Reflection: Rachel & Leah
Rachel, whose story appears in the Book of Genesis, seemed to have everything. She was beautiful, loved, and about to be married to the man of her dreams. Unfortunately her husband Jacob was tricked into first marrying her older sister Leah, and this was where the trouble started.
Jacob did not love Leah, but despite this they co-habited and she bore him many sons. The rivalry between her and Rachel was bitter, made worse by their father Laban, a devious and unscrupulous man. Leah was jealous of Rachel’s beauty, and both of them competed for Jacob’s love.
In the context of that time, there was nothing Rachel could do. She could not escape her family. She could not, like a modern woman, leave home and strike out on her own. She was trapped.
Later on she had two sons, but even then tragedy stalked her: she died during the birth of the second one.
Despite all this, she is one of the great Bible heroines, and her story is famous. Why? What can we learn from her? (You can read her story at Bible Women: Rachel)
‘Then God remembered Rachel, and God heeded her and opened her womb. She conceived and bore a son and said, “God has taken away my reproach”; and she named him Joseph.’ Genesis 30:22-24
The different episodes in her life can be found in the Bible at:
- Rachel meets Jacob at the well, Genesis 29:1-14
- Leah and Rachel marry Jacob, Genesis 29:15-30
- Rachel has a son, Joseph, Genesis 29:31-15, 30:1-24
- Rachel steals sacred household deities, Genesis 30:25-43, 31
- Rachel has a son, Benjamin, and dies, Genesis 35:16-30
Question: Why, God?
Rachel had terrible, unsolvable trouble in her family – and maybe you do too. If this is the case and you have serious problems, it’s only fair to acknowledge the fact. But try to think about the good things you have achieved as well. Think about the laughter and jokes you’ve shared with your family, the love you’ve given them, the things you’ve achieved. You can be proud of what you’ve done.
The truth is, there is no answer to the question ‘Why, God?’ We don’t understand God’s unfolding plan, and we never will. But we can find some peace by
- accepting what happens as God’s will
- working to change things for the better whenever we can
- giving ourselves a pat on the back for what we have achieved, and not dwelling on ‘what if’…
Do you remember the quote from Aeschylus that Robert Kennedy used the night that Martin Luther King was shot?
‘He who learns must suffer, and even in our sleep, pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God.’
(Aeschylus, Agamemnon 179)
Does that apply to you as well?
If you can, spend a little time thinking through the following:
- Acknowledge the pain you’ve had in your life. There’s been some bad things happen to you, and they have left their scars.
- Think about Rachel’s story. Read and think about the Aeschylus quotation above. Have you gained wisdom or understanding through your own suffering?
- Is it possible that some good things came out of your sadness?
- Try to let your suffering go. The events that caused it are a part of you, but they are in the past. Why should they spoil the present?
See Bible Women: Rachel for her full story
Bible Women’s Lives
Choosing a husband, marrying him
Bible People: Jacob
the story of Rachel’s husband