Leah and Rachel were two women who shared both a father and a husband, but they did not share their husband’s love. And yet even this tragic love triangle is going to show us something beautiful about the love of the Lord Jesus Christ. Let’s take a look.
Genesis 29:16-18 And Laban had two daughters: the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Leah was tender-eyed; but Rachel was beautiful and well-favored. And Jacob loved Rachel; and said, “I will serve thee seven years for Rachel thy younger daughter.”
Commentators do not agree on the interpretation of “tender-eyed,” but one thing we know for sure: Leah’s physical appearance was unimpressive, especially compared to her stunning sister Rachel, so it’s no small wonder that Jacob was attracted to the younger sister.
Love vs. Hate
There is evidence in Scripture which suggests Leah had fallen in love with Jacob. After all, he had already lived with the family for seven years. She had been around him, had seen him at work and at play. Perhaps she had prepared meals for him and had delivered them out to the field. To him it was merely an act of sisterly kindness, but to her it was an act of love.
Genesis 29:30 …and he loved also Rachel more than Leah…
The Bible does not say that Jacob did not love Leah, but that he loved Rachel more than he loved Leah. This is understandable. After all, Rachel was his first love, and Leah became his wife under false pretenses. This was not her fault, for she had nothing to do with it. Even so, it did nothing to endear her to his heart, unless perhaps it gained her his sympathy.
The very next verse says, “When the Lord saw that Leah was hated,” (v.31) and Leah herself says, “Because the Lord has heard that I was hated” (v.33). Wow! That sounds like a contradiction of verse 30, doesn’t it? Or at the very least, perhaps Jacob’s affection for Leah had quickly disintegrated. But neither is the case, as we shall see. We must compare Scripture with Scripture and look at verses in their context. So, going back to verse 30, Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah. This means he had feelings for Leah, but by comparison to the love he felt for Rachel, his love for Leah was called hatred. Does this make sense? No? Let’s look at a few of Jesus’ statements from the New Testament.
Luke 14:26 If any man come to Me and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.
John 12:25 He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.
If you take these verses at face value, then Jesus is telling us to hate our father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters, and even ourselves. But what about all those times when He taught us to love one another? “As I have loved you, so ought you to love one another” (Jn 13:34). Jesus said that too. So the red flag goes up. What do we do with these verses where He is telling us to hate people, even ourselves? The truth is, that’s not what He’s saying at all. The way Matthew puts it makes it more clear.
Matthew 10:37 He that loveth father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.
This is how we should interpret the word hate in these passages. It is not an absence of affection, but just that the affection for the one is so much less than the affection for the other that it seems like hatred by comparison. Now is it starting to make sense? Do you still need some help? Consider this illustration:
Does your husband wear white undershirts? If not, then you’ll just have to imagine this with me. If so, then this will make perfect sense. You buy him a package of brand new white T-shirts and put them into circulation. Week in and week out he wears them and gets them dirty, and you wash them and get them clean and white again. Right? A year rolls around and you buy him a new pack of T-shirts. It’s a sunny day outside, so you decide to hang the laundry on the line to air dry. You hang some of the brand new T-shirts next to the year-old T-shirts—and suddenly those year-old T-shirts don’t look so white anymore. In fact, by comparison, they look absolutely gray. They are both white, but they are different shades of white. That, my friends, is the difference between love and hate. In other words, they are both love, but they are different degrees of love. Jacob loved Rachel the way we ought to love our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and he loved Leah the way we ought to love everyone else.
Jacob would have done both of the sisters a favor if he had loved God at the beginning of his life the way he loved Him at the end. Instead, he transferred that special love to Rachel and caused a heap of friction between the two sisters. Leah may have learned to be content if she too had loved God the way she loved Jacob.
The Great Commandment
Love for one another is not wrong. In fact, as I mentioned earlier, Jesus commands us to love one another. But our love for God should always be supreme in our lives. We should always love Him more than anyone else. A lawyer came to Jesus one day and asked Him a question:
Matthew 22:36-40 “Master, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus said unto him, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
What Jesus meant was that if we will obey just these two simple commands: Love God and love your neighbor, then all the rest of the law will be easy. There will be no need to tell people not to steal, kill, commit adultery, covet, worship idols, etc., because we will have no desire for such things if we truly love God and others as we ought. The trouble is, we can’t even keep those two simple commandments. We don’t love God, and we don’t love our neighbor.
John 13:34-35 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another.
The Jew was known by his religious rites, the philosopher by his learning, the soldier by his training. They all had a particular badge of distinction. Jesus did not call this commandment new because they had never before been told to love one another, but because this was to be their new badge of distinction; this was to be how men would know them to be followers of Christ, by the love they had for one another.
But We See Jesus
How do you know if you love the Lord Jesus Christ the way you ought? How do you see Him? Is He beautiful to you?
Even in the physical comparison between the sisters I see an analogy of our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. Leah was plain, tender-eyed, while Rachel had surpassing beauty. When Jesus lived and walked upon this earth, there was nothing special about His appearance that drew people to Him. In fact, He too was rather plain in appearance. Isaiah prophesies of this.
Isaiah 53:1-3 Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed? For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: He hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from Him; He was despised, and we esteemed Him not.
But look at the difference that a relationship with Christ makes. When our old nature is put to death and the new nature is born inside of us, then we are given eyes to see the beauty of our Lord, which radiates from within. Nowhere in Scripture is the beauty of Jesus described more eloquently than in the Song of Solomon.
Song of Solomon 5:16 His mouth is most sweet: yea, he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.
To know Him is to love Him. My friend, do you know Him? Do you know Jesus? Is He altogether lovely to you?
Hebrews 2:9 But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor; that He by the grace of God should taste death for every man.
He left His glory in heaven, humbled Himself by being born in a manger to the poorest of parents here on this earth, raised by a carpenter and a mother who suffered shame and ridicule. Yes, she was falsely accused early on of having broken the marriage vows, and she willingly bore that shame for the sake of her Savior, who bore all her shame of the sins that she did commit. Jesus tasted death for every man, woman, boy, and girl. That includes you and me! His earthly body was plain and unattractive; as a man He was unloved except by His Father and His closest friends. But now He lives, resurrected, glorified, victorious over sin and death, waiting for those of us who have come to know and love Him and to see Him in His beauty.
1 Chronicles 16:29 Give unto the LORD the glory due unto His name: bring an offering, and come before Him: worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.
Psalm 27:4 One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in His temple.
Psalm 29:2 Give unto the LORD the glory due unto His name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.
Psalm 96:6 Honor and majesty are before Him: strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.
Isaiah 28:5 In that day shall the LORD of hosts be for a crown of glory, and for a diadem of beauty, unto the residue of His people.
Isaiah 33:17 Thine eyes shall see the king in His beauty: they shall behold the land that is very far off.
Next week: Leah (a lesson in contentment)
Photo taken in Brevard, North Carolina, 2017