Our father Jacob submitted to the actual state, and accepted Leah as wife, then he married her sister Rachel, gathering between both sisters. He lived with the wife he loved, and the wife who loved him and sought his love. Both wives wrestled together.
Our father Jacob avoided taking wives from unbelievers lest they turn his heart away from God as happened to Solomon the Wise afterwards (1 Kgs 11). He went to take wife from a holy family of his parents' relatives, not knowing that problems might follow him even with those holy people, from his uncle Laban who deceived him, and from his two wrestling cousins, Leah the weak sighted, and the pretty Rachel.
Here God's wonderful kindness is revealed in His intervention between the two wives.
"When the Lord saw that Leah was unloved, He opened her womb; but Rachel was barren." (Gen 39: 31)
God supported the weak and hated Leah, as He had supported Jacob in his weakness and fear from his brother Esau. Rachel enjoyed fully her husband's love as a human comfort, whereas Leah had no supporter but God, so He comforted her with many children. She herself saw that bearing many children would make her husband love her, as evident from the names she gave to her children. Imagine how the first four children God gave to our father Jacob were from Leah!
"Leah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Reuben; for she said, 'The Lord has surely looked on my affliction. Now therefore, my husband will love me.'" (Gen 39: 32) How impressive indeed is her feeling of affliction and of being unloved by her husband, being imposed upon him! So "She conceived again and bore a son, and said, 'Because the Lord has heard that I am unloved, He has therefore given me this son also.'" (Gen 29: 33) She called him Simeon, a name meaning "response", because God responded to her request. Truly then the divine inspiration said, "He opened her womb".
This clearly reveals that children are a heritage from the Lord as the Psalm says (Ps 127: 3).
The same is said concerning her sister Rachel, "Then God remembered Rachel, and God listened to her and opened her womb. And she conceived and bore a son." (Gen 20: 22)
Leah went on conceiving and bearing children, for she bore a third time and she said, "She conceived again and bore a son, and said, 'Now this time my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons." (Gen 29: 34) She called him Levi, a name meaning "attachment". Then she conceived a fourth time and bore a son, and said, "Now I will praise the Lord." (Gen 29: 35) She called him Judah, a name meaning "Praise or thanksgiving".
Notice that the hated Leah bore Levi the head of the priesthood tribe, and Judah the head of the royal tribe, from whom also Christ – glory to him- came. At this point as the Scripture immediately says, "Then she stopped bearing." (Gen 29: 35)
Actually she fulfilled the greatest mission, after which even if she did not bear any more it would be sufficient. There should have been a stop between the tribe from which Christ came and the other tribes. She also should have stopped to leave an opportunity to her sister Rachel to get children, because Rachel could no more bear her barrenness.
Rachel needed a compassionate look from her weak sighted Leah.
The Scripture says that Rachel envied her sister, and said to Jacob, "Give me children, or else I die!" (Gen 30: 1) In spite of the great love of Jacob for her, yet her barrenness was a real trouble to her to the extent of desiring death. Motherhood is a natural impulse within women, besides a barren woman at those times felt reproach (30: 23).
What could Jacob do for Rachel, since children are a heritage from the Lord? So, the anger of the peaceful Jacob for the first time was aroused against Rachel his beloved, and he said, "Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?" (Gen 30: 2)
Here Rachel remembered the story of our grandmother Sarah and the adoption solution, to have a son by her maid. So she said to Jacob, "Here is my maid Bilhah; go in to her, and she will bear a child on my knees, that I also may have children by her." (Gen 30: 3) These were the same words Sarah said to Abraham about her maid Hagar (Gen 16: 2)
A wife cannot suffer it to see her husband marry another woman, but that was an exception to have a son by adoption. Both Sarah and Rachel did not only consent to it, but also sought it! Strange indeed that such a human solution worked quickly and brought its fruit!
Bilhah bore Jacob a son, and Rachel rejoiced much at that, and said, "God has judged my case." (Gen 30: 5, 6) She called him Dan, a name meaning "judged". Then Bilhah bore a second son, and Rachel said, "With great wrestling I have wrestled with my sister, and indeed I have prevailed" (Gen 30: 7, 8), and she called him Naphtali, a name meaning "my wrestling". It is strange that Rachel considered herself had wrestled and prevailed through adoption by her maid who bore her a child!
Leah therefore began to compete with her in the field of adoption, by having children from her maid. She was not satisfied with the four sons she bore from her own womb, but took her maid Zilpah and gave her to Jacob as wife, and the maid bore two sons, the firs Leah called Gad, and the second Asher. Nevertheless she was not satisfied with all those children from her and from her maid, but she hired her husband from Rachel for mandrakes (a sweet smelling plant), which Reuben brought his mother Leah from the field! When Rachel asked her to give her of her son's mandrakes, Leah agreed but for leaving Jacob to her that night. Rachel consented and Leah bore a fifth son, and she called him Issachar (Gen 30: 14- 18), meaning "wages". Again Leah bore a sixth son and she called him Zebulun, meaning "dwelling", and she said, "Now my husband will dwell with me, because I have borne him six sons."(Gen 30: 20)
She also bore him his only daughter, and called her Dinah (Gen 30: 21).
So, the hated wife Leah bore to Jacob half his children, the same number the two maids and Rachel bore.
Finally, God remembered Rachel in her humiliation, and opened her womb. She bore a son, and said, "God has taken away my reproach." (Gen 30: 22) She called him Joseph, a name meaning "increase" because she said, "The Lord shall add to me another son."
Joseph had great love and favor in Rachel's and Jacob's hearts, for he came last, after a long period of barrenness, giving us a lesson not to fall in despair, for God is able to give the barren a son even after a long time.
So many sons of barren women became very distinguished in history. An example is Samuel the Prophet the son of Hannah, who was barren and whose rival Peninnah used to provoke her severely (1 Sam 1: 2- 6). Samuel became a great prophet and he even anointed David as king (1 Sam 16: 13), and also Saul before him as king (1 Sam 10: 1).
Another example is John the Baptist, the son of Elizabeth who was barren (Lk 1: 7). About John the Baptist the Lord Christ said, "Among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist." (Mt 11: 11). Suffice that he baptized the Lord Christ!
Samson the Valiant also was the son of a barren woman (Judges 13: 2). God gave him a great strength, and through him God accomplished great salvation to His people.
On the return journey of Jacob and his family God gave Rachel a second son, Benjamin, the youngest of Jacob's sons (Gen 35: 16- 19), but she had hard labor, and she died while giving birth to him. Jacob loved him so much especially after being deprived of Joseph for a long time. Benjamin and Joseph became the beloved of their father, being the sons of the beloved Rachel.
What a long wrestling between the two wives of Jacob, which he bore calmly, and brought forth to him 12 sons and a daughter.
In bearing sons, Rachel equaled the two maids!
Leah bore six sons and a daughter, and each made bore two sons. Rachel likewise bore two sons, and she died, and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is Bethlehem). Jacob set a pillar on her grave (Gen 35: 19, 20).
The whole life of Jacob was wrestling. After ending the wrestling with his brother Esau he entered into the wrestling between his two wives, and with his uncle Laban. Again he wrestled with God to gain His support when meeting with Esau on the return journey. Then there were wrestling between his sons and Shechem, and between them and their brother Joseph. That is why he spoke with all his heart from his long experience to Pharaoh, saying, "The days of the years of my pilgrimage are one hundred and thirty years; few and evil have been the days of the years of my life." (Gen 47: 9)
There is still more to be said about the wrestling of Jacob in following articles, God willing.