The Bible says of Leah that she had weak eyes (Genesis 29:17, ESV), a form of physical disability. Apparently, there had been a genetic mistake, a mutation in the process of transmission of life to her, which left a noticeable effect on her phenotype. But her younger sister is said to have been so beautiful in form and appearance that she immediately caught the attention of Jacob, the new addition to their family. Jacob was the son of Rebekah, their father’s sister. He had fled from the wrath of his twin brother, Esau, after defrauding him of his blessing. Within one month of his arrival, Jacob asked Laban for Rachel’s hand in marriage. The dowry for her was 7 years of labor, but at the end of the 7 years, Laban substituted Leah for Rachel, and Jacob had to work another 7 years for Rachel.
Jacob hated Leah and loved Rachel obviously because Rachel was more beautiful than her older sister. Leah deeply felt the pain and frustration of living with a man who preferred another woman to her. Even the names she gave her sons demonstrate her anguish and agony. There was no affection for her. Their marriage was loveless from the beginning. Leah lived under the shadow of her sister as a woman resented by her husband.
Things have not changed much since then. The World Health Organization statistics of 2011 indicate that there are currently more than one billion people, worldwide, who are living with one form of disability or another. That is about 15% of the entire global population. In most societies, disability is associated with stigma. Disabled people have limited access to healthcare and education, which could help them overcome some of the limitations associated with their disability. The lives of individuals with disabilities continue to be challenged not only by their conditions but by the general public’s response to these conditions often manifested in ostracism, stigma, discrimination, and even outright hostility. In countries where there are no systems for monetary assistance for people with disabilities or programs to assist their rehabilitation, disability can be devastating.
Leah manifested amazing fidelity to Jacob even when she knew he resented her. Her devotedness to family life is one of her amazing virtues. Scripture says that when God saw how Jacob hated Leah, He “opened her womb,” and she became the prolific mother of six sons and one daughter. She had hoped this would win her husband away from Rachel seeing that sons were of great value to their fathers in these times. She called her first born son, Reuben (see, a son). Then she had Simeon (God has heard that I was hated). Her third son was named Levi (because I have born him a third son, my husband will be joined to me now). But Jacob still loved Rachel and resented Leah. When she gave birth to her fourth son, Leah shifted her perspective. Instead of pursuing human love and validation, she looked to God who had always loved her. This was the moment when praise was born in her soul and she called her fourth son, Judah, meaning praise. She did not know it then, but this was her moment of triumph. She had just given birth to the ancestor of the Messiah, the Savior of the entire world. God honored Leah’s faith. Her other sons were Issachar and Zebulun. Her daughter was Dinah.
What is ironic about the whole scenario is that while Leah envied Rachel as the object of Jacob’s love, Rachel envied Leah as the object of God’s favor. God’s love is not contingent upon the physical perfection of its object. As a matter of fact, there is no perfection outside of Him, and genetics is never a measure of a human being to God. Leah’s strong faith in God was well-rewarded. It was Rachel not Leah who decided to be accompanied by their father’s idols when relocating to Canaan.

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