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Genesis 25:21Isaac pleaded with the LORD on behalf of his wife, because she was unable to have children. The LORD answered Isaac’s prayer, and Rebekah became pregnant with twins. 22But the two children struggled with each other in her womb. So she went to ask the LORD about it. “Why is this happening to me?” she asked.

Isaac prayed for a specific request. Rebecca went somewhere to ask a why question. Where did she go? Who told her the answer?

23And the LORD told her, “The sons in your womb will become two nations. From the very beginning, the two nations will be rivals. One nation will be stronger than the other; and your older son will serve your younger son.”

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  • One assumes she prayed. And received an answer in prayer.She went to her usual secret place of praying.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Sep 6, 2020 at 21:56
  • Compare Judges 6:8 biblehub.com/text/judges/6-8.htm, we are not told who the prophet was, he's completely anonymous. There are many more examples in the bible. Rebecca went to an anonymous prophet of Yahweh to ask him her queries. Even then there must have already been a cult of Yahweh with a number of prophets associated with it.
    – bach
    Commented Sep 7, 2020 at 18:32

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The short answer to the question of "where" Rebecca went is, We are not told. However, that is not necessary.

The Hebrew word used here is הָלַךְ (halak), and in this case the verb is Qal, Consecutive imperfect. This verb is extremely common as it occurs more than 1500 times in the OT and simply means: to go, or to come or to walk.

Significantly, in this case הָלַךְ (halak) is immediately followed by לִדְרֹ֥שׁ (liḏ·rōš), which is a Preposition + Verb - Qal - Infinitive construct. Thus the phrase means that Rebecca, "went to inquire" of the LORD. This is quintessential Hebrew idiom. No specific geographical or physical location is implied, it is just Hebrew idiom.

Thus, the meaning is that Rebecca went to God in prayer. In more modern idiom we might simply say, "Rebecca prayed". However, it is quite possible that she did go to a person, or went to the family altar, or went to her private quarters (eg bedroom), etc, in order to do the praying/inquiring (eg, 2 Kings 22:13, 2 Chron 34:21) but that is not essential to the semantics and grammar here.

The same construction is used in 1 Sam 9:9, "went to inquire" but in that instance, the location was the seer (Samuel). According to BDB, the verb, הָלַךְ (halak), followed by another infinitive verb is used in the following places:

a. followed by Infinitive of purpose (with לְ) Genesis 25:22; Genesis 31:19; Genesis 37:25 (all J E) Numbers 14:38 (P) Numbers 24:1 (JE), Judges 8:1; Judges 9:8,9,11,13 + often; especially לִקְרַאת ׳הּ go to meet Joshua 9:11 (JE), 2 Samuel 19:16; 1 Kings 18:16 (twice in verse) +; sometimes with hostile sense 1 Samuel 23:28; 1 Kings 20:27; 2 Kings 23:29; also לָּשּׁובּ ׳הּ go to return, Exodus 4:21 (RV go back), compare also שּׁובּ לָּלֶּכֶּתּ return again Ecclesiastes 1:7; Ecclesiastes 5:14; לָּבּוֺֿ ׳הּ go to come (enter etc.) Jeremiah 41:17 compare 2 Chronicles 26:8.

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According to Jewish tradition, she went to the "beit medrash"/studyhouse of Shem, the son of Noah. He was considered to be the leading sage and primary prophet of the day. He was the bearer of the original tradition about G-d, which had been taught to Adam and passed down through to Noah and then to Shem. (This is in contrast to Abraham, who discovered G-d on his own rather than continuing on from Shem.)

Thus Shem revealed the prophecy to Rivka/Rebecca.

Sources: Rashi's comment on the verse, based on Medrash Rabbah

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Possibilities Since the Bible is strangely reticent about the action of Rebekah (Genesis 25:22-23, Inquire of the LORD), possibilities include:

  1. A Hebrew idiom, meaning "she went into a prayer mode." (See Dottard explanation.)
  2. She went to see a priest of the type of Melchizedek that Abraham met ("a priest of the God Most High" Genesis 14:18).
  3. She went to Abraham, her father-in-law, a type of prophet (Dummelow Commentary, q.v. in loc.)
  4. She went to the sacred shrine at Beersheba (found by archaeologists), since it was close. She and Isaac lived at Beer Lahai Roi in the Negeb (Genesis 24:62).

Follow-up corollary What is just as important a question is: What does it mean that "The LORD said to her"?

  1. Did she hear an audible voice in her prayer closet?
  2. Did a priest speak words that the God Most High said through him?
  3. Did Abraham seek God for an answer and then speak them out loud to Rebekah?
  4. Did a priest at Beersheba speak for the God Most High audibly?
  5. As was often the case in other inquiries in the Bible, did an Angel of the LORD appear to her and speak audibly?

Could the vagueness of details in this story be intentional by God, so that we would not be stuck in a particular mode of communicating with Him?

Whichever way, she must have conveyed the message from God to Isaac for recording, so it could eventually be included in this book of Genesis.

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She went to a Woman of God: a Spiritually Gifted Midwife

First, a summary of opinions from Clarke's commentary:

There are different opinions concerning the manner in which Rebekah inquired of the Lord. Some think it was by faith and prayer simply; others, that she went to Shem or Melchizedek; but Shem is supposed to have been dead ten years before this time; but as Abraham was yet alive, she might have gone to him, and consulted the Lord through his means. It is most likely that a prophet or priest was applied to on this occasion. It appears she was in considerable perplexity, hence that imperfect speech, If so, why am I thus? the simple meaning of which is probably this; if I must suffer such things, why did I ever wish to have a child? A speech not uncommon to mothers in their first pregnancy.

Barnes rejects the idea that the text means she communicated with God through personal prayer. He writes: 'The expression, "she went to inquire of the Lord," implies that there was some place of worship and communion with God by prayer.'

What most commentators overlook is that a woman would most likely seek advice about her troubled pregnancy from another woman. A spiritually gifted midwife would be the best candidate. Wise women and prophetesses are known from later biblical histories, and there is no reason to presume that women such as these were unknown in Rebekah's day. Among them are

  1. Miriam, the sister of Moses
  2. Siphrah and Puah: the Hebrew midwives (Ex. 1)
  3. Deborah, the prophetess and judge
  4. The Wise Woman of Tekeo: 2 Samuel 14:1-20
  5. The Wise Woman of Abel: 2 Samuel 20:14-22

And many others.

Although not all of the above examples involve prophecy, they do prove that women could provide providential guidance and protection for God's people and their leaders. Because Rebekah's example involved a difficult pregnancy, I suggest that the most likely reference here is to an unnamed female seer or prophetess, who possibly also served as a midwife.

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