Rebecca (Rivkah in Hebrew), the second of four Jewish matriarchs, was the wife of Isaac. She gave birth to Esau and Jacob, and was instrumental in Jacob receiving the special birthright blessings from his father.

Birth of Rebecca

Rebecca was born in Haran to Bethuel,1 Abraham’s nephew. She was raised there with her brother, Laban. Although her father and brother were steeped in idol worship and immorality, she remained unaffected. The sages likened her stalwart ability to rise above her environment to a rose growing among thorns.2

Read More: Why Did Rebecca Have to Grow Up Among Bad People?

Arrival of Eliezer

Rebecca was a mature and independent girl. One day, she decided that, for the first time, she would personally travel to the well to fetch water3 . She had maids who could have done it, but for some reason, that day she decided to go herself. On her first day at the well, she was approached by a man leading a long caravan of camels. He asked her if she would give him water to drink.

Rebecca not only fetched water for him, she also tirelessly filled and refilled the troughs, allowing the man’s camels to drink their fill. As she approached the well to draw water from it, the water rose to greet her4 .

As soon as she had finished, the man gave her an expensive nose ring and two bracelets. When he asked her name and whether her family had a room that he could spend the night in, she responded that she was Rebecca, daughter of Bethuel and great-grandchild of Nahor. She also offered the man both a place to sleep and straw for his camels. Once he gratefully accepted, Rebecca ran home to inform her family of their new guest.

The Marriage Proposal

When Laban heard that a wealthy man had arrived and gifted his sister expensive jewelry, he ran out to greet him. They prepared a room for Eliezer, emptying it of idols for him.5

Later, when the family sat together at the dinner table, he told them what the purpose of his visit was. He related that he was a servant of Abraham, their relative. He had been sent to find a wife for his master’s son, Isaac, to whom Abraham had bequeathed all of his possessions.

He explained that he had come to the well and prayed to G‑d to help him find the right woman for Isaac. Eliezer decided that he would ask G‑d to show him who was destined to be Isaac’s wife. The sign would be that he would ask the women at the well to give him water to drink, and the one who not only gave him water, but also took care of his camels, would be the proper wife for Isaac. Miraculously, the first woman he asked did so. Furthermore, the water rose when she came near, another sure sign that she was special.

Read More: Rebecca and the Camel Test

Hearing that, Laban and Bethuel agreed that Rebbeca should go back with Eliezer to become Isaac’s wife. In appreciation, Eliezer presented gifts to Rebecca and her family.

The next morning, as Eliezer prepared to leave, Laban and Rebecca’s mother6 began bargaining with him. They wished for Rebecca to remain with them for a year, or at least ten months, before gallivanting off to her future husband. Eliezer was adamant that she return with him then, not in another year. They decided to ask Rebecca and allow her to make her own decision regarding her future.

Without hesitation, she determined that she was ready to meet Isaac. She even told her family that if they tried to prevent her from leaving, she would go without their consent.7 Rebecca and her maids accompanied Eliezer back to the land of Canaan.

Read More: What to Look for in a Spouse.

Marriage to Isaac

When Rebecca saw Isaac for the first time, he was standing in the field, praying. At the sight of him, Rebecca slid off her camel and covered herself with her veil8 . She immediately knew that she had made the correct decision.

Rebecca married Isaac, and the three miracles that had occurred during the lifetime of Sarah were renewed. She would light candles on Friday evening, and they would last the entire week; the bread she baked would remain fresh from week to week; and a cloud of glory hovered above her tent. This brought Isaac much comfort.

Read More: Love at First Sight

Birth of Esau and Jacob

Unfortunately, Rebecca was barren and for years, she remained childless. Finally, Isaac and Rebecca prayed to G‑d for children. Miraculously, their prayers were answered and Rebecca became pregnant.

Her pregnancy was far from normal. Whenever she walked by a study hall or place of learning, the baby inside her would struggle and kick. However, the same would happen when she would pass by a house of idolatry! Her pain only increased as the pregnancy continued, and it eventually became unbearable9 . The suffering was so intense that she began to regret desiring children10 .

Overwhelmed and confused, Rebecca went to the academy of Shem11 and Ever to seek counsel. They passed on a message from G‑d to her that she was in fact bearing twins. Each would battle the other, and the older one would serve the younger. They would eventually become the progenitors of great, opposing nations.

Satisfied with the knowledge that her suffering was purposeful and would bear great fruit, Rebecca returned home with renewed energy. The prophecy that she received came to pass, and she gave birth to twin boys. The older was covered in red hair and was named Esau. The younger came out clutching the heel of his older brother and was named Jacob12 .

Read more: Jacob and Esau: The Struggle for Power

The Birthright

When Rebecca’s two sons grew up, they each chose different paths. Esau became a hunter, while Jacob wanted nothing more than to sit and study.

One day, Esau came home from the field, hungry and exhausted. He found Jacob cooking a pot of lentil stew for his father as he was mourning Abraham. He demanded to eat the stew. Jacob agreed, but only on condition that Esau give Jacob the birthright due to the elder brother. Esau accepted the stipulation and downed the lentil stew.13

Read More: Esau Sells the Birthright for a Mess of Pottage

Life in Gerar

A famine struck the land of Canaan. Isaac was inclined to leave for Egypt as Abraham had done, but G‑d told him to remain in Canaan. So instead, he took his family to the land of Gerar.

When he was asked about Rebecca, he worried that the inhabitants of Gerar might kill him if they knew that she was his wife since Rebecca was very beautiful, and they all desired her. Instead, he told them that she was his sister.

After a while, Isaac settled down, his worries dissipated, and he reverted to living with Rebecca. Abimelech, the king of Gerar, saw them acting as a couple, and rebuked Isaac for duping everyone into thinking that Rebecca was his sister and not his wife. Nevertheless, he sent out a royal decree that no one should harm Isaac.

After living in Gerar for some time, Isaac and his family moved to Be’er Sheba14 .

Read more: Abductions in the Torah

The Blessings

When Isaac grew old and blind, he wished to bless his eldest son. He called Esau and commanded him to prepare a dish of meat so Esau took his bow and arrow to hunt some game.

When Rebecca heard the proceedings, she knew she had to act. She was aware that Esau had sold the birthright to Jacob earlier, and it was he who truly deserved the blessings.

She told Jacob to take one of her goats and slaughter it. Jacob was to prepare the meat into a dish for his father, and to take the hairy skin and cover himself with it. She sewed the skins together as sleeves for his arms and around his neck15 . That way, Jacob would be able to fool his blind father into blessing him instead of Esau.

Jacob was not enthusiastic about her scheme. He worried that if he were to be discovered, Isaac would curse him. Rebecca assuaged his fears, even going as far as promising him that she would accept any curses he received in his stead. With that assurance, Jacob went forward with his mother’s instructions.

Her plan worked, and Jacob received the blessings16 .

See: Was Jacob Right to Take the Blessings?


The Cave of the Patriarchs as it appeared in 1906.
The Cave of the Patriarchs as it appeared in 1906.

Rebecca passed away while her son Jacob resided in Beth-El17 . She was buried in Kiryat Arba, in the burial cave where Abraham and Sarah had also been interred18 .

Read more: The Cave of the Patriarchs


Kabbalah identifies Rebecca with the attribute of Binah, understanding. She was a thoughtful person who knew she had to use everything in the world around her for good. She had a unique ability to find the potential in everything and maximize it. Like oil, she was simultaneously able to float above her surroundings, yet penetrate them deeply19 .

Read More: Binah