From Genesis to Now: The Women
The end of Chapter 29 sets up the conflict between the sisters Leah and Rachel because they are both married to the same man. Both bear a burden: Leah desires the love of Jacob and Rachel desires children.
Our pastor of years ago, Dr. Martin, used to say that marriage is designed to result in children, unless that is not possible. There is something uniquely wonderful in two people bringing forth a child. It is truly the result of two becoming one flesh. No wonder it seems like a miracle. For Rachel, having Jacob’s love was not enough, and desire for a child caused contention between them.
So, as if having two wives to deal with weren’t enough, Jacob ends up with three, then four. Although having all those sons was considered a blessing, I can’t help feeling some sorry for him. And, I can understand the situation of each woman:
Leah: unloved, regardless how many boys she produced. She’s developed a nasty regard for Rachel as seen in her remarks over the mandrakes:
“Wasn’t it enough that you took away my husband?”
Seriously? Had she forgotten the details of her “un”wedding day?
Living in disappointment for so many years had colored her world to see things totally differently from reality. It happened to Leah. It can happen to us as well.
Rachel: barren, wanting a child so desperately. To be barren can be a married woman’s greatest burden. There is just something inside so many who want that baby, all cultural pressures aside. It robbed her of happiness, and the stress became a point of contention between her and Jacob, who really only had eyes for her.
Then, there are the servant concubines. Perhaps, we should feel the most for them—there being little regard for their feelings by either their mistresses or Jacob—simply baby machines for the wealthy, these two. We would consider it absolute abuse in this day. Yet, at that time it was acceptable practice, and to be a servant girl was exactly that—a servant. It’s hard to even remember their names.
Life can bring great disappointment, and somewhere along the way, it will. How do we respond to the deep burdens of our souls? Like Leah, we can conjure a past that’s punctuated with falsehoods. Like Rachel, we can blame others. Like the concubines, there can be little we can do. Yet, there is One who hears the groaning of our souls.
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Heb. 4:14-16).
—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything