I have been reading in the Word about Leah and Rachel.
This time through I find my heart aching for Leah.
From the time Jacob arrives at his uncle Laban's house, he has eyes for Rachel and only Rachel. About Leah, the Word says only that she had "weak eyes" - which according to the scholars most likely meant a very pale blue. Beautiful Rachel outshines her in a moment - and comes across as vain, spoiled, and mercenary. Jacob probably never even looked at Leah except as "Rachel's sister".
I would have loved to be a fly on the wall when Rachel found out about her father's plan to marry off Leah first. I bet they had to tie her up somewhere to keep her from stomping in and claiming Jacob for her own!
The Word doesn't say it, but I think Leah has a crush on him from the moment she first sees him - but she knows she doesn't have a chance. Laban, ever scheming, surely noticed - and I'll bet you that is where his little plan hatched - seeing Leah watching Jacob dolefully, watching her blush every time Jacob came around or spoke to her.
How must she have felt to be a substituted bride - knowing that Jacob thought he was holding Rachel in his arms, whispering words of love and tenderness that she knew she would never hear again - and she surely knew that her father's little trick would explode when Jacob awakened to find her in his arms and not his lovely Rachel. I think she felt this was the only way she'd ever be married to him - or anyone else. Still, the embarassment and hurt she suffered - being rejected with anger in the morning, Jacob's sullen acceptance of "her week", his unbridled anticipation of, finally, having Rachel as his wife - must have been food for gossip for a while after the wedding.
Especially since one week later Leah was unceremoniously booted out so Rachel could marry her husband. I would not be surprised to find Rachel's "week" lasted much longer than a Leah's hasty, enforced week.
And so the pattern was set.
We see from the Word that Jacob chose to live with Rachel and visit the others when their day came. We can glean how Leah felt about it when her son finds some mandrakes in the field where he is working. Rachel comes and asks, with a "please", to have the mandrakes ( thought to be an aphrodisiac), hoping this will give her a child. Leah responds with "Is it not enough that you have stolen my husband? Now you want my son's mandrakes too!"
Rachel responds that ok, ok, you can have Jacob tonite for the mandrakes - and Leah hotfoots it out to tell Jacob (you can almost hear the glee in her voice) "You must come in to me, for I have hired you with my son's mandrakes!"
Her forlorn hope to be first in Jacob's heart is reflected in the names she gives her children - and God informs us of her comments on their names. The one that gets me is when she says "Oh, now my husband will dwell with me!"
Alas, her fertility made no difference to Jacob. Even tho, in the Middle East, a barren woman was a disgrace, Jacob steadfastly clung to her. The only time we even see Jacob being upset with Rachel is when she demands that he give her a child or she will die. Finally, Jacob rebukes her, "Am I in the place of God?"
I'm sure Leah never missed an opportunity to rub it in, either. "Nanner nanner's" surely flew freely with every child the fertile Leah bore. Here, finally, was a way to outshine Rachel (not that it mattered to Jacob.)
Then the maid-swapping began - each trying to outdo the other in child-creating. I wonder if the maids smirked behind Rachel's back - it doesn't seem like Rachel would be a kind, undemanding mistress.
Rachel, who had been most likely favored and spoiled since her birth as "the pretty one" had to have been sooo frustrated. She always got her way. Now, pouting and demanding and throwing a fit were of no avail. Perhaps Jacob's rebuke is taken to heart - or maybe she thought, "Well, nothing else has worked - I might as well pray..." because next we hear of her actually speaking to God, as the Word says "And God hearkened to Rachel and opened her womb." (my paraphrase) It's the only place we see her praying.
Actually, that sort of pierced my heart to read that line. It made me wonder how often I act like that - using prayer as a last and final result? Too often, I fear. Lord, please cause my heart to seek You FIRST in my need!
30 years later, when they are going to leave Laban and go back to Israel, Rachel's greediness shows up again: knowing that the family idols indicate the heir of all her father's possessions, and that a woman would not take priority over Laban's sons, she simply steals them.
Laban's sons already felt cheated by Jacob. I wonder if one of them discovered their absence - and immediately connected it with Jacob's absence.
So Laban chases after Jacob. He demands the idols back. Jacob, unjustly accused, robustly denies everything. So sure of his company was he, that he said (my translation) " Go ahead and look! go ahead! and if you find them, the person they are with will die."
Jacob had no idea he was cursing his beloved.
When Laban came to Rachel's tent, she sat on a camel saddle underneath which she had hidden the idols.
From everyone but God.
She must have been pregnant with her 2nd son by this time, and yet she gave Laban the excuse that her monthly "way of women" was upon her, making her unclean, and everything she sat on unclean. He looked at everything around her, but did not require her to stand.
I bet you she thought, once again, she had her way. She had insured her sons' inheritance.
Dying in childbirth is always a horribly painful, long, drawn out death. I can't imagine in those days if they even had anything that would ease the pain of labor.
Jacob must have been beside himself, unaware that he, himself, had cursed her with death. Everything he valued was lying before him, slipping away. His precious Rachel.
So Jacob, smitten to the last, transfers his obsession with Rachel to her sons.
I find it intriguing that it is Leah that lies beside him in the grave. Rachel is buried somewhere by an unmarked trail on the side of the road.
Yet Jacob never realizes that perhaps, just perhaps, Leah was God's choice of a mate for him, not the self-centered Rachel. There is no record of him ever saying anything even considerate to Leah, let alone loving. I wonder if he even moved in with Leah after Rachel's death. From Scripture it appears he spent the rest of his life mourning the death of a woman who seems to have valued Jacob only to "one up" her sister who, after all, married him first. She was always the pretty one, and saw Jacob as hers. No doubt she had been valued and petted by her father as the one who would reap him a fortune in dowry to the highest bidder. Jacob was ensnared at first sight, besotted and entranced.
The only love glimpsed comes from the rejected Leah - who had a heart full of it.
It is so sad to me that Jacob never realized it. How loving his life could have been.
But like so many of us that follow the Lord, he chose what glittered, not what counted. And never once is he noted as having prayed about God's will for his partner in life.
Sadly, like many of us today, he simply never asked.