In case you’re inclined to write a romance novel based on ancient traditions, you could borrow from some of our reading today. We are told, “Jacob was in love with Rachel and said, ‘I will work for seven years in return for your younger daughter Rachel.” Certainly there is romance in this, even if arranged marriage is foreign to us. Everything else is a romantic disaster. Rachel’s father, Laban, deceives Jacob and gives him his daughter Leah instead. We all feel sorry for Leah because she is married to a man that loves her sister. When Rachel cannot have children, she feels unloved too. At the same time, Jacob is so enslaved to his love (or maybe lust) for Rachel that Laban has Jacob firmly under his thumb. Like Jacob tricked Esau out of his birthright, so Laban cons Jacob into fourteen years of work. Jacob’s sexual desires imprison him and make him easy to control. Though much has changed for mankind, much stays the same. Lust is a powerful master.
Desire for affection also controls poor Leah. Her ability to bear children cannot gain her husband’s ultimate love. Her children’s names go from Reuben, which means “see, a son” and sounds like “he (God) has seen my misery”, to Simeon meaning “he who hears”, reflecting hope that God has heard about Leah being unloved. The next boy born, Levi, reveals Leah’s continued hope that three boys will be enough to stir her husband—Levi sounds like the word for “attached”. Eventually Leah learns that God alone can stand as her hope. Leah names her fourth son “Judah”, likely derived from the word “praise”. These details highlight ongoing pain and suffering that men and especially women face in this world. In all of this messiness, God is bringing to life the twelve sons who forever are pillars of God’s chosen people, though these will know God’s blessings with heartbreak and through their brokenness. These children will face torn relationships similar to their mothers’. As God is bringing blessings to the world, we have to wait for some time to see God’s truest and best blessing.