The Bible has many characters in it that we can learn from. One person that I don’t often think about is Leah, Jacob’s first wife. She’s there, of course, but sometimes I think of her as the interloper who ruined a perfectly good marriage between Jacob and his true love, Rachael. If we stop to think about Leah’s life, we can learn how to be content even when we have a difficult life.
The Story of Jacob, Leah, and Rachael
If it’s been a while since you read the story of Jacob, here’s a summary: Jacob was Isaac and Rebekah’s son. He tricked his older twin, Esau, into selling his birthright, then he stole his father’s blessing. His brother Esau wasn’t very happy, so Jacob fled for his life. Jacob ended up staying with his Uncle Laban. While there, he met his cousin Rachael, and immediately fell in love. After working for Laban for a while, Laban offered him payment for his work. Jacob requested that he be allowed to marry Rachael. In order to get Rachael’s hand in marriage, Jacob had to work for seven years. He loved her so much that the seven years flew by. Unfortunately, when the seven years passed, Laban tricked his nephew and gave him Leah to marry instead! Leah was not very good looking, and was not the lady that Jacob loved. Laban offered to let Jacob marry Rachael as well, as long as he’d stay another seven years to work for her.
Leah Knew She was Rejected
It probably wasn’t easy to be Leah. Rachael was well favored (Genesis 29:17). Perhaps Rachael had all the friends. Maybe Leah thought that she would never get married. The Bible doesn’t say whether Leah was involved in the decision to trick Jacob and marry him or not, but in the morning after they got married, he exclaimed to his father-in-law “What is this you have done to me?” (Genesis 29:25). After their week-long honeymoon, Jacob married her sister Rachael, the one that he really loved.
Although her husband didn’t really love her, Leah started having children. With every child, she hoped that it would make Jacob love her. She named her first son Reuben, meaning “see, a son!” When Reuben didn’t make Jacob love her, she named her second son Simeon, meaning “heard”. Leah thought that God had heard her and given her a second son, hoping that Jacob would then love her. After she had her third son, Leah named him Levi, meaning “attached”. After three sons, perhaps her husband would be attached to her. That was not to be the case.
Leah Learns to be Content
After a while, Leah figured that Jacob would never love her the way that he loved her sister. She decided to name her fourth son Judah, meaning “praise”. Despite her circumstances, Leah decided that she would praise the Lord anyway (Genesis 29:35). Although Leah wasn’t living the life of her dreams, she had received blessings. She learned to be content and to praise God. More than 1000 years later, Paul would learn the same thing: “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content” he writes from a jail cell (Philippians 4:11).
Rachael Didn’t Have the Dream Life Either
Although Leah was upset that she didn’t have Jacob’s affection, Rachael wasn’t exactly living the dream either. While her sister continued having child after child, Rachael couldn’t have children. She told her husband “Give me children, or else I die!” (Genesis 30:1). She did end up having two children in her lifetime, but she never lived to see them grow up, as she died while in childbirth with her younger child, Benjamin. Her oldest child, Joseph, was less than 17 years old when she died.
What We Can Learn from Leah
We can learn several things about Leah’s life. First, we can learn that we shouldn’t look to anybody else for our happiness. People can disappoint us, and our life might not turn out the way that we dream. We can learn that we shouldn’t compare our lives to that of others. II Corinthians 10:12 says that those that “compare themselves among themselves, are not wise.” Although Leah envied her sister Rachael because Jacob because he loved her more, Rachael envied Leah because she had more children. Nobody has the perfect life. Even the people that we think have it all have troubles. If we learn from Leah and learn to praise God anyway, we will find more contentedness in God than with the things of the world.
Weineger, Bill. Sermon, 29 August 2010.