Q. What are we supposed to learn about Isaac's family? Was Isaac unspiritual? Did Rebekah rebell against Patriarchal authority?
We worship the Elohim (God) of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Israel) whose name is Yahweh, and yet each of these three patriarchs had major character flaws as well as redeeming strengths. When Abraham and Jacob are held up as examples of favoured polygamists, the monogomay-only anti-polygamists are quick to point out their family troubles and use this as a weapon against plural marriage. But what they also forget - and Yahweh must have known this in order to have made this man to represent Him in the famous threesome - is that Isaac was a monogamist and had his own major character flaws. Do these, we need to ask ourselves, disqualify the practice of monogamy?
Isaac, like his father Abraham and son Jacob, communed with Yahweh on a one-to-one basis. Yahweh spoke to all three directly by His own voice and all three heard Him. And yet with Yahweh's word there was always a qualifier:
We are reminded how later Yahweh preserved the nation of Judah - not because their kings were very righteous (most were apostates) but "for the sake of my servant David" (1 Kings 11:14, NIV) who was Yahweh's friend. The blessings of a good man are reaped by many generations that follow.
"I am the Elohim (God) of your father Abraham. Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bless you and will increase the number of your descendants for the sake of my servant Abraham" (Genesis 26:24, NIV).
So what kind of a man was Jacob? Indeed, what kind of a woman was Rebekah? Was she a rebellious Jezebel as some are wont to accuse or did she step into the breach for Isaac when her husband lost his spiritual senses and favoured the carnal of his two sons? And does not, in fact, Yahweh, sometimes stand in and appoint godly women to be leaders when the men have turned to unrighteousness and abandoned their God-ordained rôles?
These are serious questions to be sure. We know how women who overstep their bounds receive the harshest of punishments from the Most High. Consider Miriam, sister of Moses, who thought she was every bit a leader as Moses and was struck down with leprosy for her presumption. But consider also the prophetess Huldah (2 Kings 22:14ff) who judged Israel because there were no men with any spiritual spine to do the job in her day.
Isaac favoured Esau because he was both the firstborn of his loins and because he was a good hunter who appeased his belly. Rebekah had the sense to see that Jacob was the spiritual of the two and knew by revelation from Yahweh that Esau's brother was to be the rightful head of the tribe after Isaac had passed on. But Issac either did not see the truth or did not want to. And because he failed miserably in his patriarchal rôle to ensure that the right son received the inheritance rights, Yahweh was obliged to use his wife, Rebekah, to ensure that the job was properly done.
There is, however, a price for defying patriarchal authority even if the patriarch is out of order, as Isaac was. For in order to effect Yahweh's will, Rebekah and Jacob had to resort to trickery. Because Isaac abrogated his duty, a lesser law had to be broken in order to fulfil a higher one - dishonesty had to be employed in order to preserve the Messianic line. But disobedience to any commandment always comes with a price - and as we know Jacob was dogged with problems all his life thanks to his father's spiritual carelessness.
There are always alternative paths for us when we reject Yahweh's principle path for our lives. We see this truth time and time again in Scripture. David was promised more wives but forfeited them after his affair with Bathsheba. There can be no doubt whatsoever that Jacob was ordained to be a polygamist with four wives but the means by which he obtained them was dishonest. As he had tricked Esau out of his birthright, so his uncle Laban tricked him into marrying Leah against his will. This sparked off unnecessary rivalry as Leah tried to win her husband's affection by giving him as many children as she could. The principle (polygamy) was right but the means by which it was entered into was not. Had Isaac been in possession of his senses, he would have blessed Jacob as the spiritual firstborn and there would have been no need for either the mother or second-born son Jacob to stoop to deception. Had the proper order been followed, Jacob would not have fled from his angry brother but obtained his two wives and two maidservants in the proper manner.
There is a parallel example in the story of David and Abigail. There is no doubt in my mind that Abigail was ordained to be David's wife. Yahweh slew the wicked Nabal and gave him Abigail. But Bathsheba, a married whom David seduced and then arranged for her husband to be killed, brought a host of the curses on his family and the nation of Israel. Adultery and murder are a dreadful curse. When you break Torah there are always consequences, even if you repent afterwards. David learned that lesson only too well.
Rebekah was forced to transgress the patriarchal order in order to fulfil Yahweh's will. She was no Jezebel. But because of Isaac's folly he put both his wife and son in serious danger. They paid for his foolishness. And this is something that every patriarch must soberly reflect on and remember: if he, by showing dereliction of his duty, forces his wife, wives or children to turn against him in order to fulfil Yahweh's will, then they will be punished for his folly. How do I know this? Because I have experienced it myself.
Before I pressed my first wife into a God-ordained marriage before she was ready, I brought sorrow on her head which resulted in her abandoning the marriage and causing spiritual and psychological damage to our children. Though she was entirely responsible for the spiritual choices she subsequently made in rejecting Christ for occultism, I nevertheless bear the responsibility ... and the scars ... for the suffering this brought on our children. Like David, I have been haunted by their problems ever since, reminding me of my complicity. It therefore both grieves and angers me when I see patriarchs who seem to think that they are above Yahweh's Law and who expect their wives to not only obey their unrighteous decrees but who then blame their wives when things go amiss in their children. As the heads given authority and responsibility, they are responsible for whatever sins they force their wives or children to commit because they have turned their hearts away from the Holy Spirit.
The woes of Jacob's polygamous family are in large measure the fault of Isaac who pressing his wife into forcing their son to accomplish Yahweh's will by the only available method that was left ... which was unrighteous and which had dire spiritual consequences for both father and son. Those who call Rebekah a Jezebel are likely themselves under spiritual bondage to the spirit of Ahab. They are, without perhaps knowing it, placing themselves and their children in grave spiritual and physical danger.
Isaac the monogamist was guilty. But does that mean monogamy is unrighteous? Of course not. All it proves is that marriage can be lived by those who are either walking in Yahweh's will or not, whether the husbands of such marriages have one wife, four wives, seven wives or a dozen wives. Isaac did not have the right qualifications to be a polygamist and therefore was permitted only one wife. Not so his son Jacob or his father Abraham. Joseph, on the other hand, became the kind of man of Elohim (God) that his grandfather Isaac failed to be - a righteous monogamist (some traditions say he had two wives), and Jacob apparently succeeded (eventually) in polygamy where Abraham did not (with regard to Hagar). None were, of course, perfect, though Joseph undoubtedly shines as one who most closely reflected the Spirit of the Messiah. And it is because of this that he is the head of New Covenant Israel and not Judah (Messianic Jews note).
Each man must discover to whom he has been called to marry and then, for the sake of his wives and children, walk uprightly. Those historically who did not often lost their families - or parts of them - as David did to Abshalom who violated his concubines, or Jacob when Reuben violated one of his. If Rebekah had not done what she did, where would we be today? I imagine Jacob would have been killed by his angry elder brother, the Messianic line would have been terminated, and Yahweh's promises rendered null and void. And if that had happened, Satan might have won. In the light of that, was Rebekah a Jezebel or a heroine? To me the answer is obvious.