In the U.S., the average divorce comes after eight years of marriage. Celebrity’s are notorious for having shorter marriage. Kim Kardashian was once married for 72 days, Pop singer Brittany Spears for 55 hours. 55 hours is quite amazing, as nearly everyone is still in honeymoon phase for much longer than that. Yet perhaps the record for the shortest honeymoon phase ever is recorded for us in Genesis 29, when Jacob woke up, and as the Bible so concisely and eloquently puts it - “behold, it was Leah.” That honeymoon was over.
The honeymoon always ends. We can be talking about marriage, or that new job, or that new phone you bought, or that new course you’re taking, it don’t matter, the honeymoon ends. Today we will be considering three questions:
- How the honeymoon ends for some people
- Why the honeymoon ends for most people
- What to do when the honeymoon ends?
Jacob: what does he want? it is easy , and perhaps romantic, to say, Rachel. After all, the text does say that he loved her (verse 28). However, let’s look at this love that Jacob had for Rachel. After all, the Hebrew word here is like the English word for love in that the intensity of the meaning ranges from God’s infinite affection for his people to the carnal appetites of a lazy glutton. We say, God is love. We also say, “I’d love to eat pizza tonight” So, Jacob’s love for Rachel - is it “God-love” or “pizza-love”.
On what basis did Jacob choose Rachel? Well the text is pretty clear, both in what it does not say and in what it says? In the beginning of the chapter, Jacob meets Rachel at a well. This should remind us as only a few chapters earlier we have another meeting of a person searching a spouse and finding her at a well. In that case, we saw Abraham’s servant cover the entire process in prayer. He also intentionally looked for signs of character and generosity from the young woman. Jacob, conspicuously does not pray, and does not seem to concern himself with the character of the young lady, and in fact, Jacob’s negotiation with Laban suggests to us what it is that Jacob is really on the hunt for: 16 Now Laban had two daughters. The name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. 17 Leah’s eyes were weak, but Rachel was beautiful in form and appearance. Jewish commentators note that while the name Rachel sounds like “ewe lamb”, Leah sounds like “cow.” However, the text is not subtle. Rachel is said to have a great had a great figure, beautiful in for and appearance. She had a beautiful face and was absolutely gorgeous. Now there is nothing wrong with looking for a beautiful girl or a good looking guy. Obviously, physical attraction is what first catches our eye and draws us to someone. Yet, it is said that beauty is at times only skin deep. And so let’s see, is Jacob willing to look deeper?
Remember, we are asking the question: what does Jacob want, and does he love Rachel with “God-love” or “pizza-love”? He chose Rachel based on her looks, let’s see if after working for her father seven years, has their relationship deepened? Is he growing in tender love for her, is he digging below the surface, getting to know her beauty within? Let’s see how he approaches her father to ask for her hand in marriage. Verse 21: “Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife that I may go in to her, for my time is completed.” Umm, listen, I have two daughters. That is not going to work. Robert Alter, the great Hebrew literature, says that “this statement is so blunt, so graphic, so sexual, so over-the-top and inappropriate and non-customary that, over the centuries, Jewish commentators have had to do all kinds of backpedaling to explain it … the narrator is showing us a man driven by and overwhelmed with emotional and sexual longing for one woman.”
See, when I contrast “God-love” and “pizza-love” I am saying that God-love is of a greater quality, but not necessarily greater intensity. No one can say that Jacob’s pizza-love for Rachel wasn’t intense, the text goes out of its way to give example after example of how intense Jacob’s desire for Rachel was. At the first sight of her he pops the stone off of the well that generally would have taken a few men working together to move. He weeps as he kisses her upon their meeting and proposes a bride price - seven years labour - far above the norm. Yet he doesn’t love Rachel with that quality of love that lays itself down for her, that seeks her good, that displays God’s love. He wants her beauty. He wants her body. He wants his fantasy. C.S. Lewis notes: “We use a most unfortunate idiom when we say, of a lustful man prowling the streets, that he “wants a woman.” Strictly speaking, a woman is just what he does not want. He wants a pleasure for which a woman happens to be the necessary piece of apparatus. How much he cares about the woman as such may be gauged by his attitude to her five minutes after fruition (one does not keep the carton after one has smoked the cigarettes).”
We actually can judge Jacob’s attitude toward Rachel after he uses her. In verse 30:1: When Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, she envied her sister. She said to Jacob, “Give me children, or I shall die!” Now we’ll get to Rachel in a bit, but again, we have precedent here only a few chapters before, for Jacob’s mother Rebekah was also barren for a time. And here is how Isaac responded, Gen 25:21 And Isaac prayed to the LORD for his wife, because she was barren. And the LORD granted his prayer, and Rebekah his wife conceived. Now look at Jacob’s response: Gen 30:2 Jacob’s anger was kindled against Rachel, and he said, “Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?” A person with only “pizza-love” for their spouse will get irritated and defensive when they approach them with their troubles.
So Jacob wants the fantasy suite, the trophy wife, the covergirl, without the difficult struggles. And he thinks he gets what he’s been longing for. Laban throws him a feast - literally, a drinking party - and veils his daughter so that drunken Jacob, at least in his mind he goes to bed with Rachel, yet when he wakes up, “Behold! It is Leah!”
This is where the honeymoon ends for Jacob. And so Jacob rightly get’s angry. He’s been tricked. Life has been unfair to him. He does what we all do - search for someone to blame outside of himself, and in this case there is an obvious target. Jacob is furious and he confronts Laban,
“What is this you have done to me? Did I not serve with you for Rachel? Why then have you deceived me?” 26 Laban said, “It is not so done in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn. 27 Complete the week of this one, and we will give you the other also in return for serving me another seven years.” 28 Jacob did so, and completed her week. Then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel to be his wife. 29 (Laban gave his female servant Bilhah to his daughter Rachel to be her servant.) 30 So Jacob went in to Rachel also, and he loved Rachel more than Leah, and served Laban for another seven years.
Now think about this - would you accept this explantation from Laban - “Oh, sorry Jacob, that’s now how we do things around here”, and you’re like, “Oh, I see, I guess I’ll get back to work then.” Many have noted how strange it is that Jacob, the hell grabber, turns suspiciously compliant here. Yet two thing jump out from the text, the first is Jacob saying “Why then have you deceived me?” This is the same word Isaac uses of Jacob, when he tricked Esau. Yet it is Laban’s answer that really must have felt like a kick in the ribs, what Laban literally says is: “It is not the custom here to put the younger before the firstborn.” Now, i don’t know how much Jacob had told Laban about his relationship with Esau. But he knew, and we know, how appropriate Laban’s words were to describe Jacob’s life - his whole life has been about setting the younger over the firstborn - and now it seems that Laban is putting Jacob in his place. the Jews have an interesting story, imagining the conversation the next day between Jacob and Leah. Jacob says to Leah: “I called out ‘Rachel’ in the dark and you answered. Why did you do that to me?” And Leah says to him, “Your father called out ‘Esau’ in the dark and you answered. Why did you do that to him?” The deceiver has himself been deceived.
Jacob does what many of us do when the honeymoon ends. We meekly accept our lot, believing that we’ve gotten what we’ve deserved. And instead of continuing to pursue “God-love” we content ourself with selfish “pizza-love” and try to get satisfy our desires through lesser pursuits. Yet Jacob was not the only person for who the honeymoon ended rather dramatically that morning.
Leah woke up to a nightmare of her own. There is no indication in the text that Leah was in on Laban’s trick. She knew the custom, and perhaps assumed that the custom had been explained to Jacob. She may have known that he preferred her sister’s beauty, but she went to the tent that night assuming that Jacob had consented to marry her, after all, it was more common in those days to marry according to custom rather than love and perhaps Leah assumed they would grow to love one another. What was Leah desiring? She wanted to be loved. To be pursued. To have a husband choose her. Yet it was clear as Jacob stormed out of her tent that morning, that he would never love her, never accept her, and that she would never live up to the fantasy of her sister in his eyes. Leah’s sad story is told through the names that she gives her sons.
Gen. 29:31 When the LORD saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren. 32 And Leah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Reuben, for she said, “Because the LORD has looked upon my affliction; for now my husband will love me.” 33 She conceived again and bore a son, and said, “Because the LORD has heard that I am hated, he has given me this son also.” And she called his name Simeon. 34 Again she conceived and bore a son, and said, “Now this time my husband will be attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.” Therefore his name was called Levi.
The Lord has pity on Leah, and she proves exceptionally fertile, as Rachel is barren. And with every son born to her, Leah’s becomes even more undone. Her first son she names Reuben, for she still has hope that her husband will love her. Her second son she names Simeon, believing the Lord had heard how she was hated by Jacob. She named her third son Levi, which sounds like “attached”, hoping that now Jacob will attach himself to her. In the naming of her first three sons, Leah confesses her desperation and her losing to be loved. Every pregnancy carried with it a new hope - now my husband will love me, yet still Jacob would return to Rachel’s tent. Leah’s cry is the cry of the man or woman whose spouse lives in the fantasy world of internet pornography, or who loses themselves in sexual or romantic fantasy. Young people - this is why it is so important to protect you eyes when you are young. marriage to one woman or man doesn’t make temptation to live in the fantasy any less. Leah’s cry is the cry of every employee taken for granted while others who are more charismatic or more friendly with the boss are promoted.
And then there is Rachel. What does Rachel want? It is very interesting, we are given absolutely no indication in the scripture of Rachel’s feelings for Jacob. We get no hint that she is not overtaken by desire like Jacob, nor craving love like her sister. At one point in chapter 31 both Rachel and Leah complain that their father has sold them to Jacob like chattle. Probably the best indicator of what Rachel wants is found in verse 12, when she names Napthali saying, “I have wrestled against my sister and prevailed” She wants to win. Rachel can’t stand second place. It’s not enough to have her husband’s affections, she must prevail over her sister at all costs. She can’t stand it that Leah is bearing Jacob children, and so she declares war. First, she confronts Jacob and berates him for not giving her children, and when he says there is nothing wrong with him, she basically replays all of the greatest hits of all the sins that we’ve read about in Genesis. Like Sarai, she exploits her maidservant, presenting her to Jacob, that she might bear children as a surrogate. Her maidservant has two sons, and the tides seem to be turning, until Leah follows suit and soon welcomes two more sons. Then, Rachel repeats the sins of Esau. When Leah’s son comes in from the field with some mandrakes, Rachel must have them (for mandrakes were presumed to increase fertility). Just as Esau traded his birthright for a bowl of soup, Rachel makes a deal for the mandrakes: Jacob will come to Leah’s tent that night. And what do those valuable mandrakes bring to Rachel? Only more defeat as Leah has two more sons and a daughter. Rachel whose only desire was to triumph over her sister is soundly defeated. We can’t all be Donald Trump, winning all the time. And if you’re wired like this - if your one of those people that have to win at all costs, you know how infuriating it is when life defeats you, when the honeymoon ends, when otter’s triumph over you, and all you feel is defeat and shame.
And so we have seen how the honeymoon ends for some people:
- Jacob chasing the fantasy of beauty and sex, wakes up eighth reality of Leah
- Leah craving attention and affection, wakes up to a distant husband living in a fantasy world.
- Rachel needing to win at all costs, begins a battle with her sister and loses embarrassingly.
And now we need to get below the surface and ask why the honeymoon ends for most people.
- We Bring Our Sinful Expectations With Us The honeymoon is over as soon as we entered into the picture, because we enter into it selfish, self-centred beings. We bring in our lust, we bring in our deceit, we bring in our self-centeredness. We chase the fantasy, crave attention and seek to use other people to win at all costs, as well as so many other ways in which we bring our sinful and fallen expectations into whatever new thing we are entering into.We bring into the marriage, or the new job, or the new opportunity, the seeds of its own destruction.
- Other People Disappoint Us Ernest Becker was a secular man, an atheist, who won the Pulitzer Prize in the 1970’s for his book “The Denial of Death.” The book is about how secular people deal with the fact that they don’t believe in God. One of the main ways secular culture has dealt with the God vacuum is through sex and romance. Our secular culture has loaded its desire for transcendence into romance and love. The problem is, in his words, “No human relationship can bear the burden of godhood… However much we idolize him [the love partner], he inevitably reflects earthly decay and imperfection. And as he is our ideal measure of value, this imperfection falls back upon us. If your partner is your “All’ then any shortcoming in him becomes a major threat to you.” We elevate the love partner to the position of God is to be rid of our faults, to be justified our existence. We are after redemption. “Needless to say, human partners can’t do this.”
Pastor Tim Keller suggests that what happens to Jacob is the literal sense of what happens to us all when our fantasy is replaced with reality:
What does this show us? Listen, I love Leah; I really do. I have been thinking about this text for a long time, and I love her and I want to protect her, so I hope you don’t think I am being mean to her in what I am trying to say. But I want you to know that— when you get married, no matter how great you think that marriage is going to be; when you get a career, no matter how great you think your career is going to be; when you go off to seminary, no matter how much you think it is going to make you into a man or a woman of God—in the morning, it is always Leah! You think you are going to bed with Rachel, and it in the morning, it is always Leah.
- The Fallen World Stands Poised to Exploit Us If it weren’t enough that other sinful people stand poised to exploit us, we have an enemy who is a greater deceiver than Laban using all his bag of tricks seeking to destroy us.
What to do when the honeymoon ends?
- Look for God. God is present, even in this mess of a family. Even though everybody seems to be chasing after everything but Him, God is present in their midst and they did not even know. God shows up in the passage twice. God is not absent from their lives, even though they do not seem to be pursuing him.
29:31 When the Lord saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb
30:22 The God remembered Rachel, and God listened to her and opened her womb
- Consider HIs Salvation Hope God’s intervention culminates especially in two sons that are born and highlighted, Judah, the fourth-born of Leah, and Rachel’s firstborn, Joseph. These two sons, of course are no ordinary children, for this is no ordinary family.
- Find Your Stability and Future in Him Leah has realized something very important, ““This time I will praise the LORD” she says as she names him Judah, and it seems, for the moment that she accepts her lot from the Lord and determines to find her satisfaction in Him.