Women of the Word: Deborah, Nurse of Rebekah


There are two notable women named Deborah in the Bible. One is Deborah the judge, and the other is Deborah the nurse. This latter Deborah is mentioned twice in the Old Testament. Genesis 24:59 reads,

So they sent their sister Rebekah on her way, along with her nurse and Abraham’s servant and his men.

And Genesis 35:8 reads,

Now Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse, died and was buried under the oak outside Bethel. So it was named Allon Bakuth.

When Rebekah left her home to become the wife of Isaac, Deborah traveled with her. Deborah took good care of Rebekah, and she probably spent a great deal of her time taking care of Jacob and Esau when they were born to Isaac and Rebekah. We aren’t given much information about the background of Deborah, but from the spotlight that is placed on her funeral at the end of her life, it is safe to assume that she was much-loved by the family she spent nearly all of her life taking care of. In Walking with the Women of the Bible, Elizabeth George writes: “Age brought an end to Deborah’s active role of caregiver, and then Jacob’s family cared for her. She loved them, and they loved her…Deborah was buried under “the oak of weeping” and was lamented with sadness and tears usually reserved for family.”

Even though she only has a small role in the Bible, Deborah the nurse has a wealth of lessons from which we can learn.

1. Deborah’s service to Rebekah and her family was an act of love. It is likely that Deborah had never been away from home before she went with Rebekah to Issac, but so great was her love for the women she served that she would not let Rebekah embark on the journey of being a wife and mother alone. She showed courage and faith in God by leaving her homeland to accompany Rebekah. She was loyal and served her faithfully until the day she died. As Mother Teresa said, Deborah gave her hands to serve and her heart to love.

She did not see her work as nurse as a drudgery. After taking care of Rebekah for several years, she then takes care of Issac and Rebekah’s sons when they are born. She helped to raise them, and watched over them. She loved them as if they were her own children. Even after Jacob and Esau became adults, Deborah did not leave the family, but remained by Rebekah’s side and continued to love and be loved.

2. Deborah was busy. The name Deborah means “bee,” and a bee is a symbol of hark work, industry, and efficiency. When we describe a busy person, we say they are as “busy as a bee.” As you can imagine, being the nurse of twin boys who came out of the womb fighting one another was no easy task. Deborah had her hands full. She probably had to hide all the hunting bows to keep baby Esau from killing the family pet, or was constantly shooing baby Jacob away from the stew pot in the kitchen.

I’m sure there are times when Deborah became tired, and in these moments of weakness she had to depend on God to give her strength to do her duty. When we find ourselves overwhelmed with the burdens, uncertainty, and stress of life, we must not give up. Instead, we must get down on our knees and turn to God for the help and strength that we need to keep on keeping on. Psalm 27:14 advises us to, “Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.”

3. Deborah was the unsung hero of the family. The Bible has a whole lot more to say about Isaac, Rebekah, Esau, and Jacob then it has to say about Deborah. This lack of information, however, does not negate the importance of Deborah. In The Beginning of Wisdom: Reading Genesis, Leon R. Kass says the report of Deborah’s death takes the reader by surprise. He asks: “Why Deborah? And why now? Deborah, has played no visible part in our story; never before mentioned by name, we know of her only from a remark made long ago, when Abraham’s servant came looking for a wife for Isaac…How did she come now to be in Jacob’s party? And why are we told of her death, especially since the death of Rebekah herself will not be reported?”

We don’t know why the Bible highlights Deborah’s death instead of her life, but in highlighting her death it is apparent that her life was important to Rebekah and her family. We shouldn’t be surprised that a character who stays behind the scenes is spotlighted in such a way. There have been many heroes who have gone unnoticed until they were lying in the grave. People are often remembered more in death than in life. In All the Women of the Bible, Herbert Lockyer writes, “The entire family was touched by her passing, and all who had been the recipients of Deborah’s faithful devotion wept for her as for one of their own…Deborah brought the glory of God into the most commonplace duties of Jacob’s home. No wonder all eyes were wet with tears as they buried her aged, bent body under that oak tree.”

Do you feel like what you are doing is trivial or going unnoticed? Never mind that. If what you are doing is beneficial to others and uplifts humanity in some way, it holds great importance. Whether washing dishes or completing a homework assignment or babysitting, bring the glory of God into your commonplace duty as Deborah did in her duties as a nurse. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.’ No work is insignificant. All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.”

2 thoughts on “Women of the Word: Deborah, Nurse of Rebekah

  1. Pingback: Women of the Word (Recap 11) | The Virtuous Girls

  2. Pingback: Women of the Word | The Virtuous Girls

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