Monday, October 12, 2009

Leah’s Children -- Genesis 29:31-35

Now the LORD saw that Leah was unloved, and He opened her womb, but Rachel was barren. Leah conceived and bore a son and named him Reuben, for she said, "Because the LORD has seen my affliction; surely now my husband will love me." Then she conceived again and bore a son and said, "Because the LORD has heard that I am unloved, He has therefore given me this {son} also." So she named him Simeon. She conceived again and bore a son and said, "Now this time my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons." Therefore he was named Levi. And she conceived again and bore a son and said, "This time I will praise the LORD." Therefore she named him Judah. Then she stopped bearing.

The verses previous to this portion ended with the admission that Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah. What a difficult and tough situation to be in for Jacob. This was not the way he had hoped things would work out. He wasn’t expecting to be cheated by his father-in-law. It would be easy for us to say, once he had been tricked, that he should have just stuck with Leah, and said “No, it’s too late for me and Rachel; I will honor my marriage to Leah alone and learn to love her as much as I once did Rachel.” Perhaps that was an option, but most improbable considering the prevalence of polygamy in those days, his extreme love for Rachel, and the circumstances of being foiled during a wedding week celebration. While some may disagree with his decision to marry both sisters, it is difficult to not understand it or to blame him for it.

This is quite a situation for Leah to be in as well. If forced by her father to have been part of this trick, then she indeed is a victim. If this were her secret desire, she soon would have realized the consequences of being ‘number two’ in her husband’s life and love. We do not know what this did to her relationship with Rachel, nor do we really know what their relationship was like before this. Certainly this new arrangement would not help matters. And what of Leah’s image in the community? What would the neighbors say knowing she got married by trickery?

Finally, there is Rachel to consider. Was she part of the plan? Was she in agreement with it? What happened to her relationship with her father, mother, and sister after this? What was it like living in the same household, although not the same house, and having to share your husband with another woman? I am sure none of this was easy even if the culture allowed it.

Sin has a funny way of impacting many relationships that often go way beyond the sinner and those that abet it.

Another thing about sin is that once committed, God doesn’t ignore it. He often has a way of remaining very active in the situation. This was certainly the case here. The text says God was aware of the fact that Leah was unloved. This is interesting because while most of us would focus on the fact that the sin may have been polygamy, God is concerned about the fact that Leah was unloved by Jacob. From Jacob’s perspective, he just loved Rachel ‘more’ but from God’s perspective, loving one’s wife less than another, is not loving her at all. God seems to be saying, “Love your wife above any other woman and if you must have two, love them the same.” I’m not suggesting for a moment that God is condoning polygamy; He’s making a point about how each of us is to love his wife. And if by some other sin, in those days, one was to have more than one wife, then he had to love them all the same. And so God takes action when Jacob didn’t do that.

He allows Leah to have children while Rachel could not. Leah gave Jacob his first son and named him Reuben, which literally means, “Behold a son.” We now start to get some insight as to how Leah was feeling as the first wife, but second in being loved. She calls it an “affliction” which God Himself had seen. Leah verbalizes her hope that the young Reuben will be cause for Jacob to, and note the words here are not “love me more”, but just to “love me”. God and wives seem to have a similar perspective on how wives should be loved – it is not a matter of degree, but of total commitment.

It appears that Jacob, however, was not moved to ‘love’ Leah any more after Reuben’s birth. Leah conceives again, bears another son, and, believing that God has heard her despair in being unloved, she names the boy Simeon, which literally is translated ‘heard’. Still, there is no apparent change from Jacob and Leah conceives a third time, again bearing a son to Jacob. She is convinced now that Jacob will love her or as she put it “become attached to me” because she has given him three sons, for it was a great honor in those days for a man to have three sons. For that reason she names her third son Levi, which means ‘joined to’. There is no indication this time as to how having three sons by Leah affected Jacob’s love for her and when Leah conceives a fourth time and bears Jacob another son, she gives praise to the Lord and calls him Judah, which means ‘praised’. It is not clear from the text whether she was praising God because of a change in Jacob or simply because she wanted to praise him in spite of Jacob’s lack of love. It is interesting to note, however, that regardless of Jacob’s love or non-love for her, God was praised, and then Leah who had bore four sons, stopped bearing. God had accomplished what He needed to do through Leah.

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1 comment:

  1. I have seen where sin can devastate for a complete life time and the only "relief" is death. What a price to have to pay! Now with this Leah and Rachel "chapter" this insane cycle continues...children are not stupid...Leah's children will pick up on this situation...deep down in each of their souls how will this impact them for a healthy "relationship example" in the future to love their wives...