Genesis 29:1-20
Part 1 of 3

Leah and Rachel also have a story to tell us about living by faith. They not only shared their lives as sisters before marriage, they shared the same husband after marriage ! They were both daughters of Laban, Rebekah’s brother, and both married their cousin, Jacob, son of their Uncle Isaac and Aunt Rebekah. One sister was loved, the other ignored.  

Leah and Rachel grew up in the family of a sheepherder. As is sometimes the case, one sister was beautiful and well-favored, the other was not. The Bible describes Leah as having “delicate” or “weak” eyes (v. 17). This may imply nearsightedness, light sensitivity that made her squint or some other defect.

When Jacob met Rachel at the well at Haran, it appears he was immediately attracted to her. When he later asked Laban for Rachel’s hand in marriage, he willingly offered seven years of labor for her, since he had hurriedly left home with no money to offer as custom required. This was a handsome offer and Laban knew it. Wages for seven years of labor were far greater than the bride-price any suitor might normally be expected to offer! But Scripture says, “They seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her” (v. 20).

We know very little of Leah (meaning uncertain) and Rachel (meaning “ewe,” which is a female sheep) as sisters before they met Jacob, but we can use our sanctified imaginations. What normally results between two sisters when one is attractive and beautiful and the other is not? Rachel, like her Grandmother Sarah and Aunt Rebekah who was also her mother-in-law, is described as “lovely in form, and beautiful” (v. 17). As a shepherdess, she was probably physically fit from walking many miles each day and doing other physical tasks that went with shepherding. Is it difficult to imagine the jealousy and competition that would have developed between these two?

As Eugenia Price points out, perhaps Rachel’s beauty and resulting charm drew people to her with little or no effort on her part. Leah likely learned early on that she must earn her way into the hearts of those around her. Thus, Rachel would have learned to expect from others; Leah would have likely learned to give to gain the approval of others.

Can you think of another set of sisters who disagreed on how to best spend their time with Jesus? One sister thought it best to prepare a delicious meal and make everything just right to serve Jesus. The other sister thought it best to sit at Jesus’ feet and just soak in who He was and what He said. Who was right? Who made the better decision? We don’t have to wonder. Jesus Himself answered the question in Luke 10:38-41. These verses tell us that Martha, who was clearly upset with her sister, Mary, who just sat at the Lord’s feet, complained to Jesus Himself, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Mary made the better decision.

We all have different gifts. Rachel had the gift of beauty; Leah likely developed the gift of service. Martha had the gift of service and hospitality; Mary had the gift of wisdom, just knowing when to sit and absorb Jesus, when to take off her apron and simply listen and love. Rachel and Leah likely spent years competing with each other which resulted in jealousy and unhealthy competition (more on this later in Double Marriage). We don’t know how or if Martha and Mary got along most of the time but, again, we can apply our sanctified imaginations.

What are your gifts? How have you used your gifts to serve God? Are you thankful for other’s gifts or jealous of those gifts? Are you thankful for the gifts God gave you?

Take Home Truth: We need to learn to be thankful for the gifts God has given others and not jealous about those He hasn’t given us.

                                                                                                                             Marilyn Kaynor