Do you find the story of Jacob, Rachel and Leah confusing? Disturbing? Just plain sad? There are so many people to feel sorry for.
Look at Jacob; he’s finally getting on the right track, but he’s got Laban trying to cheat him all over the place. Have you ever worked for someone like that, always changing the rules? Just when you think you’ve figured out what they want, they announce that they didn’t ask for that at all. You must have misunderstood them; what they really wanted was this other thing. It’s very confusing and frustrating to be accountable to a person like that. When I was in a situation like that, I began to doubt my own hearing and sanity. I wondered if maybe I was speaking another language because no matter how hard I tried, I never got the task right. It was maddening! Now imagine working for that person for twenty years! Added to the working situation, Jacob had the home situation that was probably even rougher than dealing with Laban. He was married to the woman he loved and to a woman he didn’t. The Bible doesn’t tell us exactly how he felt about Leah. I mean, they might have been pretty good friends before the wedding. On the other hand, Jacob and Leah might have detested each other. Either way, waking up married to someone he didn’t love and never intended to marry can probably take all the fun out of even the best friendship.
Poor Jacob – Poor Leah – Poor Rachel
What about Leah? Do you think she loved Jacob? Or was she in on the scheme? Was she the ugly sister? Or just not the one Jacob was in love with? What do you think she felt when her father pulled her aside to explain his plan? Maybe she thought she could teach Jacob to love her? Maybe she wanted to get back at Rachel for being prettier? What ever she thought, I don’t think her actual experience was anything like what she had imagined. I’ve always felt so sorry for Leah. Every interaction, everyday must have been like having her skin rubbed with sandpaper. Whether Jacob and Rachel meant to or not, their very presence reminded Leah they were in love with each other, and she was an outsider. God blessed her with sons; was that enough? Or was she jealous? Did she take out her feelings on Jacob? On Rachel? What do you think life was like after Rachel died?
Poor Leah – Poor Rachel – Poor Jacob
And then there’s Rachel. In many ways, she should have been happy. She had the man she loved and who loved her, and if Leah hadn’t been living right there having babies, she probably would have been relatively fine. But there was Leah having one son after another, and Rachel was not. Have you ever known a woman who wanted to have children but couldn’t? Maybe you have experienced that ache yourself. From all I have seen and heard, it is a devastating, isolating experience. Compound that with watching, ultimately three, women living with you getting pregnant and having children, while you aren’t. Could you be happy for them? Could you listen to their endless stories about who was taking his first steps, or saying his first words? Even if they didn’t mean to show off, it would be a painful experience. Imagine if they wanted to be ugly about the whole situation.
Poor Rachel – Poor Jacob – Poor Leah
And what about all those kids? There was a whole lot of conflict in that family – between the women themselves, between the individual women and Jacob, probably between the children and Jacob and the children with the other women who were not their mother. I don’t believe you could even begin to map those relational trouble spots!
Anyway, some of the things I read this week implied that this was mostly Jacob’s fault. What do you think? Can all of this chaos be traced back to Jacob stealing the blessing and the birthright? If that’s true, then I guess we have to keep following the path back to Isaac’s polarized family and on to Abraham’s lapse of faith that created Ishmael. Admittedly, these guys did keep repeating their father’s mistakes. Hmmm. Maybe there is something to that. How many of us have said to ourselves as we grow up, “I will NEVER do things like my parents do!” And then we’re standing in the living room at age 32 and we realize that we have become either both or one of our parents. That’s a real eye-opener! It’s not always a bad thing though. At that point we realize that our parents weren’t as clueless as we thought they were when we were teenagers, and that’s a good thing. But it works the other way too. What about the child of an alcoholic or a violent person, or someone who is mentally ill? Are we doomed to repeat the mistakes of our parents as well as the good things? I pray that my children are not stuck with my mistakes!
And that’s where I believe we have to send everyone else across the river and meet God, wrestle with Him, gain His blessing and be given our new name – be reborn as children of God. There’s our hope for breaking the cycles of sin. Satan wants us to give up and accept our inheritance, but we don’t have to! Jesus is ready, impatient even, to make us into His new creations.