Women of the Word: Judith and Basemath

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Jacob and Esau were brothers, twin brothers at that, but they were as different as hot and cold. One area in which they were different was in their choice of marriage partners. Jacob married the daughters of his uncle, Leah and Rachel. Later, he was also given their servants, Bilhah and Zilpah, as partners. Genesis 26:34 tells us that Esau married Judith and Basemath. Judith was the daughter of Beeri the Hittite and Basemath was the daughter of Elon the Hittite.

Jacob’s wives were pleasing to his parents, Isaac and Rebekah. But Esau’s wives were not. Genesis 26:35 says that Judith and Basemath “were a source of grief” to them. Talk about a classic case of in-law discord. They were such a grief that in Genesis 27:46 Rebekah said, “I loathe my life because of the Hittite women.” She was so disgusted with them that she didn’t want Jacob to follow his older brother, Esau, and marry one of them. Rebekah would not have considered her life worth living if both her sons married Hittite women. This is one reason why Isaac and Rebekah sent Jacob away to Laban. They didn’t only send him away to keep him safe from Esau’s wrath. They also sent him away to keep him from marrying a Hittite woman or any Canaanite woman for that matter. Before Jacob left home, Isaac explicitly told him, “You must not take a wife from the Canaanite women. Arise, go to Paddan-aram to the house of Bethuel your mother’s father, and take as your wife from there one of the daughters of Laban your mother’s brother.”

It should be noted that Esau later married another woman. When he saw that Judith and Basemath did not please his parents, he wed Mahalath. She was the daughter of Ishmael, Abraham’s son, the sister of Nebaioth. There’s no word on how she fared with Isaac and Rebekah. But back to the women at hand: What did Judith and Basemath do to cause such grief to their in-laws? We aren’t told. But we can learn from them to live in such a way that we are a joy, not a grief, to those around us. Continue reading

Women of the Word: Milkah

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Milkah is not a very well-known Biblical figure, but she is the sister-in-law to quite a popular one – Sarah (formerly called Sarai). Sarah was married to Abraham (formerly called Abram), who also had a brother who was not very well-known. This brother was Nahor. When Abraham and Sarah married, Nahor and Milkah also married. According to Genesis 11:29:

Abram and Nahor both married. The name of Abram’s wife was Sarai, and the name of Nahor’s wife was Milkah; she was the daughter of Haran, the father of both Milkah and Iskah.

Terah was the father of Abraham and Nahor and they also had a third brother called Haran. Haran was the father of Lot, but he later died, so Abraham took Lot into his home. At first, they all lived together in Ur of the Chaldeans, but after Haran’s death, Terah, Abraham, Sarah, Lot, and Haran’s wife left Ur of the Chaldeans to go to Canaan. On their way to Canaan, they come to a place called Harran and decide to settle there. While in Harran, Terah dies after living 205 years. God then calls Abraham to leave his country and his people and his father’s household and go to the land of Canaan. He promises to bless Abraham and make of him a great nation. So once again, Abraham, Sarah, and Lot pack up their possessions and set out for Canaan.

Meanwhile, Nahor and Milkah remained in Ur of the Chaldeans. Somehow, across the large expanse of desert and sky, Abraham and Sarah and Nahor and Milkah kept in touch. Genesis 22:2 says,

Some time later Abraham was told, “Milkah is also a mother; she has borne sons to your brother Nahor.”

While Abraham and Sarah waited for years and struggled to have just one child, their brother and sister-in-law had quite a large family. Milkah gave birth to eight sons (!): Uz, Buz, Kemuel, Kesed, Hazo, Pildash, Jidlaph and Bethuel. The youngest son, Bethuel, became the father of Rebekah who years later became the wife of Abraham and Sarah’s long-awaited promised son, Isaac. Milkah is specifically mentioned four other times in the book of Genesis (23; 24:15, 24, 47). Milkah’s youngest son, Bethuel, is also our link to what we can learn from her life. Continue reading

Women of the Word: Deborah, Nurse of Rebekah

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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. Continue reading

Women of the Word (Recap 6)

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When God created woman, He made a very special creation. He made us beautiful and unique. He made us strong and resilient, gutsy and spirited, sassy and sweet. And He loves us. God really, really loves His girls. And the Bible is filled with many women – some good, some bad – all of who God made, who God loved, and who we can learn many lessons from.

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Women of the Word: Rebekah

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Rebekah’s story begins in Genesis 24 when she is chosen as a bride for Abraham’s son, Isaac. Theirs is one of the most well-known love stories in the Bible. It is an example of how all relationships should be – brought about and blessed by the hands of God. However, even though Rebekah was a beautiful woman, and Isaac loved her, their marriage was not without some problems. When they were in old age, and their two sons grown, Rebekah helped the youngest son, Jacob, deceive Isaac and stole his brother’s blessing. What can we learn from this considerate, Godly woman who was not without her flaws?

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