Rachel: Barren & Beloved of Jacob | Leah: First Wife of Jacob

Seeds of Promise Series by Shenica Graham

Rachel: Barren & Beloved of Jacob | Leah: First Wife of Jacob

Women of The Bible

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Seeds of Promise Women of the Bible Rachel: Barren & Beloved of Jacob | Leah: First Wife of Jacob Genesis 29:10-35, Genesis 30:22-24, Genesis 31:11-18, Genesis 31:29 Audio

Memory Verses: And Jacob served seven years for Rachel; and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her. Genesis 29:20 AMP

Devotional Reading: Genesis 29:10-35 AMP

10 When Jacob saw Rachel daughter of Laban, his mother’s brother, and the sheep of Laban his uncle, Jacob went near and rolled the stone from the well’s mouth and watered the flock of his uncle Laban. 11 Then Jacob kissed Rachel and he wept aloud. 12 Jacob told Rachel he was her father’s relative, Rebekah’s son; and she ran and told her father. 13 When Laban heard of the arrival of Jacob his sister’s son, he ran to meet him, and embraced and kissed him and brought him to his house. And [Jacob] told Laban all these things. 14 Then Laban said to him, Surely you are my bone and my flesh. And [Jacob] stayed with him a month. 15 Then Laban said to Jacob, Just because you are my relative, should you work for me for nothing? Tell me, what shall 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 weak and dull looking, but Rachel was beautiful and attractive. 18 And Jacob loved Rachel; so he said, I will work for you for seven years for Rachel your younger daughter. 19 And Laban said, It is better that I give her to you than to another man. Stay and live with me. 20 And Jacob served seven years for Rachel; and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her.

21 Finally, Jacob said to Laban, Give me my wife, for my time is completed, so that I may take her to me. 22 And Laban gathered together all the men of the place and made a feast [with drinking]. 23 But when night came, he took Leah his daughter and brought her to [Jacob], who had intercourse with her. 24 And Laban gave Zilpah his maid to his daughter Leah to be her maid. 25 But in the morning [Jacob saw his wife, and] behold, it was Leah! And he said to Laban, What is this you have done to me? Did I not work for you [all those seven years] for Rachel? Why then have you deceived and cheated and thrown me down [like this]? 26 And Laban said, It is not permitted in our country to give the younger [in marriage] before the elder. 27 Finish the [wedding feast] week [for Leah]; then we will give you [Rachel] also, and you shall work for me yet seven more years in return. 28 So Jacob complied and fulfilled [Leah’s] week; then [Laban] gave him Rachel his daughter as his wife. 29 (And Laban gave Bilhah his maid to Rachel his daughter to be her maid.) 30 And Jacob lived with Rachel also as his wife, and he loved Rachel more than Leah and served [Laban] another seven years [for her].

31 And when the Lord saw that Leah was despised, He made her able to bear children, but Rachel was barren. 32 And Leah became pregnant and bore a son and named him Reuben [See, a son!]; for she said, Because the Lord has seen my humiliation and affliction; now my husband will love me. 33 [Leah] became pregnant again and bore a son and said, Because the Lord heard that I am despised, He has given me this son also; and she named him Simeon [God hears]. 34 And she became pregnant again and bore a son and said, Now this time will my husband be a companion to me, for I have borne him three sons. Therefore he was named Levi [companion]. 35 Again she conceived and bore a son, and she said, Now will I praise the Lord! So she called his name Judah [praise]; then [for a time] she ceased bearing.

Jacob loved Rachael more than Leah, but his uncle Laban tricked him into marrying Leah and refused Rachael’s hand after their agreed upon seven years of labor. In all, Jacob worked fourteen years to earn Rachael as his wife. Laban also tried to cheat Jacob in other ways. God made every pronouncement of deceit to work in Jacob’s favor. Leah felt unwanted an unappreciated. Not even her father thought very highly of her. He must have assumed that she would never be able to marry on her own merit as she was not outwardly beautiful and may have also been lazy eyed or cross-eyed.

Rachael who was barren like Sarah the wife of Abraham until God visited her, Rachael became impatient and frustrated that Leah had borne many children whilst Rachel could not. Leah and Rachael began a childbearing competition. First Rachael gave Jacob her handmaid (reminiscent of Sarai who told Abraham to go in unto her handmaiden, Hagar) Bilhah to Jacob – and she bore two sons. Then, when Leah saw that she had left bearing, she gave her handmaid Zilpah to Jacob – and she bore him two sons. And Jacob became like a man for intimate hire, as the women began to discuss amongst themselves who had earned a night and with whom Jacob would sleep at a time. Leah bore another son and another daughter after the sons of Zilpah. According to the Midrash [[1]], when Rachel knew of Leah’s seventh pregnancy, she prayed and the sex of the child changed, being then a daughter instead of a son. In the midrashic expansion, Rachel was remembered (i.e., became pregnant) on Rosh Hashanah, like Sarah and Hannah

Devotional Reading: Genesis 30:22-24 AMP

22 Then God remembered Rachel and answered her pleading and made it possible for her to have children. 23 And [now for the first time] she became pregnant and bore a son; and she said, God has taken away my reproach, disgrace, and humiliation. 24 And she called his name Joseph [may he add] and said, May the Lord add to me another son.

Rachel was 22 years of age when she married Jacob, which would have made her a teenager when they first met and Jacob fell in love with her. According to Jewish tradition, Jacob knew at his first meeting with Rachel that she was to be his bride. Yet till now, she had not been able to bear children. It is not clear why this time was particularly chosen, after Leah had given Jacob six sons and a daughter, but God remembered Rachel at this time and she bore a son, her firstborn, and named him Joseph. This is that Joseph who would be the anointed dreamer; who would be sold into slavery by his half brothers; and who would save all his people from famine after he suffered slavery and was exalted with an excellent spirit and made second in Pharaoh’s kingdom by the grace of God, able to supply food to his brothers when they came to Egypt because of the famine in all the land.

Rachel is noted as a Prophetess, and the names she gave to her children were indicative of future events. “In the midrashic expansion, Rachel was remembered (i.e., became pregnant) on Rosh Hashanah, like Sarah and Hannah . On this date Joseph left the Egyptian prison; and on this date, Israel went forth from their servitude in Egypt (BT Rosh Hashanah 10b–11a). This midrash uses a common date to connect various historical events. The impregnation of Sarah and Rachel, the Matriarchs of the nation, heralds that God will also deliver their descendants from the troubles they would suffer in the future. Rosh Hashanah is perceived as the time of liberation from pain and sorrow: this is the day that signals a positive change, both in the time of the Matriarchs and in the time of their offspring.” [[2]].

Devotional Reading: Genesis 31:11-18 AMP

11 And the [b]Angel of God said to me in the dream, Jacob. And I said, Here am I. 12 And He said, Look up and see, all the rams which mate with the flock are streaked, speckled, and mottled; for I have seen all that Laban does to you. 13 I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed the pillar and where you vowed a vow to Me. Now arise, get out from this land and return to your native land. 14 And Rachel and Leah answered him, Is there any portion or inheritance for us in our father’s house? 15 Are we not counted by him as strangers? For he sold us and has also quite devoured our money [the price you paid for us]. 16 For all the riches which God has taken from our father are ours and our children’s. Now then, whatever God has said to you, do it. 17 Then Jacob rose up and set his sons and his wives upon the camels; 18 And he drove away all his livestock and all his gain which he had gotten, the livestock he had obtained and accumulated in Padan-aram, to go to Isaac his father in the land of Canaan.

Laban not only dealt untruthfully with Jacob many times, he also sold both of his daughters for labor. Perhaps this trial and testing in the land of Laban was a recompense for Jacob’s former character of dishonesty. However, whilst Jacob worked for his uncle Laban, he dealt honestly and God was with him because of his covenant with Abraham and Isaac, and God promised to be with Jacob. When Rachel began to bear children, Jacob planned to leave Laban’s house. Soon thereafter, God told Jacob to get out of Padan-aram and the house of Laban and to return to the land of His father, Isaac. Leah and Rachel incidentally had no objections to leaving their father’s house, seeing as he had conned them severally and swallowed up their inheritance. The both, in agreement, said to Jacob that he should do whatever God told him to do. Jacob gathered his family and all his possession and began to depart from the house of Laban. Three days later, Laban was informed that Jacob had left his house. Laban pursued after them seven days and eventually caught up with them. Laban pretended to be offended that he was not told Jacob was leaving with his daughters. I suspect the real reason Laban was upset is because he lost his best servant. Jacob had served him a total of twenty years and Laban prospered wherever Jacob’s hand was at work. Now there was a question of an idol god statue that was missing from Laban’s house. Jacob told Laban to search all his possession because he did not know that Rachel had taken the household gods. And Rachael said that she was at the point of menstruation and could not rise to greet her father. In fact, she was sitting on the statues tucked into a camel’s saddlebag, and she sat upon the camel. Surely Laban planned to come and recapture all that Jacob had, for he said that the wives of Jacob were his daughters; and the children were his grandchildren, and the flocks were his flocks. But God rebuked Laban and came to him a dream before he pursued after Jacob.

Devotional Reading: Genesis 31:29 AMP

It is in my power to do you harm; but the God of your father spoke to me last night, saying, Be careful that you do not speak from good to bad to Jacob [peaceably, then violently].

Ultimately, Laban had to let Jacob and all his family and possession go. He rose early in the morning and kissed his grandchildren and blessed them. They went their way and Laban went home. Because Jacob spoke with and heeded the voice of God, he was able to bring his family and his whole possession back to the land of His Father and brother. He thought his brother Esau might be wroth with him because of his past: therefore, he separated his family and servants into droves and sent livestock and servants before him and his wives and children, that they might appease Esau and save his family alive. Jacob wrestled in the night with an angel and would not let the angel go until he received a blessing – and so it was that the angel blessed him and changed his name from Jacob (supplanter) to Israel (contender with God). When you have a significant experience with God, it is a game changer in your life; a name changer. Jacob truly had become a different man. He worked faithfully for twenty years in the house of Laban and did well for his wives and children. When Esau met him, they embraced and wept and Esau was not sore affected toward Jacob, but Jacob who was renamed Israel was restored – he and all his house to his kindred.

Lessons From Leah & Rachel

  • God cares for the unloved and hears the cry of the barren. Leah was hated for no reason of her own fault. She was not pretty enough to entice Jacob, not compared to her sister Rachel.
  • Do not use children to manipulate fathers. Leah thought erroneously that Jacob would love her more because she bore him children. Many times, she forgot to thank God for the births and was consumed with thinking, now, my husband will love me because I have gotten him a man child.
  • Where two of three are gathered in God’s name, He will be there. Jewish tradition holds that all of the wives of Jacob (primary and secondary (the maids of his wives)), and Jacob himself, prayed for Rachel to have a child.
  • Favor is not fair. Not only was Rachel loved and preferred by Jacob, her children were also given a better inheritance than all of Jacob’s other children.
  • Stand by your man. Do not sow discord in your family, especially when your husband is a praying man, a man of character. You do not want to lose a good man and he lose a good woman – YOU. Satan wants to attack your unity. Stick together and pray together and lift your family up in prayer. Leah prayed for her sister to bear children with her husband. Rachel gave up her wifely right to allow Leah to sleep with Jacob. When Rachael knew that she had had statues her father was looking for, she did not allow Laban to know it, lest he would have taken her from Jacob or done worse concerning Jacob.


[1] Jewish Women’s Archive. “Midrash.” (Viewed on March 20, 2015) <http://jwa.org/encyclopedia/glossary/midrash&gt;.

[2] Kadari, Tamar. “Rachel: Midrash and Aggadah.” Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia. 20 March 2009. Jewish Women’s Archive. (Viewed on March 20, 2015) http://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/rachel-midrash-and-aggadah.


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