A Closer Look at Isaac and Rebekah

Isaac—A Character Sketch

He was successful and blessed. (Gen 26:12)

He was obedient to his father. At age 37 Abraham bound Isaac to the altar (in Heb. called the akeidah, Gen 22).

Isaac was obedient to marry Rebekah, his parents’ choice, unlike Esau who married a heathen girl.

He trusted and had faith in his parents even as he trusted his life with his father at the akeida.

He had deep and personal relationship with YHVH.

Here we learn that obedience to and faith in and love for parents leads to devotion to YHVH. Honoring one’s parents is the key to honoring YHVH and entering into relationship with him. That is why the fifth commandment to honor one’s parents is placed after the commands to love Elohim. In Genesis 24:63 and 25:21, (see The Stone Tanach rendering of this verse in addition, The ArtScroll Beresheis, p. 1048, which says Isaac prayed abundantly and urgingly, i.e., persistent prayer, a penetrating prayer or request), we see that Isaac had a deep and personal relationship with his Creator.

He had strong faith. Though childless and barren, Isaac and Rebekah kept their faith in the promises of YHVH alive (Gen 25:19–26). In verse 21 we see Isaac seeking YHVH for the answers to life’s dilemmas and tough problems (he had a vibrant and abiding relationship with his Heavenly Father). The same can be said of Rebekah (v. 22).

He was a peacemaker with his neighbors to his own hurt in that he didn’t assert his personal (even legal) rights.

Though opposed in the digging of wells, he refused to feud over his legal rights to these wells. He avoided strife and quarreling with his neighbors. After digging the third well, YHVH brought comfort to Isaac’s weary soul (Matthew Henry’s Commentary, p. 38).

He was charitable toward his unsaved neighbors. Though Abimelech and his people had wronged Isaac, he did not rebuke them for stealing the first two wells. Was this a sign of Isaac’s meekness or weakness? Some biblical scholars say no (e.g., Matthew Henry) and some say yes (e.g., Gleanings in Genesis by Arthur Pink, p. 233).

What are some comparisons between the three patriarchs?

Abraham was the man of the altar. He built altars as a form of worship to YHVH. The altar is mentioned more times in connection with Abraham than the other two patriarchs.

Isaac was the man of the well. Wells are mentioned seven times in connection with Isaac.

Jacob was the man of the tent. ­The tent is mentioned more times in connection with Jacob.

What are the spiritual implications of the altar, the well and the tent?

The Abrahamic Covenant is the covenant of salvation (by grace through faith, see Rom 4). The spiritual significance of the altar, well and the tent are expressed in the layout of the Tabernacle (or tent) of Moses in the wilderness, which is a picture of the steps one must take to receive YHVH’s free gift of salvation or redemption from sin’s death penalty. In one’s spiritual journey toward YHVH Elohim, one must come to the altar of sacrifice (a picture of the cross), and then to the bronze laver (a picture of baptism or immersion for the remission of sins, spiritual cleansing, the washing of the water by the word, and receipt of the Holy Spirit). Afterwards, one enters the tent or tabernacle to commence a deeper and more intimate relationship with YHVH. Do we not see this progression in the lives of the patriarchs? They went from the altar to the well, and then into the tent (later the Tabernacle of Moses wherein were the 12 loaves of bread representing the 12 tribes of Israel) from which sprang the 12 sons or tribes of Jacob the tent-dweller?

This shows us how we come into a spiritual relationship with our Father in heaven: We have to start with an encounter with Yeshua at the cross. From there, we must get spiritually cleansed by the washing of the water of Elohim’s Word and be filled with and led by the Set-Apart Spirit. From there, we enter into an intimate relationship with YHVH as we come into his home (the tabernacle is a picture the new heavens and the new earth with the holy of holies picturing the New Jerusalem).

Rebekah—A Character Sketch

She was modest with a servant’s heart, selflessness and kind. Genesis 24:11–21 recounts Eliezer’s encounter with Rebekah at the well. He was not interested in a wealthy girl for Isaac. He preferred someone of modest means—the kind who would go to draw water herself, and not have servants do it for her. Eliezer wanted to see how the girl would behave away from her home atmosphere, so that he would have a more accurate perspective of her character. At the well, the girl would be natural and act in accordance with her own character. At home, however her behavior might well reflect the constraints of her family’s orders or expectations. She passed the test, for she spoke only about bringing water for him, and then went on to draw water for his camels. It was second nature to Rebekah that another’s needs should be provided for. This act spoke volumes about her great kindness. That his camels had do be watered was so obvious to her that she saw no need to say she would do it. Unlike the other girls at the well who wasted their time in idle chatter and gossip, Rebekah did her task quickly and without delay. Rebekah acted in a most exalted manner: she lowered the jug herself to spare Eliezer the effort and then actually brought the jug near his mouth, so he would not even have to hold it. Furthermore, she drew all the water for the camels through sheer physical exertion, and this was the great proof of her kindness (kindness denotes an intention to do something which is not obligated). In their first drink, 10 camels would consume 140 gallons of water! That Rebekah would undertake such a strenuous task so eagerly for a total stranger is a supreme indication of her sterling character (The Stone Edition Chumash, pp. 111–113).

She was dignified and possessed savoir-faire. In Genesis 24:62–67 we read that Rebekah displayed personal modesty when she covered her face before meeting Isaac. She recognized intuitively that the stranger she had just encountered was a holy person. Finally, Isaac brought her to his mother’s tent, for it had become apparent that she was a fitting successor to Sarah. It was then that Isaac loved her, for he saw in her one who possessed a spirit that could create a godly home and infuse it with the spiritual qualities to turn it into a temple with her as its priestess. Isaac could love only a mate who could be his companion in creating YHVH’s chosen people. In Rebekah he found such a woman (Ibid., p. 119).

She was a praying woman. (Gen 25:21–22) She was able to hear the voice of YHVH and believe his word.

She was a discerner of character. (Gen 27:1ff) To guard the word of YHVH that had been given to her earlier that the older son would serve the younger and to insure that the birthright would go to Jacob, and to keep the birthright promises and blessings from going to Esau, a wicked and profane individual who had no interest in perpetuating the Abrahamic Covenant, Rebekah took to scheming. She knew that Esau was not worthy of such a divine mission and destiny.

Patriarchs were incomplete without matriarchs. The patriarchs did not function as individuals; their mission in life required the partnership of a wife worthy to be a matriarch to YHVH’s people. This is clear in the relationship of Abraham and Sarah. So, too, only after Isaac married Rebekah did Abraham give him everything he had, which included all his blessings. Only now, therefore, when Jacob was going to find his proper match, could Isaac confer upon him the blessing of Abraham” (Ibid., p. 143, comment on Gen 28:1–5).


3 thoughts on “A Closer Look at Isaac and Rebekah

  1. Hmm! Reading & thinking : I wonder how long in hrs it took Rebekah to draw 140 gallons of water for the 10 camels..quiet a task.

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