Genesis 29:31-30:24 - Needs Met

September 9, 2012 Speaker: Series: Genesis

Topic: Sunday Worship Passage: Genesis 29:31–30:24

[Text: Gen. 29:31-30:24) - "Needs Met"

Scripture Intro: Jacob was our main focus last week as we saw Yahweh keeping His promise to be with him in the good and bad times alike, even using the bad times to comfort and transform Jacob. Now our focus turns to Leah and Rachel, two sisters who are both in need of something they can’t get for themselves.

[Read - starting in 29:15 for context - and pray]

This part of God’s Story is about two sisters. There are other characters that get involved - their husband, their servants, their kids - but we’re going to focus on Leah and Rachel to see what God was doing in them as they were each people in need - one of love and the other of fulfillment. Leah and Rachel recognized that life wasn’t the way it was supposed to be, but they each tried to make life right through their own ways. But it didn’t get them what they need.

Have your plans to make life the way it is supposed to be let you down? Have you felt unloved in this world – used by others, undesired – and all your efforts to find love have left you just as lonely? Have you hoped for your vocations or family or children or friends or even your looks to bring you the fulfillment and wholeness for which your heart longs? If love and fulfillment are desires of your heart, then this story is just as much for you as it was for the people of Israel who received it.

So, first, consider Leah. Let’s look at the story through her eyes, even back to 29:15. Leah’s dad tells Jacob that he just needs to name his wages for serving him and Jacob says, “I’ll serve you for seven years for your younger daughter, Rachel.” If the text is any indication, then I don’t imagine that Leah was surprised by Jacob’s choice. After all, verse 17 tells us that Rachel was the beautiful one, lovely in form and appearance. Leah was probably used to men falling over themselves for Rachel and not even acknowledging Leah’s existence. It was all because Leah’s eyes were weak, which might be a kind way of saying that Leah lacked the physical beauty Rachel possessed.

So can you imagine life for Leah over the next seven years as she saw Jacob almost every day? And every time she saw him it was a reminder that she wasn’t desired, she wasn’t lovely to him. If she and her sister walked together, Jacob’s eyes never wandered from Rachel to Leah. She was invisible because Rachel was beautiful and loved.

Then came the wedding day. For someone who longs to be loved and desired but is not, there are few days of deeper pain. What went through Leah’s mind as she watched her sister get ready for her husband’s embrace? But as the feast went on, the wine flowed freely and darkness began to fall, Leah’s father took Leah - probably putting her sister’s clothes and perfume on her, covering her face in the traditional veil of an engaged woman - and in the dark desert night, sent her into the tent with Jacob for the marriage to be consummated. And Leah didn’t whisper a word to give herself away. How many times was Rachel’s name whispered in the night with no reply from Leah’s lips?

Who knows how long she thought it would last? But in the hope of feeling loved – even for a night - Leah pretended to be someone, something, she wasn’t. For a night she was Rachel. For a night she was beautiful. For a night Leah was loved.

And then the sun came up. And then the lie she was both forced into and willingly embraced came into the light and the night of love turned into years of hatred.

The text tells us that Jacob did not send Leah away. There was no divorce after this deception. We saw last week that Jacob took this as a lesson from Yahweh and correction of Jacob’s own sin. He was learning the ugliness of his own deception of his father and brother and was recognizing the right of the firstborn like Leah. However, that didn’t mean that Jacob loved Leah. And so the text tells us in verse 31 that even Yahweh recognized that Leah was hated.

Hate is a strong word here but Calvin recognizes why it is used regarding Leah. He wrote, “...”

So, I wonder how Leah would answer if we asked her, “Who loves you, Leah?” You know what I imagine she would say? I imagine she would say, “No one.”

I imagine she’d say, “My own father used me as a pawn in his plan to trick Jacob into working for him another seven years. My sister despises me because I went along with his plan and took what belonged to her. My husband screamed when he woke up next to me after our wedding night and immediately made plans to take Rachel as his wife (which he did as soon as our week-long honeymoon was over). Who loves me? Nobody loves me.”

What do people do when they don’t feel loved? They try all sorts of ways to get it. Leah thought the love of her husband could be won through giving him children.

That’s where the story goes at the end of chapter 29 in vv. 31-35. As Yahweh sees hated Leah, He blesses her and gives her what she wants, even what she thinks will make life right for her – He gives her children. Three times she is blessed by the LORD, but you can see that her heart still longs for another love, the love of Jacob, to be hers. So, she gives birth to her sons saying, “(with Reuben) …the LORD has looked upon my affliction; now my husband will love me – (with Simeon)…the LORD has heard that I am hated (but this son will change things) – (then with Levi) …now this time my husband will be attached to me….” But her hope of love was shattered each time as the love of her husband eluded her. Even the sons she gave to her husband, her best plan for finding the love she longed for, failed to win his love and honor and affection.

But the grace of God was working on Leah. Three times He’d blessed her with children. And three times she failed to see that even though her husband ignored her and hated her, she had a God who loved her. And that patient, persistent, grace-filled love of God turned her heart toward Yahweh the day that her fourth son was born. When Judah was born, Leah said, “This time I will praise Yahweh.”

If you’d asked her on that day, “Who loves you, Leah?” I think her answer would have been, “Yahweh. My God loves even me.”

That would have been an important lesson for the people of Israel when they first heard about the love Yahweh showed their mother. Yahweh sets his love on unloved, undeserving, Leah just like He’d set his love on Israel.

In Deuteronomy 7, Moses spoke to the people as they stood on the edge of the Promised Land saying,

“For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations...” (Deuteronomy 7:6-9)

Israel needed to know that the faithful love of God doesn’t come because of what is on the outside and it doesn’t come because someone is important enough or has been good enough. The saving love of God comes because He gives it, because He cares about keeping His promise to redeem His creation broken by human rebellion. So, he sets His love on the unlovely and they become “lovely because He loves them.” [1]

There is a question that burns deeply in the heart of each of us sinners that asks, “What does God think of me? Does He love me?” And the good news of the Gospel is that for us pitiful people - unloved and undeserving of love because of our sin, yet who have embraced Jesus, the Savior of men - the answer is a loud, magnificent, fear-removing “Yes. I love you.”

The remarkable thing about all of this is how Jesus wins the love of God for us. When humanity was still waiting for the redemption Yahweh had promised so long ago, God spoke through the prophet Isaiah saying that the One who was coming would not look like we would expect our God and Rescuer to look. He said,

(52:14)”… they were appalled because of you,[2]

(so great was his disfigurement of face,

his appearance beyond that of man

and his form beyond the sons of Adam.)

(15) So shall he cause many nations to leap[3] because of


Isaiah goes on,

(53:2) …No form had he

And no majesty that we might regard him,

And no appearance that we might desire him.

(3) Despised and forsaken by men,

A man of sorrow and knowing sickness,

And like one before whom the face is hidden[4] he

was despised

And he was not regarded.”

Isaiah’s language describing this Servant of God is shocking. Like Leah to Jacob, in the eyes of humanity this Rescuer is wholly unwanted and unloved. But then Isaiah goes on to tell about the work this unloved Servant of the Lord - this man whom even the people of God would hate – what he would do for those who did not love him.

(4) “Surely he himself[5] has carried our sickness,

And he has borne our sorrows

And we[6] thought him stricken,

Smitten by God and afflicted.

(5) And he was pierced[7] because of our transgression,

Crushed because of our iniquity;

The chastisement leading to our peace (was) upon him,[8]

And by his stripes we are healed.

(6) All of us like sheep have wandered,

Each man to his own way we have turned,[9]

And YHWH has caused to fall upon him the

guilt[10] of us all.[11]”

Ultimately, Leah was loved, we are loved - and forgiven and embraced by Yahweh - because Jesus was hated and rejected and suffered even to the point of death on the cross so that we can be forgiven.

This is the hope of the unloved, those who do not know the warmth of human embrace. The promise of Yahweh in Jesus is the promise of the loving embrace of the God of the universe – the very love for which you were made.

One of the funny things about this account is how Rachel’s story is completely different from Leah’s and it is exactly the same. Rachel had all the looks, all the acceptance, all the love. Here was a girl who was used to getting everything she wanted. Yes, her sister was given to Jacob before her, but 8 days later, she became the favored and loved wife and (in her mind) things were right again in the world.

But look again at the opening of chapter 30. As Leah begins having children, look what that does to Rachel. For all of her beauty, for all of the love Rachel possessed she was still needy. She was unfulfilled. So she went looking for fulfillment in the same way Leah was looking for love. It’s like she thought, “If only I have children, then I’ll have everything.”

I imagine if we had asked her, “Who can fulfill your longings, Rachel?” then you would have gotten a few different answers over the course of the story. Her first answer? “Jacob can.” So she looks to Jacob for fulfillment in these opening verses saying, “Give me children, or I shall die!” Without children, life had no meaning for Rachel. That’s more than Jacob can bear, though, and he gets angry with Rachel. “Am I God who can give you children?” he asks. Now both of them should have taken a cue from Jacob’s parents at this point. Isaac prayed to Yahweh for Rebekah to have children and Yahweh heard their prayers.

But Rachel moves on in her search for fulfillment to her servant, Bilhah. “Who can fulfill your longings, Rachel?” “My servant can,” she says. And she gives Bilhah to Jacob as wife so that she can have sons through her, which was widely accepted as appropriate outside of God’s people at the time.

But two sons from her servant can’t fulfill her. So, this whole crazy story in vv. 14-18 happens as Leah’s son finding mandrakes happens. Mandrakes (the so-called “love fruit”) were sometimes viewed in the pagan world as possessing properties that increased fertility. “What can fulfill your longings, Rachel?” “These mandrakes can,” she says as she sells a night with Jacob to Leah in the hopes that the fruit will open the way for fulfillment. They don’t.

But finally, down in v. 22, we see Yahweh himself turning His attention toward Rachel and meeting her in her need. After this exhausted woman has tried everything to find fulfillment, Yahweh reveals to her that fulfillment and blessing comes from Him alone. As God blesses her with a son from her own body she says, “God has taken away my reproach…May Yahweh add to me another son!”

“Who is the only One who can fulfill your longings, Rachel?” “Just Yahweh,” she says.

Yahweh made us for love. He made us for community through families and friends and fellow worshippers. But when I try to find fulfillment in those things outside of a relationship with Him, now outside of a relationship with Jesus, Yahweh in the flesh, then I’m trying to find life and peace and love and fulfillment – sometimes even forgiveness for my sins – in a way that can’t satisfy.

If you’re like me, then the frustrating thing is that even when God comes to me and gives me the gift of faith in Jesus, I can still forget and fall back into fear and doubt and feelings of un-fulfillment that I try to fix on our own. That’s what we see in both Leah and Rachel. Leah felt the love of God but fell into this ugly competition with her sister immediately afterward, so much so that in v. 20 Leah is back fighting for her husband’s affections. And Rachel here acknowledges Yahweh but in the very next chapter we see her hanging on to her father’s false gods.

It would be nice if we “got it” and never let go of Jesus. But the Gospel tells us that we have a God who does not let go of us and is patiently at work within us. Jesus guarantees it, by his blood shed on the cross, by his present prayer for you and by the powerful work of his Holy Spirit who convicts us when we are running from God and leads us back to Jesus who loves us and fulfills out deepest needs and longings.

God’s Word to us here changes the way we think as it opens our eyes to see how unsatisfying life is apart from Him. And it warms our hearts and comforts us to know that His love doesn’t depend on us and His fulfillment meets our deepest longings. So where does it take our actions?

What do you do when you know and rest in the love of Yahweh? You love Him back. That was Leah’s response after Judah was born. She said, “This time I will praise Yahweh. This time I’ll give him the glory for his love and blessing.” And you not only love Him but you begin to love what He loves: holiness, truth, the righting of wrongs, relief of oppression, and people - unloved, even undeserving people like me and you. The love of God helps us step into life with each other and our community with love.

Some Opportunities (not requirements)

- 3PM today at Bailey Place Apts. right around the corner on Angier Road, to meet folks and pray with a believer there.

- Or simply pursue your neighbors, not with ulterior motives, but simply to know them and love them.

And what do you do when you know that fulfillment comes from Jesus alone? Your life begins to have true meaning as your Savior welcomes you to himself and gives you callings in service to his kingdom.

- Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that callings from God are only for those called into vocational ministry like pastors or missionaries.

Some called to be parents, like Leah and Rachel, either through birth or adoption!Some called as painters, lawyers, mothers, counselors, teachers, computer wizards – each is a calling that fulfills us but cannot fulfill on its own.They can’t fulfill on their own because our truest calling – the one for which we were made and are ultimately fulfilled in – is to glorify Yahweh and make much of Him!

But the only way we can do ANY of this is because we have a Savior who loves us and fulfilled his own calling from the Father, to put on flesh like yours and mine, to die at the hands of sinners to save sinners and to rise again so that the love of Yahweh could be set on you and never be removed.



[1] Sally Lloyd-Jones’ language in the Jesus Storybook Bible

[2] Note the second person pronoun here that differs from the regular third person pronouns describing the Servant.

[3] ESV, NAS and NIV render this as “sprinkle,” so that in some unexplained way the Servant cleanses the nations. But the language of leaping (NLT takes this as “startled,” which is close to the mark) is the meaning, according to BDB, 633. The meaning of the hiphil form here is fully explained in the remainder of the text. Just as shocking as his appearance was, the shocking nature of the salvation of God through the Servant will shut the mouths of kings.

[4] BDB, 712. This phrase is likely a reference to the way one would treat a leper.

[5] Emphatic pronoun calling attention to the remarkable difference between the Servant’s blessed work and our callous reaction to him.

[6] There is another emphatic first person plural pronoun here that functions to shock the reader into acknowledging their improper reaction to the Servant.

[7] ESV is the only major translation to differ here with “wounded.” BDB identifies the poal verb only as “pierced,” however. The word “wounded” may weaken the thrust of the phrase, as a wound may or may not be fatal. A piercing wound is likely a fatal one.

[8] BDB, 416, 2a provides the translation of this phrase. The chastisement in view here is the moral correction that comes from God.

[9] This phrase could have been shortened to “Each man has turned to his own way,” but Isaiah has included a first person plural form of “we have turned.” I thought it necessary to include the “we” portion in the translation as it points to the corporate responsibility of the people of God rather than leaving it out and opening the interpretation to a fully individualistic reading.

[10] “Guilt” here rather than “iniquity” (ESV, NAS, NIV) to emphasize that it is not only the sins themselves that the Servant bears, but the consequence of those sins.

[11] It would take a great deal of distortion of the text to remove the clear picture of substitutionary atonement here!

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