A Little White Lie: A Defense of Rebekah’s Deception

Why did Rebekah Deceive Her Husband? (Gen 27)

This week we are going to switch gears and focus on Rebekah. Of all the stories about the “horrible women of Genesis” this one is on the top of the cake in bright red frosting. Rebekah does a horrible sin – she orchestrates the ultimate lie between father and son – and gets away with it! It is this story that leaves a horrible taste in everyone’s mouth. Jacob stole his brother’s blessing from his sickly father. What underhanded horribleness!

Or is it?

The story goes as follows: Esau and Jacob are twins, children of Isaac and Rebekah, although Esau is the first-born of the two. So when Isaac is old and near death he tells Esau to go out into the wilderness to hunt game and prepare a feast for him. At this feast, Isaac will bless Esau. (Blessing are a big deal in the ancient world – they have the power to make or break a people).

Rebekah hears Isaac making this plan with Esau (it wouldn’t be a secret to overhear – everyone would have heard), so while Esau is gone hunting for the feast, Rebekah tells Jacob to kill two goats from their flock as she is prepares them for the meal while Jacob disguises himself as his brother Esau and goes in Esau’s place. Since Isaac is blind, Isaac will give the blessing to the wrong son. All this comes to pass. Lo and behold! after the blessing is given, Esau shows up but it’s too late. Jacob has been blessed instead.

This is normally where people talk about how horrible Rebekah was – how she was a horrible wife who lied to her husband. But this is highly unfair to both the culture of the time, and to the biblical text itself. So let’s jump in! Before we even get to the text, let’s look at the culture of the ancient world.

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De-Bunking the Biblical Patriarchy & The Hidden Matriarchy

The following post is something I have held to my heart for a couple years now. It’s compromised of archaeology classes, Akkadian classes,  ANE classes, ancient warfare research, scribalism research, and women’s issues in the ancient world. I wish I could tell you that you could read this in a textbook. I wish I could tell you that someone has written a book on this topic. I hope that one day, I could be that person who shatters some of the lies we’ve been told in our Old Testament classes.

Everything I will *briefly* touch in this post is there in the biblical text. And once you see it, you see it everywhere. I see it in the opening of the bible when a man “leaves his father and mother and cleaves to his wife”. I see it when David passes his reign to Solomon. And I see when Mary tells Jesus to turn the water into wine. As I write this, I want to tell Christian girls, those who have struggled just like me, that you don’t have to question the faith just becasue you only see man, after man, after man, serving the Lord in the Bible.

The biblical patriarchy is obvious – you can’t miss it, it’s littered all over the pages of the Bible.  But it might surprise you to know that it was the women: the matriarchs, who put it there. They didn’t put a pen to paper- they did something much more influential: they created a culture that relied on remembrance to define them.  And the product of that remembrance is the Bible that sits on our shelves.

This week in Genesis we are going to cover a topic that has been touched in the last three weeks: the matriarchy. And we are going to do it by really stepping into culture in a whole new way. And when we do, we will be able to answer this question:

Why did Lot’s daughters sleep with their own father?    (GEn. 19:30-38)

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Sarai Punishes Hagar: Where History and Bible Collide

I’ve been doing a weekly series on the Matriarchs of Genesis, and breaking down history in order to defend the choices that these women make. This blog is building off the previous blog post, so if your wondering what a “shifhah” is, read the previous post: http://whollyofholies.com/2018/06/why-hagar-slept-with-abram-a-perfectly-normal-act/

Why did Sarai “deal harshly” with Hagar?    (GEN. 16:4-6)

Before we jump in this week, I want would like to say that this passage is not straight forward. There are 4,000 years (if not more) separating this story from our present day.

If you were to read these three verses in the original Hebrew, you would find that there are words being used that have never been used before and there are weird grammar slips that don’t quite make sense. So I’m not going to sit here and try to chase down some scholars’ belief about the vocabulary and the grammar (you would be bored to tears).

Instead, I want to take a step back and simply look at what is taking place on a larger scale – as if this this scene were in front of us on a stage. Instead of looking at the little details, I will look at the major movements in these three verses.

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Why Hagar Slept with Abram: A Perfectly Normal Act

I’ve been giving voice to the women of Genesis by looking at the choices they make and bring those choices to life. So what is this week’s question?

Why did Sarai send Hagar to sleep with her husband? (Gensis 16:1-3).

Please note this is my personal opinion of what is going on in the text. Therefore, there is room for disagreement. That being said, I have heavily researched this topic and find that the following interpretation covers all the questions posed in the text. So if you have questions, feel free to ask them.

So what’s going on the first three verses of chapter 16?

Well, in the previous chapter (15), Abram tells God that he has no child (AKA: no inheritor). He then asks God if Eleizer, a member of his household should inherit. God answers not only saying no, but God informs Abram he his own son will inherit. It is then that God makes a covenant with Abram and his offspring.

And this is where chapter 16 opens. Sarai essentially tells Abram that if he is indeed to have a child to inherit – it can’t come through her because she has been childless for 10 years. So Sarai tells Abram to produce a child through her servant Hagar – and it is through Hagar that she, Sarai, will build up her own household.

Sarai’s own household? Catch your attention at all? I thought the focus was on Abram’s household.

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The Women of Genesis: Sarai in Egypt

In the past two years I have become passionate about the women of the Bible – and uncovering a part of the culture that isn’t documented in the scriptures. This passion has grown even more in the last few months due to extensive research into the lives of the matriarchs. So I think I’m going to speak out – or write out – for the matriarchs of our faith: Sarah, Rebecca, Leah, and Rachel.

For too long people looked at the decisions these women made in the book of Genesis with contempt. These women – these mothers of our faith – have been put under the harshest scrutiny. We look at them as women who made horrible choices against the “perfect” model of their patriarchal husbands. But if we do that, we are completely missing out on half of their culture.

So in the coming weeks I want to unravel some of the decisions they make – one story at a time. Why did Sarah send Hagar to sleep with Abraham only to kick her out of camp later? Why did Rebecca deceive her husband? Why is Rachel holding unto idols in secret? These are some of the questions I will dive into.

There are also other questions from the women of Genesis such as: why did Eve eat the forbidden fruit? Why did Lot’s daughters have sex with their own father? If you want to understand the women of Genesis in a new way, follow my blog in the coming weeks as we go through the book of Genesis. Every time a woman makes a decision, we will stop and digest what we are reading and what hidden things are in the text that we don’t notice at first glance.

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