Poor Leah. Her very name meant weariness or languor, and her only real description is as one who had “weak eyes”. This wasn’t a comment on her eyesight but rather on their appearance. The eyes were the center of beauty in the Eastern world and so having “dull or bleary eyes” as is here described was a sign of weakness. Ellicott says in his commentary that she may very well have had an eye problem or disease as so many did in a dry, gritty, sandy land. She is also the oldest daughter and therefore traditionally must be the first to marry, yet she remains unwed. And compared to Rachel, described as having “a lovely figure and beautiful”, it would have been no surprise if Leah had been bitter at her fate.
Leah is rejected once when Jacob chooses Rachel over her, again when she is used as Laban’s pawn to squeeze 14 years of work out of Jacob, and again when Jacob wakes up next to her on their wedding night and rejected again. Weary, unloved, weak eyed… such is Leah’s fate. And we read her emotions clearly in the names her children bear. First comes Reuben, and she says, “surely my husband will love me now.” Ouch. Next is Simeon, saying, “because the Lord heard that I am not loved…” And then Levi, saying, “Now at last my husband will become attached to me.” Her fourth is Judah, and in him we see a change for Leah. Rather than the pleading for love from Jacob, she seems to recognize her love from God and says, “This time, I will praise the Lord.”
All of us have felt like Leah at times. We’ve compared ourselves to others and found ourselves lacking. We’ve been rejected by someone we had hoped might love us. We have been used and found ourselves unloved. But every one of us is loved by God. Our comparisons are nothing when compared to the infinite love God has for us. And so each of us can proclaim with Leah, “This time, I will praise the Lord.”