Biblical Portraits: Rebecca (1)

My readers would already know that I love series—probably because I am used to writing books and I find it difficult to squeeze all my thoughts on a subject into one post. That’s why we’ve already had several series here: The Hidden Messiah; The Bible Stories you didn’t know; Passover Reflections. Today we are starting a new series—“Biblical Portraits”—and I would like to begin with one of my favorite Bible characters—Rebecca. We will spend a couple weeks looking at this beautiful image: a young girl in the  first part, a mature woman in the second.

So today we are in Genesis 24, witnessing Abraham’s servant being sent to find a wife for his young master. The story of   Isaac and Rebecca’s love   is one of the most beautiful love stories in Torah. The truly wonderful thing about this story is the amazing fact that, before it became a story of love, it was a story of faith. It took the faith of several people for this story to become a story of true love.

First of all, of course, we are amazed (again!) by the faith of Abraham, who had no doubt that God Himself would take care of choosing a wife for Isaac:

7 The Lord God of heaven, who took me from my father’s house and from the land of my family, and who spoke to me and swore to me, saying, ‘To your descendants I give this land,’ He will send His angel before you, and you shall take a wife for my son from there.

This story certainly demanded great faith from Abraham’s senior servant (probably Eliezer, though his name is not mentioned in this chapter). Although by this time, he must have already witnessed many miracles that the Lord had performed in his master’s life, it would still have taken a good deal of faith to even undertake this journey, and to trust that the Lord would send him to the right girl. When he arrives and stands by the well outside the city, he prays for success (“good speed” or “good fortune”, depending on translation) — if translated literally, he is asking God to “make this day happen before me” (הַקְרֵה-נָא לְפָנַי הַיּוֹם ). It’s important to note that this is the very first prayer for divine guidance that we find in the Bible.

12 O Lord God of my master Abraham, please give me success this day, and show kindness to my master Abraham.

Then he prays for a kind and humble girl. Pay close attention: he is not praying for her looks or wealth:  It is her kind and serving attitude and behavior that he is putting as a sign before God. We all know that his terms were met immediately and precisely, and we also know that he was absolutely overwhelmed by this immediate answer.

21And the man, wondering at her, remained silent so as to know whether the Lord had made his journey prosperous or not.

The word translated here as “remained silent”, might also mean: “to be speechless”. I think that was exactly what was happening to Eliezer: not only was he silent, he was absolutely speechless as he saw God’s handwriting in this story!

It is even more amazing to see this invisible reality of God’s presence and guidance, becoming visible and obvious to everyone – even to those who don’t know God.  Rebecca’s father and brother, after they hear the servant’s testimony, say some surprising words (one imagines even the servant was absolutely shocked to hear these words from non-believing people):

50 Then Laban and Bethuel answered and said, “The thing comes from the Lord; we cannot speak to you either bad or good.”

 Mi-Adonai Yatza Ha-Davar – “this thing came from the Lord!” How obvious the Lord’s presence must have been for people who didn’t know Him to speak these words!

However, the most incredible character here is undoubtedly Rebecca herself; the most amazing part of this story is the faith of this young woman, and quite honestly, I can think of no faith stronger than that which Rebecca portrays here. When the servant appears from nowhere, and presents before her the choice of her life—whether she will go with him to be a wife for Abraham’s son—she says: “Yes”, and this is another ‘Yes’ to God, as we see many times throughout this book— another story of entering God’s plan and God’s blessings by surrendering one’s life to Him.

58Then they called Rebekah and said to her, “Will you go with this man?”

And she said, “I will go.”

The character and faith of Abraham is constantly admired, and rightly so—at the age of 75 he willingly left his home to go the Land that God promised to show him. However, we rarely hear similar praise for Rebecca, who made the same choice, and even more decisively and drastically. We don’t know for sure the length of time between Abraham first hearing God’s command, and him actually leaving his home: it could have been days, weeks, months, or maybe even years. We only know that he did go, and we praise him for that. But we do know for sure that Rebecca made this crucial choice and left her home, in one day. Imagine: they didn’t have phones or internet; they didn’t have cars or planes; and for her to leave her home like this meant to leave it for good and probably never see her family again. The fact that she was able to make such a definitive decision to leave behind everything and everyone she knew and loved, bears witness to an absolutely outstanding character! Not only did she make the decision that changed her life forever within one day (and, by the way, it changed the life of the whole of humanity as well), but the very next morning, instead of begging for a merciful delay, she was ready to go.

Let us try to understand what Rebecca went through: She didn’t grow up in a family of true believers, as Isaac did; she didn’t know God, as Isaac did; but when Eliezer appeared before her that day, out of nowhere, somehow she knew that it was not just this servant, but Somebody in him and beyond him— Somebody much more than him—who stepped into her life and claimed this life. I suppose, like all young girls, she was interested in her future husband, but she knew almost nothing about him and had never seen him, so he was still not very real to her. However, that ‘Somebody’ who touched her heart through Eliezer, was so real that she decided at once that she wanted Him in her life. She surrendered her life to Him in that one amazing life-changing decision of faith, a decision made so simply and so quickly, trusting Him with her husband and with her whole life—and I believe she never looked back from that time forward.

 

 

About the author

Julia BlumJulia is a teacher and an author of several books on biblical topics. She teaches two biblical courses at the Israel Institute of Biblical Studies, “Discovering the Hebrew Bible” and “Jewish Background of the New Testament”, and writes Hebrew insights for these courses.

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Join the conversation (27 comments)

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  1. Marcia Higgins

    Thanks for sharing. Your post s have always been insightful

  2. Narciso

    Bella historia con una gran enseñanza como el ALTÍSIMO nos envió al Ruaj con el Regalo de Gracia para que yo deje todo y ponga mi fe en Yeshua ha Mashiaj que me espera para celebrar las Bodas del Cordero.

  3. Akintilo. A. O

    Thanks for the piece. Quite educative. What will you say about Ruth, daughter in law of Naomi?

  4. Dorothy Healy

    I love this story of the Father sending his servant (the unnamed servant Eliezer, meaning ‘God is the helper’) bearing gifts for the one destined to be the bride for His Son – Isaac – who has not been seen or heard from since he was offered as a sacrifice by his Father. The Servant shares the stories of the Father and the Son, and the Bride doesn’t hesitate to follow him. He leads her to meet the groom, whom the servant calls “My Master” (Gen24:65) …. enough hints?

    Antwi, perhaps you didn’t know just how accurate your comment was “May the Holy Spirit (‘The Helper’ according to John 14:26) open our eyes to see HIM in every circumstance of our lives, for indeed he has brought us gifts from the Father to prepare us to meet the Groom – Yeshua. May each of us be willing to leave all to follow Him. The deeper truths in the Torah are all about Him!

  5. Antwi Felix Twum

    Im with the view of the young lady Rebecca making that crucial decision to changed
    the “Course” of humankind in just a day into the unkown.
    What has really caught my attention is her boldness to follow a total stranger, knowing very well that she was not going to meet again non of the very people she had known in all her life.
    But, like you said Julia, Rebecca didn’t see Eliezer but she saw the Lord God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob so there wasn’t enough time to linger.
    May the Holy spirit open our eyes to see HIM in any circumstances of our day to day lives.
    Thank you Julia, God’s love and care will never cease to follow you!
    Felix.

  6. Angeline

    Toda raba Julia, am looking forward to this story. I love Rebecca. I believe like Abraham she learnt to appreciate and trust in the true Living God.

  7. Suliaman l. Smith

    Thank you Prof. for the insight and deeper meaning.The thing l realize is that G-d is in the center of all the things that happened.This teach me that in everything that we do we should make G-d the center and He will make it happen for us.
    Once again todah.

  8. Henri Arnaud

    To me it sounds very doubtful that Laban and his father Bethuel were unbelieving people. Bethuel was the son of Nahor, Abraham’s brother who, no doubt, believed in the same God as Abraham. Most probably Nahor was still alive at the time of Eliezer’s arrival since Abraham was “only” 140 years. It’s true that Nahor’s posterity became somewhat polluted by idolatry (see Laban’s idols stolen by Rachel). I would call them rather backsliding than straight unbelievers.

    Is not the very fact that Abraham sent his servant to the family of his ancestors to find a bride, and not to any other place, an evidence that he cared for having a daughter in law who served the true God (see ch. 24:1-9)?

    1. Julia Blum

      I am sorry Henri, but I can’t agree. Why do you think that “Nahor, Abraham’s brother, no doubt, believed in the same God as Abraham”? Not only we know exactly that Laban, Nahor’s grandson, worshiped idols (hence the story about Rachel stealing Laban’s household idols, as he said, “my gods”? ) , but also in the end of Chapter 31, when Jacob and Laban part, Laban is saying : “May the God of Abraham and the god of Nahor judge between us “(Gen. 31:53) – with a verb “judge” being plural in Hebrew: to both of them , it was absolutely clear that “the God of Abraham and the god of Nahor” were not the same at all.

      1. jane z mazzola

        Thank you, Julia for that clarification of the 2 G-d /god (s) between Abraham & Nahor+Laban. I, for one, certainly do not have the Hebrew knowledge to make that distinction & would have missed an important point. Such valuable insight “below the surface”!

        Thank you again.
        Jane M

        1. Julia Blum

          So glad you found it helpful Jane!

      2. Ashley Lamberton

        I agree, Julia.
        When God called Abraham, He told him to LEAVE his family and “go to a place that I will show you”.
        Why? Onw reason was because they were “Moon worshippers”. They worshipped the moon god, Herke.
        But God saw something in Abraham that He didn’t see in others, and called Abraham to be the father of a new nation – God’s own people.
        – Ashley

  9. jane z mazzola

    Dear Julia,
    What a beautiful story & insights of Rebecca you have presented here. I always have loved the story of Ruth & her faith, but she had lived w/her husband & Naomi & Israel’s God, so she had more knowledge than Rebecca. Rebecca’s IS really “jumping into & accepting all unknowns”, equally as faith-filled & brave as Abraham, but as you suggested, “oft over-looked”. But that is typical in the Bible & commentary, IMHO!

    It also is interesting to me, that her father, Laban, & brother, did not themselves make the decision for her, but asked her for her choice.

    I look forward to your next “installment”! Thank you & continued blessings in your writing,
    Jane M

    1. Julia Blum

      Thank you Jane, for your generous words. It’s always a blessing and an encouragement to hear from you!

  10. Gabbie

    Todah shuv (??) this familiar story has always been precious BUT I have never seen this, that before Rebecca chose the man – she chose the ‘Somebody’ , the Him. Isn’t that how it is for us – we, by grace, choose Him and from there the unknown becomes safer than a known way! Julia, that truth explains so much about the story yet to come. Toda raba

    1. Julia Blum

      I agree, Gabbie, I think many of us can relate to this story. That’s exactly what the Scripture wants us to see here: He always acts through the faithful people like Eleazar. It will become the story of love, as we will see, – but for now, it has been the story of the amazing faith!

  11. Joyce-Mary Fryer

    Thank you, Julia, for sharing your love for Rebecca and the speed with which she put her trust in the unknown which changed for us the whole story of salvation. She is, indeed a character to be admired. Her act of faith was comparable to that of Abraham who had witnessed the reward of trust in God.

    I look forward to part two of your appreciation of Rebecca.

    1. Julia Blum

      Thank you for your kind words, Joyce -Mary. As I’ve mentioned here already, this series about Rebecca, originally planned for 2 articles, will have 3 or 4 installments. So, after part two we will have part three and probably even part four. 🙂

  12. Vivian Miranda

    Love this story as well. I am looking forward to know and find out more about Rebeca and Issac.

    1. Julia Blum

      Yes, you are right Vivian: in all my next posts from this series, speaking about Rebecca, I will inevitably speak about Isaac. In fact, my next post ( will be published this Thursday) speaks more about Isaac than Rebecca: I will describe their initial meeting and we will try to see how they saw and perceived one another.

  13. Eleonore Jamieson

    Thank you. This is so insightful.

  14. Mandla

    Thankyou Dr Julia Blum, as always exciting stuff.
    Shalom

  15. Gaea SInger

    Thank you! I can hardly wait for part 2!

    1. Julia Blum

      It’s coming, Gaea – moreover, this series about Rebecca, originally planned for 2 articles, will have 3 or even 4 installments. So – stay tuned! 🙂

  16. Aston Goldson

    Excellent reading, the quick decision by Rebecca to venture in the unknown gives me food for thought. Looking forward for the comtinuation.

  17. RAFIK F LABIB

    The original and compelling story of faith, before reading this blog, I knew the story as being a real love story of the old, and never examined the fundamental core elements of faith. It is amazing how I start to develop a deeper understanding and a deep solid foundation. I am so happy and joyful learning more about God and His word. It is inspiring at times of trouble and doubts, my hope and trust are for God to protect us all in the time of weaknesses and doubts. I now can say boldly, only true faith can lead to everlasting true love, no way to develop true deep love without faith in God of Ibraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
    Thanks for such a beautiful elaboration of this true faith insight that led to a true love

    1. Julia Blum

      Thank you Rafik, this is exactly what the Scriptures teach us through this story: that only true faith can lead to everlasting true love.