A girl in Haran

My name is Rebekah. I live in Haran in northern Mesopotamia. Sometimes my region is called Padan Aram, after our ancient ancestor Aram. Later it will be known as northern Syria. My village is called Nahor, after my grandfather.

My tasks are monotonous. I help my Mother with the weaving and baking. I fill the water jugs from the well. I would say that the well is the heart of our village. Water is precious, yet my grandfather's well has never run dry. I like to get away from the household tasks and go with my brother, Laban , to tend the sheep and goats. Actually I like to escape completely from Laban just to be alone to dream and ponder.

As a woman, I am supposed to think of marriage. I have narrowly escaped marriage twice since becoming of age. But, instead, I think about the stars in the heavens and my very strange Great Uncle Abram, my grandfather Nahor's brother.

I like to ponder on the history of my family and on the secrets that lie deeply within my heart.

That day, the day when my story really begins, I was in the meadows helping to tend the flocks. I had tied-up my skirts so the sun and wind could warm my legs. My skin had become a dark, nut-brown. My brown hair curled wildly down my back.

It was Nahor's wish that I would not be veiled like many women of this region, though they do so for protection from the sun and wind. So, as his granddaughter, I have enjoyed unusual freedoms.

It was a lovely day and I directed my flock to higher elevations, climbing carefully the large rock formations. Eventually I stopped to pasture the flock, away from Laban, alone with my thoughts.

I remembered my grandfather tell of the great civilization he came from, Ur of Chaldea. He and my uncle Abram lived in a great house. The floors were tiled with intricate mosaics in every room. Tapestries hung on the walls. My uncle Abram and Great Grandfather Terah were great citizens who sat in the seats of learning. Abram understood mathematics and the science of the stars. Terah wrote many of the laws and kept the archives of the law. I often wondered what it would be like to live back in Ur, where the mysterious gardens flourished. Sometimes I would pretend to be a great queen there.

But we left everything behind, even our priceless furnishings, to follow my uncle. My father, Beth-u'el, was still a lap child and he kept asking Uncle Abram,“Where are we going?"

Abram answered, “Child, I am looking for a city whose builder and maker is God.”

“But when will we find the city?” Beth-u'el asked.

“God will show me.”

My father said that the entire family left Ur because this God, this invisible God, spoke to my uncle. He told him to leave the moon god, Sin and to separate himself completely from that people.

“He is not the stars, or the sun, or the moon.” He is El Shaddai, the great and invisible, who made everything. Him, I must follow,” said Abram.

When Abram spoke, everyone was mesmerized,” said Grandmother Mil'cah. As she would weave, I would sit at her feet to listen to her version of the account.

"We simply followed," she said. "but after our long journey of a thousand miles or more, we came to Haran, named for another brother of your Grandfather Nahor. He died even before his father. We were exhausted, and Terah was ill. Abram was not content to stay. He kept talking of the country his invisible God desired to show him. But he stayed with us until his father Terah died.”

These old accounts fascinated me, especially the stories about my uncle Abram.

We don't speak so much of Uncle Abram anymore or his strange God. My brother worships many gods made with hands. Father also, but he prefers Sin, our moon god.

Probably that is why I love the moon and stars so much. They are wonders that wink and blink and inspire us to think of great distances and far away lands. I don't know why Laban and Father like the little lares of our household gods, the little squat shapes. I do not feel wonder when I see them. Laban prays to them often for protection and for provision.

An invisible God, I pondered, who made the stars! I want to find this God. But if he is invisible, how can I talk to him?

I also wanted to see the wonders of the great city of Ur. I certainly didn't want to be a shepherd's wife in this country. But what choice did I have? Oh, I know the Syrian, Raul, was giving me looks. Blatant lust was in his eyes. My flesh crawled when he looked at me. His nose was a beak and his beard gray! Father thought he was a good match, but Grandfather said “No!” What a beloved old man he was. Besides Raul wanted 20 sheep, 20 goats, 50 cattle, and some of the gold vessels my great grandmother had brought from Ur. And even Laban didn't think that was a good bargain. Besides, my father loved me in his own way and was not eager to part with me. I am a hard worker in the house and outside, as well.

I climbed a rocky knoll to look over the valley greening below. A little stream ran through it and our sheep and goats and cattle could drink deeply there. Laban was somewhere below with his flocks and perhaps preparing a lamb for food.

For the rest of that day I tended the flocks, ran in the wind and listened to a family of doves sing to each other. In a flutter of wings, one landed very close to me. She cocked her black eye at me before flying a flying away. At twilight I crawled into my blanket. A couple of stars winked. God, how can I talk with you, I thought? My eyes closed and I dreamed.

"Rebekah," a voice said.

"Rebekah!" Suddenly, I was keenly aware, but I did not know if I woke or slept.

"You will be the mother of many nations, and the mother of my Seed, who will possess the gate of my enemies."

I shook myself. As I lay down, again the voice came:

"Rebekah, I have chosen you for my only begotten son. You will not marry a Syrian. Already my seed is within your womb. My son will love you and give his life for you.&";

Fully awake, I brushed the grass from my skirt and made my way toward Laban's fire burning below the knoll. I had to tell someone of this dream!

"Where have you been? You should have brought the sheep to water.

"I have been up to the hills, the high places and I heard a voice. It was powerful and beautiful at once.&";

"Oh, you dream too much. You need to marry Raul. He is not going to wait forever. Unfortunately, he wants too much for you. It should be enough that you can work hard and warm his bed.&";

"Raul smells,&" I scoffed. But my thoughts were only on my dream. &";Laban, why have you brought all of the gods made with hands into the house?"

"They bring us blessings."

"What of Uncle Abram's invisible God?"

"He was touched in the head. We would be rich if it weren't for his ideas. He dragged us here. Our lives would be luxury and ease if it were not for him. Look, even Father believes that Sin is the true god. The household gods are just a little extra insurance. Besides, wild animals must have destroyed Abram by now. It has been over sixty years since he left Haran. No word has ever reached us."

"But Laban, I heard a voice tonight. I think it was the invisible god, the god of Abram."

"You will be married soon and this nonsense will leave you. Meanwhile, I think you better stay in the house. Wandering these hills is not for you. Tomorrow go home. Cook and weave. Father has been too indulgent with you."

I knew I would have to obey my brother. But that night I stretched out once again under the stars and tried to count them. One was especially brilliant. What lay behind the stars, I wondered. What voice had spoken to me?

The following week I was confined to our compound. Father agreed with Laban. And Mother needed me. I helped with the baking in our outdoor ovens. Going to the well and drawing water was pleasant for me. I relished my ability to walk erect with the heavy water pitcher on my shoulder. I was aware that my beauty drew the eyes of many onlookers. I would hear the sharp intake of breath by someone who saw me for the first time. My eyes were the problem, Laban said. They are sea-foam green, sometimes turquoise, like the stone. Admiring glances have followed me all of my life, but I didn't care, I wanted to be outside with the animals, with the rocks and trees. I wanted to think of God, of a future, of my dream, vivid still. Anticipation was in the very air I breathed. Something good was going happen. I knew it! Little did I know that my life would take an unusual turn very soon.

And it did, one evening, when it was time to draw water. When I reached the well I noticed for the first time the large caravan. The owner, after dismounting his camel, approached me.

"Let me drink, I pray thee, a little water from thy pitcher." He seemed so gentle; his speech was rhythmic and ancient. My heart was drawn toward him. Immediately I let down my pitcher and gave the man a drink. I was surprised when I found myself saying,

"Drink, my lord, and I will draw water for your camels also. Sir, we have room for you and and plenty of straw and food for the camels."

I hastened to draw many pitchers to fill the trough. It took a great while to slake the thirst of ten camels wearied by a long journey. The old man stood by watching me in profound silence. He then came to me and gave me a gold ring and two bracelets. He seemed overwhelmed with my gesture. He dropped to the ground, prostrated, and began to thank his God.

"Blessed be the LORD God of my master Abraham." when he arose he asked:

"Maiden, whose family are you?"

I told him that I was the daughter of Beth-u'el, the son whom Mil'cah bore to Nahor. His eyes lit up; many lines creased his parchment face. Then he pulled a sack from his cloak and handed me ten shekel weight of gold. I shook my head in protest. I had never seen so much gold. My heart was leaping for joy, not greed. I just knew this man had something to do with my future, with my dream that evening in the meadow.

Later, I would learn that he was Eliezer, Abram's servant. My great uncle (now named Abraham) had always worshiped this invisible God. And it was this God who blessed Uncle Abraham above all men with silver, gold, cattle and land. Again, the servant, Eliezer prayed while he prostrated himself on the ground.

"Blessed be the the LORD, the God of my master, Abraham, who has not forsaken his loving kindness and who has led me to the house of my master's brother." I had never heard a heart cry out so passionately to someone unseen.

Soon my mother and I were busy preparing food for the servant and his men. Laban ran outside immediately when he saw me come in with the news of our relative and his eyes grew large when he saw the shekels and gold adornments. We made date cakes, sesame seeds with honey, wheat bread, cucumbers and cream. A savory stew was made with lamb and beef and vegetables. A calf had been turning on a spit over coals all day. Soon Laban was washing the feet of the servant and his men. This had always been our custom. Then, it was time to feast, but Eliezer would not eat until he told his errand. How full my heart became when I learned that I was the reason for this special visit.

Eliezer's Story

I am Abraham's servant. And the LORD has blessed my master greatly: and he is become great: and the LORD has given him flocks, and herds, and silver, and gold, and menservants and maidservants, and camels and asses.

And Sarah my master's wife bare a son to my master when he was old: and unto him has he given all that he has.

And my master made me swear, saying, Do not take a wife to my son of the daughters of the Canaanites, in whose land I dwell, But you shall go unto my father's house, and to my kindred, and take a wife for my son.

And I said to my master, what if the woman will not follow me? And he said to me, the LORD before whom I walk, will send his angel with you, who will give you success and you shall take a wife for my son of my kindred, and of my father's house:

If their daughter will not have consent to go with you, you shall be cleared of my oath. And I came this day to the well, and said, "O LORD God of my master Abraham, now make my mission a success. Behold, I stand by the well of water, and if it shall come to pass that when a beautiful maiden comes forth to draw water and I say to her, Give me, I pray, a little water of your pitcher to drink.

And if she says to me, Please drink and I will draw also for your camels: let the same be the woman the Lord has appointed out for my master's son. And before I had done speaking in my heart, behold, Rebekah came forth with her pitcher on her shoulder; and she went down unto the well, and drew water: and I said unto her. Let me drink, I pray you. And she quickly let down her pitcher from her shoulder and said, Drink, and I will give your camels drink also; so I drank and she made the camels drink also.

And I asked her, Whose daughter are you? And she said, The daughter of Beth-u'el, the son whom Mil'cah bare unto Nahor: and I put the earring upon her face, and the bracelets upon her hands, And I bowed down my head, and worshiped the LORD, and blessed the LORD God of my master Abraham who had led me in the right way to take my master's brother's daughter unto his son.

And now, if you will deal kindly with me, tell me what you will do concerning Rebekah and my master? Tell me if I should stay or turn and leave."

Rebekah and the Bride Price

Laban looked worried. I could already read his face. He was worried about what sort of dowry such a rich man would require. "Ahem," he scratched his wiry beard and fidgeted. "What price do you ask for her?" I was embarrassed to be spoken of as if I were a prize calf. But we were all surprised at his answer.

"Do you not see the ten camels? They are heavy with gifts of silver, gold, silks, jewels and raiment for Rebekah and this household. It is all for you. You see, the LORD God of my master Abraham commands the son to pay the bride price, because the only son of my master so dearly loves the bride that he will pay all that he has for the joy of her presence. She is more valuable than gold, more precious than pearls. Her beauty is matchless and greatly to be desired."

My ears and face burned and my eyes flooded with tears. I was desired? I was not to be bought and sold as cattle? But what came next was a greater revelation.

"Take her, take her, of course, " Beth-u'el and Laban spoke nearly at once.

"No," Eliezer said, "There must be the da'at, the consent. This woman must consent to be the bride of my master's only son. She must say 'I do' to the bridegroom. She is not a slave but one who has her own will and desires in her own heart."

Never before was a maiden consulted. Our marriages were arranged and our feelings were not a consideration. My heart was full to overflowing.

Beth-u'el and Laban were humbled. "This thing does proceed from the LORD, from the God of our brother Abraham."

Turning toward me, Father said,

"Now daughter, will you take Isaac, will you say 'yes' to the only son?"

"I will," I answered.

I was filled with such joy; never before had I felt that I had value. Now, I knew I was a woman, chosen by the God of Abraham. If God loved me, who could be against me? My mother began to cry and plead for me to stay at least ten more days. But Eliezer insisted that he needed to go at once. So Father asked rather gently with a profound respect,

"Will you go with this man?"
"I will," I answered.

And that was the beginning of the greatest love I have ever known. Though most of the night had passed away in eating and visiting, at last the household slept and I lay awake thinking of the voice on the hillside whose promise was so soon coming to pass.

The next morning I gathered gold and treasures and jewels and silken raiments together. Maidens were provided for my needs. The family gathered to say a goodbye that was filled with a glad-sadness. Suddenly my mother pronounced a blessing that filled the house with a kind of thunder:

"Thou, art our sister, be thou the mother of thousands of millions and let thy Seed possess the gate of those who hate Him." The very words of my dream. Surely the invisible God had visited me!

We journeyed on camels for many days. We traveled through strange and lonely country. Once we were almost assaulted by robbers, but they looked at the Servant of Abraham and rode away. I now could feel the presence of the invisible God as we rode by day. He stood guard over us as we slept at night. He was as close as the breeze that kissed my cheek.

Finally we were in the South country of Canaan. The day of our arrival, Isaac had gone out to the field to pray and meditate. Later, he saw the camels coming. When he saw me; he beheld my beauty and loved me. And when I saw him, my heart was filled with awe. I leaped from my camel and ran towards him throwing a silken scarf over my head. I was brought to Sarah's tent, bathed, perfumed and decked with jewels that were the gifts from our Father's Servant. I became the son's wife and we loved each other.

The End of the Beginning