One of the sweetest Hallmark cards in the Bible is found in Genesis 29:20, "So Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her."
If you're not familiar with the story in the Bible, Jacob set his eyes on a beautiful maiden named Rachel. It was love at first site. When he asked her father Laban for her hand in marriage, Laban told Jacob that he must first work seven years to have it. Those seven years seemed like 'only a few days' for Jacob because he loved Rachel so much. At the end of the seven years, Jacob asked for his bride Rachel, but Laban played a terrible trick on him. He sent his older daughter Leah into the tent to sleep with Jacob instead.
It was dark. Leah wore a veil over her face. Jacob had no idea until morning, when it was too late. Leah was now his wife, but his heart was sold out to Rachel. The love triangle started that night, and like any modern day movie, it was filled with jealousy, lies, and deceit.
Understanding this love triangle and the feelings of each one of the characters is something I've struggled with this morning.
My heart goes out to Leah. Can you imagine the dread in her heart, knowing when Jacob woke up he would realize she was not his beloved? I'm sure she hoped he would find love in his heart for her, but I think she probably didn't get too much sleep that night with concern over what would happen when the bomb would drop the next morning. Leah had no choice but to go unto Jacob and trick him into thinking she was Rachel. In those days, a girl did what her father said to do, without question. Can you imagine the rejection Leah felt when she saw the look of unbelief on Jacob's face the next morning? Rejection. Tears. Self-doubt. Leah loved Jacob, but that same kind of love was not returned. Jacob's love for Leah was obligatory. If anyone needed some anti-depressants in the Bible, I think it would have been Leah. Picture it. Less than 24 hours after getting married, her husband ran away from their marriage bed in shock and arranged his marriage to another woman...and not just any woman...her little sister! Ouch!
Leah had some serious emotions to deal with, but can you imagine how Jacob felt? He went to bed thinking he was consummating the fulfillment of his dreams and woke up thinking he was in his worst nightmare! He then went to his father-in-law to inquire why he tricked him and got the lamest excuse ever, "It is not customary to give the younger daughter's hand in marriage before the older daughter." Yet, Jacob accepted Laban's answer. How could he not? He wanted his prize - the one he had worked all those years for, his beloved Rachel. Laban told Jacob to finish the bridal week with Leah, and then he would give him Rachel for a wife...in exchange for seven more years of labor. Jacob gladly agreed. How could he not?
Then I tried to imagine how Rachel felt that dreaded night. She loved Jacob just as much as he loved her. For seven years, she watched him work for her father, knowing at the end of his commitment, they would finally be together. I'm sure she knew what day she was to be married. I wonder if she stayed in her tent and wept. The Bible is silent on how Rachel felt about the whole situation that was unfolding, but one thing is for sure, she hated what was happening.
If the rivalry between Rachel and Leah was not already present, it started the day the love triangle began. The Bible says in Genesis 29:16 that Leah was older and Rachel was younger. Leah had weak eyes, but Rachel was lovely in form and beautiful. As I searched this morning for the meaning of 'weak eyes' the KJV calls it 'tender eyes.' It means either either her eyes were visually weak, or they lacked luster. You know that feeling you get when you're confident and feel like you can conquer the world? Your eyes sparkle. Jacob liked eyes that sparkled like the night sky, and those eyes belonged only to Rachel!
I think Leah had some self-esteem issues. In her mind, her baby sister had 'it all,' and that included her husband's love. The Bible says in Genesis 29:30 that Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah, and he didn't try to hide his feelings. Yet, Rachel, who seemed to have it all, also soon developed some self-esteem issues of her own. Leah bore Jacob four baby boys while Rachel remained barren, and Leah didn't hesitate to rub it in Rachel's face, unfortunately.
Have you ever compared yourself to another person, a sister, maybe someone at school who always seems to have it all together? You know the type -- they always seem to know just the right words to say to advance or succeed when you are in the background feeling like you can't catch a break! In the end, you feel like all you can do is fail miserably? I think we've all been there.
When things don't go the way we want them to, how often do we let sin creep into our life? Maybe it's jealousy, maybe it's anger or bitterness, like we see in Rachel and Leah. And when we feel like we're one of the 'down and outers,' what is our reaction to those around us when something finally goes 'right?' Are we happy for our 'rival' or do we spite them even more?
God blessed Leah with four strapping young men to make Jacob proud, all the while, poor Rachel was not able to conceive. I think at that point, Leah started taunting Rachel. "You may be his favorite, but you can't give him what he really wants...a son!" As for Rachel, can you imagine being in her position? Having almost everything you want - true love, a spouse who adores you, but one thing was missing. All she wanted was a baby, flesh or her flesh, a baby boy to make Jacob proud...but that one missing puzzle piece in her life eluded her. I've been there for a season of time in my life, and it's one of the greatest heartaches I've ever lived through - infertility. Many can relate, I'm sure. It's tough, and when someone continues to throw it in your face, it's even harder to deal with.
This made me think. Are there people in my life that I rival or just plain spite? How many times do I try to 'one-up' them, dropping a little 'dig' here and there? What is my reaction to those people when they succeed or fail? God wants me to have a pure heart. He wants me to pray for them, but unfortunately, when I really search my heart, that's not what actually takes place all the time.
There's so much more to this love triangle between Jacob, Leah and Rachel, found in Genesis 29-35...so many more details I would love to focus on in this blog. But one final thing I see is that out of Leah, "the unloved one" came the One who I love. Leah gave birth to Judah, which was the line of Christ! I wonder if Leah knew when Judah was born that he would have such important descendants! I wonder if she ever realized that her circumstantial self-pity should have been turned into gratefulness for the blessings God did give her. In hindsight, her perspective, I'm sure, would have changed. As best as I can tell, the two sisters never reconciled with each other. Rachel gave birth eventually to Joseph, Jacob's favorite son, but she died while giving birth to Benjamin. Leah remained the bittersweet first and last wife of Jacob.
It's such a very strange story, this love triangle, straight from the pages of the oldest novel ever written. I can learn a lot from each one of these characters. The rivalry between Leah and Rachel is such a reminder to me to focus on my relationships with others and develop them to the fullest. Jacob teaches me diligence, a strong work effort, and following my heart. Leah teaches me I need to be content, and Rachel teaches me I should not question 'why' when things happen to me. I need to remember that God's plan is always perfect. I may never understand why God allows things to happen in my life, not even in hindsight, but I can claim God's peace that He has it all under control. I definitely look at this story with new insight and perspective today!