“When the Lord saw that Leah was unloved, he opened her womb; but Rachel was barren. Leah conceived and bore a son, and she named him Reuben; for she said, “Because the Lord has looked on my affliction; surely now my husband will love me.” She conceived again and bore a son, and said, “Because the Lord has heard that I am hated, he has given me this son also”; and she named him Simeon. Again she conceived and bore a son, and said, “Now this time my husband will be joined to me, because I have borne him three sons”; therefore he was named Levi. She conceived again and bore a son, and said, “This time I will praise the Lord”; therefore she named him Judah; then she ceased bearing.” NRSV
As you will recall, Leah became Jacob’s first wife out of the deceitful actions of her father, Laban, but Jacob loved Rachel, Laban’s youngest daughter. No doubt Jacob harbored strong resentment toward Leah for what her father had done.
Jacob did get to marry Rachel. His love for her only made Leah more bitter. Rachel was not been able to bear children so, according to the story, Leah saw Rachel’s barrenness as her opportunity to win Jacob’s affection. She bore three sons to Jacob. Each time a son was born she thought it would change Jacob’s heart and draw him closer to her. It did not.
Then, Leah bore a fourth son, but this son was not a ploy. The birth of her fourth son changed Leah’s heart and she declared, “‘This time I will praise the Lord.'” She named him Judah, which simply means, “to thank.” The story says that Leah ceased bearing children. It seems she found the peace that had long escaped her.
We know the rest of the story. Jacob bore six more sons and one daughter, Dinah. Four of those were born to the attendants of Leah and Rachel. In time, Leah bore two more of those sons and she was Dinah’s mother. Eventually, Rachel did bear two sons, Joseph and Benjamin. Rachel died giving birth to Benjamin.
We all know Joseph’s story which is found toward the end of Genesis. Judah, the son, is never given any special attention in Israel’s story. But Judah, the tribe, becomes historically significant. The tribes of Judah and Benjamin make up the Southern Kingdom in the divided monarchy after Solomon’s death. It is the only tribe to survive the Assyrians and the Babylonian exile. Judah’s capital city is Jerusalem. Jesus is a descendant of the tribe of Judah.
It seems that Leah’s change of heart, giving thanks and praise to God for the birth of her fourth son, had far more historical significance than she could ever imagine.
A simple change of heart, given to God as an act of thanksgiving and praise, is what moves the blessing needle with God. And when that needle moves God’s blessing flows in ground-shifting ways. History is filled with those marvelous stories. We are people of faith today because of them. Thank you, Leah! Thanks be to God!
Be a blessing to someone today.