Saturday, April 03, 2010

Rebekah’s Nurse Buried -- Genesis 35:8

Now Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse died, and she was buried below Bethel under the oak; it was named Allon-bacuth.

It is the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, 2010. I asked God to show me what He wanted us to consider in this particular verse as we journey through Scripture. The nurse of Jacob’s beloved mother, Rebekah, had died. You will remember that Rebekah had brought some of her maids with her when she went with Abraham’s servant to meet and marry Isaac (Genesis 24:61). Deborah was most likely one of those maids. Now here we are in chapter 35, in the middle of the story of Jacob, Rebekah’s son, and finding him responsible for burying Deborah. How did all this come about?

There is no mention in the Bible of Rebekah’s death. Her husband Isaac’s death is recorded later on in this chapter. The deaths of Abraham’s wife Sarah and Jacob’s wife Rachel are recorded, but not that of Isaac’s wife Rebekah. We, of course, do not know the reason for that. It is possible that it was intentional. Surely the author of Genesis was aware of the parallels in the stories he was telling -- Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob and Rachel. How could he otherwise have missed telling us about Rebekah’s death? But why it was intentional, we do not know. Some surmise that Sarah and Rachel had repented of their sins against God, but Rebekah had not. Perhaps so.

We are left with connecting the dots. What I propose here is, however, only our conjecture and not specifically stated in the text. At some point Rebekah before this verse took place, while Jacob was gone from home (fleeing Esau), Rebekah his mother must have died. Jacob never saw his mother again unfortunately. Sadly, their joint bit of deception connived initially by his mother ended up depriving her of ever seeing her son whom she loved so much again. It also deprived him of seeing his mother again for we assume she died while Jacob was in Haran. Somehow, possibly because of the fact that Leah and Rachel were from Laban’s family as was Rebekah and from whence Deborah had come, the beloved nurse of Rebekah went, at Jacob’s invitation, to be with him and his household when her mistress died. And thus Jacob saw to it that Deborah, a member of his household now, was properly buried. It was his responsibility. Sometimes responsibilities like that fall upon us and clearly we are to accept them with grace.

It is appropriate that we also point out some believe that because he was now in Canaan, while living at Shechem, he often visited his father Isaac’s house, nearby in Hebron. That is he may have seen his father Isaac prior to when the text specifically says he did later in chapter 35. Again, that is only speculation but it may explain how it was that Deborah came to live with his household.

The text does say though that Jacob buried this old servant woman of the household, and his mother’s maid, “below Bethel under the oak”. The word ‘below’ is likely intended to depict a physical direction meaning underneath the land of Bethel and in particularly by the oak which he now named “Allonbacuth” or ‘oak of weeping’. The name implies that Deborah had become a beloved person in Jacob’s household, especially among the younger women likely, and thus her death brought about great sorrow and sadness. At my age, I have participated in the burials of many older folks, my parents among them, but also those that have been dear to the family in various ways. It is at the point of burial that one reflects seriously on the life and the impact of the individual whose earthly journey is now complete, regardless of its length.

Another burial is prime in our minds at this Easter season. It is the burial of Jesus. God had seen to it that He His Only Begotten Son was well taken care with respect to his burial. Those that were close to Him wept and lamented for Him. Even though they were afraid of what His death may have meant or would mean for them, they paid Him the great respect that was expected when one lost a loved One. In that respect, Jesus’ burial was similar to those of the great patriarchs of Israel, and of Deborah’s, and even of those that you and I may provide for our loved ones.

But Jesus was God’s Son and Jesus’ burial was not the highlight of the event – His resurrection was! God saw to it that Jesus was resurrected to conquer death for all mankind. His death paid the penalty for all of mankind’s sins. His burial and descent into what is referred to elsewhere in Scripture as the “lower parts of the earth” or to where the “spirits” were “in prison” assures us that we no longer have to make that trip for ourselves. But it is His Resurrection that indeed means death is not the end and burial is not the final resting place. By accepting His love, His life, His gift in His death in our place, everyone of us can live forever. May it be so with you.

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