By Wayne S. Walker
Most Bible students know the story of the birth of Isaac. God had promised it and it occurred miraculously when Abraham was about 100 and Sarah 90. After many years, Sarah died, Abraham became old, and Isaac needed a wife. Since Abraham did not want Isaac to marry into the heathen tribes round about them, he sent his servant back to his family in Haran to find his son a mate. The girl he found was named Rebekah, and this is basically where we pick up the story in Genesis 24:15-67. This chapter gives us some information about Rebekah, a worthy woman.
I. She was hospitable. We find in verses 15-25 that Rebekah not only drew water for Abraham’s servant and his camels but also invited this stranger to lodge with her family and share their straw for the animals and their food. All Christians should be hospitable. “Be hospitable to one another without grumbling” (1 Pet. 4:9). Our English word “hospitable” literally means to be a host, to serve guests, to be generous and friendly in entertaining others. The Greek term from which it is translated may be defined as love to strangers. “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels” (Heb. 13:2).
Early Christians showed hospitality to each other by opening their homes to one another for meals so that, “breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart” (Acts 2:46). While all Christians are to show hospitality, the woman is to guide the house (1 Tim. 5:14; Tit. 2:5). Therefore, she is the one who is responsible for the cooking, cleaning, etc. (Please note that I did not say that she had to do it all herself, but that it is within her domain to see that it is done.) Hence, hospitality is her, speciality (1 Tim. 5:9-10). No elder, preacher, or any other male Christian, can truly be “given to hospitality” whose wife is not hospitable.
II. She was obedient. We see in verses 50-58 that, in a day when marriages were not arranged by the parties involved but by their families, Rebekah willingly bowed to the wishes of her brother and father that she go with Abraham’s servant to be Isaac’s wife. The Bible teaches that children are to obey their parents. “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother,’ which is the first commandment with promise” (Eph. 6:1-2). In a similar way, the wife is to obey her husband, being in submission or subjection to him as her head (Eph. 5:22-24; 1 Pet. 3:1-6).
Furthermore, we must demonstrate this same kind of attitude in our relationship with God. Spiritual obedience is necessary for salvation. “But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness” (Rom. 6:17-18). We are made free from sin only after we have obeyed the form of doctrine mentioned here. This obedience involves faith in Christ, repentance, confession of Jesus as Lord, and baptism in his name. What will happen to those who do not obey? “Those who do not know God, and . . . those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ . . . shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his power” (2 Thess. 1:8-9).
III. She had a good family relationship. We note that in verses 59-60, before she left, her family blessed her and said, “Our sister, may you become the mother of thousands of ten thousands; And may your descendants possess the gates of those who hate them.” This shows the close-knit bond that existed in this household. Rebekah’s family was concerned about her and her welfare in the same way that the Shulamite’s brothers cared for their sister and her reputation (Song of Solomon 8:8-10). In order for this kind of situation to exist in a family, there is a need for proper parental teaching so that the children will love and respect their parents as they grow up. “And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and the admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4).
One of the ideal pictures of family life we have in the Scriptures is found in Proverbs 31:10-31. Here is a woman who takes care of her family by seeing that they have the necessary food and clothing. She is also an example to them of strength, honor, wisdom, and kindness. As a result, her husband trusts in her, is enabled to go about his business in the land without fear of what is happening back home, and praises her saying, “Many daughters have done well, But you excel them all.” Also, her children rise up and call her blessed. To many, this may be an anachronistic description in our day of working mothers, easy divorce, and single-parent homes. But it is the home as God intended it and God’s people will seek to develop just such a home.
IV. She was modest. We read in verses 61-65 that Rebekah apparently did not wear the customary veil of that day while traveling, but when the party neared Abraham’s home and she was told that Isaac was walking in the field to meet them, she jumped off the camel, took a veil, and covered herself. The custom of a woman having to wear a veil in public is not necessary in order for her to be modest in our society today. But the Bible still teaches the need for modesty. After Adam and Eve sinned in Genesis 3, God was not satisfied with the “aprons” or loin-cloths of fig leaves that they made for themselves, but made them cloaks or coats of skins as an indication to all their descendants to dress modestly. From this, we learn that the need to dress in modest apparel is applicable to the man as well as the woman.
However, the importance of modest dress is emphasized for the woman and the passages that relate to the subject are directed to her. “In like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works” (1 Tim. 2:8-9). Why is this so? One possible reason is the nature of man and woman as God created them and the obvious difference between the two. Men are far more attracted to what they see of the physical display of women than vice versa. This is why men are warned, “But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt. 5:28). Many claim that what one wears outwardly is not important. But a godly woman will continue to dress modestly despite what the world says.
V. She was a good wife for Isaac. Finally, in verses 66-67, we learn that when Rebekah became Isaac’s wife he loved her and as a result he was comforted after his mother’s death. God’s original intent in ordaining the marriage relationship was to provide the man with a helper meet, or suitable, for him as it was not good for the man to be alone. Of course, this also placed a reciprocal responsibility upon the man to “leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife” (Gen.2:18-24). Only when both the husband and the wife commit themselves totally to each other can the two become one flesh. Today’s view of marriage as a “business partnership” where each party maintains his or her own separate identity is not the biblical view. The biblical view is that of a complete union of two selves into one unit.
Over and over the Bible extols the virtue of marriage. “He who finds a wife finds a good thing, And obtains favor from the LORD” (Prov. 18:22). It is true that behind every great man you will find a great woman, and most often it is his loving wife. “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge” (Heb. 13:4). Marriage is the only lawful relationship in which the deepest physical and emotional needs of men and women can be fulfilled. It is also the only proper relationship in which the husband and wife can find their highest joy, and in which their children can be raised to be what they ought to be. Truly, marriage is honorable in all. Rebekah provided comfort for Isaac at a time in his life when he needed it the most. And every good woman will bring to the marriage relationship those things which will enable her to help her husband be the kind of man that God wants him to be.
The lessons of the Bible are taught in the lives of not only great men but also of great women. And these holy women of old can be examples to both women and men today. Yes, Rebekah, like every other human being, made her share of mistakes. As her husband showed favoritism to their elder son Esau, she showed favoritism to the younger Jacob. This caused friction in their family. But ladies who wish to please God can learn what kind of attitude the Lord expects of them by studying the good characteristics that Rebekah displayed. And her life, as well as those of many other good women of both the Old and New Testaments, reveals principles that all of us need to emulate.
Guardian of Truth XXXII: 11, pp. 326-327
June 2, 1988