Relationships –  Isaac and Rebekah

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. The woman was very beautiful, a virgin; no man had ever slept with her. She went down to the spring, filled her jar and came up again.
The servant hurried to meet her and said, “Please give me a little water from your jar.”
“Drink, my lord,” she said, and quickly lowered the jar to her hands and gave him a drink.
After she had given him a drink, she said, “I’ll draw water for your camels too, until they have had enough to drink.” So she quickly emptied her jar into the trough, ran back to the well to draw more water, and drew enough for all his camels. Without saying a word, the man watched her closely to learn whether or not the Lord had made his journey successful.
When the camels had finished drinking, the man took out a gold nose ring weighing a beka and two gold bracelets weighing ten shekels. Then he asked, “Whose daughter are you? Please tell me, is there room in your father’s house for us to spend the night?”
She answered him, “I am the daughter of Bethuel, the son that Milkah bore to Nahor.” And she added, “We have plenty of straw and fodder, as well as room for you to spend the night.” …

Then they said, “Let’s call the young woman and ask her about it.” So they called Rebekah and asked her, “Will you go with this man?”
“I will go,” she said.
So they sent their sister Rebekah on her way, along with her nurse and Abraham’s servant and his men. And they blessed Rebekah and said to her,
“Our sister, may you increase
    to thousands upon thousands;
may your offspring possess
    the cities of their enemies.”
Then Rebekah and her attendants got ready and mounted the camels and went back with the man. So the servant took Rebekah and left.
Now Isaac had come from Beer Lahai Roi, for he was living in the Negev. He went out to the field one evening to meditate, and as he looked up, he saw camels approaching. Rebekah also looked up and saw Isaac. She got down from her camel and asked the servant, “Who is that man in the field coming to meet us?”
“He is my master,” the servant answered. So she took her veil and covered herself.
Then the servant told Isaac all he had done. Isaac brought her into the tent of his mother Sarah, and he married Rebekah. So she became his wife, and he loved her; and Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.

  • Genesis 24:15-25, 57-67

This is the account of the family line of Abraham’s son Isaac.
Abraham became the father of Isaac, and Isaac was forty years old when he married Rebekah daughter of Bethuel the Aramean from Paddan Aram and sister of Laban the Aramean.
Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife, because she was childless. The Lord answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant. The babies jostled each other within her, and she said, “Why is this happening to me?” So she went to inquire of the Lord.
The Lord said to her,
“Two nations are in your womb,
    and two peoples from within you will be separated;
one people will be stronger than the other,
    and the older will serve the younger.”
When the time came for her to give birth, there were twin boys in her womb. The first to come out was red, and his whole body was like a hairy garment; so they named him Esau. After this, his brother came out, with his hand grasping Esau’s heel; so he was named Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when Rebekah gave birth to them.
The boys grew up, and Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the open country, while Jacob was content to stay at home among the tents. Isaac, who had a taste for wild game, loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob.

  • Genesis 25:19-28

When the men of that place asked him about his wife, he said, “She is my sister,” because he was afraid to say, “She is my wife.” He thought, “The men of this place might kill me on account of Rebekah, because she is beautiful.”
When Isaac had been there a long time, Abimelek king of the Philistines looked down from a window and saw Isaac caressing his wife Rebekah. So Abimelek summoned Isaac and said, “She is really your wife! Why did you say, ‘She is my sister’?”
Isaac answered him, “Because I thought I might lose my life on account of her.”
Then Abimelek said, “What is this you have done to us? One of the men might well have slept with your wife, and you would have brought guilt upon us.”
So Abimelek gave orders to all the people: “Anyone who harms this man or his wife shall surely be put to death.”

  • Genesis 26:7-11

Now Rebekah was listening as Isaac spoke to his son Esau. When Esau left for the open country to hunt game and bring it back, Rebekah said to her son Jacob, “Look, I overheard your father say to your brother Esau, ‘Bring me some game and prepare me some tasty food to eat, so that I may give you my blessing in the presence of the Lord before I die.’ Now, my son, listen carefully and do what I tell you: Go out to the flock and bring me two choice young goats, so I can prepare some tasty food for your father, just the way he likes it. Then take it to your father to eat, so that he may give you his blessing before he dies.”
Jacob said to Rebekah his mother, “But my brother Esau is a hairy man while I have smooth skin. What if my father touches me? I would appear to be tricking him and would bring down a curse on myself rather than a blessing.”
His mother said to him, “My son, let the curse fall on me. Just do what I say; go and get them for me.”
So he went and got them and brought them to his mother, and she prepared some tasty food, just the way his father liked it. Then Rebekah took the best clothes of Esau her older son, which she had in the house, and put them on her younger son Jacob. She also covered his hands and the smooth part of his neck with the goatskins. Then she handed to her son Jacob the tasty food and the bread she had made. …

When Rebekah was told what her older son Esau had said, she sent for her younger son Jacob and said to him, “Your brother Esau is planning to avenge himself by killing you. Now then, my son, do what I say: Flee at once to my brother Laban in Harran. Stay with him for a while until your brother’s fury subsides. When your brother is no longer angry with you and forgets what you did to him, I’ll send word for you to come back from there. Why should I lose both of you in one day?”
Then Rebekah said to Isaac, “I’m disgusted with living because of these Hittite women. If Jacob takes a wife from among the women of this land, from Hittite women like these, my life will not be worth living.”

  • Genesis 27:5-17, 42-46

A Quote

[Genesis 24:15] ” ‘Before he had finished speaking.’ No, he did not know that promise, ‘While they are yet speaking I will hear,’ but God keeps his promises before he makes them; and, therefore, I am sure he will keep them after he has made them.”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from sermon notes

What Do We Know about their Relationship?

In the Genesis 24 Scripture above, the man at the beginning of the story is Abraham’s servant who was sent to Harran to look for a wife for Isaac.  Rebekah had no problem in showing her face to the servant, but she placed the veil over her face as Isaac approached.  This is one powerful story of love at first sight.

Isaac took Rebekah into his mother’s tent (Sarah had passed away.) and Rebekah became Isaac’s wife.  There was no wedding ceremony.  I have heard a pastor argue that having sex, in God’s eyes, means that you are married.  The license is a local government thing.  The wedding ceremony is the celebration of their love.  But this one paragraph.  Isaac loved her and they were married.

But it does not say in that verse that Rebekah loved Isaac.  They had barely met.  They did not know each other.

Yet, they had a long marriage.  While some women, like Sarah, were barren and the Scripture spends a great deal of time on that topic, Rebekah is childless.  Isaac prays.  God answers the prayer in a big way.  Rebekah has twins.  Before they are born, they are fighting in her womb.  She prays to the Lord and the Lord answers that the older will serve the younger.  It took some manipulation by Rebekah for that to happen, but God had told her it would be so.  As a result, Isaac grew to love Esau and Rebekah loved Jacob.

Rebekah tricks her husband and then when Esau threatens to kill Jacob after Jacob steals his blessing, Rebekah helps Jacob escape.

What Can We Infer about their Relationship?

We might assume that Rebekah, in some way, loved Isaac.  The servant pulled out the jewelry before he even found out that this was the family that he sought.  Was she greedy, and she loved gold?  You even see moments of her brother Laban’s greed as Abraham’s servant began to speak of coming there to find a wife for Isaac.  Yet, with Rebekah volunteering to water the servant’s camels, Rebekah, to a degree, had a servant’s heart.

We could speak ill of Rebekah due to her tricking Isaac into giving Jacob the blessing, but Rebekah had been given the prophecy directly from God.  In looking at the two brothers, Esau had married local women and Jacob ran off, marrying Rebekah’s nieces.  Esau chased after false gods, and Jacob met the true God.  Does 20:20 hindsight justify subterfuge?

In What Ways Can We Fill in the Gaps about their Relationship?

In the little story of them going to stay in Abimelek’s Philistine kingdom, Isaac and Rebekah are seen playing “sport” with one another according to the KJV.  The NIV says embracing, but even that is played down.  Rev. Charles R. Swindoll said in a devotion that if they were playing “sport” it definitely was not Ping Pong.  I think that is a fairly safe statement in the fill in the gaps arena.  We can also learn from that encounter that Rebekah and Isaac enjoyed being together.

The stories of the life of Isaac and Rebekah revolve around their two sons and they each picked one to love.  Yet, Isaac was not the loser between the two champion patriarch’s.  If you read these chapters of Genesis, Isaac is digging wells and making peace with his neighbors.  Yet, in a marriage relationship, Rebekah and Isaac were married before they knew each other and not much else is known.

What Can We Learn from this Relationship?

I am sure that if we were to have added to the story a little courtship, even then the question would never come up that if you had twins, would you love one more than the other?  The Dick Smothers line about “Mom always liked you best!” might have been perfectly timed in their comedy routine, but it is not comical in real life.  Yet, it is so hard not to do, at least at times.  My wife and I tried to not play favorites, but our older son liked sports and the younger son hated them.  The older son was in the school band, but the younger son excelled in everything musical.  With me being a sports fan and my wife loving music, there was definitely a gravitational force there.  We never said one was the favorite, but others noticed in the way we did things as a family.  The interests of the two boys may have partially led to the favoritism between the two sons of Isaac and their parents.

Yet, when it came to my boys, the only thing that mattered to me was that they loved Jesus, which in life is the only thing that will ultimately matter.  Esau failed in that department.  It took Jacob a long time to understand his calling as a patriarch, but he came to love God eventually.

As for the deception of Rebekah, that type of thing will always become a problem in the end.  God had ordained it in this case, but would Esau have actually killed Jacob in the rage of that moment?  Did Rebekah ever tell Isaac about what the Lord had told her?  If so, could that have led to the favoritism being shown the two boys?

What Have We Learned thus far?

In Adam and Eve, we see the initiation of sin and the sin nature.  Adam and Eve made excuses for their sin.  They blamed someone else.  Thus, the sin nature complicates any relationship.

In Cain and Abel, we see jealousy without boundaries.  We see sullenness.  We see the first person to be cast out from a family unit.  All with the first sibling rivalry.

In Enoch and God, we see the closest thing to a perfect relationship.  Enoch wanted nothing more than to be with God.

In Abram and Sarai, we see a long-life relationship.  Like a glove perfectly fitting the hand, Abraham and Sarah loved one another, even when the warts began to show.

In Abram and Lot, we see a one-sided family relationship.  One side always giving and the other side always taking.

And now in Abram and Hagar, we see the lack of relationship due to ownership and being a surrogate.

And for Isaac and Rebekah, deception between spouses can lead to major problems in a relationship and favoritism within a family can split a family apart.

And in our relationship with God, we can learn little bits from each of these relationships, the good and the bad.

A Closing Prayer

We try to not show favoritism, but no two children are alike.  There will always be things to which each excels.  And Lord, help us to strive to get to know our spouse long before the relationship becomes too physical.  It worked out for Isaac and Rebekah in the long run, but who knows how many problems arose as they were learning about the person to whom they were already married.  Did their rush to a physical relationship get in the way of them truly knowing each other?  And was it Your protective hand that helped overcome the surprises in their marriage as disagreements arose?  Lord, help us.  Give us strength and wisdom to choose wisely and to have patience.
In Thy Name we pray,

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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