Women of the Bible - Rebecca

    A Woman Who Tried to Do the Right Thing the Wrong Way
    by Kathryn Capoccia

     Young Adults Sunday School Class
    
     All Scripture references are taken from the HOLY BIBLE: NEW
     INTERNATIONAL VERSION (C) 1978 by the New York Bible Society, used by
     permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

 Copyright Kathy Capoccia 2000.  This file may be freely copied, printed out,
and distributed as long as copyright and source statements remain intact,
and that it is not sold.
 
  I. Introduction

     A. Opening Prayer

     B. Review of Last Week's Lesson/Verse

II. Character Profile: Rebecca, a Woman Who Tried to Do the Right Thing the
     Wrong Way

     A. WHO WAS SHE? (READ GEN 22:23; chps. 24-27; 28:5; 35:8; 49:31; ROM
        9:6-16)

        1. WHEN DID SHE LIVE? In the time of the Patriarchs (@ 1700 B.C.).

        2. WHERE DID SHE LIVE? A Resident of Haran, in Nahor, in Padan- Aran
           or Mesopotamia (GEN 24:10,15).

        3. WHAT WAS HER NAME? Rebecca or Rebekah "a tied loop which secures
           an animal" or "yoke" (GEN 24:15).

        4. WHO WERE HER PEOPLE? (GEN 24:15; 24:29). She was:

           a) The daughter of Bethuel, the son of Nahor and Milcah

           b) The granddaughter of Nahor, Abraham's brother

           c) The great-niece of Abraham

           d) The sister of Laban (GEN 24:29).

           e) The 2nd cousin of Isaac

        5. WHAT WAS HER APPEARANCE? (GEN 24:16; 26:7).

           a) she was very beautiful- tob, "pleasing to look at".

           b) she was young- naarah, "a girl or maiden".

        6. WHAT WAS HER MARITAL STATUS? (GEN 24:16).

           a) she was a virgin- bethulah, "a virgin" (which can mean a
              virgin pledged to be married and engaging in sexual relations
              with her espoused) vs. 16.
                              - almah "a virgin and virtuous" vs. 43

           b) no man had known her- she had had no sexual relations vs. 16.

        7. WHAT WAS SHE LIKE? (GEN 24:18-28).

           a) a hardworker

              1) she went to draw water for her family in the late
                 afternoon, as was the custom for women (GEN 24:11).

              2) she drew water for her guest and his camels (GEN 24:19-22).

                 a] she drew water:

                    i] she ran to the draw-well and its spring to draw water
                       for the camels, and then she continued running until
                       all the camels were satisfied; she served her guest
                       as completely and rapidly as she could.

                   ii] she had to ascend to reach the well and draw out the
                       water, then climb back out, empty her jar in the
                       trough, return to the well etc. until the camels were
                       finished drinking, a process which took quite some
                       time.

                 b] for the camels:

                    i] a camel can routinely go 28 miles a day and 3-4 days
                       without water (though it can go up to 7 days without
                       water and travel up to 100 m. in a day). On ordinary
                       trips a camel carries 400 lbs. as well as his rider.

                   ii] a camel needs gallons and gallons of water each day
                       and vegetation of some kind; but  they are well
                       suited to eat the sparse and scratchy desert plants
                       because their lips and mouths are insensitive to the
                       discomforts of these plants.

                  iii] there is evidence that camels were domesticated as
                       early as the 4th century B.C..

                       This information is from "The Zondervan Pictorial
                       Encyclopedia of the Bible", by Merrill C. Tenney,
                       Zondervan Publishing House, 1978, pg. 696.

           b) a hospitable person

              1) hospitality involved:

                 a] a belief that guests were sent by God

                    i] hospitality became a sacred duty of service toward
                       God.

                   ii] a guest was regarded as God's servant and deserved,
                       therefore, the utmost service and protection.

                 b] a belief that strangers, even enemies, were to be
                    treated as guests if they approached one's home in a bid
                    for hospitality.

                 c] a provision of food and shelter was necessary for
                    guests.

                    i] a meal of some kind

                   ii] sleeping quarters

                        -- in cities this could either be in someone's house
                          or in a separate dwelling specially designated for
                          strangers

                        -- in tent dwellers this would be with the host in
                          the first section of the tent (which would also
                          serve as dining room) apart from the rest of his
                          family

              2) hospitality's customs involve:

                 a] bowing to the guest-
                    This involves one of the following:

                    i] inclining the head towards the guest (in Western
                       countries).

                   ii] saluting with a forward lean and hand gesture from
                       heart to mouth to forehead (a salam in Eastern
                       countries).

                  iii] falling to one's knees, touching the forehead to the
                       ground and kissing the lower garments of the guest,
                       or his feet, or even the ground at his feet (paying
                       reverence to that individual).

                 b] greeting the guest-
                    The host will say something like "Peace be on you" and
                    the guest will reciprocate with "And on you peace"

                 c] kissing the guest-
                    Middle eastern guests expect to be kissed as they enter
                    their place of hospitality. The custom usually calls for
                    the host to place his hand upon the right shoulder of
                    his guest and kissing the right cheek, and then placing
                    his hand on the left shoulder and kissing the left
                    cheek.

                 d] removing the shoes-
                    Upon entering a Middle eastern home one was expected to
                    remove one's shoes so as not to defile with dirt the
                    area.

                 e] washing the feet-
                    After bowing, greeting and kissing, the guest would be
                    offered water for washing his feet and a servant would
                    assist the guest in that activity.

                 f] anointing the head with oil-
                    Olive oil, sometimes mixed with spices, was used to pour
                    upon or smear (or rub) upon the guest as a gesture of
                    honor.

                 g] offering a drink of water-
                    This signifies recognition of the guest as being worthy
                    of a peaceful reception and is "a pledge of friendship"
                    with the guest.

                    GEN 24:17,18
                    "The servant hurried to meet her and said, 'Please give
                    me a little water from your jar.' 'Drink, my lord,' she
                    said, and quickly lowered the jar to her hands and gave
                    him a drink."

                 h] the guest served a meal-
                    This is a way of making a covenant of peace and loyalty
                    between host and guest; its a solemn binding of them
                    together with "salt and bread" i.e. as brothers and
                    allies.

                 i] the guest made lord of the dwelling-
                    The proverb "The guest while in this house is its lord"
                    is the way hospitality in the East is offered: whenever
                    a guest requests something the host, as servant, will
                    say "You do me honor" when he grants it.

                 j] the guest not left alone-
                    A guest expected to have constant attention while a
                    guest and would feel ill-treated if he were to be left
                    alone.

                 k] the guest protected-
                    A host accepted the responsibility of defending his
                    guest at any cost against all harm for the space of time
                    that his guest stayed within his territory. Therefore, a
                    guest could feel perfectly secure while a guest.

                 l] delaying the departure of the guest-
                    A good host was required to urge his guest to remain a
                    while longer, perhaps for another meal or for another
                    day. When the guest departed he asked permission of the
                    host; if the host wished to honor his guest in a special
                    way he would walk with him until urged by his guest to
                    return home.

                    *this information comes from "Manners and Customs of
                    Bible Lands" by Fred H. Wight, The Moody Bible Institute
                    of Chicago, copyright 1953, pgs. 69-79.

        8. WHO DID SHE MARRY? Isaac "laughter", the son of Abraham; he was
           40 yrs. old when they married (GEN 24:66; 25:20).

           GEN 25:20  "...and Isaac was forty years old when he married
           Rebekah daughter of Bethuel the Aramean from Paddan Aram and
           sister of Laban the Aramean."

     B. WHAT DID SHE DO?

        1. She Married Isaac and Bore Esau and Jacob (GEN chp. 24;
           25:21-27).

           a) A divine union

              1) Abraham's commission (GEN 24:2-9).

                 GEN 24:3,4  "I want you to swear by the LORD, the God of
                 heaven and the God of earth, that you will not get a wife
                 for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom
                 I am living, but will go to my country and my own relatives
                 and get a wife for my son Isaac."

                 a] the servant was to journey to Padan-Aran

                    i] this was a journey of @450 m. north along the
                       Mediterranean Sea on the Syrian Route that ended in
                       Haran.

                   ii] this journey would have taken @ 3 1/2 weeks to
                       accomplish if the caravan traveled at the normal
                       rate of speed of 18 m. a day (for a camel carrying
                       500-600 lbs. of baggage).

                 b] the servant was to obtain a wife for Isaac from
                    Abraham's people

                    i] Abraham did not want a woman from the Canaanites
                       because:

                        -- she would not be a believer in the true God,
                          Yahweh, and would have manners and customs
                          incompatible with Isaac's.

                        -- she would not be of his people and therefore not
                          be entitled to the blessings promised to Abraham
                          and his seed (GEN 15:18).

                   ii] Abraham wanted a wife for Isaac from his own kind of
                       people i.e. believers and those in succession to
                       God's promise.

              2) The servant's test

                 GEN 24:14  "May it be that when I say to a girl, 'Please
                 let down your jar that I may have a drink,' and she says,
                 'Drink, and I'll water your camels too'--let her be the one
                 you have chosen for your servant Isaac. By this I will know
                 that you have shown kindness to my master."

                 a] he tested her character- would she show hospitality?

                 b] he tested her industry- would she be willing to do all
                    the work of watering 10 thirsty camels?

                 c] he tested her family connections- was she of Abraham's
                    family?

                    GEN 24:23,24  "Then he asked, 'Whose daughter are you?
                    Please tell me, is there room in your father's house for
                    us to spend the night?' She answered him, 'I am the
                    daughter of Bethuel, the son that Milcah bore to
                    Nahor.'"

                    *What a remarkable man this servant, Eliezer of Damascus
                    (GEN 15:2), was. He was entrusted with procuring a wife
                    for Isaac, his master's son, and he carried out his
                    mission with wisdom and faithfulness. There is no sign
                    of envy or bitterness in him, yet before Isaac was born
                    he was to be Abraham's heir, and a child of this
                    marriage would certainly put him forever out of an
                    inheritance. He shows that he shared Abraham's faith in
                    God and that he was content with the portion allotted to
                    him by a sovereign God.

              3) The family's approval (GEN 24:30; 24:50-61).

                 a] the servant explained his mission

                    i] he spoke of his commission, his prayer for
                       enlightenment, his answered prayer (GEN 24:34-48).

                   ii] he requested that Rebecca journey with him to Canaan
                       to marry Isaac (GEN 24:49)
                       .
                       GEN 24:49  Now if you will show kindness and
                       faithfulness to my master, tell me; and if not, tell
                       me, so I may know which way to turn."

                 b] the family agreed to the marriage (GEN 24:50-61).

                    i] they acknowledged that God had arranged the events
                       (GEN 24:50,50).

                       GEN 24:50,51  "Laban and Bethuel answered, 'This is
                       from the LORD; we can say nothing to you one way or
                       the other. Here is Rebekah; take her and go, and let
                       her become the wife of your master's son, as the LORD
                       has directed.'"

                   ii] they asked Rebecca her wishes and she was willing to
                       go (GEN 24:58).*Her culture allowed women to have
                       some say in their marital negotiations.

                       GEN 24:58  "So they called Rebekah and asked her,
                       'Will you go with this man?' 'I will go,' she said."

                  iii] they sent her with her maids to Canaan to marry Isaac
                       (GEN 24:59-61).

                       GEN 24:59-61  "So they sent their sister Rebekah on
                       her way, along with her nurse and Abraham's servant
                       and his men. And they blessed Rebekah and said to
                       her, 'Our sister, may you increase to thousands upon
                       thousands; may your offspring possess the gates of
                       their enemies.' Then Rebekah and her maids got ready
                       and mounted their camels and went back with the man.
                       So the servant took Rebekah and left."

              4) The consummation- Isaac took Rebecca as his wife (GEN
                 24:62-67).

                 a] Isaac was apparently living apart from his father, in
                    the south country of Israel (GEN 24:62).

                    GEN 24:62,63  "Now Isaac had come from Beer Lahai Roi,
                    for he was living in the Negev. He went out to the field
                    one evening to meditate, and as he looked up, he saw
                    camels approaching."

                 b] Isaac loved Rebecca (GEN 24:67).

                    GEN 24:67  "Isaac brought her into the tent of his
                    mother Sarah, and he married Rebekah. So she became his
                    wife, and he loved her."

                 c] Rebecca comforted Isaac and helped him stop grieving for
                    his mother, Sarah (GEN 24:67).

                    GEN 24:67  "Isaac brought her into the tent of his
                    mother Sarah, and he married Rebekah. So she became his
                    wife, and he loved her; and Isaac was comforted after
                    his mother's death."

           b) A supernatural birth

              1) sterility

                 a] Isaac and Rebecca did not have children for 20 years of
                    their marriage.

                    GEN 25:21  "Isaac prayed to the LORD on behalf of his
                    wife, because she was barren."

                 b] Isaac prayed for fertility to be granted to them.

                    i] he did not do as his father, Abraham, did and take a
                       2nd wife to have children by her. (Perhaps he had
                       learned about this from his father- Abraham was still
                       alive at this time: he was 160 yrs. old and would
                       live another 15 yrs., to die at 175 yrs of age).

                   ii] he took his request to God in faith.

                       GEN 25:21  "Isaac prayed to the LORD on behalf of his
                       wife, because she was barren."

                       HEB 11:6  "And without faith it is impossible to
                       please God, because anyone who comes to him must
                       believe that he exists and that he rewards those who
                       earnestly seek him."

              2) fertility

                 a] Rebecca conceived when God answered Isaac's prayer.

                    GEN 25:21  "Isaac prayed to the LORD on behalf of his
                    wife, because she was barren. The LORD answered his
                    prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant."

                    *We see that God, in His infinite wisdom, withheld
                    children from Isaac and Rebecca until Isaac prayed
                    for his wife: whether this was God's perfect timing for
                    this and He therefore touched Isaac's heart to pray, or
                    whether He waited to prove to them that these children
                    of the promise could only come in a spiritual way, He
                    manifested His power over the womb through it.

                 b] Twin sons were born to Isaac and Rebecca  (GEN 25:24).

                    GEN 25:24  "When the time came for her to give birth,
                    there were twin boys in her womb."

                    i] prophecy was given (GEN 25:23).

                       GEN 25:23  "The LORD said to her, 'Two nations are in
                       your womb, and two peoples from within you will be
                       separated; one people will be stronger than the
                       other, and the older will serve the younger.'"

                   ii] favoritism was shown (GEN 25:27,28).

                       GEN 25:28  "Isaac, who had a taste for wild game,
                       loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob."

                        -- Esau, "hairy", the 1st born was:

                          I. physically hairy (GEN 25:25).

                             GEN 25:25  'The first to come out was red, and
                             his whole body was like a hairy garment; so
                             they named him Esau."

                         II. a hunter and outdoorsman (GEN 25:27)

                             GEN 25:27  "The boys grew up, and Esau became a
                             skillful hunter, a man of the open country"
                        III. a temporal thinker (GEN 25:29-34; 26:34,35;
                             27:46; 28:8,9).

                             A. he had exchanged his birthright for food on
                                a day when he was hungry (but not in
                                distress). He valued what he could
                                experience.

                             B. he had married local women without regard to
                                their effect upon the household.

                                GEN 27:46  "Then Rebekah said to Isaac, 'I'm
                                disgusted with living because of these
                                Hittite women. If Jacob takes a wife from
                                among the women of this land, from Hittite
                                women like these, my life will not be worth
                                living.'"

                             C. he had married a 3rd time to please his
                                parents but again chose an unbeliever (GEN
                                28:9).

                         IV. a profane man (HEB 12:6)

                             HEB 12:16  "See that no one is... godless like
                             Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheri-
                             tance rights as the oldest son.

                             *Esau had no spiritual depth to him; he did not
                             value the promise God had made to Abraham and
                             his seed. His concerns were sensual and
                             temporal. It's interesting to note that he was
                             closest to his father, whose life seemed to be
                             a series of faithless schemes-  the proverb
                             "like father like son" fits Isaac and Esau (and
                             also Rebecca and Jacob).

                        -- Jacob, "heel-catcher", the 2nd born was:

                          I. physically a smooth man (GEN 27:11).

                             GEN 27:11  "Jacob said to Rebekah his mother,
                             'But my brother Esau is a hairy man, and I'm a
                             man with smooth skin.'"

                         II. a homebody (GEN 25:27).

                             GEN 25:27  "Jacob was a quiet man, staying
                             among the tents."

                        III. a grasping man who strove to acquire what he
                             desired.

                             A. he was born grasping the heel of Esau

                                GEN 25:26  "After this, his brother came
                                out, with his hand grasping Esau's heel; so
                                he was named Jacob."

                             B. he was determined to obtain the birthright
                                so he bargained for it with an offer of stew
                                and purchased it for the price of a meal
                                (GEN 26:33).

                                *This mentality is the very opposite of our
                                Lord's, who willingly gave up His rights and
                                allowed God the Father to give to Him
                                whatever it pleased Him to.

                                PHI 2:6,7  "Who, being in very nature God,
                                did not consider equality with God something
                                to be grasped, but made himself nothing,
                                taking the very nature of a servant, being
                                made in human likeness."


                  iii] conflict was manifest

                        -- from the womb

                          GEN 25:22  "The babies [Jacob and Esau] jostled
                          each other within her [Rebecca]..."

                        -- over the birthright

                          GEN 25:33  "So he [Esau] swore an oath to him,
                          selling his birthright to Jacob.

                        -- because of favoritism-
                          Esau was favored and Isaac planned to give his
                          blessing to Esau before he died (this concerned
                          inheritance).

                          GEN 27:4  "Prepare me the kind of tasty food I
                          like and bring it to me to eat, so that I may give
                          you my blessing before I die."

        2. She Deceived Isaac to Give Jacob Isaac's Blessing (GEN chp. 27;
           28:1-5).

           a) A deception was planned

              1) Rebecca overheard Isaac's promise to bless Esau and she
                 formulated a plan to get it for Jacob

                 a] why would she deceive her own husband?

                    i] she believed she had the right to because:

                        -- Jacob's right to be heir was based on both
                          prophecy and ownership.

                        -- justice was not being done:

                          I. she saw that Isaac was determined to follow the
                             Hurrian custom of birthright, in opposition to
                             God's revealed word concerning Jacob.

                         II. she saw that Isaac did not intend to respect
                             Jacob's claim to the birthright even though he
                             had purchased it from Esau, the rightful heir.

                   ii] she believed she needed to because Isaac had
                       previously demonstrated that he was willing to sin to
                       get what he wanted (GEN 26:7-11). At Gerar:

                        -- he asked Rebecca to lie about their marriage to
                          protect him

                        -- he lied to the people of Gerar about their
                          relationship

                        -- he was not concerned that his action placed his
                          wife in jeopardy

                        -- he was not concerned that his action might cause
                          someone to sin with Rebecca

                  iii] she was not spiritually sensitive enough to know:

                        -- that God had complete control of the situation and
                          would bring about the fulfillment of the prophecy
                          without her help if she would but trust Him.

                        -- that her deception was sin

                 b] why was she so concerned that Jacob receive the
                    blessing?

                    i] it was like a "last will and testament" which
                       signified the heir and delineated the inheritance.

                   ii] it was his right to have:

                        -- it was prophesied that he would be the inheritor.

                        -- the birthright belonged to Jacob because he had
                          purchased it from Esau.

                  iii] she was protecting him from the overt favoritism
                       Isaac displayed.

              2) Rebecca explained her plan to obtain the blessing for
                 Jacob:

                 a] Rebecca was to prepare food to duplicate Esau's game.

                 b] Jacob was to impersonate Esau to Isaac and so receive
                    the blessing.

                    *WHY WAS IT SO IMPORTANT TO JACOB TO GET THIS BLESSING?
                    In the time of Isaac oral bequests were common and
                    valid; his oral blessing would have been seen as his
                    legal disposition of his goods; the recipient of such a
                    blessing would be taken to be the heir.

                    The impersonation was accomplished thusly:

                    i] goat skins would substitute for Esau's hairy skin

                   ii] Esau's clothing, and thus his scent, was to be worn
                       by Jacob.

                  iii] Jacob would lie about his identity and pretend to be
                       Esau.

           b) A blessing was given

              1) Jacob received Isaac's blessing  (GEN 27:28,29).

                 GEN 27:27-29  "So he went to him and kissed him. When Isaac
                 caught the smell of his clothes, he blessed him and said,
                 'Ah, the smell of my son is like the smell of a field that
                 the LORD has blessed. May God give you of heaven's dew and
                 of earth's richness--an abundance of grain and new wine.
                 May nations serve you and peoples bow down to you. Be lord
                 over your brothers, and may the sons of your mother bow
                 down to you. May those who curse you be cursed and those
                 who bless you be blessed.'"

                 a] for prosperity

                 b] for power and rulership

                 c] for protection and blessing

           c) Consequences were created

              1) Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing and planned to
                 kill him after his father's death (GEN 27:41).

              2) Jacob was sent away from home to Haran.

                 a] to escape Esau's vengeance (GEN 27:43,44).

                 b] to acquire a wife from Rebecca's family (GEN 27:46;
                    28:1,2).

                    *When Jacob left Canaan to go to Haran he left behind
                    all worldly wealth; in fact, he apparently never
                    received any of Isaac's wealth, but God gave him the
                    inheritance of the land and great material wealth
                    anyway.

              3) Rebecca never saw Jacob again.

                 a] Jacob stayed in Padan-Aran 20 yrs. (GEN 31:38).

                 b] Rebecca is not mentioned in Scripture after Jacob left
                    for Haran; she was apparently dead by the time he
                    returned from there.

              4) Jacob did not learn any lessons about the futility of
                 deception; it would take the next 20 yrs. of Jacob's life
                 for him to learn this lesson under Laban's tutelage.

              5) Jacob repeated the favoritism of his childhood in his own
                 family by exalting Joseph above all of his other children.

                 a] this created jealousy and strife (GEN 37:4).

                 b] this resulted in Joseph's being sold into slavery in
                    Egypt by his brothers (GEN 37:28).

     C. WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM HER?

        1. Showing favoritism can create devastating problems between
           people.

        2. Trying to do a good thing by evil means is wrong.

        3. Spiritual blessings may be had only through spiritual means.

        4. Deception and lying can only lead to further godlessness and
           will not lead to lasting happiness.

        5. We must trust God in all circumstances.

 III. What Fruits of the Spirit do we see in her?

  IV. Memory Verse: GAL 5:16  "So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will
     not gratify the desires of the sinful nature."


Added to Bible Bulletin Board's "Kathy Capoccia's Sunday School Lessons for Young Adults" by:

Tony Capoccia
Bible Bulletin Board
Box 119
Columbus, New Jersey, USA, 08022
Websites: www.biblebb.com and www.gospelgems.com
Email: tony@biblebb.com
Online since 1986