Genesis 29:31-32 (ESV)
When the LORD saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren. And Leah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Reuben, for she said, “Because the LORD has looked upon my affliction; for now my husband will love me.”
Yeah, it really says, “hated.” The King James says, “hated,” too. The NIV says, “not loved.” The New King James says, “unloved,” but has a footnote that says, “Literally hated.”
There’s no sugarcoating this. The Hebrew is clear; Leah was hated. Sugarcoating God’s word interferes with the lessons. We need to feel Leah’s heartbreak and desperation.
Reuben means, “See, a son.” She explains this saying, “Because the LORD has looked upon my affliction; for now my husband will love me.” The text doesn’t say who she said this to, but surely Jacob heard about it.
God is schooling Jacob, and this time he’s going to learn a lot. Jacob has to be aware of Leah’s pain; he’s married to her for crying out loud. Now she announces that Reuben is God’s response to her prayers about Jacob not loving her.
Lesson #3 – God hears prayer.
Now Leah is being favored by God. Jacob knows a thing or two about being favored by God – his momma taught him all about him and Esau – but this is puzzling. Rachel has been the favored one all her life. Leah, bless her heart, had to live in Rachel’s shadow.
But when Leah dissolves into tears and prays her brains out, God turns the tables.
Lesson #4 – God is just (in complex and surprising ways).
But the individual lessons aren’t the key here. They’re forming a pattern and it’s the pattern that’s important. The LORD is everywhere, good, hearing, and just. He’s God of everything. He – not Jacob – determines what happens next. It’s totally intimidating. Sign up or be on the losing team.
Jacob’s not there yet, but it’s starting to sink in.
So, how are you doing? Not all our prayers should be for someone else. When you pray for yourself, do you ask God for help or for guidance? The guidance bit can be important.
Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! – Psalm 139:23-24 (ESV)
Notice how this prayer isn’t asking for a favor. It’s a servant talking to his Lord in a way that sounds like a servant talking to his Lord. It reflects the perspective of servitude.
Still, it’s perfectly OK to ask God for a blessing. Leah did.
The weekly study guides, which include discussion questions, are available for download here: