As I read the Pentateuch again, I am finding the events surrounding the women’s lives fascinating. These women often come across as extras in the story of redemption, but we see things in their life that can be very real and inspiring of emotion.
In the story of Rachel and Leah we see two sisters used by their father and thrust into a competition for the affection of their husband. When Jacob worked for seven years to earn the right to wed Rachel her father, Laban, switched the sisters in the dark giving Jacob the older less attractive sister. Leah starts her married life as a trick of her father. In the morning light Jacob is angered to find Leah in his bed instead of Rachel. She would have seen the anger in his eyes, the disappointment in his words and the rage in his demeanor. Morning would have wiped out any tenderness experienced the night before. In order to get Rachel, Laban requests Jacob to complete the marriage week with Leah and then he will get Rachel—he can work another seven years for her afterwards. For an entire week dedicated to the bride and groom together consummating their relationship was instead spent by Jacob in anticipation of the wife he really wanted and by Leah in expectation of the loss of any possible love sprouting within her husband’s heart for her. She was reduced to a body for him to use until he got the woman he wanted. She will spend the rest of her life trying to be a good wife and earning her husband’s love.
I have had the opportunity to talk to several women from a polygamous culture. I asked one woman how it would be if her husband decided to marry another woman and you could see the sadness come over her face. At that moment I was looking into the face of Leah.
After many years of hard competition between the sisters and the giving of their maidservants to Jacob to father children with we see Jacob re-enter the land of Canaan. He is scared because his brother is approaching with hundreds of men. We see again the life of Leah in how he divides up and sends out the families. The hope being that if Esau attacks the forward groups the latter groups would be spared. Jacob sends out first two groups made up of the maidservants and their children, followed by Leah and her children and lastly Rachel and her one son. Even at the point of possible death, after everything Leah has done, Jacob loves Rachel more. I feel deeply for Leah.