REBEKAH, REBECCA (rĕ-bĕk'a, Heb. rivqâh, Gr. Rhebekka). The daughter of Bethuel. Her mother’s name is unrecorded. Her grandparents were Nahor and Milcah. She was the sister of Laban, the wife of Isaac, mother of Esau and Jacob, and first is mentioned in the genealogy of Nahor, the brother of Abraham (Gen.22.20-Gen.22.24).
It is in Haran, “the city of Nahor,” where we are first introduced to Rebekah (Gen.24.1-Gen.24.67). In that incident Eliezer, the servant of Abraham, was sent out to seek a bride for Isaac. After listening to the urgings of the servant, Rebekah decided to marry Isaac. In this narrative the delineation of her character is winsome and attractive. In the narrative that follows, however, she is not only ambitious but grasping and rapacious. Rebekah was loved by Isaac (Gen.24.67), but she bore him no children for twenty years. It was only after special intercession on the part of Isaac that God gave her twins—Esau and Jacob. Esau was reckoned as the firstborn. However, God told Rebekah, “The older will serve the younger” (Gen.25.23). Whether she was directly influenced by this statement or not, Jacob became her favorite. This led her to perpetrate a cruel ruse on the aged and blind Isaac. Disguised as his brother Esau, Jacob obtained the blessing (Gen.27.5-Gen.27.17). When it became evident that Jacob and Esau could no longer live under the same roof, at her suggestion, Jacob fled from home to her relatives in Aram (Gen.27.42-Gen.27.46). Rebekah never saw her son again. Outside of Genesis there is only one reference to her (Rom.9.10-Rom.9.12).
REBEKAH rĭ bĕk’ ə
, LXX ̔Ρεβέκκα
, prob. tie
; cf. Arab. raboqa
, make fast; Targ. rebqa
= heb. marbeq
, stall). Eng. VSS in Romans 9:10
, as Gr.
Daughter of Bethuel, who was nephew to Abraham (Gen 22:20ff.) and lived in the Aramaean country near the Euphrates. She became Isaac’s wife, and mother of Esau and Jacob.
Rebekah’s encounter with Abraham’s steward (Gen 24) is remembered as a classic example of divine providence and guidance. She met this aged traveler with his camels outside her city as she returned one evening from the well. When he asked her for a drink, she readily gave it, but she also offered to draw for his camels, and did so with good will, little knowing that the man had just prayed for this very sign. Finding that she was a relative of his master, and also that she was beautiful, he recognized the abundant answer to his prayer.
When they heard what Abraham’s steward had to say, Rebekah’s father and brother felt that they could only acknowledge the Lord’s leading. They wanted her to delay, however, for a few days of leave-taking; asked to decide, Rebekah preferred to go immediately. So Rebekah was brought to Isaac, “and he loved her. So Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death” (Gen 24:67).
For twenty years of her marriage Rebekah had no children; then in answer to Isaac’s prayer, God gave her twins (25:20-26). Her experience while carrying them foreshadowed conflict between her descendants, and she was told that God had chosen the younger twin for His blessing. Malachi cites the evidence of it in Israel’s experience (Mal 1:2f.). Paul shows that God was establishing and typifying the principle of electing grace (Rom 9:10-13).
Jacob, the younger son, unadventurous, always in camp, became Rebekah’s favorite (Gen 25:28); and she plotted the deception by which he gained his father’s formal blessing (ch. 27). Esau then would have murdered Jacob, but God overruled in this also. Esau had married Hitt. women to the disappointment of his parents; Rebekah induced Isaac to send Jacob back to Haran to find a wife.
According to Genesis 49:31, Rebekah was buried in the family tomb at Mach-pelah near Hebron.
J. Skinner, Genesis2 ICC, (1930); G. von Rad, Genesis (1961); E. Speiser, Genesis (1964).
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
Daughter of Bethuel and an unknown mother, grand-daughter of Nahor and Milcah, sister of Laban, wife of Isaac, mother of Esau and Jacob.
Her name is usually explained from the Arabic, rabqat, "a tie-rope for animals," or, rather, "a noose" in such a rope; its application would then by figure suggest the beauty (?) of her that bears it, by means of which men are snared or bound; The root is found in Hebrew only in the noun meaning "hitching-place" or "stall," in the familiar phrase "fatted calf" or "calf of the stall," and in view of the meaning of such names as Rachel and Eglah the name Rebekah might well mean (concrete for abstract, like riqmah, chemdah, etc.) a "tied-up calf" (or "lamb"?), one therefore peculiarly choice and fat.
Rebekah is first mentioned in the genealogy of the descendants of Nahor, brother of Abraham (Ge 22:20-24). In fact, the family is there carried down just so far as is necessary in order to introduce this woman, for whose subsequent appearance and role the genealogy is obviously intended as a preparation. All this branch of the family of Terah had remained in Aram when Abraham and Lot had migrated to Canaan, and it is at Haran, "the city of Nahor," that we first meet Rebekah, when in Genesis 24 she is made known to Abraham’s servant at the well before the gate.
That idyllic narrative of the finding of a bride for Isaac is too familiar to need rehearsal and too simple to require comment. Besides, the substance both of that story and of the whole of Rebekah’s career is treated in connection with the sketches of the other actors in the same scenes. Yet we note from the beginning the maiden’s decision of character, which appears in every line of the narrative, and prepares the reader to find in subsequent chapters the positive, ambitious and energetic woman that she there shows herself.
Though the object of her husband’s love (Ge 24:67), Rebekah bore him no children for 20 years (Ge 25:20,26). Like Sarah, she too was barren, and it was only after that score of years and after the special intercession of Isaac that God at length granted her twin sons. "The purpose of God according to election," as Paul expresses the matter in Ro 9:11, was the cause of that strange oracle to the wondering, inquiring parents, "The elder shall serve the younger" (Ge 25:23).
Whether because of this oracle or for some other reason, it was that younger son, Jacob, who became the object of his mother’s special love (Ge 25:28). She it was who led him into the deception practiced upon Isaac (Ge 27:5-17), and she it was who devised the plan for extricating Jacob from the dangerous situation into which that deception had brought him (Ge 27:42-46). When the absence of Jacob from home became essential to his personal safety, Rebekah proposed her own relations in Aram as the goal of his journey, and gave as motive the desirability of Jacob’s marrying from among her kindred. Probably she did not realize that in sending her favorite son away on this journey she was sending him away from her forever. Yet such seems to have been the case. Though younger than Isaac, who was still living at an advanced age when Jacob returned to Canaan a quarter of a century later, Rebekah seems to have died during that term. We learn definitely only this, that she was buried in the cave of Machpelah near Hebron (Ge 49:31).
Outside of Genesis, Rebekah is alluded to in Scripture only in the passage from Romans (9:10-12) already cited. Her significance there is simply that of the wife of Isaac and the mother of two sons of such different character and destiny as Esau and Jacob. And her significance in Gen, apart from this, lies in her contribution to the family of Abraham of a pure strain from the same eastern stock, thus transmitting to the founders of Israel both an unmixed lineage and that tradition of separateness from Canaanite and other non-Hebrew elements which has proved the greatest factor in the ethnological marvel of the ages, the persistence of the Hebrew people.
J. Oscar Boyd