Leah, whose name means “cow,” was one of the matriarchs of Israel (see Ruth 4.11). She is said to have been buried in the cave at Machpelah (Gen. 49.31). Leah, with “weak” or “delicate” eyes, is contrasted with her younger sister Rachel, who is “graceful and beautiful” (Gen. 29.16–17). Because of their father Laban's wedding night deception, Jacob marries both sisters (29.18–30), but loves Rachel more than Leah (see also 33.1–2). Yahweh takes pity on Leah because she is unloved and gives her many children: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah (29.31–35); Issachar, Zebulun, and Dinah (30.14–21; see also the lists in 35.23; 46.8–15), as well as Gad and Asher, the children her maid Zilpah bears to Jacob (30.9–13; 35.26; 46.16–18). Although Leah was the first wife and had several sons, she apparently did not have automatic marital rights, since in one case she is said to bargain with Rachel for Jacob's time by giving Rachel mandrakes to promote conception (30.14–16).
Jo Ann Hackett