It’s always the men, in the Bible, who make the big headlines, so I was excited to read Rebekah: Women of Genesis by Orson Scott Card and get a new point of view for the well-known Bible story of Rebekah and Isaac, Jacob and Esau. After all, there’s that quote about a strong woman behind every strong man.
Rebekah lives with her father and brother in a tent community, which is sort of like a cross between a nomadic life and a city. Her father’s hearing loss, her love for the God of Abraham, and the effects of her personal beauty all play a role in her life and future.
Despite opportunities to marry well, she holds out for a marriage where she can worship God, raise her children to worship God, and avoid the idol worship that is so prevalent in the Middle East during that time (remember that thousands of years before the birth of Christ existed a world of polytheism). As we all know, she eventually marries Isaac, the son of Abraham, and she begets Jacob and Esau, twins who vie with each other throughout their lives. Through one grows the numerous hosts of Israel and Jesus Christ.
This book was beautiful not for its writing (sorry Orson Scott Card), but for its message. It looks at the mistakes that Isaac and Rebekah make as parents in the light of parents doing the best they can. Good parents doing something wrong in an attempt to do something right makes them good parents, not failures. Because from what I can see, parenting is tricky despite the century.
The Characters. I love it that Rebekah is portrayed as a strong woman of faith, someone who only desires to do God’s will. If you look back on the Bible story, you realize that this woman agreed to marry a man she never met. Although we aren’t allowed a glimpse into her thoughts there, Orson Scott Card offers a possible view of the person she was in order to do such a remarkable thing.
Similarly, Isaac is often overshadowed by his father on one side and favoring the wrong son on the other. Instead of judging him, the author offers a possible explanation, making Isaac a gentle, Godly man who’s conflicted by his own experience with his father and the uncertainty of the meaning of a vision from God.
The only problem I have is the depiction of Abraham. I imagine this prophet of God as I see a prophet in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: gentle, kindly, and insightful. The querulous old man of this book seems a bit unlikely.
The Storyline. Orson Scott Card based the story on history and scripture where he could, but a lot has gone unwritten, so he added a fictional back story, the parts that helped to develop the characters that we see in the scriptures. The storyline—Rebekah’s father’s blindness, her striking beauty, her concern over the raising of her sons—is so very interesting and likely and real. All mothers worry about their children no matter in which culture or age of the world they live.
The Writing. This was the only aspect of the book that I wasn’t overly impressed with. It wasn’t poorly written, it just wasn’t well-written (not the plot, the actual writing). Nothing struck me as particularly touching or poetic. I don’t know how I can love a storyline and characters and not the writing, but there you go. It’s average, not great.
This books illuminates Rebekah’s story, tantalizes the mind with the possibilities of how her character was formed and examines the woman behind the prophet of God. For this alone—the telling of the untold story even if it is fiction—this book is worth a read.