Would we read the bible differently if we could see through the eyes of the biblical characters.
I think it is common place for us to read the stories in the bible statically rather than imagining these real life characters experiencing similar troubles, temptations and emotions. within this article I hope to capture a more 3D picture of the world known Jacob, Rachel and Leah narrative.
Through the eyes of Leah
I attempt to explore the thoughts and feelings of the seldom recognised ancient matriarch, Leah. I have been so use to hearing “possess your Rachel”, that I totally forgot about Jacobs other wife. I always assumed that Rachel was the wife you wanted and Leah the one you do not. I never even considered her role, feelings or significance. I plan to provide a little insight into a mind of woman that was married with her sister to the same husband.
Leah was the older of the two daughters of Laban, Rachel being the younger. Our first reference of her appearance is that she has “delicate eyes”. Some scholars argue this to mean that Leah’s eyes were red and unattractive to Jacob; others say that her eyes were her most striking feature. Nonetheless, Rachel is described as beautiful in form and appearance and is a distinct contrast to Leah and how she was looked upon by Jacob.
“I am the older of the two daughters of Laban. Yes the one and only Laban from Haran the brother of Rebekah.”
“I see him, oh yes I see him, but like always she always steals the attention of any potential suitor.”
“Do you know what they say on the streets? That Rachel is stunning and I have reddened eyes. It is only because I cry all the time at the fact that I have only had one suitor in the past three years. My father though, is getting impatient and wants to marry me of, so he can get keep dowry.”
Jacob promised Laban that he would work for seven years for the hand of Rachel. Unfortunately Laban had other plans and on the night of the wedding instead of the expected Rachel, Jacob unknowingly laid next to Leah. The following Morning as Jacob discovered the deception. He was offended and addressed Laban. Laban responded that the custom of the land was for the oldest child to be married first. So he would have to work a further seven years to receive Rachel as his wife. He agreed reluctantly as he loved Rachel greatly.
“Seven long good years and he never gave me a moment’s look. How I would have wished to be loved the way Jacob loves Rachel.”
“Seven good years, and my father has chased out all the potential suitors. I could have left this godforsaken hell hole by now. Now I have to pretend to be happy, while my younger sister is wedded before me. Oh the shame!”
“I cannot see Rachel, but my father has provided me with her maids to dress me up. How unusual, this only happens on a woman’s wedding night. My father leads me to Jacobs’s room and commands me to lay there. I refuse, but he orders me to sleep next to Jacob. In the morning I attempt to smile at Jacob, his face turns form shock to disgust. He leaves me, while I cry at how pathetic my life is turning out.”
After another seven years Jacob receives his Rachel. Leah remains unloved by Jacob thus God looks upon the sorrow of Leah. In succession, Leah had four boys and named them in acknowledgement of her grief and God’s favour. The first born ‘Reuben’ means “See a son”. Next is ‘Simeon’, who means “hearing”. Third is Levi who means “attachment” and fourth is ‘Judah’ translated to mean “praise”. Rachel remained Barren for some time.
I have read this account several times and never considered the significance of it. Leah being unloved by Jacob can be easily overlooked. Leah is married to the same man that her younger sister is to. Some people say that it serves her right, for marrying her sister’s husband; as Rachel and Jacob were greatly in love. However, I think that assumption is unfounded as we do not have full disclosure at how she ended up marrying Jacob first. She may have been unjustly forced by her scoundrel of a dad or even conspired with Laban against Rachel and Jacob. But one thing that is evident is that for the most of her married life, she played second fiddle to Rachel. Leah and Rachel were constantly at conflict; Jacob cared very little for Leah so I can only imagine that she had a relatively lonely life. Nevertheless God had compassion and blessed her womb. This she hoped will make Jacob provide her more attention, but unfortunately that was not necessarily the case.
In all that she went though, she still hoped in the love of her husband and acknowledgement of God’s blessing on her womb. I admire Leah’s heart, she desired that Jacob would love her and is aware that God is hearing and answering her prayer. This is a woman of faith.
“I love Jacob, but he does not love me. What does she have that I do not have? Hopefully Jacob will see me, when I give him his first son.”
“Oh Lord, the fourth time you have opened my womb, I bless you God and praise you for answering my prayers. I will name my son Praise.”
After several years, Reuben was in the field and brought back mandrakes to his mother. Rachel asked Leah for them and promised to allow Leah to have Jacob for tonight. Leah agreed and subsequently had several more children.
“Oh Reuben, that is lovely.”
“Why do you want Rueben’s mandrake? Are you not satisfied by having Jacob all to yourself?”
“Okay, I get Jacob for one night. Agreed.”
“This is how desperate I have become to spend time with Jacob. I have to buy his time. Well maybe God will bless me with more children for me to shower my love on them.”
After many more years, Jacob escapes with his two wives Leah and Rachel. He learns that His estranged brother Esau is a coming towards to meet him. As Jacob has not seen him in about 20 years and is unsure if he still harbours hate at Jacobs’s deceit. He splits his company in three with Leah and her children in front of Rachel and Joseph and behind the two maid servants.
“ssh, ssh, Daddy loves you. He put us in front so that his brother can be happy to see us”.
“I had to lie to Reuben, although he is not stupid, Jacob spends so little time with his him that it is evident that he prefers Rachel’s first son.”
“I cannot believe it, if Esau still hates Jacob and we meet him first, Jacob preserves Rachel and his favourite son while we are left out in an open.”
Leah’s thoughts does not stop here. How would you feel in her situation? Please be free to comment and provide any other insight of this world renowned narrative.
I thought it befitting to do a monologue of the thoughts that I think any woman in her situation may have felt. This is an indication of why God may have condemned polygamy and its emotional implications on the whole family. I truly never appreciated Leah, until I sat down and considered how I would feel in her shoes. I believe that Leah is one of the understated and underrated characters within the whole story of Genesis.
I think it is common place for us to read the stories in the bible statically rather than imagining these real life characters experiencing similar troubles, temptations and emotions. Even though I never answered any questions, I hope my attempt to capture a more 3D picture of the world known Jacob, Rachel and Leah narrative.
Leah may rarely be mentioned after Genesis 33, but the outcome of her life can be seen in her children. I wonder how much she had a hand in stirring the passion, anger and even pain in Reuben, Jacob’s first born. In Genesis 35 Reuben slept with Jacobs’s concubine. Was this an act of revenge? Was this an act of attention? Did Leah try to curb the anger, hatred and envy that Reuben may have had towards Joseph or did she flare it up?
I hope that this will initiate an interest into the life of an important matriarch that is commonly overlooked.
Have a look in Genesis 29- 33 to see the story of Jacob, Leah and Rachel.