Today I was going through my morning devotional reading (I'm working through Genesis) when I came across the story of Jacob and Esau's birth.
And Isaac prayed to the LORD for his wife, because she was barren. And the LORD granted his prayer, and Rebekah his wife conceived. The children struggled together within her, and she said, “If it is thus, why is this happening to me?” So she went to inquire of the LORD. And the LORD said to her,
“Two nations are in your womb,
and two peoples from within you shall be divided;
the one shall be stronger than the other,
the older shall serve the younger.”
(Genesis 25:21-23 ESV)
Now, I've read this story many, many times over the course of my life. I could probably retell it pretty much perfectly from memory (not word for word, but meaning for meaning). However something struck me today that I'd never noticed before.
So she went to inquire of the LORD.
Rebekah, not Isaac! A woman went to inquire of the LORD! It doesn't say that she prayed, or that she wondered, it said that she directly went to the Lord to make an inquiry of him. It doesn't tell us exactly how she did this, but it makes it clear that there was an action with a solid purpose here.
This is kind of unusual for the women of the old Testament. God spoke to women, but usually he appeared to them, they didn't go to him. Rebekah seems like a pretty unusual and bold woman, doesn't she? (Of course, we already know that from her bold and generous offer to water ALL of the camels of Abraham's servant, which is how she ended up as Isaac's wife in the first place!)
Then something more amazing happens... God answers her! He gives her a clearly worded answer that is also a prophecy. Probably not what Rebekah was expecting! After all, she was just going to God and saying "You gave me a child, why on earth is it kicking up such a fuss? It kinda hurts! A lot!"
Christianity and Judaism get a lot of flack sometimes for being anti-woman. And yet the Bible is full of stories like this - of God using women for his plans. Here he speaks to Rebekah - and notably, does not speak to Isaac (or if he did, his words are never recorded).
Anyhow, this story really struck me and I thought it seemed really cool. Rebekah is sometimes seen in a negative light because she manipulates her husband in the matter of their sons' birthright, but she definitely had her virtues as well. God knew what he was doing when he made her one of the mothers of Israel! (And in this case, the actual 'mother' of 'Israel' since that is the name God later gave Jacob!)