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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible


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REBEKAH (in Romans 9:10 Rebecca ). The daughter of Bethnel, the son of Nahor, Abraham’s brother, and his wife Milcah ( Genesis 22:23 ). She was also the sister of Laban and became the wife of Isaac . The well-known story of the facts leading up to the marriage of Isaac and Rebekah is told in Genesis 24:1-67 , and gives valuable information as to early marriage customs. Isaac is not consulted. Abraham’s servant Eliezer ( Genesis 15:2 ) is sent to seek for a wife among his master’s kinsfolk. The servant proceeds to the ‘city of Nahor’ (Haran), and, arriving at the gate of the city, waits by the well till the women come out to draw water ( Genesis 15:11 ). He prays that God may prosper him and give him a sign by which he may recognize the woman Providence has set apart for Isaac. Rebekah comes out and offers to draw water for the stranger and his camels. The servant loads her with gifts, and her family, led by her brother Laban, being convinced of Abraham’s wealth, and recognizing the will of Heaven in the selection, agrees to the marriage. Rebekah returns with the servant and becomes Isaac’s wife (v. 67).

In Genesis 25:21 we are told that Rebekah, like many other favourite wives of the OT ( e.g. Sarah, Rachel, Hannah), was at first barren, but in answer to Isaac’s prayer Jacob and Esau were born ( Genesis 25:24-26 ). Before their birth Rebekah received the oracle from Jehovah, that two nations were in her womb and that the elder should serve the younger. No doubt this story is a late Jewish legend, arising from the desire to find the history of the two peoples Israel and Edom foreshadowed in the lives of their progenitors.

Rebekah again comes before us during Isaac’s sojourn in Gerar (Genesis 26:6-11 ). Fearing lest the beauty of his wife might excite the desire of the king of Gerar and so lead to his own death, Isaac passed her off as his sister a course of action which led him into difficulties with Abimelech ( Genesis 26:10 ).

The destiny of Jacob, her favourite son, was strongly influenced by his strong-minded mother. She was the author of the treacherous plan by which Jacob deprived Esau of his father’s blessing (Genesis 27:1-46 ). She advised him to flee from his home to her brother Laban ( Genesis 27:43-45 ). In Genesis 28:1 f., however, the motive of the journey is that he might take a wife from the family of his mother, in contrast to Esau, who had grieved his parents by taking a wife from among the Canaanites ( Genesis 26:34-35 ). Rebekah died before Jacob’s return from Haran, and her burial at Machpelah is mentioned in Genesis 49:31 . The death and burial of Deborah, the nurse of Rebekah, who had followed her from Haran ( Genesis 24:59 ), are reported to have taken place after Jacob had returned to Canaan ( Genesis 35:8 ).

The character of Rebekah has a peculiar charm and fascination. Appearing first as a pure, unselfish, loving girl, she becomes a woman of great strength of mind and depth of character. She is clever, active, energetic. She can make plans and carry them out, give orders and expect them to be obeyed, but her masterful spirit cannot brook opposition or contradiction. Esau’s wives vex her beyond measure. When she loves, she loves with all her soul, and will spare no pains, consider no consequences, or grudge any sacrifice for those she loves. ‘Upon me be thy curse, my son’ (Genesis 27:13 ), is her answer to Jacob when he fears that a curse will fall on his deception. Although that curse fell and her beloved son had to flee and she saw his face no more, yet we forget the scheming, plotting woman in the loving wife and self-sacrificing mother.

W. F. Boyd.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Rebekah'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. 1909.

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