Author’s Note: I love to read the Bible’s accounts of the men and women who make up its pages. Abundant lessons can be gleaned by the determined student who takes time to read and meditate on those lives. What was life like in that time? How would it feel to take the character’s place in the story? Getting inside the character’s head, seeing the events through his eyes, and expressing his thoughts as I would my own make the pages of history come to life. Please, allow me to share the example of Leah. She was the less beautiful of two sisters whose father, Laban, tricked a man who did not love her to marry her. Her story is recorded in Genesis 29-33.
Let the story unfold…
(Scene: Leah sits alone sewing her sister’s wedding dress.)
My ambition to marry seems unlikely. The pain of my singleness multiplied when handsome Jacob, my distant relative, entered our lives. Jacob would surpass any girl’s dreams. Alas, he fell in love with my younger sister, Rachel. Jacob offered my father seven years of labor in exchange for her hand in marriage. Seven years to cultivate their love, to exchange looks only a couple in love might understand, and to plan their future. Ah, romance! Will my turn ever come?
Rachel sails through life effortlessly. She’s the favorite in every circumstance and gets what she wants. Father agreed to Jacob’s terms with no thought of our custom. Daughters must marry according to birth order, and Rachel should be stitching my wedding dress.
With her perfect face and killer figure she has no problem attracting attention, and Jacob fell captive to her spell. If I hear him tell again how fast the seven years have passed and how they seemed to him like a day, I think I’ll scream. Hopefully the wedding will be over soon, and he will take her back to his home.
Rachel and I are sisters in every way except for my blue eyes. No one knows why God marked me this way. Prospective husbands want dark eyes that sparkle with feminine mystique. Each time father begins marriage negotiations for my hand they end as soon as the groom looks on my face. Eyes the color of the sky—what was God thinking?
(Scene: A visitor interrupts Laban’s bookkeeping.)
Bethuel stepped through the door of Laban’s tent, arranged the cushions, and wriggled into them with the crackles and groans only those blessed with years understand. His son, busy tallying the proceeds of the morning’s sheep trading, continued working.
“Laban, my son, you do wrong.”
Laban pushed the stack of coins to one side, rose, and leaned down to embrace his father.
“Father, welcome. We’re glad you made the trip.”
The younger man dropped beside his father and waited. Bethuel raised his hand toward Laban.
“My son, you must delay this wedding. Leah should marry before Rachel. That is the way of our people.”
“Leah is damaged, Father. Blemished. Marked by God. No man wants to make love to a woman with those eyes. What am I supposed to do? Five times I have opened bridal negotiations. I’ve cut her price and offered gold, but no one accepts. Even that idiot son of Abimelech the tanner said no.”
“Have you spoken with Jacob? He is our relative. Perhaps he will consent to wed Leah?”
“The fool’s in love with Rachel. He will not marry Leah.”
“Laban, you’ve always been a shrewd man. Use your cunning mind. Find a solution and protect our family’s reputation.”
“Father, the only way I might secure a groom for Leah would be to outsmart a prospective husband. One with poor eyesight and only slightly smarter than a camel would suffice. Ah, the burden of daughters.”
Bethuel started to rise and Laban stood to help. Father faced son with a penetrating stare.
“Whatever you decide, take care to be right in God’s sight. Leah and Rachel will one day bear children and continue our family. God’s blessing on their unions will bring further honor to the house of Bethuel.”
As Bethuel shuffled out, a germ of an idea formed in Laban’s mind.
(Scene: Leah wrestles with her father’s counsel.)
“Father, I do not understand.”
“Leah, I am your father and I command you. You will take Rachel’s place. Jacob will drink heartily during the celebration. The wine will slow his mind. He’ll never know I’ve switched daughters until the sunrise. Then he’s married. You’re married. My problem is solved.”
“But what about Rachel?”
“I’ll handle Rachel. Her wine will bring sleep, and she will dream away the night alone in her tent. In the triumphal procession you will be the bride behind the veil. This is the only way, my daughter. Is the thought of marrying Jacob that unpleasant to you?”
“Of course not, Father. I hoped he would pick me. But beginning a marriage with deception seems to go against God.”
“Leah, child, the blame is on me. Go. Marry. Love your husband. Bear him many children, strong sons to help in the fields. Your sister will find another, but your chance may not come again.”
(Scene: Jacob discovers he has been outsmarted by Laban.)
As the sun bathed the camp in morning warmth Jacob staggered from his tent and shook the cobwebs of the previous night’s revelry from his mind. A loathsome trick played during those festivities left Jacob uncertain of his next actions. His father-in-law’s betrayal stung like swarming hornets, and Jacob chided himself for trusting the man. The bride crying in the tent was Leah, not Rachel.
“Laban, stand and face me!”
The camp awakened with Jacob’s shouting, and Laban’s relatives gathered quickly.
“Let Laban explain himself. He has cheated me.”
Leah, tears streaming down her face, pushed through the crowd and took Jacob’s arm.
“Jacob, my husband, please. I’ll be a good wife. We will have many strong sons and happy years.”
Jacob jerked his arm from her grasp and turned away.
“Laban, son of deception. Come forth!”
Bethuel, Leah’s grandfather, emerged from his tent and the onlookers parted for him. A lone tear streaked his face as he smothered Leah in a hug.
“Hush, Leah. Jacob, I perceive a great wrong has been done you.”
The old man placed his arm across Jacob’s shoulders.
“Please, withhold yourself. Wait. Let’s hear from Laban.”
Laban drew near and swiveled his head to take in the crowd. A smirk adorned his face.
“Son-in-law, what is this noise? I expect a groom to sleep from exhaustion after his wedding night.”
A ripple of laughter traversed the crowd.
“Laban, was it not for Rachel I worked seven years? Was that not our agreement?”
“Ah, Jacob, you do not understand. It is not proper for the younger sister to marry before the older. Leah is a good woman. She will bear you many children. You’re married. What’s done is done.”
Bethuel grabbed Jacob’s robe to restrain him.
“Wait, Jacob. We will make this right. There is honor in the house of Bethuel. Laban, may we darken counsel together?”
As the two men entered Laban’s tent Jacob turned to his sobbing wife.
“Leah, you’ve been wronged as much as I by this marriage to a man who does not love you. Rachel holds my heart.”
Bethuel and Laban returned and the older man placed both hands on Jacob’s shoulders.
“Patience, Jacob. Laban will honor his bargain.”
Laban raised his hands to silence the crowd.
“Jacob, my father’s counsel is wise. We can honor our custom and fulfill your wages. Leah is your wife. Take her and enjoy with abandonment this week of wedding celebration. Once the week is complete, I will also give you Rachel as your wife if you agree to serve me seven more years. Do we have a bargain?”