“Rebekah,” Ensign, Jan. 2002, 39

    Old Testament


    The story of Rebekah’s betrothal to Isaac can teach us principles for establishing eternal covenant relationships.

    The Lord cares deeply about the preparation for marriage of His sons and daughters. Although wedding customs vary in different nations, cultures, and situations, President Gordon B. Hinckley has counseled us to select our marriage companions “carefully and wisely.”1 As is evident in this story, the Lord blesses those who desire to build an eternal family.

    “I Will Draw Water for Thy Camels”

    Abraham recognized the Lord had a plan for him and his family because the Lord had promised, “I will make of thee a great nation, … and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed” (Gen. 12:2–3). An essential part of fulfilling that plan was to find a righteous wife for his son Isaac. Having faith in the word of the Lord (see Gen. 24:7), Abraham entrusted this matter to Eliezer, the “eldest servant of his house” (Gen. 15:2; Gen. 24:2). Even when his servant questioned how this might be accomplished (see Gen. 24:5), Abraham assured him the Lord would guide him to success (see Gen. 24:7, 40).

    As Eliezer approached the city of Nahor in Haran, he prayerfully submitted a plan to the Lord for identifying an appropriate young woman (see Gen. 24:12–14, 42–44). He proposed that whoever would kindly agree to get water from the well for himself and his animals would be the right person for Isaac. Rebekah came “with her pitcher upon her shoulder” (Gen. 24:15).

    Abraham’s servant had prayed for a maiden who would bring a dowry of kindness to the Abrahamic family (see Gen. 24:14). At the well he met a personification of Christlike charity and consideration. She was not only a dutiful daughter who diligently performed the daily work of retrieving water for family and their livestock, she was also willing to perform this arduous task for a stranger (see Gen. 24:18–20). She did not know she was serving a man who would lead her to her future husband, yet upon his request she extended both water and generous hospitality, saying, “We have both straw and provender [food for animals] enough, and room to lodge in” (Gen. 24:23–25). She served selflessly, reminding us that one of the best presents each partner can bring to the wedding altar is the gift of charity.

    “The Thing Proceedeth from the Lord”

    In response to her generosity, and knowing that the Lord had answered his prayer, the servant of Abraham placed some jewelry upon Rebekah (see Gen. 24:22). She might have understood this gesture to indicate this man wanted her to marry someone, for in ancient Hebrew custom, when a man wished to enter into a betrothal commitment, he would enlist a friend or legal representative to present gifts to the hoped-for bride.2 Rebekah “ran, and told them of her mother’s house these things” (Gen. 24:28).

    Abraham’s servant followed her, and upon meeting her family he explained his matrimonial errand (see Gen. 24:33–49). They listened and were touched by the Spirit of the Lord (see Gen. 24:50–51). “When Abraham’s servant heard their words, he worshipped the Lord, bowing himself to the earth” (Gen. 24:52).

    But would Rebekah want to go? “Wilt thou go with this man?” her family asked. The scripture simply records her trusting reply, “I will go” (Gen. 24:58; see also 1 Ne. 3:7). Rebekah was ready when called to build the Lord’s kingdom as a wife and mother.

    The faith of Abraham, his servant, and Rebekah and her family remind us that faith in God is essential in all things, including finding a spouse and preparing for marriage and family life.

    “Jewels of Gold, and Raiment”

    It was customary for the bridegroom to also give gifts to the bride’s family. Thus the servant of Abraham gave Rebekah’s “brother and to her mother precious things” (Gen. 24:53). The acceptance of gifts by Rebekah and her family confirmed the betrothal and commitment to the proposed union. Betrothed couples then entered an engagement period, when they were to demonstrate a commitment to their betrothal covenant through honesty and self-control. Similarly, the proven ability of a potential marriage partner today to keep baptismal, priesthood, or temple covenants shows that that person is honorable before God and others.

    “She Took a Vail”

    After a long journey, Eliezer, Rebekah, and those who traveled with them arrived in the land of Canaan to meet Isaac. Rebekah had a character trait that showed her readiness for a covenant marriage: “When she saw Isaac, … she took a vail, and covered herself” (Gen. 24:64–65). It was common for unmarried women in Rebekah’s day to go about in public with their faces unveiled. So when Rebekah put on a veil, it was a sign of her virtue, reverence, humility, and modesty and showed respect for her future spouse. Similarly, those who enter marriage today—both men and women—need the qualities of character Rebekah showed in this simple but dignified act.

    The Great Day of the Lord

    Rebekah’s charity, faith in God, commitment to covenants, and virtue enabled her to consecrate her life to the Lord and His plan. Her example can help guide us toward marriage within the Lord’s covenant and can also be applied to preparing for the coming of the great “Bridegroom,” the Lord Jesus Christ, at His Second Coming (see D&C 133:10).3

    For example, of charity the Savior taught that “whosoever shall give to drink … a cup of cold water” to others will “in no wise” lose their reward (Matt. 10:42).

    The Lord counseled, “Be faithful, praying always, having your lamps trimmed and burning, and oil with you, that you may be ready at the coming of the Bridegroom” (D&C 33:17). We help to prepare our lamps by exercising faith in God in our daily decisions.

    The Psalmist asked, “Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in his holy place?” Answering, he wrote, “He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully” (Ps. 24:3–4; emphasis added). Commitment to sacred covenants is requisite for abiding His presence at His coming when every knee shall bow in humble reverence before the Savior (see Isa. 45:23).

    In choosing goodness, Rebekah became an example of charity, faith in God, commitment, and reverence. Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has counseled: “If you are single and haven’t identified a solid prospect for celestial marriage, live for it. Pray for it. Expect it in the timetable of the Lord. Do not compromise your standards in any way that would rule out that blessing on this or the other side of the veil.”4 Further, Rebekah’s story encourages us to “awake and arise and go forth to meet the Bridegroom. … Prepare yourselves for the great day of the Lord” (D&C 133:10).

    More on this topic: See Richard G. Scott, “Receive the Temple Blessings,”Ensign, May 1999, 25–27; Richard K. Hart, “The Marriage Metaphor,”Ensign, Jan. 1995, 22–27; Marlin K. Jensen, “A Union of Love and Understanding,”Ensign, Oct. 1994, 46–51.

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    Detail from Rebekah at the Well, by Michael Deas

    Illustrated by Del Parson