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Extra ideas about the tragic story of Rachel and Leah, from famous Bible writers.
‘The love, hate, jealousy, and strife that complicate this family saga rival the convolutions of any television miniseries. Yet the plot lines involving the women spring from a single source – Jacob’s adoration of Rachel, a love so exclusive that it arouses in Leah and Rachel an impassioned rivalry.
When Jacob first arrives in Aram-naharaim, he finds himself standing at the very place where his grandfather’s steward first came upon his own mother, Rebekah. Though grimy and sun-scorched, he is primed for romance: he tries to rid the scene of onlookers even before he has a clue to Rachel’s incandescent beauty.
When she arrives, he is dazzled. With a super-human rush of adrenaline, he heaves aside the massive well-stone and waters Laban’s sheep. Merely giving Rachel a kiss of greeting overwhelms him, and this immediate love proves to be no passing infatuation. He works fourteen years for Rachel (years that seem to him “a few days”), and becomes the first of his people ever to erect a memorial pillar to a woman.
So blazing a love acts as a negative catalyst, however, in the lives of Leah and Rachel. Sparks of resentment may first have been ignited long since, in the sisters’ childhood—the adventurous Rachel forever annoyed at hearing that she ought to come in from the fields and learn to keep house; the plain Leah sick to death of half-hearted compliments on her lovely eyes. When the rivalry bursts to flame in the marriage, both women suffer: Leah, for she is fertile but unloved; Rachel, for she is loved but barren.
Despite Jacob’s obvious preference for Rachel, Leah’s obsession with him must have awakened early, for she willingly poses as her sister in the wedding tent. Her complicity in Laban’s ruse apparently backfires, however, arousing in Jacob not love but scorn—or, at the least, indifference.
In the end, Leah abandons her quest for love and settles for the more attainable goal of respect: “my husband will honour me like a princess” (Gen 30:20). The loved Rachel, meanwhile, feels equally reproached. She must listen, day after day, to the cooing of Leah’s babies, evidence of her sister’s fruitfulness. Despairing of her own value, she proclaims that she will die if she has no son.
Then, when she does bear a son, she very humanly prays for another. Ironically, when this prayer too is answered, she dies giving birth. Yet Rachel at least lives to see her first son grow into boyhood, while Leah never gains the love for which she yearns.’
‘Their Stories, Our Stories’, Rose Sallberg Kam, Continuum New York, 1995, p.62-63