Summary: Anyone who has ever said the Bible is boring hasn’t read it. Tonight I want to walk through this rather surreal story. Genesis 29:31-30:24 needs some kind of introduction, but once you read what’s going on here, it really defies a quaint definition, So
Anyone who has ever said the Bible is boring hasn’t read it. Tonight I want to walk through this rather surreal story. Genesis 29:31-30:24 needs some kind of introduction, but once you read what’s going on here, it really defies a quaint definition, So I’ll just say, “Welcome to the battling brides!”(While I first thought of this title on my own I readily acknowledge that much of this sermon finds it’s points of application and key moments of understanding to Bob Deffinbaugh’s sermon on “ The Battle of the Brides” http://www.sermoncentral.com/outsideURL.asp?OutsideURL=http://www.bible.org/docs/ot/books/gen/deffin/gen-32.htm%20&SermonID=1117)
Take a look at it, as you read it with any sensibility it sounds like some kind of a mix between a bad “B” movie, a Jerry Springer Special or a frumpy soap opera. Cue the sappy music, drag the faded pictures across the screen and bring on the badly voiced narrator:
“Tonight on Jerry Springer:
In a bizzare case of ’love gone awry’ Two sisters marry the same man at the same time. One has children in a desperate attempt to gain her husband’s love and gleefully parades the children in front of her infertile sister, The other frustrated by infertility actually instructs her husband to sleep with her maid as a surrogate! The other sister does the same thing and both women claim God is on their side. On the stage we have the whole dysfunctional family: One Man; Four Wives; Twelve sons and One Daughter and these are only the children we’re told about! I have no doubt they’ve left lots of daughters at home to take care of the tent.”
Let me introduce you to the players in what sounds like a poorly scripted melodrama.
First We have Jacob: He married two sisters within seven days of each other. As far as I’m concerned I think he get’s all the hen-pecking he deserved for such a move.
Second We have Leah: Yes she’s homely or at least a bit delicate but she is the older sister. She’s Jacob’s first wife, but he doesn’t love her at all, and apparently he’s not shy about it.
Third we have Rachel, She’s brunette, she’s brash and she’s beautiful. Killer looks and a killer attitude rolled into one deadly package. She stole Jacob’s heart and cost him 14 years of hard labor.
Fourth and Fifth we have Leah’s maid Zilpah and Rachel’s Maid Bilhah surrogate mothers both of them. They have no say in the matter since they are slaves. They just do as their told.
The story here is really a series of small narratives wrapped around the unfolding of God’s fulfillment of the promise to Jacob given in 28:14 “your descendants will also be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south...”
But here again, God has to condescend and fulfill his promises through weak individuals that fluctuate between some degree of faithfulness and complete depravity. In other words, God draws from the well of overwhelming grace to work through people just like us.
Like our own life, this story takes place on two planes. First there is the perspective of heaven: God is clearly in charge. It starts with God opening Leah’s womb “Because she was unloved” and progresses to Jacob’s anger at Rachel’s demand because he clearly knows that He’s not God and declares that God is not permitting her to have any children. Finally near the close of the narrative we’re told that “God remembered Rachel.” Rachel finally does become pregnant and bears her firstborn son.
The second perspective of the story is far more earthy and rugged: and that’s where we’ll spend most of the time looking because that’s the bulk of the story. It really could be a Jerry Springer special Titled simply “Battling Brides!” This is the plane where human life takes place. And it’s where we see the heartache and heart-attitudes of Leah and Rachel.
The Tone is set by 29:31 where we find the battle begins explicitly because God knows that Leah is not loved.
Can’t Buy Me Love!
Immediately there’s a contrast: Leah get’s pregnant because God knows she’s not loved but Rachel is barren. Hidden in the statement is the principle that God loves the unloved. He has mercy on those who don’t know mercy.
Leah becomes pregnant and immediately she credits God for the life she bears. Early on She seems ready at a moment’s notice to recognize God’s hand is graciously involved in her pregnancies. But in each of these four children you can see Leah’s heartache as well as her faith.
The Firstborn is Reuben: “See-A-Son”. You can imagine her parading the baby around in front of Jacob hoping that he will love her in return. After all she has given him the firstborn!