The Bible is full of characters from every spectrum of life. We meet great leaders and evil kings. There are hilarious moments and sorrowful events.
The women in the Bible are just as diverse as the men. By digging into their stories, we can learn so details we may not have realized at first read.
In Genesis 29, we meet Leah. She is the sister of Rachel and the cousin of Jacob. At first glance, Leah’s story is full of grief.
When Jacob arrives in Haran, he meets the younger sister, Rachel at a well. This is the same well his mother Rebekah drew water from before she married Isaac.
When he meets the beautiful shepherdess, Jacob weeps with joy. Jacob has no money to offer Rachel’s father Laban a bride price, so he arranges to work for him for seven years to marry her.
After seven years, the wedding arrives, and the veiled bride finally becomes Jacob’s wife. The next morning, in the light of day and the absence of a veil, the truth is revealed.
Laban has instead placed Leah in Jacob’s arms instead of the sought-after Rachel. Furious, Jacob makes another agreement with Laban. He will marry Rachel quickly after his current wedding week is completed, then work for another seven years.
Leah’s role in the debacle is unknown. At that time, women had little control over their lives, and it seems her father was not a man to honor the love between Jacob and Rachel.
It is unclear whether Leah had any say in the matter. We do know that she was the lesser loved of the two wives, “he loved Rachel more than Leah” (Genesis 29:30 CSB). Leah never seems to gain the affections of Jacob, yet her life is evidence of God’s devotion to her.
Here are 5 surprising facts about Leah that take her story from deep sorrow to eternal joy:
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1. Leah Is Tenderhearted
In Genesis 29:13 CSB Rachel is described by her outward appearance as “shapely and beautiful.” Leah is identified as having “tender eyes.” Other translations say weak, delicate, ordinary, or plain.
The Hebrew word is rakkoth could also be translated to tenderhearted. Leah’s role as wife is one that tends to her husband, desperately trying to capture his heart. She becomes a mother of seven, tenderly caring for and raising her children to be leaders of the tribes of Israel.
In Samuel 16:7 CSB, when the prophet Samuel anoints David over his older and stronger brothers as God instructs him not to “look at his appearance or his stature because I have rejected him. Humans do not see what the Lord sees, for humans see what is visible, but the Lord sees the heart.”
The Lord chooses and elevates those whose hearts are pure before him. Leah’s heart was tender and created specifically to fulfill the task of Jacob’s first wife and many sons.
God sees your heart and knows your wounds. Pursuing the Lord keeps your heart tender as you face trials and endure grief. While others may appear to have everything together on the outside, focus on the condition of your heart.
2. Leah Is First
Although Jacob overlooked Leah’s position in the family, God gave her the position of being the first daughter, the first wife, and the first mother to Jacob’s first son. Her marriage began with scandal, but her position in her family gave her honor and respect in the community.
Being unmarried and unable to bear children held the stigma that you were being punished by God. Her marriage was not ideal, but God used it for His glory as she held an honored first position.
Romans 8:28 CSB says, “We know all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” God had a specific calling on Leah’s life whether Jacob preferred her or not. God placed her first and blessed her abundantly.
God also has a calling on your life and will make all circumstances work together for your good.
3. Leah Is Content
In a selfish world, contentment is not a quality that is popular in the Bible or on social media today. With the birth of each son, Leah acknowledged the role the Lord held in her life.
Although Leah was in a loveless marriage, her son Reuben was evidence to her that “the Lord sees”, Simeon means “the Lord hears”, and Levi that the Lord might create a “bond” between her and Jacob.
Naming her sons tells the spiritual journey of contentment in the Lord’s provision. Jacob did not see, hear, or attach himself to Leah, but the Lord filled the void Jacob created Leah’s life.
This is evident as she named her fourth son, Judah, meaning praise. Leah was content to praise the Lord for the blessings in her life, even if her husband was not her own. With the birth of her next two sons, Issachar and Zebulun, Leah acknowledges the gifts the Lord has given her.
James 1:16-17 says, “Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”
The world can throw us off course, keeping us coveting more instead of being content with what we have. Focus on the giver of your blessings instead of what is given. You will find abundance in your relationship with the Lord.
4. Leah Is a Matriarch
Unloved and unwanted, Leah was not only blessed by God with six sons and one daughter. One of those sons was Judah who was listed in Matthew 1 in the genealogy of King David, King Solomon, and the King of Kings Jesus Christ.
Leah is a matriarch of her people and of Christ. She may not have been Jacob’s choice, but she was chosen by God to play a role in the birth of Savior of the world.
At the time, Leah only knew that her fourth son evoked praise to God and named him Judah. Whatever she lacked in her marriage the world received a gift of a Savior through the abundant blessing of God.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, “Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in everything; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Our circumstances cannot determine the level of our joy, consistency of our prayers, and abundance of our thanks.
Leah chose to praise and be thankful for God’s role in her life. This level of praise left a legacy which brought us a Savior. We must rejoice, pray, and give thanks for who God is not based on our current circumstances.
5. Leah Is Honored
While Leah and Rachel competed for Jacob’s attention, Leah is honored in her death as the first wife of Jacob.
In Genesis 49:29-33, we learn that Leah is buried in a cave with Jacob’s parents (Rebekah and Isaac) and grandparents (Sarah and Abraham).
In these verses, Jacob requests for his body to be laid there also. Rachel died giving birth to her second son, Benjamin and was buried on the side of the road leading to Bethlehem (Genesis 35:16-20).
Leah’s marriage was less honorable as it began with deception. She was not the preferred wife, often forgotten by her husband as his attention remained with Rachel, but at the end of her life, Leah was honored by Jacob as she was laid to rest with her fellow matriarchs and patriarchs of faith.
Leah was buried with fellow women who were not perfect, but worthy of honor because they birthed sons who fulfilled God’s promise to Abraham. In Hebrews 11:17-18 CSB, it says “Your (Abraham’s) offspring will be called through Isaac.”
Offspring who would build a nation to receive God’s greatest inheritance, eternal life through Jesus Christ.
The Bible does not give us many details about Leah. We first learn that she was unloved and unfavored with a tender heart versus an attractive body. Throughout her life the emptiness of her marriage was filled with the love of her Lord who sees her, hears her, and remembers the ache of her heart.
God ensures Leah a life of honor because He is her Lord. In Leah’s story, we can be encouraged that a life redeemed can not occur with the perfect spouse or an abundance of children, but a with a heart that is tender and surrendered to God.
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Leah Lively is a wife and mother of four living in central Virginia. Through writing and speaking opportunities, she is passionate about encouraging others in learning more about the Bible and maturing in their faith. Leah writes on her blog at leahlivelyblog.com and just released her second Bible study, 30 Days in Acts – A Journey: Igniting the Flame of the Early Church. Connect with Leah on Facebook and Instagram (@leahlivelyblog).