Wise home builders — Rebecca

I have to confess that I didn’t always think Rebecca was a very wise home builder.  I thought she was a bit manipulative “deceiving” Isaac.  And for favoring one child over the other.  But a few years ago as I was working on my Proverbs 31 Bible study and looking at all of these different women, I began to see Rebecca differently.  I believe I began to see her through Abba’s eyes… and I hope you do too.

Rebecca had been barren for 20 years.  And now, her pregnancy was not an easy one. The Bible says the babies struggled within her.  The Hebrew word for struggled means to crush or oppress.  It sounds like a violent word.  I’ve had 4 babies and they all moved around a lot while I was pregnant and occasionally kicked really hard.  But it wasn’t a violent moving around.  I can’t even imagine what that must’ve felt like.  She wanted to know why this was happening to her….

So Rebecca inquired of the Lord (Genesis 25:22).  This is the first time that a woman is mentioned as “inquiring of the Lord.”  That tells us a lot about Rebecca’s relationship with God.  Something didn’t seem right to her about this pregnancy.  God had blessed her with a baby after 20 years and it didn’t seem “normal” to have sorrow or trouble with it (Proverbs 10:22)….. there was a violent warring going on in her womb.  She obviously had a personal relationship with God and wanted to hear what He had to say on the matter.

In Genesis 25:22-28 tells us that Rebecca inquired of the Lord and He answered her with his plan for the Jews – she had 2 nations at war in her womb. He said they would be divided from birth…. two nations, two kingdoms.  The Hebrew word for nations is goyim, which means both Jewish and Gentile nations.  The Jewish nation of Israel will be from Jacob, and the Gentile nation will be from Esau (later the nation of Edom).  One people will be stronger than the other because Israel will be stronger than Edom. And the older will serve the younger (Second Samuel 8:12-14) because Edom would be enslaved to Israel.

Romans 9:10-13 emphasizes the importance of God’s word to Rebekah.  Before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad, in order that God’s purpose in election might standnot by works but by him who calls—she was told, “The older will serve the younger.”  Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”   The LORD’s choice of Jacob, the younger, to inherit His covenant promise was made before the boys were even born. This showed that the choice did not depend on what either did.  This was not about birth order but rather Divine election.  Jacob’s destiny was to produce the lineage that the Deliverer would come…. to be an heir of the Promise (Hebrews 11:9).  

After she had given birth, it says Isaac loved Esau and Rebecca loved Jacob.  This is more than just parental favoritism over children.  Rebecca understood the importance of God’s word to her.  She chose what God had already chosen.  In order to understand this, we have to look at the natures of the two sons.

Esau

Genesis 25:27 gives two descriptions of Esau…..

  • cunning or skillful hunter
  • a man of the field.

He was a skillful hunter.  This isn’t referring to him as a rugged hunter.  A manly man.  An outdoorsman like Daniel Boone.  It isn’t a positive characteristic.  Another man earlier in Genesis is described as a skillful hunter… Nimrod.  Josephus said of Nimrod that he “excited them (the people) to such an affront and contempt of God.”  The meaning of Nimrod’s name is “rebel” or “let us revolt.”  He had contempt for the plans of God and he hunted men, enslaving them in his rebellion.   Esau was a man of the field who knew entrapment.    “Knew how to trap” in the Hebrew implies that he used superficial righteousness to trap with his mouth/words. Basically, he may have talked the talk but he didn’t walk the walk!  He was a man of the flesh who knew how to deceive.  He was a man ruled by his carnal nature… by his senses.

Esau was a man of the field who knew entrapment. “Knew how to trap” in the Hebrew implies that he used superficial righteousness to trap with his mouth or his words.  Basically, he may have talked the talk but he didn’t walk the walk!  He was a man of the flesh who knew how to deceive.  He was a man ruled by his carnal nature… by his senses.

He sold his birthright for a bowl of stew!  Genesis is not the only place we are told that.  It’s mentioned in Hebrews 12:16 Make sure that no one is immoral or godless like Esau, who traded his birthright as the firstborn son for a single meal.  In this verse he is described as godless and immoral…. a fornicator and profane.  Fornicator would refer to idol worship.  He had married foreign, idolatrous Hittite wives.  Profane refers to people unfit to access (to know) God because they approach Him apart from faith.  Esau didn’t know God.  He gave away his birthright… the verb literally means “to give it away.”  In Genesis 27:34 the fact that he is so upset over Jacob having the Blessing indicates that he had an understanding of how powerful The Blessing was and yet still gave it away… he had an understanding of its power but not a care for it.  It meant nothing to him.

This is Esau.  He had no ethics or faith, no scruples or reverence. He had no regard for the good, the truthful, the divine. He was totally worldly, totally secular, totally profane.  He married foreign women who worshipped other gods and they were a source of grief to his parents… in Hebrew, it says they were bitterness to his parent’s spirits.  Even later he added to those wives one of Ishmael’s daughters.  He had no love for God or the things of God.

Jacob

I think Jacob has gotten a bad rap over the years.  He’s often described as deceitful, a schemer, and stealing the Blessing from Esau.  But how does Holy Spirit describe Jacob in Genesis?  After all, His opinion is the only one that matters.   Genesis 25:27 says he was a plain man who dwelt in tents.

The Hebrew word translated as mild or plain is “tam” meaning complete, pious, perfect, undefiled, and upright. “Tam” is one of the most common words the Bible uses to refer to being wholeheartedly devoted to walking with God. This word is the opposite of our English word “hypocrite.”  He was a man wholeheartedly for God….. sincere in his love for God.   This is the Holy Spirit’s basic assessment of Jacob’s character.

He was a man of integrity who dwelled in tents!  The writer of Hebrews (Hebrews 11:9) says their choice to dwell in tents was an act of faith!  He, like Abraham and Isaac, chooses to focus on the Promise of God.  So from this we know he was a man of faith.  Another character trait of Jacob’s that we see is in chapter 27 when he is pretending to be Esau.  He is kind and gentle.  In verse 19 he asks Isaac to please sit up and eat compared to verse 31 when Esau speaks to his dad he just tells him to sit up and eat.

His name has been defined as “deceiver” but actually, it means heel.  Because as they came out of the womb, Jacob grabbed Esau’s heel.  It doesn’t strike me as a negative word.  Remeber they were struggling (crush or oppress) together in the womb.  It sounds like Jacob was Esau’s determined pursuer…. the one who would overtake and dispossess him.  Hosea 12:3 mentions it and calls it strength.  Rebecca named him according to his destiny….. according to the prophetic promise she had from God.

Rebecca’s intervention

Rebecca like Eve and Sarah held onto God’s Word.  She guarded and protected what God had told her.

Rebekah is often blamed for the partiality or favoritism she manifested for Jacob.  I don’t believe that’s true.  She believed God. She loved Jacob because Jacob was the Lord’s preference. … Rom 9:13 God says Jacob I have loved, Esau I have hated…. speaking of two opposing nations.  An opportunity presented itself and she took it.  In Genesis 27 it says Isaac was going to bless Esau his firstborn as soon as he came back from hunting.  She heard this and then responded in faith.

I’m not sure why Isaac was going to bless Esau with the Blessing.  Esau had already married two Hittite wives and made life miserable for Isaac and Rebecca.  Didn’t Isaac realize that with idolatrous wives it would be difficult to produce the lineage of the Promised Deliver?  That because of idolatry Esau wouldn’t be able to walk in the Blessing that Isaac was giving to him?  All I can determine is that Esau was very cunning and very deceptive and had Isaac completely bewitched.  But regardless of why Isaac was ready to bless Esau, Rebecca was aligned with God’s choice.   Holding onto and acting on the promise God had given her.

Rebecca sided with God’s preference.   She recognized Jacob as the chosen son… just like Isaac had been the chosen son.  Holding onto and acting on the promise God had given her.  Faith requires action.  And Rebecca acted on her faith.  When God blessed her with pregnancy and it wasn’t going so smoothly, she sought God to find out why.  This showed great faith and strength of spirit.  There is no reason not to think that when it seemed like Esau would receive the Blessing that God had promised Jacob that she again sought the Lord in prayer.  That may have given her the confidence she needed to pursue His promise.

She was a woman who had the faith to ask for guidance and who had the faith to follow it; because of her faith, she was able to be a great co-laborer with God and influence the whole course of history.  She was protecting a lineage.  She continued to protect it by sending Jacob away when Esau plotted to murder him.  And also by sending him to find a godly wife instead of an idolatrous Canaanite wife.  Rebekah was a wise home builder risking deception to follow God’s promise, and His plan unfolded exactly as He had told her.

Are you watching over the words God has spoken to you?  Protecting His promises over your family at all costs…. even if your actions and character are misunderstood?  Are you co-laboring with Him to see His plans unfold exactly as He has told you?

~ Robin

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