The Crushing Sorrow of Unloved Leah

Posted on May 23, 2020

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By David Ettinger

This is a short, fictional look at Jacob’s “other” wife.

Leah was still trying to decide what to make of the piece of information Jacob had just given her.

Now on her deathbed, her husband assured her that she would be buried in the family gravesite where grandparents Abraham and Sarah, and parents Isaac and Rebekah lay. She and Jacob would join them.

If this was a victory over her sister Rachel, she didn’t feel it. It was too late. Too late for vindication. Too late for triumph. Too late for celebration. Too late to wash away the tears. Too late to heal the pain. Too late to mend the agony of an unloved soul.

Yes, she would receive the honor of being buried along with her husband, but she would go there without ever knowing what it was to experience his love. And it blazed a flame of torment within her that only death could extinguish.

From the very day so many decades ago when her handsome cousin arrived in Haran from Canaan, she knew she would never be his. No, Jacob’s heart was captured at once by her younger sister Rachel, whose beauty would cause older men to neglect their dealings in the marketplace and shepherds to lose sight of their flocks.

Whenever she and Rachel were together, it was as if she didn’t exist. All eyes were on the raven-haired beauty. But, in all honesty, it didn’t matter whether Leah was with Rachel or not; even when by herself nobody ever noticed her.

And it stung. It burned. It scalded. It throbbed. It mutilated. She was Rachel’s older, unattractive sister and would never be anything else.

Never did this icy reality crush her spirits so much as whenever she looked into Jacob’s eyes. For the seven years they lived on the same property, during which time Jacob worked for her father Laban to earn Rachel’s hand in marriage, Jacob’s every waking hour was consumed by Rachel. Sure, he was polite to Leah, but why not? It’s not is if he had to marry her or anything like that.

So she – and he – thought.

At the end of seven years, Jacob demanded of Laban, “Give me my wife. My time is completed, and I want to lie with her.”

Jacob would get a wife, all right.

Leah never forgot the day Laban took her aside and said, “Listen, my daughter, if your sister gets married before you do, the chances of you marrying are slim to none. Do what I tell you.”

She could never say no to her domineering father, even as he dressed her in heavy marriage veils and sent her marching into Jacob’s marriage tent under the cover of darkness. She felt like a lamb being led to the slaughter as she entered Jacob’s bed.

She slept little that night, fearing the morning when the first rays of light would reveal her deception.

Her worst fears erupted as Jacob, just awaking, rolled over to kiss his beautiful bride, only to discover that things had gone terribly, terribly wrong. The look of horror on his face would haunt Leah all her life.

She sobbed uncontrollably in their bed while outside her furious, deceived husband vented his rage at his father-in-law.

A deal was struck: Jacob would fulfill his wedding week with Leah, then marry Rachel when it was over. Two wives in seven days. But there was no doubt about it: Leah was wife Number Two. A far-distant second. In fact, compared to Jacob’s love for Rachel, Leah wasn’t even in sight.

Marriage to Jacob was a misery of proportions she never could have fathomed. Sure she had all the comforts of life – a spacious tent, servants, food and drink to spare – but she had no love. And never would.

Jacob lavished it – ALL of it – on Rachel, and there was nothing left for her.

Then, almost coercing Jacob to lie with her, she gave birth to a son, Reuben. “Ah,” she said, ‘Surely my husband will love me now.” He didn’t.

Then came Simeon. “The Lord gave me him because He knew that I am not loved.” She still wasn’t loved.

Then came Levi. “Now my husband will be attached to me.” No he wouldn’t.

Then came Judah. “I will praise the Lord for him.” At least the Lord loves me, even if my husband doesn’t.

Two more sons and a daughter would follow – none of whom would help draw Jacob any closer to Leah. He just didn’t love her, couldn’t love her, and there was nothing she could do about it.

She was fertile where her sister was barren. She was an esteemed matriarch where Rachel was viewed as cursed. She had an air of wisdom about her where Rachel was deceptive and untrustworthy.

But Rachel had Jacob’s love. ALL OF IT. And Leah had none. Her soul ached. Her heart pined. Her emotions crumbled. Her loneliness intensified. Her gloom worsened.

“Oh Lord,” she would cry out when the despair was unbearable. “Will I never for even one day know what it is like to feel the love of my husband? Am I sentenced to an existence of lovelessness, my God?”

And in the quiet of her soul, the Lord would assure her that He loved her and always would. Her seven children were proof of that. It was enough to sooth Leah’s anguish, but it could never banish it.

And now, with her days ebbing to a precious few, she learned that she had at last earned the place of honor in Jacob’s eyes. In death.

A shallow victory at best. She would be going to her grave without ever knowing the loving touch of a husband. His resentment of her never left him. Even if Jacob wanted to love Leah, he just couldn’t do it. She always knew that, and it was the most vile bitterness imaginable.

But now, at the very end, a new hope. The love that so mercilessly eluded her in life would at last be won in death. As she breathed her final breaths, God embraced her.

He had always loved her.

He still loved her.

He was waiting for her in His heavenly tent.

He would love her forever.

Read “The Humbling of Scornful Rachel”