Thursday, December 07, 2017

A child is born 7: Leah bears a son for Jacob

When the Lord saw that Leah was unloved, he opened her womb; but Rachel was barren.

Jacob, the younger of twins who cheated his brother out of his birthright (see yesterday’s passage), fell in love with his cousin Rachel. Rachel’s father, Laban, insisted he work for him for seven years in order to marry her. But Laban was as cunning a character as Jacob,  and he substituted Rachel’s elder sister Leah, heavily veiled, at the wedding, (Genesis 29. 1-30). Jacob was furious when his new wife removed her veil after the wedding, but in order to marry Rachel as well, had to commit himself to working for Laban for another seven years. We have no idea how Leah felt about the deception she had taken part in – she may have had little choice about the matter – but we can perhaps imagine what a miserable marriage this must have been, full of resentment and jealousy.

The writer of Genesis reminds us that God is with Leah, and that he cares about her. She is given the gift of children, a consolation to her in this loveless marriage. She gives them names derived from Hebrew words which reflect her feelings – Reuben means “see, a son”, Simeon is linked to the word “heard”, Levi derives his name from the word “joining” and Judah means “giving praise”. She sees her sons as signs that God has heard her, and gives praise to God for them, hoping that through them she will gain the respect and the emotional connection with Jacob she longs for.

·         What do you think it might have been like for these children, growing up under the weight of Leah’s expectation that Jacob would love her because of them?

·         How do you think Leah felt about the trick Laban played on Jacob in substituting her for her sister?

·         Pray for families where there is little love or respect between parents, and for the children caught in the middle of their unhappiness. 

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