Women in the Bible: Leah

Leah, like her younger sister, Rachel, is an interesting character. While I’m inexplicitly drawn to Rachel, I just feel sorry for Leah.

Leah marries her first cousin, Jacob. The problem is Jacob loves her younger sister Rachel. While Rachel is attractive, Leah is not. Though we don’t understand the details, we do know she doesn’t have the same allure as her little sister.

It’s Rachel that Jacob wants to marry, but Rachel’s father pawns off Leah on him instead. When Jacob complains, he’s given Rachel, too. So the two sisters become co-wives.

Jacob loves Rachel, but not Leah – though not so much that he won’t sleep with her. Because she’s unloved, God blesses her with children. First there’s Reuben, then Simeon, followed by Levi and Judah.

Later, in a most unusual story, Leah gives a famished Rachel some food in exchange for a night with Jacob. Leah gets pregnant again and has Issachar and later Zebulun. After that, she has Dinah.

As the sisters compete for Jacob’s attention, they bring their maids into the marriage bed; both servants produce two sons for Jacob.

After all this, Rachel has Joseph and much later dies giving birth to Benjamin. At last, it seems, Leah will not need to compete with her sister for Jacob’s attention. But the reminder of Rachel forever looms, with Jacob showing favoritism to Rachel’s sons over the children that Leah bore.

[Read about Leah in Genesis 29 through 31.]

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