I imagine she was most likely a quiet child. We might suggest an “introvert” in these modern day times. Being the eldest daughter, she was the more responsible, the dutiful, the respectful one. First born children tend to be this way, somehow.
Her name is Leah. From the Hebrew meaning weary or grieved.
Leah was afflicted with a physical disability – described as weak eyes. Assuming she had very poor vision, this could explain her withdrawn disposition. Disabilities in her day weren’t seen as opportunities, but more like a curse.
Because of her poor vision, Leah troubled over her clumsiness and lack of style. She withdrew into her plainness, feeling unattractive and undesirable to the village’s eligible men. She rarely entered into girl friend chatter as it was safer to just tend to her duties as first born and not wish her life away on silly notions.
Even so, Leah must have had dreams like any other young girl…dreams to one day marry a handsome man. A man who would cherish her, while in return, she would give him many sons. No one needed to tell her to love her man – because she would without question – with all her heart.
And, eventually, that handsome man did ride into town, on a camel no less. Jacob was his name. Arriving at the local watering hole it would be young, Rachel, Leah’s sister, whom he noticed immediately. Was it a mere coincidence Rachel just happened to be at this particular well upon Jacob’s arrival?
Rachel, beautiful, kind, lively and cheerful. Her name, meaning “lamb” gives a picture of innocence, tenderness, maybe a little impish, playful. Rachel immediately won Jacob’s interest…and heart.
So it began. Jacob directly asked for Rachel’s hand in marriage. The agreement was made with the stipulation that Jacob would work seven years to earn her father’s blessing. What was seven years for the love of his life? The pretty one. The one of whom eyes followed everywhere she went. Her confidence and ability to make a friend may well have been the envy of Leah. And Leah had every cause to be envious.
Jacob and Rachel’s wedding day arrived as if in a twinkling of an eye. There was feasting and celebration for days. As the festivities drew to a close, Jacob announced it was time for him to have his bride, and off he went to await her in the bridal tent.
And then…a love story of the ages suddenly took a drastic turn.
The following morning, to Jacob’s shocked surprise, Leah was beside him in the marriage bed!
How could this be? Where was his beloved Rachel? And, why was he given this weak-eyed spinster?
Charging off to his now father-in-law, Jacob demanded to know why this trade-off.
“It is not customary to marry the second daughter before the first,” he was told.
“I was promised Rachel,” Jacob demands. And, with that, his father-in-law offered Rachel as Jacob’s second wife with the agreement he work another seven years for her hand.
And so it was – If he could finally have Rachel – what is another seven years? ….and the couple would live happy ever after. Right?
And there was Leah – left in the dust of shame. In the midst of the emotional scuffle, Leah was all but forgotten…the other wife. The ugly wife. The wife of little importance.
Leah was soon pregnant….and Rachel was barren.
Leah gave birth to a son – an honor in this important time of history. This first born son would be called, Reuben, which meant “see”. Leah believed God could see her affliction, therefore, she held on to the hope her husband would love her now. But, to her dismay, none was given.
Before long another baby – a son – arrived. Leah continued to hope and pray to the Lord throughout her pregnancy. This son called, Simeon. Because the Lord heard her prayers of loneliness and rejection by Jacob, maybe now, her love would come.
But… no …
Then, a third son. She called this one Levi…meaning… “attached”. Her hope for love by this time was clinging to just a show of attachment from her husband. Could he show just an ounce of affection now that she bore him three sons?
One can only imagine the heartache Leah carried. As a young mother, her life could find solace in her small children. Over time, Leah must have reached some point of acceptance of her situation. Acceptance not easily made. Because, it would be the birth of her fourth son, Judah, when everything shifts….to where her true comfort lies. Whispering in her spirit, Leah utters,
“For this I will praise the Lord God for his mercy and goodness to me.”
Despite everything she suffered…Leah finally understood…the Love yearned for was there all along.
How have you found God’s perfect grace in situations of sorrow and loneliness?
(Story adapted from Genesis 29)