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Rebekah


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The biblical matriarch Rebekah was the wife of Isaac and the mother of Jacob. Rebekah’s father was Bethuel, who was the son of Abraham’s brother Nahor. Information about Rebekah comes from Genesis chapters 24-28.

When Abraham wanted to find a wife for Isaac, he sent his servant to his hometown of Aram-Naharaim. The servant came to a spring and prayed to God. He proposed a sign — the first woman to give water to both him and his camels would be the one who would be right for Isaac. Immediately, Rebekah approached him and, when he asked for a drink, she ran to the spring and brought water for both him and his camels. The servant went with Rebekah to her house, where he received permission from her father and her brother, Laban, to take Rebekah to Canaan as a wife for Isaac. Isaac married Rebekah when he was 40 years old. According to Genesis, he was only comforted after his mother’s death when he married Rebekah and took her into his mother’s tent.

Rebekah was barren for 20 years. Isaac prayed for her, and, finally, she became pregnant with twins. She had a difficult pregnancy and asked God about her children. He answered that her two sons would become two nations and the older would serve the younger. She gave birth and named the firstborn twin Esau and the second Jacob. Possibly because of the prophecy, Rebekah favored Jacob.

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, he claimed she was his sister. After some time, Abimelech saw them 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.

When Isaac was old, he instructed Esau to hunt and prepare a meal and then Isaac would bless him. Rebekah overheard this and told Jacob to pretend he was Esau in order to receive the blessing. Rebekah prepared a dish for Isaac, clothed Jacob in Esau’s clothes and covered his hands and neck with skins so he would feel as hairy as his brother. The plan worked and Jacob received the blessing from Isaac. When Esau realized what happened, he planned to kill his brother. Rebekah found out and advised Jacob to run to her brother Laban’s house in Haran until Esau got over his anger.

The bible does not write when Rebekah died, but only that she was buried in the Cave of Machpelah.


Sources: Encyclopedia Judaica; Genesis, The Jewish Publication Society’s translation, New York: 1985.

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