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."
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