Thursday, February 07, 2008

Why the Mother's Tent?

Below is an artist's rendering of Rebecca and Isaac's first meeting:

Isaac first meets Rebecca

I received another query by email this week: At the end of Genesis Ch. 24, what is significant about Isaac taking Rebekah into his mother's tent? Does this have to do with his grieving process, did the husbands and wives have different tents, and since Sarah's was already set up, Rebekah could just take over Sarah's tent? Why wouldn't Isaac take Rebekah into his own tent?

Not a bad question. The idea may be that the circle of life has swung round to joy and promise---with love of Rebekah now Isaac’s focus rather than sorrow for his mother. Interestingly the Song of Songs (3:4; 8:5) also speaks of new love blossoming in the mother's tent, and here too the idea may be life swinging around in a harmonious cycle. I admit the image feels odd for us in the modern western world, and I wonder if there are any modern cross-cultural parallels available to help here.

Also, Rebekah is now the new matriarch, the new bearer of God’s promise of fruitfulness (cf. Isa 54:2 and the ref. to the tent). This may be another symbolic meaning of her being brought into Sarah's tent.

Just two ideas… Do other thoughts strike the readers of this blog?


Blogger Targuman said...

I have no idea where I picked it up, but for the longest time I have thought that this was the means of "consummating" the relationship in the culture. Not just the sex bit, but the ceremony of this tent now being the son's, he is now a man with a family of his own about to be born, etc. etc.

But I don't know where I got that idea...

Thu Feb 07, 12:30:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Tim Bulkeley said...

There may also be a link to the mention of "mother's house" in Ruth 1:8 (and also Gen 24:28) in connection with marriage. Though in both those cases it is the bride's mother's dwelling that is mentioned. However, the phrase "mother's house" is extremely rare compared to the ubiquitous "father's house"...

Sun Feb 10, 02:48:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think post-Freud it sounds strange to us to link erotic imagery with any kind of reference to the mother.

I like the idea of the cycle of life and love coming full circle.


Fri Feb 22, 12:12:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Unknown said...

According to Gen. 25:20 Isaac was 40 years old when he married Rebekah. According to Rashi's counting, based on the midrash, Isaac was 37 at the time of the Sacrifice of Isaac, and Abraham was informed of the birth of Rebekah immediately after the Sacrifice (see Genesis 22:20-23). This means that if Rashi is right, Rebekah was three years old at the time of her marriage, young enough to need the care of a mother. (There's an alternative opinion that she was 14 - possibly still young enough to live with her future betrothed husband's mother until the marriage could be consummated).

Tue Mar 04, 05:43:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger Unknown said...

Umm, Igor, Sarah was dead at the time. Had been for three years.

In a polygamous culture it is common for each wife to have her own bedroom or, as in this case, tent. The husband would then visit each wife in her turn in her tent, or alternatively, she would visit him.

Her children would sleep with her in her tent. Thus, when Sarah died, her son Isaac, not unnaturally, continued sleeping in his mothers tent, and this was naturally where he brought his new bride to consummate their marriage.

Thu Nov 26, 12:27:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Jennifer said...

None of those are right...she took over Sarah's tent because she took over Sarah's feminine belongings because Sarah was dead and also because of the laws of purification. When Rebekah was on her period she would not share a tent with Isaac but would have her own tent during that time and when she was not on her period they were able to share a tent and could choose either his or hers. Isaac chose hers to make her feel more at home in a new place because he probably had dirty socks and bad smells in his tent that would have kept her from wanting sex.

Wed Oct 19, 04:28:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Elliesue said...

I believe that as Sarah was dead, Isaac took Rebekah into his mother’s tent as she was now the Matriarch of the family and Isaac was conferring on her the aothority Sarah would have had before she died, over the household.
Think of English households when a Titled male brought home his new wife, the Mother often moved to a doer house (if her husband was dead) oe her own apartments, and the new wife took over the running of the house.
I do agree with the other answers as they fit in with my theory.

Wed Mar 27, 09:25:00 PM GMT-5  

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