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Rebekah

REBEKAH (Heb. רִבְקָה), wife of *Isaac, daughter of Bethuel, and granddaughter of Nahor, a brother of *Abraham (Gen. 22:23; 24:15, 24, 47). Rebekah is also described as "the sister of *Laban" (24:29, 50; 25:20). When Abraham sought a wife for his son he sent his servant to his homeland, Aram-Naharaim, for he wanted to avoid marriage with the Canaanites. The episode is described in detail in Genesis 24, which makes clear the providential nature of the union of Isaac with Rebekah (verses 7, 14, 27, 48, 50).

The text provides an insight into Rebekah's character by stressing her hospitality to strangers and her kindness to animals (verses 14, 18, 20), as well as her beauty and chastity (24:16; 26:7).That she is willing to expend considerable energy on watering camels is a testament to her virtue. The same feature may reflect an eighth century B.C.E. date for the origin of this element of the tradition. On one occasion Isaac felt that his life was in danger because of Rebekah's great beauty and he felt constrained to claim that she was his sister (26:6–11). Isaac's age at the time of the marriage is given as 40 (25:20); Rebekah's is not recorded. She is said to have remained childless for 20 years until, in divine response to her husband's prayers, she gave birth to twins: Esau and Jacob. During a difficult pregnancy, she received an oracle about the future relationships between, and destinies of, her unborn children (25:21–26). On the biblical account she displayed favoritism toward Jacob (25:28).

When Isaac in his old age expressed his intention of bestowing his farewell blessing on Esau, Rebekah skillfully induced Jacob to supplant his brother so as to obtain it for himself. When Esau, in his bitter disappointment, threatened to kill Jacob, Rebekah arranged Jacob's flight to the house of Laban in Haran (Gen. 27), using as a pretext her bitterness and disgust over Esau's marriage to local women and her determination that Jacob marry within the family (26:34–35; 27:46; 28:1).

The death of Rebekah is not recorded in the Bible, but only the fact that she was buried in the cave of Machpelah together with the Patriarchs and *Sarah and *Leah (49:31).

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Noth, Personennamen. 10; H. Bauer, in: ZDMG, 67 (1913), 344; idem, in: ZAW, 48 (1930), 78; See Commentaries on *Genesis. IN THE AGGADAH: Ginzberg, Legends, index.