The story of Leah in the Bible is quite a tragic love story. Her story unfolds alongside her sister Rachel’s.
You might want to check it out to get the full picture of what was happening to Leah. This is a story of love, loss, and loneliness which leaves a legacy of both faith and pain.
In this post we will explore Leah’s qualities and the lessons we can learn from her life.
Leah in the Bible verses
Leah’s story is told in the book of Genesis but she is also mentioned at various places throughout Scripture. Here are the Bible verses where Leah appears:
- Genesis 29 – 30
- Genesis 49:31
- Ruth 4:11
The story of Rachel and Leah in the Bible
Leah and Rachel were sisters who were married to the same man. It kind of difficult to tell one story without the other.
When Jacob arrived in the land of his uncle Laban, he fell in love with Rachel the moment he saw her.
Because he was broke and could not afford the bride price, he agreed to work for Laban for 7 years. Sadly, Laban tricked Jacob by sending in Leah for the honeymoon instead of Rachel.
It almost seems as if the wedding happened with Rachel as the bride but in the night, Leah was sent in instead.
Nobody would know the difference since in Hebrew weddings, the bride wore a heavy veil and the festivities would continue until dark.
Needless to say, Jacob was less than pleased about the trickery of his uncle. Leah was now stuck with Jacob.
The following week, Jacob married Rachel. Throughout the marriage, Leah had many children and suffered much.
Let’s get into the details of Leah’s ordeal and lessons we can learn from her life.
FAQ’s about Leah in the Bible
Here are some interesting details about Leah just to provide a little more context to her story.
Meaning of Leah in the Bible
Jewish sources say Leah’s name means ‘cow’. She seems to live out this name. Let me explain.
The word for cow is littu. It seems quite close to the word alittu which means birthgiver.
Also a cow symbolized abundance or plenty. Leah quickly and easily bears Jacob 4 sons in the first few years of marriage.
Christian scholars don’t all agree on the meaning of her name. Various records say it could mean “wearied” or “mistress”
What was wrong with Leah’s eyes?
Leah had tender eyes. At least that’s how the Bible describes them.
We are not sure exactly what that means but based on how it is said we can draw from the story that she had some kind of blemish that made her less beautiful and less attractive than her sister Rachel.
Did Jacob love Leah?
The short answer is, no. Or, not nearly as much as he loved Rachel.
Let’s check the biblical evidence.
Jacob was willing to work 7 years without pay to marry Rachel.
Scripture says it wasn’t hard for him to do that. Why?
So Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her. Genesis 29:20
But there is more.
When he realized he had been tricked, he was willing to work another 7 years!
Plus, the Bible tells us plainly:
Jacob made love to Rachel also, and his love for Rachel was greater than his love for Leah. And he worked for Laban another seven years. Genesis 29:30
Another piece of evidence is way later in the story.
When Jacob is on his way back home after 20 long years, word gets to Esau, his twin brother, that he was on his way.
Jacob became afraid and began to strategize so that he would not lose his entire family in case Esau attacked them.
He divided his family:
So he divided the children among Leah, Rachel, and the two maidservants. He put the maidservants and their children in front, Leah and her children next, and Rachel and Joseph at the rear. Genesis 33:1-2
Are you seeing that. Rachel and Joseph were furthest away from harm while Leah and her children were closer? Let’s not even mention the handmaids.
So if Esau had come attacking the group, guess who was going to die first?
The story of Jacob and Leah in the Bible is just so interesting.
Why did God allow Jacob to marry Leah?
We can never know for sure but many commentaries say it was Jacob’s punishment for stealing his brother’s birthright.
When Jacob realized that he had been conned, he got a taste of his own medicine.
How did Leah die in the Bible?
No details are revealed about how Leah dies.
In fact, after Rachel dies, Leah seems to disappear from the story and the focus goes to Jacob and the 12 boys.
This was quite the respectable burial.
How many children did Leah have?
She had 7 children, 6 sons and one daughter.
Who was Leah’s daughter
Leah’s daughter was named Dinah. She is mentioned in the following Bible verses Genesis 30:21; 34; 46:15.
7 Qualities of Leah in the Bible
The characteristics of Leah could be easily missed because of how Rachel’s characteristics fill out the story.
Nevertheless, if we take a microscope and the Holy Spirit to the story, we will see Leah emerge.
Quality #1 – Leah was beautiful and loyal
Leah was not a pretty girl, especially when compared to her sister.
But she had a beautiful heart. Despite being mistreated, she remained loyal.
Although she had some not-so-good qualities (which we will get into later) for the most part, Leah wasn’t as dreadful as her sister Rachel.
When it came to physical beauty, Leah drew the short straw.
But when it came to character, she was definitely a winner.
But Jacob could not appreciate all the great things about her.
He just didn’t love her the way he did Rachel.
Quality #2 – Leah was rejected
Leah had a rough home life.
Her father gave her away under the guise of deceit.
Her husband married another woman the very next week after he married her.
Not because of any religious practice but because he didn’t really want her. And, the other woman was her sister!
And Jacob spent most of his nights with Rachel. (Remember how Leah had to ‘hire’ Jacob with the mandrakes?).
And her sister bullied and mistreated her.
The three most influential people in her life that meant alot to her made her feel unwanted.
Quality #3 – Leah was a woman of faith and prayer warrior
From the start, Leah finds favor with God. Her bad situation appeals to God.
When the Lord saw that Leah was not loved,he enabled her to conceive…(Genesis 29:31)
Because she is unloved and mistreated by her family, God gives her children.
This somewhat rescues her a little from her distress and loneliness.
Each time she gave birth to a child, she acknowledged the hand of God in her life:
Baby #1 She named him Reuben, for she said, “It is because the Lord has seen my misery. 29:32
Baby #2 Because the Lord heard that I am not loved, he gave me this one too.” 29:33
Baby #4 This time I will praise the Lord.”
During her hard time of being rejected and loved, she clung to God and her faith.
Quality #4 – Leah was deeply lonely
Wanting to be loved has so much attached to it.
Leah, although fruitful, was empty from lack of love.
There was no companionship between her and Jacob. After all, he didn’t love her.
And I imagine after all the sex she had with Jacob, there was probably no cuddling after a sexual encounter.
He probably didn’t even stay the entire night in her tent anyway.
It was unlikely that Jacob held her in any real way that made her feel safe.
She probably didn’t enjoy a deep kind of friendship with Jacob that made her feel loved, wanted, seen.
Jacob more than likely didn’t steer at her with longing eyes and desired to touch her tenderly.
Jacob spent most of his nights with Rachel. Leah was more like the other woman instead of a wife.
Who did she share her thoughts with? Her joys and sorrows? Her desires and disappointments? The things she found funny.
She sure didn’t have a great relationship with her sister so there was no friendship there either.
Rachel, although surrounded by people, was lonely.
Quality #5 – Leah struggled spiritually because of her situation
When she birthed her first two sons, she acknowledged God but she also expressed how much she wished her husband loved her.
By the time her third son is born, she doesn’t mention God.
She named her third son Levi which means united or joined in harmony.
Leah had become completely consumed by trying to get Jacob’s attention and affection.
God got pushed off the plate completely.
But it seems like she made a spiritual come back after her fourth son is born:
She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “This time I will praise the Lord.” Genesis 29:35
She begins to define her life by what God was doing for her and not by how her husband felt about her.
But later when Rachel started a baby competition, Leah’s peace is destroyed by her willingness to participate.
The enemy set a trap for her and she fell for it.
Quality #6 – Leah was very unhappy and majorly insecure
Leah was not a pretty girl. And she knew it. There is no doubt that she was eternally compared to her sister and always came up wanting.
Chances are that if her father Laban had not tricked Jacob, it’s possible that Leah wouldn’t have found favor with a man who desired to marry her.
This was the first place of her insecurity.
The next place of her insecurity had to with her husband.
Jacob did not love her and her Rachel was unkind.
Leah confessed how truly unhappy she was
“It is because the Lord has seen my misery.” Genesis 29:32
Leah never stopped trying to win his heart. And for this reason she decides to have his babies. Specifically, sons.
Sons were a big deal. Between needing men for war and having hands to manage family livestock, men needed sons.
And the more the merrier.
Of the 6 sons she birthed, she mentioned her husband times.
And all of those times she wished that her husband would love her because she gave him sons.
Son #1 Surely my husband will love me now. Genesis 29:32
Son#2 Because the Lord heard that I am not loved. Genesis 29:33
Son #3 Now at last my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons. Genesis 29:34
Son#5 Now at last my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons. Genesis 30:17
Son#6 This time my husband will treat me with honor, because I have borne him six sons.” Genesis 30:20
The only time she didn’t mention Jacob was when she was secure in her spiritual walk, after her fourth son is born.
She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “This time I will praise the Lord. Genesis 29:35
Quality #7 – Leah was a bold negotiator
Rachel might have been insecure when it came to Joseph, but she was quite the negotiator.
When her son Reuben found the mandrake, Rachel wanted them very badly.
Mandrakes were the fertility drugs of the time. And they were also considered an aphrodisiac.
No wonder Rachel wanted them!
She wanted a baby of her own. Really badly too. But Leah was not going to hand them over so easily.
She made her demand. A night with Jacob for the mandrake.
Jacob would have to comply once the two agreed. The deal was made.
Not only did Leah have her night with Jacob but she also became pregnant again.
But this never solved the problem which plagued Leah the most. Jacob still didn’t fall in love with her.
6 Lessons about marriage from the story of Leah in the Bible
Now that we have looked at some qualities of Leah, What does the story of Leah teach us?
Let’s look at what we take from her life to apply to ours.
Lesson #1 – A marriage built on lies, deceit, and distrust will not go well
Let’s talk about the foundation of marriage of Jacob and Leah.
The Bible does not tell us whether Leah was forced to switch with Rachel or she was in cahoots with her father Laban.
Either way, this was just a bad set up.
Who knows, Leah might have fallen in love with Jacob.
As she watched this bundle of hardworking handsomeness over the course of 7 years, her heart may have fallen for him.
But deceiving was an absolutely terrible idea.
Jacob never ever trusted again and no matter what she did, she could never win him over.
A marriage built on lies will not be successful.
Thinking of getting married? Lay it all out on the table.
Any details that can make a difference, tell it upfront.
You will not be able to hide it after the wedding. With time, it will all come spilling out in the worst kind of way.
It’s won’t go well and won’t end well. Ask Leah.
Lesson #2 – Leah teaches us that women we need to understand the way men think
Leah tried so hard to get Jacob to love her.
How did she do this?
By having his babies.
Trying to trap men with babies is not a new thing.
But it has never worked. You might (and that’s a big might) be able to capture his pocket, but never his heart.
I learned this one thing from my husband: it does not take a man very long to decide whether or not he wants a woman.
Anywhere from a few seconds to a few months but not years and years and years.
And, men are very capable of sexually engaging without any emotional attachment.
Jacob had all of 7 children with Leah, and 4 children with the handmaids but he never loved any of them.
His heart was always with Rachel. When she died, it broke him permanently.
If a man doesn’t love you naturally, it’s going to be hard to win his heart.
You don’t have to get into his bed to prove anything to anyone.
You don’t need to be a woman on the side or girlfriend number 5.
And you certainly don’t need to have more babies to try and capture his affection.
Leah might not have had a choice because of the customs of the time but you do.
Lesson #3 – Look for validation where it is actually provided
Leah wanted to be validated by the people around her. By things outside of her.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to be validated by the people you love.
But what if it’s not coming? What do you do next?
Do what Leah did after Judah was born.
Turn to God. Consume yourself with what God thinks of you.
Stop looking in places where what you need isn’t available.
And look towards where it is provided in abundance.
Spiritual lessons from the story of Leah in the Bible
Leah can teach us some things about the reality of trying to live out our faith.
Let’s learn a few…
Lesson #4 – God has a special place for the rejected
Throughout the Bible, God can be seen showing special attention to the rejected.
During His time on earth, Jesus spent most of his time hanging out with the poorest, most vulnerable and least favored in communities.
In Rachel’s case, he gave her children so she could feel loved.
Their love could never replace romantic love but it sure can soothe the aching, broken heart.
Only a mother knows what is to have their hearts warmed when their little boys show that they need them.
In these little ways, God looks out for the unloved and the unwanted.
Lesson #5 – God has big plans for little people
If you have ever experienced it, then you know how small someone can feel when they have been rejected.
Leah was that small person. She was the underdog in this story.
Leah was the ugly mistreated sister but God had big big plans for her.
God gave her 6 sons that she birthed and 2 from her handmaids.
And guess what?
Leah went down in Jewish history as one who created history
Ruth 4:11 says
Then the elders and all the people at the gate said, “We are witnesses. May the LORD make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the family of Israel…
Her son Levi became the father of the Israelite tribe which became the priests of Israel.
But there is more!
It is from her son Judah that the Messiah was born.
Leah was the great great great….. grandmother of Jesus!
Never underestimate how God is working with small people.
Going through a rough time?
God has big plans. Hang in there. Hunker down. Wait and see.
Lesson #6 – Our spiritual lives have seasons
Leah had various seasons in her spiritual experience.
In one scene she is down and in another season her praise is strong and in yet another season it seems like God isn’t even in the picture at all.
And it’s quite normal. There are seasons of struggling and seasons of triumph.
These seasons are oftentimes as a result of what’s going on in our lives.
Early in the story, Leah battles disappointments. She thinks that because God blessed her with sons then Jacob would love her.
But by the time her fourth son was born, Leah had found her identity in God. She was singing praises.
But then Rachel starts up this baby war and Leah loses her spiritual footing.
Her peace evaporated as she engaged her sister in the baby battle.
And she goes right back to seeking validation and love from Jacob instead of from God.
The contentment she had gained after the birth of Judah was now gone.
What’s causing your peace and contentment to be disturbed?
Is it something in your home?
Something at work?
Watch out. Be vigilant.
The enemy hates to see us living in praise to God and he will use any available weapon to make sure that your praise is not sustained.
The weapon could be a family member or coworker or social media or even a godly goal you’re pursuing.
Don’t allow the cares of life to snatch God’s words of peace that he is trying to plant in your heart.
What does Leah symbolize in the Bible?
Leah is a symbol of what God can do with the rejected. In Ruth 4:11 she is praised for her role in building up the house of Israel. Her story stands as strength to women who keep on keeping on even when the going gets tough.
Final words about Leah in the Bible
It was hard to tell her story separate from her sister Rachel but I truly hope you were able to appreciate Leah as a separate character in this saga.
Leah’s life seems to be tragic but she had her fair share of triumphs too.
And isn’t that what life is? Tragedy and triumph all wrapped up?
We didn’t exhaust all the lessons from her story but I hope this was helpful and encouraging for you.
Read through the story of Leah in the Bible again.
I promise after all you have learned in this post, you will see with fresh eyes.