How and Why Rebekkah Became Empowered—like Abishag

Rebekkah veiled herself, which proves that she

did not depend

on men’s decisions, warning us that we

should all defend

her preference for Jacob, not his fraternal enemy,

who took steps to befriend

their father, old and blind, who therefore failed

to love the son he should

have loved, unlike his mother who had veiled

herself, to prove she could

see better than her hunt-love husband, she, femaled,

familiar with falsehood.


The survival of the Jewish people is dependent not just on its mancestors,

but on the co-directors of the famous family, its femancestors,

whose love promoted peaceful propagation of the Jewish nation. Our survival

depends on the extinction of all senseless hatred, sensibly birthed by love-revival.


Gen. 24:64-65 states:

סד  וַתִּשָּׂא רִבְקָה אֶת-עֵינֶיהָ, וַתֵּרֶא אֶת-יִצְחָק; וַתִּפֹּל, מֵעַל הַגָּמָל.  64 And Rebekah lifted up her eyes, and when she saw Isaac, she alighted from the camel.

סה  וַתֹּאמֶר אֶל-הָעֶבֶד, מִי-הָאִישׁ הַלָּזֶה הַהֹלֵךְ בַּשָּׂדֶה לִקְרָאתֵנוּ, וַיֹּאמֶר הָעֶבֶד, הוּא אֲדֹנִי; וַתִּקַּח הַצָּעִיף, וַתִּתְכָּס.    65 And she said unto the servant: ‘What man is this that walketh in the field to meet us?’ And the servant said: ‘It is my master.’ And she took her veil, and covered herself.

Gen. 25:10 states:

כח  וַיֶּאֱהַב יִצְחָק אֶת-עֵשָׂו, כִּי-צַיִד בְּפִיו; וְרִבְקָה, אֹהֶבֶת אֶת-יַעֲקֹב.            28 Now Isaac loved Esau, because he did eat of his venison; and Rebekah loved Jacob.

In “Rebecca: A Woman of Agency: Rebecca’s confidence and assertiveness are an example of the difference between the dictates of common law, which rendered women entirely subject to the decisions of their fathers and/or husbands, and the multifaceted realities of women’s lived experiences in ancient Israel,”  Miryam Brand,

In the tapestry of biblical and ancient Near Eastern legal collections, women are often depicted as having restricted agency. Within this world, women are predominantly cast as individuals whose destinies are tightly tethered, first to their fathers and then to their husbands. The exchange of a bride-price, a financial transaction sealing marital bonds, unfolded without much regard for the desires or wishes of the brides themselves.

Yet some biblical narratives paint a different picture, illustrating women who possess the power to shape their destinies, whether for better or worse, despite the constraints of their circumstances. A compelling example of such a woman is the matriarch, Rebecca.[For a discussion of Rebecca’s assertive character in reception history, see Malka Z. Simkovich, “Rebecca’s Character,” (2017).

According to a Middle Assyrian collection of laws and regulations dated circa 1100 B.C.E. veiling indicates that a woman is neither a concubine nor a prostitute but is rather a wife or a “pure” single woman.  Conversely, to walk outside unveiled indicates that she is, indeed, either concubine or prostitute. In fact, a husband is able to “upgrade” his concubine to wife status through a witnessed act of veiling:

MAL §41 If a man would veil his concubine, he shall assemble five or six of his comrades, he shall veil her in their presence, he shall declare, “She is my wife”: she is his wife.

A concubine who is not veiled in the presence of the people, whose husband did not declare, “She is my wife”: she is not a wife, she is indeed a concubine.

In “It’s a Woman’s World. We’re All Just Living in It,” Cindi Leive perhaps invents the word “mancestors.” In her review of EVE: How the female body drove 200 million years of human evolution by Cat Bohannon, she writes that the author wants to tear our eyes away from “the clever ape — always male” — and force us to consider the female of the species.

It is interesting that the haftarah for the sidra, in which the Torah records the veiling of Rebekkah, draws our attention to the importance of Abishag, a woman who takes care of David in his old age. Daniel Bodi in,  “Abishag: King David’s Sokhenet” points out that, in the Ancient Near East, women who performed the sort of duties that Abishag accomplished for King David were able to act as witnesses. Bodi’s article suggests to me that the reason Abishag is mentioned in 1 Kings 1-4 is because she was able – even as a female witness – to confirm Bathsheba’s report, which was that David had sworn that Solomon would be his successor. Although Abishag seems to be a mere concubine, she ensures the succession of David by being a witness on behalf of Bathsheba. Bathsheba’s statement was that David had sworn to her that their son Solomon would be his successor, rather than Adonijah, the pretender to the throne. Abishag’s ability in the presence of David to act as a witness to Bathsheba’s statement, enables her independence, echoing Rebekkah, who by veiling herself when meeting Isaac, is asserting the independence that enables her to ensure that Jacob would be the successor of Isaac, not Esau, the pretender whom Isaac preferred. Esau was a man who, the midrash points out, was a great pretender, foreshadowing his descendants who would practice a mere pretense of Judaism.

About the Author
Gershon Hepner is a poet who has written over 25,000 poems on subjects ranging from music to literature, politics to Torah. He grew up in England and moved to Los Angeles in 1976. Using his varied interests and experiences, he has authored dozens of papers in medical and academic journals, and authored "Legal Friction: Law, Narrative, and Identity Politics in Biblical Israel." He can be reached at