Rebekah—A Godly Woman of Action
SUPPOSE you could handpick a wife for your son. What kind of person would you choose? What qualifications would she need? Would you look for someone who was physically attractive, intelligent, kind, and hardworking? Or would you first look for something else?
Abraham faced this dilemma. Jehovah had promised that blessings would flow to his descendants through his son Isaac. As we pick up the account, Abraham by now is old, but his son is still a bachelor. (Genesis 12:1-3, 7; 17:19; 22:17, 18; 24:1) Since Isaac will share blessings with a yet-to-be-found wife and any offspring they may produce, Abraham arranges to locate a suitable wife for Isaac. Above all, she must be a servant of Jehovah. As no such woman can be found in Canaan, where Abraham dwells, he has to look elsewhere. The person finally selected is Rebekah. How is she found? Is she a spiritual woman? What can we learn from considering her example?
The Search for a Qualified Woman
Abraham sends his oldest servant, likely Eliezer, to distant Mesopotamia to take a bride for Isaac from among Abraham’s relatives, fellow worshipers of Jehovah. The matter is so serious that Eliezer is made to swear that he will not take a Canaanite as a wife for Isaac. Abraham’s insistence on this is noteworthy.—Genesis 24:2-10.
After traveling to the city of Abraham’s relatives, Eliezer brings his ten camels to a well. Picture the scene! It is evening, and Eliezer prays: “Here I am stationed at a fountain of water, and the daughters of the men of the city are coming out to draw water. What must occur is that the young woman to whom I shall say, ‘Let your water jar down, please, that I may take a drink,’ and who will indeed say, ‘Take a drink, and I shall also water your camels,’ this is the one you must assign to your servant, to Isaac.”—Genesis 24:11-14.
As every local woman would likely know, a parched camel can drink a lot (up to 25 gallons [100 L]) of water. So a woman who offered to water ten camels had to be ready for a lot of toil. Her doing that with others looking on but not offering to help would give sure proof of her energy, patience, humility, and kind heart toward man and beast.
What happens? “Before he had finished speaking, why, here coming out was Rebekah, who had been born to Bethuel the son of Milcah the wife of Nahor, Abraham’s brother, and her water jar was upon her shoulder. Now the young woman was very attractive in appearance, a virgin, . . . and she made her way down to the fountain and began to fill her water jar and then came up. At once the servant ran to meet her and said: ‘Give me, please, a little sip of water from your jar.’ In turn she said: ‘Drink, my lord.’ With that she quickly lowered her jar upon her hand and gave him a drink.”—Genesis 24:15-18.
Does Rebekah Qualify?
Rebekah is Abraham’s grandniece, and besides being beautiful, she is virtuous. She does not shrink back from talking to a stranger, nor is she unduly familiar. She obliges Eliezer when he asks for a drink. That is only to be expected, since it is a mark of common courtesy. What about the second part of the test?
Rebekah says: “Drink, my lord.” But it did not stop there. Rebekah continues: “For your camels too I shall draw water until they are done drinking.” She offers more than what might normally be expected. With alacrity ‘she quickly empties her jar into the drinking trough and runs yet again and again to the well to draw water and keeps drawing for all his camels.’ She is a whirl of activity. ‘All the while,’ says the account, ‘the man is gazing at her in wonder.’—Genesis 24:19-21.
On learning that the maiden is related to Abraham, Eliezer prostrates himself in thanks to Jehovah. He inquires as to whether there is room at her father’s house for him and those with him to spend the night. Rebekah responds positively and runs home with news of the visitors.—Genesis 24:22-28.
After listening to Eliezer’s story, Rebekah’s brother, Laban, and her father, Bethuel, perceive that God is guiding things. Surely Rebekah is designated for Isaac. “Take her and go,” they say, “and let her become a wife to the son of your master, just as Jehovah has spoken.” How does Rebekah feel? Asked if she will depart immediately, she answers with one word in Hebrew, meaning: “I am willing to go.” She is not obliged to accept this proposal. Abraham said as much in freeing Eliezer from his oath “if the woman should not wish” to depart. But Rebekah too sees God’s hand in the matter. So without delay, she leaves her family to marry a man she has never met. That courageous decision is an outstanding demonstration of faith. She is indeed the right choice!—Genesis 24:29-59.
On meeting Isaac, Rebekah veils herself as evidence of submission. Isaac takes her as his wife, and no doubt because of her excellent qualities, he falls in love with her.—Genesis 24:62-67.
Rebekah is childless for some 19 years. At length, she conceives twins, but the pregnancy is difficult, for the children struggle in her womb, causing Rebekah to cry out to God. We may do the same thing in times of great distress in our life. Jehovah hears Rebekah and reassures her. She will become mother to two nations, and “the older will serve the younger.”—Genesis 25:20-26.
Those words may not be the only reason for Rebekah’s greater love for her younger son, Jacob. The boys are different. Jacob is “blameless,” but Esau has such an unconcerned attitude toward spiritual things that for one meal, he sells his birthright, his right to inherit God’s promises, to Jacob. Esau’s marriage to two Hittite women shows disregard—if not contempt—for spiritual values, causing his parents great distress.—Genesis 25:27-34; 26:34, 35.
Procuring the Blessing for Jacob
The Bible does not say whether Isaac knows that Esau must serve Jacob. In any case, both Rebekah and Jacob know that the blessing belongs to him. Rebekah springs into action on hearing that Isaac intends to bless Esau when he takes his father a dish of game. The decisiveness and zeal that characterized her in her youth have not deserted her. She ‘commands’ Jacob to bring her two kids of goats. She will prepare a dish her husband is fond of. Then Jacob must impersonate Esau to obtain the blessing. Jacob objects. His father is bound to become aware of the ruse and curse him! Rebekah insists. “Upon me be the malediction meant for you, my son,” she says. Then she makes the dish, disguises Jacob, and sends him to her husband.—Genesis 27:1-17.
Why Rebekah acts this way is not stated. Many condemn her action, but the Bible does not, nor does Isaac on discovering that Jacob has received the blessing. Rather, Isaac amplifies it. (Genesis 27:29; 28:3, 4) Rebekah knows what Jehovah foretold about her sons. So she acts to see that Jacob secures the blessing that is rightfully his. This is clearly in harmony with Jehovah’s will.—Romans 9:6-13.
Jacob Sent to Haran
Rebekah now thwarts Esau by urging Jacob to flee until his brother’s rage passes. She seeks Isaac’s consent to her plan but kindly avoids mentioning Esau’s ire. Rather, she tactfully appeals to her husband by voicing anxiety lest Jacob ever marry a Canaanite. The very idea is enough to persuade Isaac to order Jacob to avoid such a marriage and to send him to Rebekah’s family to find a God-fearing wife. There is no record that Rebekah ever sees Jacob again, but her actions do yield a rich reward for the future nation of Israel.—Genesis 27:43–28:2.
What we know of Rebekah moves us to admire her. She was very attractive, but her real beauty lay in her godly devotion. That was what Abraham sought in a daughter-in-law. Her other good traits likely surpassed all that Abraham had even hoped for. Her faith and courage in following divine guidance and her zeal, modesty, and generous hospitality are qualities that all Christian women do well to imitate. These are the qualities that Jehovah himself looks for in a truly exemplary woman.