So, the title of this series is authentic, and I’m just going to get real here for a minute, so bear with me.
I have spent the vast majority of my life feeling as though I am second best—and compensating for that by trying to be perfect thereby proving that I am, actually, the best. But then when anyone praises me, or gives me a compliment, I have a hard time accepting it as true because I never actually feel like I am good enough.
And it is exhausting.
As this battle rages inside of me, I hear the simple truths of the father—you are enough, I love you through your flaws—and I know that perfectionism is its own sin, still the battle rages on.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that I’m hopeless. I’m just saying that I am human and this is the battle I fight against my sin nature. Some days I trust in Him enough for it to quiet…and some days I don’t. Hey, I said I was going to be real here.
I get the feeling that Leah probably felt a lot of the same struggle, only she had some pretty tangible proof that the world really did see her as second best. At least when compared to her sister.
Behold, it was Leah
I have lots of feelings about Jacob (Leah’s future husband), but the strongest is that he was an incredibly flawed man—who God still made the forefather of his great nation. So my drive to be perfect, clearly isn’t the way to God’s heart. It might actually be more of a separate than some of these blatant sins, just because of the pride issues that accompany it—but let’s set that philosophy aside for the moment and focus in on Leah.
At the start of the narrative, Jacob has run away from a pretty sticky situation at home. He and his mom had manipulated Jacob’s father into bestowing his deathbed blessing on him rather than on Esau, who traditionally should have been the recipient as the firstborn. Given that Jacob had already manipulated his older brother out of his birthright, this second backstabbing was a little too much for Esau—and so Jacob fled his brother’s wrath and made is way to his mon’s brother, Laban, who is not exactly the most honest of individuals either (go back and look at the Rebekah post if you want some more juicy details on that family dynamic). When he arrives, he’s asking around about his family when Rachel makes an appearance—seeming, in a lot of ways, similar to the way in which his mother appeared before the servant and became the wife of his father, as story I am sure that he grew up hearing being so close to his mother and everything. So it really isn’t much of a surprise when he waters her sheep, as his mother watered the camels so many decades before.
Jacob was a pretty emotional guy, so it’s also not super surprising that he was all like, I wanna marry that girl—after all, he’s remembering his mother’s own love story. The major difference here though lies in the fact that in the month that he stayed with his uncle Labon there is absolutely no mention of Jacob asking God to be a part of his decision making process! Jacob is not thinking with his head or his spirit. Genesis 29: 16-17 tells us that Labon had two daughters: Leah (the elder daughter, who had weak eyes) and Rachel (who was lovely in form and beautiful). I do not believe this means that Leah was ugly, just that her eyes were not bright, maybe she would even have, in modern times, had needed corrective lenses so maybe she squinted a lot. What it does mean, is that Jacob saw her as second best. He fell in love (boy how I hate that terminology…still it works here) with Rachel’s outward appearance. I have a hard time believing he really got to know her. That’s just not how ancient cultures typically worked. He saw her. He wanted her. He struck a deal. Not having anything to offer his uncle for Rachel’s hand, he says he’ll work for 7 years—enough time to really put together some of his own property so he will be able to care for her.
Unfortunately, Laban was just as manipulative as Jacob and after the 7 years was up, he saw an opportunity. Not only to ‘get rid’ of his cumbersome older daughter, but to trap Jacob into working for him (cheap labor) for another 7 years. So, he sent Leah to the wedding bed (which isn’t so weird since she would have been heavily veiled and similar in form to her sister).
The next morning: there was Leah.
Always Second Best
Now, Leah had to know and been privy to the plan of her father, but I sincerely doubt she had much choice. I do wonder what she felt in that moment when she consummated a marriage that was built on a lie. Was she in love with Jacob? Was she doing her duty to her father? What went through her mind as she slept with this man who was so clearly in love with her sister? While we will never know, but we do know that in Genesis 29:31, the Lord saw that Leah was not loved. He enabled a quick pregnancy for Leah and kept Rachel barren, which also makes me question Rachel’s heart and character. Yes, Leah was a part of the deception—and the situation was complicated and terrible, but we have a choice in how we treat others in spite of the circumstances. I suspect that Rachel had always treated her sister with a kind of contempt, and so here she is taught a lesson through.
Leah truly believe that her husband would come to love her as son after son is born. First Reuben, then Simeon and Levi…always hoping for that kind of love she has always craved. And then something happened in Leah’s heart. It’s hard to say exactly what—but when she had Judah, she stopped caring about her husband’s love and embraced the love of the Lord, the one—she realized—who had always loved her unconditonally! The only one whose love she really ever needed.
I love that verse, Genesis 29: 35, when she says she will stop seeking approval of man and start praising the Lord. Sometimes the world is cruel and unfair. We seek approval. We seek love. We seek acceptance. We seek companionship. All these things we chase after every day…are found when we stop and praise the Lord. And that is beautiful, if we are willing to embrace it.
Lean and Rachel engage in quite the baby-making competition, which is only appropriate given the life that Jacob carved out for himself. His own sibiling rivalry landed him in the position where he would always have to deal with sibling rilvary, first in his wives, then with his sons. Oddly, though, through it all Jacob does not rely on the wisdom of God. Or, I guess, that’s not odd at all. When we don’t make God the center of our decision making and we rely on our own judgments, competitions, and desires, we’re bound to enter into conflicts that become complicated and sometimes very painful.
What is most striking is that even though Jacob never sees her value, God does. In 1 Samuel 16:7, we are told that mann looks at outward appearance, but God looks at the heart. That is never more true than in the case of Rachel and Leah—Rachel is the pretty one, the loved one, but she is also the petty and the devious one. Ergo, God chooses Leah’s child, Judah, to be the line to the greatest kings… David…Solomon…and Jesus.
And in that, I feel hope.