le'-a (le'ah; Leia, "weary," "dull"(?), "wild cow"):
Rachel's sister, and the elder daughter of Laban (Genesis 29:16). We are told that her eyes were "tender" rakkoth). Gesenius renders it "weak," Septuagint astheneis; accordingly, she was weak-eyed, but by no means "blear-eyed" (compare Vulgate). Her eyes were lacking that luster which always and everywhere is looked upon as a conspicuous part of female beauty. Josephus (Ant., I, xix, 7) says of her, ten opsin ouk euprepe, which may safely be rendered, "she was of no comely countenance."
Leah became the wife of Jacob by a ruse on the part of her father, taking advantage of the oriental custom of heavily veiling the prospective bride. When taken to task by his irate son-in-law, Laban excused himself by stating it was against the rule of the place "to give the younger before the first-born" (Genesis 29:21-26). Although Rachel was plainly preferred by Jacob to Leah, still the latter bore him six sons:
Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah (Genesis 29:31), Issachar, Zebulun, and a daughter, Dinah (Genesis 30:17-21). Up to this time Rachel had not been blessed with children of her own. Thus the lesson is brought home to us that Yahweh has a special and kindly regard for the lowly and despised, provided they learn, through their troubles and afflictions, to look to Him for help and success. It seems that homely Leah was a person of deep-rooted piety and therefore better suited to become instrumental in carrying out the plans of Yahweh than her handsome, but worldly-minded, sister Rachel.
When Jacob decided to return to the "land of his fathers," both of his wives were ready to accompany him (Genesis 31:4,14). Before they reached the end of their journey their courage was sorely tried at the time of the meeting between Jacob and his brother Esau. Although Leah was placed between the handmaids in the front, and Rachel with her son Joseph in the rear, she still cannot have derived much comfort from her position. We may well imagine her feeling of relief when she saw Esau and his 400 men returning to Seir (Genesis 33:2,16).
According to Genesis 49:31, Leah was buried at Machpelah. We cannot know for a certainty that she died before Jacob's going down to Egypt, though it is very likely. If she went down with her husband and died in Egypt, he had her body sent to the family burying-place. Ruth 4:11 discloses the fact that her memory was not forgotten by future generations. When Boaz took Ru for a wife the witnesses exclaimed, "Yahweh make the woman that is come into thy house like Rachel and like Leah, which two did build the house of Israel."
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