Through Whose Eyes?

Scripture: Genesis 29:15-28

Key Verse: Leah’s eyes were lovely, and Rachel was graceful and beautiful. (v. 17)

Observation: This story has traditionally been told with a focus on Laban and Jacob. With this frame of reference, the point is made that Jacob gets what is coming to him because of the way he has treated his brother Esau. To focus on Laban and Jacob is to continue a tradition of patriarchy that makes it possible for Rachel and Leah to disappear into the background of this story. Neither Rachel nor Leah are given any words in this passage. We do not have any indication of how they felt about this arrangement. The only information we get about the two women comes from verse 17. Leah has lovely (or weak) eyes and Rachel is graceful and beautiful. The worth of these women comes down to their looks. Yes, we have the intrigue of Laban, Jacob’s uncle, taking advantage of his nephew’s love but we also have the painful reminder that the family through which God promises to bless the world comes together in such a messy way.

Analysis: It is tempting to point the finger at Laban and Jacob and condemn them for their role in treating Leah and Rachel as property to be traded for years of service. We could just as easily justify Laban as a good father looking out for the well-being of his daughters, Leah in particular, based on the reality of their situation. However, looking at this passage with God’s promise to bring salvation through this family, we find that neither condemnation nor justification is satisfying. We live in a world that recognizes sexism. We know that it exists and the effects of its existence. Yet, there are times when we justify unequal pay for women and derogatory and demeaning words directed toward them. At other times, we seem to get it right and condemn those who are blatantly sexist in their words and actions. However, the promise is that God is faithful and God can and will work through even the most messy and conflicted circumstances to fulfill the promises God has made. It is easier to focus on Laban and Jacob so that we can talk about how society has changed and we are not as patriarchal as they were. It is easier to focus on Laban and Jacob so that we can condemn or justify their actions without considering our own. But God is faithful in calling us to look into Leah lovely eyes and to see Rachel’s grace and beauty and remember they are an integral part of this story. They are more than property to be traded for service but are the mothers of a nation that will bring salvation to all other nations. We are invited to see them through the eyes of God and to live into the salvation that comes when we truly see every person as God sees her.

Prayer: Lord, we have so much to learn about how you see other people. Continue to open our eyes and our hearts to see others as you do so that we might live in peace, love, and mutual respect to which you have called us. In the name of the Triune God we pray, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

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