Leah’s Story

Genesis 29v. 14-20

Whenever we look at the stories of the Bible everybody’s attention is on the men but we can learn a lot from examining the lives of the women who lived with them. Take Leah for instance. Her story begins with Jacob.

Jacob the deceiver, who was to become Israel, cheated his older brother out of his birth right by lying to his father. As a result, Jacob was forced to leave home because of the bad feeling he had created. He went to live with his Uncle Laban who turned out to be as bad as he was! Jacob fell in love with Rachel, Laban’s youngest daughter. At that time, it was the custom for the older girl to marry first. The trouble was, nobody wanted Leah.

Leah had weak eyes, one Bible translation says she was cross-eyed, but her sister was a beautiful girl with a lovely figure. Jacob agreed to work for seven years for Rachel’s hand in marriage and the Bible tells us that his passion was so strong, it made it seem like a few days.

The question I want to ask is, how long did that seven years seem to Leah? An unattractive girl with no suitors, those years must have been years filled with dashed hopes, disappointment and tears.

At last the wedding celebrations began and everyone in the neighbourhood came. As with all weddings, it was a very public affair. But when it was dark, it was Leah who was taken to Jacob.

Jacob had waited seven years for this moment. The love of his life was in his arms and now at last all his dreams had come true. But in the morning when daylight came, he had a terrible shock. The Bible leaves the dramatic scene understated (Genesis 29v. 25) but I can just imagine the row that ensued and the things that must have been said. Yet

silver-tongued Laban managed to persuade Jacob to keep Leah as his wife and wait another seven days for the girl he really wanted.

Poor Leah. How did she feel? She had been a pawn in her father’s hand and if she had been party to the deception, it had backfired very badly.

I often wonder what Leah’s wedding week was like. Probably there was a difference in the lovemaking. Jacob didn’t have the same feelings as he had done when he thought he had Rachel in his arms. Maybe he turned his back on her in the marital bed. Or he could have taken out his anger with Laban on his daughter. Remember, Jacob was as yet unregenerate. He hadn’t yet had that encounter with God which was to change his life forever. And what of Rachel? I guess that she must have been shut up somewhere on that first night so that she couldn’t get to Jacob. She would have been angry with her father and I imagine that she wasn’t too thrilled with her sister either. Did she take it out on Leah? Was there ill feeling between them? I think the answer has to be yes. This was not a happy home but after seven days, Jacob finally gets the love of his life and Leah was put to one side.

We are told that Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah. Nobody Likes to turned down in favour of another so she becomes Leah the unloved.

However, Leah never becomes bitter or difficult to live with. In that, she so reminds me of Joseph…. He was sold as a slave, believed dead, falsely accused, imprisoned and forgotten, but when he came from prison to palace; his spirit was sweet as a nut.

Something happened to Leah and as the story unfolds, it becomes apparent that she must have developed a close relationship with God.

In her culture women were valued for their ability to have sons. A son carried the family name, he was the breadwinner, he could be a great leader but when Leah became pregnant, we see the depth of her pain in the way she names her children.

The first was Reuben, a name which means, Behold a son! Genesis 29v32 says she called him Reuben because the LORD has seen my misery. Surely my husband will love me now.

Sadly it didn’t happen because when she had another son, she called him Simeon (29v.33) and said, Because the LORD heard that I am not loved, he gave me this one too.

The name Simeon probably means one who hears. Leah was being used for gratification but she still didn’t have the love of her husband. How long had she been a wife now? Two, three years? That’s a long time to live without affection.

When her third child was born she said, Now at last my husband will become attached (feel affection) to me, because I have borne him three sons. This child was called Levi which means being attached or feeling affection for.

All this seems grossly unfair doesn’t it? But after the birth of Levi, it seems that things changed for Leah. No, sadly her husband didn’t madly fall in love with her and to all outward appearances, everything looked exactly the same. It was Leah who changed.

How do I know? Because she named her fourth son, Judah. Judah means Praise. Genesis 29v 35 She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, This time I will praise the LORD. So she named him Judah.

A little later on, Leah had two more sons, Issachar and Zebulun. Their names mean Reward and Honour.

Leah’s position in the pecking order of the family never changed. When Jacob feared meeting his brother Esau after many years of separation, the concubines and their children were in the front line, then Leah and her children and finally Rachel and her son, Joseph. In case Esau was violent towards them, the favourites were last in line, giving them a bit of a chance to make an escape if necessary.

Leah speaks to us because she made a choice. Life is not fair. Bad things happen to good people. But Leah had a choice be bitter or be better, to go on or go under. She had declared her anguish in the names of her first three sons. When the fourth came along, she decided to look to God, to see the positive in her situation. She had three sons. Her sister had none. She decided that she would praise the Lord. And so she did.

Judah, the son who changed everything for Leah, played a pivotal role in saving the life of his brother Joseph (who was yet to be born). When Joseph’s brothers plotted to leave Joseph in a pit to die, Judah persuaded them not to kill him. Although he was the fourth son,

Judah seems to have been the natural leader of his brothers and became the spokesman for the family when they travelled to Egypt during the famine.

When at the end of his life Jacob gathered all twelve of his sons to bless them (Genesis 49), he described Judah as a lion cub. Jesus comes directly from Judah’s line and is known as Lion of the tribe of Judah.

So what do we learn from Leah? That when things don’t go our way, when life is unfair, when things don’t change, we need to change the way we look at things. We need to change our focus.

I once worked in a hospital where the sister on the ward decided to give me a hard time. After a while, I hated it so much I began to look for another job. I never had a problem getting a job but every interview I went to was a disaster. Eventually, a friend gave me some verses from Genesis. 39 But there in jail God was still with Joseph: He reached out in kindness to him; he put him on good terms with the head jailer. The head jailer put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners—he ended up managing the whole operation. The head jailer gave Joseph free rein, never even checked on him, because God was with him; whatever he did God made sure it worked out for the best.

I thought my friend had made a mistake but those words proved to be prophetic. I changed my focus. I stopped looking at what I couldn’t change, the ward Sister’s attitude towards me, and I began to praise God. As time went on, I became closer to God than ever before.

About a year later, I overheard a doctor talking to the Sister. He was worried about a tiny baby who was desperately ill.

I want someone to do observations on this baby every fifteen minutes.”

In that case,” said Sister Mac. “I’ll ask Nurse Cox. She’s one of my most trustworthy nurses.”

Because I had leaned on him, God vindicated me. He also gave me something I could not get for myself. A good reputation.

Leah stopped looking at her misery and looked to God. It took her a while to get there. The names of her first three children tell us she was asking God for something that was not to be. When she changed her prayer, she got praise, reward and honour. It’s also worth noting that when she died, Leah was buried with Abraham and Sarah, with Isaac and Rachel and later on, Jacob was laid to rest with her too. Praise, reward and honour.

The pecking order in her family never did change, but for Leah it didn’t matter anymore.

For me, all those years ago, once I got Jesus in view, I was so busy doing my best in the job, that what the ward sister thought of me didn’t matter anymore.

A man once ran up to Jesus and said, “Speak to my brother that he might share the inheritance with me.”

Jesus appeared to be very dismissive. On the face of it he looked heartless, but he knew that being caught up with the unfair things of life, things we cannot change, can eat you up with frustration and resentment. It can eclipse every other good thing you have in life. Your relationships with others will suffer. Worst of all, if you focus on your frustrations you’ll drive a wedge between yourself and God. The relationship that’s the most important of all will suffer.

Jesus wanted that young man to focus on God the Father.

Father God wanted me to make the same decision when dealing with that ward sister. I got it right that time but I don’t always manage to do it. I haven’t time to tell you about the millions of other times when I didn’t get it right!

Leah lived in an unhappy household but she made a decision to Praise the Lord and that’s how she speaks to us today. Maybe you need to change your focus if you are dealing with a difficult issue. It’s no quick fix. You may have to do it daily. You may have to make that choice more than once. You may have to come to God again and again before you get it right… But don’t you see? That’s just what God wants us to do… come to Him again and again.

So be like Leah. Determined in your heart, ‘Now I will praise the Lord.’ Then stand back and see what God will do with your surrendered life.