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Sister Wives in the Bible- Rachel and Leah

Updated on December 8, 2017

In 2015, a polygamist man from Montana, Nathan Collier, recently tried to see if he would be allowed to marry his second wife under the Marriage Equality Act. Nathan Collier is a polygamist and is legally married to one of his wives, Vicki, but wants to be legally married to his other wife, Christine. If their application to be legally wed is denied, Collier says that he does plan to sue the state of Montana although it is illegal in that state. The polygamist trio appeared on TLC's reality television show 'Sister Wives' which is about another polygamist family, the Browns.

Polygamy is very much an issue today. Many polygamists believe that they have the foundation for their way of life because of many families practicing this type of marriage in the Bible. They claim that many wise men of the Bible were polygamists and that is what makes this lifestyle right. However, the Bible never says that polygamy is right and it always stresses upon the fact that all men are sinners and will do things that are sinful.

Dante's vision of Rachel and Leah -1855 by Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Dante's vision of Rachel and Leah -1855 by Dante Gabriel Rossetti | Source
'Rachel and Jacob' by Tissot
'Rachel and Jacob' by Tissot | Source

Rachel and Leah - Sisters who became Sister Wives

I had never heard of the term 'Sister Wives' until the television show and if I remember correctly, one of Kody Brown's wives' explained that it was a common term used among fundamental Mormons who practiced polygamy. It refers to the relationship that exists between or among the wives who are all married to the same man. This relationship, as described, also existed between Rachel and Leah but they were also sisters.

As inconceivable as it sounds (to me, at least) there are polygamist families today where siblings have married the same man. These unions were not forced but voluntary, and the women all claim to be happy in their relationships, because they believe it is the right way to live.

The first pair of sisters to be married to the same man, however, did not want to be in that situation and absolutely hated being in that situation. The Bible never says that they got over it and the man who married them, Jacob, also married one of them against his will.

How does this match up with the argument that it is the biblical way to live?

My answer? It does not.

Jacob Tricked

The father of Leah and Rachel, Laban, promised Jacob his daughter Rachel if he would work for him for seven years. The Bible says that Jacob gladly worked for the seven years for her because he loved her so much. It even says that the years were like days to him because he knew that at the end he would be married to the woman he loved. On the night of the wedding, Laban gave Jacob his first daughter Leah instead of his daughter Rachel.

And it came to pass, that in the morning, behold, it was Leah: and he said to Laban, What is this thou hast done unto me? did not I serve with thee for Rachel? wherefore then hast thou beguiled me?

— Genesis 29:24-26 K.J.V.

Favoritism and Jealousy Between Sister Wives

Jacob then worked another seven years in order to marry Rachel, the sister that he truly loved even though he already had a wife. The truth was that she was never wanted the way that Rachel was wanted and Leah began her marriage knowing that her husband did not love her the way he loved her sister.

The Bible describes Leah as having 'doe eyes' but describes Rachel as an incomparable beauty. As sisters there would have already been the knowledge that one's looks were more stunning than the other's and Leah's only comfort was probably a wish that her own husband would favor her one day. This would not come true and although she was the first wife, she would be second in Jacob's life from then on.

Rachel was Jacob's favorite wife and there is no disputing this fact for God gave Leah children in order to compensate for the fact that her husband did not love her.

This favoritism led to a big rift in the family with Leah's children being loyal to her and Rachel's children being loyal to their mother.

Jealousy was alive and well between the sisters and the matter of having children was very serious, Rachel even giving her maid to Jacob so that she could have children through her and Leah doing the same after she had stopped bearing children for some time.

Rachel's barrenness was also a sore spot for her because she saw her sister having children while she could not. She went to Jacob and told him to give her children or she would die.

Whatever sisterly bond between Rachel and Leah before their marriage to Jacob was completely destroyed after the fact and all that remained was the relationship that is called a 'Sister Wives' relationship.

And Reuben went in the days of wheat harvest, and found mandrakes in the field, and brought them unto his mother Leah. Then Rachel said to Leah, Give me, I pray thee, of thy son's mandrakes.

And she said unto her, Is it a small matter that thou hast taken my husband? and wouldest thou take away my son's mandrakes also?

— Genesis 30:14 -16 K.J.V.

Did God Allow Polygamy in the Bible?

The Children of Leah and Rachel

The jealousy that both Rachel and Leah experienced was also passed down to their children. Leah's children, as well as Zilpah and Bilhah's, became jealous of the son of Rachel, Joseph. This was because he was their father's favorite just like Rachel.

When Jacob met his brother Esau he arranged his family from the least important to the most important so that if Esau attacked there was a chance that his most beloved would be saved.The concubines and their children went first, then Leah and her children, and finally, Rachel and Joseph, the Bible says.

Although he was their half-brother some of them wanted to kill him because of this obvious favoritism and it was only because of Reuben, the eldest that he was not killed. Indeed, Reuben intended to rescue him but was too late and Joseph was sold to be a slave in Egypt.

God used the discord in this family for good because Joseph was placed in a position where he was able to deliver his family but that does not mean that their actions were right and that living this way is the godly way to live.

The last son of Rachel, Benjamin, was protected by all of his brothers after they saw the complete grief of their father when he thought that Joseph had died.

Yet Reuben lost his birthright because he laid with one of his father's concubines. He was tempted by a woman who was the mother of his brothers but was not his mother, succumbed to the temptation and was told by his father that he would not excel in life because of his sinful act.


If given the choice I do not think that Leah or Rachel would have chosen to live the life of polygamy. At the time they had to marry the person that was picked for them and they did not have a say.

Leah was miserable in the marriage so much so that the Bible says that God saw that she was hated and Rachel was miserable because Leah was giving Jacob all the children she desired to have with him.

Polygamy did not have a positive effect on their relationship with each other or their relationship with Jacob.

It did not have a positive effect among their children, causing division instead of unity.

It did not have a positive effect on the relationship between Jacob and his children since it caused them to sin against each other and against their father.

Polygamy brought sin because it is a sin as well and was never encouraged by God.


© 2015 North Wind


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    • North Wind profile imageAUTHOR

      North Wind 

      4 years ago from The World (for now)

      Excellent point, MsDora. God is against the devaluation of women. Thank you for that valuable comment!

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      4 years ago from The Caribbean

      Thanks for sharing your valuable insight into this topic. Polygamy seems to thrive in cultures which devalue woman, something God is totally against.

    • North Wind profile imageAUTHOR

      North Wind 

      4 years ago from The World (for now)

      Thank you very much, BlossomSB!

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 

      4 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Well said!

    • North Wind profile imageAUTHOR

      North Wind 

      4 years ago from The World (for now)

      "The willful actions of mankind" - I could not have said it better.

    • serenityjmiller profile image

      Serenity Miller 

      4 years ago from Brookings, SD

      Agreed. I know of no point in Scripture where God's instruction concerning marriage uses the word "wife" in anything but the singular form. Only in the willful actions of mankind do we see any practice of polygamy.

    • North Wind profile imageAUTHOR

      North Wind 

      4 years ago from The World (for now)

      @Ericdierker - I totally agree with you. Your scenario would have a 'no-way' answer because you are content since you truly love. I do not think that anyone content with one wife looks for another. What reason would there be?

      @serenityjmiller - The story of Leah, Rachel and Jacob really is not a good example that supports polygamy and I would go even further to say that there is no good example of polygamous marriage in the Bible. It therefore should not be used to support the argument that polygamy is right.

      Thank you both for reading!

    • serenityjmiller profile image

      Serenity Miller 

      4 years ago from Brookings, SD

      Thoughtful analysis and good points. I certainly don't see any sparkling recommendation for polygamy in this story. :) Thanks for sharing!

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      4 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      For some strange reason I got out of this that; absent love no relationship(s) work. If I could have a second wife that would bring me as much joy and love as my wife --- I would have to think about it,,, for about 3 seconds, no way!

      But you bring out very interesting points in this hub, thank you.


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