Rebecca means ‘tether’ in Hebrew. Rebecca was the wife of Isaac, who was the son of Abraham and Sarah. In this way she became one of the Four Mothers of the Jewish people.
As Isaac approached marriageable age, Abraham sent his servant Eliezer out to find his son a bride. Abraham specified that his son’s future wife must be from his own kindred: “you will not choose a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites among whom I have settled. Go to the land of my birth, and take a wife for Isaac.” (Genesis 24:2-4).
All the initial women in the Book of Genesis came from Haran. In insisting that Isaac have a wife from there, Abraham ensured that the qualities of strength and forthrightness that his wife Sarah had embodied would continue for future generations.
Eliezer asked God to guide him towards the right woman for Isaac and God led him to Rebecca. Eliezer found Rebecca at a well watering her camels. Upon seeing him she immediately offered him some of her water for himself and his camels and invited him to her family home. He soon learned that she was Abraham’s niece, and thus understood that God had brought him to a suitable wife for Isaac.
It is said that Rebecca was destined to be the continuity of the shechinah, (the Divine Feminine). The Divine Feminine had been extinguished with the death of Sarah, the matriarch. When Rebecca came to meet her future husband, she went into the tent of his deceased mother, Sarah. Upon her entry she rekindled the spirit of Sarah, thus ensuring the second generation of the line of Abraham.
Rebecca also established the Jewish tradition that no woman is forced to marry a man without her consent. Rebecca gave up her family and all that she knew to go to a strange land in order to marry Isaac. She unquestioningly took up her role of maintaining the future of monotheism. Thus she became an example for all future generations of Jewish women. Rebecca’s partnership with Isaac was the only example of monogamy in the Book of Genesis.
Rebecca continued the line of Jewish people by giving birth to twins, Jacob and Esau. It is said that her pregnancy was a terrible one, as she felt the pulls of an internal conflict between her two sons. God came to her in a dream, explaining, “There are two nations in your womb … the elder will serve the younger.” (Genesis 25:23) Rebecca thereby understood that her youngest was to be the favorite, chosen son.
Rebecca chose between her two sons, and therefore determined the destiny of the Jewish people. She engaged in lies and trickery and defied her husband’s will to ensure that Jacob became the leader of the twelve tribes of Israel. Her firm belief in God and Israel enabled Jacob’s leadership.
Rebecca ordered Jacob back to Haran to find his own wife. Canaanite women were more submissive, and Rebecca preferred a strong and assertive woman to be the one to continue her line. Rebecca is a figure of strength and independence from whom all can learn.