“She began so well,” said my friend when I told her I was studying Rebekah, wife of Isaac, mother of Esau and Jacob.
We may begin well, but to maintain a life of faith that ends well, we must guide our hearts to know God, love God, and trust God in every season of life.
Rebekah’s story begins with an account of the Lord’s provision of Isaac as her husband (Gn 24).
We meet beautiful Rebekah when she offers water to Abraham’s travel-weary servant, who was to find a wife for Isaac.
Without being asked, she offered water for the camels as well.
Rebekah extended hospitality to the servant and brought him to meet the rest of her family.
When the servant learned that Rebekah’s family was from Abraham’s clan, he knew that the Lord had led him to the bride for Isaac.
This extended family all worshiped the one true God, Yahweh.
Isaac was the child Yahweh promised to Abraham.
When the servant disclosed his mission to find a bride for Isaac, Rebekah’s family recognized the hand of the Lord in connecting them.
They consented to a marriage, and Rebekah agreed to leave immediately for a land she had never seen to marry a man she had never met.
This account reveals essential aspects of Rebekah’s character.
Her response to the servant shows her charity and kind-hearted nature.
She displays her openness to the work of God in agreeing to this special marriage.
Her trust in God is evidenced by her willingness to go to an unknown land to fulfill His plan.
Rebekah began well because she was willing to pursue the future God held for her.
These are strong, wonderful character traits. This is the type of woman that you want your son to marry!Rebekah began well because she was willing to pursue the future God held for her.
Rebekah as a Wife and Mother (Gn 25:19-26)
I love the next part of her story.
Upon meeting Rebekah, “Isaac brought her into the tent of his mother Sarah and took Rebekah to be his wife. Isaac loved her, and he was comforted after his mother’s death (Gn 24:67 HCSB).”
She was a comfort to her husband, and she took over the role of the matriarch of the family.
But there was a problem—Rebekah was childless.
Twenty years of marriage passed without children for Isaac and Rebekah.
Those years of waiting must have been heartbreaking.
God had promised Abraham that his descendants would be as many as the stars in the sky (Gn 15:5).
Isaac surely knew this promise, but how could it be fulfilled through his beautiful but childless wife Rebekah?
Isaac prayed to the Lord for a child, and the Lord answered his prayer (Gn 25:21).
Had Rebekah herself prayed to the Lord through all of the years of waiting?
As someone who battled infertility, I feel certain that Rebekah pleaded to the Lord for a child.
After God answered Isaac’s prayer, we glimpse Rebekah’s relationship with the Lord in her pregnancy.
Pregnant and in great discomfort, Rebekah asks the Lord “why is this happening to me?!”
Her faith leads her to seek an answer from the Lord.
The Lord says “two nations are in your womb; two people will come from you and be separated.
One people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger (Gn 25:23 HCSB).
Rebekah continued well when she sought answers from God in faith.
After twenty childless years, twins!
Esau, red and hairy, is born first.
The second son, born clutching his brother’s heel, is named Jacob, which means “heel catcher.”
Rebekah had, at last, become a mother.Rebekah continued well when she sought answers from God in faith.
Rebekah’s Failure (Gn 27:1-26)
Esau became an expert hunter and outdoorsman while Jacob “was a quiet man who stayed at home (Gn 25:27 HCSB).”
Isaac loved Esau more because he loved the game he provided.
Rebekah loved Jacob more.
Perhaps it was Jacob’s quiet demeanor or that he was around home more.
Each parent had an obvious favorite, and this had a profound effect on their future.
The twins grew up. Esau married two pagan, Hittite women. Jacob did not marry.
Isaac, blind and approaching death, told Esau that he intended to extend the traditional head of household blessing to him, which would make him the family leader.
When Rebekah overheard this, she planned to deceive Isaac into giving Jacob the coveted blessing.
This is where we want to shout, “Stop! God already told you that the older son would serve the younger. Stay out of it!”
Rebekah failed to trust God as she had in her youth. Instead, she took the situation into her own hands.When Rebekah meddled in her son’s inheritance, she failed to trust God as she had in her youth.
Rebekah’s Consequences (Gen 27:27-46)
Rebekah’s plan worked; Isaac unwittingly blessed Jacob. But the event had terrible results.
When Esau learned of the trickery and his loss of blessing, he plotted to kill his brother as soon as his father died.
To protect Jacob, Rebekah convinced Isaac to send Jacob back to her family to find a wife who followed Yahweh.
Rebekah paid a high price for her meddling. There is no record that she ever saw her favorite son again.
To add to her sorrow, Rebekah and Isaac were left to live with Esau and his idol-worshipping wives!
We are told, “they made life bitter for Isaac and Rebekah (Gn 26:35 HCSB).”
When she overheard Isaac’s plan to bless Esau, Rebekah had a choice. She could turn to the Lord for help, or she could act in her own strength.
God did not need Rebekah’s “help” to make His plan come to pass. God had promised that Esau would serve Jacob, and He would have made it so.
Rebekah’s approach involved deceit and lies and did not reflect trust and faith in God.
Her intervention created enmity between her sons, sorrow for her husband, and sent her favored son far away for the rest of her life.
Rebekah did not finish well. Her preference for Jacob affected her judgment and clouded her faith.
Rebekah failed to seek God’s help and trust Him with her fears.Rebekah failed to seek God’s help and trust Him with her fears.
How Can We Finish Well?
Rebekah’s life begs the question, “How can we finish well?”
We have an advantage over Rebekah. We have the Word of God.
We also have Jesus.
The Book of Hebrews tells us to “run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith (Heb 12:1b-2 HCSB).”
The Greek verb translated ‘keeping our eyes” is a present active participle. This means that it is ongoing.
Keeping our eyes on Jesus to build and sustain our faith does not stop and restart. It consists of intentional, continuing actions like:
- Studying God’s Word – Find the study method that works best for you.
- Talking to God daily – Have conversations with Him.
- Praying in faith that God will answer – God always answers our prayers.
- Participating in a church – Corporate worship reinforces your faith.
Life events may tempt us to instinctively respond in our own strength or with our own plan, as Rebekah did.
Yet when we are continually keeping our eyes on Jesus, we are able to trust and wait for His guidance.
When we know God well, He enables us to finish well.
– Briane Pittman Kearns
Briane Pittman Kearns is a Jesus-loving firstborn who celebrates being a daughter, wife, mother, grandmother and two-time breast cancer survivor. She is passionate about teaching the Bible in its historic, cultural and linguistic context to make God’s Word come alive. She loves her family, laughing with friends, encouraging women in their faith walk and being a southerner. She lives in North Carolina where she speaks, writes and teaches Bible studies and avoids cooking as much as possible. Read more of Briane’s writing on her blog, or connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.