Genesis 29:15 Then Laban said to Jacob, “Because you are my relative, should you therefore serve me for nothing? Tell me, what shall your wages be?” 16 Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. 17 And Leah’s eyes were weak, but Rachel was beautiful of form and face. 18 Now Jacob loved Rachel, so he said, “I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.” 19 Laban said, “It is better that I give her to you than to give her to another man; stay with me.” 20 So Jacob served seven years for Rachel and they seemed to him but a few days because of his love for her. 21 Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife, for my time is completed, that I may go in to her.” 22 Laban gathered all the men of the place and made a feast. 23 Now in the evening he took his daughter Leah, and brought her to him; and Jacob went in to her. 24 Laban also gave his maid Zilpah to his daughter Leah as a maid. 25 So it came about in the morning that, behold, it was Leah! And he said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? Was it not for Rachel that I served with you? Why then have you deceived me?” 26 But Laban said, “It is not the practice in our place to marry off the younger before the firstborn. 27 Complete the week of this one, and we will give you the other also for the service which you shall serve with me for another seven years.” 28 Jacob did so and completed her week, and he gave him his daughter Rachel as his wife. 29 Laban also gave his maid Bilhah to his daughter Rachel as her maid. 30 So Jacob went in to Rachel also, and indeed he loved Rachel more than Leah, and he served with Laban for another seven years. 31 Now the LORD saw that Leah was unloved, and He opened her womb, but Rachel was barren. 32 Leah conceived and bore a son and named him Reuben, for she said, “Because the LORD has seen my affliction; surely now my husband will love me.” 33 Then she conceived again and bore a son and said, “Because the LORD has heard that I am unloved, He has therefore given me this son also.” So she named him Simeon. 34 She conceived again and bore a son and said, “Now this time my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.” Therefore he was named Levi. 35 And she conceived again and bore a son and said, “This time I will praise the LORD.” Therefore she named him Judah. Then she stopped bearing.
Jacob found himself among the relatives of his mother and while there he found a woman he desired named Rachel. He agreed to work for Laban for seven years for Rachel’s hand in marriage. As the story unfolds, however, we see that at the end of the seven years he is given Leah, Rachel’s sister, as his wife instead. Jacob was obviously unhappy with what had transpired, because he was now married to the wrong and undesirable sister. How many times do we find ourselves in a similar situation of feeling we have been married to or united with the wrong or undesirable thing? How about the one in ministry who is reading this; have you felt as though you have been wrongfully wedded?
Jacob found himself married to Leah but wanting Rachel. From hindsight we know that Rachel gave birth to Joseph, the son who represents the dream, the deliverance, and the destiny. Who does not want to start at that point and be able to have Joseph birthed right away? Yet while married to Leah there was no chance to see Joseph birthed. What a difficult predicament in which to find oneself.
As a representative of the Father, however, Laban knew what Jacob needed was more important than what Jacob wanted. While Jacob had legitimate right to Rachel having worked seven years for her hand in marriage, there was a lack in him that could only be produced in union with Leah before he would be able to experience production with Rachel. The Father understands our need for Leah and what can be produced in us. What must be learned prior to fruitfulness with Rachel is faithfulness with Leah. If we do not learn the faithfulness with Leah we will be unsure of how to handle the fruitfulness with Rachel.
Leah can mean weary, impatient, grieved, or offended. She was tender eyed and not as attractive as her younger sister. She had good qualities, but she was not the favored or choice of the two, and Jacob did not hide his true feelings. Yet we find that the very thing Jacob viewed as a problem or inconvenience is the very thing God used to develop character and stability in the life of Jacob. Jacob may not have wanted Leah, but he definitely got what he needed from his relationship with Leah. We have to realize that the Father is more interested in establishing what we need in our lives before He is able to give us what we think we want. When you take time to consider what was birthed in his relationship with Leah you realize the value of what can be produced in the less desirable places or situations.
Reuben means a gift is given. Often God will use the Leah experiences in our lives to give and develop the gifts in our lives that He can later use for His Kingdom. If you are going to see a Joseph birthed in your life you have got to learn how to father and train your gifting. When there is no affliction there is no need for gifting, but gifting that is developed in affliction is of great value in times of predicament, promise, or plenty. A person who does not learn how to parent their gift in times of Leah will not be able to handle the gift that comes through Rachel.
Simeon means God has heard, and I see this as prayer or communication with God. Leah clearly felt unloved, but with the birth of Simeon she declared that God had heard her cry. When we find ourselves in a position of feeling alone or outcast this is the perfect place for God to develop a life of prayer and communion with Him. In our Leah times it is imperative that we learn that it is more beneficial to cry out to God than to complain to men. Not only do we need to understand how to birth and train our gift, we must learn the power and value of prayer and being heard by God. Sometimes the best way for God to get us to understand how to pray is to bring us into situations that force us to pray.
Levi means joined or attracted to and speaks of unity. The third thing developed in Jacob with Leah was learning to be united with God. We often hear talk about unity among the people of God, but unless each of us understand how to be united with God we will never know how to be united to one another. If Jacob had been given Rachel first he would have most likely found himself more united with God’s provision than he was with God Himself. The reality is that when unity with God is missing we will seek to fill that void in other ways.
Learning to be genuinely united with God will help keep us from being so caught up in or affected by the situations in which we find ourselves. The tribe of Levi did not receive an inheritance in the Promised Land, because God Himself was their inheritance. Through Leah’s third child God was teaching Jacob that it was more important to be united with Him than to have anything else that the world had to offer.
Judah means praise, and praise is not something that is based on what God does but is based on who God is. Troubles and difficulties should never be able to steal praise, because there is nothing that can change the truth of who God is; He is always worthy of our praise. Isaiah tells us to put on a garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. This is our greatest weapon against the circumstances of life. God also promises that He will inhabit the praise of His people, and we see this played out in that Jesus Himself came through the tribe of praise.
Jacob received and trained his gift, Jacob was taught the value of being heard by God, Jacob learned the importance of unity with God, and Jacob gained an understanding of praise. And he did all of this in union with what he thought he did not even want. God knows better than us what it is that we need; and it can be extremely detrimental to get what we want before we have what we need.
At this point in the story we find Rachel so distraught that she decides it is time for her to help God. She gives her handmaid Bilhah to Jacob in order to produce children through her. Sometimes in our lives we can be so desperate for Rachel that we will even take anything that most closely resembles her in order to produce something.
Genesis 30:1 Now when Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, she became jealous of her sister; and she said to Jacob, “Give me children, or else I die.” 2 Then Jacob’s anger burned against Rachel, and he said, “Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?” 3 She said, “Here is my maid Bilhah, go in to her that she may bear on my knees, that through her I too may have children.” 4 So she gave him her maid Bilhah as a wife, and Jacob went in to her. 5 Bilhah conceived and bore Jacob a son. 6 Then Rachel said, “God has vindicated me, and has indeed heard my voice and has given me a son.” Therefore she named him Dan. 7 Rachel’s maid Bilhah conceived again and bore Jacob a second son. 8 So Rachel said, “With mighty wrestlings I have wrestled with my sister, and I have indeed prevailed.” And she named him Naphtali.
Bilhah means troubled, and she represents the trouble that is produced when you try and force the issue and bring things about in a natural sense. Bilhah is a pseudo-Rachel. While as her handmaid she represented Rachel, she was not her. Jacob saw an opportunity to get closer to his desire for productivity with Rachel, but it was in a manner that was of human doing. The world will always be aware of the trouble caused when Sarah gave her handmaid Hagar to Abraham. Consider the two sons born to Bilhah.
Dan means judgment or vindication, but this represents a vindication with man more than a vindication with God. Dan was born as a natural attempt to vindicate or prove oneself worthy. Many times if we are unable to be fruitful in the way in which we want, we will do something that might at least prove us to be worthy. God, however, has already declared us worthy and vindicated. We need not always try to gain in our own strength what He has given to us freely.
Naphtali means to struggle or wrestle, and his birth represents the ongoing wrestling that is done to prove worth or to gain something in a way other than God’s design. We know that God opened the womb of Rachel and that a great man was birthed as a result, yet with Bilhah we see the human side of trying to make it happen sooner than God seems to be operating. God truly does have our best in mind, and He does have plans to prosper you and make you fruitful. How many times, however, do we get ourselves too involved in the mix and birth things in our ability and then hope He accepts and blesses what we have done? When barrenness is present we can at times prolong it by our own impatience and misalignment. The gift, prayer, unity, and praise are intended to establish and produce the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. We must be sure we do not place our gift ahead of our fruit.
Now we shift back to Leah’s final two sons.
Genesis 30:17 God gave heed to Leah, and she conceived and bore Jacob a fifth son. 18 Then Leah said, “God has given me my wages because I gave my maid to my husband.” So she named him Issachar. 19 Leah conceived again and bore a sixth son to Jacob. 20 Then Leah said, “God has endowed me with a good gift; now my husband [l]will dwell with me, because I have borne him six sons.” So she named him Zebulun. 21 Afterward she bore a daughter and named her Dinah.
Issachar means reward or fair return for behavior. When Jacob went back to Leah, back to where the Father had first directed him, he was rewarded. God’s reward will far surpass anything man can ever give. It is so important to maintain faithfulness with where God has placed you. While the moments of deviation may be productive it is not guaranteed to be fruitful. Allow God to reward you for being committed to what it is He has called you to do.
Zebulun means to honor or be exalted. The order of what Jacob was given is gift, prayer, unity with God, praise, reward, and now honor and exaltation. It is soon after Zebulun that Joseph is finally born. How might things have turned out differently if Jacob had not learned what he did in his faithfulness to Leah? I believe the order is important. Jacob was not in a position to be rewarded, honored, or exalted until he had developed what he did with the first four things birthed with Leah. Prior to that he was trying to reward and exalt himself. It is so important for us to allow God to develop in us what it is that He knows we need.
Genesis 49:29 Then he charged them and said to them, “I am about to be gathered to my people; bury me with my fathers in the cave that is in the field of Ephron the Hittite, 30 in the cave that is in the field of Machpelah, which is before Mamre, in the land of Canaan, which Abraham bought along with the field from Ephron the Hittite for a burial site. 31 There they buried Abraham and his wife Sarah, there they buried Isaac and his wife Rebekah, and there I buried Leah— 32 the field and the cave that is in it, purchased from the sons of Heth.”
Jacob asked to be buried with Leah. He chose to be counted, remembered, and memorialized with the very thing he did not want in the beginning. The things he birthed, learned, and trained with Leah are the things that became the keys to his life. With Rachel it may have been love at first sight, but with Leah Jacob was eternally grateful and connected. May we never underestimate or underappreciate the places or things God does in our lives that seem undesirable. They are likely to be the very things we need. Be fruitful and multiply as you are faithfully committed.