September 21, 2014: Why Won’t He Love Me?

Posted on : Sep 18th, 2014 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

Here’s proof that the old adage “What goes around comes around” is true.

Two weeks ago we heard how Jacob, who was the second-born of twin boys, with the cunning assistance of his mother, stole his father’s blessing from his older brother. Today, most of us who live in the United States, don’t care much about birth order. But in the ancient world, birth order was everything. The child who counted most was the first born son. The first born son became the next “patriarch” of the family. He inherited all or the largest portion of his father’s land, wealth, privilege and responsibility.

In many ways it was a cruel system because one’s birth order has nothing to do with one’s gifts and abilities. But it was sacred tradition.

Technically, girls couldn’t own property at that time in history because they were in fact the property of their fathers. They remained the property of their father until they were “bought” through marriage. The purchase contract was called a dowry. Today, most of us find this kind of thing disgusting, but even today, in many cultures and some religions, marriages are “arranged” (negotiated) by parents of a groom, and some even negotiate dowries for the marriage of a son to a woman.

Believe it or not, as late as the 1950’s this tradition of a bride belonging to her father until she was married was practiced here in the United States. Many of our “traditional” marriage customs came from this belief. For example seating wedding guests so the family of the bride is on one side and the family of the groom on the other, came about to shelter the bride from the groom’s family and friends until after the couple was married. The father of the bride who escorts the bride down the aisle walks on the rowdy husband’s side. The bride walks on the side of her family.

The “Who gives this woman to this man in marriage?” question was also based on the idea that a woman was her father’s property until he gave her away. No wonder there were such wedding wars in families as the feminist revolution took hold in the 1960’s and 70’s!

Sadly, Leah and Rachel were born far before the change in this custom.

Leah and Rachel were sisters. Leah was the older of the two and not very pretty. She was near-sighted and rather homely. Rachel on the other hand was totally hot or as the Bible says, “lovely and graceful.” Laban was their father. Laban was also Jacob’s uncle (his mother’s brother).

You may remember from two weeks ago, that after Jacob stole his father’s blessing from his brother, his brother was enraged and vowed to kill him. Jacob’s mom overheard this threat (she must have been quite an eavesdropper because she seemed to overhear everything!) and told her beloved son, Jacob, to go to Haran and stay with her brother, Laban, until Esau cooled off.   After Jacob’s night in the desert and the wild dream in which he discovers “God is with him,” he continues on toward Haran.

Jacob must have been one horny dude, because as he was standing near the well where shepherds brought their flocks to water them, he saw Rachel coming towards him, and he put the moves on her. Genesis 29:10 “The moment Jacob saw Rachel, he went to the well, removed the stone and watered Laban’s sheep. Then he kissed Rachel, and he was moved to tears. When he told her he was Rebecca’s son and was related to her father, Rachel ran to tell Laban what had happened.”

Laban came out to meet Jacob and embraced and kissed him. He welcomed him into his family. Jacob fell deeper and deeper in love with Rachel, and negotiated a dowry (a financial deal) with her father in order to marry her. He must have really wanted her because he paid a huge price for her. He agreed to work for Laban for seven years in exchange for his daughter, Rachel, in marriage. But here’s where the story gets “messy.”

“Jacob worked for seven years for the right to marry Rachel, but to him it felt as if it were a few days – that was how much he loved Rachel. When seven years were up, Jacob said to Laban, “I have worked for you for seven years. Let me now marry Rachel.”

So Laban brought together all the local people for a wedding feast, and there was a great deal of drinking. That night, however, Laban brought his daughter Leah to Jacob, and Jacob slept with her.

In the morning Jacob woke up – and it was Leah beside him! Jacob said to Laban, “What is this that you have done to me? Didn’t I work for you for seven years for Rachel’s hand? Why have you deceived me?”

Laban answered, “It is not our custom here to let younger children marry first. Finish this wedding week with the elder (Leah), and I will let you marry the younger for another seven year’s work. Jacob agreed. When the week was finished, Laban allowed Rachel and Jacob to marry….and he loved Rachel more than Leah.” (Gen 29: 20-29)

Just as Jacob, the younger brother, deceived his father and older brother, so Laban did the same with Jacob to get both his daughters married. But sadly, this did not play out well. The story continues that no matter what Leah did, she could not get Jacob to love her. She had child after child even when Rachel could not conceive, but nothing she did could make Jacob love her.

Why is this story included in the Bible? There is an answer to that question and it is quite interesting. For now, all I’ll say is that even homely, near-sighted, not-very-outwardly pretty people have an important place in God’s scheme of things!  Have you ever wondered why certain things happen in your life – both things you have control over and those you have no control over? Sometimes it takes a while to figure out why some things happen in our lives. That’s certainly true for Leah, Rachel and Jacob. Nothing appears to be “blessed by God,” when in fact, it is.

Blessings,

Dan

 

~ This Sunday’s Scripture ~

 Genesis 29:13 – 30:2

Jacob falls in love with Rachel, but is tricked into marrying her older sister, Leah, by her father. [Jacob is getting his “pay-back” for the deceitfulness he did to his brother.] No matter how hard she tries or how many children she has, Leah feels unloved by Jacob.

When Laban heard the news about his sister’s son Jacob, he ran to meet him; he embraced him and kissed him, and brought him to his house. Jacob told Laban all these things, and Laban said to him, ‘Surely you are my bone and my flesh!’ And he stayed with him for a month.

Then Laban said to Jacob, ‘Because you are my kinsman, should you therefore serve me for nothing? Tell me, what shall your wages be?’ Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Leah was near-sighted, and Rachel was graceful and beautiful. Jacob loved Rachel; so he said, ‘I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.’ Laban said, ‘It is better that I give her to you than that I should give her to any other man; stay with me.’ So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love Jacob had for her.

Then Jacob said to Laban, ‘Let me now marry Rachel, for my time is completed.’ So Laban gathered together all the people of the place, and made a feast. But in the evening he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob; and he slept with her. (Laban gave his maid Zilpah to his daughter Leah to be her maid.) When morning came, it was Leah beside him! And Jacob said to Laban, ‘What is this you have done to me? Did I not serve with you for Rachel? Why then have you deceived me?’ Laban said, ‘This is not done in our country—giving the younger before the firstborn. Finish this wedding week with the elder (Leah), and we will give you the younger also in return for serving me for another seven years.’ Jacob did so, and completed her week; then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel as a wife. (Laban gave his maid Bilhah to his daughter Rachel to be her maid.) So he slept with Rachel also, and he loved Rachel more than Leah. He served Laban for another seven years.

When God saw that Leah was unloved, God opened her womb; but Rachel was barren. Leah conceived and bore a son, and she named him Reuben; for she said, ‘Because God has looked on my affliction; surely now my husband will love me.’ She conceived again and bore a son, and said, ‘Because God has heard that I am hated, God has given me this son also’; and she named him Simeon. Again she conceived and bore a son, and said, ‘Now this time my husband will be joined to me, because I have borne him three sons’; therefore he was named Levi. She conceived again and bore a son, and said, ‘This time I will praise our God’; therefore she named him Judah; then she ceased bearing.

When Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, she envied her sister; and she said to Jacob, ‘Give me children, or I shall die!’ Jacob became very angry with Rachel and said, ‘Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?’

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