Women of the Bible: LEAH
So far I have written about Sarah, Ruth, Proverbs 31 and Esther (click to read more) — all remarkable women but all very different women. We can learn so much from these women, they all had their struggles (as we do), life was difficult for Sarah, Ruth and Esther in particular—but by believing in God, they all came through their journerys stronger women in their faith. And they all learnt that they were never alone in their troubles and that God is ALWAYS with us and reaches out with His love.
Today is Leah's story:
Then Laban said to Jacob, “Because you are my relative, should you therefore serve me for nothing? Tell me, what should your wages be?” Now Laban had two daughters: the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Leah’s eyes were delicate, but Rachel was beautiful of form and appearance. Now Jacob loved Rachel; so he said, “I will serve you seven years for Rachel your younger daughter.” (Genesis 29:15-18)
I always envied the girls at school who were beautiful (long blonde hair, tall and thin compared to my brown curls and ordinary shape). Now that I am all grown up, I know this isn’t important but as a young girl no one wants to be the “plain jane” that is always picked last. We all want to be loved dearly and be wanted.
Leah wasn’t beautiful like her younger sister Rachel. Unfortunately, Leah's future husband, Jacob only had eyes for Rachel and he was willing to work for seven years in return for Rachel's hand in marriage. But Rachel and Leah’s father (Laban) had other plans and when the wedding night came, Jacob was so blinded by love he didn't notice the bride sharing his bed wasn't Rachel. "When morning came, there was Leah!" You can't help but feel really sad for both Leah and Rachel.
Now it came to pass in the evening, that he took Leah his daughter and brought her to Jacob; and he went in to her. And Laban gave his maid Zilpah to his daughter Leah as a maid. So it came to pass in the morning, that behold, it was Leah. And he said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? Was it not for Rachel that I served you? Why then have you deceived me?” And Laban said, “It must not be done so in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn. Fulfill her week, and we will give you this one also for the service which you will serve with me still another seven years.” (Genesis 29:23-26)
Jacob had to work another seven years for his uncle Laban before he could wed Rachel, the love of his life. I am sure he wasn't happy about this.
Then Jacob also went in to Rachel, and he also loved Rachel more than Leah. (Genesis 29:30)
In the meantime he was yocked to a woman he did not love or want and one cannot help but feel very sad for Leah. There are many modern women today who are unloved by their husbands who feel alone and lonely but are indeed loved, and their suffering hasn't gone unnoticed, God saw Leah’s broken heart, he saw that she was sad and whilst no one else cared about her, God did and took away her pain by opening her womb.
When the Lord saw that Leah was unloved, He opened her womb. ( Genesis 29:31)
And Leah gave birth to three sons (Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah) and like many women, pinned her hopes that her husband would love her because of her sons.
So Leah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Reuben; for she said, “The Lord has surely looked on my affliction. Now therefore, my husband will love me.” Then she conceived again and bore a son, and said, “Because the Lord has heard that I am unloved, He has therefore given me this son also.” And she called his name Simeon. She conceived again and bore a son, and said, “Now this time my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.” Therefore his name was called Levi. And she conceived again and bore a son, and said, “Now I will praise the Lord.” Therefore she called his name Judah. Then she stopped bearing. ( Genesis 29:31-35)
However, things weren’t going smoothly with Leah and her younger sister Rachel as they continued to compete for Jacobs attention. In ancient times, a wife status was dependent on the number of children one had and Rachel and Leah tried to out do each other even go as far as using their handmaidens (Bilhah and Zilpah) to produce children when they couldn’t. Sadly, regardless of Leah’s greater number of children Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah as can be seen in Genesis 33:1-2 and there wasn’t anything Leah could do.
Now Jacob lifted his eyes and looked, and there, Esau was coming, and with him were four hundred men. So he divided the children among Leah, Rachel, and the two maidservants. And he put the maidservants and their children in front, Leah and her children behind, and Rachel and Joseph last. (Genesis 33:1-2).
How did Leah’s life turn out in the end? After Rachel’s death, Leah carried on as the wife of Jacob, and the mother of his many children, living in Canaan. The Bible does not say when she died, but Leah is buried in the cave of Machpelah, along with her husband Jacob, her husband’s father and mother, Isaac and Rebekah; and her husband’s grandfather and grandmother, Abraham and Sarah. (Genesis 49:29-31).
What we can learn from Leah:
- Leah prayed and trusted in God and God heard her prayers and saw her sorrow and He was there to help. He can see our tears and our sadness without us saying a word. He knows our situation as He did with Leah.
- When we think we are all alone in our troubles, we are not, God is ALWAYS with us and reaches out with His love.
- Instead of blaming God for our situation, be like Leah and praise God for what we do have. In Leah’s case, our healthy children and the Lord's unfailing favour. As Augustine wrote, "God loves each of us as if there were only one of us to love."
- Even though Leah knew her position in the family and it saddened her, she didn't walk away or give up, a valuable lesson for us to remember.
- Leah and Rachel (and their maids) did indeed build the house of Israel—12 sons and a daughter! God can work His will in spite of human imperfections, motives and emotions. Rachel and Leah had imperfections (just like we do) but in spite of those, God used them to build the house of Israel.
And all the people who were at the gate, and the elders, said, “We are witnesses. The Lord make the woman who is coming to your house like Rachel and Leah, the two who built the house of Israel; and may you prosper in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem. (Ruth 4:11)