Authors: Jill Eileen Smith
Tags: #FIC042030, #FIC042040, #FIC027050, #Rebekah (Biblical matriarch)—Fiction, #Bible. O.T.—History of Biblical events—Fiction, #Women in the Bible—Fiction, #Christian Fiction
© 2013 by Jill Eileen Smith
Published by Revell
a division of Baker Publishing Group
P.O. Box 6287, Grand Rapids, MI 49516-6287
Ebook edition created 2013
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—for example, electronic, photocopy, recording—without the prior written permission of the publisher. The only exception is brief quotations in printed reviews.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is on file at the Library of Congress, Washington, DC.
Scripture used in this book, whether quoted or paraphrased by the characters, is taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®. NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.
This is a work of historical reconstruction; the appearance of certain historical figures is therefore inevitable. All other characters, however, are products of the author’s imagination, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
Published in association with the Books & Such Literary Agency, Wendy Lawton, Central Valley Office, P.O. Box 1227, Hilmar, CA 95324,
The internet addresses, email addresses, and phone numbers in this book are accurate at the time of publication. They are provided as a resource. Baker Publishing Group does not endorse them or vouch for their content or permanence.
To Jill Stengl, whose encouragement in this project kept me sane, whose faith gave me hope when I was certain there was no story to tell, and who believed in me despite my doubts that I could complete the work.
Thank you, dear friend, for the many hours you listened to my worries over Skype and for your many prayers on my behalf. This book would not be what it is without you.
Some time later Abraham was told, “Milcah is also a mother; she has borne sons to your brother Nahor: Uz his firstborn, Buz his brother, Kemuel (the father of Aram), Kesed, Hazo, Pildash, Jidlaph and Bethuel.” Bethuel became the father of Rebekah.
Now Rebekah had a brother named Laban.
, 1969 BC
Light flickered from clay oil lamps in every corner of Bethuel’s bedchamber, the effort valiant but feeble, useless to dispel the gloom. Attendants hurried in and out, the hum of their whispers mixing with the sounds of their movements as they refilled a water jar here, wrung out a cool cloth there, and adjusted blankets, fussing, fearing . . .
Rebekah stood to the side, unable to take her eyes from the form of her father lying prone on the raised wooden bed, his head engulfed in soft cushions and layered with cloths meant to bring his fever down. But his clear moments had been few, his words strained as though he were speaking through stretched and cracking parchment.
Tears filled her eyes, and she pulled the cloak tighter about her, desperate to subdue the shaking.
Not now, Abba. Please, do not leave me.
She heard voices in the hall outside the room and swiped at the unwanted tears. Though the time for mourning was almost upon them, she did not want her grief put on public display. Not yet. Not while there was still a chance her father might recover.
Shadows danced over the tiled floor, and servants moved quickly to leave the chamber as her brother Laban and her mother, Nuriah, moved in. Laban carried a scroll and seal and walked with assurance to kneel at his father’s side.
“You called for me, Father?” Laban spoke softly, but his words carried to Rebekah. She leaned closer to better hear him, catching Laban’s glance and look of silent censure.
“Bethuel? Is that you?” Her father’s eyes fluttered as he spoke. “Let me behold my namesake, my firstborn, that I might bless him.”
Laban touched his father’s arm even as a determined glint filled his dark eyes. “I am here, Father.”
Rebekah’s heart skipped a beat, and a certain dread filled her. What was he doing? She opened her mouth to speak, then changed her mind and turned to rush out and find Bethuel, but before she could move or utter a sound, her mother hurried to her side and clutched her arm with clawlike strength.
“Keep silent,” her mother hissed into her ear, and though she leaned away from Rebekah, her grip did not slacken, her intent strikingly clear.
“I have brought the scrolls, Father. You need only to dip your seal in the wax and all will be well.” Laban unrolled the parchment, took the small clay bowl, and poured the already heated wax onto the bottom of the scroll.
A rustling of robes filled her ear, and Rebekah turned, seeing two of her father’s servants enter—two who had always favored Laban.
“Bring me Bethuel. I must bless my son.” Her father’s voice stumbled over the words, each one coming out painfully slow.
Nuriah stepped forward and touched her husband’s chest. “You must do as Laban requests, my husband. He is the one whom you must bless.”
Her father’s breath grew labored, and Rebekah’s own breath hitched as she watched him wince, as though her
mother’s words caused pain. Everyone knew her brother Bethuel was not quick-witted as Laban was, that his words and actions were slow, lumbering, and that he did not have the skill to run the estate the way her mother or Laban would want. But her father had always preferred him, and Rebekah knew that if nothing else, her brother would look out for her, would be fair and kind, unlike Laban.
“Mother, please.” Rebekah’s whispered words were met with a look like hardened stone. She clamped her mouth shut.
Laban took the seal and curled his father’s fingers around it, pressing it into the wax.
Rebekah’s stomach tightened as she recognized the scroll as the one her father kept secure in an urn buried in the dirt beneath the floor, the deed to all that he owned. The deed that should have been passed to his firstborn, to Bethuel. She glanced toward the door. Where was he? Why did he not stop this? Had Laban done something to her brother? But no, Bethuel was big and far stronger than Laban. He could break Laban’s neck in his two hands, though he would not do so. Not for any reason.
She turned at the sound of rustling sheets. Her nurse, Deborah, was helping her father to sit straighter. Laban blew on the wax, waiting for the seal to dry, while her mother took her husband’s hand in hers.
“Please, my husband, say the words you know you must say.”
Rebekah’s stomach twisted into knots at the pained expression on her father’s dear face.
No, Abba. Do not listen to her.
But it would be useless to fight her mother and brother when they had obviously conspired together in this. Somehow they would have convinced Bethuel to stay away, to let them work things out as they had planned. And he was too kind and gentle to demand anything against them.
“Please, my husband.” Nuriah’s insistent tone made heat
rise to Rebekah’s cheeks. Her arm still felt the nails her mother had dug into the skin moments before. There was no reasoning with the woman when she was siding with her favorite son, no matter what the cost to anyone else. Sometimes Rebekah wondered if her mother loved Laban more than she did her own husband. Surely she favored him above her other children or grandchildren. The thought brought a bitter taste to her mouth.
“May Adonai bless you, my son.”
Rebekah leaned forward, listening, her father’s words no more than a breath.
“May your mother’s sons serve you, and may you prosper all the days of your life.” He fell back among the cushions, his body spent.
Deborah lifted the thin sheet closer to his neck, and he closed his eyes. Rebekah watched closely, begging the God of Shem to let her see his chest rise and fall.
“Thank you, Father.” Laban leaned close and kissed their father’s sunken cheek, then gathered the scroll and seal and moved quickly from the room.
Her mother gripped Rebekah’s arm once more. “See to it you say nothing of this to anyone. Your brother has done what he must. It is all for the best.” She lifted a veined hand toward her husband’s frail form. “He has always favored you and our weak-willed firstborn. But he was wrong.” She wrapped her robe more tightly about her thin frame and hurried after Laban.
Rebekah stared after her, her heart thudding hard against her chest, a sense of betrayal and fury filling her. “He is not weak-willed.” She spoke the words out of earshot of her mother. She knew better than anyone that her brother Bethuel was a gentle man—anyone watching could see the way he tended the lambs in his care, treating them with greater
kindness than her mother had treated anyone in her life. Better than Laban did his own wife and children.
But it was Laban who had the sense for business and the wherewithal to command a household. Laban could charm the feistiest merchant and work his way into the most uncompromising heart. She was weary of his deceit and the way he controlled those around him. In the past, she could run to her father for aid. But now . . . what would she do without her abba? She looked again at his frail form, watching Deborah replace the cool cloths across his forehead and about his chest.