Two sisters, growing up in the same home. They loved one another. It never occurred to either one that the older daughter was somewhat plain and the younger was very attractive. They were tight friends — until one day their father made a decision that hurt them beyond words. On the day of the younger girl’s long-awaited wedding, her dad switched girls, and gave away his older daughter, instead. Can you imagine the disappointment and heartbreak of the younger girl? I’m sure the older girl was nervous and filled with anxiety, hoping her father’s deception wouldn’t be discovered during the wedding. And I can’t imagine the shock Jacob experienced the next morning when he awoke and found Leah beside him instead of Rachel.
Laban, the father, justified his deception by claiming it was not proper to give away a younger daughter in marriage before the older one. He tried to smooth over the whole affair by giving Rachel to Jacob a week later. I have no idea how Jacob could be fooled, but customs were so different then. This deception is recorded in Genesis 29-30 in your Bible for all to read. Customs may have been different, but the consequences are the same today. Two wives, both sisters, will result in years of tension in the home.
You detect some of this friction when Leah bears sons to Jacob. When her firstborn arrives, she says, “Surely, my husband will love me now.” When her second is born, she says, “The Lord has heard that I am not loved, so He gave me this one.” When her third son was born, she said, “Now at last my husband will become attached to me.” Sadly, as in many marriages, a woman hopes that a child will improve the marriage. It rarely does. In fact, it magnifies problems. It must have been obvious to Leah that Jacob favored her sister.
Rachel watched her older sister pump out babies, while she remained childless. Was she happy for her sister? No way! The Bible records that Rachel was “jealous of her sister.” Both sisters also had maids, so each of them suggested that Jacob have children through them, kind of like surrogates. Did that help to ease tensions? Nope.
Finally, Rachel, the one Jacob intended to marry in the first place, became pregnant and bore a son. She named him Joseph. He became his dad’s favorite, over the ten other sons. If you know anything about Joseph, the tensions between the mothers replicated into animosity among the siblings. The brothers hated Joseph for years, and eventually sold him into slavery.
What are some lessons? It’s better to have one wife and concentrate on pleasing her. Step-children will usually get along with one another when their parent and step-parent don’t show any favoritism. Children are never meant to be pawns and bear the responsibility of making things better between parents. Children often respond negatively when there is tension between the parents. But love between husband and wife provides a peaceful atmosphere in which children can thrive.
How are your relationships with your siblings? Are they up-to-date or has some offense or disappointment found fertile ground and grown into years of little or no contact? You’ve probably tried before to mend the wounds. Perhaps you have given up trying. If so, I want to encourage you to try again. Initiate contact. It may call for humility and compassion. It may not restore the level of closeness you once had, but it’s worth another attempt.