Searching for Rebekah

isra10278Ah, the Rebekah story. Abraham has his servant put his hand under his thigh and swear (it wasn’t his thigh that the servant was to take hold of — get it?). Rashi has an interesting note about that if you look it up.

The servant swears a solemn oath not to let Abraham’s son, Isaac, marry one of the local Canaanites. Instead, he is to travel to Haran and find a wife from Abraham’s clan there.

Why not a Canaanite? Why is it better to find a wife from the wandering Arameans who are Abraham’s relations?

If you’ve ever heard a message about the Rebekah story being about godly romance, how to find a God-fearing wife, forget it.

Abraham’s kin were not righteous monotheists. See Joshua 24:2, for example, where it notes that Abraham’s family served other gods. Note Genesis 31:34 in which Rachel brings a family idol with her when fleeing Laban.

Rather, Abraham believed God’s promise about who his descendants would become. All the families of the earth would be blessed through Abraham’s descendants (12:3) and would come to his descendants to find blessing (22:18, a subtle difference in the verb). His line is the elect people of God, the redemptive people on the earth, the salt of the earth.

The danger in marrying a Canaanite in Abraham’s time was not paganism (though it would be the issue later in Deuteronomy 7:3-4 for the Israelites hundreds of years later).

The danger was assimilation. If Isaac married into the local populace, Abraham knew the distinct character of his line would be lost. In a generation or two no one would realize they were descendants of Abraham, the elect people of God.

The search for Rebekah is the search for continuation.

Eliezer, servant of Abraham, is trusted with finding a wife who will help Abraham’s line remain distinct. He and his family can only be sojourners in the land until the time that God gifts it to his descendants. Remaining distinct is vital. It is the only way to pass the covenant promises down to the children and further generations.

Where is the concern for passing down the faith and covenant promises in our day?

Jews and Christians, both communities, are failing at this.

Jews intermarry, which could be fine, and then compound the problem by not working through the issues.

Christians are assimilating into the marriage-less, family-doesn’t-matter-so-much culture of America.

Jews and Christians live together before marriage. And intimacy cheaply earned is cheaply thrown away. Couples don’t stay together. Children rarely get two parents. Check the statistics. I am not exaggerating. And Jews and especially Christians are playing right into the death of the family.

But God says the families of the earth, yes families, will be blessed in Abraham’s seed.

Intermarrieds should ask themselves: how will we raise our children in the faith of the Christian spouse and the Torah life of the Jewish spouse? Alternately, how can the Christian spouse recover faith in Jesus and the Jewish spouse recover a connection to Torah and the people of Israel and then pass it on to the children?

Good, sound Messianic synagogues are the greatest and most unknown resource intermarried families have.

And we need to search for Rebekah. We need for Jewish and Christian families to recover that sense of covenant continuity.

The surest way to continue Christian faith is to marry a Christian and raise your children as Christians. Check the statistics. I am not making this up. Broken homes and shuffling the kids to custody swaps make the job far harder.

The only way to pass on Jewish covenant faithfulness is for a home to remain Jewish in character and quality. Intermarried families can achieve this. Messianic Jewish synagogues can help.

How sad then, that many Jewish men and women who turn to faith in Jesus abandon Jewish life. How sad that those who believe the Bible think Jesus-faith renders Jewish faithfulness obsolete. Churched Jews should not kid themselves. Their children and grandchildren will not identify as Jews. Churched Jews are shrinking Israel, diminishing Abraham’s seed, and working against God.

But the good news is that Rebekah is not so hard to find as people think. She is right there in the past, in the ancient traditions, in the way of faithfulness and continuing the line. She’s worth walking all the way back to Haran for.

About Derek Leman

IT guy working in the associations industry. Formerly a congregational rabbi. Dad of 8. Nerd.
This entry was posted in Bible, Christian, Faith, Interfaith, Intermarried, Judaism, messianic, Messianic Jewish, Messianic Judaism and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Searching for Rebekah

  1. peterygwendyta says:

    Insightful blog as usual.

  2. christian4moses says:

    I also was shocked when learning that Rashi!:P

  3. Tishrei says:

    Maybe I am misreading, but are you saying that believers in Christ (Yeshua) should not intermarry — i.e. a Jewish beliver and a gentile believer? That kind of marriage does not seem to fall into the “unequally” yoked commandment.

  4. Tishrei:

    In the case of a Jewish Yeshua-follower and a Christian, I believe intermarriage is only advisable when the couple understands the issue of Jewish identity and comes to a workable solution. The idea that any two people are compatible for marriage or that any two Yeshua-believers are compatible for marriage is simply a myth. One wants kids early, the other wants to wait until mid thirties for kids. Not compatible. People from divergent cultures are not automatically compatible. What will the African-American and caucasian couple work out as a means of raising the children, relating to family, etc. These issues should not be entered into lightly. Yes, African-Americans and caucasians can have successful intermarriages without confusing the children, but only through approaching the situation with wisdom.

    All the more so a Jewish Yeshua-follower (called to keep Torah and be connected with the Jewish people) and a Gentile Yeshua-follower (lacking the history and experience of Jewish life, often not open to Jewish life in the home, etc.).

    As I mentioned in the post, Messianic Judaism is a place where intermarried couples can find harmony.

    Derek Leman

  5. Tishrei says:

    I agree with your reply. Culture does play a huge part in a marraige. Just because two people are followers of Christ does not ensure that the marriage will be successful — as you pointe out, one wants children right away while another wants to wait.

    Thanks for your reply :)

  6. I appreciate the mature response here:

    “The idea that any two people are compatible for marriage…is simply a myth.”

    Too frequently, we forget this. What we might call normal marriages, between people of the same ethnicity and social background, are difficult enough given the realities of the Twenty-First Century. Intermarriage between ethnic groups, while not impossible, has more difficulty. Beyond this, Jewish/non-Jewish intermarriage has even more difficulty.

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