Leah: The Other Sister

Genesis 29. 15-35, 30.1-20

In the previous post we heard about Rachel, the wife who Jacob loved the most but who never seemed to find contentment. Now we hear of her sister Leah, the wife Jacob never really loved but who was blessed with a huge number of sons.

Me and my sister, Milly (plus Layla and Koru)

Much of my childhood was spent in arguments with my sister. I was a couple of years older and was deeply jealous of her. Apparently when I was around three I used to sleep outside my parents’ bedroom door so I was first to be seen in the morning! I don’t look back on those years with much pride as I was pretty vile. I even cut her beautiful red hair and made her promise not to tell anyone! One of the greatest blessings in my life is that she forgave me and we’re now the best of friends.

This certainly wouldn’t be the case if we were married to the same man!!

Leah knew from the beginning of her marriage to Jacob that she wasn’t the one that Jacob loved most. But she did have lots of boys (something we share as Milly and I have 5 boys between us), and boys in those days were a sign of God’s blessing.

When the Lord saw that Leah was unloved, he opened her womb

Genesis 29.31

She had four sons in quick succession (Rueben, Simeon, Levi and Judah)

Surely now my husband will love me

Genesis 29. 32

But sadly for Leah this doesn’t seem to be the case and Jacob continued to prefer her sister, even though she had even more sons via her handmaid Zilpah (Gad and Asher).

Although neither Rachel nor Leah had much power over who they were to marry, it seems that they did have agency within their relationship. They were able to name their sons for example. And it seems that they were also able to control which of them Jacob slept with. Here is an example:

Illustration of Mandragora officinalis (Mandrake)
Fun Fact: In the Odyssey, the Greek enchantress Circe used Mandragora in a brew to turn Odysseus’ men into swine!
Fun Fact 2: Mandrakes are used in Harry Potter (Herbology) as a powerful restorative.

After Leah has stopped having children her eldest son Rueben finds some mandrake plants, a known ancient aphrodisiac said to possess natural stimulants. When you see the plants it’s not surprising why they became known as an ancient form of viagra!

Leah gave Rachel the plants in return for a night in Jacob’s bed.

When Jacob came in from the field in the evening Leah went out to meet him, and said, “you must come in to me; for I have hired you with my son’s mandrakes.” So Jacob lay with her that night

Genesis 30.16

The result of this led to her fifth son, Isaachar. She went on to have two more children, Zebulun and last but not least a daughter… Dinah (who we will hear about tomorrow).

Leah may not have been Jacob’s most beloved wife, but she seemed to have been more contented that her sister, and she was blessed with a quiver full of sons who then went on to be the foundation tribes of Israel.

We don’t hear if the sisters were ever fully reconciled but I like to think that their passionate jealousy and fierce rivalry ran alongside a deep love for one another. They were in an impossible situation and one that would have tested even the most dedicated siblings.

Jacob may not have favoured her in life, but in death she was honoured and buried alongside Abraham and Sarah in a place where Jacob would be eventually laid to rest.[1] United in death if not in life.  

[1] Genesis 49.31 – ‘There Abraham and his wife Sarah were buried; their Isaac and his wife Rebekah were buried; and there I buried Leah.’


Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger.... be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you
Ephesians 4.32

As we’ve reflected over the last couple of days on the complicated sibling relationship between Rachel and Leah perhaps we might think about our own relationship with a sibling or close family member. What do we appreciate about them? What is difficult?

Perhaps we can think of three things about them that we are thankful for. We may even like to send them a message to let them know. If your relationship is complex and damaged then perhaps you might like to pray for healing and forgiveness.

Be gracious to all that are near and dear to us, and keep us all in thy fear and love. Guide us, good Lord, and govern us by the same Spirit, that we may be so united to thee here as not to be divided when thou art pleased to call us hence, but may together enter into thy glory,
through Jesus Christ. Amen

A prayer of John Wesley, 1703-91

Author: clarehayns

College Chaplain and Welfare Coordinator of Christ Church, Oxford | Mum of three boys | wife of a juggler and magician | Council of Reference of ZANE - http://www.zane-zimbabweanationalemergency.com | enjoys board games, dog walking, films, eating out.

6 thoughts on “Leah: The Other Sister”

  1. Hey beloved sis. To keep the record straight and fair, I was fiercely jealous of you too and sometimes pretty vile.. The love was pretty fierce too…and still is thank God.

    Thanks for this post and reminding us that relationships aren’t fixed but in constant flow. Love can be born through the difficult times, not just the easy.

    M x


  2. This is very thought-provoking, thank you very much Clare. And thank you also to Micah for his beautiful series of drawings. I’m glad that you and Milly get on well now, you’re both fantastic people! I’m happy to say that my sister is the number one love in my life and neither marriage nor death will ever change that.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Clare
    Re the blog: I am out of my comfort zone with this, but then I remember the 1st Experience Easter and how difficult I found it at first and with your encouragement how much I gained from it. So, I will continue thank you for challenging me


    1. How lovely to hear this. I remember how brilliant you were at leading the children on the entry to Jerusalem station at Experience Easter! This blog has challenged me too! Thank you.


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