A Tale of Two Wives: Leah and Rachel

Genesis 2:8 gives us the groundwork for what God intended Man to be like. He placed the man he created in the garden to care for it. The animals were there and Adam named them all, but no suitable helper was found for him. So God placed the man into a deep sleep, took a rib from his body, closed the area up with flesh and used the rib to create woman. He brought the woman to Adam. Genesis 2:24 is infamous in weddings… “ For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” Remember this verse as we go through today’s bible story.

Today’s story starts with a deception. In Genesis 27 , Jacob deceived his father and received his older brother’s blessing. Esau held a grudge, so Jacob fleed his home for his mother’s family in Haran. When he got there, he saw some shepherds watering their flock. He inquired if they knew his uncle, Laban, and they did and directed him that Laban’s daughter, Rachel was approaching to water her father’s flock. He helped to water his uncle’s flock and told Rachel that he was a relative, so she ran to tell her father. Laban was thrilled to see Jacob and let him stay there in his home.

Here’s where it gets interesting (Genesis 29:14) ….Jacob started working for his uncle. Uncle Laban wanted to pay him for his work and asked what he wanted for wages. Well, Laban had two daughters, Leah and Rachel. Leah was said have “weak eyes” and Rachel was beautiful. Now whether or not Leah had poor vision or maybe her eyes didn’t sparkle as much as her sister’s, Jacob’s choice was the younger sister, Rachel, to be his wife. Jacob agreed to work for his uncle for 7 years in order to get the hand in marriage of Rachel. Laban agreed, and Jacob worked there for Laban for 7 years. Jacob was really smitten with Rachel, so it was like days to him before those 7 years were up.

But Uncle Laban had a problem. How could he possibly marry off his younger daughter when the older daughter was still not married? So after preparing a marriage feast for everyone, he sent Leah into Jacob’s tent. When Jacob awoke the next day, there in his tent was Leah!

When morning came, there was Leah! So Jacob said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? I served you for Rachel, didn’t I? Why have you deceived me?” 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.” (Gen. 29:25-17)

I can imagine there was one very unhappy Jacob to have been deceived by his family. But he agreed to work for his uncle seven more years for Rachel. But unfortunately for Leah, Jacob loved Rachel more than him.

Let’s stop for a moment here and look at this scene. Here are two sisters. The Bible doesn’t really tell us what kind of relationship they had prior to this. I know that I have a IRL sister, and we are the best of friends, but what would it take though to change that relationship….maybe to have her given to the man I love? Maybe to be married to the same man? I mean, you’ve gotta admit, women are wired for relationships. I crave the attention that my husband gives me. I am his helpmate, but I do have needs, relational needs (not just sex, but yeah that kind of relational need as well) that only he can fulfill. So here are two sisters. One is loved and adored by her husband and the other one, well, she isn’t her sister.

We are told in Genesis 29:31-35 that the Lord had pity on Leah because she was unloved and opened her womb 4 times. Listen to the names of her sons and what she said after they were born…

1. Reuben: It is because the LORD has seen my misery. Surely my husband will love me now.
2. Simeon: Because the LORD heard that I am not loved, he gave me this one too.
3. Levi: Now at last my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons
4. Judah: This time I will praise the LORD

Can you feel her pain after her first 3 sons were born? She was so craving the love that her husband wasn’t giving her…thinking that bearing him sons would make him love her. How sad!! I think after #4, she decided it was time enough and she needed to praise the Lord for the children she had been given. At that point, the Lord became her husband. He was giving her the love that she needed.

What about Rachel during all this time? She was barren. Yup, the one Jacob loved with all his heart and soul, could bear him no children. How ironic. At first she blames her husband for not giving her children. It isn’t his fault. They are having sex! Jacob warns her not to compare him to God. It is God that will give her the children. So history is about to repeat itself. Do you remember Sarah? How she decided that God’s time wasn’t good enough and she gave her servant to her husband. Well, Rachel did the same! She gave her servant Bilhah to her husband and Bilhah gave him two sons. Look at what Rachel said after the birth of her maid servants two sons.

Dan: God has vindicated me; he has listened to my plea and given me a son.
Naphtali: I have had a great struggle with my sister, and I have won

Right there….the last one. The exact reason why God intended one man and one woman to be married. It’s in plain black and white. The race is on to see who can create the most children to make Jacob happy.

So do you think Leah took this well? Nope. She gave her servant, Zilpah, to Jacob. Zilpah bore 2 sons.

Gad: What good fortune!
Asher: How happy I am! The women will call me happy.

It didn’t stop there either. Reuben brought his mom some mandrakes from the field. Rachel wanted some and Leah accused her of taking her husband and now she wanted to take the mandrakes, too? Rachel sold her right to bed Jacob that night to her sister in exchange for some mandrakes…..Issachar was born from that union. Leah also bore another son, Zebulun. She also bore a daughter, Dinah. Are you keeping score?? Leah 9 Rachel 2. God did finally give Rachel her own son, Joseph. Genesis 35 tells us that Rachel bore one more son with great difficulty and she died after Benjamin was born.

What’s the moral of this story? I don’t think that it matters that the two wives in this story were sisters, honestly. Think about how women are wired. We want the sole, undivided attention of our husbands. I don’t want to share my husband with another woman and I definitely don’t want to share my marriage bed either. Marriage is meant to provide the following… partnership, spiritual intimacy, and the ability to pursue God together. (Carol Heffernan: “God’s Design for Marriage” FOTF) Remember that Genesis 2:20 tells us that no suitable helper was found for Adam. So God created woman out of man, and He created the first marriage…one man to one woman. Genesis 2:24, once again identifies a complete marriage as one man and one woman, heterosexual, monogamous, and a complete union of those two people. Jacob learned the hard way with two women fighting over his love and attentions. It just wasn’t God’s design for marriage. One more thing that you may or may not realize…do you remember the genealogy for Jesus in the last lesson? Judah, the son of Leah, was in the Messianic line. Not Rachel’s sons. So in the end, God honored the marriage of Jacob and Leah in the line to our Savior.

2 Comments

  1. I have always wondered how Jacob’s and Leah’s relationship became after Rachel died! Did he come to love Leah more or did he pine after Rachel and resent Leah more? It would be interesting to know but the Bible doesn’t tell us ! It’s one of those “when I get to heaven” questions I am going to ask the Lord!

  2. I always felt sad for Leah. To be forced into a marriage by your father to a man you know loves your sister. At the same time if he loved Rachel so much why did he have sex with Leah at all? Was it his “husbandly duty” or just “being a guy”?

    I have watched a few shows on mormons who marry more than one woman and I can only imagine the pain. You’d have to be pretty brainwashed not to feel it. Knowing that tonight you sleep alone because your husband is ….well you don’t know what all he is doing….with another woman. Just thinking about it makes me furious!


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