“And Laban had two daughters: the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Leah was tender eyed; but Rachel was beautiful and well favoured.”
Genesis 29: 16, 17
King James Version
“Women At War”
Leah and Rachel
“Jealousy is cruel as the grave.”
Song of Songs
Have I ever been jealous of someone?
How did it make me feel?
“Jealousy is not born of love! It is a child of selfishness and distrust.”
“Her jealousy never slept.”
Every thing had been planned down to the last detail. Jacob had waited and labored seven years for this day and now the girl he had longed to hold in his arms was to be his.
Put yourself in Jacob’s place. From the moment he laid eyes on Rachel, he loved her. This girl was the one he had dreamed. She was the one he wanted. And it didn’t hurt anything that she was “beautiful and shapely” as we’re told in the Scriptures. She certainly did not resemble her plain sister, Leah. A girl who wasn’t so “easy on the eyes.”
But what Jacob didn’t realize was that the wily, crafty Laban, perhaps wishing to find some “sucker” for his “ugly” daughter Leah, switched bedmates after the wedding. Now we have to remember, Leah had to be in on this little scheme. She had to show up in Jacob’s tent. And, who knows who broke the news to Rachel? If I had been in her shoes, I think I would have created a big scene. However, in a patently patriarchal system, it was the man’s way or the highway. In this case dad ruled and his way was law.
All night long, on what was to be her wedding night, Rachel was separated from the man she loved knowing full-well he was holding her sister in his arms.
Talk about a recipe for disaster. This plot could not have been written any better – or in this case – worse!
In the morning light, when Laban’s dirty deal was revealed, and he offered to throw Rachel into the mix as a co-wife, the complicated mess only became messier!
First, Jacob didn’t love Leah and what a terrible thing Laban did, forcing an unloved woman into the arms of a man. But by giving Rachel as a ‘gift” to pacify the angered Jacob, Laban only turned the situation into a competition that no one could win.
With one unloved, plain woman and one loved, shapely, beauty – a real destructive set of emotional feelings began to percolate.
It would seem quite likely, that Leah’s self-esteem might have taken a huge hit, knowing she needed to be disguised in order to be pawned off on a man. And Rachel, furious at her father and sister, had to find a convenient target to vent her frustration. Leah was the perfect target for Rachel’s arrow of anger.
But what happens next only throws gasoline on the fire.
Leah begins to pop out babies one after the other and Rachel was infertile. Like rubbing salt on an open wound, Leah begins by naming her first child, Reuben, meaning: “The One God has seen my affliction” but this name also means: “Now my husband will love me.” However, Leah was wrong. And when she had her next child, Simeon, she said: “This is because the One God heard that I was unloved and has given me this child also.” After son number three, Levi, Leah thought Jacob would really be attached to her, but she was completely wrong. When Leah had son number four, she appeared to stop thinking her children would win Jacob’s love. Leah had to learn to survive in a loveless marriage like so many mothers to protect her children.
While Leah was having one child after another, Rachel appeared to be infertile and she felt her worth in the family diminish. Unfortunately, Rachel’s self-worth was only defined, in the face of jealousy toward her sister, by her inability to have a baby,
Finally, in a rage of frustration, Rachel lashed out at the one man who loved her, her husband Jacob. With a total sense of overwhelming failure Rachel wailed to Jacob: “Give me a child or I shall die.” And Jacob, releasing his own frustration informed her that God was “shutting up” her womb. What a disaster! When all else fails – blame God for a mess He didn’t create. What a tragedy. A father’s deceitful behavior not only had consequences in the lives of his daughters, but as we shall see, the lives of his grandchildren as well.
To say that Jacob’s home was the breeding ground for jealousy, would be an understatement. While you and I may not have been thrust into such an extreme situation, jealousy can plague all of us, at any time.
And many times, as Emma Goldman says in her book, Jealousy: Causes and a Possible Cure, “Jealousy is the very reverse of understanding.” How true! How could anyone understand the devious behavior of Laban who was at the heart of all this chicanery? But Emma Goldman continues: “Jealousy is the very reverse of understanding, of sympathy, and of generous feeling. Never has jealousy added to character, never does it make the individual big or fine.”
Jealously backs me into a dark basement, making me feel lower than and deficient. As Dorothy Dix so poignantly penned: “The jealous bring down the curse they fear upon their own heads.”
Tomorrow, we will explore how the roots of jealousy began to grow so pervasively that soon the entire family was drawn into conflict.
But again, God’s grace and mercy came to the rescue and after years of a family in conflict, we find God at work, restoring harmony in broken relationships.
“Jealousy is the tie that binds, and binds and binds.”
“Partnership is not a principle, but a relationship between persons who share in a common enterprise, involving common risks, common privileges, and common responsibilities. Everything depends on reality of our partnership with one another and of each of us with God.”
Dorothy Valcarcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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