From the beginning, Isaac and Rebekah’s marriage was more than an arrangement to please an aging father. It seems that Rebekah filled the emptiness in Isaac’s heart. This was literally a “Marriage Made in Heaven.” It would not be farfetched to imagine that Isaac – never a man of action like his father Abraham – came to depend on Rebekah’s energetic directions. Sarah may have pampered Isaac, a role Rebekah may have taken on herself. This is logical because: (1) Sarah was so much older than her son; remember she was 90 years old when she gave birth to him which would make it very tempting to spoil him (like a great-grandmother raising her great-grandson); and (2) Isaac at 40 years of age was still grieving for his mother which had occurred three years before (Genesis 25:20).
Isaac could lean on Rebekah because, like Sarah, she seemed to thrive on any challenge set before her. Rebekah was a lot like her mother-in-law whom she never met. Both were strong, intelligent, kind, industrious and both extremely beautiful. In fact, Rebekah was extremely many things as we shall soon see. They both felt God “needed their help” in Sarah conceiving a child and Rebekah ensuring her family’s future (more on this in a future article). They were also both devoted to their husbands.
For 20 years, Isaac and Rebekah seemed to have shared their hopes and dreams. They would have had to pack up their belongings many times and move to other locations, continually in search of new wells for Isaac’s flocks (26:12-22). Even though Isaac probably should have stood up for himself in the quarreling (v. 20, 22) over ownership of the wells his father had dug, there is no mention of Rebekah complaining. She simply would have moved on to the next well alongside her husband.
Like her mother-in-law before her, Rebekah went along with her husband’s ungallant and sinful request to tell a foreign king that she was Isaac’s sister (Genesis 26:7-11) to spare Isaac’s life (much like his father, Abraham, had done twice years before). While Isaac was wrong to lie about Rebekah, we get a very positive glimpse of their marriage in 26:8 where it says, “Abimelech, king of the Philistines, looked down from a window and saw Isaac caressing his wife, Rebekah.” Isaac’s actions revealed to Abimelech this was no brother/sister relationship. This brief glimpse reveals Isaac and Rebekah as having an affectionate marriage.
Also like Sarah, Rebekah carried the burden of barrenness for those first 20 years. In this way, she likely felt inadequate, maybe even ashamed in that culture, but in every other aspect of her life, she knew herself to be a good wife. It was literally a marriage “made in heaven.” (We know from Gen. 24, that God put these two together). But a good marriage isn’t easy. Two sinners living together, even though they love each other, it’s still not easy! It takes work, love and patience. We need to give both Isaac and Rebekah credit for what appears to be a loving marriage, at least for the first 20 years!
What happened at the 20-year mark? God responded to Isaac’s request for a child after “only” 20 years (25:21)!2 He intervened on her behalf and Rebekah was with child. In answer to Rebekah’s prayer, God told her, “Two nations are in your womb [I’m sure it felt like it!], and two people from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older would serve the younger” (vv. 22-23). In fact, twins were born. Instant family! God’s plan for most couples is to have children. Why? Because there are things He is apt to teach us only through tying our love and affection to a child. As we love that child, God loves us. Children are God’s constant object lesson in our homes as they challenge our love.
In fact, the twins were jostling with each other even before they were born! (for those who believe in abortion, this argues for the personhood of unborn children!) So much so, Rebekah cried out to God, (25:22), “Why is this happening to me?” God answered her by giving her a prophecy (v. 23), which probably was more information than she wanted. She was told two nations were in her womb, and that the older would serve the younger, something quite contrary to the culture of the day. And Rebekah took this message as an authoritative, prophetic message from God, which would bring her into conflict with Isaac in chapter 27. We will look at that conflict in the next article.
What should have strengthened their marriage (birth of children) began to drive a wedge between them. Let’s be on guard for this very thing happening in our marriages even if they’re not “Made in Heaven.”