Genesis 29:16 is where we encounter Leah in the Bible. “Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Leah had weak eyes, but Rachel had a lovely figure and was beautiful.”
Leah is the sister of Rachel, who is Jacob’s love interest. From the minute we read about her, we hear more about her sister Rachel. Jacob meets Rachel at a well and falls instantly in love with her.
Because he has no money to offer Rachel’s father, he agrees to work for her father for seven years to earn Rachel’s hand in marriage. However, when the seven years end, and he thinks he is taking Rachel as his wife.
But when morning came, Rachel’s father gave Jacob Leah instead. Jacob is angry and questions why he can’t have Rachel. He strikes another deal and marries Rachel in agreement for another seven years of work. Because of his love for Rachel, it felt like one day of work for Jacob.
It is obvious from the first reading that Leah is the less loved of the two sisters: “Jacob made love to Rachel also, and his love for Rachel was greater than his love for Leah” (v. 30).
But the next verse tells us God knows this and has great compassion for Leah: “When the Lord saw that Leah was not loved, he enabled her to conceive, but Rachel remained childless. Leah became pregnant and gave birth to a son” (vv. 31-32).
What Leah lacked in love from her husband, she got rewarded with the ability to conceive, while Rachel had Jacob’s heart, but she couldn’t bear him a child. This happens several times as Leah has Jacob’s children.
Society saw being able to conceive as a great blessing. And as sisters both vie for Jacob’s affections, Leah is the blessed one, while Rachel gets more jealous every time Leah gives birth. This then becomes a game of sibling rivalry as each sister gives Jacob a servant to sleep with.
Rachel then gives his servant Bilhah to Jacob. He sleeps with her, and she bears two sons. Leah then gets jealous and gives him her servant Zilpah, and she conceives. Leah gets pregnant again, and it is seen as another blessing.
We can learn a few concepts from Leah’s story:
1. When We Think We Are Forgotten, God Sees Us
Leah believed she was less than worthy because Jacob loved Rachel more than her. When we feel unseen and unloved in life, we can be sure God sees everything. God loves us all equally. When life treats us unfairly, God is there.
He has his own ways of granting justice and vindication to those disenfranchised by the world’s standards. Even though Leah is in a loveless marriage, God grants her favor by allowing her name to no longer be disgraced by having her become a mother.
No matter what we think life owes us, we know God dispenses his justice and vindication when he chooses.
2. Sibling Rivalry Is Not a Good Thing
At first, Leah is being blessed by God because he knows she is unloved. But once Rachel’s jealousy — and ultimately Leah’s — rears its ugly head, it becomes a game of competition over who God will bless more. Sibling rivalry only leads to heartbreak and rejection.
When we feel we must compete in the world, replace that feeling with contentment and peace. Philippians 4:13 says, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well-fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
Paul says this after his experiences in jail. He had been rejected, beaten, and imprisoned. Paul learned the joy of contentment in whatever situation God placed him in.
We can follow Paul’s example of contentment. No matter what you are going through, you can choose contentment in your present circumstances and have hope as you look into the future.
3. Leah Looks for Love in the Wrong Place
Then, Leah is ultimately treated like a prostitute as she exchanges her mandrakes for a night with her husband. Leah is so desperate for her husband to love her that she’s willing to do anything. She believes if she just bore him his sons, he’d certainly love her.
But no matter how hard we try, we can’t force people to love us. The only love that fills us is the love of God. It is easy to get mad at God when circumstances get tough or things don’t go our way.
But God works out everything for our good. Even in the most painful moments, God can redeem and fill us with hope.
It’s comforting to know we don’t have to do anything to earn God’s love or approval. Although we may sometimes act like Leah, looking for love in worldly places, God proves he sees and knows everything. And he blesses us as he sees fit.
4. Competition Always Ends Up with Jealousy
Both Rachel and Leah were jealous of Jacob’s love for Rachel and Leah’s easy ability to conceive and bear children. But that competition, especially between family members, can ruin relationships and sever the love intimate relationships require.
In life, it is easy (especially in the world of social media) to fall into the trap of competition, much like Leah and Rachel: “Rachel said to Leah, “Please give me some of your son’s mandrakes.”
But she said to her, “Wasn’t it enough that you took away my husband? Will you take my son’s mandrakes too?” “Very well,” Rachel said, “he can sleep with you tonight in return for your son’s mandrakes.”
So, when Jacob came in from the fields that evening, Leah went out to meet him. “You must sleep with me,” she said. “I have hired you with my son’s mandrakes.” So, he slept with her that night” (Genesis 30:14-16).
What Does This Mean?
Scrolling through our news feeds on Facebook, we can become envious of what everyone has or the appearance of someone’s life is better than ours. But social media is just a highlight reel. We don’t always know the struggle of people’s lives unless we get to know them in real life.
The grass may look greener on the other side, but even there, it has crabgrass. Life gets tough for everyone. Develop perseverance instead of pride and envy, and run the race God has marked for you, not anyone else.
We can learn a lot from Leah’s story. Even when we feel unloved or unworthy by the world’s standards, God still loves us. His love is the ultimate gift we can — or ever will — receive. However, it is fulfilling to have people in life (our spouses, family, friends) who love us.
But often, that love comes with conditions. When we disappoint someone or get into conflict, people’s love can wax and wane. But God still loves us with no conditions.
Never let jealousy ruin the blessing God wants to provide. God’s blessing — or trial — is delegated by God alone.
Although we may be tempted, we should never desire another person’s life or the ways in which that person is seemingly blessed. They have their share of trials, too. Live a life of contentment, and you’ll achieve a peace that passes all understanding.
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Michelle S. Lazurek is a multi-genre award-winning author, speaker, pastor's wife, and mother. She is a literary agent for Wordwise Media Services and a certified writing coach. Her new children’s book Who God Wants Me to Be encourages girls to discover God’s plan for their careers. When not working, she enjoys sipping a Starbucks latte, collecting 80s memorabilia, and spending time with her family and her crazy dog. For more info, please visit her website www.michellelazurek.