Genesis 29:15-28, Lectionary 17 A, July 27, 2014
Grace and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.
As the older sister, I grew up thinking that I would have first pick of a husband. I would dream of going to the well to find a handsome man - tall, dark, and single. Then we could raise a large family together and live happily ever after.
Certainly the middle part of that did come true for me. I did bear six strong boys and a beautiful daughter. They are my life. But my husband? All I wanted was his love, but it never came.
I blame it on my sister - in part. She and I wanted the same man. But it was my father who really made my life miserable. My greedy, two-timing father who couldn’t turn down a profitable deal if he ever saw one.
It all started that fateful day when my sister went out with her sheep. I guess she was destined to be a shepherdess; even her name Rachel means “Ewe.” Well, that day she came back to our home out of breath.
Rachel could barely speak she was so excited. “There is this man, at the well, His name is Jacob, he is my cousin, son of Isaac and Rebekah, and he wants to marry me! Daddy, can I? Get married?"
My father then was the one running to meet this relative of his, leaving Rachel with me. She was bubbling with excitement. I wanted to be happy for her, honestly, I did. Yet how could I not wonder where my husband was? Why couldn’t I find a distant relative desperate to marry me?
Then my father came in with Jacob, and I was struck with lust. He was smooth-skinned, with a deep complexion from shepherding. He was everything I and dreamed of for a husband, but he wasn’t mine to have. My father welcomed Jacob into the family, and he lived with us for some time, watching the family flocks.
After a month, my father asked Jacob what he wanted as wages for his shepherding. Without missing a beat he offered to work for seven years - seven years! - to marry my little sister. This hurt deep down, but I tried not to show it. Jacob was willing to work twice as long as expected to marry Rachel. He loved her that much.
Over the past month, I had gotten to know Jacob. I found him to be quite charming with his smooth talking. He flirted with me, giving me hope, yet he never stopped loving Rachel. Oh, how I wish he loved me!
Well, the deal was set, and Jacob continued to live near us as he tended sheep. He swooned over my little sister the entire time. Then the seven years were up, and Jacob was ready to marry Rachel.
So, my father set up a grand feast to celebrate this wedding. Our family and neighbors came and had a great, drunken time. According to tradition, my sister and I stayed home. I prayed with her as she nervously anticipated her first night with a man.
When the feast was over an Jacob was ready to consummate the marriage, my father came home. I expected him to tell Rachel to get dressed in her gown and veil, but he called to me instead! He said that he would not let his young daughter get married before the older, so I would sneak into the bridal tent.
Me? Marry Jacob? Sure, I had one heck of a crush on the guy, but he only had eyes for my sister! Well, my father didn’t really give me a choice. So, I put on the dress and veil and did the unthinkable - I waked into the bridal tent.
I didn’t have to pretend to be Rachel. Jacob was so drunk and ready for sex that he took me without saying a word. I must admit, that night was equal parts sheer bliss and personal violation. These past seven years, all I wanted was to be Jacob’s wife, but not like this. Not by deceit.
When Jacob woke up the next morning, I pretended to be asleep. Hearing how he tore out of that tent, I knew that the damage was realized. I slipped on my clothes and snuck behind my father’s tent so I could hear their conversation.
Jacob cried out, “What have you done to me?!” Well, at least he didn’t (fully) blame me for this deception. He continued, “I worked for you for seven years so that I could marry Rachel. Rachel! How dare you give me to Leah?”
I have to say it: those words stung. I thought Jacob liked me well enough. I hoped that he could settle for me. No. I was not good enough for Jacob. He did not work for seven years for me. I was nothing to him.
My father, always swindling someone, got Jacob to agree to work for him for another seven years. Yet he did not have to wait that long to marry Rachel. Jacob only and to wait one week - one week for him and I to share a bed. How could I enjoy those nights knowing that he was just biding his time until he could be with his favorite, beloved Rachel?
Then he married Rachel, and he was elated. She was everything he hoped she would be, leaving me in the dust. I hoped and prayed that if only I could bear him sons, then he would love me.
I did bear him sons - six of them in fact. Each time, I prayed that he would love me. Was one son enough to earn Jacob’s favor? No. Three? No. Six? No. Even after all this time, Jacob never loved me as much as he loved Rachel.
Jacob may not give me the time of day unless I am in his tent, yet the Lord was always there for me. I just know that it was the Lord who opened my womb so I could bear children. I never earned Jacob’s favor, but each of my children - all six boys and my daughter Dinah - showed me how much the Lord loves me. Each of my seven children, and the two from my maid, are blessings from God.
After my fourth son, I learned that I didn’t need Jacob’s love to make me complete. The Lord blessing me with children is enough. Sure, my sister and I continued to be jealous of each other - she because I had sons and I because she had Jacob’s love.
Overall, though, I had found peace. Jacob may never have loved me, but at least he respected me. I raised eight boys and one girl, whereas my sister only had four. I must honestly say that I miss my sister now that she has died. Every night, I thank my Lord for my children, for the time I had with my sister, and yes, even for Jacob too. Amen.