Biblical People

Biblical People: Leah

Leah, like her younger sister, Rachel, is an interesting character. While Rachel is most attractive, Leah isn’t. It’s Rachel Jacob wants to marry, but Rachel’s father pawns off Leah on Jacob instead.

When Jacob complains, he’s given Rachel too. So the two sisters go from vying for their father’s attention to competing with one another for their husband’s time.

Jacob loves Rachel but not Leah—though not so much that he won’t sleep with her. Because she’s unloved, God blesses her with children. First there’s Reuben, then Simeon, followed by Levi and Judah. 

Later, in a most unusual story, Leah gives Rachel some mandrakes, a plant believed to have magical powers, in exchange for a night with their joint husband. Leah gets pregnant again and has Issachar and later Zebulun. After that she has Dinah.

Rachel is jealous of her older sister. As the sisters compete for Jacob’s attention, they introduce their handmaids into the marriage bed. Both maids produce two sons for Jacob.

After all this, Rachel has Joseph, and much later she dies giving birth to Benjamin. At last, it seems, Leah will not need to compete with her sister for Jacob’s attention. But the reminder of Rachel forever looms, with Jacob showing favoritism to Rachel’s sons, Joseph and Benjamin, over Leah’s.

Leah is pawned off by her father to marry a man who doesn’t want her, but God cares for her, blessing her with many children and a long life.

Family relationships are sometimes unfair and can cause hurt. Do we work to make things easier for our family or more difficult?

[Discover more about Leah in Genesis 29–30, Genesis 35:16–19, Genesis 37:3, and Genesis 42:4.]

Learn about other biblical women in Women of the Bible, available in audiobook, e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

A lifelong student of the Bible, Peter DeHaan, PhD, wrote the 1,000-page website to encourage people to explore the Bible. His main blog and many books urge Christians to push past the status quo and reconsider how they practice their faith in every area of their lives.

By Peter DeHaan

Peter writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and make a faith that matters. Learn more at