What Was Rebecca’s Age When Given Away In Marriage? “Na’ar”

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In previous two piece articles on Isaac and Rebekah, which can be accessed here and here, we established their respective ages when they were married. We showed from the Bible and ancient scholars that Rebecca was between the ages of 3-10, when she was married off to 40-year-old Isaac. In this article we seek to look at a Hebrew word closer to give further evidence that Rebecca was very young, coinciding with the two article’s evidence that she could not have been older than 10-years-old at the time of her marriage.

A particular verse from Genesis describes how young Rebeccah was, just before she was given away in marriage:

“The girl (na’ar) was a very attractive virgin. No man had ever had sexual intercourse with her. She went down to the spring, filled her jar, and came back.” – Genesis 24:16 (GOD’S WORD Translation)

Although some later manuscripts do not have na’ar but na’arah, the original reading to describe Rebecca was ‘na’ar.

gen-24

The following manuscripts describe Rebecca as a “Na’ar”:

Gen 24:16 [Masoretic]
וְהַֽנַּעֲרָ טֹבַת מַרְאֶה מְאֹד בְּתוּלָה וְאִישׁ לֹא יְדָעָהּ וַתֵּרֶד הָעַיְנָה וַתְּמַלֵּא כַדָּהּ וַתָּֽעַל׃

 

Gen 24:16 [Aleppo Codex]
והנער טבת מראה מאד בתולה ואיש לא ידעה ותרד העינה ותמלא כדה ותעל

 

Gen 24:16 [Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia]
וְהַֽנַּעֲרָ֗ טֹבַ֤ת מַרְאֶה֙ מְאֹ֔ד בְּתוּלָ֕ה וְאִ֖ישׁ לֹ֣א יְדָעָ֑הּ וַתֵּ֣רֶד הָעַ֔יְנָהוַתְּמַלֵּ֥א כַדָּ֖הּ וַתָּֽעַל׃

Gen 24:16 [Westminster Leningrad Codex]
וְהַֽנַּעֲרָ טֹבַת מַרְאֶה מְאֹד בְּתוּלָה וְאִישׁ לֹא יְדָעָהּ וַתֵּרֶד הָעַיְנָה וַתְּמַלֵּא כַדָּהּ וַתָּֽעַל׃

Some of the above texts have dots, vowels, these are not part of the original text. They were added in the medieval period or later. When the Hebrew text for Gen. 24:16 was read, it was read without vowels.

The letter hay, fifth Hebrew alphabet is frequently used at the beginning of words, in Biblical and modern usage. The letter Hay is also placed at the end of words, as it is the case with latter manuscripts for Genesis 24:16. The noun na’ar, means a young boy or infant (below the age of puberty), at the same time when the hay is added at the end in modern terms it denotes a young girl. However, the word na’ar was always used for both sexes. It was later, medieval periods (or later) that scribes added Hay at the end to make a distinction of whether it was speaking about a male or a female.

As we have read the above Hebrew Manuscripts for Genesis 24:16, one who is acquainted with Hebrew will see that the text describes Rebecca as a Na’ar (נַעֲרָ).

A na’ar refers to girl or boy. Hebrew-English Lexicons/dictionaries and Biblical scholars define the aforementioned word as someone who is a child, not reached adult age.

Encyclopedia of Jewish Medical Ethics defines the word as someone who is a “minor”, “very young person, including a baby”:

MINOR*
A. DEFINITION OF THE TERM
Katan (minor) and yeled (child are Hebrew terms used interchangeable. The term yeled in the Bible is used for a human being from birth through adulthood, including an infant (tinok), a lad (NAAR), a youth (elem), and even a fetus (ubar). The term Katan refers to a very young person, particularly when compared to an older person. In Jewish law, the term Katan distinguishes a minor from an adult with regard to legal rights and responsibilities. The Halakhic age of a katan is defined differently in accordance with specific laws.
The word naar refers to a VERY YOUNG PERSON, INCLUDING A BABY. The word is also used to denote a maid or servant.” (Encyclopedia of Jewish Medical Ethics: A compilation of Jewish medical law on all topics of medical interest, from the most ancient sources to the most current deliberations and decisions, with a concise medical and historical background, and a comprehensive analysis of relevant general ethical approaches [Translated by Fred Rosner, M. D., An updated and edited English version of the Hebrew 1998/ 1988, edition 2003] compiled and written by Avraham Steinberg, M.D., volume 1, page 679)

scholars Johann Buxtorf and Franz Delitzsch write on the word Na’ar:

“2. N’r II. Johann Buxtorf connects na’ar with n’r II, ‘shake off.’ A na’ar is a ‘LITTLE BOY, AN INFANT,’ IN THAT HE HAS BEEN ‘FORCED OUT OF HIS MOTHER’S WOMB.’ Franz Delitzsch takes as his starting point the striking use of n’r in the Pentateuch to refer to a FEMALE, concluding that ‘originally it denoted a NEW-BORN INFANT OF EITHER SEX,’ since it ‘is an ancient derived noun with the meaning ‘shaking off, bringing forth’ (cf. Job 39:3), concretely: that which has been brought forth, offspring.’” (9. F. Delitzsch, ‘Pentateuch-Kritisce Studien. VIII, ‘Seitschrift fur Wissenschaft und Kirkliches Leben, 1 (1880), 393-99.) (Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, by (edited) G. Johannes Botterweck, Helmer Ringgren and Heinz-Jozef Fabry, [William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan, U.K., translated by David E. Green, 1998], Volume 9, page 475)

A complete Hebrew and English critical and pronouncing dictionary:

נַעֲרָ na’ar. … A lad, youth, son, a young servant, an INFANT, or NEW-BORN BABE, because just liberated from the womb. Jud. 13:17. Exod. 2:6. Gen. 24:19. 2 Sam. 13:33. …” (A complete Hebrew and English critical and pronouncing dictionary: on a new and improved plan, containing all the words in the Holy Bible, Both Hebrew and Chaldee, with the vowel points, prefixes and Affixes, as they stand in the original text: Together with their derivation, literal and etymlogical meaning, as it occurs in every part of the Bible and illustrated by numerous citations from the Targums, Talmud and cognate Dialects. [New York: Published by Collins, Keese & Co., 230 Pearl Street, University Press – J. F. Trow, Printer, 1837] by William L. Roy (profesor of oriental Languages in New York), page 516 – 517)

Hebrew-English Lexicon:

נַעֲרָ m. (with suff. …; pl. …). – INFANT. – II. BOY. – III. Youth. – IV. Servant. …” (Hebrew-English Lexicon – Containing all the Hebrew And Chaldee words in the Old Testament Scriptures, with their meanings in English [BJT – Maltae terricolis linguae, coelestibus una – London: Samuel Bagster And Sons, Limited, New York – james Pott & Co., 1898], page 169)

A Complete Hebrew-English Pocket-Dictionary to the Old Testament:

נַעֲרָ (na’ar) pt. נַעֲרָ, pt. p. …, to shake, to stir; to shake out. – Ni. … fut. …, to share oneself free from, to get rid of; to be shaken off. – Pi. …, fut., to shake, push, drive away. – Hith. … to shake oneself from. נַעֲרָ (na’ar) m, w.s. … pl. …, c. …, CHILD, boy, youth; servant; male; maid, GIRL.” (A Complete Hebrew-English Pocket-Dictionary to the Old Testament, [Third edition, Berlin – Schoneberg (Prof. G. Langenscheidt), Langenscheidtsche Verlagsbuchhandlung, London, W. C. H. Grevel & Co. New York, The International News company – Johannesburg: Hermann Michaelis, third edition] by Professor Karl Feyerabend, Ph, D. page 218 – 219)

With the above scholarly quotes in perspective, we see that the Bible describes Rebecca as someone who was below the age of 10 when she was married off. In fact, the following verse further strengthens this article’s evidence that Rebecca was a child (by today’s standards) when given away in marriage:

“Then they said, “Let’s call the young woman and ask her about it.” 58 So they called Rebekah and asked her, “Will you go with this man?” “I will go,” she said. 59 So they sent their sister REBEKAH ON HER WAY, ALONG WITH HER NURSE and Abraham’s servant and his men. 60 And they blessed Rebekah and said to her.” – Genesis 24:57-60

The above verse corroborates with the previous article and the evidence in this article shown that Rebekah was a very young girl when she was given away marriage. She was so young that she needed a nursing woman with her when she was married off.

The fact that she needed a “nursing woman” to accompany her, shows that she was very young (below 10) and not at an age where she can take care of herself. [1]

In the two piece articles previously, we showed evidence from the Bible that she could only be 3-10 years old when married off. This piece, we have seen that the word “na’ar” further compliments the previous articles by describing Rebecca as being a “child”, just before she married off to Isaac.

With the above aforementioned information, we get a clear picture from the Bible, specifically Genesis 24:16 describing Rebecca as being a “child” when married off.

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Reference:

[1] A person may raise the question that the Hebrew word “na’ar” in few verses from the Bible refers to a 17-year-old or older. The questioner is right in some way, however, when it comes to Rebecca she could not be older than 10. This is for a number of reasons: (1) we have evidence from the Bible that she could not have been older than 10. (2) We have ancient and medieval scholars that all agree that she was between the ages of 3-10. (3) And lastly na’ar in 90% or cases refers to a child that has not attained adulthood. When all three are combined, we are very sure from the actual evidence that she was a child (by today’s standards) when she was given away in marriage.

 

Related Articles:

200 Thousand Christian Children Were Married Before 10 In India (NEW)

1957 a 22 year old Jerry Lee Lewis legally married his 13 year old cousin.

America’s Child-Marriage Problem (NYTimes.com)

CHILD MARRIAGE IN AMERICA: (tahirih.org, 1, 2, 3.)

Child marriage chart reveals girls can wed at 12 in some parts of the US (Independent.co.uk)

1937: Homer Peel, 34, Kisses His 12-Year-Old Bride Geneva On The Steps Of A Tennessee Courthouse (1, 2, 3)

Jewish Child Brides — Why the Barbaric Practice of Marrying Off Young Girls Persists” (Forward.com)

Haredi Parents Marry Off 13-year-old Daughter as ‘Penance for Flirtations” (Haaretz.com)

Hassidic Rabbi Shlomo Eliezer Schick Suspected of Officiating Marriages of Underage Couples” (Haaretz.com)

21-year-old Karam Chan married to 13-year-old Kartari Chand, in 1925 (Here, here, and here)

London’s Child Marriages, 1500-1800s (NEW)

King David’s Marriage To 12 Year Old Abishag – Bible (NEW)

A Detailed Historical Examination Of Numbers 31:18 (NEW)

Bible: How Old Was Dinah When She Was Married To Shechem? (NEW)

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2 Responses »

  1. This is exceptional work!!!

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