Triumph of the Ugly Duckling

Everyone likes an good underdog story. Everybody likes to see the little guy rise up and somehow come out on top, everyone except the one being defeated that is. Let’s consider Leah, the wife of Jacob as described in the Old Testament Book of Genesis.

We are first introduced to Leah in Genesis 29:16-18

Genesis 29:16 Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel.

Genesis 29:17 And Leah’s eyes were weak, but Rachel was beautiful of form and face.

Genesis 29:18 Now Jacob loved Rachel, so he said,”I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.”

Right away we get the picture. Rachel is HOT!!! And poor Leah has weak eyes. Now according to some theologians who are experts in things like ancient Hebrew that might mean that she had light colored eyes instead of dark and sparkling eyes. See light colored eyes would have been considered a blemish, and therefore less desirable.

The Bible doesn’t spell it out that Leah was not much to look at, but since it is explicitly pointed out that Rachel is the beautiful sister, I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to say that Leah was a Velma and Rachel was a Daphne.

Jacob was willing to work seven years for the priviledge of marrying the beautiful Rachel.

Genesis 29:20 So Jacob served seven years for Rachel and they seemed to him but a few days because of his love for her.

That sort of says a lot about just how desirable Rachel was. Personally it would have been tough on me knowing that I had to do seven years of labor just to be with the one I loved. But we’re not talking about me. We’re talking about one of the Hebrew patriarchs.

If you know the story, then you know that Laban did a little bait and switch on Jacob. 

Genesis 29:23  Now in the evening he {Laban} took his daughter Leah, and brought her to him; and {Jacob} went in to her.

Genesis 29:24 Laban also gave his maid Zilpah to his daughter Leah as a maid.

Genesis 29:25 So it came about in the morning that, behold, it was Leah! And he said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? Was it not for Rachel that I served with you? Why then have you deceived me?”

At this point if you know the story of Jacob, you’re no doubt remembering  what he did to Esau, deceiving him out of his birthright and all. Pot-kettle-black. Served him right. Tit for tat kitty kat. (Actually there a lot of reasons why God did things or allowed things to be done, but that’s beyond the scope of what I’m writing about here, so just be aware that I realize that.)

I have to say I think Jacob shows remarkable restraint here. Talk about how disappointed he must have been. In fact, he might have been fuming mad. He expected the exquisite Rachel and got her klunky (and definitely not exquisite) older sister instead. Some guys might have let Laban have it and good. But instead Jacob takes the high road and talks to his father-in-law mano-a-mano.

Laban explains that it is the custom that the older daughter be married before the youngest. He lets Jacob marry Rachel after the week of wedding celebration to Leah has passed then Jacob has to do another seven years off labor.

Genesis 29:30 So {Jacob} went in to Rachel also, and indeed he loved Rachel more than Leah, and he served with Laban for another seven years.

Stay with me now. The story is about to get good especially if you are rooting for Leah like I am. The very next verse God starts to turn the tables.

Genesis 29:31 Now the LORD saw that Leah was unloved, and He opened her womb, but Rachel was barren.


Leah would be the mother to six of the twelve tribes of Israel. Her handmaiden Zilpah would be the mother to two more. 

Leah’s sons were:

Reuben, Simeon, Levi,  Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun. She was also the mother of a daughter that receives special mention: Dinah.

Zilpah the handmaiden sons were: Gad and Asher.

But God was not unkind to Rachel either. She really isn’t the villian here. God opened her womb and she gave birth to Joseph who we are all familiar with and Benjamin. Her handmaiden Bilhah gave birth to two more: Dan and Naphtili.

So if you are keeping score at home – and if you are , why are you? That makes the final score:

Leah 8, Rachel 4

I’ll admit I’ve handled this in a somewhat silly fashion, but stick with me my point is coming. You see while the scriptures aren’t explicit, I believe Jacob grew to love Leah. When Jacob died, he asked to be buried with Leah, not Rachel.

Genesis 49:31 “There they buried Abraham and his wife Sarah, there they buried Isaac and his wife Rebekah, and there I buried Leah–

In Jacob’s death he finally accords the wife he did not love her due. But God had a plan for Leah all along and bestowed on her an honor she could not even have known about. See it is through Leah that the lineage of Jesus Christ comes from. I’ve always found it odd in my limited human way of understanding that the messiah was pre-destined to be born from Leah’s line, rather than the golden girl Rachel’s line. But God doesn’t always use the best and the brightest. Sometimes he uses the most ordinary and plain. He used the ugly duckling Leah. Let’s rejoice when he uses us!!


One Response to “Triumph of the Ugly Duckling”

  1. time to update, dear!

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