R. Crumb’s illustrations of the “proposal” in Chapter 24 stood out to me more so than others likely because of the powerful depiction of women in society at the time. More specifically, Crumb’s two drawings on the third page where she is receiving the ring (“Whose daughter are you?...I am the daughter of Bethuel, the son of Milcah, whom she bore to Nahor”) were disturbingly powerful. She is transformed from a happy woman to some creature possessed by the promise of marriage. On the previous page, we see a content Rebekah with calm eyes and carefree body language and then all of a sudden she becomes stiff and her eyes bulge from her head. In addition to her bodily features, Crumb’s depiction of light beaming from behind her seems to tell the viewer that she is enlightened or saved from her current life as if it is such an improvement that she will be married. It was no surprise to me that women had a subordinate role in society during Biblical times, but Crumb’s series of illustrations in the remainder of the chapter were what intrigued me. After this initial stereotypical portrayal of women literally becoming the possession of men, the later illustrations of Rebekah emit emotions of skepticism and rebellion. So was Rebekah the stereotypical female controlled by the power of men and patriarchal society or was she different than the expectations? Why would Crumb decide to illustrate her with a variety of personalities/attitudes?
Card, Scott. Rebekah: Women of Genesis. 1st. New York City: Forge Books, 2002. 416. Print.
“‘Let me not marry a man who wants me just because I’m beautiful,’ she prayed. ‘Let me live my life with a man who cares nothing for my beauty, but who serves thee. Like Sarai, the princess from the ancient lineage of Ur, who married Abram, the desert priest. Abram loved her through all the years that she was barren…Let me be loved like that, by a man who will not replace me with concubines when I’m old and ugly.’”
This quote is showing that Rebekah was looking for a genuine relationship rather than the stereotypical marriage of biblical times. She wasn’t content with the idea of just being with a man for the sake of it without genuine love and compassion. This contrasts the depiction of her in Crumb’s work where she is so elated to simply be chosen by some man’s servant without any knowledge of what the relationship will bring.
(While meeting with Ethah, the grandmother of Ezbaal) “’So this is the woman who wants to be the bride of my grandson! A girl who insults her betters to their faces!’”
This quote is demonstrating Rebekah’s potential for rebellion and inconformity. Although it was expected of young females of that time to be respectful in the desperate hopes of finding a husband, Rebekah didn’t care enough about that to worry about offending his grandmother.
Meyers, Carol, Toni Craven, and Ross Kraemer. Women In Scripture: A Dictionary Of Named And Unnamed Women In The Hebrew Bible, The Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books, And The New Testament. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2001. 608. Print.
“…Isaac blesses Jacob rather than Esau, the first to emerge from the womb and thus the expected recipient of the paternal blessing. This designation of Jacob as heir to the ancestral lineage, which will mean his becoming progenitor of all Israel, is orchestrated by Rebekah. Through clever manipulation…she achieves her purpose and controls the family destiny.”
This quote shows Rebekah as a person of control and power unlike the usual depiction of women in the Bible who are inferior and follow every demand of the men. She also explicitly deceives her husband which, needless to say, is absolutely taboo during these times.
Alter, Robert. Genesis. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1996. 308. Print.
“Two nations—in your womb, two peoples from your loins shall issue. People over people shall prevail, the elder, the younger’s slave.”
Although this is discrete, God is revealing his plan for people to Rebekah, a woman. In a society that emphasizes the importance and superiority of men it would seem logical that God would only share such secrets with a man.
After looking into some other stories of Rebekah, one conclusion that seemed logical was that Crumb was strategically incorporating aspects of her expected reactions into the genuine reactions that Rebekah would have according to the Bible. She was an exception to the rule, yet Crumb felt the need to make her fall in line with the usual female role as to contrast her real personality to the demeaning reality of society.