When we are first introduced to Rachel, she’s at work. As a shepherd, it was Rachel’s responsibility to care for her father’s sheep making sure none were lost and all were fed and watered.
One day, when Rachel led her sheep to a nearby well, a stranger rolled away the large stone covering it and watered the sheep for her. Then, he kissed her and introduced himself as her cousin, Jacob.
Jacob became employed by Rachel’s father and negotiated with him to earn Rachel as his wife. This pleased her father and they struck a deal that Jacob could marry Rachel after seven years of labor.
But Jacob was deceived by his uncle who substituted Rachel’s older sister Leah as the bride. The circumstances were such that Jacob didn’t realize what had happened. As Genesis 29:25 says, “When morning came, there was Leah!”
We don’t know much about Leah except that she was older than Rachel and she had “weak eyes.” Although Jacob was deceived thinking he was making love to the woman of his dreams, Leah was not. Neither was Rachel. The young women had no say in what was happening to them. The men made all the decisions.
Jacob confronted his uncle and after a week, he was permitted to marry Rachel. There was just one caveat: He would have to work an additional seven years for his uncle. Jacob was more than willing to do this.
Rachel and Leah were the first “sister wives” recorded in the Bible. Leah bore Jacob many children, but Rachel had Jacob’s heart. Eventually, she bore him a son: Joseph (who was easily Jacob’s favorite). Rachel became pregnant again and, sadly, died immediately after the birth of her second son Benjamin.
Between Rachel, Leah, and their maidservants Bilhah and Zilpah, a total of 12 sons were born to Jacob. These sons were the fathers of the 12 tribes of Israel.
You can read more about Rachel and Leah in Genesis 29-35. Look for the time Leah “purchased” a night with Jacob for some mandrakes and the time Rachel stole the family gods.
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