Something about the stories of Sarah and Rebekah has bothered me for a while. Admittedly, I'm not a Bible scholar and sometimes I goof. The stories of these lovely women is one such occurrence of my faulty memory. You see, I thought Rebekah had been abducted in the same way Sarah had been. But that isn't what really happened. Sarah was stolen twice, and Rebekah had only been taken from her family once, of her own choosing.
Being a big fan of types and shadows, I promised the Holy Spirit to spend a little time digging into the accounts of the wives who were great aunt and great niece to each other, respectively. Since they were both so beautiful, there must be some really good genes in that family. I mean, God did choose them to have descendants greater than the stars and dust of the earth, right?
I've compared and contrasted Sarah and Rebekah below.
Terah is Sarai's father, but her mother is not the same as that of her husband, Abram. Presumably, Sarai's mother is also from Ur, the land of the Chaldeans since Abram married her before they left that area for the land of Haran. Haran is also the name of Abram's brother, who died before the family departed Ur and settled in the land of Haran. Did they arrive there and decide to name the area after their deceased relative? Interesting.
Rebekah's father is Bethuel, the Aramean, who lived in Padan-Aram. This may be the same place, or very close to, Haran given Abraham makes Eliezar travel to the land of his family to find a wife for Isaac, and Rebekah is part of that family. In fact, she and Isaac are first cousins, once removed.
Both Sarah and Rebekah were considered beautiful enough by their husbands that the men feared for their lives. The husbands went to great lengths to disguise the identity of their wives, telling the world around that the ladies were actually their sisters. While that's technically true in Abraham's case, it's not at all true in Isaac's case. Beautiful, irresistible, coveted wives. Hm. Sounds familiar.
One would think that Abraham, having a beautiful wife abducted twice because he lied about her identity, would have cautioned Isaac against following in that family tradition.
She was taken from Abram by Pharaoh who made her a wife, though she was barren at the time. Pharoah was sent many great plagues by God as a consequence of stealing Abram's wife. Upon learning the truth of her identity, Pharaoh blamed Abram and restored Sarah to her husband, paying restitution of sheep, oxen, asses, camels, and servants.
However, when she was taken by Abimelech, her womb had been opened. Maybe that's why God told him that he and his entire family would be destroyed if he laid a hand on Sarah. God carefully preserves the purity of his bloodlines. Abimelech also blamed Abraham for concealing her identity, and paid restitution of sheep, oxen, and slaves. He also gave 1,000 pieces of silver, which is a symbol of redemption.
She was taken from her family to be Isaac's wife, but she went of her own volition. Her father, Bethuel, and her brother, Laban, tried to get her to remain with them for a little longer, but Eliezar refused and the decision for departure rested entirely on Rebekah's shoulders. Eliezar is a name that is often associated with the Holy Spirit or servant of God. He lifted her up onto a camel (also representative of the Holy Spirit) and brought her to her husband, who was waiting in a field. Rebekah's brother and mother were given costly ornaments. Rebekah was also given silver and gold jewelry, as well as "raiment". I'd bet you this was beautiful, white, and spotless.
Abimelech was told that Rebekah was Isaac's sister, but caught some public display of affection between the pair. I don't know if he's the same Abimelech who abducted Sarah, but he certainly took a moment to question whether Rebekah was really Isaac's sister, and called Isaac out on the deception. He was probably thinking, "What is the deal with these descendants of Terah and their predilection for lying about the identity of their wives? It's all fun and games until someone gets killed over it! Sheesh."
She was barren until God decided to open her womb well past her time of menstruation. God told Abram that he would have a huge number of descendants, but Abram never asked God to do that; he only asked how it would be possible, given the ages of he and Sarah. She laughed when she heard she was promised to be a mother. Actually, so did Abram.
She was also barren for a time. However, the answered prayer of her husband is what made her fruitful. There's no mention of God making a promise to her so we don't know how she reacted to the news.
Both ladies became pregnant through husbands who had already been circumcised and whom already had covenanted with God.
She is the mother of Isaac, whose name means 'laughter.' She also had the opportunity to become the mother of Ishmael, carried by her Egyptian servant, Hagar. But Sarah ultimately rejected Hagar and Ishmael - twice. The first time, Sarah treated Hagar harshly when she felt the contempt shown by Hagar upon conceiving a child through Abraham. Then, Hagar and Ishmael were sent away by Sarah so that Isaac and Ishmael would not be raised as brother's and potentially co-heirs. Sarah blamed Abraham, though she was the one who was not patient with God's plan for making Abraham a father and attempted to rush the plan in place.
Isaac became a foreshadowing of Jesus in that he was taken all the way to the moment of being sacrificed by his father. I can't imagine what Abraham was feeling at that moment, or how Isaac was feeling as he watched his father raise a knife above him to kill him. That's a major demonstration of faith. I don't know how Sarah was feeling about that, either. Out of Sarah came Isaac. Out of Mary came Jesus.
Rebekah was doubly blessed with twins, who were named Esau and Jacob. Only half of the twin set was blessed and chosen to become the father of the nation of Israel. Both boys were called, but only one was chosen. Maybe that sounds familiar to you, too.
These twins were struggling with each other from the start, and Rebekah was told by God that they were two nations, divided. She favored Jacob, the younger twin, but Isaac favored Esau for his hunting prowess. Though Esau was born in the same line as his brother, he was not of the same character. He turned his back on his family legacy and submitted to carnal desires that included marrying women from Caanan, trading his birthright for a bowl of soup, and deciding to murder his twin brother just as soon as their father died. I doubt God was pleased with any of these decisions. Nevertheless, God did bless Esau with descendants and power, to say the least.
Rebekah, like Sarah, interfered in the plans God had by urging Jacob to trick Isaac into giving him the blessing. Jacob also tried to interfere by tricking his brother into giving up his birthright. We're probably all guilty of the same, trying to force our plans and desires, instead of waiting patiently to see what God will do. I know I've done it.
Having the distinction of being the only woman to have the age of her death specified (127, or 120 + 7), Sarah was buried in a cave purchased by Abraham for 400 shekels. It's a fortune, but certainly an interesting number, considering the descendants of Abraham would spend 400 years being oppressed in Egypt and David had the support of 400 men when Saul was after him. It's an interesting connection to see a number repeated in scripture, isn't it?
Also important to note is that Rebekah, his bride, was a comfort to Isaac (shadow of Jesus) after the loss of Sarah.
Her death isn't mentioned, except in conjunction with the death and burial of Isaac. In fact, more is said about the death of Deborah, Rebekah's nurse, than of Rebekah's death. Isn't that interesting, considering how significant Rebekah is, and how much is said about her betrothal and delivery to her bridegroom?
Rebekah never got to see her mother in law in all her glory, but Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob wound up in the cave at Machpelah, with their wives.
Do you see where I'm going with this?
Maybe all we can take from this is encouragement that comes from the similarities and differences between Sarah and Rebekah. There are some small, but significant, clues that emerge after some comparison.
Don't forget that the name Isaac means "laughter." In other word's, the marriage is Laughter of Rebecca. Isn't that lovely?