Who was Rebekah in the Bible? Well, she’s the original ‘mail order bride!’ Don’t believe me? Read Genesis 24. It’s true!
There’s a beautiful legacy of women in the Bible we can learn from.
Many of them show us complicated pictures with a mix of good things we should copy and other things we should learn to avoid. Rebekah is a prime example of that.
Rebekah is one of the ‘Matriarchs’ in the Genesis narrative. She has a strong faith and has witnessed miraculous answers to prayer. But she also takes matters into her own hands, when it seems like someone’s about to make a huge mistake.
I love learning from these ladies, diving in and studying, hoping to gain understanding, and avoid some of their mistakes. It can be very rewarding. So let’s dive in and see what we can learn from Rebekah in the Bible.
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The Story of Rebekah in the Bible
Genesis 24-27 contains the story of Rebekah in the Bible, along with some other interesting drama. I’ve always been so impressed with the faith of Abraham’s servant at the beginning of Rebekah’s story.
His faith in God’s ability to step in and help him find the right wife for Isaac is so cool! And I love how God rewards that faith “Before he had finished praying.”
Before he had finished praying, Rebekah came out with her jar on her shoulder. She was the daughter of Bethuel son of Milkah, who was the wife of Abraham’s brother Nahor. Genesis 24.15 NIV
Just like that, Abraham’s great-niece shows up. And she’s clearly the answer to both Abraham and his servant’s prayer. Because Rebekah’s character is generous and hard-working, far beyond ordinary hospitality.
Moving away from her family to marry a stranger was a brave thing to do. To then face 20 years of infertility, would have been incredibly hard, especially as the stigma in those days was huge. (Genesis 25:20,26)
Yes, Rebekah, like Sarah before her, was barren. She also had the same misfortune of having her husband declare her ‘sister’ when he feared the neighbors might kill him to get to her. Fortunately, she wasn’t taken into the harem, as Sarah was. (26:1-11)
The meaning of Rebekah is very interesting. Apparently, in Hebrew, Rebekah means captivating, or snare. She definitely captivated Abraham’s servant, by offering to water his camels, which is a big job. And she did end up being a snare to Jacob, convincing him to deceive his father, to steal his brother’s blessing.
Characteristics of Rebekah in the Bible
Rebekah is an interesting woman. Much like us, she has some mountaintop experiences and still manages to make a few doozies of mistakes, due to doubt, presumption, or desperation.
But that makes her all the more relatable and fascinating. More real, somehow, than if she were a better person. I’m glad we have her example, and many others preserved for us in the Bible, flaws and all.
Let’s look at some specific characteristics of Rebekah in the Bible:
- She was beautiful (24:16). Carrying water for her family implies strength and that she’s hardworking.
- Extremely Generous and Helpful. To offer to water 10 travel-weary camels is kind of a big deal. Then to offer them food and shelter?
- Faith in God. Much like Queen Esther, Rebekah had a strong faith. She saw God’s faithfulness in answering their prayer to have children, so when the babies were wrestling inside her, she went to God to ask why. She Believed God would hear her, and answer, which he did (25:22-23)
- Fell for Favoritism. Because God told her that the youngest would rule, Rebekah clearly favored Jacob. As mothers, we have to be very careful not to play favorites. Our kids need to know we love them ‘to the moon and back.’
- Willing to Deceive instead of trusting God. Rebekah’s confidence in God’s promise and plan for Jacob didn’t extend to trusting God to handle the issue of properly blessing Jacob. (27)
Women played such an important role in biblical history. Read more about them in our Women of the Bible series!
What Can We Learn From Rebekah
When all is said and done, what can we learn from Rebekah? She started out so good, but when it came to her son’s future, she lost her way. She, like so many of us, tried to do things under her own power.
We can definitely learn to be more hospitable and generous, for several reasons. Both are things God has asked us to do, and both can be rewarding if we’re motivated to please God. We don’t have to stress over being pretty or having our homes just so. Do you think Rebekah looked perfect after a dozen trips down to the well to water the camels?
Also, what we can learn from Rebekah is to believe. Believe that God knows the answers, hears your prayers, and delights in talking with you. As Rebekah went to God with her concerns, he met her and shared a bit of the future with her. He’ll do that for us too!
Be patient when God reveals something to you. Like Rebekah, and Joseph with his dreams, be careful how you handle that revelation. God will work things out in his time and is trustworthy. Even when the train seems about to derail.
I’m so curious what might have been if Isaac and Rebekah had not chosen favorites and if Rebekah hadn’t intervened in Isaac’s plan to bless Esau.
I mean, Isaac’s words are not more powerful than God’s, so…aside from driving a wedge further between the brothers, and making it necessary for Jacob to leave, probably never seeing his mother again, what did she really accomplish?
So hold on to the truth that you know. The story of Rebekah in the Bible teaches us to believe God cares and wants to communicate with you and wants you to live generously.