The King's Gardeners Ministries
Reverend S. L. Gardner
Spokane, Washington US
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Leah: The Biblical Model of what it means to stand for your marriage:
If you were to ask several people what the three greatest "Love Stories" of the Bible are, I believe you would get similar answers. Probably the most common answer would be David and Bathsheba, followed by Jacob and Rachel, and finally Isaac and Rebekah.
Ironically, only one of these marriages was an actual covenant marriage, and that would be Isaac and Rebekah. The coming together of David and Bathsheba was a situation marked by one sin after another with adultery and murder being at the top of the list. In this Bible study I wish to focus on the relationships Jacob had with both Rachel and Leah.
There are a lot of things we can glean from the scriptures dealing with the characters of Leah verses the character of Rachel. Towards the end I will extrapolate some opinions based on what the Bible says and you are free to come to your own conclusions. I do think we can get a lot out of this Biblical account.
We will pick up the story in Genesis 27. Jacob, while fleeing his father's house due to the wrath of his brother Esau, comes to live with his uncle Laban. When Jacob arrived at the home of Laban, he met Rachel and was captivated by her. Rachel was described as being "lovely in form and beautiful" (Genesis 29:17).
After a month, Jacob found himself in love with Rachel and agreed to work seven years to win her hand in marriage. After seven years the big day came, but Laban deceived Jacob and he ended up marrying Leah, the older daughter, instead of Rachel.
The bride would have worn a veil, so Jacob would not have known who it was. At this point Jacob agreed to stay an additional seven years to marry Rachel also. So, he now had two wives.
Despite the deception, Leah was Jacob's covenant wife, and Rachel became his non-covenant wife. Polygamy was a common practice in the Old Testament, but God never endorses it. His will for marriage had always been one man and one woman (Genesis 2:24).
The Bible refers to polygamy simply as a matter of fact, acknowledging its existence. Jacob loved Rachel far more than Leah, but his love was based on infatuation rather than character. Rachel was very beautiful but lacked in devotion to God, as we will see in the story of their lives.
It is most interesting when you note the blessings of God on the two women in the area of children. In Genesis 29, the first four of Jacob's 12 sons are born to him by Leah. It is obvious that Leah and Jacob had a physical relationship, but it appears to be mostly for the purpose of bearing sons to Jacob.
The emotional and spiritual condition of Leah was evident in the naming of each child.
1. Reuben: When the Lord saw that Leah was not loved, he opened her womb. She birthed forth a son and named him Reuben for she said "It is because the Lord has seen my misery, surely my husband will love me now" (Genesis 29:31-32).
2. Simeon: Leah conceived again and named her son Simeon, meaning "one who hears." She did this "Because the Lord heard that I am not loved" (Genesis 29:33).
3. Levi: Again Leah conceived. She named this son Levi, meaning "attached." She felt that "Now at last my husband will become attached to me." (Genesis 29: 34)
4. Judah: Leah conceived and bore Judah meaning, "praise." This was her last child for a while. With the birth of Judah, Leah said. "This time I will praise the Lord." (Genesis 29:35). It is important to note that our Lord Jesus is a descendent from the tribe of Judah. The lineage of Christ came through a son of Leah, not Rachel.
At this point, the Bible says that Rachel became very jealous of Leah; she even demanded that Jacob give her children. At this point Jacob became angry and said it was God who was preventing her from bearing children, not him. (Genesis 30:1-2) So, Rachel gave her servant Bilhah to Jacob as a surrogate. Through this servant two more of Jacob's twelve sons were born.
5. Dan: Rachel named Bilhah's first son born to Jacob Dan, which means, "vindicated". She said that God had vindicated her. (Genesis 30:6) In Rachel's eyes she had entered into a struggle with her sister over bearing sons to Jacob. To be vindicated means that Rachel thought a great injustice has been committed against her by Leah having had children first, and more of them.
6. Naphtali: Bilhah has another son; this one Rachel named Naphtali, which means "my struggle." She said "I have a great struggle with my sister and I have won." (Genesis 30:7-8). We can see from the differences in names that Rachel was focused not on her emotional or spiritual state, nor on her devotion to God, but rather she was completely focused on her own sense of struggle for superiority over her sister. When Leah saw what was happening, and because for the time being she had stopped having children, she gave her servant Zilpah to Jacob, also as a surrogate. From this servant came two more sons to Jacob.
7. Gad: Zilpah had her first son by Jacob and Leah named him Gad, which means "good fortune." Leah expressed simply that the coming of Gad was good fortune for her. No mention of her feeling or quarrel with her sister. (Genesis 30:10-11) 8. Asher: Zilpah bore Jacob a second son, and Leah named him Asher, which means "happy."
At this point Leah said, "How happy I am! The women will call me happy." (Genesis 30:12-13) It is not clear if the source of her happiness is simply from the Lord's blessing, or if she in fact was happy that she equaled the attempt Rachel had made with her own servant.
At this point in the story, Reuben, Leah's first born to Jacob, was out in the fields and came across some mandrakes. In that time period mandrakes were seen as an aphrodisiac as well as a possible help to fertility. When Rachel heard of Leah's mandrakes, she again was jealous. Rachel wanted the mandrakes, Leah in turn replied, "Wasn't it enough that you took way my husband, will you take my son's mandrakes too?" (Genesis 30:15)
At this point Rachel bargains with Leah. She will allow Jacob to sleep in Leah's tent that night in exchange for the mandrakes. If indeed Rachel's motives were trusting in the supposed mystical powers of the mandrakes to produce fertility, then her plan backfired on her because at this point, Leah bears two more sons to Jacob.
9. Issachar: This son Leah named Issachar, which means, "reward." She felt that God was rewarding her for giving Jacob her maidservant as a surrogate. (Genesis 30:17-18) The first part of verse 17 states that "God listened to Leah..." This indicates that Leah was obviously still praying either for children or for the love of Jacob to fall on her. Either way, her observation that this child was a reward for giving Jacob her servant is probably not accurate, as I don't believe God actually was behind that decision.
10. Zebulun: Leah's final son born to Jacob was Zebulun meaning, "honor." When Leah bore this child, she 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." (Genesis 30:20)
After Zebulun Leah had a daughter named Dinah. Seven children in all were born to Jacob through his wife Leah. The Lord really blessed her in this way. Her love for Jacob was steadfast despite the tension between her and her sister. She trusted the Lord and did all she could to honor her husband and to be a good wife.
After all the other children were born, God remembered Rachel and gave her the first of the only two children she would bear. It is important to note that even though she had only two children, one of them would be mightily used of God in his life, and that was Joseph.
11. Joseph: Rachel's womb was finally opened, and she named her first son Joseph, which means, "may he add." With the birth of this son Rachel proclaimed that God had taken away her disgrace. By the name she gave the child and followed by one of the few-recorded instances of Rachel seeking the Lord, she prayed for another child. (Genesis 30:22-24)
We take a break here as Jacob flees the house of Laban with is family and heads back to the land of his own family. At this point something very telling happens. Rachel, who in the previous chapter prays to God for another son, is now stealing all the false gods from her father's house to take with her.
Though the Bible doesn't give us any real reasons why she took the idols, its possible that she took them for extra added protection and blessings and maybe for some help with fertility. Regardless, it is clear that in her life, Rachel never fully broke from her pagan background of polytheism.
Leah on the other hand seemed to completely embrace the faith that Jacob brought with him. When Laban realizes that the gods have been taken, he pursues Jacob and his family and searches the camp after Jacob claims no one took them. Rachel then deceives Laban by sitting on her saddle containing the idols. She then told Laban she could not arise because she was in her menstrual cycle. It appears that no one in the camp knew she took the idols except Rachel herself. Rachel finally gets an answer to her prayer for another child, but not in the way she had hoped.
12. Benjamin: When Rachel gave birth to her final son, she named him Ben-Oni, which means "son of my trouble." Ironically, in this instance Jacob renamed this son to Benjamin, meaning "son of my right hand." At this point, complications in childbirth lead to Rachel's death. (Genesis 35:17-18)
What transpires next is very interesting, and has leaded me to draw some conclusions based on my own opinion. Please know that these are my opinion, and as such I am not saying that I am right, but I do feel the events I am about to share from the book of Genesis paint an interesting picture.
When Rachel dies, the group is on the road traveling to Ephrath (Bethlehem). At this point Jacob buries Rachel along the side of the road, erects a pillar to mark the grave and left her. (Genesis 35:19-20) This is a very odd occurrence because of the fact that Jacob's family had a family tomb. This was the cave that Abraham bought for himself and Sarah (Genesis 23:20). Rachel is the only member of the blessed family line that wasn't buried there.
Genesis does not give an accounting of the death of Leah, but there is some interesting information in the instructions Jacob gives about his own death and burial. Moving way ahead to Genesis 49:29-32, Jacob is giving instructions on his burial. He instructs his son to bury him in the caves of his forefathers where Abraham and his wife Sarah and Isaac and his wife Rebekah were buried. Then Jacob said that the cave was where he buried Leah. Leah got the honored spot in the family cave.
There is no mention of Rachel, him being buried near her, or even her body being relocated. I feel this story shows the faith of a woman (Leah) as she stood for her marriage to a man she really loved, who didn't show much love in return. In the face of adversity of her own sister, she showed unconditional love and acceptance for her husband. Her faith in God was unquestionable, while Rachel never seemed to completely let go of her polytheistic heritage.
My opinion is that in the end, Leah's faith paid off. It's very likely that after the death of Rachel, the love between Jacob and Leah grew immensely, maybe even surpassing the love Jacob had for Rachel. This is a wonderful model of not giving up faith, in trusting in God and letting him move in your situation. And also in not lashing out at those who hurt you. Leah loved Jacob, and never came against him in anger for being with Rachel; instead, she loved him, and did all she could to show that love.
May this wonderful example of faith, love and commitment bless you and your stand... In Christ David C 12/6/99
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