In today's reading of Genesis 29-30, Jacob has come to the household of his Uncle Laban. He meets Laban's younger daughter, Rachel, and he loves her and wants to marry her. He agrees to work for Laban for seven years in exchange for his daughter Rachel.
And the Scripture says, "So Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few day to him because of his love for her." All together now..."Awww...."
However, when the time comes for Jacob to take Rachel as his wife, he gets a taste of his own medicine, if you will. For as he previously deceived his father and cheated his brother, Uncle Laban is about to deceive Jacob and cheat him...for instead of giving him Rachel as a wife, he gives his older daughter, Leah! Laban said that it was customary to give the older daughter in marriage first, so Jacob agreed to work yet another seven years for Rachel.
Each of these women begin building a family and are perhaps in a bit of a competition to see who can bear the most children for Jacob. For Jacob loves Rachel, not Leah. But for the time being, Rachel is barren, and Leah believes that if she bears children for Jacob, he will love her, too.
So Leah has children....then Rachel (because she is barren) gives her maidservant Bilhah to Jacob to bear children...then Leah (who has stopped having children for the time) gives her maidservant Zilpah to Jacob to bear children...then Leah ended up having two more sons and a daughter...then finally Rachel has a child. And we end up with what will eventually be the 12 tribes of Israel:
I love how each time a child is born, Leah or Rachel praises God and names the child accordingly.
Leah's first four children are Ruben (He has seen my misery"), Simeon ("One who hears"), Levi ("Attached"), and Judah ("Praise").
Bilhah's children were Dan ("He has vindicated") and Naphtali ("My struggle").
Zilpah's sons were Gad ("Good fortune" or "a troop") and Asher ("Happy").
Leah's last two sons were Issachar ("Reward") and Zebulun ("Honor"). Leah also later bears a daughter named Dinah.
Finally, Rachel bears a child for Jacob, and his name is Joseph ("May He add").
I also love seeing our God of compassion work among these women. He sees that Leah is not loved, so He opens her womb so that she may bear children. Then later the scripture also says that God remembered Rachel and opened her womb. I love seeing Him react to the things that were important to these women...and being reminded that the things that matter to us matter to God.