I’m working my way through all your great comments. Tomorrow (Thursday) I will post the next reading, and then we’ll discuss her on Monday. Feel free to stop in here over the weekend if you want to comment further on Eve, Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Leah or on something another sister has said.
Ever look at one of those movie stars on the red carpet and think: I never have and never will look that good! Me too. I image that’s what Leah felt every time she looked across the room at her younger sister. There was no escaping Rachel’s beauty. Sometimes, when she was alone, Leah would braid her hair fancy, tuck some flowers in it, and pretend to be irresistibly beautiful as she danced about. However, that was just pretend … real life was different.
Leah had heard the whispers between her parents about how easy it will be to find a husband for Rachel. They never said that about Leah. Her Dad expected he would be able to demand a large bride price for Rachel. What sort of dowery would I fetch, Leigh wondered. Thank goodness, custom holds the older sister will marry first, Leah thought, because she would be so embarrassed for Rachel to marry first and her never to marry.
Sometimes Leah wondered if she would marry. Being the oldest, she'd reached the age for marriage but had no suitors. Each day as she helped cook dinner, she imaged she was cooking for her husband and she hoped God would send him to her soon.
Then one day Rachel brought home their cousin Jacob she’d found by the well. He was an unmarried, eligible bachelor! Jacob told them who he was and about the dream he'd just had that God would bless him.
Laban told Leah to be sure and be attentive to Jacob, for he was a possible suitor for her and one that Laban did not want to get away. This had to be it – her destiny – her future husband. Leah worked all day in the kitchen cooking a scrumptious meal and even dared to braid her hair with a little flower that evening in preparation for dinner. Jacob sat across the table from braided Leah and her little sister. But before the meal was even half eaten, everyone could tell Jacob fancied Rachel, not Leah. Of course … beautiful Rachel.
In a matter of weeks, Jacob and Rachel were engaged. This was not fair! Rachel was hardly even marrying age, and everyone knew the older sister is customarily married first. Laban broke custom and struck a deal for Jacob to work seven years in payment for Rachel. Laban said that would also give Leah seven years to marry. Maybe with Rachel officially “off the market” it would give Leah a chance to shine, Leah's mother reasoned. But they both knew Leah wasn’t exactly the shining kind.
For seven long years, Leah watched Rachel and Jacob exchange tender looks and loving words as they made plans. Leah couldn’t help but think that could’ve been her … that should've been her. Meanwhile, another suitor never appeared.
The whole wedding switch was her Dad’s idea and Leah prefers not to talk about it. Rachel, however, won’t stop bringing it up and won’t forgive her. “What was I suppose to do, Rachel, Dad insisted on it!” Leah would argue back. Honestly, Leah feared what would happen to her if she didn’t go along with Laban’s plan. Her father could be a hard man - both sisters knew that. Leah figured if she did go along with it, at least she would have a husband. Maybe Jacob could learn to love her.
The problem was Jacob only had one week to learn to love her before her Daddy gave him Rachel too. Oh not officially, but he sure was in Rachel’s bed nearly every night. How was her husband supposed to learn to love her with her beautiful younger sister always taking his attention away? Leah never felt she got a fair shot at Jacob. Not seven years ago when he first arrived, and not now after her marriage to him.
“When the LORD saw that Leah was not loved, he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren. Leah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Reuben, for she said, "It is because the LORD has seen my misery. Surely my husband will love me now.” (Genesis 29:31-32)
So Leah birthed Jacob’s firstborn – a son! Surely, he would love her now. Now he would spend less time with Rachel and more evenings with her and their son. Only that’s not what happened. Jacob actually spent more nights with Rachel, not less, claiming it was Rachel’s turn to conceive.
Leah became a lighting rod for Rachel’s anger. And that lightening grew stronger with every child Leah bore, and with each year that Rachel remained barren. In some small way Leah felt sad for her sister’s bareness, but not too much because, after all, Rachel always had Jacob. Leah tried to be a good wife but always just felt second-fiddle.
Sometimes on hot evenings as she lay awake, alone in bed, Leah would think: None of this would be if Daddy had not let Jacob be engaged to Rachel when I was still unmarried. He let Rachel steal my suitor. And she stole Jacob again when Daddy gave her to Jacob just a week after he married me. He married me first!
Leah bore Jacob many more sons, and even a daughter. She acknowledged God each time, but with each one she hoped Jacob’s heart and attention would be swayed her way. She even named her sons with that hope.
“She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, "Because the LORD heard that I am not loved, he gave me this one too." So she named him Simeon. Again she conceived, and when she gave birth to a son she said, "Now at last my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons." (Genesis 29:33-34)
But Jacob never seemed to attach to Leah. Slowly Leah learned to look less to Jacob and more to God for her happiness:
"She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, "This time I will praise the LORD." So she named him Judah. Then she stopped having children." (Genesis 29:35)
Rachel died while giving birth to her second son, and Leah grieved. But Leah found new hope thinking this would finally be her chance to bond with her husband. Rachel was out of the way now for good.
Only Jacob never really recovered from the loss of Rachel - and he focused his affection not on Leah but on Rachel’s two sons. As it turns out, the beauty of Rachel’s memory after death even out-shined Leah’s presence in life. Yes, according to Leah, there was no escaping Rachel’s beauty.
I’m taking some “creative license” here to enter the shoes of these biblical women and look around at their situations from their perspective. But it’s so helpful to me to imagine why things may have unfolded as they did, and what the women may have been thinking or feeling. Then I can relate to and learn from them when I find myself in similar circumstances, or experiencing similar feelings.
I’m struck today by the thought that Rachel and Leah spent so much time looking at each other and instead of seeing their commonalties, they saw the thing the other possessed that they wanted. Don’t we do that today with our siblings or women in our lives? We look at their beauty, or their children, or their husbands, or their talent, or their large home, or their ____ (you fill in the blank). And we decide we’ve been somehow short-changed compared to them. We wake up one day to find that we’re not content and thankful, but competitive or resentful -- and we feel we have a “right” to be.
I leave this time with Rachel and Leah wanting to thankfully accept myself and my blessings, and wanting to look lovingly at other women as my sisters and not my competition. I want to be content where I am at – right now, here today - while patiently looking to God to bring about whatever good plans He has in store for my future (Eph. 2:10).
Stay tuned for the next woman we'll cover.