By the first time she saw then handsome stranger, he was already in love with her younger sister, and her heart ached with the twisting bitterness of her own inferiority, as once again, seemingly without any effort, Rachel gained the prize, simply because she was born beautiful. Why would any man give a passing glance at herself when Rachel was there? And yet she loved him too, for not only was he very attractive, he was kind and thoughtful, and she sensed that there was a deep hunger in his heart for God, that strange dissatisfaction which she recognised so well, because her whole life was a desperate prayer for blessing. But within a month he was betrothed to her sister, and her father had wrung from the besotted man an agreement to work seven years for Rachel’s bride price. Only for Rachel would a man pay so much!
So she tucked her dreams away, like so many lesser dreams before, and got on with the chores of everyday. And if sometimes she was a bit harsher than she should be? Well, it’s hard to keep all that disappointment buried inside.
But she had reckoned without her father. He had another plan, not out of any consideration for Leah, but because he was consumed by the irresistible desire to drive an even better bargain, and rid himself of the encumbrance of an unmarriageable daughter at the same time. So there she was, heavily veiled, standing by Jacob’s side as they were married, and she had never been so terrified as she was then, marrying the man of her dreams, her heart’s desire, and wondering just how angry he would be when he woke up in the morning and found he had been cheated.
And Jacob was angry, but not with her. He knew that her father was responsible, but her father wasn’t concerned. He had planned it out already, and at the end of Leah’s marriage week Jacob married Rachel, in return for another seven years labour. And it was Rachel that he loved.
But Leah discovered, to her own astonishment, that she had one gift that Rachel lacked – fertility, and she bore Jacob fine sons. But the rivalry between the sisters continued for many years, competition so fierce that they even had their maidservants bear Jacob’s children, as they tried to keep score between themselves. And still, despite all, Jacob loved Rachel best.
Finally, Rachel died in childbirth, and the years of their painful rivalry were over. But Jacob loved Rachel’s sons better than Leah’s, for they were all he had left of the woman he had adored. But Leah no longer ached and strained. She had as much of Jacob as he was able to give her, and now that was enough, for through the bitter years she had learned that though her father treated her as valueless trade goods, and her husband saw her as his second best wife, she had found that God loved her, and in Him there was no second best. And somewhere in those final years the Spirit of God had whispered a truth into her heart that made her breath stop and her eyes overflow. It was not from Rachel’s sons, fine men that they were, that redemption was to come, but from the line of her own son, Judah. It was Leah, despised, overlooked Leah, who would be a foremother of the King that God had promised.