Guiding Scripture: Genesis 29:16-17 – “Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Leah had weak eyes, but Rachel had a lovely figure and was beautiful.”
- In my humble opinion, anyone who says the Bible is boring clearly hasn’t read the book of Genesis. There is more drama, deception, and backstabbing in those chapters than in any soap opera on TV today, and nowhere is that drama more evident than in the story of Rachel and Leah. Between the two of them, these rival sisters became the mothers of the twelve tribes of Israel, and their story is proof-positive that God can use literally anyone for His purposes, no matter how broken, bitter, or discouraged we may be.
- Rachel and Leah were both victims of their father Laban’s deceit.
- In Genesis 29, Jacob falls in love with Rachel and agrees to work for seven years in exchange for her hand in marriage. However, Laban gives his older daughter Leah to Jacob during the marriage ceremony instead, deceiving him.
- Leah was forced to marry a man who was in love with her sister, while Rachel was forced to watch them be married for seven years and then share Jacob with Leah forever.
- Rachel and Leah were both unhappy in their marriage for different reasons.
- Genesis 29:31 sums up the sisters’ predicament: Leah was fertile but unloved, while Rachel was loved but infertile.
- The sisters’ desires made them bitter rivals.
- Leah literally names her children based on her desire to be loved by Jacob (Genesis 29:32-34, Genesis 30:17-20).
- Rachel literally tells Jacob that she would rather die than be unable to conceive (Genesis 30:1).
- Later, when her servant Bilhah conceives (more on that later), she names the child Naphtali, which means my struggle because she said, “I have had a great struggle with my sister, and I have won.” (Genesis 30:7-8)
- They used manipulation to get what they wanted.
- Rachel gave her servant Bilhah to Jacob to sleep with so she could have children through her (Genesis 30:3).
- Later, after she stops having children, Leah does the same thing with her servant Zilpah (Genesis 30:9).
- During the wheat harvest season, Leah gave Rachel mandrakes (which were believed at that time to improve fertility) in order to have a night to sleep with Jacob (Genesis 30:16).
- They both put their desires ahead of God—and paid a heavy price for it.
- Leah never received the love from Jacob that she wanted so badly. In fact, his favoritism for Rachel extends to her children and causes great conflict among their sons (which is another story for another day).
- Although the Lord eventually gave Rachel two sons, her second delivery was so difficult that she died in childbirth, and named her son, Ben-Oni as a result (which means “son of my trouble”).
- Despite their flaws, God heard—and honored—both of their prayers.
- The Lord enabled Leah to conceive because he saw that she was unloved (Genesis 29:31).
- Similarly, the Lord “remembered” Rachel and “listened to her” so that she conceived many years later (Genesis 30:22).
Action Step: Has there ever been a time when you felt unloved or unappreciated by others? Or, have you ever received favoritism that you didn’t earn? How did that situation make you feel? Were you tempted to believe that everything would be better if your situation was different? Did you try to change things on your own, or did you submit your concerns to God? How might you handle things differently if you find yourself in a similar situation in the future?