Leah: Branded second-rate

Usually I don’t feel sorry for biblical characters. But that all changes when considering Leah’s fate. Jacob is in love with Rachel, Leah’s younger sister. As the story goes, he works for seven years to earn the right to marry her, and then father-in-law Laban shuffles Leah into the bridal chamber at night. Apparently the older sister must marry first.

So why feel sorry for Leah? Shouldn’t the sympathy go toward Rachel instead? Here’s the thing: Jacob loved Rachel. The same cannot be said of Leah. Perhaps love developed over the years; perhaps the relationship was one of affection; perhaps it was just duty. After all, Leah bore Jacob six sons and a daughter. But she kept looking for love, even believing that Jacob hated her.

Jacob and Leah were in a relationship of sorts. But who doesn’t want to be loved? Who wants to be forever competing against a sister? Rachel and Leah fight for Jacob’s love and they fight with each other. When Rachel dies giving birth to her second son, Benjamin, the air seems to clear. Leah and Jacob grow old together and there is a sense, finally, that respect — and perhaps even love, if not passion — is in the air.

But here’s the positive thing, at least for Leah. Most of the “big names” in the Hebrew faith are descended from Leah, including Moses, David and even Jesus. I hope she knows of that now. Let’s hope she has some happiness at last.

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