She named him Judah, for she said, “Now I will praise the LORD!” – Genesis 29:35 ESV
Leah exclaimed these words after giving birth to Judah. He was Leah’s fourth son conceived with her husband, Jacob. Leah’s father had promised her sister, Rachel, to Jacob in marriage but tricked him into marrying Leah first. He had worked for her father seven years to earn the right to marry Rachel. Instead, he was hoaxed into a marriage with Leah.
The Bible leaves no secret Leah felt unloved and unwanted in her marriage to Jacob. The marriage was rooted in response to her father’s deceit. She seems to be an innocent party, at least in this aspect.
Based on all we learn about Rachel and Leah in scripture, we can probably assume she felt slighted in life with a strong sense of inferiority. In order to marry her off to ensure she would be provided for, her father felt he had to deceive her husband. Jacob was really in love with her younger sister, Rachel, who is described in scripture as the more appealing sister.
Leah’s eyes were weak, but Rachel was beautiful in form and appearance. – Genesis 29:17 ESV
Leah likely grew up feeling inferior to Rachel experiencing the devastation of comparison, especially in the culture of her time. To make matters worse, her husband was now angry to be married to her and requested to also marry her more desirable sister. Ouch!
I can only imagine her pain and despair. Had she dreamed of marriage and all she had envisioned it to be? I can only assume she had hoped one day to be the center of someone’s affection and no longer bound in the shadow of her sister, Rachel. Her desires were likely not much different than our own. I assume we all have a yearning to be chosen and loved. We all want to be enough.
As time went on, Leah continued striving to impress her husband. She was able to conceive children while her perfect younger sister was barren at the time. She thought she finally found a way to make her husband love her by providing something Rachel could not. With the birth of her fourth son, the score was now Leah 4 and Rachel 0.
I can’t help but feel for Leah and the painful rejection she endured throughout her life and her marriage. Every wife’s desire is to be fully loved and cherished by her husband. She and Rachel continued down a slippery slope of comparison, competition, and striving for many more years. They would even use their respective female servants as pawns in their conflict.
As hard as she tried, Leah never seemed to measure up, always falling short. The rivalry between Leah and Rachel had escalated. However, Rachel was always the clear winner in Jacob’s eyes, especially after God opened her womb and she delivered Joseph. When potential danger lurked ahead, Jacob placed Leah and her children first with Rachel and his beloved Joseph in the rear. He protected Rachel above all. Leah was expendable, Rachel was not.
The Greatest Reason for Praise
However, when I read this verse regarding the birth of Judah and Leah’s praise to God I am keenly aware she had no idea at that time just how much praise was to be had for every future generation to come with the birth of Judah. In the first chapter of Matthew we learn Christ Jesus, the Savior of the entire world, can trace his lineage back to Leah through this child! What an honor!
I wonder when Leah came face to face with the LORD how it finally hit her that SHE had been chosen. Jacob chose Rachel, but the God of the universe chose Leah! HE thought she was enough.
It is a great reminder that our greatest rewards are not to be found in our earthly lifetime or in the approval of man. Rather, they are found in God and received in eternity. These eternal rewards are far more valuable than any earthly reward.
We have all experienced feelings of rejection. Sometimes this rejection is received from others but many times it is rejection of self as we put too much pressure on ourselves to be what the world or others think we should be. We must ask, instead, who does God say we are?
Identifying Our Rachel
I have been guilty of competing against the Rachel’s in my life too. If we’re honest, I’m sure we all have a few Rachel’s hanging around. Sometimes, it’s another mom or the fit neighbor who just seems to effortlessly have it all together. Maybe the co-worker who always gets the promotion and praise you desire. Perhaps it’s the bigger house, the newer car, the social media following, or the smaller dress size. It can be the dream of what we thought life would look like compared to our present reality. Whatever our Rachel, it does not define our true identity.
Who Are We Striving to Serve?
When we feel we don’t measure up, it’s a good time to ask ourselves what measure are we using to define our success or failure? Are we striving to please man or are we striving to please God?