Sisters in a Twist
Today we will be studying two women. Sisters married the same man, Jacob.
Rachel, meaning ewe, was the younger sister of Leah and was “beautiful and well favoured.” Jacob also loved Rachel. So much so that Jacob worked for seven years so that he could marry Rachel (Genesis 29:16-18). God saw that Jacob favoured Rachel above Leah, so He made her barren. Rachel’s barrenness was her test, for we frequently found her dependent on worldly things, and she got impatient when things didn’t go her way. For example, Rachel got impatient when she couldn’t conceive and told Jacob, “Give me children, or else I die,” but Jacob lost his temper with her stating that he wasn’t God who was withholding her from bearing ‘fruit of the womb” (Genesis 30:1-2). Just like Sarah rushing God’s blessing, she gave her nursemaid to Jacob to conceive in her stead. Rachel also asked the Mandrakes of Leah that Reuben picked for her. It is an ancient belief that Mandrakes helped with fertility problems, so instead of trusting in God, she turned to worldly cures. Rachel also stole her father’s idols, and when her father searched for them, we find that she hid them in the camel’s furniture and sat on them to hide them from her father. But she is like most of us, turning and trusting things of this world. If I just work harder, then… or if I can only have…then… Too afraid to trust in God’s good timing. However, God finally saw her, and Rachel had to confess that “God hath taken away my reproach” for her distrust in Him and her attitude towards her sister. Rachel called her son Joseph, meaning God has added to her and will add to her another son (Genesis 30:22-24). Rachel gave birth to Benoni, meaning son of my sorrow, for she knew she was dying. However, Joseph changed the baby’s name to Benjamin (meaning son of the right hand). Rachel was buried in the place now known as Bethlehem. The place of sorrow will later become a place of celebration and hope with the birth of our Lord and Saviour.
Leah’s name means to be delicate or weary. We meet her in Genesis 29: 16-17, described as the elder sister and tender-eyed (with gentle or weak eyes). I grew up believing that she was the ugly sister nobody wanted. But I believe she was gentle in spirit, maybe even more of an introvert. Maybe that was why Jacob was so easily fooled, was that the sisters might have looked very similar, but their personalities were so different. Unlike Rachel, God saw Leah’s misery and blessed her with many children. We find the order in which Leah gave birth in Genesis 35:23 as follows, ‘The sons of Leah; Reuben (meaning behold, a son) Jacob’s firstborn, and Simeon (to hear, to be heard), And Levi (joined in harmony), and Judah(thanksgiving” or “praise), and Issachar (reward; recompense), and Zebulun (to exalt or honour). Leah also gave birth to a daughter and called her Dinah (judged or vindicated)
One can see from the names of Leah’s children how her relationship with God grew. Her focus was at first on her husband, trying to please Jacob. With Judah’s birth, one could see that she became more God-focused, praising God for the blessing, knowing that God saw her misery and rewarded her with children to fill her heart. And through the children, she was exalted/honoured. Leah trusted in God’s judgment and was vindicated through each birth. When we turn away from our own misery and the injustices of the world and focus our attention on God, we will walk in God’s blessings. God will judge our situation and vindicate us; we must trust God. Unlike Rachel, Leah was buried with Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah, and Jacob in the cave in Heth (Genesis 49:31-32).
As daughters of God, we must remember that we can take everything to God. We can take it to God when we feel insecure, unloved, rejected, or abandoned. We need to stop being self-centred or focus on worldly problem-solving because most of the time, whatever we face today, God already have a much superior plan for us. “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you” (Jeremiah 29:11-12, KJV).