Category: Women of the Bible (N thru Z)


What is the meaning of the story of the woman with the issue of blood?

The story of the woman with the issue of blood can be found in Mark 5:24–34 and Luke 8:42–48. Though neither account is very long, Mark’s account provides a few more details than Luke’s.

The story of this woman takes place within a larger story. Jesus is on his way to a synagogue leader’s house to heal his dying daughter (see Mark 5:21–24) when an unnamed woman causes an interruption to His progress.

What we know about the woman is, first, she had a bleeding condition, and the issue had continued for twelve years. That’s a very long time. Second, she had spent all her money on treatments from many doctors, and nothing had helped; in fact, the blood issue had only grown worse (see Mark 5:25–26). We also know that Jewish Law declared her to be ceremonially unclean due to her bleeding issue (Leviticus 15:25-27). This meant that she would not have been permitted to enter the temple for Jewish religious ceremonies. According to the Law, anything or anyone she touched became unclean as well. The fact that she was in the crowd pressing around Jesus means that each person who bumped into her would have become unclean, too—including Jesus. But, after twelve years of suffering, she was obviously desperate for a miracle. “When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, ‘If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed’” (Mark 5:27–28).

As soon as the woman touches Jesus, her bleeding stops and she knows she’s been healed. In an instant, Jesus does what no doctor in twelve years had been able to. This proves the power of Christ, of course, but it also illustrates an important point about Jesus and the Law. In Leviticus 15:31 God says, “You must keep the Israelites separate from things that make them unclean, so they will not die in their uncleanness for defiling my dwelling place, which is among them.” In the Old Testament, the temple was where God dwelt among the Israelites, but in the New Testament, God dwelt among men in the person of Jesus Christ (see John 1:14). Through Jesus the penalties of the Law are reversed, and the contamination of this world had no effect on Christ. The woman did not make Jesus (God’s dwelling) unclean—He made her clean!

Jesus immediately responds to the woman who touched His clothing and was healed. People were pushing and pressing into Him from all over, yet He stops, turns, and asks, “Who touched my clothes?” (Mark 5:30). The disciples were incredulous, but Jesus knew that healing power had gone out of Him. We can’t “steal” a miracle from God. After the woman comes forward and explains herself, Jesus clears up any misconceptions about her healing, saying, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering” (Mark 5:34). God is moved to action by our faith, even when He’s in the middle of doing something else!

Jesus could have healed the woman and kept on walking to His original destination. Only He and the woman would have known what had taken place. But He didn’t do that. Jesus stopped what He was doing and acknowledged the result of this woman’s faith: her complete and instantaneous healing.

Advertisements

In the book of Joshua, we are introduced to one of the most thought-provoking and astonishing heroines of the Old Testament. Rahab, the prostitute of the Canaanite city of Jericho, ultimately is noteworthy for her great faith and for her place in the lineage of Jesus Christ. But a closer examination of the life of this remarkable Gentile woman can lead to deeper insights into God’s plan for His church and His dealing with individual believers in grace and mercy.

Rahab’s story is found in Joshua 2–6. This passage describes the conquest of the fortified city of Jericho by the Israelites. In its day, Jericho was the most important Canaanite fortress city in the Jordan Valley. It was a stronghold directly in the path of the advancing Israelites, who had just crossed the Jordan River (Joshua 3:1-17). Before entering the land west of the Jordan, Joshua sent two spies to look over the land. The king of Jericho heard that two Israelite spies were within his city and ordered them to be brought out to him. Rahab, the woman with whom the spies were staying, protected them by hiding them on her roof. She told them how the citizens of Jericho had been fearful of the Israelites ever since they defeated the Egyptians via the Red Sea miracle (some 40 years prior). She agreed to help them escape, provided that she and her family were spared in the upcoming battle. The spies agreed to her request, giving her three conditions to be met: 1) she must distinguish her house from the others by hanging a scarlet rope out of the window so the Israelites would know which home to spare; 2) her family must be inside the house during the battle; and 3) she must not later turn on the spies.

Safely escaping the city, the two spies returned to Joshua and reported that the “whole land was melting with fear.” The Israelites crossed the Jordan into Canaan where they laid siege to the city of Jericho. The city was completely destroyed, and every man, woman, and child in it was killed. Only Rahab and her family were spared. Ultimately, Rahab married Salmon, an Israelite from the tribe of Judah. Her son was Boaz, the husband of Ruth. Joseph, the legal father of Jesus, is her direct descendant.

Rahab was a young Canaanite prostitute and as such not a very likely candidate for a heroine of the faith. Jericho was one of the principal seats of idol worship, being especially devoted to Ashtaroth, the goddess of the moon. Here was centered all that was the vilest and most degrading in the religion of the Canaanites. Many Bible commentators, eager to remove the stigma of the designation “harlot” from one included in the genealogy of Christ (Matthew 1:5), have described Rahab as a hostess or tavern keeper. But scriptural usage of the Hebrew word zanah (Leviticus 21:7-14; Deuteronomy 23:18; Judges 11:1; 1 Kings 3:16) and the authority of the apostles (Hebrews 11:31; James 2:25), establish the credibility for use of the word “harlot.”

It is clear that Rahab was perceptive, intelligent and well informed. Rahab identified the spies for what they were, hid them, and had a plausible story ready with which to deceive the king’s agents. Rahab didn’t deny that she had entertained the men. She says that they left at dusk when it would be difficult for anyone to be sure of clearly seeing anything. The agents did not dare to risk stopping to search Rahab’s house because, if they did, the spies might get away. Finally, the Canaanite prostitute gives the two Israelites excellent advice. She tells them to hide in the hills for three days before attempting to cross the Jordan.

Spiritually, Rahab was not in an ideal circumstance to come to faith in the one true God, the God of Israel. She was a citizen of a wicked city that was under God’s condemnation. Rahab was part of a corrupt, depraved, pagan culture. She had not benefited from the godly leadership of Moses or Joshua. However, Rahab had one asset—she had heard from the many men she came into contact with that the Israelites were to be feared. She heard the stories of their escape from Egypt, the crossing of the Red Sea, the wanderings in the wilderness, and their recent victory over the Amorites. She learned enough to reach the correct, saving conclusion: “For the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below” (Joshua 2:11). It is this change of heart, this faith—coupled with the actions prompted by faith—that saved her and her family.

It is often said that Rahab, while being a true historical person, also serves as a symbolic foreshadowing or “type” of the church and Gentile believers. She was, in fact, the first recorded Gentile convert. There are many ways in which Rahab depicts the church. First, she was part of a pagan world system, a prostitute, who by her conversion was enabled to become a legitimate bride. In like fashion, Israel was the first chosen people of God, but they were set aside temporarily so the Gentiles could be brought into the kingdom of God, and the church is now considered the bride of Christ (Romans 11; Ephesians 5:25-27). Second, Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was saved because of her faith in “God in heaven above and on the earth below” (Hebrews 11:31). Likewise, Christians are saved through faith in Jesus Christ. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8).

Third, although Rahab and Christians are saved by an act of grace through faith, true faith requires and is exemplified by action (James 2). Rahab had to put the scarlet cord out of the window. Christians must accept Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord and then go on to live in a manner that verifies that our faith is real. Fourth, Rahab could have indicated the location of her home in any number of ways. But the only way that she could be spared was to follow the directions given to her by the Israelite spies. The world tells us that there are many ways to God and salvation, all equally valid. But the Bible tells us, concerning Jesus Christ, that “salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Fifth, Rahab’s faith enabled her to turn away from her culture, her people, and her religion and to the Lord. Commitment to a true faith in God may necessitate setting priorities that are contrary to those of the world, as we are exhorted to do in Romans 12:2.

Finally, once we come to Christ, our pasts no longer matter. The slate is wiped clean for all who believe and accept the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross on our behalf. Rahab was no longer viewed as an unclean prostitute, but as one worthy by grace to be part of the lineage of our Lord Jesus Christ. Just as she was grafted into the line of Christ, so we become children of God and partakers in His inheritance (Romans 11). We find in the life of Rahab the inspiring story of all sinners who have been saved by grace. In her story, we learn of the amazing grace of God that can save even the worst of sinners and bring them into an abundant life in Christ Jesus.

Zipporah in the Bible was the wife of Moses and the daughter of Jethro, the priest of Midian. When Moses fled from Egypt to the land of Midian, he met Jethro’s seven daughters, who were having some trouble getting enough water for their flocks (Exodus 2). In that area, the troughs for watering flocks were being monopolized by some shepherds who denied Jethro’s daughters access to the troughs. Moses assisted the women by driving the shepherds away so their flocks could be watered. Zipporah was among the sisters helped by Moses.

Zipporah and her sisters brought Moses back to their tent to meet their father, the priest of Midian, who liked Moses. Moses was content to stay there in Midian (Exodus 2:21). Moses later married Zipporah and began a new life. Zipporah gave birth to a son. Moses named him Gershom, a name that sounds like the Hebrew word meaning “a foreigner there.” Gershom’s name was a reminder that Moses was a foreigner and living among foreigners. Later, Zipporah had another son named Eliezer (Exodus 18:4).

Later in the book of Exodus, there is a strange passage involving Zipporah. Moses and his wife are traveling to Egypt because God had told Moses to bring the Israelites out of bondage (Exodus 3). On the way, Moses and Zipporah stop at an inn, and the Lord meets Moses there, seeking to kill him. Perceiving that Moses was in mortal danger, Zipporah takes a sharp stone and circumcises her son. She takes her son’s foreskin and, touching Moses’ feet with it, she utters the enigmatic statement, “Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me!” (Exodus 4:25). Her action worked. After Zipporah’s intervention, the Lord left Moses alone. The Bible does not explicitly explain why the Lord desired to kill Moses, but it was probably because Moses had not performed the rite of circumcision. Circumcision was an important symbol of the Abrahamic Covenant, and the lack of circumcision would mark a person as cut off from God’s people (Genesis 17:9–14). For Moses to neglect to circumcise his son was an affront to God, as if he were saying that he and his family did not truly belong to God. How could Moses be an effective leader of God’s people if he were in violation of God’s clear command?

Zipporah’s words to Moses are puzzling, but the text explains that “she said ‘bridegroom of blood,’ referring to circumcision” (Exodus 4:26). It seems that Zipporah was angry at having to perform the rite, which should have been completed by Moses. Sometime after this incident, Moses sent Zipporah and his two sons back to Midian to stay with Zipporah’s father (see Exodus 18:2–3).

Phoebe is mentioned only once in the Bible, in Romans 16:1–2, where Paul writes, “I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church in Cenchreae. I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of his people and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been the benefactor of many people, including me.”

Letters of introduction to strangers were common in Bible times. The mention of Phoebe in this way means that she was probably either the bearer of the letter or accompanied those who took it to Rome. The name Phoebe means “bright and radiant,” and from Paul’s comments about her it seems that those words characterized her personality and her Christian life.

Paul’s reference to Phoebe as “our sister” indicates that she was a member of the Christian church and his sister in Christ. Her designation as “deacon” (or “servant” in the ESV) could mean that she held an official position within the church as a deaconess or simply that she was someone who was known to serve the church faithfully (the Greek diakonos means “servant”). Whether or not Phoebe had the title “deaconess,” it is clear that she was a trusted member of the body of believers in Cenchreae, a seaport about eight or nine miles from Corinth.

Paul commends Phoebe to the Roman believers and asks that they receive her in a gracious and friendly manner into their homes and hearts with love and affection. She was to be welcome in their church fellowship. Asking for her to be received “in a way worthy of [God’s] people” means that the church should treat Phoebe with the special respect and Christian love that should characterize all believers’ interactions with one another. Even those believers we have never met before should be welcomed with love, for we share a bond in the Lord (John 13:35). Phoebe was to be aided in whatever business she would be conducting in Rome.

Paul adds that Phoebe was a helper of many. Phoebe may have shown great kindness in various ways to other Christians, perhaps receiving them into her house in the manner of Martha and Mary (Luke 10:38–40). Perhaps she ministered to the sick, helped the poor, and aided widows and orphans in the manner of Tabitha (Acts 9:36). Maybe she ministered to strangers and travelers in the manner of John’s “elect lady” (2 John 1). Paul himself was a beneficiary of Phoebe’s kind servant’s heart. Whatever Phoebe’s precise role in the church, the inclusion of her name in Romans 16 is a testimony to her character and ensures that she will never be forgotten.

In Ruth 1, we read that the husband of Naomi died in the land of Moab. Naomi’s two sons, the husbands of Ruth and Orpah, also died. Naomi then chose to return to Israel and encouraged her daughters-in-law to return to their families. In verse 8 she says, “Go back, each of you, to your mother’s home. May the Lord show you kindness, as you have shown kindness to your dead husbands and to me.”

Initially, both Ruth and Orpah refused, saying, “We will go back with you to your people” (Ruth 1:10). Naomi then argued that she could provide no more husbands for Ruth and Orpah. From Naomi’s perspective, Ruth and Orpah would remain widowed and childless unless they returned to the homes of their parents. After Naomi’s continued encouragement, Orpah agreed and returned to her family (Ruth 1:14).

Naomi then told Ruth, “Look . . . your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her” (Ruth 1:15). Ruth’s response revealed the difference between Orpah and herself. Ruth said, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me” (Ruth 1:16–17).

This response reveals an important detail about Ruth. In the first statement, in which Ruth and Orpah both said they would return to Israel with Naomi, they said they would return to “your people” (Ruth 1:10). But when Ruth answered this second time, she also added that Naomi’s God would be her God. She agreed to live with Naomi’s people and to follow the Lord.

Naomi and Ruth returned to the humblest of circumstances, yet God used this situation to work in a remarkable way. Ruth would not only join Naomi’s people; she would later marry one of Naomi’s relatives and give birth to a son named Obed—who became the grandfather of King David.

Ruth’s response is a powerful example of how we are to give allegiance to God even when we do not know what the future holds. When we surrender to Him, God sometimes works in unexpected ways to show His power and reveal His love.

We can learn a lot from the relationship of Ruth and Naomi. Ruth was the daughter-in-law of Naomi. When both of their husbands died, Naomi planned to return to Israel from Moab and encouraged Ruth to return to her mother’s family. Instead, Ruth answered, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me” (Ruth 1:16–17). These beautiful words of commitment, which are sometimes included in wedding vows, show the deep loyalty between Ruth and Naomi.

Ruth and Naomi were family. They had lived closely for some time due to Ruth’s marriage to Naomi’s son. There had already been a strong relationship prior to this decision by Ruth to return to Israel with her mother-in-law. Ruth 2:11 says that Ruth “left [her] father and mother and [her] homeland and came to live with a people [she] did not know before.” Ruth certainly cared deeply for Naomi and had a close relationship with her both before and after the deaths of their husbands.

Ruth made a vow or covenant to remain with Naomi, calling judgment upon herself if she ever left her (Ruth 1:17). Once this vow had been made, she would have felt an obligation to keep this commitment to Naomi.

Ruth apparently had made a commitment to follow Naomi’s God as well. In her vow, she told Naomi, “Your God, my God.” Naomi was convinced Ruth was serious, too. Ruth 1:18 notes, “When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her.”

This commitment to follow Naomi’s God is also seen in Naomi’s response prior to Ruth’s commitment. After further encouragement, Ruth’s sister, Orpah, returned to her family. Then Naomi said, “Look . . . your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her” (Ruth 1:15). Ruth contrasted Orpah’s commitment to the gods of her family with her own commitment to follow Naomi’s God.

Ruth’s loyalty certainly resulted in long-term good. In an unexpected way, God allowed Ruth to remarry and give birth to a son named Obed who became grandfather to King David. Despite Ruth’s status as a non-Israelite woman, God worked through her life to change many. Ruth serves as clear proof that God desires those from all backgrounds to follow Him and that He can work in our lives in important ways to influence the lives of many.

The story of Naomi appears in the Bible in the book of Ruth. Naomi lived during the time of the judges. She was the wife of a man named Elimelek, and they lived in Bethlehem with their two sons, Mahlon and Kilion. Naomi’s life illustrates the power of God to bring something good out of bitter circumstances.

When a famine hits Judea, Elimelek and Naomi and their two boys relocate to Moab (Ruth 1:1). There, Mahlon and Kilion marry two Moabite women, Orpah and Ruth. After about ten years, tragedy strikes. Elimelek dies, and both of Naomi’s sons also die, leaving Naomi, Ruth, and Orpah widows (Ruth 1:3–5). Naomi, hearing that the famine in Judea was over, decides to return home (Ruth 1:6). Orpah stays in Moab, but Ruth choses to move to the land of Israel with Naomi. The book of Ruth is the story of Naomi and Ruth returning to Bethlehem and how Ruth married a man named Boaz and bore a son, Obed, who became the grandfather of David and the ancestor of Jesus Christ.

The name Naomi means “sweet, pleasant,” which gives us an idea of Naomi’s basic character. We see her giving her blessing to Ruth and Orpah when she tells them to return to their mothers’ homes so that they might find new husbands: she kisses them and asks that the Lord deal kindly with them (Ruth 1:8–14). But her heartache in Moab was more than Naomi could bear. When she and Ruth arrive in Bethlehem, the women of the town greet Naomi by name, but she cries, “Don’t call me Naomi. . . . Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me” (Ruth 1:20–21). The name Mara means “bitter.” The cup of affliction is a bitter cup, but Naomi understood that the affliction came from the God who is sovereign in all things. Little did she know that from this bitter sorrow great blessings would come to her, her descendants, and the world through Jesus Christ.

Ruth meets a local landowner, Boaz, who is very kind to her. Naomi again recognizes the providence of God in providing a kinsman-redeemer for Ruth. Naomi declares that the Lord “has not stopped showing his kindness to the living and the dead” (Ruth 2:20) Seeing God’s hand in these events, Naomi encourages Ruth to go to Boaz as he slept in the threshing floor in order to request that he redeem her and her property. Naomi’s concern was for Ruth’s future, that Ruth would gain a husband and provider (Ruth 3).

Naomi’s bitterness is turned to joy. In the end, she gains a son-in-law who would provide for both her and Ruth. She also becomes a grandmother to Ruth’s son, Obed. Then the women of Bethlehem say to Naomi, “Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a guardian-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth” (Ruth 4:14–15). Naomi was no longer Mara. Her life again became sweet and pleasant, blessed by God.

The book of Ruth largely focuses on the relationship between Ruth and Boaz. Ruth was a Moabite woman had come to Israel as the widow of an Israelite man. She had returned with her mother-in-law, Naomi, who had also lost her husband. They lived together in a humble situation, and Ruth would go to the fields each day to glean food in the fields during the harvest.

Boaz was a landowner where Ruth came to find grain. He knew of her situation and told his workers to leave plenty of grain for her to find. Boaz also offered her food with the other workers and encouraged her to work in the safety of his fields throughout the harvest.

Naomi noted that Boaz was a close relative who, according to Jewish law, had the right to marry Ruth after the death of her husband. Naomi encouraged Ruth to go to Boaz in the evening and present herself willing to accept a marriage proposal from him. When she did, he was pleased, yet noted that there was one relative who was closer in line to marry Ruth.

The next day, Boaz met with this relative and presented the situation. The relative turned down the offer as he felt it would cause harm to his own family situation. Boaz then made a commitment in front of the town’s leaders that he would take Ruth as his wife.

Boaz and Ruth were married and soon had a son named Obed. Naomi’s misfortune had turned to joy as she became a grandmother. Obed would later become the grandfather of King David, who would also serve as an ancestor of Jesus Christ.

Ruth is one of four women specifically named in Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus. Matthew 1:5–6 says, “Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David.”

The story of Ruth and Boaz offers many wonderful insights for today. Among them is the principle that God often works through those who have endured tragic situations to change the lives of many others. Second, God will work through unlikely means. Ruth was a poor widow and a foreigner, yet God used her as part of the family line of both David and Jesus. Third, God’s sovereign power can be seen. He is in control of everything that happens, even when we do not understand the situation.

There are two women named Salome in the Bible, but only one is mentioned by that name. One Salome was righteous; the other unrighteous.

The righteous Salome was the wife of Zebedee (Matthew 27:56), the mother of the disciples James and John, and a female follower of Jesus. This Salome was the one who came to Jesus with the request that her sons sit in places of honor in the kingdom (Matthew 20:20–21). She was also one of the women “looking on from a distance” when Jesus was being crucified—with her were Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph and James (Mark 15:40). These same women were together on the third day after that, bringing spices to Jesus’ tomb to anoint Him. When they encountered the angel, who told them that Jesus was risen, they ran to tell the disciples the good news (Mark 16:1–8). Mark’s Gospel is the only one that mentions Salome by name.

The other, unrighteous Salome is not mentioned by name in the Bible, but we read about what she did in Mark 6. This Salome was part the Herod dynasty, and her family history was convoluted: Herod Antipas (the “King Herod” of Mark 6:14) had divorced his wife and married Herodias, who was the wife of his half-brother Philip (Mark 6:17). However, Herodias herself was the daughter of another of Herod’s half-brothers, Aristobulus, making her not only the wife but the niece of both Philip and Herod—and a sister-in-law of Herod. Salome was Herodias’s daughter through Philip. Thus, Salome was the daughter (and grandniece) of Philip and the step-daughter (and grandniece by marriage) of Herod; she was also both daughter and grandniece to her own mother. When Herodias came to live with Herod Antipas, Salome came with her. This royal family is significant in Bible history because it figures into the story of the death of John the Baptist. John the Baptist had publicly criticized King Herod for his divorce and remarriage to his niece/sister-in-law, and Herodias was enraged. Herod Antipas had John thrown into prison to placate his wife/niece/sister-in-law, Herodias.

John the Baptist’s fate was decided when Herodias’s daughter (Salome) danced for Herod at his birthday banquet. Pleased with the girl’s performance, Herod offered her a rash boon. Salome went to Herodias to ask her advice on what the gift should be, and Herodias told her to ask for the head of John the Baptist on a platter. Salome obediently asked Herod for this grisly gift, and, though the Bible says Herod was grieved, he honored his promise. John was beheaded in prison, and his head given to Herodias’s daughter who took it to her mother (Mark 6:21–28). Though Salome is not mentioned by name in the biblical record, the historian Josephus tells us her name.

Rebekah in the Bible was the wife of Isaac and mother of Jacob and Esau. We first meet Rebekah in Genesis 24:15, where she is identified as “the daughter of Bethuel son of Milkah, who was the wife of Abraham’s brother Nahor.” This would have made Rebekah a great-niece to Abraham and second cousin to Isaac.

Abraham had been looking for a wife for his son, Isaac, but he was unwilling for Isaac to marry a Canaanite—Abraham and his family were living in Canaan at the time. So Abraham sent his servant to his own kinsmen, to the city of Nahor, to find a wife for Isaac. The servant came to a well and prayed that God would give him success in this mission. Specifically, he prayed that whichever young woman provided water for him and his camels would be God’s choice to be Isaac’s wife. As the servant was praying, along came a beautiful young virgin named Rebekah, who not only gave the servant a drink but also watered his camels, providing the sign to Abraham’s servant that she was the appointed bride (Genesis 24:10–28).

Everything was settled peaceably between Abraham’s servant and Rebekah’s father—and her brother, Laban—and the servant took Rebekah back to Isaac. Isaac and Rebekah were married (Genesis 24:67), but for many years Rebekah could not have children. Isaac prayed for his wife; the Lord answered his prayer, and Rebekah became pregnant (Genesis 25:21). Rebekah became the mother of Jacob and Esau, the first twins mentioned in the Bible (Genesis 25:22–24). From these twins came two conflicted nations. God gave Rebekah a prophecy during her pregnancy. She had noticed that the twins were struggling against one another in her womb, and she asked the Lord why they were fighting. The Lord told her that two nations were in her womb and that those nations would be at odds with one another (Genesis 25:22–23). This prophecy came true. Jacob, whose name was later changed to Israel (Genesis 32:28), became the father of the twelve tribes of Israel. Esau became the father of the Edomites, who warred against Israel for ages and were finally wiped out (Obadiah 1:1—21).

Esau was born first, and he was Isaac’s favorite son (Genesis 25:28). The younger Jacob was Rebekah’s favorite. As the firstborn, Esau was due the birthright, but Rebekah helped Jacob deceive Isaac so that the blessing would fall to the younger son instead of to the elder (Genesis 27:1–40).

When Esau discovered Jacob and Rebekah’s deceit, he planned to kill Jacob. Rebekah devised a plan to help save her favorite son, but it again involved deceiving her husband, Isaac. Rebekah made up an excuse to send Jacob to her brother, Laban, to look for a wife for himself (Genesis 27:41–46). Deceit was apparently a family trait.

Rebekah’s marriage to Isaac was the result of God’s providence, her pregnancy was an answer to prayer, and the lives of her sons fulfilled prophecy. Rebekah’s choice to lie and deceive her husband is an example of how wrongdoing in human beings does not thwart the plans of God and how God can ultimately bring about His will, through His mercy and wisdom, despite our sin (see Genesis 50:20).