Poor Leah! It seems she was always playing second fiddle to her sister Rachel. Leah was the first born daughter of Laban; Jacob’s uncle. But from the time that Jacob first met Laban’s second born daughter; Rachel, he had his eye on her (see Gen. 29). Rachel was beautiful. A real “knockout” we would say today (v. 17b). Leah was “weak eyed” (v. 17a) meaning she had light colored eyes and not the dark eyes that were so prized among the people of the east. Leah was doubtless very nice and all…but Rachel…well she was “va-va-va voom!”
Jacob had fled the wrath of his brother Esau for having stolen his birthright and blessing. He came to Haran, the ancestral home of his mother, Rebecca. He was looking for Laban, his mother’s brother. As he came to a certain well where shepherds came to water their flocks, he asked if anyone at the well knew of a man named Laban. Not only did they know Laban, they answered, but they pointed out that his daughter, Rachel, was coming just now with her flocks for she was a shepherdess. Not only was she beautiful, but she was obviously industrious. And…she was available as it turned out. Jacob, after moving the rock away from the well so she could water her sheep, kissed her on their first date so to speak. He was totally smitten.
Well, we know the story. Jacob works seven years for Laban in order marry Rachel. On the wedding night, the old switcheroo was pulled and Jacob, doubtless having imbibed somewhat during the festivities, was led to the “wedding tent” to consummate the marriage with Rachel only to find out the next morning it was Leah. Turns out that it was customary that the second daughter could not be married before the first born daughter…protocol you see. So, Jacob agrees to work another seven years for Rachel.
Jacob now has two wives, and the competition for his affections begins with Leah. Leah knows she cannot hold a candle to Rachel’s beauty and she knows that she is by far, the less favored wife (the text is clear that Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah, v. 30). So, she figures the way to win Jacob’s affection is to give him children…sons particularly. The Lord opens Leah’s womb (v. 31) and she bears Jacob a son; Ruben (meaning “see, a son”). And she says, “Now my husband will love me” (v. 32). But that did not happen. She has another son; Simeon (which sounds like the word “heard”) because she says “the Lord has heard that I was hated” (v. 33). She bears a third son (Levi) saying, “Now, this time my husband will be attached to me” (Levi sounds like the word “attached”).
But none of this worked. She wanted desperately to be as loved as Rachel was. The only way she knew how to win her husband’s affection was to give him sons. But even that was not working.
What is informing to us is what she says about her next son, Judah. When she gives birth to this son she says, “This time I will praise the Lord.” Judah sounds like the Hebrew word for “praise”. Leah came to realize that she was on a fool’s errand. She was placing her hope in her husband coming to love her as much as he loved Rachel. But by the time she has her fourth son, she realized that she needed to transfer her hope…to the Lord. So she says in essence, “with the other sons I bore, I was hoping to win the love of my husband. I see that was fruitless. With this child, Judah, I will transfer my hope to the Lord…I will praise the Lord.” Then she ceased bearing (v. 35).
People “hope” in so many things. They place their hope in their spouse. They place their hope in their children. They place their hope in their material wealth. They place their hope in a philosophy. They place their hope in pleasure. A fool’s errand. Even believers have often placed their hope of happiness, purpose, and fulfillment in these things. But God does not want us to hope in these things. He wants our hope to be firmly placed in him. He is the only changeless one. He is the only worthy one. He is the only all-powerful one that can oversee our hope and secure our hearts in it.
Examine your life. Where does your hope lie? No really, I know that if you are a Christian reading this you are supposed to say, “My hope is in the Lord.” But where is it really? Leah’s hope was transferred from Jacob’s love, to God’s. I believe many need to make a “transference of hope”. How about you?
How fitting that it was on the occasion of the birth of Judah that Leah transferred her hope. One day, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, Jesus Christ, would come, to give hope to all who would trust in him…who would place their hope in him for both eternal life and meaningful temporal life! In him should our hope lie!