Deception Behind the Veil
Now Laban had two daughters. The name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Leah's eyes were weak, but Rachel was beautiful in form and appearance. Jacob loved Rachel. And he said, “I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.” Genesis 29:16-18 (ESV)
I grew up in a house full of women. I was just a young girl, so I didn’t quite understand the complexities of the dynamics at the time but looking back on it through the haze of the years, I realize that my mother was a force to be reckoned with. She had grown up under both the torment and joy of four older brothers and somewhere along the way she determined that she would stand her ground and speak her mind.
Momma wanted to give birth to a son named Joe, but all four of us turned out to be girls, so she gave up on the fourth and called her Nancy Jo. We were spread out along 14 years and two husbands, and she loved to say she broke the mold with each of us. We looked nothing alike and our personalities had little in common. We loved each other, resented each other, argued with each other, and insisted on taking our vacations together. We sat up late into the night talking and drove each other crazy on road trips. Family. Females. Sisters.
In Genesis, God tells us a really crazy story about sisters: Leah and Rachel. Unfortunately, their brother Laban forced them into a very difficult situation. You see, it all started when a young man named Jacob showed up on their farm looking for the family of his mother.
Jacob’s mother, Rebekah, had left her home as a young girl to seek a husband and a future in a foreign land. Rebekah, a woman who did not hesitate to stand her ground and speak her mind, had given birth to twin sons. She had convinced her favorite son, Jacob, (yes, you heard me right) to deceive his father, steal his brother’s blessing and inheritance and then realized if she didn’t get him out of town his own brother would kill him. Talk about family drama!
Jacob found his mother’s brother, Laban, who had a passel of sons and two daughters. Rachel was beautiful and the youngest. Leah was crossed-eyed and the oldest. Jacob worked on his uncle Laban’s farm for seven years to earn the right to marry Rachel, the love of his life. On his wedding night, Leah was the one hidden behind the bridal veil. It was the beginning of a family feud fueled by envy and hurt, rivalry and rage.
Below is an excerpt from Chapter 21 of my book, Genesis: Small Stories of a Big God. Let’s hear the story from the sisters themselves.
Jacob could not run away from his messed-up, dysfunctional family—instead, he ran straight into the arms of sibling rivalry.
The hurt and the harm that humans can heap upon each other is laid out line by line. An enemy can hit you over the head—but a family member can slice you to the core. The closer someone stands to you, the deeper the knife can go.
My name is Rachel. I first saw Jacob at the well as I herded my father’s sheep. Though I was young, my responsibility for the family was taking care of the herds.
In kindness, this stranger from a foreign land rolled away the heavy stone at the well. What strength! And he watered my sheep for me. Then, odder still, he embraced me, kissed me, and cried out, weeping, saying that he was my relative, that my father was his uncle. My life changed at that moment.
He came to live with my family and went to my father to ask for my hand in marriage—promising to care for me and love me. Since he had come to our family empty-handed, he negotiated to work for seven years for my father as payment of dowry. He loved me. I saw it in his eyes as he would pass by. I heard it in his voice as he talked with me.
I counted the days—one by one, year after year—to the day that would be my wedding day and the week that I would spend alone with him in our wedding tent. Preparations were made: wedding clothing sewn, special foods planned and prepared. Everything was ready; I could barely breathe with anticipation. As the sun set the night before my wedding day, my father came to me—and what he said turned my world upside down. It would not be me, but my older sister Leah, who would become my beloved’s bride!
My heart dropped, my blood rushed with anger, tears burned my eyes. How can this be happening? I thought. My heart ripped apart inside of me. My beautiful dress was now wrapped around Leah, the veils to obscure my beauty draped over her head. She was the one to touch Jacob’s skin and receive his caresses.
I died inside that night.
My name is Leah. To be born with ugliness is a bitter thing. From birth, I have had an eye that wandered off into the wrong direction. Love songs are written about brown eyes and blue eyes—about how, gazing into their depths, a lover can get lost.
No songs of love are written about eyes that cross or eyes that look off in opposite directions. I understood it from an early age: no one would ever love me for my beauty. I prayed and hoped for a gentle soul, a gentle man who would see what was inside.
My father loved me—but he was also a practical man who knew a good thing when he saw it. Jacob’s love for Rachel was so overwhelming and strong—he would endure anything to be with her, even endure being with me. So that was my father’s plan, a little game of substitution that basically killed two birds with one stone: both daughters married off to one good, hardworking husband. Problem solved.
I have to admit, I agreed to the plan. I secretly hoped against hope that a man with so much love in his heart for Rachel would have enough love left over to see the good, the worth, in me.
Our deceptive wedding night had its problems and close calls, but oh! What I did not expect was the tenderness of Jacob’s touch and the power of his passion. Without intending to, I fell madly in love with Jacob that night—but not he with me. Love could not be easily substituted, and he still longed for Rachel in the morning light.
So has begun my life of loving but not being loved. I am duty and responsibility. My beautiful sister is passion, joy, and love. Jacob’s face lights up when he sees her. He forgets to look my way.
I bear him beautiful sons, one after another. He loves the sons but not their mother. I give him my maidservant for his pleasure, and she bears yet more sons—but there seems to be no way to get into his heart or his head.
I love the man. I am obedient and longsuffering. I provide a welcoming home and raise his sons well. Yet I am an empty urn—unwanted, unneeded—and my sorrow aches within me.
Jacob chose Rachel. Laban tricked him into marrying Leah. The sibling rivalry between Jacob and his brother Esau was nothing compared to what Jacob walked into when he entered the wrong bridal chamber. I think there is a saying about hell and fury and a woman scorned … and here they all are—just one big, happy family.
This is the story of longing and hurt, lying and heartache—people so scarred by their own sin and the sin of others that it seemed nothing good could ever come from this mess. But that is the wonder of God—a God who continues to bless lives and directs paths to His glory.
God is sovereign. He can take the messiest, most impossible situation, and make something good and beautiful out of it.
Question: Do you find it hard to love those closest to you – your own family? Have you been hurt in a way that is difficult to forget? How could you trust God with this relationship?
English Standard Version (ESV)The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.