Accompanying Bob Deffinbaugh sermon: I Led Two Wives
We saw yesterday that God had become, not only Jacob's father's God, but Jacob's God. Jacob's encounter with God at Bethel had left him with a new sense of direction, a new hope, and a new meaning to life. God had promised Jacob His presence, provision, and protection. He knew he would return to the land, but for now he was going to on to Haran, but he was not going alone. God was with him.
However, unlike Abraham/Isaac, Jacob did not rely on God when he chose his spouse. He saw Rachel and was immediately infatuated - which means that he chose her on the basis of her looks, not her character. We have no indication that he asked God for wisdom at all. Rather it seems that he was swept away, and proceeded headlong into the task of getting Rachel for his wife - and he trampled over several things in the process.
First, he ignored the instructions of the shepherds as to when the well was to be used, but went ahead and watered Rachel's flock - likely to impress her, which seems to have worked.
He ignored the convention of the day and asked for a younger sister's hand in marriage, before the older had been wed.
He pursued Rachel for her looks alone.
Now, that is not to say that Leah was ugly. Leah has often been given a bad rep, likely unjustly. The only thing the text says is that "Leah's eyes were weak". Deffinbaugh submits that this likely has nothing to do with whether or not Leah was blind as a bat (it also doesn't have anything to do with her outward appearance). The word for weak is translated in other OT passages as tender or gentle. And eyes is often used as a depiction of someone's character. It is likely that this phrase simply means that Leah was characterized by a gentle and tender disposition.
Rachel is characterized only by her physical attractiveness. She was “beautiful of form and face” (verse 17). Moses may be drawing our attention to this fact because it was the major source of attraction for Jacob. There seems to be, then, a significant contrast here between Rachel and Rebekah. Rebekah was selected for Isaac by Abraham’s servant on the basis of divine guidance and because of personal qualities which assured him that she would be a fine wife for Isaac. Rachel, on the other hand, was selected by Jacob for himself, but without any mention of her personal qualities, only a description of her beauty. Rebekah’s beauty was an additional plus, an unexpected fringe benefit; Rachel’s beauty was the essence of her selection. The red warning lights should already be flashing in our minds.
After living with Laban for a month, they come to an agreement that has mutual benefit. Jacob is a hard worker, and Laban will have the benefit of Jacob working for him for 7 years (14 years after the deception is pulled off), and Jacob will receive the wife he wants (and an extra wife he didn't want).
The deal is struck, and after 7 long years Jacob, at the old age of 77, was finally able to claim his bride. But the deceiver is deceived, and after his wedding night, Jacob discovers that he has married Leah, not Rachel. Laban rebukes Jacob for attempting to marry the younger sister before the older was wed, but gives him Rachel as well, for another 7 yrs of labour.
There are so many applications for us from today's passage.
First, we see the consequences of sin. As we saw yesterday, a huge consequence was the loss of relationship with his family. But today we see another consequence. Jacob's sin in deceiving his father caused him to flee empty handed. He had no dowry to secure a bride, and so ended up working for 14 years.
Jacob chose to get ahead in life by using deception, and then he became the victim of a deception himself.
Jacob was eventually able to work for a wife (or two!). We, however, are not able to work to make up for our sin. Our salvation does not rest in the work of our hands, but in the grace of God.
Some may view the events of this chapter as God’s getting even with Jacob. Others would merely interpret them as a kind of poetic justice. I prefer to understand them as an evidence of the marvelous grace of God at work in the life of Jacob. God did not bring these events to pass to punish Jacob but to instruct him. Punishment has been born by our Savior on the cross, but discipline is the corrective training which furthers us on the path leading to godliness (cf. Hebrews 12).
Jacob learned the value of convention. The agreement which regulated the use of the well (verses 2-3, 7-8) seemed to mean little to Jacob. In the excitement of meeting Rachel he decided to use the well regardless of the rules for its use. He may also have disregarded some conventions in the way that he greeted Rachel (verses 10-12). He certainly chose to disregard the convention of marrying the first-born first. I do not believe that Laban was telling Jacob anything new but reminding him of something that could not, and should not, be taken lightly or disregarded.
In addition to all this, Jacob experienced the grace of God in the delay of 14 plus years. It was this delay which contributed to the preservation of Jacob’s life by keeping him away from the anger of Esau, who had purposed to kill him.
Amazingly, the grace of God was manifested in this event by the gift of Leah as a wife to Jacob. This is probably the last thought to cross our minds, but I believe that it is a defensible position. First, we must acknowledge that, in the providence of God (and in spite of the deceptiveness of Laban), Leah was Jacob’s wife. Furthermore, it was Leah, not Rachel, who became the mother of Judah, who was to be the heir through whom the Messiah would come (cf. 49:8-12). Also it was Levi, a son of Leah, who provided the priestly line in later years. It seems noteworthy that both Leah and her handmaid had at least twice the number of children as compared to Rachel and her maid (cf. 29:31-30:24; 46:15,18,22,25). The firstborn was always to have a double portion; and so it would seem Leah did, so far as children are concerned.
One final factor remains which evidences the superiority of Leah to Rachel. Rachel dies at an early age, yet she was the younger sister. When she died, she was buried on the way to Bethlehem (35:19). Yet when Leah died later, she was buried with Jacob in the cave at Machpelah (49:31). Leah was not a blight to Jacob but a blessing.
It reminds me of the story of Rachel and Leah in the Jesus Storybook Bible....
Now Jacob had two wives, but of his two wives, Jacob loved Rachel the best.
"No one loves me," Leah said. "I'm too ugly."
But God didn't think she was ugly. And when he saw that Leah was not loved and that no one wanted her, God chose her - to love her specially, to give her a very important job. One day, God was going to rescue the world - through Leah's family.
Now when Leah knew that God loved her, in her heart, suddenly it didn't matter any more whether her husband loved her best, or if she was the prettiest. Someone had chosen her, someone did love her - with a Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love.
So when she had a baby boy she called him Judah - which means "This time I will praise the Lord!" And that's what she did.
And you'll never guess what job God gave Leah. You see, when God looked at Leah, he saw a princess. And sure enough, that's exactly what she became. One of Leah's children's children would be a prince - the Prince of Heaven - God's Son.
This Prince would love God's people. They wouldn't need to be beautiful for him to love them. He would love them with all his heart. And they would be beautiful because he loved them.
We also learn how important guidance is.
Isaac was subject to his father, and it was through the wisdom of his father and his servant, through the financial means of Abraham, and through prayer that she was obtained. Jacob went off on his own with none of his father’s resources. He chose the woman with the greatest beauty and bargained with Laban for her.
To me there is no doubt but what Jacob was guided more by his hormones than any other factor. He did not pray about this matter, so far as we are told. He did not give any consideration to matters of character. He did not seek counsel. In fact, he sought to overturn the customs of the day and the preferences of Laban.
We live in a very romantically-oriented day. We find ourselves cheering for Rachel and booing Leah. God seems to have been on the other side. What is romantic is not always right—often it is wrong. Romanticism caused Jacob to use the well when and how he saw fit, regardless of the rules set by the owner. Romanticism led Jacob to chose Rachel, not Leah. Romanticism so controlled Jacob that under its spell he spent an entire night with the wrong woman. We must beware of those decisions which are determined by romantic impressions or feelings.
We also learn some things about beauty.
outward beauty must always be considered a secondary consideration. Jacob looked at Rachel’s exterior and investigated no further into her character. The writer, King Lemuel, was not in error when he gave this counsel:
Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, But a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised (Proverbs 31:30).....
Men and boys, this is a word for us. We all want to be seen with the beautiful girls.....Let us look first for character, and if we find it, let us look no further. If we find character with charm and beauty, let us consider ourselves fortunate....
Ladies, I realize that our society has placed a premium on glamour and beauty. I understand that much of your sense of self-worth is based upon your outward attractiveness and “sex appeal.” However, that is wrong. Our ultimate worth is that estimation which comes from God. God was not impressed with Rachel’s good looks. After all, He gave that to her in the first place. God looked upon the heart and blessed Leah. Her worth, while never fully realized by her husband, was great in the eyes of God. May all of us learn to be content with ourselves as God made us, and may we find our real worth in the realm of the spirit.