Genesis 24:1-67

This is one of the most beautiful and romantic stories in the Bible of two people (Isaac and Rebekah) who, in their young lives, wanted to follow God and obey His way of doing things. It starts with an attractive bachelor, the promised son of the most wealthy man of the time (Genesis 24:36), saved from sacrifice by God, watching the fulfilment of an amazing covenant promise given to his father, Abraham. Abraham wants to finish the job that God called him to fulfil in being the "father of many nations". (Genesis 15:1-6) He wants, above all, to provide a bride for his son from his own family. Accordingly, he gives strict instructions to his servant, Eliezer, to return to Haran, where he had left his family. He told Eliezer that, once there, God would show him the right girl to be the perfect wife for his precious son, Isaac.

Eliezer was not used to talking to the God of Abraham, but he understood the vital importance of making the right choice. He knew, from years of serving Abraham, the promise that his God had made to him and he had seen for himself that Abraham's God could perform miracles - for example, in the birth of Isaac. Abraham had no difficulty sending Eliezer to his brother’s place because he was sure that, if he chose to obey God’s will, God would smooth the difficulties and give realistic guidance and practical help, so that His purpose could be fully accomplished.

The day, when Eliezer arrived in Haran, started like any other for Rebekah. She was a teenager with dreams of marriage, like all other girls. She knew the stories about her great-uncle Abraham and his faith: how he had moved with no worldly security, simply following a word from God. That day, she had joined all the other daughters of the townspeople as they went to draw water from the well. There she was approached by an elderly gentleman who asked her for a drink. Rebekah immediately offered him some water from her own jug and then noticed that his camels, which were laden with wealthy gifts, had not yet been watered either, so she offered to do this to help the man. Her offer was greatly appreciated, partly because it was also an answer to Eliezer’s prayer for guidance. (It is worth noting that the job of watering the camels would not have been trivial. After travelling a distance of some five hundred miles over about a week, the camels would have drunk about twenty-five gallons of water each.)

An answer to prayer

Eliezer saw that his prayer had been answered very specifically in the person of this girl who was:

  • a very attractive beauty,
  • but with the attitude of heart of a servant,
  • willing to go above and beyond the call of ordinary duty
  • and with perseverance to see the job through.

When Eliezer asked her about her family, her response confirmed that she was indeed God’s choice for Isaac: “I am the daughter of Bethuel, who is the son of Milcah and Nahor (Abraham’s brother).” Rebekah was part of Abraham's own family. This fact alone, together with her willing help and an offer of hospitality, were proof to Eliezer that she had been brought up to know and believe in the one, true God - the God of Abraham himself. This had been Abraham's biggest concern. He did not want Isaac to be "unequally yoked", (2 Corinthians 6:14-15)

We can see from this that trustworthy guidance from God generally contains three important elements:

  1. Events and circumstances constitute a clear answer to prayer;
  2. The solution that presents itself is always in line with God's word;
  3. We have peace in our heart as the plumb-line of any decision.

A consensus decision

When we are seeking to know God's will in any given situation, the final decision may not be ours alone, but we certainly have a responsibility to begin from a right relationship with God ourselves. We need to check our own motives and bring them under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. We need to be careful not to be seeking any praise or reward for ourselves, but being prepared to give all the glory to God. The God of Abraham becomes Eliezer’s God as he prays and experiences God’s blessings for himself. (Genesis 24:26-27; Genesis 24:52) He praises God with every successful step and gives Him all the glory.

Having decided that Rebekah is God’s choice for Isaac, Eliezer knows that he must take immediate action. He approaches the family, who recognise the hand of God in Eliezer's proposal and give the go-ahead. Rebekah, too, has her own choice to make and her decision could affect her eternal destiny. She risks everything through her belief in God’s call to her. Like Abraham before her, she has to step out in faith that God Himself is behind this upheaval in her life. As she obeys God's call, He gives her signs to encourage her. When she and Eliezer arrive at their destination, the first person she meets is Isaac himself, "walking and meditating in the fields". From that first moment, Isaac loved her deeply and never took any other wife during their life together.

Like Abraham’s wife, Sarah, Rebekah was intelligent, energetic, strong-willed and very lovely. As a young, unknown girl, through her obedience to God’s call, she became part of the line of Abraham, the father of faith and of the Jewish nation. This chapter is a beautiful picture of God the Father, sending out His Holy Spirit (Eliezer) to draw and win the consent of an individual to be the bride for His Son, Jesus. Note the Father’s great concern to choose the right bride. We can also understand the Holy Spirit’s selfless care and desire to win the girl for the Father’s Son and see the tenderness of the Son towards His bride.

Rebekah's children

Genesis 27:1-30 and Genesis 27:41-46

Like Sarah, Rebekah had an infertility problem for twenty years, but Isaac prayed and God answered with a double portion: Esau and Jacob. (Genesis 25:21-26) God told Rebekah that the boys represented two nations and that Esau (the older) would serve Jacob (the younger). (Genesis 25:23) Having children should have been such a blessing to Rebekah and Isaac, but it seems to have caused division instead. Rebekah favoured Jacob because of the prophecy that God had given before the twins' birth. She kept Jacob close to her and he was always around the house - a "mummy’s boy"! Isaac preferred Esau, who became very much a "man's man": physically strong with a personality to match. Isaac loved the meat that Esau brought home from his frequent hunting trips and his eldest son was undoubtedly his favourite. As a result, communication between the parents was strained.

However, Esau had his faults. He cared little for the responsibilities of his birthright as the oldest son and, jokingly, gave it up to Jacob in exchange for a good meal. (Genesis 25:31-34) He had also married heathen women, which caused much sorrow to his parents. Isaac should not have allowed it. Earlier, when there had been problems with childlessness, they had prayed about it and God had answered, but they didn’t pray about things together any more. As Isaac grew older, he went blind and realised that the time had come to prepare for his death. For Isaac, this meant giving a formal blessing to each of his sons, passing on to them the privileges and responsibilities of being leaders amongst God's chosen people. The "lion's share" of this blessing normally went to the eldest son and Isaac clearly had this in mind, instructing Esau to go and hunt some wild game in order to mark the occasion in style.

Rebekah was alarmed because it looked as though things were not happening as prophesied to her by God when the twins were born. Like her mother-in-law (Sarah) before her, she thought that God was going to "need some help"! (Genesis 16:2-4) So, she stepped in and did her own scheming. The woman, who once had sufficient faith to trust God for an unknown future, now lacked the confidence that the God, who had provided her with two sons, was able to fulfil the promise He had given about her favourite son, Jacob. She decided, without consulting either her husband or her heavenly Father, to deceive both her husband and her son, Esau. She was prepared to go to any lengths, even being willing to take on a curse for Jacob in the event that he was caught acting out the deception. (Genesis 27:13) Had she lost her fear of God because of her obsession with her favourite son? Had her own son become an idol for her?

Jacob successfully stole the blessing but Rebekah lost on every point. Isaac was heart-broken. Esau was so angry that he vowed to kill his brother and lost all respect for his mother. Jacob gained the birthright by cunning and deceit, but had to run for his life and never saw his precious mother again. Rebekah did not speak one word of sorrow to her husband for her actions. Neither did she see the far-reaching effects of her actions in favouring her son Jacob, or in getting the birthright by deception. The hatred kindled in Esau’s heart continued for many centuries through the nation that he founded: the Edomites. (Herod Antipas, who ridiculed Jesus at His trial, was an Edomite.) Jacob did meet up with Esau again, many years later, but he was terrified about it beforehand and desperately sought God one night before the meeting at the ford of Jabbok. At that point, Jacob was exhausted by his life of constant running, deceiving, scheming and cheating, but he wrestled with God and would not give up. "I will not let you go until you bless me." (Genesis 32:26) After wrestling with God all night, God agrees to bless Jacob and also gives him a new name, "Israel" - meaning "God fights". (Genesis 32:28) At the same time, his hip was dislocated and, thereafter, he walked with a limp.

Turning defeat to victory

Rebekah's over-protective love for Jacob as a boy and her later scheming on his behalf hadn't really done him any favours but, in the end, Jacob pushed through these handicaps, took firm hold of God and refused to let go! We, too, need that real determination to get right with God, hold onto His promises whatever it looks like and keep our relationships right. To summarise, here is a list of those things that led Rebekah into her preferential treatment of Jacob that nearly led to his downfall:

  • A generational curse;
  • A pursuit of love that had gone missing from her marriage;
  • A reliving our own youth;
  • A loss of her fear of God;
  • Taking on the wrong priorities;
  • Idolatry;
  • Putting conditions on love.

However, it is possible to turn potential defeat into victory. Here is a list of actions that we can take to avoid the pitfalls above:

  • Break all generational curses. (2 Timothy 1:5)
  • Speak God’s word over each of our children. (Proverbs 18:21)
  • Pray over each relationship in our families, especially where there are clashes of personality. (1 Timothy 5:21)
  • Love each of our children with God’s love, not according to their behaviour. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)
  • Put our energies into restoring marriage priorities. (Proverbs 31:12)

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