Biblical Portraits: Rebecca – Finale

What most people don’t realize

The story that we are dealing with – the story of the “stolen blessing” – as with every other narrative, can be looked at from the different perspectives. We can try to see it through Jacob’s eyes, Isaac’s eyes or Esau’s eyes – and maybe, at some point we will:  It is a very complex story indeed, and each additional angle would certainly deepen our understanding. For now, however, we will try to see it through Rebecca’s eyes, as we are putting the finishing strokes on our biblical portrait of this beautiful godly woman.

I would like to remind you of two things we have already learned about Rebecca in our previous articles—two things that most people don’t realize when thinking of this story. First, she is a very old woman by now. If her sons are 77 years old, she is more than one hundred. Think of it: Many, many years ago, when she was a young woman, when she was pregnant, she received a prophecy from God and all these years she has been patiently waiting for this prophecy to be fulfilled. However, the years went by and nothing happened. By now, not only is she tired of waiting, but she has probably – because such is our human nature – been having haunting thoughts, such as: What if it’s my fault? Did God want me to do something, and I just missed it?

And she has no-one to share these thoughts with. Because the second thing we learned, was about her changed, or even damaged relationship with Isaac. Could it be a tragic aftermath of their sister/wife story in Gerar, when Isaac was unwilling to name Rebekah as his wife? It certainly seems like this. In Genesis 25, we still find them being very close: Isaac is faithfully interceding for his wife in this chapter, while in Genesis 27 we see a completely different picture already: Isaac is planning to bless Esau, and he is not sharing this with Rebecca. Something   changed dramatically between chapters 25 and 27, and it would be a safe guess to suggest that it happened in chapter 26, after the sister/wife story. As my dear friend Henrietta Wisbey wrote, responding to my thoughts about Isaac and Rebecca in the class: “Maybe there has been a wounding, a betrayal of trust, especially with one who has been entrusted with the guardianship of that relationship—perhaps some damage has occurred which reveals itself over a period of time and there is a gradual erosion, a wearing away of the desire to share the secrets of one’s heart. Consequently, there is a closing up, a withdrawal and consequent loss.”

 

The Main Question

So, there is a closing up, a withdrawal and consequent loss, and as a result Rebecca is completely alone with her thoughts. I believe she thinks a lot about those crucial moments of her life: when, as a young girl she said “yes” to the servant and to God so unreservedly and so boldly, and when, 20 years later she finally became pregnant and heard God speak to her about her sons. Perhaps she compares these stories: as a young girl she was very decisive, not afraid to take very bold actions, and maybe now God is again waiting for her decision, for her decisive action? She had been waiting upon the Lord for so long, and perhaps she thinks that God is waiting for her response – as He waited then, almost a hundred years ago. Isn’t it a question we all struggle with at times: should I just wait upon the Lord – or is there something He wants me to do?

We might remember here that the first audience of the book of Genesis was the generation of the Exodus. The stories of Genesis, first of all, were meant to speak deeply and convincingly to the Israelites who had just left Egypt and sought to survive as a people. The question that Rebecca is struggling with was also very relevant for the generation of the Exodus: Does God remember what He said? So many years have passed – does he remember His own promise? Is He going to fulfill His word?

 

Prophetic Story

Perhaps these were the thoughts running through Rebecca’s head when our story began and she overheard the conversation between Isaac and Esau. It might have seemed to her that finally the moment had come for her quick decision and actions; once again, like in Genesis 24, she needed to make a very quick decision; once again, it was a matter of just a few hours before something irreparable and irreversible happened. Had not God distinctly pointed out Jacob as heir to His promises and to Abraham’s blessing?  She will only be fulfilling the will of God; she will be doing the right thing, trying to prevent her husband from a terrible mistake—from blessing the wrong son. There is no doubt that she loves both sons: Genesis 27:45 shows that very clearly—she is a mother who loves both her children, but loves them differently. She knows God’s will, and once again, as in Genesis 24, she is able to make a very quick decision—saying “yes” to God’s will. She is saying “yes” to God. She is choosing very questionable means, of course, but probably her heart was all about pleasing God and fulfilling His will.

That is why we also need to look for the deeper, prophetic layers of this story, because there is certainly more to this narrative than just moral question marks: this story is one of the deepest and most prophetic stories found in the book of Genesis. There are many deep connections and hints to be found here. For example, two goats, as Rashi pointed out: why did Isaac’s menu consist of two goats? Or the special garment of Esau that Rebecca gave to Jacob: this double set – the special clothes and the slaughtered animal – occurs several times in the book of Genesis, and each time it covers up some serious sin, starting from the Fall in Genesis 3: “According to Midrash, Esau’s treasured garments which were kept with Rebekah, were the same garments that God had made for Adam. This Midrash is supported by the fact that the first two times that we find the words skin and clothed in the Torah are in the stories of Adam and Eve, and Rebekah and her sons, respectively. It is said that Rebekah dressed Jacob in these vestments from Eden, as if to say, ‘In the very same skins that Adam wore, when he was expelled from the Garden, shall you wear, when you bring your father the savory food that I have prepared. The garments that marked man’s expulsion from the Garden shall mark the beginning of his return.’”[1]

 

If you’ve enjoyed this series, you might  be interested to read my books on different biblical topics.  To check out  the  books,  click here: https://blog.israelbiblicalstudies.com/julia-blum/

Many of the things that you’ve  read here, I tell my students during DHB (Discovering  Hebrew Bible) classes . If these articles whet your appetite for discovering the hidden treasures of the Hebrew Bible, I would be happy to provide more information (and also a teacher’s discount) regarding  eTeacher courses.

 

 

[1][1] Bread of Life Torah studies, Dorothy Healy

 

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 (14 comments)

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  1. Mandla

    Dear Prof Julia
    Thank you for the wonderful work you are doing to help people like me to have a better understanding of the Bible.
    May the Lord keep you and bless you with a long healthy life for His Glory and for us.
    Thanks again.
    Shalom

    1. Julia Blum

      Thank you so much Mandla, I am really blessed and touched by your words.

  2. Luis Enrique Antolín

    In fact, Isaac plays in Genesis,Bereshit, the role of a mere intermediate, a kind of brige between his father Abraham and his son Jacob-Israel, his realvalue and meaning has not to do with himself as individual.

    On the other hand, in my understanding this whole story aims mainly to show something that appears not rarely in Tanaj, the choosing of not first-born instead of first-born, that happens even in the beginning, Abel instead of Cain. It’s a way of God showing Their own will and, above all, that Their ways are are not necesaryly our stablished ways.

  3. James

    Thanks Julia for your devotion to God’s Word, and may He continually give you wisdom and understanding therein. I think just as Isaac was FEELING, SMELLING and ‘SEEING’ his son Esau in his ‘MIND’S EYE’, (as his natural eyes were dim) and blessing Jacob with Esau in his mind- even so, when the Father feels us “in Messiah” He sees, feels and smells Yeshua in His heart, because we have “put on Yeshua” (as Shaul says) that even though He has His hands on us, He has blessed us with His Son Yeshua’s blessings! Rebecca of course clothed Jacob to FEEL and SMELL like Esau, and in our case, it is the Holy Spirit Who clothes us with Yeshua, so that the Father sees us “in Him”! And we can’t help but believe that the “coats of skins” God made for Adam and Eve were a type of Messiah whose sacrifice covers us as well, so that we are truly “accepted AND blessed in the Beloved!” If Rivkah means to “tie” or to “bind”, then she is a true type of the Holy Spirit Who equally “ties” or “binds” us to Messiah, and as Abigail said of David, we are “BOUND in the BUNDLE of Life with the LORD”! O how rich and full are His wonders, His revelations, and His ways beyond human ken! No matter how much we mine His Word through the Spirit Who searches the “deep things” of God, we nevertheless “see through a glass darkly” until the Day when faith will be swallowed up in “knowing even as we are known” at the revelation of Messiah! Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable Gift!

  4. Henrietta Wisbey (@HenriettaWisbey)

    Dear Julia
    Having reread your blog I am being reminded of an awesome responsibility; how to handle a prophetic word the Lord may have shown. It ‘almost’ places upon us an even greater burden to hold and guard with the utmost respect, which will eventually leads us to the place where we are forced to say the just shall live by faith. I find it interesting to note that it was to the children of Israel who had just come out of Egypt that these stories were told yet still relevant to us today.
    So so intersting!
    Henrietta

  5. Dorothy Healy

    Julia, I believe your insights here are really tapping into the profound deeper meaning of this story, and the importance of Rebecca’s actions. You mention the special clothes and the slaughtered animal motif occurring several times in the book of Genesis, and each time covering up some serious sin.
    There is another reoccurring motif in Genesis that begins right here in this story, and that is the “well-known but unrecognized one”. Subsequent to this story, we see Leah being disguised and unrecognized on Jacob’s wedding night, followed by Tamar being disguised and unrecognized, and finally Joseph when he receives his brothers in Egypt. All these stories have something profound in common: It is only by not being recognized that they can be taken seriously, heeded. Readers will be familiar with your “restrained eyes”, “hidden and unrecognized” writings when it comes to Yeshua. Indeed here, Isaac certainly had “restrained eyes”. All of these complex Torah stories ultimately point to Messiah. Jackie McClure is right to point out that the two goats point to the two goats of Yom Kippur.
    Indeed Rebecca was responding to God’s will, and I don’t believe the means she chose were at all questionable—they were precisely according to the will of God—and she was willing to take the curse upon herself to achieve the desired end. (Gen 27:13)

  6. Tony Egglestone

    Julia, if I may address you as that I have really enjoyed your insights on Rebecca. Things that we as Christians sometimes miss. But your Biblical Portraits definitely give us a new insight and a better understanding of the OT. Thank you so much.

    1. Julia Blum

      Thank you, Tony, I really appreciate your kind words !

  7. Jackie McClure

    Julia, I have been thinking about the two goats and the garments. For the actual garments from Eden to be with Rebekah, they would have had to have been on the Ark during the flood and handed down through the family through all these years. Perhaps, the garments are a reminder (like a memorial) that in Christ, we have new garments of righteousness. And in thinking about the two goats, I am wondering could they be types of the sacrificial goat and the scapegoat?

    1. Julia Blum

      Wonderful Jackie, I also think the same: the only place where we have two goats in the Bible is Leviticus 16, two goats of Yom Kippur. It is a very profound connection indeed, isn’t it?

  8. Henrietta Wisbey (@HenriettaWisbey)

    Dear Julia
    The garments that marked man’s expulsion from the garden shall mark the beginning of his return.

    For me the essence of good writing causes me to to stop and consider, pause and wonder.
    This piece of writing empowers me to do just that and I thank you.
    To be still and reflect awesome!

    Henrietta.

    1. Donna Erickson

      Julia,
      I am a fan of your God given insights and ability to relate to your readers. I loved this series just like all of the others Which I have been privileged to read. May the Lord mightily bless you!
      Donna

      1. Julia Blum

        Thank you so much, Donna. Have you read my “Abraham had two sons “book? I believe you would really enjoy it.

    2. Julia Blum

      Dear Henrietta, thank you so much for your generous words. I always look forward to your wonderful comments.