August 24, 2007

From the Editor Emeritus / John F. Fink

Biblical women: A mother with a favorite son

John F. Fink(Fourth in a series of columns)

“Mom likes you best.”

That’s a Tommy Smothers’ line, but Esau could have said it to Jacob.

In this case, “Mom” was Rebekah, Isaac’s wife. She had been born in Mesopotamia.

As Abraham was dying, he commanded his servant to return to Abraham’s original homeland in Mesopotamia to find a wife for Isaac because he didn’t want him to marry a Canaanite. Rebekah was the daughter of Bethuel and the sister of Laban.

The servant prayed to God to point out the right wife for Isaac. He prayed that when he asked a woman by a spring for some water, she would not only give him a drink but would also draw water for his camels. That would be a sign that she was to be Isaac’s wife. When Rebekah approached the spring, she did exactly that.

After the servant explained his mission, Rebekah took him to meet her family. The servant presented objects of gold and silver and clothing to Rebekah as well as to Laban and Rebekah’s mother. That seems to have been all it took to get Rebekah to agree to go with the servant and to become Isaac’s wife.

Isaac married Rebekah when he was 40. They had no children for 20 years, but then Rebekah became pregnant with twins: Esau, with reddish skin and a hairy body, and Jacob, with smooth skin. As they grew up, Isaac preferred Esau, but Rebekah liked Jacob more.

Eventually, Isaac grew elderly and blind. Thinking that he was about to die, he wanted to give a special blessing to Esau. He told Esau to hunt some game and to prepare an appetizing dish for him before he gave him his blessing.

Rebekah overheard this. She was a conniver and determined to get that blessing for Jacob. So she prepared an appetizing dish for Isaac. She dressed Jacob in Esau’s clothing and covered his hands and neck with skins from the kids they killed to make the dinner.

The ruse worked. Although Isaac was suspicious because the voice he heard sounded like Jacob, he felt the hairy hands and neck and smelled Esau’s clothing. He ate the meal that Jacob had brought and gave him his special blessing.

No sooner had Jacob left his father than Esau arrived. When they both understood what had happened, Isaac insisted that he had only one blessing to give and he had given it to Jacob. Now, he said, Esau would have to serve his brother Jacob.

Naturally, Esau was furious. He vowed to kill Jacob. Rebekah realized what Esau had in mind so she told Jacob to flee to her brother, Laban, in Mesopotamia. She explained to Isaac why Jacob was going to Laban by saying that she didn’t want him to marry a Canaanite woman. Esau had already married a Hittite woman named Judith and a Hivite woman named Basemath.

Rebekah paid for her deception. She would not live to see Jacob again. But Isaac did, living longer than expected. †

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