Friday, February 16, 2007

Leah - Living without Love

Everyone's always liked Rachel. Everyone. Whenever I was younger, things were okay until she showed up. Once she showed up at a gathering, people generally forgot about me, and drifted over to her, the beautiful butterfly. Yes, I've been complimented on my eyes, but Rachel is just a total beauty!

When Papa told me that I was to marry Jacob, despite his wanting Rachel, I didn't really want to go along with it, but I had to. The look of horror and shock on his face was awful, that morning after our wedding when he found out it was me he had married. I thought that maybe I could help him grow to love me, but it's been so hard. His marrying Rachel only a little while after our own wedding didn't help any. Now I'm doomed to live with her the rest of my life...

Leah. What comes to mind when you think of her name? Do you think of the fact that she was unloved, and unlovely - at least compared to her sister? Hers must have been a hard life.

It seems that she always was in competition with her sister; it also seems as though Rachel often eclipsed her. Genesis 29:16-17 pretty much sums it up:

"Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Leah had weak eyes, but Rachel was lovely in form and beautiful."

My Bible note suggests that the word "weak" here could be translated "delicate, lovely, or gentle." Perhaps Leah had lovely eyes, but compared to Rachel - a total beauty - she wasn't what one would call pretty.

Jacob, the one Leah married, was in love with Leah's sister Rachel. (For the full story, read here) However, after he had worked seven long years in order to earn Rachel for his wife, Jacob was tricked by the girls' father, Laban. Instead of Rachel, Laban gave Leah to Jacob as his wife. She was kept veiled until the morning after the wedding, when Jacob figured out that he'd been tricked. He wasn't too happy about it, and demanded an explanation from Laban.

"Laban replied, 'It is not our custom here to give the younger daughter in marriage before the older one. Finish this daughter's bridal week; then we will give you the younger one also, in return for another seven years of work.' And Jacob did so. He finished the week with Leah, and then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel to be his wife." (Genesis 29:26-28)

So, the two sisters lived as rivals, each vying for their husband's attention. But, as Genesis 29:3 says, "...and he [Jacob] loved Rachel more than Leah."

God was kind to Leah. When He saw that Leah was not loved, He opened her womb, and gave her children, while leaving Rachel barren. Leah quickly became the mother of 4 sons. The first she named Reuben, saying, "It is because the LORD has seen my misery. Surely my husband will love me now." She gave birth to a second son, named him Simeon, and said, "Because the LORD heard that I am not loved, He gave me this one to." Her third she named Levi, and with longing cried, "Now at last my husband will become attached to me, because I hove borne him three sons." Naming her fourth son Judah, she said, "This time I will praise the LORD." (from Genesis 29:31-35)

She longed for her husband's love and respect. With each son she had, she hoped that Jacob would finally begin to love her. She was thankful for her sons, praising the LORD for the gift of children, but her struggles didn't end. When Rachel gave her maidservant to Jacob to bear children for her, Leah, not one to be out-done, did the same.

"When Leah saw that she had stopped having children, she took her maidservant Zilpah and gave her to Jacob as a wife. Leah's servant Zilpah bore Jacob a son. Then Leah said, 'What good fortune!' So she named him Gad. Leah's servant Zilpah bore Jacob a second son. Then Leah said, 'How happy I am! the women will call me happy' So she named him Asher." (Genesis 30:9-12)

It seems as though Leah truly loved Jacob, although the feelings weren't mutual. She lived in a hard situation, being the lesser wife, and became quite bitter. In angry despair she once cried out to her sister, "Wasn't it enough that you take away my husband?" (Genesis 30:15) But God continued to listen to Leah. He didn't give up on her.

"God listened to Leah, and she became pregnant and bore Jacob a fifth son. Then Leah said, 'God has rewarded me for giving my maidservant to my husband.' So she named him Issachar. Leah conceived again and bore Jacob a sixth son. Then Leah said, 'God has presented me with a precious gift. This time my husband will treat me with honor, because I have borne him six sons.' So she named him Zebulun. Some time later she gave birth to a daughter and named her Dinah." (Genesis 30:17-21)

God blessed Leah, making her the mother of 7 children. Even though she wasn't thought much of by those around her, God cared for her. This shows us a wonderful aspect of God's character. Psalm 34:18 says,

"The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit."

God cares for everyone, no matter what their "worth" is. He blessed even the seemingly insignificant Leah.

Not much else is said about Leah. After her sister died, perhaps Jacob began to love her more. She raised her children, and seems to have been a good mother. Even though she didn't have an easy life, God used her offspring (and those of her sister and maidservants) to build the house of Israel, who became His beloved, chosen people.

What can we learn from Leah? We can learn from her desire for Jacob's love, and all she did to try to please him. Too often we give up on people, but Leah persisted, always hoping that Jacob would begin to honor and respect her. Instead of becoming angry with him, Leah tired to win his love. We can also learn to not do as Leah did when faced with her sister as a rival. Leah became bitter towards her sister, which seems normal - after all, she was only human! However, next time you're faced with someone who's hard to get along with, choose instead to love and be kind to them. You never know what a difference that will make!

Read all about Leah in Genesis 29-33


Ella said...

Mom and I talked of the story of Leah just yesterday. The interesting thing to remember is that despite what Jacob wanted(meaning Rachel as his wife), God had different ideas. And it is Leah's son, Judah, who was the descendant of Jesus Christ and not Joseph or Benjamin.

Miriam Rebekah said...

Yes, I've always wondered about how Leah was really treated by her husband after he married Rachel. Evidently he didn't forget about her, she bore him four sons before Rachel had any!
Also, after Rachel died, I suppose she lived a less bitter life.

Again, another well written narrative.

Elizabeth Ellen Moore said...

Well done! I enjoyed reading about Leah. You are right -- she is usually thought of negatively. I feel a little sorry for her. No one wanted to marry her, she was married to someone who had another wife to always compare her to, and her sister (who should have been her best friend) despised her! I am sure the bitterness was two sided, but still -- poor Leah! Her children were probably a great comfort to her, and it sounds as though by the time Judah was born she had learned to thank the Lord with or without her husband’s love.

This story always makes me glad that my dad is not like Laban!