As I mentioned last week, I recently finished reading Liz Curtis Higgs’ Bad Girls of the Bible series. Slightly Bad Girls, the last book, is a slightly different format than the first two. Higgs only covered five women’s stories — Sarah, Hagar, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah — which allowed her to spend more time with their stories. The fictional accounts span at least two chapters for each character, which allows a longer story-arch for each woman than in the two previous books.
Leah’s story was the one I found most interesting. There is so much we don’t know about her. For example, we know Jacob was livid when he woke to find Leah in his bed instead of Rachel (Gen. 29:21-24), but we have no idea how Leah reacted to her father switching brides (or what Rachel’s opinion was for that matter).
I wonder what Leah was thinking. Was she so scared of her father that she didn’t dare disobey when he “brought her to Jacob” (Gen 29:23)? Did she want to get out of her father’s house so much she would have married anyone? Was she trying to steal Rachel’s husband? Perhaps she was in love with Jacob and hoped he would return that love once they were married (I don’t have much experience with relationships, but I’m pretty sure impersonating your unrequited-crush’s bride on their wedding night is not the best way to make him fall in love with you).
One of the most interesting verses in Leah’s story is this:
When the Lord saw that Leah was unloved … (Gen. 29:31)
Setting aside for the moment how terrible it was for Leah to be unloved, let’s think about how incredible God’s compassion was for her. He saw her and He “listened to” her prayers (Gen.30:17). Isn’t it comforting to know that even when people who should love you don’t, God sees everything and cares deeply for our pain? It makes me think of my favorite Psalm.
O Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. (Ps. 139:1-3)
We serve a God who is powerful enough to do anything, and He chooses to let His attention and His compassion rest on us. For Leah, God’s care took the form of blessing her with children.
I hadn’t thought about it before, but Higgs points out that what Leah says when each of her sons was born reveal that she had a deeper faith in the God than we often give her credit for.
So Leah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Reuben; for she said, “The Lord has surely looked on my affliction. Now therefore, my husband will love me.” Then she conceived again and bore a son, and said, “Because the Lord has heard that I am unloved, He has therefore given me this son also.” And she called his name Simeon. She conceived again and bore a son, and said, “Now this time my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.” Therefore his name was called Levi. And she conceived again and bore a son, and said, “Now I will praise the Lord.” Therefore she called his name Judah. Then she stopped bearing. (Gen. 29:32-35)
Leah recognized that her sons were a gift from God, given to comfort her when He saw Jacob did not love her. She realized that she was heard and loved by God, and by the time she named her fourth child, Judah, she was able to offer praise to the Lord without even mentioning her hope that Jacob would learn to love her. (As an interesting side note, this is the first time the word “praise” appears in the King James translation.) I doubt Leah moved past her desire for her husband’s love, but perhaps she reached a point where her relationship with God gave her the peace needed to accept her life.
Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Phil. 4:11-13)