When she gave birth to a son she said, “This time I will praise the Lord.” So she named him Judah.
For those who find satisfaction in poetic justice, this chapter shows Jacob getting more than his fill. His mother aided his deception of his father Isaac; now his maternal uncle turned the tables, and Jacob had to suffer the consequences.
But in other ways, a notion of justice cannot explain what happens in this passage. After all, if Jacob deserved payback, Rachel and Leah did not. In the previous chapter, God met Jacob in a miraculous way and assured him of His favor. But how could the events of our reading today include God’s favor? Finally, we want this story to be about the romance between Jacob and Rachel, perhaps similar to that of Isaac and Rebekah, but things seem to go horribly wrong instead.
God’s seeming absence in the first thirty verses does not reflect His lack of care or His tacit approval of anything that happens. Rather, we might say that God refuses to allow His good name to be dragged into this mess of lies and deceit. Jacob’s travels brought him to “the land of the eastern peoples” (v. 1), the place God called Abraham out of. God is of course omnipresent, but this is not where He wanted His people to be. Abraham wanted to make sure, for example, that Isaac not seek his wife there lest he stay away from the land God promised (24:6–7).
As soon as we read of Leah’s suffering, God enters the story and opens her womb (v. 31). The injustice of her situation motivated God’s action, which is consistent with His character in caring for the poor and oppressed. In “rescuing” Leah, God highlights a crucial theme of His story: whatever the depths of our evil, His love is strong enough to bring good out of it.
Apply the Word
Chapter 29 shows God as the hero, and it also shows us an unexpected heroine. Leah’s suffering led her to see God as the main source of provision for her life. She could not rely on her husband or her father or her sister, but she could trust in God. When we are suffering, we can turn to the Lord who hears, cares, and acts on our behalf.