Tuesday, October 27, 2009

God Gives Heed To Leah -- Genesis 30:17-21

God gave heed to Leah, and she conceived and bore Jacob a fifth son. Then Leah said, "God has given me my wages because I gave my maid to my husband." So she named him Issachar. Leah conceived again and bore a sixth son to Jacob. Then Leah said, "God has endowed me with a good gift; now my husband will dwell with me, because I have borne him six sons." So she named him Zebulun. Afterward she bore a daughter and named her Dinah.

It wasn’t the mandrakes; it was God who gave ‘heed’ to Leah and that night she conceived yet another son for Jacob. He would be the fifth one from her side and the ninth son from both her side and Rachel’s. As I write these words, my family and I have just returned from a vacation where my daughter had invited a friend of hers to join us. The young lady in her thirties is a delightful, married, schoolteacher. We had a great time together. Sally, not her real name, and her husband, have done and are doing everything possible to have a child. They have spent thousands of dollars on doctors and procedures trying to succeed in their very legitimate quest, but so far nothing has worked. Through our lifestyle, friendship, and her joining us at church twice during our vacation, Sally knows that she could indeed turn her life and thus this matter over to God. It is our prayer that she does so. For when it comes to the giving of life, physical and spiritual, He alone is the cause and provider.

While Leah recognizes God’s Hand in this, she attempts to rationalize exactly why God heeded her. It is always a dangerous thing to assume we can know, at any time and in any circumstance, that when the conditions are similar, exactly what God will do or why He will do it. Unless, of course, He Himself has made that perfectly clear. I am reminded of the well-known phrase “What Would Jesus Do?” that many Christians had printed all over their tee shirts or wore as bracelets bearing “WWJD?” I remember hearing Dr. Charles Price of The Peoples’ Church in Toronto one time commenting on how audacious it was of anyone to think they could actually think like or act like Jesus, let alone predict what He would do. He went on to show from scripture that Jesus Himself never did exactly the same thing even in similar circumstances. Trying to guess at His actions is difficult enough; but trying to guess at His motives as Leah does here is even more so.

Leah believed God allowed her to get pregnant this time because she had been willing to share her husband Jacob with her maid when she herself could not conceive. This, in her mind, was God rewarding her for that. I think we need to be careful not to mistake God’s mercy as Him favoring and patronizing our thoughtless or reckless behavior, including being involved in what we know or ought to have known was not in accordance with God’s will for our lives. The belief that mandrakes could make a difference or the practice of allowing one’s maid to sleep with one’s husband for the sake of having children, may well fall into this category of behaviors. Nevertheless, based on her thinking, Leah names this son Issachar, which is translated from the Hebrew to mean ‘there is recompense’.

In fact, God blesses Leah again and she conceives once more to provide Jacob with his tenth son, and the sixth by Leah. She calls this son Zebulun, a word translated ‘exalted’. Leah had not received a dowry because of the way she became a wife to Jacob. You may remember that her father Laban had tricked Jacob into accepting Leah before he could have Rachel. Now, she sees this sixth son, and indeed all the sons before him, as God taking care of her dowry. Giving birth to a son and indeed having many sons, provides the mother with honor and respectability in the household and the community. The family itself, for Leah, becomes a very worthy dowry.

Because a man sees having sons the same way and because he recognizes that it is his wife that made this possible, Leah assumes the fact that God has given her this great dowry of six sons, she will now enjoy much more of her husband’s company than she did before. The idea being that he would want to visit her dwellings more now than ever before, even if it is to be with his sons, as compared to spending his time with Rachel.

Finally, we read that Leah bore Jacob a daughter whom she named Dinah, which translated means ‘judgment’. The reasoning for the name is not provided at this point in the story, but may well come to light later. It is also probable that Jacob had other daughters, perhaps through Leah, or Rachel, or either of their maids, but only Dinah’s name is registered in the scriptural account.

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