Part 2 of 3   Genesis 29:21-30

After the seven years of working for Rachel, Jacob had to remind Laban his time of service was complete. Perhaps not wanting this advantageous relationship to cease, Laban had said nothing. On the wedding night, shifty Laban substituted Leah, the older, less-attractive sister, as the bride, since as he said, “It is not our custom to give the younger daughter in marriage before the older one” (29:26).Amazingly, Jacob was unaware of the deception on the bridal night until the next morning! It may have been very dark or Leah may have been veiled. It’s also possible the festive wine had dulled Jacob’s senses.

Laban then offered Rachel for yet another seven years of labor (vv. 26-30) and Jacob amazingly agreed to his terms. Fortunately, Jacob didn’t have to wait those additional seven years to marry Rachel. Jacob simply had to finish Leah’s bridal week, then he was free to marry Rachel as well.

What a story! It started out with deceit and the resulting competition and continued with deception that carried into future generations.

Perhaps the competition explains why Leah was desperate enough to marry Jacob through deception. Did she anticipate the humiliation the following morning, when she experienced deeply Jacob’s preference for Rachel? Leah may have been jealous of her younger sister or even afraid that if she did not participate in tricking Jacob, she would live out her life with no husband. She may have reasoned, sharing a husband is better than no husband! And in those days, it probably was. No acceptable suitors had appeared in the seven intervening years since Jacob had walked into their lives, and she wanted to avoid being an older, unmarried sister.

It’s also very possible that Leah, too, loved Jacob. What young girl wouldn’t be attracted to a potentially wealthy man who likely carried himself like a prince? Knowing what we know from other Scripture about Jacob, he certainly was full of personality and zest for life. He would have been an exciting husband, one who offered riches and security. “Why should Rachel get him, too?” Leah may have reasoned. “Why should good looks always win out? Why shouldn’t I at least be able to share a husband with my sister?” We know she cooperated fully with her father in this wicked deception, cruelly deceiving her sister and Jacob. It’s likely she had no choice in the matter as daughters were always to obey their fathers, but it’s also likely that she wanted to obey this time.

Thus, unhealthy competition not only affected the sisters as they grew up in the same home, but in their marriages as well. Jealousy is like a cancer that continues to thrive and grow as long as it’s fed. Both lives were hurt. All three lives were hurt. 

The rivalry of these sisters immediately poisoned their relationships with Jacob. To recover from this incredible deception would have taken great maturity and forgiveness, and it doesn’t appear that the sisters achieved lasting peace. The biblical record indicates the marriages likely never fully recovered because of the unhealthy competition that developed between not only the wives but also their children. (In the centuries that follow, enormous jealousy and hatred existed between the sons of Leah and Rachel who were the founders of the 12 tribes of Israel). Marriage requires much adjustment in the best of homes. This one required major adjustment.

In that day, there was nothing unusual about this kind of double marriage. But Jacob and Rachel began their married life with a big challenge. When Jacob and Rachel wanted to be alone, there would be poor Leah in the tent, as much Jacob’s wife as Rachel, except in his heart. I think we can safely assume they had separate tents! Even so, Rachel felt Leah was simply in the way by just being there.

And what about Leah? It would have been painful to love as she seemed to have loved Jacob, knowing she was not loved in return. Each time Jacob paid attention to Leah, she suspected he did it because he felt he had to. Perhaps her emotional and feminine sanity were preserved by having learned early in life to give of herself instead of expecting to get from others. Ironically, it wasn’t Jacob’s beloved, beautiful Rachel, who was laid to rest beside Jacob in the tomb near Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah. It was Leah (Genesis 49:31). Rachel was buried near where she died on the road to Bethlehem, having died giving birth to her second son, Benjamin (35:16-19)

It’s not hard to imagine the resulting state of this double marriage. Polygamy was never intended by God for obvious reasons. Most husbands/wives don’t like sharing their spouse with anyone else, not even a shared look or lingering glance. Sharing your husband with a competitive sister would be even worse. It’s amazing this double marriage survived.

It’s even more amazing that God blessed this marriage so much that out of it came the 12 tribes of Israel! It had taken a total of 169 years from the original promise to Abraham until God chose to fulfill his promise of a great nation through two squabbling sisters! God is simply not in a hurry! Perhaps three people never started married life together against greater odds, but God was in this marriage, never forcing them, and yet totally involved, as He is with us today.

We do know that at least one time, they were united and in full agreement. It was when Jacob sent for them both (31:4) to come out to the fields to discuss their father’s changed attitude toward Jacob. Jacob also told them that God had told him to return to his native land. Their response indicated their shared commitment to each other’s welfare and to that of their children.

Take Home Truth: Only faith and trust in God brings true contentment.

                                                                                                Marilyn Kaynor