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The Blue Letter Bible

Mary Elizabeth Baxter :: Leah and Rachel—Genesis 29.

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"They two shall be one flesh."-Ephesians 5:31

The last recorded words of Rebekah are sad ones. She besought Jacob to flee to her brother Laban until Esau's anger should turn away, and promised that which she could never perform: "Then will I send, and fetch thee from thence." (Gen 27:45.) Afterwards she said to her husband: "I am weary of my life because of the daughters of Heth: if Jacob take a wife of the daughters of Heth, such as these which are of the daughters of the land, what good should my life do me?" (Gen 27:46.) "They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength" (Isa 40:31), but they that lean to their own resources grow weary.

Jacob left home, and on his journey he had the wondrous vision of Christ as God's ladder, connecting heaven and earth, and so became


Proceeding to Haran, he made the acquaintance of some Syrian shepherds who were watering their flocks, and inquired about the family of Laban. He learnt from them that he was living and well, and that Rachel, his daughter, was at hand with the sheep.

The first sight of Rachel, recalling to Jacob's home‐loving mind the family of his mother, touched a tender chord in his heart. He immediately became her servant, and rolled the stone from the well's mouth, and watered the flock and he "kissed Rachel, and lifted up his voice and wept," (Gen 29:11.) telling her his near relationship, that he was Rebekah's son. A real affection sprang up between the two, and when Laban, who was a sharp‐eyed man of business, suggested to Jacob some reward for his work,-for Jacob could not be an idle man,-Jacob suggested that he should serve him seven years for Rachel, his younger daughter.

"And Jacob served seven years for Rachel; and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her." (Gen 29:20.) But after all, this was human love. He admired the beautiful girl: there was perhaps much which accorded in their dispositions, but he had not received her from the hand of God as his father had received Rebekah. It accorded more with the character of Jacob to toil for his wife. His whole spirit was servile, and all his religion took its tone from this characteristic.

When his seven years' betrothal came to an end, the wedding day was fixed; but Laban deceived him, and gave him his elder daughter instead. And when Jacob remonstrated with him:

"What is this thou hast done unto me? did not I serve with thee for Rachel? Wherefore, then, hast thou beguiled me?" Laban answered, and, perhaps, there was something of irony in the reply:

"It must not be so done in our country, to give the younger before the first‐born." (Gen 29:26.)

Was it an allusion to his dealings with Esau?

Jacob was legally married to Leah. In God's order, man was to have one wife, and He had never reversed this order, nor given His blessing to polygamy in any sense. What should Jacob do? He had served for Rachel; his heart was united to her; but just as cleverly as he had deceived his father, Laban had deceived him. "Be not deceived; God is not mocked; for


that shall he also reap." (Gal 6:7.) Jacob had sown deception, and he was reaping it now.

Laban proposed that Jacob should serve seven other years for Rachel, but that he should marry both the sisters at this time. And Jacob, without consulting his God, hearkened to the half‐heathen Laban, who, while he feared God, yet had idols in his house. (Gen 31:19.)

God could not bless this arrangement. Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah. The Lord executeth judgment for the oppressed (Ps 103:6), and He gave Leah a son, whom she named Reuben-"See a son"-for she said: "Surely the Lord hath looked upon my affliction; now therefore my husband will love me." (Gen 29:32.) Poor despised Leah! she was plain, and Rachel was beautiful. There was something attractive in her younger sister; there was little attraction about Leah; but God made compensation in giving her to be a happy mother. O, how this misery in the family shows the terrible mistake of reversing God's order of things! Marriage is the type of Christ and His Church. A man shall leave father and mother and cleave to his wife, not his wives.

God gave Leah another son, and she called him Simeon, and said: "Because the Lord hath heard that I was hated, He hath therefore given me this son also." And then a third son also, whom she called Levi-"joined"-and then a fourth son, whom she called Judah, and said: "Now will I praise the Lord." (Gen 29:32-35.) It was a great compensation to this woman, lonely in her own home, that she should have the little ones around her and the consciousness that each child came as a direct gift from God.

But as Leah grew happier in her surroundings, Rachel became more dissatisfied. She "envied her sister, and said unto Jacob:

"Give me children, or else I die." (Gen 30:1.)

Jacob bitterly retaliated, and said: "Am I in God's stead, who hath withheld from thee the fruit of the womb." (Gen 30:2.) Then, following the example of Sarah, and probably the custom among the heathen, she gave her maid to her husband, that in case she should bear children, Rachel might reckon them her own, and Bilhah bore Jacob two sons. Leah followed her example, and gave her maid to her husband, and Zilpah also bore him two sons. But the complications in the family only grew greater by this multiplication: it was not God's divine order.

At last God heard Rachel's prayer; and after her sister's family had numbered seven, and four children were born to the handmaids, God gave Rachel also a child, "and she called his name Joseph, and said: The Lord shall add to me another son." (Gen 30:23-24.) O how this history shows us the misery there is in the ways of man, and how much of the evil of human nature comes out when the strict lines which God has laid down are not followed by His children! The family of Jacob must have been a hot‐bed of jealousy, strife, contention, evil‐speaking, pride, and bitterness; and the chief contention was between two sisters! If Jacob had trusted God to give him Rachel, or had given up his will and been satisfied with Leah, all these complications would not have arisen.

Meanwhile, business matters brought other difficulties. Laban was a selfish and self‐seeking man. God blessed Jacob according to His promise, and Laban envied him; and, at last, "Jacob beheld the countenance of Laban, and, behold, it was not toward him as before." (Gen 31:2.) And now the Lord visited Jacob, and told him to return to the land of his fathers and to his kindred, and promised,

"I WILL BE WITH THEE." (Gen 31:3.)

Jacob must break to Leah and Rachel the news that he was about to take them from their father's house and from their home. Both the sisters, when they found that God had spoken to him, sided with their husband against their father, and were ready to depart. But Jacob, instead of trusting God and doing the thing openly, "stole away unawares to Laban the Syrian, in that he told him not that he fled." (Gen 31:20.)

His mother's example had told only too strongly upon Jacob, and instead of raising Leah and Rachel by uprightness and integrity, he persuaded them to share his deceit, and help him in his flight. It is a precious thing when a man watches over the faults in his wife with a godly jealousy, seeking in every way to warn her, that she may be purified and kept pure in the sight of God. And it is a blessed thing when a wife watches over her husband in the same way, each watching for the other's soul. God has meant that husband and wife should be "heirs together of the grace of life." (1Pe 3:7.) If two people who have agreed to spend their lives together are not made a blessing to each other, they must naturally be a curse. It is easier for one to do wrong if he sees his partner in life doing the same.

From this time we hear little of importance about the wives of Jacob, except when Rachel's youngest son was born, and the mother died, calling the little babe: "The son of my sorrow," whereas his father called him "The son of the right hand." His life was his mother's death.

Neither of these wives was, as God would have had her, a true and unselfish helpmeet for her husband.

Rebekah. Part 2—Genesis 27. ← Prior Section
Jochebed, the Mother of Moses—Exd 1; and 2. Next Section →
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