Baby-making Wars

Did you know that in some cultures a man can have more than one wife? In the West, we’re enlightened. Evidently someone had two or three wives and said to himself, “I don’t want this misery for my son.”

One wife is as good as it gets. Two or three wives is as bad as it gets.

But back when two spouses were possible, the Bible tells us of a man who had two sisters as wives and they were jealous of each other: Rachel and Leah.

Leah was homely (that’s a polite way to say “ugly” for those of you schooled in British English) and Rachel was beautiful. Jacob sweated for seven years working to earn the right to marry Rachel. Then the father of the two girls tricked Jacob into first marrying the older sister, homely Leah.

He finally got Rachel, but in all, she cost 14 years of hard work.

After getting snookered by his father-in-law, Jacob faced another storm. Leah was mad at Rachel because Jacob didn’t love her as much as he loved her little sister.

C’mon girl. What do you expect? You were just as guilty of trickery in this affair as your daddy was! Did you think Jacob would be overjoyed to reach over for a kiss the morning after the marriage and find you in his bed instead of the girl he was in love with?

Okay, we understand what Leah felt. I imagine she had dealt with this her whole life, hearing people compliment her little sister’s beauty and then adding, “And Leah has a good personality.”

The seeming injustice of her lot in life must have churned in the young woman, especially when no suitors showed up. “Why does she look like a dream? And me …?”

Baby-making contest.

Anyway, God was good to her and Leah started having little ones, but Rachel had a hard time conceiving. Fertility was a huge factor in those times and Leah began to feel that things were going her way after all.

Each time that Leah had a child (for the first three anyway) she gave it a name in relationship with her spat with her sister.

Her firstborn came kicking and squalling into the world and his angry mama called him Reuben, which means something like: “See, a son. God has seen my misery.” She said, “Surely my husband will love me now.” (Gen. 29:32, NIV)

In was like she spiked the ball in the end zone and talked a little trash! “Take that Rachel! Now, Jacob, you’ve got to love me!”

Yet, Leah still wasn’t happy and she dubbed her next son Simeon. It means one who hears and sweet Leah said to herself, “Because the Lord heard that I am not loved, he gave me this one too.” And she named the third little fellow “attached”—Levi–because she was hoping that all these boys would finally cause her husband to attach his heart to her, instead of to her sister.

Then, she had a fourth child. But we’ll come back to him.

Rachel didn’t take this lying down. So she gave her servant to Jacob for his wife and the girl had a child to which Rachel gave a name in relation to her struggle with her sister. “Dan=he has vindicated.”

“You take that my smart-mouthed sister.” And it went on.

Wait, wait, wait! These sisters made their children a part of their personal war. How many times do we pass our wars down to our kids?

Can you imagine, Rueben? People ask the poor boy what his name was and he said, ” Ummm, a son, God has seen my misery.”

“Misery, what misery?”

“Well, you see my mama … aw, just forget it.”

How many times do we pass our faults, sins, unfulfilled ambitions and frustrations down to our kids?

How many times do we try to live through our kids to accomplish things we never accomplished? To be popular or athletic or a thousand other things?

How many times do we pass our anger to our kids?

A lady, deeply angry with life, erupts and beats her little child. That same little one, now grown up, erupts against someone else. Mama transmitted her rage into her offspring.


Leah’s fourth child, Judah, is the stop sign. “Now I will praise the Lord.”

Little “Praise” did the trick. Leah finally stopped feeling sorry for herself, finally stopped being jealous of her sister, finally stopped using her kids to channel her anger, and she got her eyes on the Lord.

And when she began to really look towards Him and thank Him for all that He had done for her, praise welled up in her soul. Judah means praise. She had religious names for her kids before but, religion doesn’t do the trick.

You can’t really praise the Lord if you don’t have a relationship with him.

Is it any coincidence that God sent salvation to the world through this physical descendant of Jacob? Jesus the Messiah was born in the tribe of Judah–the praisers.

If you haven’t been very fruitful and effective for the Lord, maybe you need to get your eyes off what makes you jealous, what makes you burn with anger, what makes you frustrated and empty; get your eyes off of what you wish you had been and get your eyes on the One who daily loads you down with blessings–if you’d just recognize them.

Then you can build your life according to His plan for you and not according to what you wish you life had been. Believe it or not, He has something incredible for you if you’ll quit wishing you had what someone else had or that you were someone else.

Otherwise, you’ll just afflict your wars on your kids and those around you.

If God shows you yourself in this you need to do two things: consciously say “Stop! I’m going to praise the Lord.” You also need to find help. God will show you who and how.

Hmmm …

“Most successful young people don’t look inside and then plan a life. They look outside and find a problem, which summons their life.”
David Brooks writing in the New York Times.

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