A couple of months ago I wrote how I enjoy escaping into books and stories. I stumbled on the one I am going to highlight today, as I was reading about how God wrestled with Jacob. Wanting a better understanding of Jacob’s life, I began reading about his family. Boy oh boy, I hope you can keep track of all the babies! Let’s dive into the story of his first wife, Leah. A woman who was deceived by her father, heartbroken by her husband, rival to her sister, as well as being chosen by God. As Leah’s faith grows, we watch the transformation it brings to her family tree.
Follow along in Genesis 29. Within a month of Rachel meeting her cousin Jacob, they are betrothed. We know Leah is Rachel’s older sister, but we don’t know why her father Laban hasn’t sought a man for her to marry. He has land and livestock, so a dowry was possible for Laban to provide, if necessary. Plus, he had seven years to seek and find a suitable mate before the younger daughter’s marriage was to take place. Instead, Laban deceives them all by sending his older daughter Leah to consummate the marriage Jacob thought was between him and Rachel (Genesis 29:22-23). Both daughters must have felt betrayed, deceived, and unloved by their dad! Jacob felt deceived too (v25), but remember “God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows” (Galatians 6:7). Now the roles are reversed, as Jacob had already played deceiver to his own brother Esau and father Isaac (Genesis 25:27-34, Genesis 27).
Fortunately, God enters the story. He “saw that Leah was not loved, He enabled her to conceive, but Rachel remained childless.” (Genesis 29:31). Maybe God was allowing Jacob time to get to know and fall in love with his first wife Leah, but this didn’t seem to happen. Through the names of her first three children, we empathize with the rejection Leah is feeling:
• Reuben – The Lord has seen my misery. Surely my husband will love me now.
• Simeon – Because the Lord heard that I am not loved, He gave me this one too.
• Levi – Now at last my husband will become attached to me because I borne him three sons.
• Judah – This time I will praise the Lord.
Intermingled with these births, we see transformation in Leah. By baby Levi, she isn’t seeking Jacob’s love, just his attachment. Maybe her expectations have changed and she has accepted that Jacob will never love her. By baby Judah, her focus is on God. Her naming convention doesn’t mention her husband because she is getting fulfilled by the Lord. God is giving her worth through all her children, which would have been culturally relevant in Leah’s day. Her status rose with each son born. She went from a rejected wife of Jacob and an unloved daughter of Laban, to a very loved daughter of Yahweh. Plus, as you read further, God blesses this fourth child with a very important descendant.
Leah is fulfilled and stops having children. This is not true for Rachel. She is childless and jealous of her sister (Genesis 30:1). As the baby-race continues through the wives’ servants, we continue to watch Leah’s healthier emotional state. She names the sons born to Jacob by her servant Zilpah: Gad – What good fortune, and Asher – How happy I am.
Even though Leah’s faith in God is deepening, she and Rachel haven’t made amends. Without forgiveness and repentance over the years, we read of the bitterness, competition, and rejection that has manifested amongst the sisters. In a spat, Leah says: “Wasn’t it enough that you took away my husband? Will you take my son’s mandrakes too? Very well, Rachel said, he can sleep with you tonight in return for your son’s mandrakes. So Jacob slept with Leah that night. God listened to Leah and she became pregnant and bore Jacob a fifth and sixth son and a daughter Dinah” (Genesis 30:15-21). The final two names show her continued trust in God:
• Issachar – God has rewarded me for giving my servant to my husband.
• Zebulun – God has presented me with a precious gift. This time my husband will treat me with honor because I have borne him six sons.
You can imagine the side comments and judgment being shared with their boys as the rivalry continues between the mothers. Rachel eventually conceives two sons, and the oldest, Joseph becomes the favorite of all of Jacob’s sons. This leads us to Joseph being sold into slavery by his brothers, aka Leah’s sons (Genesis 37). Fortunately, we have the benefit of knowing the redemption God provides this family in the form of a reunion before patriarch Jacob passes. And the blessings continue in the generations to come. Of the 12 sons born to Jacob, known as the twelve tribes of Israel, six were born to Leah. It is from her fourth son Judah, the one she named “This time I will praise the Lord” that God uses Leah to fulfill His eternal plan. He allows her lineage to bear the Messiah Jesus. (Genesis 49:8-12).
Like His grandmother Leah hundreds of years earlier, Jesus felt rejection too. During His time on Earth, Jesus walked in our shoes, in situations that mirror ours today. Why? So, He can empathize with us:
• His hometown rejected Him – maybe your family doesn’t understand you? (read: Luke 4:24-27)
• The religious leaders who were well read in Torah, rejected Him – maybe your esteemed boss never gives you praise or credit? (read: Mark 12:10-11)
• Even His best friend rejected Him – maybe this happened to you? (read: Luke 22:60-62)
But Jesus knew who He was. He stayed connected to the Father by spending time alone with Him (Mark 1:35). Jesus knew His role in God’s plan included being rejected and beaten. But He also knew the redemption portion of the eternal plan, that He was chosen by His Father to save us!
Just like Jesus and Leah, we will feel rejected and we will reject others.
But wouldn’t you like to break this generational cycle? You can by going to God and getting your worth from Him. Like Leah, we have to get past expecting our spouse (parent, sibling, best friend, or boss) to make us happy enough, to love us enough, to give us enough attention. Only God can fill the hole in us. He is the only One who can make us Whole.
I truly hope you will seek time with your Heavenly Father and find scripture that shares His unending, filled to the measure, nothing that can separate Him from loving you verses to read and reread. As you do, He may prompt you to clear up some past situations, or maybe you can take responsibility for hurtful spoken words. He may ask you to forgive a deceiver or repent your rejection of others. In these actions, you will begin to see the redemption process of your own story, and I promise you, these blessings will proliferate into the future generations of your family tree.
Pray with me – Lord, thank You for choosing me to be Your daughter. I know there are hurts in my life, some I have caused and some that still hurt me. Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Help me clean up the areas that separate me from You. I desire my life to reflect You in all areas. Please pour blessings on my family, my children, my future grandchildren, as well as those who marry and are adopted into our family lineage. We love You and will continue to spread Your love and Your light to all willing to receive You. Amen