Rachel vs. Leah

I’ve been reading the Old Testament, and one of the things that have caught my eye is the rivalry between Rachel and Leah.

The basic setting is, that Jacob is more fond of Rachel, but Leah is the one who bears children to Jacob, and in their nomadic society children were an asset, not a liability as they these days seem to be. What can we learn from them?

One thing that came to my mind is, that we live in a society that rates everything; it seems our most favorite TV shows give people an opportunity to rate people by phoning in, and usually there is a game where someone always is discarded as unfit, for not measuring up to this or that requirement.

In a word, people tend to be treated as “things” with “production value” rather than unique individuals, who have talents that are unique and perhaps different, but not of more or less value than the next person. Have we not been told that God is not a respecter of persons?

I remember that from both ancient and modern holy writ. Find it, it’ll be good for you.

What the story of Rachel vs. Leah teaches me, is that a person can have both popular and unpopular talents/characteristics/abilities at the same time, but by singling out a single talent/quality, we make the person disappear. For example, you know for sure that I write a blog, but that is not the whole story of me; that is not what I am.

In the end, both Rachel and Leah had children, and presumably were loved by their husband but Rachel gets a more favorable treatment, because Isaac Joseph [edited Apr 20 to fix the oops in the name], the heir of the birthright Abrahamic covenant, was the fruit of her womb. You can take that as vindication if you like, but you can also take it as the history of the “winner”, which naturally shows Rachel as vindicated in the end.

As for me, this story is reason enough not to wish for polygamy to be the order of the day… I find it difficult to believe in my ability to stretch that far.

However, what do you think we can learn from this story? Why is someone popular while someone else is ostracized?

For me, our personal failings are a welcome reminder of our fallibility and need to grow, just like natural disasters are in my mind Lord’s reminders to us that we can never make our lives predictable; we are supposed to walk by faith, and this world certainly requires one to have faith in something, be it God or Astrology…

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Posted in Mormonism, Religion, Sociology
4 comments on “Rachel vs. Leah
  1. shematwater says:

    First, just a correction.
    Isaac was the Father of Jacob, who married Rachel and Leah. I think you meant Joseph.

    Now, there is always one thing that most people seem to miss when considering the story of Rachel and Leah. That one thing is Jacob. All our attention is drawn to the women. This one is loved and this one isn’t. This one has children and this one doesn’t. Let us instead consider Jacob and his role, and we may learn a lot more from this story.

    For instance, while it is true that Leah did not have the same affection from her husband as Rachel, she was by no means neglected. We see this in the bartering that takes place in regards to mandrakes in Genesis 30, and by the way Jacob reacts to Leah that same night. It seems there was a sort of schedule worked out between the sisters as to when each would sleep with their husband, and this broke that schedule.
    Now, this may not seem all that nice, but it does show that Jacob did care for both women and wanted to meet all their needs.

    Another point to consider is that Jacob did not plan on marrying Leah, but was duped into the marriage through the combined deception or Leah and her father. There had to be some hurt caused by this, both to Jacob and Rachel, and later to Leah. She married Jacob through deception knowing that he preferred Rachel. She caused her own situation in life.

    What can we learn from all this? At this time I prefer not to say. I just think that these facts are critical to a full understanding of this rivalry.

    And on a last note, Rachel only had the son of the Birthright because Reuben, a son of Leah, lost the birthright in sleeping with one of Jacob’s wives.

    • Velska says:

      I definitely agree on the point of Rachel being the mother of Joseph and Benjamin, not Isaac! 😀 This was totally a slip (perhaps I had my mind partly on Abraham and Sarah?).

      And yes, I see also, what you mean by bringing up Jacob. However, it wasn’t Jacob necessarily, who made Rachel feel envious (?) of Leah. I’ve seen enough women quibbling about whose husband has the better job that I know the husbands can be quite clueless about the rivalries of women.

      Was it Jacob’s love that Rachel envied (if it was just envy?), or the fertility issue (which can be really sensitive)?

      And, as you say, it’s obvious from quite a few observations in the story, that Leah was not completely neglected, despite having been hoisted on Jacob against his will. (And I use a very unpleasant phrase for what happened, because that’s how at least Laban treated her, I figure.)

      All in all, I’m sure we could learn about this by looking at it from many aspects; I was just looking at it from the point of the sibling rivalry between the sisters. I think that we face some kind of adversity and affliction to become more humble in our attitudes.

  2. shematwater says:

    I agree.

    Tlking of the rivalries, from what I read Leah was envious of Rachel because Jacob loved her more, and Rachel was envious of Leah because she had all the children (which we are told are the glory of the parents). Honestly, I think it was an all around sad situation, and neither girl really “won” in the end.

    If I was going to say that there is a real lesson to learn this would be it. There is no “winning” in a rivalry. In the end all parties involved will turn out about equal.

  3. Velska says:

    There is no “winning” in a rivalry.

    That’s probably a good take-home message from it. If you start envying someone, you’ll only make yourself miserable.

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