Mothers in the Bible: Leah, Longed to be Loved

I have to admit that there is something about Leah that resonates with me.   Whether it is the similarity in our names or the desire to be loved, my heart always goes out to Leah.

So, on to Leah’s story.

Jacob met {and eventually married} Leah and Rachel

Jacob has arrived in Haran and already met Rachel, Leah’s younger sister, when she {Rachel} was tending to the sheep.

We first meet Leah in Genesis 29, “And Laban had two daughters: the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. And Leah’s eyes were tender; but Rachel was beautiful and well-favored.  And Jacob loved Rachel; and he said, I will serve thee seven years for Rachel thy younger daughter.”  {v. 16-18}

The first thing we are told about Leah is that her eyes are tender, but Rachel is beautiful and well-favored.   This makes it sound as if Leah is not beautiful.   There are many theories about what this means about Leah’s looks, but no one knows for sure.

Jacob believed he married his Rachel in the wedding feast, but it was in fact Leah

What’s clear is that Jacob loved Rachel so much that he was willing to work seven years for her.   As each year passed, Leah must have longed for a man to come along that would love her.

Was she happy for her sister or did her heart hurt to watch her sister with Jacob?  We don’t know from the Bible narrative.

But, everything was about to change when Rachel’s approaching marriage neared.  Their father, Laban, hatches a plan where Leah will take her sister’s place.   We are not told how willing Leah was to this plan.   Was she an unwilling accomplice?  What we know of her personality, one would think so, but we don’t know for sure.

Jacob discovered he had married Leah the morning after their wedding ceremony

Did she hope that Jacob would learn to love her?   Most likely.  That is human nature.

However, upon discovering Leah there, Jacob became angry and demanded Rachel.  After finishing his bridal week with Leah, he took Rachel for his wife.

The competition was now on between the two sisters.  Imagine the pain {with either sister} to know your husband is spending the night with someone other than yourself.

 And Jehovah saw that Leah was hated, and he opened her womb” {Genesis 29:31}.   God saw that Leah was unloved and opened her womb, but the womb of her sister, Rachel, was closed.

Rachel longed for a child, especially as Leah continued to have children

The Women of the Bible devotional says, “Contrary to what Leah might have felt, God had taken note of her sorrow.  Knowing well that Jacob’s heart was too cramped a space to harbor both Rachel and Leah, he made Leah a mother, not once, but seven times, extending her influence in Jacob’s household… The Lord noticed Leah’s misery.  He looked down and saw a woman who was lonely and sad because her husband loved his other wife better than he loved her. “

Leah began to have one son after another and the names she gave her sons proves where her mind and heart were.

Jacob had many sons

  1. Reuben—she said “Because Jehovah hath looked upon my affliction; for now my husband will love me.”
  2. Simeon—she said, “Because Jehovahhath heard that I am hated, he hath therefore given me this son also”
  3. Levi—she said, “Now this time will my husband bejoined unto me, because I have borne him three sons”
  4. Judah—she said, “This time will Ipraise Jehovah”


Notice, with the birth of these four sons, how she changes from saying  my husband will

He took his family and returned to his homeland

love me to I will praise God.   Her situation had not changed, but God changed her heart.

The Women of the Bible says, “.  Leah learned to pour out her grief to God. In the end, Leah felt God’s love, and also felt vindicated.”

Rachel is angry at not having children and gives her husband her handmaiden, Bilhah, who bares two sons, Dan and Naphalti.

Leah has no had children during this time and gives Jacob her own handmaiden, Zilpah, who bares two sons.  But Leah is the one that names these two sons, which is very telling how she feels.  She seems to love and treat both of these boys as she would her own.

  1. Gad—fortunate

    Jacob and his sons where shepherds

  2. Asher—happy am I

Leah is pleased and happy with these two sons by her handmaiden.

By this point, Jacob has eight sons, but he’s not finished yet.

After she wins a night with her husband, for the mandrakes Rachel wanted, she bares another son:

  1. Isaachar–God hath given me my hire, because I gave my handmaid to my husband
  2. Zebulun–God hath endowed me with a good dowry; now will my husbanddwell with me, because I have borne him six sons
  3. Dinah—a daughter borne to Jacob {the only daughter mentioned}; her name means avenged, judged, vindicated

Rachel finally has her first son, Joseph.

Jacob was blessed with many sons and sheep

The family then returns to Canaan and upon the way meet Jacob’s brother, Esau.   Jacob puts his wives and children in the order of how he cares for them.  His two servants and their children, Leah and her children and finally Rachel and Joseph.  This was not lost on any of the women and was a reminder to them of where Jacob’s heart lie.

However, Rachel would soon give birth to a second son, Benjamin.   As our devotional says, “Jacob’s love could not prevent Rachel from dying in childbirth.”

His wives and children left the only home they knew

Our devotional goes on to say, “Leah, not Rachel, was destined to be Jacob’s first and last wife…both women suffered—each in her own way…both women became mothers in Israel.”

Benjamin lost his mother with his birth and Joseph was still a child.  We are not told who took over the motherly duties of these two sons.   As Jacob’s wife, it may have been Leah.   Did she treat them with love?   {Although Bilhah may have as the servant to Rachel.   More than likely all three women shared in the duties.}

Leah and Rachel from Wikipedia

Leah suffered heartache though in the rape of her daughter, Dinah, and her son, Reuben, going in to Bilhah {Rachel’s handmaid}.   Many scholars believe Reuben did this for his mother’s sake, so that Jacob would turn to Leah.  {Jacob did not forget, because Reuben was cut out of his birthright when Jacob died for that act}.  Leah was also probably still alive to watch Jacob suffer {and hopefully provide comfort} upon the believed death of his favorite son, Joseph {who was actually sold into slavery}.

Jacob lived to see his son, Joseph, again, but by this point Leah had already died.  However, on his deathbed, Jacob asked for his remains to be returned to Canaan.  It wasn’t beside Rachel he asked to be buried, but beside Leah.

Leah and Rachel

Jacob says, “I am to be gathered unto my people: bury me with my fathers in the cave that is in the field of Ephron the Hittite… and there I buried Leah.”

Jacob specifically mentions that this is where he buried Leah.

The women of the Bible says, “personal attractiveness is something Leah learned to live without, but her character and relationship with God did develop.”

Leah grew in her strength and faith with God.  She learned to lean on him and had a relationship with Jehovah.  It is through Leah that the line of Jesus descends.  I recently saw a comment where someone described Leah as smart, responsible and enduring.  I loved that description of her.  It really seems to fit her.

Leah was left to comfort Jacob when Rachel died and help raise her sister’s children

Did Jacob ever learn to love Leah?   We are not told if he did or not.  I hope so.   Yet, because he buried her with his parents and grandparents, he at least seems to have learned to respect her.

Where do you turn when your heart aches?  Do you turn to Jesus?


Photos courtesy of unless otherwise indicated

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