Linda's Cozy Mysteries

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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Real Housewives Of The OT (Old Testament) Series--This Week "Rebekah"--by Linda P. Kozar

Rebecca and Eliezer by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, 17th century.

"Since I married Isaac, life is two-riffic!"

We know that Abraham was pretty old when his son Isaac was born, 100 years old--a true centenarian (Genesis 21:5). So it's no surprise to find out in Geneis 24:1 that "...Abraham was old, well advanced in age..." when he called his chief servant, and made him swear that he would travel to their kindred and find a wife for his son, Isaac. And of course, his loyal servant obeyed. He loaded up the camels and some men and traveled to the land of their countrymen. The first person he saw was Rebekah, (Genesis 24:15) "...who was born to Bethuel, son of Milcah, the wife of Nahor, Abraham's brother, came out with her pitcher on her shoulder." 

As a test, the servant asked for some water and the young woman offered him a drink right away. The girl was beautiful, and hospitable! She also went the extra mile and offered to water his camels. The servant responded by giving her a golden nose ring weighing half a shekel and two bracelets for her wrists weighing ten shekels of gold. Don't those bracelets sound pretty fine? A nice Wonder Woman look for sure, but would you want your nose rocking that heavy nose ring and drooping down to your mouth? But Rebekah must have found a way to work it.

Her family would have been agreeable to such a match from the start, given that they knew the family:) Rebekah was the granddaughter of Abraham's brother and therefore Isaac's second cousin. She was a virgin, most likely in her late teens or early twenties. Though her family was amenable to the match, once they saw those first three gifts for Rebekah, and accepted the gifts the servant brought for them from Abraham, they were more than enthusiastic. However, they wanted to have their daughter stay another ten days before sending her  on her way. In those days, when you left home, chances were pretty good, you left home forever. You would likely never see your loved ones again. But when they asked Rebekah what she wanted to do,  here's what she said:

Genesis 24:58 "Then they called Rebekah and said to her, 'Will you go with this man?' And she said, 'I will go.' So they sent away Rebekah their sister and her nurse, and Abraham's servant and his men. And they blessed Rebekah and said to her:

'Our sister, may you become
the mother of thousands of ten
and may your descendants possess
the gates of those who hate them."

The woman was ready to get hitched. Rebekah had her pumps dyed and ready! So she left with the servant and the men and the camels. On the way, she probably wondered about her husband-to-be, a man she'd never laid eyes on.

This next part seems like it was taken from the pages of a romance novel. Isaac was morning the death of his mother Sarah, whom he was close to. "And Isaac went out to meditate in the field in the evening; and he lifted his eyes and looked, and there, the camels were coming. Then Rebekah lifted her eyes and when she saw Isaac, she dismounted from her camel; for she had said to the servant, 'Who is this man walking in the field to meet us?' Amd the servamt said. 'It is my master,' So she took a veil and covered herself...Then Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah's tent; and he took Rebekah and she became his wife, and he loved her. So Isaac was comforted after his mother's death (Genesis 24: 63-67). Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah as his wife, but given the longevity of his father, Abraham, he was still a young whippersnapper.

At one point, there was a famine in Canaan and Isaac went to Abimelech king of the Philistines in Gerar to find food. Rebekah was beautiful and Isaac was scared to tell the people there she was his wife. Instead, like his father before him, he claimed his wife was his sister. But one day, Abimelech looked through a window and saw the two “sporting” (a euphemism for sexual play, but also translates to “showing endearment—caressing) together, and confronted Isaac who admitted that he had been scared to tell anyone that Rebekah was his wife. Abimelech then proclaimed to the people that anyone who hurt Isaac or Rebekah would be put to death (Genesis 26).
In another parallel, just as with Sarah, Rebekah was barren. Isaac prayed, but didn't just pray, he pleaded with the Lord for his wife. And Rebekah conceived. However, Rebekah came up against another glitch. "But the children struggled within her; and she said, 'If all is well, why am I this way?'" She probably worried that something was terribly wrong. Many women died in childbirth in those days. But what did she do?  "So she went to inquire of the Lord. And the Lord said to her:

Two nations are in your womb,
Two peoples shall be separated from 
your body;
One people shall be stronger than the other,
And the older shall serve the younger

Rebekah gave birth to sons--fraternal twins. The first one to come out was red and covered with what they described as a hairy garment all over, so they called his name "Esau," which means hairy. So as the little sasquatch was being born, the second baby grabbed hold of Esau's heel, so they named him Jacob, which means "supplanter or deceitful." Isaac was sixty years old when he became a father.

Tradition says that as long as they were young, people did not notice much difference between the boys. But when they reached the age of 13, Jacob busied himself in the house of study, while Esau busied himself with idolatry. The descriptions of the two young men hint at their opposing spiritual natures: "The lads grew up and Esau became one who knows hunting, a man of the field; but Jacob was a wholesome man, abiding in tents." The boys were very different in appearance, as demonstrated in Genesis. 27:11 "And Jacob said to Rebekah his mother 'Look, Esau my brother is a hairy man, and I am a smooth-skinned man.'" (The Dunaways recorded a very amusing song based on this title: "Esau was a Hairy, Hairy Man".)

 Just as with Isaac and Ishmael, the conflict and competition lasted their whole lives. But this competiton was probably fueled by blatant favortism. Isaac loved Esau and Rebekah loved Jacob Genesis 25:28 "And Isaac loved Esau because he ate of his game, but Rebekah loved Jacob."

Esau married at the age of forty as well, but instead of finding an appropriate woman, someone in their kindred, he took two Hittite wives, Judith the daughter of Beeri and Basemath the daughter of Elon, who vexed Isaac and Rebecca to no end, as these women were also idol-worshippers, offering the smoke of incense that to their idols daily.

According to the Talmud, after the death of Abraham, Jacob prepared red lentil stew as a traditional mourner's meal for his father, Isaac. Esau begged him for some of it after he came home famished from hunting all day. The price of that meal was high. Esau sold his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of beans. He probably walked away without giving what he had done another thought, but his actions that day changed everything.

When the time came for Isaac to die and to pass on his blessing to his oldest son, Rebekah devised a plan to have Jacob get the blessing instead. But then again, Rebekah remembered what God had told her when she inquired of him before the boys were born--that the older would serve the younger.

Rebekah overheard Isaac tell Esau to go hunting and bring some some savory game to cook for him so he could eat it and bless him before he died. 
Rebekah came up with a plan to have Jacob disguise himself to get the blessing from his nearly-blind father. (Gen 27:1-29) Jacob was afraid this deception would bring a curse on him but Rebekah said, Let your curse be on me (Genesis 27:13)

Even though obtained by deception, the blessing could not be given twice (Gen 27:30-40). Esau was furious and made plans to murder his brother in an attempt to regain the blessing, but planned to do so after his father died. However, Rebekah found out about his murmurings, so she convinced Isaac to send Jacob away by telling him that she despaired of him marrying a local girl from the idol-worshipping families of Canaan (as Esau had done). Isaac agreed and and she sent him away to live with her brother Laban in Harran.

Interesting note: After Isaac sent Jacob away to find a wife, Esau realized that his own Canaanite wives were evil in his father's eyes, and he took a daughter of Isaac's half-brother Ishmael as another wife.

Rebekah's deception cost her dearly. Although she hoped Esau's anger would blow over and Jacob would soon return, perhaps with a wife and the later promise of grandchildren to bounce upon her knees, this would be the last she ever saw of her favorite son. She died before he was able to return many years later. Rebakah was buried in Hebron in the family tomb with Abraham, Sarah, Jacob and Leah. The is known as the Tomb of The Patriarchs.

There is an element of vindication for Rebekah after all. While on his journey to their kindred, Jacob has the Stairway to Heaven dream and God blesses him. It's one thing to have the blessing of your father on earth, but to have the blessing of your heavely father, is quite another. Jacob must have realized that God had a plan all along and though the methods he and his mother undertook to assure his blessing were deceptive, the end result was in line with God's will. However, if Jacob and Rebekah had done nothing except pray--if they had taken no physical action whatsoever to attain the blessing on their own, God would have seen to it that Jacob had the blessing anyway. 

Blessings do not come from our manueverings to acquire them--they come from God. It is up to us to trust that He will be true to His Word.

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