Genesis 29:15-35

15 Then Laban said to Jacob, “Because you are my relative, should you therefore serve me for nothing? Tell me, what should your wages be?”

16 Now Laban had two daughters: the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel.

17 Leah’s eyes were delicate, but Rachel was beautiful of form and appearance.

18 Now Jacob loved Rachel; so he said, “I will serve you seven years for Rachel your younger daughter.”

19 And Laban said, “It is better that I give her to you than that I should give her to another man. Stay with me.”

20 So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed only a few days to him because of the love he had for her.

21 Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife, for my days are fulfilled, that I may go in to her.”

22 And Laban gathered together all the men of the place and made a feast.

23 Now it came to pass in the evening, that he took Leah his daughter and brought her to Jacob; and he went in to her.

24 And Laban gave his maid Zilpah to his daughter Leah as a maid.

25 So it came to pass in the morning, that behold, it was Leah. And he said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? Was it not for Rachel that I served you? Why then have you deceived me?”

26 And Laban said, “It must not be done so in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn.

27 Fulfill her week, and we will give you this one also for the service which you will serve with me still another seven years.”

28 Then Jacob did so and fulfilled her week. So he gave him his daughter Rachel as wife also.

29 And Laban gave his maid Bilhah to his daughter Rachel as a maid.

30 Then Jacob also went in to Rachel, and he also loved Rachel more than Leah. And he served with Laban still another seven years.

31 When the Lord saw that Leah was unloved, He opened her womb; but Rachel was barren.

32 So Leah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name [e]Reuben; for she said, “The Lord has surely looked on my affliction. Now therefore, my husband will love me.”

33 Then she conceived again and bore a son, and said, “Because the Lord has heard that I am unloved, He has therefore given me this son also.” And she called his name Simeon.

34 She conceived again and bore a son, and said, “Now this time my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.” Therefore his name was called Levi.

35 And she conceived again and bore a son, and said, “Now I will praise the Lord.” Therefore she called his name Judah. Then she stopped bearing.

The only specific weakness that is mentioned [in Leah] is that she was “tender-eyed.” This does not necessarily mean “weak-eyed,” however, as some have interpreted it; it could mean that she did not have eyes as dark and lustrous as those of Rachel, or it might even refer figuratively to Leah as a woman of compassion. — Morris, page 460.

At this time [after Jacob had served 7 years for Rachel], if not earlier, Laban devised one of the most mendacious schemes imaginable, resolving to substitute Leah for Rachel on the wedding night. Then, he could extract still another seven-year period of free service from Jacob, as well as solve the problem of getting a husband for Leah at the same time. He felt reasonably certain, knowing Jacob’s honorable character, that he would not cast out Leah once He had gone in to her; and if Jacob should actuallyl refuse to work another seven years as he would demand, then at worst it would not be too difficult to find another husband for Rachel. Even if Jacob decided to elope with Rachel (a practically unthinkable development in terms of the customs of the land), Laban would still not have lost anything. — Morris, page 461.

Jacob continued in service to Laban for the seven additional years on which he had agreed. He did not have to wait all this time for Rachel, however, but went in to her as soon as Leah’s festive week was finished. This is clear from verse 30, which indicates that he went in to Rachel first, and then served Laban another seven years. Rachel was his true love, of course, and he could hardly avoid showing this. Nevertheless, he did learn to love Leah also, even though he loved Rachel “more than Leah.” — Morris, page 463.

Whereas Abraham and Isaac had only had one son each to whom the promises were given, all the sons of Jacob were to share in the promises. Only one would be the progenitor of the Messiah, but all would be the “children of Israel” and would constitute the promised nation, the chosen people. Therefore, a detailed account is given in the latter part of chapter 29 and the first half of chapter 30 concerning the birth of Jacob’s twelve sons and one daughter. — Morris, pages 463-464.

That God was concerned for Leah, as well as Jacob and Rachel, is indicated in verse 31. Rachel, like Sarah and Rebekah before her, was “barren” for a time, until the Lord answered her prayers for a son. In the meantime, though, since Jacob was so partial to Rachel (he did not, of course, “hate” Leah, as the literal meaning of the word would suggest; he only loved Rachel more, and so “slighted” Leah), God opened Leah’s womb first and gave her, in fairly rapid succession, four sons.

Each of her sons was named by Leah in accordance with her feelings a the time. Her first-born was named Reuben, meaning “Behold, a son!” Her second was Simeon, “Hearing,” in thanksgiving for the fact that God had heard her prayers. The next was Levi, meaning “Attachment,” expressing her confidence that three sons would thus ensure Jacob’s permanent attachment to her. Then came Judah, whom she called simply “Praise,” as a token of her praise to Jehovah. — Morris, page 464.

Wechsler digs into the matter of the meaning of the word translated “hate,” and shows that in Hebrew it can simply mean “prefer.” Jacob loved Leah. He just preferred Rachel more.

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