Before we move on to the next pair of sisters, Martha and Mary, we will revisit the story of Jacob, Leah, and Rachel by posing a few questions and considering some interesting facts.
How much time elapsed before Jacob took his family back to his homeland?
In Genesis 31:41 Jacob says to Laban, “Thus I have been in your house twenty years; I served you fourteen years for your two daughters, and six years for your flock.” It seems likely by the time they left, Leah’s older sons were teenagers and Joseph under the age of ten.
As Jacob’s family grew in size, where did they live?
Genesis 31:33 indicates each of Jacob’s wives and handmaids had her own tent. Laban searched through each one looking for his stolen idols. I assume the children lived with their mothers.
Did other instances of jealousy trouble this family?
Genesis 31:1 opens with Laban’s sons fretting about the possibility of Jacob draining off their father’s wealth. It was enough of a concern to cause Laban’s disposition toward him to change, and the Lord instructed Jacob to return to his homeland. Even Leah and Rachel got into the mix, wondering about their inheritance. Tension filled the air.
Rachel stole her father’s idols before they left, and hid them in her camel saddle. The Woman’s Study Bible note regarding Genesis 31:19 comments these were “teraphim,” small household figurines possibly used for divination. Some ancient records of contemporary law connected ownership of the household idols with inheritance rights. It may be Rachel took matters into her own hands, trying to insure she and Leah would have rights to their father’s estate.
Did Jacob ever grow to love Leah?
The Bible does not specifically say, but the following scriptures may give some indications.
In Genesis 31:31 Jacob worried Laban would take back his daughters by force. He obviously cared for them both, but was this a matter of love, possessions, or both?
Later Jacob braced himself for the first meeting with Esau in twenty years. Not knowing what to expect, he developed a specific plan of approach toward his brother and his band of 400 men. The maidservants and their children would go first; Leah and her brood followed; and Jacob, Rachel and Joseph came last. In the case of co-wives, one always enjoyed most favored status, and it is obvious here that Rachel still held that rank.
For further consideration
Scripture reveals a couple of intriguing facts about this family. I find both tinged with a certain irony.
First, Leah was the wife interred in the ancestral cave at Machpelah, near the bones of Abraham and Sarah, and Isaac and Rebekah (Genesis 49:31). At death Jacob would join her. Rachel died earlier in childbirth in route to Ephrath (Bethlehem) and was buried along the way—forever separated from the man who loved her (Genesis 35:18-20).
The second concerns the descendants of these sisters. Leah’s line traces to David (and eventually to Christ) through Judah and Rachel’s to Saul through Benjamin. 1 Samuel bears witness that vestiges of their sibling rivalry endured, only this time it worked in the lives of two kings.