After Jacob had stayed with him for a whole month, Laban said to him, “Just because you are a relative of mine, should you work for me for nothing? Tell me what your wages should be.”
Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Leah had weak eyes, but Rachel had a lovely figure and was beautiful. Jacob was in love with Rachel and said, “I’ll work for you seven years in return for your younger daughter Rachel.”
Laban said, “It’s better that I give her to you than to some other man. Stay here with me.” So Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her.
Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife. My time is completed, and I want to make love to her.”
So Laban brought together all the people of the place and gave a feast. But when evening came, he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob, and Jacob made love to her. And Laban gave his servant Zilpah to his daughter as her attendant.
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.”
And Jacob did so. He finished the week with Leah, and then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel to be his wife. Laban gave his servant Bilhah to his daughter Rachel as her attendant. Jacob made love to Rachel also, and his love for Rachel was greater than his love for Leah. And he worked for Laban another seven years.
When the Lord saw that Leah was not loved, he enabled her to conceive, but Rachel remained childless. Leah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Reuben, for she said, “It is because the Lord has seen my misery. Surely my husband will love me now.”
She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “Because the Lord heard that I am not loved, he gave me this one too.” So she named him Simeon.
Again she conceived, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “Now at last my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.” So he was named Levi.
She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “This time I will praise the Lord.” So she named him Judah. Then she stopped having children.
“Leah had weak eyes, but Rachel had a lovely figure and was beautiful. “ “ …and his love for Rachel was greater than his love for Leah.” 29:17, 30
Ouch! I don’t know about you but those two verses stir some very real feelings in me. Heavy feelings.
In grade school, I was consistently one of the last ones picked for playground teams. I was the girl at the football game who knew all the cheers but didn’t wear the uniform. I liked the boy who didn’t know I was alive. I even became the wife whose husband didn’t love her. (He did in the beginning. He does now… but there was a season… and it almost broke me.)
Being unnoticed, unchosen or unloved is probably an experience we have all had at one time or another. It is a piece of baggage that we can carry with us like a backpack full of river rocks, weighing us down and making us far different women than God ever intended for us to be. It can drive us into bitterness, anger, and desperation. Maybe even drive us to the places that Leah went – like using her body to win her husband’s favor. “Now at last my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.” 29:34
I think Leah had likely been striving all of her life to be “enough”. She was the older of at least two daughters, raised by an idol worshiping, divination seeking dad who apparently could hold his own against Jacob in the area of trickery and manipulation. She had a little sister named Rachel and we know from Jacob’s reaction that Leah, though older, likely lived in the shadow of her pretty little sister. The morning after her wedding she woke up to find out that her groom of less than 24 hours felt cheated by her very presence. Jolted from sleep to find her handsome prince shouting at her Father: “What is THIS you have done to me? I served you for Rachel, didn’t I? Why have you deceived me?” 29:25
“Weak eyed Leah” is now reduced to a “THIS”?!
Used by her dad, unwanted by her husband, tolerated for a bridal week and then replaced by beloved Rachel. It’s enough rejection to break a woman. I mean really, wouldn’t you just want to throw your walls up and shut out every hope you ever had of being noticed, chosen or loved?
But not our girl Leah. She keeps striving, keeps waiting, keeps working. And God sees. While Leah desperately fixes her gaze on winning her husband’s heart – God’s gaze is fixed on winning hers.
Now, I know this story is a room full of elephants. Seriously. We could spend weeks just trying to understand how a man can have sex with a woman – thinking she’s the girl he spent 2,555 days pining for – only to wake up and find it was the “weak-eyed” older sister.
But in my room – there’s a bigger elephant. An elephant that stirs up more real and heavy feelings within me. An elephant that has squashed the hearts of many women that I love and caused a twinge of heavy guilt in others. The elephant of fertility and infertility.
“When the Lord saw that Leah was not loved, he enabled her to conceive, but Rachel remained childless.” 29:31
When I saw that the first time I had to stop studying and ask God a question. Literally. I stopped studying and started asking. “Why? Why do some women get to carry babies in their womb and other women don’t? I mean, it is sweet and all, that you saw that Leah was not loved and so you “enabled her to conceive” – but when I see that part about … Rachel remained barren, I have to ask you God; did you love one woman more than the other? Because honestly, it “feels” mean.”
They are legit questions and I’m secretly hoping some of you were thinking them too. Because I don’t want to be alone in this. I just think as women, we are wired to feel it – aren’t we? We all know someone whose womb didn’t open. You might even be the someone whose womb didn’t open. Maybe your womb DID open and it caused tension between you and a friend whose didn’t. I mean really God, this is just messy.
So yeah, I asked Him the questions and then I kept reading.
He likes questions, did you know that?
I watched God’s story unfold as Leah bore three sons – each one named out of her longing to be loved by her husband. Three times, carrying three boys. Spending at least three years – hoping that Jacob’s heart would turn toward her. That her man would FINALLY find her to be “enough”.
Then it happened. The 4th boy. Judah. Judah brings forth praise to God and God alone! “This time I will praise the Lord.” (29:35) No more pining for the love of her husband – God is the only one her eyes are fixed on now.
In a few short minutes, my Faithful Father answers me. I think the international space station may have seen the flash of light as the proverbial light bulb went off over my head. “Oh God, I see it! You didn’t open Leah’s womb because you loved her more, you opened her womb because you knew that was the avenue by which you would win her heart. You used the womb – in both Leah and Rachel – to give birth to a sweet relationship with you. Through their deepest heartaches, you reached down to lift up their heads. The result for Leah was praise. Praise to the One who sees her, chooses her, knows her and loves her.
I mentioned earlier that I was the wife whose husband didn’t love her. I mentioned that it almost broke me. Maybe that’s not completely accurate – because just as Judah was the catalyst that finally broke Leah’s chains, my “unloved season” broke mine too. Not almost broke… but full on broke, broke! It was the avenue by which God won my heart. He lifted up my head and turned my gaze away from the drive to win my husband’s heart. He grabbed me by my chin and turned my head toward Him. Through His Word, He walked me all the way to the cross. It was there, in that place that I knew I was noticed, I was chosen and I was loved… to death.
No matter what your journey has been, is currently, or will be – that is the happy ending to your story too. If you don’t believe me – ask Him and then open His Word, He will show you. Just like He showed me and Leah.
Wow God. You turn our heads. You are awesome and Holy, huge and infinite and yet you are intimately, tenderly and intentionally pursuing us. Sometimes the thought of it is really too much to take in. Thank you for Leah. For telling her story. It’s a crazy story! But not any crazier than some of the stories we are living. We needed to be reminded, that just like you worked in Leah’s story, you are working in our stories too. We needed to know that we are noticed, chosen and loved. Fully loved by You. So maybe it’s time we live a little like Leah. Maybe it’s time we turn our gaze. Turn our gaze from all the things of this world that we think we need and lift our eyes and praise to You Lord! Because there is no one like you! No one more worthy of our affections or our worship. To You be all glory, honor, and praise – forever and ever – Amen.
Matthew 1 and Luke 3 both record the genealogy of Jesus. In both accounts, it is noted that Jesus is a descendant of the tribe of Judah. (yep! That’s Leah’s Judah!) And in Revelation 5 we read that it is The Lion of the tribe of Judah who has conquered. It appears Leah’s legacy has little to do with the look of her eyes and everything to do with the lineage of the Savior of the World. What a mighty God we serve – even in our brokenness He works all things together for our good and His glory! Let’s praise Him every moment as we wait for His return.
Listen to Leah’s songs for more encouragement.