Poor Leah. She’s pathetic. This 17th century painting depicts Jacob (on the right with Leah) hauling her before Laban her father in indignation after Jacob discovered he had just spent the night with her instead of his preferred bride, her sister Rachel.
As our text from Genesis 29:31 – 30:24 shows us, Leah continues playing second fiddle to Rachel in Jacob’s affections, while trying desperately to obtain his love by the only means available to her, having babies. In her defense, we are told at the outset that it is God who “opened her womb.” The children she bears with Jacob are the Lord’s gift to her. But she wrongly imagines that means God is also granting her an improved position with regard to Jacob. No, he still prefers Rachel, as the rest of Genesis makes clear.
Even the writer of Genesis seems to give in to Jacob’s preference for Rachel, and her first son becomes the focus of the end of the book. If one had to guess, you might imagine that Joseph would become the ancestor of the kings of Israel and ultimately of the Messiah.
Yet it is out of Leah that the ancestor of the kings and of Jesus comes. And that ancestor is not even the firstborn of Jacob and Leah, but their fourth son, Judah.
So a younger son of the less-loved wife becomes the head of the tribe which brings forth the salvation of the world. It’s another confirmation that God does not see things as we do, does not always focus on the most attractive, on the first in line, on the most likely to succeed. No, He regularly chooses the unloved, the hopeless, the foreigner, the least of the least, in order to accomplish His purpose, because His purpose is to show love to all, no matter one’s standing in society or in a family.
May God’s love to Leah and her fourth son remind us of His love to us when we are feeling left out or forgotten or unloved. May it also remind us to be careful how we regard the people around us who don’t seem to have much going for them. God might be in their corner. Leah might be their mother.