Genesis 29 tells the poignant story of Jacob’s family. Having angered his brother, Esau, Jacob fled to Paddan-aram, his mother’s ancestral home. At the well, he met beautiful Rachel and connected with his clan. It was love at first sight. In contrast to her sister Leah, who had weak eyes, Rachel was lovely in form. Jacob negotiated with Laban, his uncle, for her hand in marriage. Laban seemed to agree to the marriage in exchange for seven years of work.
Full of intense longings for Rachel, Jacob demanded his wife at the earliest moment. Laban hosted a grand feast. At nightfall, after a day of celebration and revelry, Laban brought his heavily veiled daughter Leah to Jacob, who supposed her to be his beloved Rachel. In his tent, under the cover of darkness, Jacob consummated his love, drifting off to sleep in the arms of his new bride. “In the morning, behold, it was Leah!” (v. 25).
To live with insight, we must grasp this truth: in the morning, it is always Leah. Derek Kidner, in his commentary, writes, “‘In the morning, behold, it was Leah’ is a miniature of our disillusionment from Eden onwards.” No one ever put it any better than C. S. Lewis in Mere Christianity: “The longings which arise in us when we first fall in love, or first think of some foreign country, or first take up some subject that excites us, are longings which no marriage, no travel, no learning, can ever really satisfy.
. . . There is always something we have grasped at. There’s always something in that first moment of longing but fades away in the reality. The spouse may be a good spouse. The scenery has been excellent. It turned out to be a good job. But it’s evaded us. In the morning it’s always Leah.”
This is an amazing picture of the gospel. Leah lived as an unloved woman in the shadow of her beautiful sister, but God took pity on her and opened her womb. Leah, this unloved woman, gave her first three sons names that reflected her unrequited longings for her husband. However, something wonderful happened to her between sons three and four. She began to reflect the wisdom that is the lesson of this story. Being loved or being successful will never enable us to flourish as human beings. It is only God who satisfies our deepest longings. Leah could not find life in being seen (Reuben), heard (Simeon), or attached (Levi) to Jacob. When the fourth son was born, she said, “This time I will praise the Lord” (v. 35). So she named that son Judah, which sounds like the Hebrew word for “praise.” She took her hopes off Jacob and placed them squarely on God.
This forgotten woman is a picture of how grace comes to the forgotten and unloved. In the love of God, Leah became the ancestress of the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Lord Jesus, to whom belongs the obedience of the nations.