Lessons from Rebekah: The Cost Of Dishonoring Your Spouse

false teacher

? Happily Ever After

The love story of Isaac and Rebekah had the beautiful beginning of an arranged marriage. Abraham sent his servant to his father’s people to find a wife for Rebekah. There were instructions, and the servant followed them to the letter.  Rebekah met this stranger at the well and responded to his query in such a way that he knew at once she was the woman for the son of his servant.

Rebekah was willing to go with this strange servant to another part of the country and meet her unknown bridegroom instead of waiting for ten days to have time for saying farewell to her family and kindred.  You can read the account by clicking here.

Scripture says that Isaac loved Rebekah deeply. He had lost his mother, and his wife was a comfort to him. It seems there was not dishonor between the two in those first years. Twenty years later, they were still waiting to have a child. Isaac prayed, and God opened the womb of Rebekah. They received a double blessing: twin sons.

Not So Happily . . .

There was a problem, though. The sons were as different as night and day. Even in the womb, they tangled. Rebekah was given the prophecy that there were two different nations in her womb, and the elder would serve the younger. It’s too bad she thought it was her job to make sure that happened (as if Jehovah needed any help from her).

Esau, the first born, was hairy and red-headed; he loved hunting and all things masculine. He was favored by his father. Jacob, prophesied before birth to continue the bloodline of the Messiah, was  not hairy and not red-haired; he was favored by his mother because he enjoyed being at home among the tents, gardening and cooking. He became a favorite of Rebekah. We don’t have to surmise this; it’s right there in scripture.

  • Letting your children get in the way of your relationship with your spouse is a dishonor to your spouse.
  • Catering to a child who is more like you and loving the one like your spouse less is a dishonor to your spouse and to your child.
  • Pitting your child against your spouse is wrong. That’s what Rebekah did. Look at what that dishonor cost them!

A Birthright for Lentils

The day Esau came in from hunting declaring he was about to starve, he asked for the stew Jacob was making. He got it – after selling his birthright to Jacob for the bowl of stew. Scripture says he despised his birthright.

When they were grown men, Esau married pagan women, which caused problems in the family. Life was more difficult for Rebekah now; perhaps she even resented her eldest son for the grief he caused her. Jacob remained unmarried and no doubt continued to be of great help to his parents.

The day came when Isaac thought he would die soon. He sent Esau to hunt some game with instructions to fix it just the way Isaac liked it. After eating the meal together, Isaac was going to give Esau the blessing. You have to understand that the one who got the blessing and the birthright was the one who inherited a double portion at the death of the father. He was also then promoted to be the head of the clan.

‘Only problem was, Esau had sold that birthright to Jacob. It is apparent that Rebekah knew about this, and she set out to make sure this would not happen.  Do you find yourself wondering what Esau was thinking when he went to hunt that wild game for his father? Did he forget that he had sold the birthright?!

Deceit – and After

I’ve often wondered how God would have worked this out so that Jacob got the birthright instead of Esau, since this was His plan. This I know: Jehovah did not need any help  from Rebekah; He would have managed just fine on His own.

  • Trying to steer our spouse is disrespectful, both to him and to God. God doesn’t need any help from us in moving our husbands where He wants them to be.
  • Trying to steer our spouse is not only a dishonor to him, it’s a dishonor to God. Payday will come.

The story line continues in the next chapters of Genesis. While Esau is out hunting, Rebekah turns into a conniving woman. She sends Jacob out to bring in two young kids because she is going to help Jacob get that birthright! By the time the kid-stew is complete, she had put goat hair on Jacob’s arms and shoulders (so Isaac will think it is Jacob should he feel his skin) and outfitted him in Esau’s clothes so he will smell like the oldest son.

  • Finagling things so our child will get what we want him to have or get what he wants is harmful, especially when it is done in defiance to the wishes of our spouse. This is exactly what Rebekah did to Isaac. 
  • Going against one’s spouse teaches our children to be dishonoring to him as well. When we model defiance, chances are we will reap it later in our children.

Isaac questions Jacob two times, and both times Jacob lies right to his father’s face, declaring that he is Esau. He also credits God with helping him “find” the meat so quickly when in actuality, Jacob just went out to the goat herd to get what he needed. Don’t think Rebekah wasn’t standing there listening the entire time.

  • Lying to our spouse (or to anyone) is wrong.  It is especially wrong to encourage our children to be disrespectful to their parent by encouraging them to be deceitful. By encouraging Jacob to lie, Rebekah was being disrespectful to her husband. Her attitude and action was a dishonor to her spouse.

Isaac finally believed Jacob, and gave him the blessing. By the time Esau came back from his hunt, it was too late. Esau begged his father for a blessing, and he gave one; but it wasn’t the blessing the first born should have been given. As Jehovah had told Rebekah when the boys wrestled in her womb, the elder would serve the younger.

  • Even when we think we know what God wants or intends, it is not in our place to manipulate things so that it happens. God doesn’t need our help (and neither does our spouse) if there is something that God says will happen. Trying to move ahead of God’s way of doing things or of His timing is disrespectful, not only to our husbands, but to Jehovah God as well.

Murder He Wrote

Esau, the now-disfavored firstborn, becomes so angry he plots to kill Jacob after his father’s death and the time of mourning for Isaac is past. Rebekah hears of his plans and decides to send Jacob away in a run for his life. Does she come clean and tell Isaac?  Oh no, she comes up with another lie. She says to her dying husband, “I’m so sick of these Hittite women around here. I’d rather die than have Jacob marry one of them. Can we send him away to my brother and have him find a wife there?” What happens to Jacob matters more to Rebekah than being honest and forthright with her spouse. She continues the cover up because her son matters more than her own husband. Isaac agrees, and Jacob flees. He never sees his mother again, for she dies before his return.

  • Giving a different reason than the truth is disrespectful and dishonoring to our spouse. Telling one lie makes us have to cover up with more lies. Our relationship with a child should never supersede the relationship with our spouse. Even when we don’t agree with our spouse, that relationship must be paramount over any other, including the relationship with our children. By choosing a child (or children) over our spouse, we are dishonoring our spouse.

Fairy tale Reality

I’ve often wondered what happened to Isaac and Rebekah that caused their relationship to disintegrate into lies and deceit.  What started out as a storybook romance didn’t end that way. Isaac was no more the perfect husband than she was the perfect wife. There’s a reason Rebekah didn’t mind lying and being deceitful, but we can’t blame Isaac because she was still responsible for the choices she made.

When we are tempted to only tell part of the truth, to hide the bills from our shopping spree, to twist facts to our favor, or to embellish our woes, it’s time to take note and think about Isaac and Rebekah. Begin by making a deliberate decision to honor and respect your spouse.

Let God work on his idiosyncrasies and exert your energy, instead, on becoming a woman of honor and respect. You will be blessed, I know.




How To Talk About Your Husband to Other Women

talk about your husband

There’s not a woman around who hasn’t wanted to talk to about her husband to other women. There’s a danger in talking to others about our spouse. Sharing information can be helpful. Too often, however, it is detrimental. You wanna know the truth about it? There’s a right way – and there is also a wickedly wrong way to go about discussing our spouse with others.

Our Prenuptial Agreement

talking about spouse graham crackers

Before Dave and I got married, we had a prenuptial agreement. It wasn’t a written contract, but we agreed on two things. One pertained to him and the other to me.

If I ever send you to the store to buy graham crackers,” I told him one day standing in the cracker aisle in Winn-Dixie, “there is only one brand to get: Honey Maid Graham crackers. Nothing generic and no other brands will do. Just Honey Maid Graham crackers. Promise me?” He promised.

For 32 years, he’s kept that promise in providing the brand of my choice with no complaint about the additional cost over a generic brand.

talking about spouse

“I think it’s unfair for women to talk to other people about their husbands when they’ve never spoken to their husbands about their frustration,” Dave told me one evening a few months before we were married. “I’m asking you to promise me that, when you are hurt or frustrated, you will tell me first. Let me hear it from you, and give me a chance to make it right. After you tell me, I don’t care if you tell the world.” I promised.

One day several years after we were married, I failed to keep that promise. I can’t remember what the infraction was, but I mentioned it to a friend. The infraction had been gnawing at me, and in a moment of you-think-this-is-bad-wait-’til-you-hear-what-my-husband-did moment, I mentioned my frustration. As soon as the words came out of my mouth, I remembered. Although I wasn’t guilty of spite or revenge, when I got home I told Dave that I had failed to honor his request.

There were occasions (especially early in our marriage) when I told Dave what was bugging me only so I could then spout off to someone else. I preceded my explanation with, “I’m only telling you this because I promised I’d tell you before I talk to somebody else.”

You know what? By the time I had decided that what bugged me was so important that I wanted to tell someone else and therefore was important enough to first share with him, I usually didn’t need to tell anyone else. By telling him first, I gave him the opportunity to explain his actions and/or ask my forgiveness. By then, I didn’t have anything to tell anyone else!

Sharing and Encouraging

As women, we are called to encourage, challenge, and affirm each other. How can we do that if we never share our struggles, challenges, and the lessons we are learning? Yet, how can we share those struggles without being disrespectful to our spouse? There is a way, and it’s biblical.

It doesn’t mean that I can’t share what I have learned in the past or that I can’t share my own struggles with other women as a way of providing encouragement or receiving counsel. When a gal is struggling, she tends to assume that everyone else’s marriage is great and she is the only one with these problems. How encouraging it is to have others share their struggles – not to tear down their spouse – but to be able to say, “I have walked this path, and this is what worked for me. You can do this, too.”

Most Husbands put Respect above Their Need for Love. This is probably why there are biblical commands for wives about respect instead of love.

  • We are to submit. (I.Peter 3:1; Ephesians 5:22) [Don’t quake on this word. It’s a wonderful protection.]
  • We are to be respectful. (I Peter 3:3; Ephesians 5:33)
  • All Christians are to be harmonious . . . humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead. (I Peter 3:8,9)

It’s true that a woman likes to have another female who can identify with and/or understand what she is feeling and going through. It’s true that women understand each other better than men understand women. It is also true that no husband can ever be all things to his wife, and she does need female friends.

However, women tend to use the above reasons as permission to spill anything and everything, to do it disrespectfully, and to judge him guilty as charged without considering their own humanness. Some women never allow their spouse the opportunity to explain his point of view, simply telling the story from their own perspective – often embellishing the details to further prove his guilt and lessen theirs. Most times it’s done disrespectfully.

One of the greatest disservices we can do to our relationship with our spouse is to be disrespectful of him in the way we speak – whether in public or in private. Abraham’s wife Sarah is heralded as a woman of God – because she submitted to her husband and because she “called him lord”. That means she placed him in high esteem. Sarah admired, affirmed, and respected her man. Do you want to be lauded as a woman of God? Do what Sarah did.

Misery Loves Company

Satan has a counterfeit for everything good God has created. It is God’s idea that younger women should learn from older women. It is His idea that we should bear each other’s burdens and that we are to encourage and exhort each other. It is not His intent that you talk about your husband in a disrespectful or negative way.

Satan provides the temptation to share gossip rather than concern; to choose someone who will commiserate rather than encourage; to choose a friend who will add to our negative words about our spouse rather than admonish; to choose someone who allows us to always be right instead of asking us the hard questions. Before we know it, our time of sharing becomes a “misery loves company” session. Instead of receiving encouragement, we end of feeling that all husbands are jerks and we must just learn to endure (which simply is not true!).

How and Why of Sharing about Your Spouse

How then can a wife find a way to receive encouragement without gossiping and without being disrespectful? How can you talk about your husband truthfully without being negative?

Here are some things to consider:

  • When you find yourself wanting to talk about your spouse instead of to him, ask yourself why you feel this way. Is it your intent to receive help, or to find someone to agree with you about his wrongdoings and your perfectness?
  • Do you verbalize and show respect to your spouse? It’s not an option for Christian wives; it’s a command. If a man is not respected, he does not feel appreciated, admired, and loved. He may give the appearance that he doesn’t care about your respect for him, but the actions of a disrespected husband will very soon manifest his hurt.
  • Surround yourself with women whose desire is to build a good marriage into something even better. Share with those women instead of with others who will end up making you feel worse instead of better. Be sure to surround yourself with others who will sow seeds of positive thoughts that can encourage you rather than seeds of destructive thinking that can tear down your relationship. By all means, be an open door for women who need the help you can give.

When should you share things about your spouse?

  • When you can help other women who need to hear your story so that they can grow
  • When you can help other women learn how to speak respectfully of their spouses
  • When you need to find help in areas you are struggling and to admit your own failures and not just frustrations with your spouse

Ask the Experts

When someone loses 50 pounds in a year, we all want to know how she did it. Was it her diet?! Exercise?! Prayer?!
When someone’s marriage is flourishing, instead of feeling sorry for yourself go to that person and ask her how she did it. Don’t seek help from someone else whose ship is adrift or sinking. Find someone whose marriage spells success and ask her to help you. Tell her that you want what she has, and ask her how she got to where she is in her marriage. Don’t say “Well, if I had a husband like yours . . .”

Turn your Heart toward your Spouse

  • If your spouse is not abusive to you, then go to him. Plan your words carefully and ask him to help you in your struggle.
  • Presenting the problem or frustration as something that you need help with will get your man on board if you are sincere. (Ask me how I know!)
  • Make every effort to talk about your husband in ways that are positive and that show respect.

What to do before you Share

When there is a conflict and you have a true need to share with someone else, consider these things first. Admit your own shortcoming and how that could be playing into the problem. Recognize that your spouse is your head and that you can respect his position as head of your home even if you disagree with some decisions he makes or the way he does things. Even if you feel he is wrong, you are still responsible before God to respect and honor him.

Are Marriages really made in Heaven?!

The idea, blueprint, and pattern for marriage and friendships are from God Himself. The problem is that our Garden isn’t perfect and neither are we. Sharing with others can give us courage and make us stronger if we follow the Master Plan.

This article was first published in Daughters of Promise Magazine.  Click on the link if you’d like more information about this magazine.

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