Rebekah - An Old Testament Bible Character Study
by Sister Tessie Glodove (a Filipino sister in Grace Church, Hong Kong)
The passage that we are going to study is taken from the book of Genesis: Gen. 24:1-61. When Abraham was very old, he asked his servant to take a wife for his son, Isaac. He asked his servant to swear by the God of heaven and earth that he was not to take a wife for his son from the daughters of the Canaanites where he, Abraham, was living, but to take from the country where he came from and from his own family. But the servant asked, “How about, Master, if the woman does not want to come with me? Shall I take your son to go back there?” But Abraham said, “No, the Lord God of heaven will send His angel before you, and you shall take a wife for my son there.”
In v12-14, we can see that the servant was faithful to the Lord and to his master, Abraham. He sought the Lord in his prayer and asked the Lord to bless his journey. He sought the Lord in prayer to give him success that day. This servant was very faithful to the Lord, and not only to the Lord, but also to his master, because he obeyed Abraham’s instructions. Thus, in v14, we can see the contents of the servant’s prayer, a step-by-step prayer to God as a sign for him to know the right woman whom God had chosen for Isaac: Firstly, the one who would give him a drink. Secondly, the one who would give water to the camels. These were the signs that the servant asked from God in order for him to know the right woman to choose.
After he had been praying in silence, behold, Rebekah was coming to the well to draw water. The servant ran to meet her and asked her for a little water to drink. Then notice that Rebekah responded favorably to the servant. She said, “Drink, my lord.” And she quickly let her pitcher down to her hand and gave him a drink. But this did not mean that she gave him just a little; she gave him water until he had finished drinking. We can see from this that when she responded to the servant, even if she did not know this man, yet she responded favorably. What is more, the servant was a stranger in that place. So, Rebekah had a hospitable heart; she was a hospitable woman.
For us in the Philippines, I always mention the fact that there is no water in our place. We get water from a very far place, about 2.5km away; and so back and forth, it is about 5 km or more. It is difficult to get water because we need to go up steps, up to the top of a hill. It is just like there is a big rock and people have to go on steps at the side of it like a staircase, in order to get the water which is at the top of the hill. Oftentimes, my grandmother does not want to give water to passersby (when they ask for water before they climb the mountain) because it is difficult to get water. You may be able to carry 2 gallons of water from there, but because the steps are slippery, it is dangerous. If you fall, nothing can hold you there. So, we do not give water. My grandmother often says, “We cannot give because it is hard work.”
But for Rebekah, she was willing to give and she gave right away. It is an instant response to the need. After giving him a drink, Rebekah offered also to draw water for the camels. Wow! I think it is troublesome. She gave him a drink and now she wanted to draw water for the camels. My grandmother is not willing to give water even to people when they ask for a drink, and here Rebekah offered to draw water for the camels. She was really compassionate. She knew the need of the time. For me, I think it is normal to give water to man, but for the camel, it is not normal. But for Rebekah, she voluntarily offered to do such a laborious job. We can imagine that she must be an extraordinary woman. For me, I am not from the city; I am from the rural area. And I can understand and imagine how difficult are the things that she does. The Bible tells us that she quickly let her pitcher down and quickly emptied her pitcher, and ran to the well to get water. She did things quickly and she ran. Imagine that kind of response, how laborious it was. But her response was instant or it was right away.
I can give myself as an example again. When I was young, we had a flock of goats and cows. At that time, my father instructed me and others to bring these cattle to the mountain to graze. I was in charge of the cows. After feeding the flock, we needed to bring them down to let them drink water. At that time, I was lazy and a liar, too. When my father asked, “Did you give the cows a drink?” I would answer, “Yes.” Then on the following day, because I was going to school, my father would get them from the mountain. And do you know what happened one day? A cow died! It died because I never gave it water. I know in my heart, I had told a lie because it was a very difficult thing to do. Imagine how tiring it was to do such work. You can give cows about 2 gallons of water. It is enough for them as long as you give them a drink. But to carry or bring the flock down is too difficult. So, one day, when my father went to get the flock, one of the cows had died already.
So, I can see that it is not an easy job to draw water for the camels. Notice that she herself took the initiative to do that. Even if it was very laborious, she did it willingly, without words of complaint. And if Rebekah ran back and forth, that means the camels were not really near to the well. Yet Rebekah endured the labor. Also, take note that one camel will drink about 100 liters of water. And imagine, she was going to draw water for 10 camels! It must be very difficult to do. It would cost all our strength to do such work. For me, I could not. One cow died because I did not want to do such labor. But for her, she drew voluntarily. Thus, we can see that Rebekah had the willingness and endurance for hard work and that she never complained for her hard labor. She was an extraordinary woman!
In v16 she was also described as young and beautiful. But it does not mean that this qualifies her to become a wife for Isaac. The thing that qualifies her to become a wife for Isaac is her inner qualities and beauty – her hospitality, her prompt response to the need, her willingness to labor – in short, being extraordinary. Those are the things that qualify her. It is not the outward beauty; it is the inner beauty which is more important.
After she had heard the servant’s story, Rebekah herself willingly wanted to go right away. In v58 she said, “I will go.” Here we can learn also from Rebekah’s life that she had an open heart, because after she heard the story from the servant how God blessed him in his journey, Rebekah submitted herself right away to him. She herself wanted to go right away. “I will go.”
For us, we might also say, “I will go”, but only if this man is American. We like to marry Western people. That is why pen pals, phone pals or internet friendships are popular nowadays. But in Rebekah’s time, they did not have such things for communication. Rebekah did not know the man that she was going to marry, and yet, she was willing to submit and obey that calling. For us, is it our response to go right away when God calls us? We read in this passage, as it says in v55, that the family wanted her to stay at least 10 days. Maybe they would like to have a party before she left. But for Rebekah, she was not to be hindered. She understood from her heart this calling and her response was to go right away and to be willing to submit. This is very true with regard to us. And this message speaks to me, because the things that hinder us to serve God is our family, because we love our family too much. We keep looking back at what is behind and what we can give to them, rather than to serve the Lord and move forward and say, “I will go.”
I hope that we all learn from Rebekah’s life, that when God calls us, we may be able to say, “I will, God!” and submit ourselves to Him.
(c) 2012 Christian Disciples Church