I spent the weekend in Billings, Montana at the kick-off of Women of Faith’s Imagine tour. Part of each speaker’s introduction is a video Q&A. The questions (and answers) ranged from insightful to hilarious, but the one that caught my fancy was, “If you could have dinner with anyone from the Bible, who would it be?”
I started thinking about that. There are so many good choices . . . Jesus, of course (as a plus, if you ran out of food he could make more on the spot); Paul (to pin him down on his real views about women in the church); Martha (who could probably be counted on to help with the dishes). But the more I thought about it, I decided my choice would have to be Leah.
Remember Leah? She’s Rachel’s older sister, the one who was so unattractive Joseph had to be tricked into marrying her. I’ve always mourned for Leah. The scripture says “Leah’s eyes were weak.” So are mine. I shudder to imagine what it was like in those days before glasses & contacts, squinting at everything, trying to make out what’s going on around her. But one thing was very clear: Rachel was the princess. Leah was not.
Put yourself in Leah’s place: the household is abuzz with preparations for Rachel’s wedding. Was Leah hoping that once Rachel was out of the way she might get a little attention as the daughter of the house? Maybe she was happy for her sister’s good fortune or resigned to one more event that was all about Rachel. We don’t know.
We do know that at some point her dad must have called Leah into his study (or its biblical equivalent) and bluntly explained that there was no way anyone would ever want her. The only way she’s going to get a husband—and in those days, husband = survival—is if the unlucky guy doesn’t know who she is until it’s too late.
So with Rachel in her room throwing a hissy fit (that’s not in the Bible, but from what I’ve read about her temperament it seems likely), Leah is getting ready for “her” wedding. We don’t know what Leah’s feelings for Jacob were, but it must have been bitterly painful to exchange vows with a man who thought she was someone else. “If he knew it was me,” she probably thought, “he’d run screaming the other way.”
That’s no exaggeration, by the way. The next morning, when Jacob finally discovered the deception, he did exactly that. He must have been pretty drunk not to notice who he was cuddling the night before. (And if the wedding was hard on Leah, imagine what that must have been like for her.)
It would be nice to say that Jacob eventually learned to love Leah, but it doesn’t really look that way.
Genesis 29:31 says, “When the Lord saw that Leah was not loved…she became pregnant.” When her son was born she said “It is because the Lord has seen my misery. Surely my husband will love me now.” But no. Another son was born and Leah said, “Because the Lord heard that I am not loved, he gave me this one, too.” How sad is that? Then son number three came along and she said, “Now at last my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.” You’d think! But again, no.
By the time Leah’s fourth son was born she had apparently given up on Jacob, saying, “This time I will praise the Lord.” (Looks as though Leah finally learned to turn to God for comfort, rather than her husband.) She would eventually have two more sons (she called them precious gifts from God) and a daughter. (And that doesn’t count the children Jacob conceived with her servant because, well, that’s just a whole ‘nother can of worms.)
From my perspective, Leah got a bum deal. I’m glad for her that she had so many children, a mark of God’s favor in her day. I’m glad one of those children was Judah, whose offspring would include David and eventually Jesus. But from what I can tell, Leah never had anyone to make her feel special.
That’s why I’d like to have her over for dinner. I’d like to make a delicious meal, serve it on my best china, and spend the evening making her feel important. Leahs deserve to know they are valuable—beautiful, even —in God’s eyes. God loves the Leahs of this world just as much as the Rachels.
So that’s my answer. What about you? Which Bible character would you have over for dinner?