Let’s stop for a moment and consider these two wives of Jacob. The first, Leah, had been given in deception to trick Jacob into staying longer so that Laban could benefit from God’s blessing on his life. Rachel, the one whom Jacob had initially worked for, was beautiful and loved. Today, a portion of our wedding vows state that we will “love, honor, and cherish,” but Leah was not the recipient of any of those. Instead, she had delicate eyes, sometimes translated as tender or weak, which was considered a defect in her culture. Some Hebrew scholars suggest that her eyes were always red and puffy from her constant crying.
I cannot imagine going into a marriage knowing I was unloved and that my husband preferred another woman, let alone that woman being my sister. It is easy to see how competition for Jacob’s affections would have easily broken out when a woman’s primary occupation was bearing children and running the household. And God was looking down on all of this; was acquainted with every intimate detail.
In this spirit of competition, Leah bears Jacob his first three sons: Reuben, Simeon, and Levi. Sons were the father’s strength, and so she had every reason to think she would be more favored at the birth of each. And for each of them, Leah names them according to the flesh in her desire to win Jacob’s love and attention. However, it wasn’t to be. Yet, there is something to consider here.
She has entered the tent of the seed of promise, and God’s blessing is upon her. Somewhere in the time she has been there, she has accepted the God of Abraham and Isaac as her own, and her heart changes. When Leah bears Jacob yet another sone, instead of naming him according to the flesh, she calls him Judah saying, “This time I will praise the LORD” (Gen. 29:35). Nursing her broken heart, she takes it to God and declares that she is going to praise. This child won’t live under the shadow of knowing his mother is unloved. No, this child is dedicated to the praise of God amid her troubles.
This is crucial to recognize because it is from Judah that Jesus, Messiah, will come. It is from praise offered in brokenness that salvation will appear to the nation of Israel. How fitting is that? Not only that, but it is also from Leah through Levi that the lawgiver, Moses, will come. God isn’t looking for someone who meets the criteria of man; He is looking for those of a broken and contrite heart. As John Parsons points out, that of the four matriarchs of Israel (remember, both Rachel and Leah give Jacob their slaves as wives), Leah is the most fruitful and that, “ironically, it was the less teary-eyed Rachel, who later died in childbirth, that was prophesied to weep for her children” (Jer. 31:15).
And, it is important to note, there is no indication that Leah was complicit in the stealing of household idols when Jacob flees Laban. That was Rachel. Often, when placed in positions where we are underappreciated and unloved, that we find ourselves returning to the source of ultimate comfort and guidance. Leah was in an unavoidable situation. She had been the victim of Laban’s greed and Jacob’s indifference. However, she chose to praise. And that is my point. No matter what state we find ourselves in our journey into God’s purposes, we must be humble people of praise.
Though her life was hard, little did she know that God was looking down on her and that He would make her the mother of both the royal and priestly line of Israel. Though little information is provided to us about her, she is our example of how we are to respond in difficult times. She could have quickly become bitter, yet she chose to rejoice in God. Bitterness will always stop the anointing from flowing. It is praise that heals and restores purpose.
Lord, there have been moments when I have felt underappreciated, and my efforts have gone unrecognized. However, I choose to do everything You’ve called me to, not in a spirit of competition in the flesh, but Your Spirit, praising you amid what is a difficult situation. I choose to trust You to take whatever I birth during this time and create a legacy that will bless all people. Let my attitude be one of uprightness before, and whenever I am tempted to allow bitterness to take hold, let me rest in the fact that You see and hear me. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
 John J. Parsons, “Vayetzei – Leah’s Weak Eyes,” Vayetzei – Leah’s Weak Eyes (John J. Parsons), accessed April 5, 2021, https://hebrew4christians.com/Scripture/Parashah/Summaries/Vayetzei/Leah_s_Eyes/leah_s_eyes.html.