And the LORD said unto her, “Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger.”~ Genesis 25:23
I have to confess Rebekah wasn’t always my favorite woman in Scripture. I thought she was a manipulative, controlling woman who deceived her husband and favored one child over the other. But a few years ago, as I was working on my Proverbs 31 Bible study and looking at all of these different women, I began to see her differently. Abba introduced me to his daughter Rebekah, a woman He knew intimately. He let me see her through His knowledge of her. And I began to see her as a beautiful, courageous, grace-filled woman, a woman concerned with and passionate about the plans of God for her family.
Rebekah’s name in Hebrew is Riv’qah. The name means “to tie fast” or “secure,” just as a calf is “secured” in the “stall.” The name denotes merely a tying up of cattle, both for their own protection, the establishment of their home, and to keep them from wandering off. Already in just the meaning of her name we see a woman who is protective about those in her care. Just as her mother in law Sarah was. I’m sure Isaac noticed the resemblance!
There is so much in this story of Rebekah and Isaac. In fact, Chapter 24, which talks about Abraham’s servant finding a wife for Isaac, is the longest chapter in Genesis. But today, I want to just look at Genesis 25:23, which talks about Rebekah’s pregnancy. We’ll save chapter 24 for a post on another day! We find out in Genesis 25 that Rebekah was barren and had been for 20 years. Twenty in the Bible symbolizes redemption. And this truly is a story of redemption….. of protecting the lineage of the Redeemer.
After conceiving, her pregnancy was not an easy one. The Bible says the babies struggled within her. The Hebrew word used is ratsats and means to crush or oppress. It’s a violent word. I’ve had 4 babies, and they all moved around a lot while I was pregnant and occasionally kicked really hard, but it wasn’t violent… I can’t even imagine what that must’ve felt like.
Our English Bibles have her saying, “Why is this happening to me?” And what we can hear in that is a complaint… such as, why me God? What did I do to have such a difficult pregnancy? I waited so long to finally conceive, and now my pregnancy is very hard! She was not complaining or questioning her situation. In Hebrew, it says something more like, “Why do I exist?” Rebekah felt the violent struggle happening in her womb, and she understood this to be a Divine destiny moment that would include her co-participation with God.
And so, it says, Rebekah inquired of Yahweh.
There are two words for inquire in Hebrew. One is bakash which means to request something desired. And the other is darash which means to search carefully for something, examine, or investigate. Rebekah wasn’t just asking God why her pregnancy was so complicated and violent. There is an aleph tav between the words inquire and Yahweh. The aleph tav means the power or strength of the cross. She was inquiring of Yahweh regarding the destiny of these two sons. How they fit in His covenant plan. The word darash also means to tread or frequent a place by regular visitation. It means to seek repeatedly. It is to tread a beaten path. Rebekah had a regularly worn path between her and Yahweh! She was not just seeking an answer to a question in prayer. And she was not requesting anything from Him. We also see that in the phrase she went (to inquire). It is the word halak, and one of its meanings is a lifestyle, a manner of life, to live. This was her way of life! She wasn’t an idol worshipper as her family had been; she worshipped Yahweh. She was a regular Covenant seeker, a seeker of His Divine destiny in her life.
This is the first time a woman is mentioned as inquiring of the Lord. That tells us a lot about Rebecca’s relationship with God. She obviously had an intimate relationship with God and wanted to hear what He had to say on the matter. She KNEW Yahweh. She trusted what He would say to her.
He told her that she had two nations at war in her womb. He said they would be divided from birth….two nations, two kingdoms. The Hebrew word for nations is goyim; it is listed twice, side by side, which is referring to both Jewish and Gentile nations. The Jewish nation of Israel will be from Jacob, and the Gentile nation will be from Esau (later the nation of Edom).
Romans 9:10-13 emphasizes the importance of God’s word to Rebekah. Before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad, “in order that God’s purpose in election might stand, not by works but by him who calls she was told, The older will serve the younger. Just as it is written: I loved but Esau I hated.” The LORD’s choice (or destiny) of Jacob, the younger, to inherit His covenant promise was made before the boys were even born. This showed that the choice/destiny did not depend on what either did. This was not about birth order but rather Divine election. Jacob’s destiny was to produce the lineage that the Deliverer would come….to be an heir of the Promise (Hebrews 11:9).
Proverbs 31 says, “Eishet chayil mi yimtza?” “A woman of valor who can find?” The word chayil, generally translated as “valor” or “noble,” is nearly identical to the Hebrew word chayal, meaning “soldier.” The woman of valor is, first and foremost, a soldier. She is strong, competent, and loyal to her family, those whom she protects. This was Rebekah! She was strong, determined, thoughtful, and protective of her family! She was a woman who regularly inquired of Yahweh, seeking His direction and guidance. Should she have tricked Isaac? I don’t know. I wasn’t there. I don’t know what I would’ve done in her shoes. She was protecting the lineage of the Seed at all costs. She was determined to agree with God.
And truly, was the blessing actually stolen by Jacob? Esau had already given up his birthright…. he had already handed it over to Jacob. Shouldn’t he have told Isaac that? Had this moment come because Rebekkah hadn’t shared the prophetic destiny of the sons with her husband that now Isaac would tragically interfere with that Divine destiny? The Bible says that Isaac’s eyes were too dim to see. The word eyes is ayin in Hebrew and represents perception and knowledge. It says his perception and knowledge, his understanding had become dim or weak and darkened. His love for Esau had made his perception unclear or weak.
Had Rebekah made a mistake not sharing with Isaac all God had said? Again, it’s hard to say. I believe that in courage and fierce determination, Rebekah did what needed to be done for her family, the lineage of the Seed, and what was clearly God’s will. Isaac did not get angry at Rebekah or Jacob. In the aftermath, he understood that Rebekah had been correct and that his assessment had been wrong all along. Jewish tradition teaches that when the Bible says “Isaac trembled violently” after discovering he had been tricked, it was not because he was angry. But because he realized that he had been terribly mistaken.
For so long, I saw Rebekah as a mother who favored one child over the other. I didn’t see her love for Esau. The sages explain that Rebekah understood that if she told Isaac what God had revealed to her about the nature of their sons, he would automatically withdraw from Esau and possibly send him away. She allowed Isaac to love Esau! I love that! Rebekah understood that whatever nation emerged from Esau could only gain from having its origins in the home of Isaac…. from Esau experiencing the love and admiration of his father! It’s possible that because Isaac was not included in knowing his sons’ prophetic destinies, Esau experienced a father who believed in him. I believe he experienced the love of the Father through his father because of Rebekah.
Rebecca understood the importance of God’s word to her. She chose what God had already chosen. But His choosing wasn’t one of blessing and cursing, loving and hating. His choosing was a pre-election of Divine Grace for one to be the lineage for the Seed. He loved and chose both Esau and Jacob… and had a plan for each man (Ephesians 1:4). But there would be a dividing of these nations UNTIL THE FULLNESS OF TIME came, and Jesus Christ would make the two groups ONE new man IN Him, and the dividing wall would be forever torn down.
Maybe like me, you’ve often seen Rebekah through a negative lens… as manipulative and deceitful. I hope this has caused you to see her through Abba’s eyes as His beautiful, courageous, faithful daughter.