Often when the life of Jacob, his wives and children (Gen. 29:16-35) are studied, Leah is overlooked; perhaps for the same reason that she was overlooked by Jacob, he loved Rachel. So we focus on that love, not on the rejected one.
In Genesis 29, Jacob sees and immediately falls in love with Rachel when he meets her at the same well where Eliezer met Rebecca (Gen. 29:11-12); and after Jacob meets Laban, and it is decided that he will stay. Laban then inquires as to the expected wages, Jacob asks to work for Rachel.
He offers seven (7) years of labor, an extraordinary price, when the normal dowry would be perhaps a month of wages. If we read carefully, Laban never agrees, he just says “It’s better that I give her to you than I give her to another man.” Jacob interprets this as approval to the offer, and perhaps we would as well.
Of course, we all know that Jacob is swindled; and Leah is given in place of Rachel first, but note the language once again, “It’s not done so in our place – to give the younger before the firstborn.” The Torah notes (Gen. 29:30) that Jacob loves Rachel more than Leah, he hates her because he is disappointed in her.
In Genesis 29:17, Leah is described as having weak eyes, while Rachel is described as being beautiful in form and appearance. Rachel is pretty and sexually desirable, and Jacob longs for her. The commentators have struggled with the reference to Leah’s eyes being רַכּוֹת, meaning “weak or tender.” The rabbis comment that her eyes are either crossed, or they protruded. Today she might described as “homely,” as her eyes are referenced in comparison to Rachel’s beauty.
In fact, it is speculated by the rabbis that Laban believes the only way he will get someone to marry her is by tricking them. This he did to Jacob.
How would, and how did, this make Leah feel? How would you feel?
Genesis 29:31, “Now the Lord saw that Leah was unloved, so he opened her womb; but Rachel was unable to conceive.”
וַיַּרְא יְהוָה כִּי-שְׂנוּאָה לֵאָה, וַיִּפְתַּח אֶת-רַחְמָהּ
To paraphrase, “The Lord saw that Leah was hated, so he opened the doorway of mercy for her.” He opened her womb for children. The word translated “womb” in this verse is not בֶּטֶן/ beṭen, meaning belly or womb, but רחם/reḥem, from the root mercy.” פתח/peṯaḥ, meaning door, open wide, doorway. By the birth of her children, the Lord opened the door of mercy for this unloved woman; but there is deeper healing happening.
She begins to have sons:
1. Reuben – “see a son.” “The Lord has seen that I am hated; and now my husband will love me.” Leah references both the Lord and Jacob.
2. Shimon – “hearing.” The Lord has heard that I am hated.” She mentions only the Lord.
3. Levi – “attached/joined to.” “Now this time my husband will join himself to me…” No mention of the Lord, only Jacob.
4. Judah – “celebrate/praise.” “This time I praise the Lord.” Judah signifies raising or lifting the hands in praise. “This time…” Leah has a heart adjustment.
At the beginning Leah uses the name of the Lord, יהוה, the covenant name of grace and mercy, not the generic Elohim (God), to influence Jacob to love her. Why? Leah believed Jacob to be her savior, just as Jacob believed Rachel was his savior.
We learn two important lessons:
1. If we fix our eyes on the who or what we believe is the source of our acceptance in life, bitterness will be a lingering reality.
2. If you fix our heart on Rachel, whatever form that might take, you will always wake up with a Leah, in disappointment.
Leah was overlooked, but in the end she praised the Lord, why?
Perhaps she knew, just as Jacob would reveal prophetically in Genesis 48 as he blesses his sons, that the King would come through her – and that that King would be the true Bridegroom. She experienced in her own life, all that He would be and ultimately heal.
The parallels: Leah wasn’t beautiful, in fact she was homely. Leah was unwanted. Leah was overlooked. Leah was unloved. Leah was rejected.
Yeshua/Jesus wasn’t beautiful or desirable (Isa. 53:2/Jn. 1:10). He was unwanted (Isa.53:3/Jn. 1:11). He was overlooked (Isa. 53:3/Lk. 4:22). He was unloved (Isa. 53:4/Lk. 23:21). He was rejected (Isa. 53:3/Lk. 22:55-62).
He became weak, ugly, unwanted, unloved, rejected, lonely and ultimately died in order to bear these burdens that we all feel and experience.
He bore these in order that those receiving Him will experience the relationship of praise that Leah ultimately experienced when she stopped allowing idolatry to steal her life, and we learn that our acceptance by Him is not based on our merit, but on faith working in righteousness that exchanged our filthy garments for His beautiful robe of righteousness.
Nothing for Jacob, Rachel, Leah or us will ever satisfy, but the Lord. That illusive “it” will never come. The one true love that will fill all our needs is not a man or a woman or career, but the Lord.
This family was a mess, but the Lord still planned and purposed for the Messiah to come from that mess. Sure Leah wasn’t as beautiful as Rachel, but in the eyes of the Lord, Who showed her mercy and love, she was perfect when she began to praise Him.
In the end, Leah was more loved, more accepted, more blessed than she could have ever imagined, even with the weakness of her natural eyes, she beheld the real beauty of her Savior, and she praised Him.
Be well. Shalom.