“Leah had weak eyes but Rachel was lovely in form and beautiful.” Genesis 29:17
Wow! What a way to be introduced. Poor Leah; weak eyed and ugly in contrast to her exquisite younger sister, Rachel. Although we don’t know for sure exactly what “weak eyed” means, suffice it to say that Rachel inherited the looks in the family. Overshadowed by the beauty of her younger sister, Leah undoubtedly lived in fear that no man would ever prefer her over her sister.
According to Jewish tradition, the eldest sister must be married off first and since both Leah and Rachel were past the prime age for betrothal, we can assume that no suitor had come along for Leah just yet. Rachel’s fate hung in the fringes of her sister’s uncertain future.
One day, that all changed.
Jacob, the long-lost cousin, arrives on the scene, takes one glance at Rachel and falls in love. Entranced by beauty, blind to her true colors, Jacob approaches Laban, Rachel’s father, and arranges to work for Laban for seven years in lieu of a dowry. After seven years, Rachel’s hand would be his.
Sadly, Leah is overlooked by Jacob. Once again a forgotten bystander, she falls to the wayside and gruelingly witnesses the budding romance between her winsome younger sister and her handsome cousin (who, by birth right, should actually be her future husband). For seven long years, Leah fights her jealousy holding onto the hope that one day, she too would be loved by a man.
Had her God, the God of the Hebrews, forgotten her?
The dreaded wedding day dawned and Laban, known to be a trickster, entered his eldest daughter’s room. Her daddy stood before her holding the traditional wedding garb.
“Leah, put this on! Today is your wedding day.”
“What? Daddy you can’t be serious! Jacob doesn’t love me! He loves Rachel! He will hate me if I do this! He’s worked for seven long years to get to this very day and his anger will be fueled against me. Daddy, please! I don’t want a husband who hates me”
Laban insisted and Leah submitted as was her duty in the house of her father. The veil concealed her identity and she walked down the aisle toward a loveless future.
Shall I be ashamed and rejected on my wedding night too? Must I give myself to a man whose heart belongs to my sister?Will my husband hate me forevermore always looking behind at what might have been had he married his true love?
The Bible doesn’t tell us what was going on in Leah’s head. Perhaps Leah wasn’t even sad or fearful. Perhaps she was hopeful. Perhaps she approved of her father’s plan and willingly walked down the aisle convinced that she could make Jacob love her eventually.
I know Jacob doesn’t love me now but I will do him good and not evil. I will serve him with all my heart and through my faithfulness and devotion he will grow to love me. One day he will forget all about Rachel and I will be the favored and loved woman he always dreamed of.
No matter how she felt, her future was bound to second best.
Just as one might expect, Jacob, who apparently had too much to drink at his wedding, was furious when he woke next to Leah and not Rachel.
Immediately he fled the bedroom, leaving his new, vulnerable bride behind.
Could Leah hear the explosive, degrading conversation between Jacob and Laban?
“What is this you have done to me? I served you for Rachel! Why have you deceived me?” Genesis 29:25
Leah, hunched over in bed, tears filled her eyes and sadness filled her heart. The familiar feeling of rejection settled over her as she watched her husband chase after Rachel.
God, why? Will I always be least?
After a little bargaining, Laban agreed to give Rachel to Jacob under the condition that Jacob would work seven more years for him. Jacob agreed, and finally, Rachel was his.
Everyone was happy…except Leah.
Jacob lay with Rachel also and he loved Rachel more than Leah. Genesis 29:30
Day after day, night after night, Leah lived with the knowledge that Jacob was loving her sister and her sister was satisfying her husband’s needs.
Loneliness was her reality.
But the compassionate God of the Hebrews looked upon Leah’s affliction and His favor blanketed her.
When the Lord saw that Leah was unloved, He opened her womb but Rachel remained barren. Genesis 29: 31
For, what was ugly in the eyes of the world was beautiful in the sight of God and Leah was blessed with a fruitful womb, which in that time, was a sign of God’s favor. All the while her sister remained childless.
Leah bore Jacob his first son and named him Reuben which meant “the Lord has seen my misery.” With the birth of Reuben and each of the 5 sons to follow came a renewed hope that Jacob, her love, would turn and favor her over her childless sister!
Sadly, Rachel remained the prized wife for as long as she lived.
Leah… rejected by man yet exalted by God, overlooked in the flesh yet esteemed in the spirit, gave birth to half of the 12 tribes of Israel including Levi who later became father to a generation of Priests in the house of God and to Judah…Father to the very generation that brought forth the long awaited Messiah!
Leah is vindicated; honored at last.
Not much more is known about Leah’s life. However, we can safely assume that Jacob eventually came to recognize her worth in the latter years of his life. When Leah left this world to enter eternal rest, Jacob chose to bury her alongside Abraham, Isaac, Sarah, and Rebekah; clearly a place of honor.
Leah is an inspiration. Her testimony reminds me to seek God’s favor rather than man’s approval; to look for my worth in Christ and not in the things of the world. For God alone has the power to make my life a lasting legacy.
When the world forgets me, God remembers.
Am I content in the love of God? Am I trusting in His plan even though I can’t always see it coming to fruition? Am I satisfied knowing I am His and that He will be my mighty advocate?
*The content of this article is based on my own conclusions from reading the text provided in Genesis. I cannot be sure about how Leah felt on the days preceding her wedding.