I have seen it happen over and over again in life. The sincerest of female friendships broken up over a guy. These females may have grown up together, gone through a traumatic period together, or just simply bonded because they had so much in common. But then a male enters the picture and suddenly that dear, sweet, enduring friendship goes south – FAST. And at the root of it all is jealousy.
And we all know it doesn’t just happen in friendships either. Jealousy happens between siblings as well. Two sisters can become bitter rivals in the throws of a jealous fit. It starts with something like comparing clothes to comparing hair color to comparing height until it turns into a full-grown competition over careers, husbands, and kids.
Jealousy brings out the worst in us. We know it, but it doesn’t stop us from entertaining it nonetheless.
The Bible states in James 3:14-16:
But if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, don’t cover up the truth with boasting and lying. For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind. NLT
In other words – nothing good comes of it! Nothing!
When I think of jealousy, I often think of two sisters in the Bible who demonstrate how quickly this emotion can destroy what should have been a beautiful bond between siblings.
Leah and Rachel were the two daughters of Laban, a kinsman to Isaac’s wife Rebekah. Enter Jacob, Isaac and Rebekah’s youngest son. You remember Jacob, right? He cheated his oldest brother, Esau, out of his birthright for a mere bowl of soup. And then, he tricked his father into giving him the blessing that was traditionally held for the firstborn. That’s Jacob!
When we come to Leah and Rachel’s story, Jacob has been sent off to find a wife from among his mother’s people and directed specifically to go to Laban. As he neared the land owned by Laban, he is first met by some townsmen waiting by a well to water their sheep. Then down comes Rachel, Laban’s youngest daughter. Instantly, Jacob is in love. And what’s not to love about Rachel. The Bible states she was beautiful and that she was a shepherdess. Beauty and brains!
In Jacob’s pursuit to make Rachel his wife, he promises to work seven years for Laban in return for the right to marry Rachel. However, when the seven years are over, Laban tricks Jacob into marrying Leah first (you can read that part of the story in Genesis 29:20-26). Now Leah was stated to have weak eyes (Genesis 29:17) and the insinuation by most commentaries is that she was not attractive. She was definitely not Jacob’s first pick.
But what about Rachel? Oh, Jacob would be given Rachel to marry, but after he promised to work another seven years for Laban. See his determination to have Rachel? Imagine Leah’s disappointment and feelings of rejection. Think she was a little jealous? Probably. But who the Bible calls envious might surprise you!
As this story progresses, we see that even though Jacob loves Rachel the best, he doesn’t turn completely away from Leah either. In fact, Leah would be the first to give him children.
When the Lord saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren. Genesis 29:31 ESV
Leah gave birth not to just one child, but to four! Obviously, she and Jacob had contact.
And then the Bible states this about Rachel:
When Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, she envied her sister. She said to Jacob, “Give me children, or I shall die!” Genesis 30:1 ESV
Ah! The shoe is on the other foot now!
So jealous was Rachel, that in her desperation, she gives her servant to Jacob to bear him children on her behalf. From this union comes two sons. But Leah, who had not become pregnant again, is determined to reign supreme in the heir department and also gives Jacob her servant to bear him children. From this union comes two more sons.
Jealousy is winning.
Then in a strange, but almost familiar exchange some time later, we find the two sisters discussing the use of a common herb found in the land, which Leah’s son has brought to her. These mandrake plants were assumed to have fertility producing powers. With that in mind, you can understand why Rachel would want them. Still childless, she asks Leah for a portion of them, but Leah’s rejection is showing. Clearly, without the bearing of further children, Jacob’s interest in Leah has started to wane. And Rachel – her desperation continues to heighten, so she bargains with Leah (…remember the bowl of soup between two brothers?).
But she said to her, “Is it a small matter that you have taken away my husband? Would you take away my son’s mandrakes also?” Rachel said, “Then he may lie with you tonight in exchange for your son’s mandrakes.” Genesis 30:15 ESV
But Rachel’s scheme would produce more heartache for her, as Leah would go on to bare two more children for Jacob after their exchange.
Can you imagine Rachel’s reaction? Ten children later, having shared her husband with three different women, still barren, and losing hope, I think it is sincerely possible that Rachel isn’t as much jealous anymore as she is completely humbled. Why do I say this? I think Genesis 30:22-23 gives us a clue.
Then God remembered Rachel’s plight and answered her prayers by enabling her to have children. She became pregnant and gave birth to a son. “God has removed my disgrace,” she said. NLT
This passage tells me that Rachel isn’t looking to Jacob anymore to fulfill her want of a child, but that she is finally looking to God. Jealousy has turned her life into a long string of unsuccessful grabs at wholeness. Her relationship with her sister is broken, her marriage has no doubt been strained through the years, and her incredible outward beauty has not served her in the manner she may have thought it once would. Now she is able to be used by God for His purposes. Not only would Rachel bear Joseph, but also Benjamin. And with the births of her two biological sons, the lineage of the twelve tribes of Israel would finally be complete.
What is jealousy keeping you from today? Is there a friend or family bond that is suffering due to jealousy? Or is your relationship with Jesus at stake? We can all learn from Leah and Rachel’s story. Don’t allow jealousy to steal another moment of your life! It’s simply not worth it.
Founder, Transforming Love Ministries
Creator, She Steps Forward Women’s Conference
Please note all scripture was taken from the ESV and NLT.
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.