- Rick LoPresti
Man is fickle. That is why the only true standard is the Bible. Men cannot even agree on a standard of physical beauty. It varies with time and place. When Jacob saw Rachel, he found her to be beautiful, especially compared to her sister Leah (Gen 29). The only specific difference in their features mentioned is Leah's eyes (Gen 29:17). The Bible says her eyes were tender. This means, soft, delicate, weak, or dull. This apparently was considered a flaw. Jacob rejected the older sister over this, and preferred the younger Rachel. He was so attracted to Rachel he agreed to pay her father a dowry of 7 years labor. At the end of the 7 years, he asked to be given his wife. Laban tricked Jacob and gave him Leah instead. This was possible because of the veil she probably wore at the wedding, and because of the night in the tent they consummated their marriage in. In the morning Jacob saw it was Leah and not Rachel he had been with. His response to his new father-in-law was "What is this thou hast done unto me?...wherefore hast thou beguiled me?" Jacob still wanted Rachel, so he agreed to work another 7 years to get her. Imagine how this must have made Leah feel about her marriage and herself. As if that was not bad enough for her, after the 7 years, Jacob married Rachel and she became the hated wife. Jacob loved Rachel more. The word hate here is also translated enemy 6 times. This was not a great marriage.
However, God saw Leah's situation. He opened her womb and gave her children, but He closed Rachel's. Leah called her first son Reuben, which means "behold a son". She said, "Surely the LORD hath looked upon my affliction; now therefore my husband will love me." Apparently her faith was not rewarded, because she had a second son and named him Simeon, which means "heard with acceptance." She said, "Because the LORD hath heard that I was hated, he hath therefore given me this son also." Then she had a third son and named him Levi, which means "joined to, or crown." She said, " Now this time will my husband be joined unto me, because I have born him three sons." Then came the fourth son, whom she named Judah, which means "praised." This time she said, "Now will I praise the LORD." This could be said to show that Leah finally realized she was not going to find the fulfillment she was looking for in her human relationship, so she decided to seek it in her relationship with God.
Yet Leah was still not done pursuing her husband's love. She stopped getting pregnant, so she followed a custom of their day, and gave her handmaid Zilpah to Jacob so she could claim the resulting children as her own (Gen 30). Rachel had already done this herself because she was mad and jealous that Leah had all the children. Rachel named the 2 resulting boys Dan which means "judge", and Naphtali which means "wrestling", after her competition with her sister. Can you imagine the atmosphere in this family? Leah named Zilpah's 2 sons Gad which means "a troop, or fortune has come", and Asher which means "fortunate or happy." Leah later had 2 more sons and a daughter. She named her fifth son Issachar, which means "he brings recompence or wages." She named her last son Zebulun, which means "exalted or habitation." She said, " God hath endued me with a good dowry; now will my husband dwell with me, because I have born him six sons." She named her daughter Dinah, which means "acquitted or vindicated".
The names Leah chose for her children and the statements she made at their births show her relentless faith despite being unloved by her husband. Jacob obviously wanted the sex, but not the love. God never ordained multiple marriages (Gen 2:20-25, Mt 19:1-7, 1Tim 3:2 & 12, Titus 1:6). In fact, there was a provision later in the law of Moses about a man having 2 wives and hating one and loving the other (Deut 21:15-17).
When Jacob faced his brother Esau whom he assumed was coming for harm, he put the handmaids in front, then Leah, then Rachel (Gen 33). Apparently that was the order in which he valued them. Leah undoubtedly was hurt by all of this, but she always demonstrated faith. Leah is mentioned 29 times in the Bible, and Rachel is mentioned 44 times. Yet when we look at the character of these 2 women, Leah comes out ahead. Although she was ignored by man, God saw her worth. She gave birth to half the patriarchs, including Judah the ancestor of Jesus Christ. When Jacob buried her, he placed her body in the tomb of Abraham, Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah (Gen 49:29-32). This was the place he would later be buried . Rachel was buried on the road to Bethlehem after dying giving birth to her second son (Gen 25:16-19).
We may not be recognized by man, but God knows our hearts and what we do with our faith (Lk 16:15, Acts 15:8, Rom 8:27). We may never be chosen or favored by man. That is not the most important thing. What matters most is what God thinks of us. Jacob saw Leah's eyes as weak and dull, and Rachel as beautiful. God saw Leah's eyes as soft and delicate. She was the one whose spiritual eyes of faith were beautiful to God. The Lord saw Rachel as bitter, competitive, jealous and inwardly ugly although she was more attractive to man physically. We must not let the rejection of man dictate our relationship with God. Remember the prophets (Mt. 5:11-12, Heb 11:36-40, Jam 5:10). Most of all, remember how the Savior was received by man (Is 53, Mt 27-28, Jn 1:10-11, Acts 3:13-16, Acts 4:10-12, Acts 5:30-32). Man saw Him one way and despised and rejected Him. God raised Him from the dead and exalted Him to be our Savior. Jesus understands the rejection of man, and will help us overcome it (Heb 4:15).