[b-hebrew] Ruth 1: 12 too old for a husband

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Mon Jul 22 12:04:21 EDT 2013

Isaac Fried wrote:  “Bear in mind that many of the biblical heroines, 
Rebekah,  Rachel, Lea, Ruth, Esther, were just little girls (if I correctly 
remembers  Rashi says Rebekah was 3 years old when she married Isaac, then she 
was  "childless").”  
Rebekah was not age 3 years old when she married  Isaac.   
1.  Note that  Rebekah’s mother and brother ask Rebekah if Rebekah is 
willing to leave with  Abraham’s servant now, to go all the long way to Canaan to 
marry Isaac.  No one would ask a 3-year-old such a  question. 
“56 And he said  unto them, Hinder me not, seeing the Lord  hath prospered 
my way; send me away that I may go to my master.  57 And they said, We will 
call the damsel,  and enquire at her mouth.  58 And they called  Rebekah, 
and said unto her, Wilt thou go with this man? And she said, I will  go.  59 
And they sent away Rebekah their sister,  and her nurse, and Abraham's 
servant, and his men.”  Genesis 24: 56-59 
2.  Rebekah’s  implied age when she marries Isaac is age 15 years [in 
12-month years].  We are never given any exact age for  Rebekah, but here is what 
can logically be implied. 
We know that Sarah was 10 shanah younger than Abraham,  since Sarah is age 
90 shanah and Abraham is age 100 shanah when Isaac is  born.  [See Genesis 
17: 17.]  Per Mark Cohen’s “The Cultic Calendars  of the Ancient Near East”, 
the archaic meaning of “shanah” was “the turn of the  year”, meaning a 
6-month period.  I  myself see the truly ancient Patriarchal narratives as 
setting forth each  person’s age in terms of archaic shanah, that is, in terms 
of 6-month periods,  not 12-month years.  On that view of  the case, Sarah 
gives birth to Isaac at age 45 years [in 12-month years], and  Sarah is 5 
years younger than her husband Abraham.  We know that Isaac was age 40 shanah  
when he married Rebekah.  Genesis  25: 20.  It is implied, though not  
expressly stated, that Abraham, like Isaac, married at age 40 shanah, with each  
being age 20 years old [in 12-month years], and that Rebekah, like Sarah, 
was 5  years younger than her husband, with Rebekah thus being age 15 years 
when she  married Isaac. 
All of those ages are completely reasonable in the  ancient world. 
3.  The  following verse fits perfectly a 15-year-old bride who, per 
Genesis 24: 16, was  very beautiful and still a virgin, while not fitting a 
3-year-old child  bride:   
“And Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah's  tent, and took Rebekah, and 
she became his wife; and he loved her: and Isaac was  comforted after his 
mother's death.”  Genesis 24: 67 
The reason why  Rebekah did not bear Isaac a son right away was not because 
Rebekah was too  young for childbearing, but rather was because, like Sarah 
before her and Rachel  after her, Rebekah had to wait for years for the 
divine gift of  fertility. 
Jim Stinehart 
Evanston,  Illinois
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