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Strong Biblical Women, Part 3: Rachel and Leah

Updated on March 8, 2014

How Sisters became Wives and Mothers

B"H

There are three Patriarchs and four Matriarchs in the Bible. That's because Yaakov (Jacob) had two wives. These two wives were sisters and their husband was their (first) cousin.

When Yaakov upset his hunter brother Eisav (Esau) and had to flee for his life, his mother Rivka (Rebeka) sent him to her brother Lavan (Laban).

As Yaakov got closer to his uncle's home, he saw a shepherdess trying to get a huge rock off the top of a well. There were men nearby, but instead of helping her, they were taunting her. Yaakov saw her and fell in love immediately and the strength of his love gave him the physical power to lift the heavy stone on his own.

Rachel and Lea

When Yaakov upset his hunter brother Eisav (Esau) and had to flee for his life, his mother Rivka (Rebeka) sent him to her brother Lavan (Laban).

As Yaakov got closer to his uncle's home, he saw a shepherdess trying to get a huge rock off the top of a well. There were men nearby, but instead of helping her, they were taunting her. Yaakov saw her and fell in love immediately and the strength of his love gave him the physical power to lift the heavy stone on his own.

After helping her, he discovered that the shepherdess was his cousin Rahael (Rachel).

Yaakov went home with Rahael to his uncle Lavan's home where he told Lavan he wanted to marry Rahael. Lavan, crafty character that he was, decided that in order to marry his daughter, Yaakov would have to work for 7 years. Yaakov agreed and they were married. Or so Yaakov thought until the morning after the wedding when he discovered that he had married Rahael's sister Lea. Lea, the commentators tell us, thought she would have to marry Eisav, an evil man who she thought would treat her badly, so she cried. This made her eyes look red and reduced her natural beauty.

When Yaakov realized he'd been tricked, he went to Lavan who acted as though he hadn't known which sister Yaakov had wanted to marry. But, he told Yaakov, he would give him Rahael if he would work another 7 years. Yaakov agreed to that also.

After the 14 years and his marriage to Rahael, Yaakov worked several more years (6 or 7 depending on the source) to accumulate enough wealth to support his large family (Lea was mother to 6 sons and a daughter -- Reuven (Ruben), Shimon (Simon), Levi, Yehuda (Judah), Yissachar, Zevulun (Zebulon) and Dina, Rahael was mother to Yosef (Joseph) and Binyamin (Benjamin) and their maids were mothers to 4 sons total -- Dan, Naftali, Gad, Asher).

Yaakov and his family headed back toward Israel, but they were stopped by Lavan's workers and accused of stealing Lavan's idols. Yaakov professed his innocence but Rahael was hiding the idol, hoping her father would turn away from his idol worship so she took the idol.

It was a good thing, though, that Lea was there and was a good mother because Rahael died as the family was about to enter Israel (she was buried on the road and her spirit cried for her children when the nation of Israel was exiled from the land of Israel by the Babylonians after the destruction of the first Temple).

Lea took over and was mother to all 13 children. She was a helpmate to Yaakov. Lea is buried next to Yaakov in the cave of Mahpela in Hevron (Hebron).

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      Paula Atwell 8 years ago from Cleveland, OH

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