Loved or Childless?

When the Lord saw that Leah was not loved he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren.

What Don't I Have?

In Genesis 29 and 30 we read the story of Jacob’s two wives, Leah and Rachel. Leah is unloved by her husband, but had 6 boys and a girl. Rachel is loved by her husband, but is childless.

We often want what we don’t have. Leah was desperate for the love of her husband, and Rachel was desperate for children. They both grumbled and complained and were envious of each other.

When I was single, I longed to be married. Now I am married, I long to have children. How easy is it for us to not only focus on what we don’t have, but also to be jealous when others have what we want, without even knowing the full story. Would I swap a loving marriage for a loveless one with children – no, of course not.
As we keep reading the account, we see a crazy competition between the two sisters developing. They prostitute out their maidservants and negotiate over mandrakes (a plant meant to increase fertility) and sex. Rachel even named her servant’s son Naphtali because she “won” the struggle with her sister. (Genesis 30:8)
Leah and Rachel fighting
If you look at how they both chose names for their children, you can see that they both saw the fruit of their womb (or the wombs of their servants) as being a reward from God. Reuben was named because “God has seen my misery, Simeon was named because “the Lord saw that I am not loved”, Dan was named because “God has vindicated me” etc! Nevertheless, I am not sure God was pleased with either of their attitudes or behaviour!

Key Takeaway #1

Feels of envy and jealousy might be natural, but that doesn’t mean they are healthy! The ten commandments even command us not to covet that which our neighbour has and we don’t. Instead we should follow Leah’s example after the birth of Judah, her fourth child, and praise God for what we do have!

This time I will praise the LORD

Key Takeaway #2

Children are a blessing from God, but they are not a reward for good behaviour! In this passage we read that “God remembered Rachel; he listened to her and enabled her to conceive.” Judging by her ungodly behaviour leading up to this, I am sure that this was an unmerited blessing, despite, not because, of her behaviour. 

So often I am tempted to believe that if only I obeyed God more, pleased him more, sinned less, then he would bless me with children. While there can be negative consequences for our sins, neither infertility, nor singleness, nor an unhappy marriage are signs of God’s displeasure. God isn’t waiting until we “behave better” or “learn our lesson” before answering our prayers. After all, the world is full of imperfect people who God has blessed with children!

Other Childless Women

Rachel is one of six childless women in the Bible. Read more about some of the other accounts in this series – Sarah, Hannah, Elizabeth, Ruth and Rebekah.

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