Rachel and Leah
a tale of two sisters
Steven P. Wickstrom
all Scriptures quoted from the NASB
In Genesis chapter 27, Jacob had already swindled his brother Esau out of the birthright, and now he had deceitfully taken away the blessing of their father Isaac. Esau, having been double-crossed twice, was so angry that he was preparing to kill Jacob. When their mother, Rebekah, found out about Esau's plans, she convinced Isaac to send Jacob up to the city of Haran where her brother Laban lived to find a wife. Jacob left home, headed north east, found Laban and became employed as one of Laban's workers.
Laban had two daughters; the older daughter was named Leah, and the younger daughter was named Rachel. Rachel had the body of a goddess and the face of a super-model. Leah is simply described as having “weak” eyes. (The word “weak” is often translated as “tender” in the Old Testament. It does not denote a defect, but instead, describes the quality of gentleness.) Jacob immediately fell head over heels in love with Rachel. He told Laban that he would work seven years for Laban and as payment, he would get to marry Rachel. Both men shook hands on the deal.
At the end of the seven years, Laban swindled Jacob by switching Leah for Rachel towards the end of the marriage ceremony. Jacob thought he was spending the night with Rachel, but Laban had cunningly substituted Leah in her place. It is important to realize that women during this time frame were treated as property. Since marriages were arranged, the wishes of a daughter were not taken into consideration. Since both Leah and Rachel were under Laban's authority, they had to do what they were told. I don't think either daughter wanted to go along with the deception, but they were given no choice. They were not allowed to say “no.”
Jacob of course was furious about the deception. The swindler had been swindled. He did not want Leah, he wanted Rachel. Jacob and Laban worked out another deal for another seven years of service. When the seven-day marriage ritual with Leah was complete, Jacob immediately married Rachel.
The Bible says in Genesis 29:30 that “Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah.” The words “more than” are not in the original Hebrew text. The interpreters of the Old Testament added those words to the text much later. What the Bible indicates here is that Jacob did not love Leah at all. Jacob had eyes only for Rachel and he did not care about Leah. Jacob's heart was for the super-model, not the homely girl who needed glasses.
Two women; one was loved and the other was unloved. The interesting thing to look at is the personalities of the two women. They were like night and day, complete opposites. Let me show you.
- Rachel was for the most part, barren (a sign of God's displeasure).
- Leah bore many children (a sign of God's favor).
- Rachel stole her father's idols and kept them in her tent, and worshiped them.
- Leah worshiped God, and kept asking Him for more sons in the hope that maybe Jacob would love her.
- Rachel traded Jacob to Leah (for a night) for some of Leah's mandrakes (a root that was thought to make a barren woman bear children).
- The only thing Rachel had that Leah wanted, was Jacob's love.
- Rachel was always jealous of Leah because Leah could bear children.
- Leah was jealous of Rachel because Jacob was in love with her.
- Rachel was unhappy due to God closing her womb.
- Leah was happy and rejoiced over her children.
- When Rachel died (after giving birth to Benjamin) Jacob buried her near Bethlehem.
- When Leah died many years later, Jacob buried her next to Abraham and Sarah, and Isaac and Rebekah.