Slightly Bad Leah

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

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).

God’s Love

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.

Leah’s 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)

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Bad Girls of the Bible

I’ve been reading a series of three books by Liz Curtis Higgs titled Bad Girls of the Bible, Really Bad Girls of the Bible, and Slightly Bad Girls of the Bible. The first book was decided upon for a book club at church, and once I’d finished it I tracked down the other two from the library. Higgs’ writing style is a little more informal than I usually like (I found myself skipping some of her “Lizzie style” commentary), but I like the short fictionalized stories that begin each chapter and bring the woman’s story into a modern setting. I also appreciate spending an entire chapter discussing the Biblical accounts verse-by-verse, and sometimes even word-by-word, since I don’t always take the time I should to really think about the people in the Bible. I’ll talk about the first two books in the series now, but I have enough to say about Slightly Bad Girls that I think I’ll save it for another post.

Bad

Higgs’ reason for studying less-than-perfect women is that they can “show us how not to handle the challenges of life.” They can also be more relatable than women who seem perfect, and studying the weaknesses we share with women who stumbled can help us avoid pitfalls in our own lives.

The women discussed in this book are Eve, Potiphar’s Wife, Lot’s Wife, The Woman at the Well, Delilah, Sapphira, Rahab, Jezebel, Michal, and The Sinful Woman. I was really impressed with the fiction in this book. Eve becomes a sheltered rich girl, Delilah is a hairdresser, and Lot’s Wife a woman who refuses to leave her home near Mount Saint Helens. The fiction story for the Woman at the Well isn’t quite as well done, but it’s hard to come up with a modern fictionalized character to stand-in for Jesus so I think we’ll cut the author some slack.

Really Bad

I read these books slightly out of order, so this is the one I just finished. The title is a little misleading — it’s more like additional bad girls, rather than girls who are worse than those in the last book. Higgs describes the difference between the two books like this:

If the first Bad Girls of the Bible was all about grace, this second one is all about the sovereignty of God, the unstoppable power of God to accomplish his perfect will, no matter how much we mess up.

This book covers the Medium of En Dor, Jael, The Adulteress, Athaliah, Bathsheba, Herodias, Tamar, and The Bleeding Woman. What struck me most about this book was the Bleeding Woman’s story (from Matt. 9:20-22; Mark 5:25-34; Luke 8:43-48). This woman was bleeding for twelve years — that’s 4,380 days, plus a few extra for leap years. According to Levitical law, she was ceremonially unclean the entire time (Lev. 15:19-27). She couldn’t touch anyone, and probably had to live alone because everything she came in contact with became unclean. Can you imagine people not even wanting to be in the same house as you for twelve years? I like solitude as much as the next introvert, but that’s way too much alone-time.

When Jesus healed her, He took away not only her physical infirmity, but also her separation from other people. And He talked to her in public — not something teachers normally did with women, especially women who were still ceremonially unclean (Lev. 15:28-30). She is also the only woman in the Gospels who Jesus calls “daughter.” What an incredible story!