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Published / updated: 06 August 2013 | Author: Dele Oke

Rachel & Leah - Women of the Bible

Genesis Chapters 29 - 35


Rachel and Leah were two sisters who married the same man - Jacob.
Their father, Laban, was Jacob's uncle. Laban was a farmer. Unsurprisingly Rachel's name means 'ewe' - a female sheep. Sheep can be docile animals. Leah means a wild cow or ox.

The Bible describes Rachel as having 'a lovely figure and was beautiful' while leah was unattractive (Genesis 29:17).

The story

Jacob was a cheat. He lied to his father, stole his brother Esau's birthright and then had to make a quick escape from home to avoid getting murdered for this sins (Genesis 27). Not the ideal way to start one’s life.

Fleeing revenge from Esau he arrived at Laban's house. He immediately fell in love with the beautiful Rachel, but little did he know that Laban, a relative of his mother, was as dubious as he was. What a family! (Genesis 29).


Laban saw a chance to make capital out of Jacob's love for Rachel. He required Jacob to work seven years for him in exchange for marrying Rachel(Genesis 29:15-18). The bible says '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 29:19 NIV)

Jacob however was in for a nasty shock. Just as he had deceived his own father many years ago (Genesis 27), so now Laban was to deceive him. After seven years of hard work Laban tricked Jacob into marrying the older sister Leah - a lot of wine and a veil over the head of Leah during the wedding did the job.

Jacob had to work another seven years before he could marry his beloved Rachel (Genesis 29). Both Rachel, Leah and Jacob were bitterly hurt by this deception (Genesis 31:14-16).

Rachel's troubles had only just began. On marrying Jacob she found herself unable to have children while Leah gave birth to four - Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah (Genesis 29:31-35).

Not to be out done Rachel asked Jacob to sleep with her maid Bilhah. This was in line with the custom of the day. Bilhah gave birth to two boys. Rachel named them Dan and Naphtali.

This only intensified the rivalry between the two sisters. Leah asked Jacob to sleep with her maid Zilpah and she too gave birth to two sons - Gad and Asher. But this did not satisfy Leah.

As if to rob more salt into Rachel's wounds Leah herself got sexually active with Jacob again and gave birth to another two boys and one girl - Issachar, Zebulun and Dinah (Genesis 30).

Here was a home where children were used as tools of revenge. It would not have been a pleasant place.

Finally Rachel gave birth to a son herself. He was called Joseph (Genesis 30:22-24).

Just when it looked like things were looking up for Rachel another twist comes. Laban and his sons were getting irritated at how well Jacob was doing. With hostility growing towards him Jacob decided it was time to do a run again. Both Leah and Rachel happily agreed to go back to his home with him (Genesis 31).

On the way back Rachel gave birth to another son called Benjamin. She died during child birth. She called the child's name Ben-oni, meaning son of my sorrow, but Jacob renamed him Benjamin - meaning son of my right hand (Genesis 35).

The name Rachel gave to her son reflects the sorrow and hurt she lived through. We all need to be careful of the hurts and emotional wounds that may follow us from our background and circumstances in life. These need to be dealt with. Only Jesus can heal these kinds of aliments.

The remarks of Rachel and Leah in Genesis 31:14-15 (NIV)

'Then Rachel and Leah replied, “Do we still have any share in the inheritance of our father’s estate? Does he not regard us as foreigners? Not only has he sold us, but he has used up what was paid for us'
Indicate the hatred they had for their father. Couple this with the rivalry and bitterness between them in their married home and you get the picture of the situation they had to deal with.

Rachel had every cause to be annoyed with her father. He had done her wrong. She and Jacob were very much in love and could have made a wonderful couple. Her father’s actions destroyed this.

However, things did not have to go the way they did. Rachel's life should stand out as a warning for us and not a mirror of our life.

God can turn these kind of situations around for us today if we serve Him and love Him with all our heart (Romans 8:28). If you love God you will forgive those that have hurt you and refuse to harbour bitterness in your heart against them. Bitterness destroys (Hebrews 12:15). It is in your own interest that you forgive. By God's grace and your will power you can forgive.

After getting your heart right with God, you can then pray and break the curses that might have been let loose in your life because of the actions of other people. It might be helpful to ask other believers to pray with you. Ask God for healing and a restoration of all the things that evil has caused.


1.Mention some of the troubles that Rachel and Leah faced in their home?
2.Can past actions of our parents still affect us today?
3.How can we prevent this?
4.What were the weaknesses of Rachel?
5.How many children did Rachel eventually have?
6.Can God bless us despite our background?
7.Why is it so important to forgive?