Linda's Cozy Mysteries

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Monday, April 2, 2012

The Real Housewives Of The OT--"Leah" by Linda P. Kozar


"Daddy deceived, I conceived, Jacob was peeved."

Leah was the daughter of Laban and the older sister of Rachel. Leah is Jacob’s first cousin, the eldest niece of Rebecca. Family ties now established, let's move on to the good stuff!

Her name, "Leah," pronounced (lay-ah) means "cow." How can a name that sounds so pretty mean "cow?" But it does. By the way, her sister Rachel's name means "ewe." Now in Rachel's case, her name sort of fit because Genesis 30:9 states "...Rachel came with her father's sheep, for she was a shepardess." But Leah's name means cow, and cows are a symbol of fertility in Mesopotamia. 

Divine Pairing?

You might not be aware of this, but Leah was originally supposed to marry Esau, not Jacob. Laban had two daughters and Rachel had two sons, therefore it was assumed that the eldest would marry the eldest, and the younger, would marry the younger. The two bachelor brothers could not have been more different. Jacob was a smooth-skinned, tent-dwelling, God-fearing scholar, and Esau was a red-headed hunter, wearing a perpetual hair sweater, who loved all manner of fleshly pursuits. 

If you remember from our earlier lesson on Rebekah, Esau plotted to murder his own brother for "stealing" his birthright. He also engaged in idolatry with his pagan wives and comitted spiritual adultery as well.  Esau sold his birthright and that of all his descendants for the immediate sensual (flesh-pleasing) satisfaction of a bowl of soup. Setting the tone for his descendants, this behavior is later evident in the many spiritual adulteries of Israel. His thoughts were not high thoughts. Esau responded to his flesh, not his spirit, which explains why Leah was grossed out by him. That and the fact that his hairy body made him look like a "squatch" (short for Sasquatch).  Some scholars say Leah spent a lot of time weeping and praying to God to change her designated mate. Were her eyes red and puffy and irritated from all the crying? Hmmm.

Jacob gained the birthright blessing from his father through deception and had to leave or be killed by his brother Esau. Rachel sent him to her brother Laban and, as fate would have it, just as Rebecca was discovered by the well, Jacob meets Rachel by the well. Rachel was described as "beautiful of form and appearance" (Genesis 29:17).

She's Got Betty Davis Eyes. . .

But according to the Torah, Leah "had tender eyes.” Genesis 29:17. By "tender," does the Torah mean delicate and soft, or weary? Some commentators suggest she had blue or light-colored eyes. But the Hebrew word, rakkoth means sickly, bleary, or delicate. Perhaps her eyes were mentioned because they were her only good feature, or perhaps her worst! But there was a definite weakness when it came to the look of Leah’s eyes.  Rachel, is described as looking beautiful--the super model of the family. Sometimes people have a lazy or crossed eye, or sometimes eyes that are big and bulging, etc.  Which kind of makes you wonder if Leah looked like a female version of Marty Feldman. In any case, her eyes were not attractive, and are mentioned as a detriment to her looks. 

Deception follows us. Jacob and his mother Rebekah sought to claim the blessing of the firstborn by deception instead of trusting God to achieve the end result His way. We often do the same. A little lie here, a tiny exaggeration there. But unrepented lies come back to bite us and to Jacob as well. His father-in-law deceived him in much the same way Jacob had deceived his own father. Jacob covered his arms with fur to mimic his brother's arms. Laban employs a veil to cover Leah's face.

Laban agrees to Jacob marrying his youngest daughter Rachel if he agrees to work for him for seven years. On the wedding night however, he deceives Jacob and sends a veiled Leah instead. Laban tries to defend his deception by stating it is uncustomary to give the younger daughter away before the older. Laban offers to give Rachel to Jacob in return for another seven years of work. He marries Rachel after the week-long celebration of his marriage to Leah.

His father-in-law covered the head of his eldest daughter Leah with a veil. Lies, untruths and deceptions are veils covering the truth. Jacob deceived his father to achieve the birthright of the firstborn, but he too is deceived and marries the firstborn, who according to custom, must be wedded before the younger.

But even though Leah might not have been considered attractive physically, "When the Lord saw that Leah was unloved, He opened her womb; but Rachel was barren." (Genesis 29:31). God chose Leah, blessed her and answered her prayers.  So, although Leah’s was not considered to be attractive, and was not loved by Jacob in the way he loved Rachel, she was indeed the most blessed in the end.  “Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised” (Proverbs 31:30).

Sister Wives

Leah had six of Jacob’s sons—Rueben, Simeon, Levi, Judah (first four), then Issachar and Zebulon and a daughter Dinah. Perhaps in the naming of her sons, she hopes to gain favor. 
Rachel, on the other hand, could not conceive so gives her handmaid Bildah to Jacob. She has Dan and Naphtali. Leah, not to be outdone, offers her handmaid Zilpah to Jacob and she has two sons, Gad and Asher. Some commentaries say that Bildad and Zilpah were half-sisters to Rachel and Leah.

One day Reuben returned from the field with mandrakes for his mother. Leah had not conceived for a while and this plant which resembles the human body was thought in ancient times, to be an aid to fertility. Rachel offered to trade her night with Jacob for the mandrakes. Leah announced to Jacob that she has “hired” him with the mandrakes she traded to Rachel, and Jacob spent the night with her, Gen 30:14–17 "And God listened to Leah, and she conceived and bore Jacob a fifth son." 

In fact, Leah gave birth to two more sons—Issachar (“God has given me my hire”) and Zebulon (“now my husband will honor me”)—as well as a daughter, Dinah (Gen 30:17–21). After that, God remembered Rachel and she gave birth to Joseph and Benjamin. Jacob showed clear favoritism to his two sons by Rachel--just as he had seen his own parents show favoritism, his mother Rebekah to him and his father Isaac to Esau.

Leah went through life, knowing her husband loved her sister, Rachel first and foremost. How she must have longed to live one day in her sister's sandals, to see the adoring look in Jacob's eyes, to feel the glow in her heart, the secure feeling of being in love. But Leah lived her entire life in a loveless marriage. 

Always conscious of the fact that though she was first wife, Leah was his second choice. Jacob loved Rachel.  Genesis 29:30 says that "Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah, but he must not have disliked her too much based on the number of children they had together. God had promised Jacob many sons Genesis 28:14, but Jacob fell in love with Rachel. The plan would never have been carried out with just her. God had His plans! He answered Leah’s prayers for a different husband, and gave her many sons, though she never received the love she so desperately wanted. Instead of the love of her husband, she gained his respect, the respect of the nation of Israel, and a place in God's Word.

She named her first son Reuben, her next son Simeon (“God heard that I am unloved”), the third one Levi (“now my husband will become attached to me for I have borne him three son”), and the fourth one Judah (“Now I will praise the Lord”). At this point Rachel is jealous, and has her maid Bilhah give birth to two sons; Leah, no longer fertile, responds by having her own maid Zilpah bear two sons (Gen 30:9–13; 35:26; 46:18).

Did Jacob Hate Leah?

Some commentaries claim that Jacob hated Leah. Once Jacob is married to both wives, the Torah says that he, "loved Rachel even more than Leah" (Genesis 29:30). The first verse does not imply Jacob hated Leah, but that he had a deeper, natural connection to Rachel because, as explained above, their match was divinely ordained from the start. 

Jacob's continued second-rate regard for Leah apparently never ended however. Years later, when he was about to meet his brother Esau for the first time since their bitter parting Jacob considered that Esau would attack with his 400 men (Genesis 32:6), so he put Leah and her children near the front of the line, and kept Rachel and her children safely in the rear (Genesis 33:2).

Leah gave Jacob six sons and a daughter. Half of the twelve tribes of Israel came from her body alone! And two more from her maidservant!

Although she had not been part of Jacob's plans, Leah was a most important component in God's plan, for from her body leapt the royal and priestly bloodlines of the realm. Leah's third son, Levi, became the first of Israel's priests and in the line--Moses, Aaron, Zachary, and John the Baptist. Her fourth son, Judah, was the ancestor of the house of David, the kingly family, including ‘Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is called Christ’ (Matthew 1:16). God by no means sanctions deception, but He salvages the results of sin as an instrument of His providence.

Leah did not play the kind of role in determining the fate of her sons that Rebekah and Sarah did. Was it due to her insecure position? She and Rachel though co-wives, were not united in purpose. The absence of a clear matriarchal hand shows itself in the uncontrolled friction between the children (especially later in the hostility toward Joseph), but all the children of Jacob were to inherit the blessing. 

In Israelite tradition, the maid-mothers were forgotten, but Rachel and Leah were remembered. The prophet Hosea relates how Jacob went to Aram to search for a wife (Hos 12:13), and the wedding blessing for Ruth remembers Rachel and Leah as the ancestresses “who built up the house of Israel” (Ruth 4:11).

Leah had a child in the direct line of Christ, not Rachel. (Genesis 29:35) “And she conceived again, and bare a son: and she said, Now I will praise the Lord, therefore she called his name Judah; and left bearing.” The Lord Jesus Christ came from the tribe of Judah.

Rachel died after a hard labor, giving birth to Benjamin and was buried after she died in the way to Ephrath, which is Bethlehem.

Nothing more is heard of Leah other than Jacob’s statement that he buried her in the Cave of Machpelah with Jacob, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah (Gen 49:31).

There are many women who feel unloved, whether by a husband infidelity or rejection by family or friends. Women who have shed so many tears, their eyes are red and tender like Leah, their hearts sad. But know this, God see's everything. He knows the pain of your heart, the sadness like an ache inside, the longing for something more, and He will help you as he helped Leah. Trust in Him. Pray and call out to Him as Leah did, and He will be sure to answer you!

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