Genesis 29:15-28; Romans 8:26-39; Matthew 13:31-33,44-52
I was really intrigued by the story of Jacob, Leah and Rachel so I went searching about for inspiration for this reflection and found some very interesting views on how to look at this story, and specifically a lady named Mandy Smith (on a website ‘crosswalk.com), who is an ordinary woman but who had an out of the ordinary take on the story which inspired this reflection.
So I begin by looking at the story in Genesis 29:15-28 where we see that Jacob was working for his uncle Laban who said that family or not you should not work for nothing; what payment do you want. Jacob (who fancied Rachel) said to Laban that if I work for you for 7 years will you let me marry your daughter Rachel and Laban said – Deal. When the 7 years were up Jacob asked for Rachel’s hand and a big party was held to celebrate the marriage. Laban though had other ideas for he had an older daughter Leah and tradition in their country was that the eldest should marry first so Laban got Leah to go to Jacobs’s tent in the evening and sleep with him thus consummating the marriage. In the morning when Jacob arose he discovered the switch and was more than just a bit hurt at being deceived and after some words with Laban agreed that he could marry Rachel but only after spending the marriage week with Leah AND work for another 7 years by way of payment.
Jacob was angry about the deceit, and I reckon that must have been tough on Leah being classed as second best which would put a barrier between Leah and Rachel as they had to ‘fight’ for Jacob. Indeed such was the rivalry that at one stage Leah bartered some mandrake root as a price to pay for Rachel to allow Leah to sleep with Jacob. If that was not a complicated triangle enough both women had hand maids (servants) who they in turn got Jacob to sleep with (marry) and between the four women the 12 tribes of Judah were born.
Sometimes I forget that the bible has some ‘raunchy’ parts even by our standards today; love triangle(s) since there were 4 woman and 1 man involved together; Jealousy, deceit and throughout it all is the hand of God.
Now I realise that times have changed (thank goodness I do not think I could cope with 4 wives!!)
It must be remembered though that Jacob was no stranger to deceit, because he was the person who managed the process of deceiving his twin (but older brother) Esau out of his birth right. Now it is his turn to have the tables turned against him and it was Laban, the father of his beloved Rachel who does this by switching out one daughter for the other on the night Jacob expects to consummate a marriage with Rachel. Maybe this was God’s way of reminding Jacob of his prior life when he schemed to displace Esau’s birth right?
Well I suppose we might have little or no sympathy for Jacob given his previous behaviour but it becomes quiet clear as we read through this story that Laban and Jacob’s own mother were just as manipulative in getting Jacob deceived. This is then a family of people who are deceitful even if they did not think they were being bad. However it is very interesting that even if the family was ‘bad’ God can and does (thank God) still work through people’s imperfections and bring about good; important because it affirms that even when we disappoint God, the promises that God has made will still be kept.
And that’s not all – over time, Jacob also marries Leah’s servant Zilpah, and Rachel’s servant Bilhah, and as we all know, among these four wives he fathers twelve sons who become the heads of the tribes of Israel – Jacob’s new name, given to him by the stranger with whom he wrestles all night beside the river Jabbok (Israel means “he who wrestles with God”).
So Jacob was drawn to Rachel because of her beauty unlike God who looks inside and sees as greater worth to the kingdom, not the outward beauty but what lies in the heart within. We as humans do like to make our appearance as good as we possibly can because we know that what matters to another person is our outwards appearance, although as we all get older that will fade. Maybe we should be taking a leaf out of God’s book and look deeper into another person before judging them solely based on appearances next time.
But be rest assured that God is in this story of Jacob, Leah, and Rachel because we see how God worked through this family to bring about His will; by the sons born from all four women who eventually make up the twelve tribes of Israel. So for sure this story says that things aren’t always as they seem.
In the case of Leah, she was rejected, dealt with the emotions of jealousy, and her deep desire to be pursued and came to the realisation that although her own sister Rachel was wanted and pursued, Rachel herself had her own problems and feelings of jealousy and anger to deal with; and Jacob had not made those go away. On the contrary he had in effect made them worse. What Leah found was that putting her trust in her Lord meant that no one could take that trust away and that God (her Lord) was always true and would never stop loving her.
So we are then reminded that God’s plan for our lives doesn’t always end up with us being the most ‘fancied’ one or the main attraction or most popular, or the most beautiful. Neither are we promised a pain free life but what we are promised to receive is much, much more. We are promised in return for our trust in God, the security of God’s love. We are assured that He will always put us first in His pursuit of us, and has a burning desire to use our lives for His glory; and in that we can be certain.