This year, I’m working through a “read the Bible in a year” plan. I joined up with a group of family, friends, and acquaintances on Facebook and together we are reading the Bible in chronological order, rather than the typical canonical order of the books in the Bible. I’d love to share some of my thoughts with you as I work my way through the story of God in Scripture! Here are some reflections on Genesis 16:7-15 and 29:16-35 (see below the post for these readings).
I am intrigued by the accounts of Hagar and Leah, especially in what their stories communicate about God.
While these women are significant to the story of Genesis, they are in some ways cast-aside, extraneous characters in the narrative of Genesis. (Even though Jesus comes through the line of Judah, who is Leah’s son, the Old Testament story gives much more attention and prominence to Joseph, Rachel’s son.)
Hagar and Leah both face situations of a forced sexual relationship and subsequent mistreatment. The Bible doesn’t go into detail on how they feel about this; there are different ways to interpret their role in and reactions to their situations. But it is clear that Hagar is abused by her mistress, Sarai, and Leah is unloved by her husband.
I’m not saying they’re perfect or handle everything about their situation in an exemplary way. They are indeed victims, but their behavior is not what is noteworthy here. God’s response to them in their circumstances is what is so significant.
God sees. God sees the exploited, the unloved, the mistreated, the sexually abused, the cast-aside, and abandoned. He communicates to Hagar and Leah here, “I see you. You may be overlooked by everyone around you, but you are seen by the God of the Universe. I will bless you and bring you blessing out of even this situation. I will be faithful and just, even if everyone around you is not.”
Certainly, from my modern vantage point, I have all kinds of additional questions and concerns. God doesn’t exactly resolve the problems of these women’s situations the way that I’d like for him to; they still face difficulties and challenges. But again, that’s not the point. Instead, these stories highlight the gulf between what we would normally expect to see out of a mighty authority figure and who our God is.
We serve a God who sees. God acknowledges those who are overlooked and no one is beneath his notice.
7 The angel of the Lord found Hagar near a spring of water in the desert. The spring was beside the road to Shur. 8 The angel said, “Hagar, you are Sarai’s slave. Where have you come from? Where are you going?”
“I’m running away from my owner Sarai,” she answered.
9 Then the angel of the Lord told her, “Go back to the woman who owns you. Obey her.” 10 The angel continued, “I will give you and your family many children. There will be more of them than anyone can count.”
11 The angel of the Lord also said to her,
“You are now pregnant
and will have a son.
You will name him Ishmael,
because the Lord has heard about your suffering.
12 He will be like a wild donkey.
He will use his power against everyone,
and everyone will be against him.
He will not get along with any of his family.”
13 She gave a name to the Lord who spoke to her. She called him “You are the God who sees me.” That’s because she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.” 14 That’s why the well was named Beer Lahai Roi. It’s still there, between Kadesh and Bered.
15 So Hagar had a son by Abram and Abram gave him the name Ishmael. 16 Abram was 86 years old when Hagar had Ishmael by him. (NIRV)
16 Laban had two daughters. The name of the older one was Leah. And the name of the younger one was Rachel. 17 Leah was plain, but Rachel was beautiful. She had a nice figure. 18 Jacob was in love with Rachel. He said to Laban, “I’ll work for you for seven years so I can marry your younger daughter Rachel.”
19 Laban said, “It’s better for me to give her to you than to some other man. Stay here with me.” 20 So Jacob worked for seven years so he could marry Rachel. But they seemed like only a few days to him because he loved her so much.
21 Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife. I’ve completed my time. I want to sleep with her.”
22 So Laban brought all the people of the place together and had a feast prepared. 23 But when evening came, he gave his daughter Leah to Jacob. And Jacob slept with her. 24 Laban gave his female servant Zilpah to his daughter as her servant.
25 When Jacob woke up the next morning, there was Leah next to him! So he said to Laban, “What have you done to me? I worked for you so I could marry Rachel, didn’t I? Why did you trick me?”
26 Laban replied, “It isn’t our practice here to give the younger daughter to be married before the older one. 27 Complete this daughter’s wedding week. Then we’ll give you the younger one also. But you will have to work for another seven years.”
28 So Jacob completed the week with Leah. Then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel to be his wife. 29 Laban gave his female servant Bilhah to his daughter Rachel as her servant. 30 Jacob slept with Rachel also. He loved Rachel more than he loved Leah. And he worked for Laban for another seven years.
31 The Lord saw that Jacob didn’t love Leah as much as he loved Rachel. So he let Leah have children. But Rachel wasn’t able to have children. 32 Leah became pregnant. She had a son. She named him Reuben. She said, “The Lord has seen me suffer. Surely my husband will love me now.”
33 She became pregnant again. She had a son. Then she said, “The Lord heard that Jacob doesn’t love me very much. That’s why the Lord gave me this one too.” So she named him Simeon.
34 She became pregnant again. She had a son. Then she said, “Now at last my husband will value me. I have had three sons by him.” So the boy was named Levi.
35 She became pregnant again. She had a son. Then she said, “This time I’ll praise the Lord.” So she named him Judah. Then she stopped having children. (NIRV)
Note: I take and edit almost all my photos myself, but I have to be sure to give photo credit here to the Philosopher 😉 He captured the photo of this beautiful, broken-winged butterfly while we were out taking family photos this fall. All the editing is still mine, though 🙂
Also, check out this post over at the blog Barren to Beautiful for another thought on “being seen.”