Rebekah: What Happens When a Mother Loves Research Paper

Pages: 15 (5361 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 12  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: Master's  ·  Topic: Mythology - Religion

Rebekah: What Happens When a Mother Loves Unevenly?

In many ways, the Bible can be viewed as a misogynistic book, which portrays women as victims or pawns subject to male pressure and control. In many ways, this portrayal is historically accurate, as women during Biblical times were legally property with very little ability to make their own decisions. However, it would be a mistake to suggest that the lack of legal authority rendered these women completely powerless. On the contrary, they exercised power in a number of different ways, but not always in ways that were overt. Instead, they exercised a subtle power. Examining the women in the Bible, one can see the role that women played, not only in the Bible, but in the historical society in which the Bible was written. "The women in these stories are like the caryatids of Greek architecture. They hold up the structure, they steady the ground, without them there is nothing but broken stones."

This is apparent when one looks at what the women are doing in the stories; they are going about daily activities, but those daily activities are the very things that enabled life during that time period.

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Moreover, Rebekah is remarkable among the women in the Bible in that she spends time to develop her own personal relationship with God in a way that her predecessor women did not. Prior to Rebekah, it was men in the Bible who sought out God's advice, daring to directly ask him questions. However, Rebekah broke that mold. She was the first woman to seek God out and ask him questions. This behavior would not be seen again until Mary's conversations with God in the New Testament. Rebekah was also a morally questionable woman, which made her different from many of the Biblical stereotypes of women.

TOPIC: Research Paper on Rebekah: What Happens When a Mother Loves Assignment

The Bible is replete with stereotypical women who were confined to the role of whore or saint, but Rebekah was neither. Rebekah married her husband Isaac, and it appears that they were in love. However, it would be erroneous to assume that her seemingly happy marriage ensured Rebekah's happiness. Instead, she experienced an event that many people associate with unhappiness; infertility. Moreover, at that time infertility was considered more than misfortune; it was considered a sign of God's disfavor.

In addition, while she did eventually become pregnant, her pregnancy was portrayed differently than other pregnancies in the Bible. In fact, Rebekah's pregnancy is the only one that is significantly detailed in the Bible, and it was full of strife. Already, the two brothers appeared to be fighting.

So she 'went to enquire of the Lord'. Rebecca was the first woman we hear of who sought God out and asked him for some explanation of her condition. This shows her initiative and self-confidence. The method she used to speak with God is not explained, but a common practice in the ancient world was to consult a prophet or oracle. Rebecca may have followed this practice or, as in Numbers 12:6, the message may have come to her in a dream.

God told her that 'Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples born of you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the elder shall serve the younger.'

Women During Rebekah's Time

It is absolutely impossible to understand Rebekah's actions from a modern context, because the role of women has changed so dramatically in the interim period. Moreover, many people look at Rebekah's actions from the perspective of more familiar Biblical women, who may have lived in more restrictive times. In fact, Rebekah lived in a time period that was relatively permissive, where women not only had a greater degree of freedom and power than in other times, but were also expected to exercise this power. In fact, it would be accurate to describe women as holding a position of prestige during that time period. The early Biblical stories portrayed women as acting far more independently than later books in the Old Testament. They acted in leadership roles, though the leadership was not always beneficial. They were not afraid to take initiative, though there might be consequences for taking initiative. Moreover, when these early matriarchs acted, they were very effective at attaining those goals they had set for themselves. Rebekah is a clear example of a biblical matriarch who set goals, took the steps to attain those goals, and managed to reach her goals. Furthermore, her goals were not limited to her own desires; while she did further the aim of her favorite child, her actions also ensured the enduring success of her clan.

Given how secondary women seemed in some of the later Old Testament narratives, one may wonder why they were so important in the early stories:

This was probably because women were necessary for the survival of the tribe, and they knew it. They did a wide range of tasks, without which the clan or family simply could not have managed. They moved freely in society, and were not confined within the home. The Bible stories show that they spoke and acted confidently.

Therefore, while it may be surprising that women in Old Testament times appear to have had much greater power than women in later times, understanding the role that they played during this time period easily sheds light on the situation. This may have had to do with the fact that they were necessary for survival, but it would an error to reduce their contributions to that of brood mare. On the contrary, "Their contribution to the culture of the time was significant. The stories as we have them in the Bible were edited much later by male priests, but there are hints that women had a thriving cultural tradition of their own."

While this cultural tradition may not have been translated by male priests to the official religious tradition, this family-centered cultural tradition was still critically important. The family tradition related to traditionally feminine areas, and the early stories in Genesis reflect the influence of women during that time.

It is important to examine extra-Biblical sources when Examining the historical aspects of women's behavior during that time. This is because describing the Bible itself as misogynistic is sometimes a generous description. Throughout the Bible, the text uses belittling language and downplays the importance of women, making them appear inferior to men.

One interesting source of information is the laws of Hammurabi, the lawmaker and king of Babylonia. In his code, one could find laws to protect women's rights in marriage, regulate the behavior of temple women, ensure the just treatment of female slaves, protect women against rape, and establish conditions for divorce.

Rebekah's Appearance in the Bible

When she is first introduced in the Bible, Rebekah's role as secondary to a man is made clear. The Biblical patriarch Abraham was looking for a wife for his son Isaac. Abraham sent his servant Eliezer to Nahor to find a non-Canaanite wife for Isaac. This necessarily predicated a journey by Rebekah, and journey was a huge part of the Biblical stories of people during that time; there was constant movement from Mesopotamia into Egypt.

Eliezer spotted Rebekah among a group of girls at the well. He noticed her beauty, and that seems to have been her only real qualification as a wife. He asked her for a drink. As have other women in the well-scenario, when Eliezer asked her for a drink, Rebekah then offered to share her pitcher. She also offered to water his camels.

This was enough to make Eliezer believe that Rebekah was a good match for Isaac and asked Rebekah's father, Bethuel, if Rebekah could marry Isaac. In many ways, the fact that Rebekah could not make her own decision whether or not to marry Isaac, highlight her role as a chattel-like dependent during that time period. He determined that she was an appropriate match for Isaac and asked her father, Bethuel, to give Rebekah to Isaac as a wife. Bethuel agreed and sent Rebekah to Canaan to marry Isaac.

Another interesting factor is that Rebekah's meeting Eliezer at the well is similar to two other betrothals in the Bible, which has a recurring well-betrothal theme. "All three encounters lead to the betrothal of the girl and the groom. The two meet by the well; the prospective bride draws water from the well, and then hurries to tell her family about the stranger. This leads to the stranger's being invited to a meal by the girl's family, and then to a betrothal agreement."

Of course, in this scenario, Rebekah does not meet Isaac at the well, but Eliezer, who is acting as Isaac's agent for finding a bride.

Rebekah's Conception Story

One of the interesting features in the Old Testament is that so many of the Biblical matriarchs suffered from infertility, which oftentimes made their conception stories notable. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that Rebekah's conception story follows the pattern of the miraculous… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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