I have recently been greatly encouraged, whilst reading Principles and Proverbs by Brother Islip  Collyer, and in particular by the chapter titled  ‘Blessing,’ and I quote a paragraph that I felt we  could all benefit and be encouraged by.

“The patriarch Jacob illustrated the truth of the  matter in the ‘few and evil days of his pilgrimage’. He  was not cast in a heroic mould as a warrior or king to  be admired of men. He was a plain man dwelling in  tents without much animal courage or worldly skill.  His virtue was the only one that will count in final  issues. He had faith in God and tried to serve Him”.  This one virtue is all that God looks for, as we read  in 1 Corinthians 1:26, “Not many wise men after  the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are  called,” but “to this man will I look, even to him  that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth  at my word” (Isa 66:2).

The great day of reckoning will soon be upon us when the books will be opened and names revealed.  Not many kings will be found written there but  there will be some names we have read and passed over in the record with hardly a thought. One that  recently arrested my attention was Deborah, nurse to Rebekah: just a nurse. Could she be there? In the brief account, God records her death which held up the journey of the patriarch Jacob. What  do we know of her?

We first read of Deborah in Genesis 24:61, “And  Rebekah arose, and the damsels, and they rode upon  the camels, and followed the man: and the servant  took Rebekah, and went his way.” Although not  named, we know she was among the damsels for we learn more of her at her death. Deborah had made the long journey from Padan-aram in Syria to accompany her loved Rebekah, who was to go to an unknown place to marry an unknown man. Of course she had no choice, being just a servant, but the few details we have of her indicate a willing heart to serve.

She arrived with Rebekah at the house of the  patriarchs. We are told she was Rebekah’s nurse  in Genesis 35:8. This is understood in the Jewish  commentary, the Midrash, not to mean the nurse of  Rebekah herself, but as that of Rebekah’s children. Deborah was given to Rebekah before the latter’s marriage in order to be the nurse of her future children. This would explain why the Torah took note of Deborah’s death and burial, since Jacob was attached to her and greatly mourned her passing. She may not have been much older than Rebekah and no doubt they were close companions.

Genesis 35:8 informs us, “But Deborah  Rebekah’s nurse died, and she was buried beneath  Beth-el under an oak: and the name of it was Allon- Bachuth” (margin: the oak of weeping).

We have here an interesting situation. If Deborah was established in Isaac’s house with Rebekah her mistress, how is it that we find her with Jacob, returning from Padan-aram, now an old lady?

Jacob, we know, was sent away by Isaac to Padan-aram to escape the wrath of Esau his brother.  He left, not as some have depicted, fleeing from Esau with a bundle on his back, but with his father’s  blessing and, I imagine, well stocked with necessities for the journey. Eliezer had previously made  this same journey furnished with 10 camels laden with provisions and gifts so it seems unlikely that  Jacob would be sent away without accompaniments. Reference is sometimes made to the words of Jacob  in Genesis 32:10: “With my staff I passed over this Jordan; and now I am become two bands,” inferring  a hasty departure and little else. This return journey from Padan-aram is considerable, including a stay at Shechem to the shame of the family, and acquiring a number of people from Padan-aram who probably  brought the gods that Jacob purged out from his house (Gen 35:2).

So Jacob arrives at Bethel and then we are told of the death of Deborah. How can we explain her  presence with Jacob’s company?

It seems to me that when Jacob was sent to his uncle, Laban, Rebekah parted with Deborah so she  could be with him as a comfort to Jacob in her stead.  It was a sad parting for Rebekah, who loved Jacob dearly and, as it happened, never saw him again.

If this was so, Deborah would have filled the  role of ‘grandmother’ to all of Jacob’s children and  be greatly loved by all. Her death would be of great significance to all of Jacob’s family, and they grieved greatly, as is evident from the fact that they named  the place Allon-Bachuth: literally the terebinth of  weeping.

Another point of interest is that the Midrash  tradition attributes the weeping and great sorrow  to an additional death also, the passing of  Rebekah. This tradition reads the word ‘allon’, as  in Allon-bachuth, as “another weeping”. So whilst Jacob mourned for Deborah, he also mourned for  Rebekah.

Beginning with Genesis 12, there are only seven other individuals who received a similar honour in  the mention of their death.

Like us, Deborah was just a servant but faithful to the end; like Jacob, perhaps she was a “plain”  person, without much animal courage but we may  find disclosed at that great day of reckoning that she had faith in God and tried to serve Him. Our  lives consist of ordinary events, mostly small and  seemingly of little value, but they may be the ‘cup of water given in the name of Christ’ because we  love God.