Leah - First Wife of Jacob

Profile of Leah, Jacob's First Wife but Second in His Heart

Leah and Rachel
Leah and Rachel. Photo: Getty Images

Leah in the Bible is a person many can identify with.  Through no fault of her own, she was not one of the "beautiful people" and it caused her a lifetime of heartache.

Jacob traveled to Paddan-Aram to take a wife from among his relatives. When he met Rachel, he fell in love with her at first sight.  Scripture tells us Rachel was "lovely in form, and beautiful." (Genesis 29:17, NIV)

In the same verse is a description of Leah scholars have been arguing about for centuries:  "Leah had weak eyes."  The King James Version renders it as "tender eyed," while the New Living Translation says "There was no sparkle in Leah's eyes," and the Amplified Bible says "Leah's eyes were weak and dull looking."

Many Bible experts say the verse refers to Leah's lack of attractiveness rather than her eyesight.  That seems logical since a contrast is made with her beautiful sister Rachel.

Jacob worked for Rachel's father Laban seven years for the right to marry Rachel.  Laban tricked Jacob, however, substituting the heavily-veiled Leah on the dark wedding night.  When Jacob found out he had been tricked, he labored another seven years for Rachel.

The two sisters competed throughout their lives for Jacob's affection.  Leah bore more children, a highly honored achievement in ancient Israel.  But both women made the same mistake as Sarah, offering their maidservants to Jacob during times of barrenness.

Leah's name is variously said to mean "wild cow," "gazelle," "wearied," and "weary" in Hebrew.

In the long run, Leah was recognized by the Jewish people as an important person in their history, as this verse from the book of Ruth shows:

"...May the LORD make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house of Israel..."  (Ruth 4:11, NIV)

And at the end of his life, Jacob requested to be buried beside Leah (Genesis 49:29-31), suggesting he'd come to recognize the virtue in Leah and had grown to love her as deeply as he loved Rachel.

Accomplishments of Leah in the Bible:

Leah bore six sons:  Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar and Zebulun.  They were among the founders of the 12 tribes of Israel.  From the tribe of Judah came Jesus Christ, Savior of the world.

Leah’s Strengths:

Leah was a loving and faithful wife.  Even though her husband Jacob favored Rachel, Leah remained committed, enduring this unfairness through faith in God.

Leah’s Weaknesses:

Leah tried to make Jacob love her through her deeds.  Her fault is a symbol for those of us who try to earn God's love rather than simply receive it.

Life Lessons:

God does not love us because we are beautiful or handsome, brilliant or successful.  Neither does he reject us because we don't meet the world's standards for being attractive.  God loves us unconditionally, with a pure, passionate tenderness.  All we have to do for his love is accept it.

Hometown:

Paddan-Aram

References to Leah in the Bible:

Leah's story is told in Genesis chapters 29-31, 33-35, 46, and 49.  She is also mentioned in Ruth 4:11.

Occupation:

Housewife.

Family Tree:

Father - Laban
Aunt - Rebekah
Husband - Jacob
Children - Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun and Dinah
Descendant - Jesus Christ

Key Verses:

Genesis 29:23
But when evening came, he (Laban) took his daughter Leah and gave her to Jacob, and Jacob lay with her.

(NIV)

Genesis 29:31
When the LORD saw that Leah was not loved, he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren.  (NIV)

Genesis 49:29-31
Then he gave them these instructions: “I am about to be gathered to my people. Bury me with my fathers in the cave in the field of Ephron the Hittite, the cave in the field of Machpelah, near Mamre in Canaan, which Abraham bought as a burial place from Ephron the Hittite, along with the field. There Abraham and his wife Sarah were buried, there Isaac and his wife Rebekah were buried, and there I buried Leah. (NIV)

Jack Zavada, a career writer and contributor for About.com, is host to a Christian website for singles. Never married, Jack feels that the hard-won lessons he has learned may help other Christian singles make sense of their lives. His articles and ebooks offer great hope and encouragement. To contact him or for more information, visit Jack's Bio Page.