Friday, October 21, 2011

Research on Rebekah

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.

Pages 37-38:

“‘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.

Page 68:

(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.

Pages 143-144:

“…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.

Page 127:

“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.


  1. I really like your idea behind this essay. I'm also very interested in the way women are portrayed in the Bible and in Crumb's illustrations and I think you do a great job in the first paragraph discussing Rebekah's marriage proposal. You make good ties between how Crumb depicts her and how women are typically viewed at this time period, especially with your description of her change in appearance pre vs. post-proposal. Your research was also really good and makes some great points, but I feel as if you should connect it more closely to Crumb's version of the story. For example, you could pick out specific illustrations from Crumb that relate to the quotes you found. I think your idea has awesome potential for a revision, but I would make sure to back up the quotes with illustrations and discuss what Crumb is trying to say about them.

  2. I liked the opening question, although I was a little vague on how you saw Rebekah's emotions (for what it's worth, I see here emotions as rapidly changing through these couple pages - as well they should rapidly change, since her life is being completely transformed, for good or for evil, with great speed).

    As for what follows, I think you needed to organize your research a little more clearly. The biggest problem here was your use of Orson Scott Card's book. It's fiction, not non-fiction. Using it as inspiration for your own reading is a fine idea, but it's not the same thing as ordinary research, by any means.

    Your second quote gives a much more conventional reading of Rebekha's character as a "strong" woman, without really dealing with the fact that you're moving smoothly from fiction to non fiction.

    I like the idea that Crumb is dealing with several contradictory impulses or needs. In my *opinion*, I think you're on to something: Rebekah is very young, but also very strong (read what Alter's notes have to say on this subject); she is treated as property, and yet she will be the powerful, manipulative mother of nations. I tend to agree that Crumb is struggling to bring out her contradictions (is he successful?). To get there, though, you'll need to do a lot of work.

    The biggest issue here is the confusion between fiction and research - focusing on a second academic source, or doing more with with the first one (using Card to help develop your argument, but not to pose as an academic source) would have been more effective.