Highlights for Genesis 28-33
This week, I’m sharing something rather personal and vulnerable – because it makes an excellent intro for part of our CFM study.
This past week was an extra-low spot in my life. I had a treasured friend throw an unexpected emotional punch intended to sit me right down and put me in my place (in exchange for my unwelcome, badly-timed, clumsy insights about ordinary people patterns). The nature and wording of the response knocked the wind completely out of my soul. So much that I honestly couldn’t finish the blog post intended for last’s week CFM. Like, I couldn’t even touch the keyboard.
Have you ever been flattened like that? Some people have a kryptonite aim. While I can’t be sure if the fallout was anticipated – I’m still picking dazed pieces of me off the ground.
My friend targeted the complaints right at my inner personality traits, who I am, and my well-meaning tendencies, which were classified as “manipulative” and “presumptuous.” To have someone I trust resent me and characterize me in such a way is a bit nightmarish. My eyes well up as I write this even though the delivery was a while ago.
Prayer has been a source of comfort and strength. My greatest comfort came from owning and apologizing for my misdeeds.
For me, “manipulative” is the opposite of sincerity and implies shallow, selfish motives at the expense of others. It’s a cringe word.
manipulative: scheming, cunning, opportunist, unscrupulous control
So keep “manipulative” in mind as we cover Leah’s story.
How Not to Win Someone’s Heart
At first, while reading Leah’s pitiful efforts to upgrade her status from least favorite and somewhat ignored wife; I thought, “oh, that poor thing”! She kept hoping her husband Jacob would finally value her and love her for the children she bore him.
Today, a clearer picture opened to me of what took place, and I realized she possibly is not to be pitied. That might surprise you but read on. My recent focus on the word “manipulative” directed my eyes to another side of the story.
Leah is the perpetrator in this situation and not Jacob. That might be bold to say, but see what you think?
KJV Genesis 29:20-28
20 And Jacob served seven years for Rachel; and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her.
Heart-warming verse. Time flies with the ones you truly love.
21 ¶ And Jacob said unto Laban, Give me my wife, for my days are fulfilled, that I may go in unto her.
22 And Laban gathered together all the men of the place, and made a feast.
23 And it came to pass in the evening, that he took Leah his daughter, and brought her to him; and he went in unto her.
25 And it came to pass, that in the morning, behold, it was Leah: and he said to Laban, What is this thou hast done unto me? did not I serve with thee for Rachel? wherefore then hast thou beguiled me?
26 And Laban said, It must not be so done in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn.
27 Fulfil her week, and we will give thee this also for the service which thou shalt serve with me yet seven other years.
Now THAT is manipulation.
28 And Jacob did so, and fulfilled her week: and he gave him Rachel his daughter to wife also.
A Closer Look
Let’s back up and think about what Leah did:
- Leah knew Jacob was in love with Rachel and courting her. She watched it for seven years.
- Leah knew Jacob served SEVEN years just to be able to marry Rachel.
- Leah knew she was deceiving Jacob but she went through with it anyway.
Robert Alter (The Hebrew Bible) adds details from ancient Jewish texts (from the Midrash Bereishit Rabba). “And all that night he cried out to her: ‘Rachel’ and she answered him. In the morning ‘and, look she was Leah. He said to her, “Why did you deceive me, daughter of a deceiver? Didn’t I call out Rachel in the night, and you answered me?
Her answer is unsympathetic, disdainful, and “tough luck.”
She said: “There is never a bad barber who doesn’t have disciples. Isn’t this how your father cried to Esau, and you answered him?”
Oh man…ouch. I’m not sure what Leah was thinking, but this really is not the way to win someone’s heart.
So yes, Leah gets married through manipulation, dishonesty, and deception. Jacob is actually HER victim. Nonetheless, Jacob, a respectable man, honors the entrapment; but at what price to Leah?
KJV Genesis 29:32-34
32 And Leah conceived, and bare a son, and she called his name Reuben: for she said, Surely the Lord hath looked upon my affliction; now therefore my husband will love me.
33 And she conceived again, and bare a son; and said, Because the Lord hath heard that I was hated, he hath therefore given me this son also: and she called his name Simeon.
34 And she conceived again, and bare a son; and said, Now this time will my husband be joined unto me, because I have born him three sons: therefore was his name called Levi.
This goes on until the sixth son:
20 And Leah said, God hath endued me with a good dowry; now will my husband dwell with me, because I have born him six sons: and she called his name Zebulun.
Having sons to gain favor doesn’t ever work for Leah. Jacob functions as a husband and honors his duties to support Leah, but his heart is never Leah’s. I honestly do not blame him because Leah lassoed him against his will, completely disrespected his happiness, and does not ever seem repentant – more on that below.
A Similar Modern Mistake
The first moral of the story is don’t manipulate people for self-serving gains. Karma is really into equality and eventually comes around to make sure you reap what you sow.
This next section is a bit frank. Leah’s story as told in the Old Testament is quite frank. But there is an important message.
How many misguided women and girls have intentionally sought to use stratagem on a man or entrap a man through sexuality and/or pregnancy? I know a few. Yes, some men will honor the arrangement and get married to give the child a name (and they well should) – but at what price? This kind of shallow plan mostly backfires, and the woman becomes a non-cherished obligation. Or the child is valued, but not the mother. And these days, divorce is common.
The last fate is worse than the first. Profound rejection eventually comes around, and it is not worth the fleeting sense of victory or gratification. While Leah’s example is extreme – lesser versions of her scheme will not work out well.
Hold out for Genesis 29:20
And Jacob served seven years for Rachel; and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her.
This goes for men as well. How many foolish men have sought to catch a woman by displaying wealth or some other material advantage? Or maybe through the same sexuality/pregnancy obligation in reverse. You may capture a marriage license, but not the heart.
So hopefully, we learn from Leah’s gigantic mistake: figure out how to truly love and be loved. Develop your capacities to attract and be a quality partner. Hold out for that situation or work towards it.
Forgiveness vs. Ongoing Manipulation
You might be thinking, what about forgiveness for Leah over the years? My thought about this situation is manipulation on that level is rarely a one-time event. People repeat patterns and tendencies. For example, Laban short-changed Jacob’s agreed-upon wages ten times. Laban is repeatedly unscrupulous with people around him.
Likewise, Leah seems to be dishonest about herself because she dares to tell Rachel off years later:
And she said unto her, [Leah to Rachel] Is it a small matter that thou hast taken my husband? and wouldest thou take away my son’s mandrakes also? Genesis 30:15
It’s like, wait, seriously? Who took away whose husband? Who interjected themselves into whose life?
Leah’s inferior status results from her deceptive habits, which victimized Jacob. This is speculation – but people repeat patterns and her manipulations most likely continued because that’s her father’s pattern. Further, she does not appear to be reflective about who cheated whom regarding marriage.
This post is more pragmatic and about the games people play and their consequences. Do we need to mention Leah’s mishap to our youth? Sometimes, the scripture stories have simple examples that are very important. I believe Leah’s is one of them.
This post draws on two resources – (1) Joseph Smith’s complete translation of the Bible – amazingly, Joseph Smith corrected translations for more than 3,900 verses from the KJV Bible. And (2) Robert Alter’s “The Hebrew Bible – A Translation with Commentary.” Robert Alter’s book is considered one of the best translations of the Bible in our modern time and came highly recommended by bookofmormoncentral.org – a premiere Latter-day Saint scholarship site. Robert Alter’s lifetime work was published in 2018. See My Secrets for Falling In Love with the Old Testament for more information about these two books and where to get them.