybe we don’t give discernment as much emphasis or credit as we ought to. Maybe we need to just stop thinking so much about what we like or admire and start thinking more about what You, God, value. Maybe we ought to value Your words above our own.
Sure, Rebekah’s deception made Isaac angry when he found out. And it made Esau angry too. But doesn’t it seem wrong that Esau has the gaul to say that Jacob had supplanted him two times, by taking the birthright away first and then the blessing? Come on now. Esau just handed the birthright over like it was worthless. Where was his discernment? But I wonder, is it worth obeying God even if it means being hated by some?
I’m just not ready to cast all the guilt upon a woman who used discernment, gumption, and obeyed the voice of the Lord. All those years and she didn’t forget, but obeyed. And then she continues to use discernment and sends Isaac off to find a wife so she can keep him safe from his brother. And I don’t think it was just that. I think that Rebekah was thinking of future generations and finding a godly wife for the sake of the heritage. Who’s heritage? Isaac’s and ultimately Yours, God. And it’s interesting, but that discernment and contemplating of the Lord seemed to carry over in Jacob and not Esau. Esau was of the earth, but Jacob was a man who contemplated God.
Did Rebekah and Isaac have consequences of their decisions? Yes. So did Esau. So did Jacob. So do we. Rebekah never saw Jacob again while she was alive. Is that because You cursed her, Lord? I think not. I mean, she is under the same curse of sin that each of us is. But I think that Rebekah was a woman of God that was willing to pay the price to bring your will to pass. And because she stood up for your will, even with using deception, even today nations are blessed. It’s kind of funny. God just blessed Isaac because he was Abraham’s son, the seed through which God’s promise would be made true. But Rebekah had to stand up against all odds. She had to take a risk. And she was willing to do that to see Your will come to pass. What about me? Am I willing to take the risk to obey Your voice, Lord? Do I have the discernment to see things Your way and the strength of character and love of the Spirit to walk in Your way and encourage others in Your way no matter the consequences? Lord, I pray that You make me that kind of person. I pray that You have already begun that work in me. I wonder which brings more sorrow, to obey Your will or to follow after my own desires?