I am doing a series on the Infertility Women of the Bible for my February goal. Be sure to check out my notes on Sarah from last week.
So, originally, I was going to write about Rachel since she is included in most lists of the women for infertility in the Bible. I’ve always been a Team Rachel kind of person….until this past week. As I read the entire story of Jacob, Rachel, and Leah, I realized that Leah was just as much a part of the infertility story and I felt like her story needed to be told as well.
Leah’s marriage started off about as rocky as one can be. Her father tricked Jacob into marrying her after working for him for seven years. I don’t know if she had a lot of choice in the matter. I mean, she did walk into that tent and not say a word all night. But also, what message was her father sending to her that she had to marry her sister’s beloved? Did she not have any prospects of her own? It mentions that her eyes were weak, did that make her damaged goods? Did she see Jacob as her one hope for happiness?
It says in Genesis 29:31, “When the Lord saw the Leah was not loved, he opened her womb…” And with her sons, she showed more of her internal struggle. With Reuben, “The Lord has seen my misery. Surely my husband will love me now.” With Simeon, “Because the Lord heard that I am not loved, he gave me this one too.” With Levi, “Now, at last, my husband will become attached to me because I have borne him three sons. And with Judah, she stops hoping and says, “This time I will praise the Lord.” And then she stops having children. She enters into a time of infertility herself.
Rachel was gorgeous. Jacob fell in love with her at first sight. Asks to marry her after only being there a month. For Rachel, getting Jacob to love her was easy, but getting pregnant was another story.
Rachel sees Leah getting pregnant so easily and it says in Genesis 30 that she became jealous of her sister. Her first response is to blame her own infertility on Jacob. And then she takes a page out Sarah’s book and uses her servant Bilhah to produce two sons. The first son, she says “God has vindicated me” and the second son she says, “I have had a great struggle with my sister and I have won.” She was consumed with this competition of her sister.
Contrast that with Leah, who uses her servant to bear two sons during her own infertility. Her reactions are that she had “good fortune” with Gad and with Asher’s birth, she exclaims “How happy am I”. No reference to her sister or their competition at all.
The Mandrake Root
Leah’s oldest, Reuben finds mandrake root and gives it to her mother. Mandrake root was thought to be an aphrodisiac and help with conception. When Rachel asks Leah for it, Leah replies “Wasn’t it enough that you took away my husband? Will you take my son’s mandrakes too?” So Rachel makes a trade. A night with Jacob for her son’s mandrakes.
First, Leah must not spend a whole lot of time with Jacob for her to easily give up this root that is supposed to help with seduction and conception. Second, both women didn’t understand the plight of the other sister. Leah was consumed with wanting to achieve a love she wasn’t getting. And Rachel just wanted to have sons of her own and be honored within her culture.
Both Leah and Rachel each have two more sons. Leah continues to hope that Jacob will love her, but does give glory to God for the gift of these sons. Rachel, on the other hand, after having Joseph immediately wants another son. And Benjamin ends up being the literal death of her. And while Rachel’s legacy will produce men like King Saul and the Apostle Paul, Leah’s legacy is honored with descendants like King David and Jesus Christ.
I don’t know the plans that God has for me. But reading these stories reminds me that I need to live a life of gratitude and trust that God has a plan for me. He has an adventure in store for Michael and me. While I won’t completely understand the curves in the path, I must walk this journey with gratitude, honoring God with each step.