Toldot: Inquiring of God

jacob esau twins

There are a times when a mother doesn’t need any kind of intermediary to ask for help.  Hagar didn’t need one when she was watching her son Ishmael die in the wilderness after having been sent away by Abraham, at Sarah’s insistence.  Hagar couldn’t bear to see her son die, and so she cried out to God, “Let me not look on as the child dies.” And sitting away, she burst into tears.” (Gen 21:16)  God heard her, and showed her where the water was.

Rebecca got to that point, too.  When she was barren, Isaac intervened and pleaded with God on her behalf.  And she became pregnant, but it was during that time, she went straight to God.  The children were bumping against each other, and she said, “If this, why do I exist?’” The Hebrew is not too clear. Some interpreters think Rebecca is complaining about a painful pregnancy.  But the text doesn’t say she was in pain, just unsettled.  Rebecca knew there was something distressing about the life in her body.  There was something imminent that was going to disrupt the family more than expected.  She went to “inquire” of God directly.  “Tell me, God, what is going on here?  What’s ahead for me?”  And God told her she was going to have twins, “Two peoples are in your belly, two separate peoples shall issue from your body; One people shall be mightier than the other, and the older shall serve the younger.” (Gen 25:23). Rebecca knew right then and there that her children would always be fighting each other, that they would never be at peace with each other, as brothers.

Parents know the pain of watching their children struggle.  Maybe you sat by a bedside until a very high fever came down.  Maybe you sat in the ER, watching the IV take effect on a dehydrated child, watching some strength return, like a stalk of celery in a glass of water.  Maybe you had that conversation that every expectant parent dreads, that the child on its way will have to fight its entire life.  Or maybe you find out your child has had to fight through every day, in ways you didn’t even know.

I always wondered if Rebecca told Isaac about what God had told her.   The very next verse, we read, “When her time to give birth was at hand, there were twins in her womb.” (Gen 25:24).  She knew there were twins, so why would the text announce this specifically, as if it were a surprise?  Why would Rebecca have kept this to herself?  Knowing she was having twins, which is overwhelming enough, plus the added worry of warring brothers, wouldn’t she have turned to her husband for help in preparing, or as a sounding board?

Rebecca heard God’s prophecy on that day, but I would wager it wasn’t the last time she went to “inquire” of God about her children’s distress, only to hear….nothing.  She was left to navigate her boys’ lives on her own.  I’m sure she kept calling out, but the prophecy was done.

This parenting thing doesn’t get easier, as those of us with adult children will attest. As our children encounter difficult times, we parents do plenty of “inquiring of God”.  I hope the answers are there, but wow, they sure are hard to hear sometimes.

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