Isaac when he was forty years old. (Genesis 25:20) She was Abraham’s niece
and Isaac’s cousin. They were married twenty years before she became pregnant.
(Genesis 25:26) Isaac prayed to the Lord to heal her barren condition and
the Lord answered his prayer. (Genesis 25:21)
Rebekah was uncomfortable with an unusual amount and intensity of movement within her womb during her pregnancy. She asked God, “Why is this happening to me?” (Genesis 25:22)
The LORD said to her,Isaac loved Esau his firstborn, favoring him, while Rebekah loved Jacob. The twins were opposites in appearance, temperaments, and preferences. Esau’s personality seemed more like Rebekah’s, while Jacob’s seemed more like Isaac’s.
Isaac grew old while his sons grew to manhood. He would have been over 100 years old when he called for Esau to come to him. He believed the time of his death was near. He declared his intention to give Esau the blessing, sealing his rights as the firstborn. But first, he wanted him to bring back some fresh game so they could once more share a favorite meal. (Genesis 27:1-4)
Rebekah was listening to their conversation. Dismayed she quickly made a plan. She wanted Jacob to have the status of firstborn. After all, God had promised it to him. She decided to deceive Isaac into giving his blessing to Jacob by making him think Jacob was Esau. With his diminished senses, Isaac believed the deception (Genesis 27:5-29) and blessed Jacob, giving him all the rights of the firstborn.
Isaac and Esau were understandably and violently upset. Esau was so angry that he threatened to kill Jacob as soon as their father died.
Isaac, being a mild mannered man, didn’t hold a grudge against his younger son for the deception. What was done was done. When Rebekah requested that Jacob be sent to choose a bride from her family, Isaac agreed. Neither of them was pleased with Esau’s choice to marry two local girls who worshipped other gods and had habits that were distressing to them. (Genesis 26:34-35) Isaac sent Jacob away with another blessing. Rebekah expected Esau’s anger to cool and then she could send word to Jacob to return. But she never saw him again. (Genesis 27:41-28:1-5)
Apparently the thought never entered Rebekah’s mind that she could once more “enquire of the LORD” or speak honestly to her husband about God’s express will in the matter of who should receive the birthright. She relied on her wits instead of trusting God to keep his promise. Her deception cost her more than she thought possible. She caused her oldest son to hate her youngest. She sent her beloved Jacob away from home, never to see him again. The trust between her and her husband and between her and Esau was badly damaged.
Jacob did gain the birthright and the inheritance, and his father’s prophetic blessing. But because he achieved it by deception, he was never able to enjoy it with his family. He learned his lesson eventually, but the hard way.
Rebekah and Jacob thought the end justified the means. They lied and they stole. They dishonored both God and Isaac, father and husband. They coveted which is idolatry. (Colossians 3:5-6) They broke at least five of the Ten Commandments. (Exodus 20:1-17; Deuteronomy 5:1-22)Yes, this was before the covenant made at Mount Sinai between God and the nation of Israel. But that does not mean these laws were non-existent. God’s moral laws describe the reality of relationship, of what works, between humans and between God and humans. We ignore them at our peril just as ignoring the laws of physics endanger us. The law of gravity existed before anyone named it. Jump off a ten-story building and you are not likely to survive.
Bridges and buildings will fail if engineers don’t use the basic math laws to create the blueprints that ensure structural integrity. Relationships fail if we refuse to live by the laws God gave to show us right from wrong which ensures relationship integrity.
Even when we are unfaithful in trusting and obeying God (as Rebekah was in this situation), his will and purpose will be achieved. (Philippians 1:3-6) Our lack of faith and obedience will cause unnecessary suffering, but God is faithful even when we are not. His mercy is everlasting. (II Timothy 2:11-13; Psalm 119:89-96; Hebrews 11:11)
For the Scripture References and related Bible Study Guide, go to Bible Study Guide: What Good is the Birthright to Me?
[For the Commentary and another Bible Study Guide about Rebekah, see Volume 5 Issue 7: A Wife For My Son ]