Genesis 29:17 states that “Leah’s eyes were weak.” Now whether your commentary interprets Leah’s “weak eyes” as a positive feature (tender and lovely) or a negative flaw (pale, without luster/red and watery), the point is clear: she wasn't the belle of the ball. And worse yet, she is introduced to us in comparison with her sister. “Leah’s eyes were weak, but Rachel was beautiful in form and appearance” (Genesis 29:17).
I have often sympathized with Leah. Here is a woman known for weak eyes while her younger sister is recognized for her beauty. How soon did Leah begin to notice the differences between her and Rachel? At what age did the piercing remarks begin? There goes Rachel, the pretty one, and Leah, the one with the weak eyes.
If Leah had been jealous of Rachel in their youth, those feelings would only heighten with the appearance of Jacob in Genesis 29. You would remember that, Jacob fearing revenge from his brother Esau, leaves home for the country of his uncle Laban (Genesis 27:41-45). He is sent there by his father Isaac to find a wife among his mother’s relatives (Genesis 28:1-4).
A month after arriving, Jacob declares his desire for Rachel and offers to serve Laban for seven years in exchange for her hand. Laban agrees and Jacob labors for seven years–though they seemed as nothing to him because of his love for Rachel (Genesis 29:1-20).
But to Jacob's despair, Leah—and not Rachel—is given to him at the end of the set time. When confronted, Laban offers this explanation: “It is not so done in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn. Complete the [bridal] week of this one, and we will give you the other also in return for serving me another seven years”(Genesis 29:26-27). So within the matter of a week, Jacob goes from no wife to two—sisters from the same household, one he adores and the other, he hates (Genesis 29:21-35)! Note that the Mosaic Law will later forbid the marrying of two living sisters (Leviticus 18:18).
Here too, my sympathies lie with Leah. Can you imagine being hated by your own husband? His cold eyes for you transform into longing whenever your sister walks by. What tears those weak eyes must have shed! Surely, Leah was a woman acquainted with many sorrows. Just consider the following: she is treated as an object of deceit by her own father; she endures the rape of a daughter (Genesis 34:1-2) and then the murderous revenge of her sons (Genesis 34:3-25); she bears the shame of her eldest son’s illicit relationship with his father’s concubine (Genesis 35:22); and witnesses the painful death of her sister (Genesis 35:16-19).
While Jacob is slow to love and honor Leah, the LORD honors her. He opens her womb and enables her to bear six sons and at least one daughter (Genesis 30:19-21). Half of Israel’s twelve tribes are birthed through Leah. In her death, she is honored with a place among the patriarchs and matriarchs of Israel. Rachel dies in childbirth between Bethel and Ephrath and is buried along the way but Leah is put to rest next to her husband Jacob in the burial place of Abraham’s lineage (Genesis 35:16-19; 49:29-32).
Much more, Leah gives birth to Judah, through whom the LORD’s Messiah would come (Matthew 1:2-3). She becomes the ancestral mother of the Man of Sorrows. Like Leah--although to a greater degree--the Lord Jesus Christ is rejected by those who should have loved Him. Hear the words of Isaiah:
He had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not (Isaiah 53:2b-3).
What a glorious High Priest we have! One who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15). Jesus Christ is able to sympathize with our weaknesses. So “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
Yes, Leah’s eyes were weak but they were fixed on a strong God. In her affliction, she draws near to Him and prays and the “LORD listens to her” (Genesis 30:17). May the afflicted reader be encouraged today. Leah’s Greater Son has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows (Isaiah 53:4). Blessed is she who trusts in Him!
*Thanks for reading! This post is part of my Mothers in the Bible Series; we are looking for glimpses of the gospel in the lives of biblical women--from Eve to Mary, the mother of Christ. Click here to see other writings. And please let me know your thoughts!