According to the account in the Book of Genesis, Rebecca is the daughter of Bethuel and the granddaughter of Nahor, Abraham's brother. She is the sister of Laban, who will later become the father of Rachel and Leah, two of the wives of Rebecca's son Jacob.
The news of her birth is told to her great-uncle Abraham after the latter returns from Akeidat Yitzchak (the Binding of Isaac), the episode in which Abraham was told by God to bring Isaac as a sacrifice on a mountain.
After the Binding of Isaac, Sarah, Abraham's wife, dies. After taking care of her burial, Abraham goes about finding a wife for his son Isaac. He commands his servant Eliezer of Damascus to journey to his birthplace of Aram Naharaim to select a bride from his own family, rather than engage Isaac to a local Canaanite girl. Abraham sends along expensive jewelry, clothing and dainties as gifts to the bride and her family. If the girl refuses to come, Eliezer will be absolved of his responsibility.
Eliezer devises a test in order to find the right wife for Isaac. As he stands at the central well in Abraham's birthplace with his men and ten camels laden with goods, he prays to God:
To his surprise, a young girl immediately comes out and offers to draw water for him to drink, as well as water to fill the troughs for all his camels. Rebecca continues to draw water until all the camels are sated, proving her kind and generous nature and her suitability for entering Abraham's household.
Eliezer immediately gives her a golden nose ring and two golden bracelets (Genesis 24:22), which she hurries to show her mother. Seeing the jewelry, her brother Laban runs out to greet the guest and bring him inside. Eliezer recounts the oath he made to Abraham and all the details of his trip to and meeting with Rebecca in fine detail, after which Laban and Bethuel agree that she can return with him. After hosting Eliezer and his men overnight, however, the family tries to keep Rebecca with them for another 10 months or a year. Eliezer insists that they ask the girl herself, and she agrees to go immediately. Her family sends her off with her nurse, Deborah, and blesses her, "Our sister, may you come to be thousands of myriads, and may your offspring inherit the gate of its foes."
As Rebecca and her entourage approach Abraham's home, they spy Isaac from a distance in the fields of Beer-lahai-roi. The Talmud (Berachot 26b) and the Midrash explain that Isaac was praying, as he instituted Mincha, the afternoon prayer. Seeing such a spiritually-exalted man, Rebecca immediately dismounts from her camel and asks Eliezer who it is. When she hears that he is her future husband, she modestly covers herself with a veil. Isaac brings her into the tent of his mother Sarah, marries her, and loves her. According to Rashi, the three miracles that characterized Sarah's tent while she was alive, and that disappeared with her death, reappeared when Rebecca entered the tent. These were: A lamp burned in her tent from Shabbat eve to Shabbat eve, there was a blessing in her dough, and a cloud hovered over her tent (symbolizing the Divine Presence.)
Some of the events leading up to the marriage of Isaac and Rebecca have been institutionalized in the traditional Jewish wedding ceremony. Before the bride and bridegroom stand under the chuppah, they participate in a special ceremony called badeken (veiling). The bridegroom is led to the bride by two escorts and, seeing her, covers her face with a veil, similar to the way Rebecca covered her face before marrying Isaac. Then the bridegroom (or the father of the bride, or the officiating rabbi) recites the same blessing over the bride which Rebecca's family recited over her, "Our sister, may you come to be thousands of myriads, and may your offspring inherit the gate of its foes."
Marriage and Motherhood
According to tradition, Isaac was 37 years old at the time of the Binding of Isaac and 40 years old at his marriage. Rebecca was 3 years old when she married Isaac. Since such a young girl could not conceive, Isaac waited 10 years for her to mature. Then he waited another 10 years to see if she was fertile. During that time, both he and his wife fervently prayed to God for children. God eventually answered Isaac's prayers and Rebecca conceived after 20 years of marriage.
Rebecca was extremely uncomfortable during the pregnancy, and God is said to have told her that that was because her two twin children were fighting in her womb, and would continue to fight all through their lives. Her firstborn son was Esau, and the second was Jacob.
When Isaac was old and blind, he decides to bestow his blessing on his firstborn son, Esau. He sends Esau out to the field to trap and cook for him a piece of savory game, so that he will eat and drink and be in a happy state of mind when he blessed him. (Note: Some sages say he wanted to give Esau the mitzva, i.e. meritorious obeying of God's Commandment, of honoring his father.) Rebecca overhears this exchange and realizes that Jacob is more deserving of the blessing, based on the prophecy she received before the twins' birth. She orders Jacob to bring her two goats from the flock, and cooks them in the way Isaac likes. When Jacob protests that his father will recognize the deception as soon as he feels him—since Esau is a hairy man and Jacob is smooth-skinned—Rebecca lays the goatskins on his arms and on the smooth of his neck to simulate hairy skin, and dresses Jacob in Esau's clothes which Esau keeps in his mother's house. Thus disguised, Jacob goes in to his father and succeeds in receiving his blessing.
When Esau returns from the hunt to receive his blessing and discovers the deception, he vows in his heart to kill Jacob. Rebecca prophetically perceives his murderous intentions and orders Jacob to travel to her brother Laban's house until Esau's anger subsides. She convinces Isaac to send Jacob away by telling him that she despairs of him marrying a local girl from the idol-worshipping families of Canaan (as Esau has done).
Death and Burial
Jacob is away from home for 22 years. As he is returning to Canaan with his large family, servants, and possessions, Deborah, the nurse of Rebecca, dies and is buried at a place that Jacob calls Alon Bachot, "Tree of Weepings" (Genesis 35:8). According to the Midrash, the plural form of the word "weeping" indicates a double sorrow, implying that Rebecca also died at this time. Her death is covered up, however, for varying reasons:
According to tradition, Rebecca is buried in the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron.