Monday, April 25, 2016
The most heartbreaking words spoken, in my opinion, are the words Leah said when she gave birth to Simeon.
"Because the LORD heard that I am not loved, he gave me this one too." So she named him Simeon.
When I first read the word unloved, with my English mind, I think, Poor Leah, if only Jacob had loved her like she loved him. Certainly Jacob must have at least liked Leah. I mean, he did sleep with her five more times after Simeon was born .
But then there's that darn Hebrew dictionary and it reveals a much darker picture. As hopeless as Leah felt to be unloved, it is even more distressing to know that the Hebrew word, sane (pronounced saw-nay) does not give hope to anything close to Jacob liking Leah or even being on a friendly basis with the mother of seven of his children.
Sane, pronounced "saw-nay" means to hate.
You read that correctly. It wasn't just that Leah was unloved, but liked. No. Leah felt she was hated by Jacob. Deeply hated.
It was not Leah's fault, initially. Jacob thought he was getting Leah's sister, Rachel, as a wife, and when he found out too late he had sex with Leah and not Rachel, he had to have been very angry. Wouldn't you have been angry? We can rightly assume that the brunt of Jacob's anger was towards his father-in-law, but unfortunately for Leah, she was the one in the line of fire.
Have you ever been angry at someone or something and took that anger out on the person closest to you, just because of physical location? Have you ever been the one who bore the brunt of the anger meant for someone else, but you happen to be the one who gets the venomous words?
Jacob, I believe, was most angry at Laban. It was Laban who caused the one desperate sister to betray the other all for the sake of cheating Jacob out of pay for his labor. We don't need to discuss the value of a woman in that culture, do we? Yes, she went along, but to not go along may have meant dire consequences for Leah. Or she may have thrown caution to the wind and just hoped......
Hoped that Jacob would learn to love her like he loved her sister. One night in my tent, perhaps Leah thought, and I can make him love me more or at least enough to forget about my pretty sister.
I would speculate the anger Jacob felt towards Leah may have frightened her. Even though Leah knew what was going on when Jacob entered the marriage tent Rachel should have been in, Leah knew she was not what Jacob had bargained for. When Leah did not say anything to disclose what her father had done to Jacob surely that had to have infuriated him. Maybe Laban forced her to deceive Jacob the same way he had tricked him. She should have spoken up, but she didn't or maybe couldn't. Could she have spoken up and lived? Add that question to the heaven list, will you please?
Jacob loved Rachel more than he loved Leah. The Bible makes no bones about his feelings towards the sisters. Leah is the one who said Jacob hated her. Did he hate her before she betrayed him? Or had he been neutral towards her, or even worse, just looked through her as he searched for the pretty sister? She probably assumed he hated her and rightly so, after she played along with her father's plan. One tends to assume the worst when a guilty conscience is involved.
From their wedding night moment on, Leah may have longed for Jacob to love her like he loved her sister. If Jacob thought the it was Rachel he was with in the marriage tent, I would imagine that was the one and only time Leah experienced passionate love. Maybe that night is what she clung to, through all the years of trying to produce a child who might make Jacob forgive her and love her like he loved Rachel.
But it never happened. Jacob loved Rachel. When Jacob faced his brother, Esau, after parting with him on bad terms many years before, he put Leah and her children in the front of the caravan, while Rachel and her boys were in the back.
That had to hurt.
She would forever in her earthly life bear the consequences of loving a man who did not love her. She brought children into the mess, hoping they would be the cure for her husband's disdain, but they weren't. They suffered too.
I wonder if Jacob, when he looked at Reuben and Simeon and Levi and Judah, wished those boys had come from Rachel's womb and not her sister's. I wonder if Simeon and Levi would have not acted so quickly in defense of Dinah had they had the love of a father who loved their mother. Those boys most likely bore the brunt of the disdain for their mother Jacob may have been working through those first few years of their marriage.
As much as Leah felt hated though, Jacob did keep coming back to her.
Funny how we can't always see the forest for the trees, isn't it?
We don't know anything more about what they felt and thought beyond what the Bible tells us they did and felt. But Leah felt hated. The boys felt their mother's pain. Human behavior does not change. The human behavior and instinctive bent in ancient times is the human behavior and instinctive bent of our modern world. Perhaps the hatred Jacob felt towards Leah and Laban took root in Simeon's heart.
We don't have to look too far in our modern world to see the effects of unloved mothers, disrespected fathers, brokenhearted children, and broken homes on our society.
There's nothing new under the sun.
But here's the hope for the unloved. For those saw-nay:
Long after Jacob and Leah and Rachel had died, God gave a blessing for those caught in the soap opera life Jacob, Leah and Rachel lived out. When the Lord gave instructions to Moses, he said this:
"If a man has two wives, and he loves one but not the other, and both bear him sons but the firstborn is the son of the wife he dos not love, when he wills his property to his sons, he must not give the rights of the firstborn to the son of the wife he loves in preference to his actual firstborn, the son of the wife he does not love. He must acknowledge the son of his unloved wife as the firstborn by giving him a double share of all he has. That son is the first sign of his father's strength. The right of the firstborn belongs to him."
Jacob did acknowledge Reuben as his firstborn son. But we know what was said after that. Life went on for Jacob and Leah and Rachel. They had their squabbles and difficulties I'm sure, and, I like to think, tried to make hay when the sun was shining, but God remembered the pain of the unloved sister. He saw her pain. He knew her heart.
The words Jacob spoke over those twelve boys had to have stung Leah, if she heard them, when the most blessed words were spoken to Joseph and Benjamin, the children of the woman Jacob loved, instead of the children of the woman who loved Jacob.
Who really is to blame for the mess and pain of unloved Leah's life?
Laban? Jacob? Leah? Rachel?
All of the above, with the added component of the church answer: sin.
What isn't said about any of them is that they loved the LORD more than the earthly relationships. If that had been their hearts from the beginning maybe, just maybe there would be a different story to tell.
Hindsight is 20/20 though. We can speculate and play the "If Only" game for their lives and our lives all we want and it won't change a thing. But the hope and the promise though is what God feels towards the unloved.
"Under three things the earth trembles, under four it cannot bear up:
a servant who becomes king,
a fool who is full of food,
an unloved (saw-nay) woman who is married,
and a maidservant who displaces her mistress."
How interesting that it is the tears of the unloved woman which make the earth tremble. I wonder...when the earth trembles, is God weeping?