written by Sinclaire Davis
“ When the Lord saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren. And Leah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Reuben,[c] for she said, “Because the Lord has looked upon my affliction; for now my husband will love me.” She conceived again and bore a son, and said, “Because the Lord has heard that I am hated, he has given me this son also.” And she called his name Simeon.[d] Again she conceived and bore a son, and said, “Now this time my husband will be attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.” Therefore his name was called Levi.[e] And she conceived again and bore a son, and said, “This time I will praise the Lord.” Therefore she called his name Judah.[f] Then she ceased bearing.” -Genesis 29: 31-35
I encourage you to read the full story in Genesis 29, but to sum it up here, Jacob was madly in love with Rachel but was forced to marry Leah before Rachel could be his wife. There are a lot of cultural customs that go into the reasoning behind that. And let’s not even get into the multiple wives situation…different times. Jacob served Laban for SEVEN years for Rachel’s hand. He was deceived into marrying Leah and then willingly served another seven to finally take Rachel as his wife. Aside from the customs feeling weird and radical, consider Leah. This a woman who has likely always been known for not being as beautiful as her sister. She gets married and her husband looks past her for the first seven years of their marriage until he takes another wife, the sister she has never been as good as.
My heart sinks for Leah. Her words are laced with hope that her husband will one day love her, as he does her sister, but that day never comes. The Lord saw the situation and pain in Leah’s life and gave her children. The names of Leah’s sons reveal her ache to be seen, desired, and loved by her husband. Her firstborn is literally named, “See, a son.” I can’t imagine the depth of her pain as if she’s begging her husband to see her and the son she gave him. The way Jacob chose to “see” Rachel. And, isn’t that all of us? Don’t we crave to be truly seen?
Leah has her fourth child and we see in his name a heart change. Leah names her baby boy Judah, which means praise. Leah waited through many years of marriage and children for her husband’s love. When it never came- she praised the Lord. Finally, she realized her worth was not found in the affections of her husband, rather, her worth was found in the God that saw her. Leah knew, even after all that, that God was worthy of praise.
God saw Leah, even when no one else seemed to. This is evidenced in the rest of her story. Not only did God give her four children, those children were important. Matthew 1:2 reads, “Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers.” It goes on to explain a very long lineage that I am prone to skip over when reading the Bible. But when we get to verse 16 we see the lineage of Leah, Judah, is in the line of Christ. God saw Leah and Leah praised God.
I know I could take a page from Leah’s book. She praises God even when she couldn’t see His plan. The first time I heard Leah’s story, I was brought to tears. I felt for her so much in the ways my own heart aches to be seen. I was overwhelmed by her trust in God’s ultimate plan and the way she lived for His bigger story. I was overcome by God’s thoughtfulness and compassion for Leah.
Nothing that Leah did earned her favor with the Lord. Simply the grace of the God who saw her and mercifully revealed His truth to her. My affections for Jesus grew as I was reminded that He lived a life on earth that allowed Him to ache as we do. He knew the pain of being unseen and conquered that pain by His death on the cross and resurrection from the dead. He ascended to heaven to be seated at the right hand of God the Father. One day He will return and redeem all creation and we will no longer live with an ache to be seen. No longer will we be looked over as we stand in awe of the glory of God and like Leah at the birth of Judah, praise Him.