The three-sided story between Jacob, Rachel and Leah is a strange love story. I mean, I’ve never really seen it as a love story even though it has the usual plots of a Korean drama: love pangs, third party interference, difficulties in the person of the father-in-law, etc. I just never thought that God would use it to parallel our over-dependency on romance and love. The chapter on love being a counterfeit god in Timothy Keller’s book titled (what else) Counterfeit gods was an interesting study on how love was a stronghold in Jacob’s and Leah’s lives.
For those who are not familiar with the story, you can read the long version here in Genesis 29. Or the summary is: Jacob flees home. Meets beautiful Rachel. Falls madly in love. Tells Rachel’s father Laben: ‘I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel’. At end of seven years, tells Laben: ‘Give me my wife that I may go in to her’. Laben deceives Jacob. Gives Jacob unattractive elder daughter Leah instead. Jacob demands for Rachel. Gets Rachel as wife. Works seven more years for Rachel. Loves her more than Leah.
Jacob’s father Isaac loved his brother more than him, and he lost his mother’s love when he fled. When he saw Rachel who was described as ‘lovely in form and beautiful’, he thought his greatest longings would be fulfilled. So how desperate was he to have Rachel?
- He worked seven years for her hand in marriage, but ‘they seemed like only a few days to him’ (verse 20).
- He brazenly asked Laben for Rachel to lie down with her. As Keller puts it, “Imagine saying to a father even today, ‘I can’t wait to have sex with your daughter. Give her to me now!’ The narrator is showing us a man overwhelmed with emotional and sexual longing for one woman.”
- Deceived by Leban, Jacob agreed to work another seven years to marry Rachel.
“We learn that throughout all of life there runs a ground note of cosmic disappointment. Jacob said, ‘If I can just get Rachel, everything will be okay.’ And he goes to bed with the one who he thinks is Rachel, and literally, the Hebrew says, ‘in the morning, behold, it was Leah’ (Genesis 29:25). No matter what we put our hopes in, in the morning, it is always Leah, never Rachel.” We will always be disappointed, even if our partners are the best husband/wife around, because they can never give our soul all its needs.
While Jacob finds his desires unfulfilled, Leah tries to win her husband’s love through childbearing.
When the LORD saw that Leah was not loved, he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren. Leah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Reuben, for she said, “It is because the LORD has seen my misery. Surely my husband will love me now.” She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “Because the LORD heard that I am not loved, he gave me this one too.” So she named him Simeon. Again she conceived, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “Now at last my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.” So he was named Levi. She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “This time I will praise the LORD.” So she named him Judah. Then she stopped having children.
When Leah had her first three sons, she had hoped that their birth would bring forth Jacob’s attention and attachment (the names Reuben and Simeon had to do with ‘to see’ and ‘to listen’ respectively and Levi means ‘to cleave’). But it was only when Leah borne Judah that she experienced breakthrough. It appeared that she took her hopes off her husband and children and placed them on God. She praised God.
Everybody wants to be loved. I want to be loved. I would like to get married. There are times when I feel a sense of loneliness in my life and hope this will go away when I find that significant other. And perhaps I would feel a greater significance in my existence as well. But that would be self-deception. If I put the weight of all my hopes on him, it would only crush him. And I would still feel unsatisfied.
But there is Someone who is infinitely beautiful, loves us exceedingly, and is able to meet all of our needs in Him: Jesus Christ. I need eyes that see more of His beauty each day and heart that grows in affection and adoration every moment, whether I am single or married. Lord Jesus, I know that this desire pleases You and it comes from You. Please do that work in my heart. In Your name, Amen.