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Lesson 3: Isaac and Rebekah: Rearing Rivals *

Introduction: How do you find a spouse? How do you know when it is the right person? Once you are married, what basic rules should you follow? The story of finding a spouse for Isaac recounts another time and another culture. But, there are important lessons we can learn for today. Let's jump right into our lesson and see what we can learn!

  1. Finding a Wife

    1. Read Genesis 24:1-4. Isaac should be about 45 years old right now. Would you guess that he had noticed potential wives among the Canaanites?

      1. Why did Abraham reject them? (They were not followers of God.)

      2. What does it say about Abraham, Isaac and Eliezer, that Abraham consults with Eliezer about finding Isaac a wife, and Isaac goes along with this? (Eliezer has been running Abraham's household for decades. He is apparently a very competent, intelligent and wise man who follows God. Isaac has a history of trusting his father's judgment. (See Genesis 22, where Isaac has been willing to be sacrificed by his father.))

        1. What lessons do we learn from this about marriage for today? (Two things. First, it is important to seek to marry someone with a compatible religious background. Second, when seeking a mate, you should pay close attention to the views of those who are mature and wise followers of God. Taking counsel is critical.)

    2. Read Genesis 24:10-14. On what does Eliezer depend to obtain the right wife? (He did the reasonable things - like bringing gifts. But, primarily he prayed that God would lead him to the right woman.)

      1. What lesson do we learn for today about how to find the right spouse? (Gifts and the normal aspects of courting are important. But, the most important thing is to seek God's guidance in finding the right spouse. I have been praying for many years that God would lead my children to the right spouse. This week, my son Blake (who is my partner in putting this lesson on the Internet), is getting married to a girl who is clearly the answer to my prayers. Are you praying for God's guidance for the marriage of your children?)

      2. What do you think about the "test" that Eliezer sets up to determine God's leading in this? (Eliezer is looking for someone who is gracious, considerate and hard-working. Seems like an intelligent approach.)

    3. Read Genesis 24:15-19. What do you think about God's response to the prayer of Eliezer? (God answers immediately! Not only that, He provides a woman who not only fits the requirements of Eliezer's test, but she is also very beautiful!)

    4. Eliezer explains to the father and brother of Rebekah his mission, the "family stock," the wealth of Abraham and Isaac, and the Lord's guidance in selecting Rebekah. Read Genesis 24:50-51. What does the reaction of the father and brother tell you about them? (That they were also followers of God and believed in His divine leading in the affairs of His followers. There is some debate about whether this is Bethuel the father of Rebekah, or whether the father has died and this is a son who bears his name. In any event, the appropriate "authorities" in the family give their consent.)

      1. Read Genesis 24:55-58. What is Rebekah's view of this arranged marriage? (She seems to agree because she is willing to go right away.)

        1. Is Rebekah loved by her family? (It seems yes - for they want a few days to say goodbye.)

        2. Why would you guess Rebekah is so willing to go right away? (I think she is excited about this new life and this new adventure and she is ready to go! Perhaps hanging around for additional time would only prolong the sadness of leaving.)

    5. Read Genesis 24:59-60. They prayed for a blessing for Rebekah. Do you see any significance in this prayer? (It suggests that Eliezer explained the promise of God to make Abraham a "great nation.")

  2. The Marriage

    1. Read Genesis 24:61. Was Rebekah poor? (Her family had money because she has more than one maid.)

    2. Read Genesis 24:62-63. I think there is a lot of meaning in these two verses. Is Isaac living at home? (He is not living with his father. This suggests that he is setting up his own place to get ready for his new wife.)

      1. Why does Isaac return to his father's place? (My bet is that he has carefully calculated the time, distance and camel speed, and figures his new wife may show up about now. So, he wants to be present for the big occasion.)

      2. Isaac went out to "meditate." I thought this might mean pray, but that does not seem to be the case. It means "pensively muse." What would you guess he is musing about? (The new wife, of course!)

        1. Is his musing rewarded? (Yes. I recall when my parents were alive and they would drive to visit us. A visit was pretty rare, so I would stand outside my home, or start walking down the sidewalk to see them coming. Isaac sees the camels in the distance and his hopes start to rise.)

    3. Read Genesis 24:64-65. There is an old song I like, "Some enchanted evening, you will see a stranger, you will see a stranger, across a crowded room. And somehow you'll know, you'll know even then, you'll see that stranger again and again." These two see each other across an uncrowded field. I love the mental picture.

      1. Why does Rebekah get down from her camel to ask Eliezer to confirm Isaac's identity? (Would it be refined to start shouting, "Eliezer, is that the guy?" Since she suspects this is Isaac, it would be impolite to remain seated on the camel when he is walking. Sort of the reverse of standing up when a woman arrives.)

        1. What good news does Rebekah get when seeing Isaac? (He is interested in her coming. He is not off on a hunting trip or a sheep-shearing adventure. He is waiting.)

      2. Why did she cover herself with her veil. Was this a custom for Hebrew women? (No, it was not. Consider Genesis 12:14 and Genesis 24:16. Different commentaries have different answers. One suggested a Hebrew woman would wear a veil at the time of her wedding, thus explaining how (later) the son of Isaac and Rebekah could marry the wrong woman and not know it. Another said a betrothed woman remained veiled until the marriage. Another said the veil was a token of "reverence and subjection" to her husband. I'm sure Isaac had gotten a look at her face when she was up on the camel - since his eyesight was probably better than Eliezer's and Eliezer recognized him. So, she lets Isaac see her beauty, then covers it up to await the wedding. I love this story.)

    4. Read Genesis 24:66-67. God guided the work of Eliezer in selecting a wife for Isaac - just as Eliezer requested. How did Eliezer's faithfulness in partnering with God work out? (Good work. Isaac loved Rebekah. Notice the reversal of the order of modern marriages: "so she became his wife and he loved her.")

      1. Do you understand how Isaac's marriage could comfort him with the loss of his mother? (My son and my daughter were born before my father died. That helped to cushion the loss. No doubt, Sarah's death helped trigger Abraham's decision to get moving on getting a son for Isaac. Abraham wanted to have this taken care of before he died.)

  3. Children

    1. Read Genesis 25:20-21. What kind of problem did Rebekah have that sounded a familiar family theme? (She also had no children - like Sarah.)

      1. How did Isaac handle this? Compare his actions with that of his father? (Isaac turned to God instead of turning to scheming.)

    2. Read Genesis 25:22-23. Where does Rebekah go to have her questions answered? (She goes to God!. This is a godly couple!)

      1. What does she learn that is contrary to the normal order of things? (The older will serve the younger.)

    1. Read Genesis 25:27-28. The story so far of the marriage of Isaac and Rebekah sounds perfect. What problem creeps into the marriage? (They have preferences among their children.)

      1. If you are reading this you once were a child. Unless you were an only child, what does favoritism do to a family? (My parents suffered from favoritism when they were growing up. They determined never to show any favoritism when they were parents.)

      2. The Bible gives food as a basis for Isaac's preference for Esau. Do you see any other reason? (Esau is the man of adventure. He is not hanging around the tents!)

    2. Read Genesis 25:29-34. What does this reveal about the characters of Esau and Jacob? (It doesn't say anything good about either of them.)

    3. Our story goes down hill from here. Genesis 27 describes how Rebekah and Jacob conspire to deceive Isaac in his old age and deprive Esau of the birthright. Why would Rebekah feel justified in this deceit? (Remember, prior to their birth, God's prediction in Genesis 25:23 that Esau would serve Jacob.)

      1. Because of this deceit, Jacob is forced to flee from his home. He never sees his father or mother alive again.

    4. Friend, how wonderful things were when Isaac and Rebekah depended upon God. When their lives turned to favoritism and then deceit, it tore the family apart. Will you determine to live in accord with God's rules?

  1. Next week: Jacob and Rachel: Labor of Love.

* Copr. 2007, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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