Love is Blindfolded
By Pastor John J. Pawloski - July 30th, 2023
Then Laban said to Jacob, “Because you are my kinsman, should you therefore serve me for nothing? Tell me, what shall your wages be?” Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Leah’s eyes were weak, but Rachel was graceful and beautiful. Jacob loved Rachel, so he said, “I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.” Laban said, “It is better that I give her to you than that I should give her to any other man; stay with me.” So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of his love for her.
Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife that I may go in to her, for my time is completed.” So Laban gathered together all the people of the place and made a feast. But in the evening he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob, and he went in to her. (Laban gave his maid Zilpah to his daughter Leah to be her maid.) When morning came, it was Leah! And Jacob said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? Did I not serve with you for Rachel? Why then have you deceived me?” Laban said, “This is not done in our country—giving the younger before the firstborn. Complete the week of this one, and we will give you the other also in return for serving me another seven years.” Jacob did so and completed her week; then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel as a wife. (Laban gave his maid Bilhah to his daughter Rachel to be her maid.) So Jacob went in to Rachel also, and he loved Rachel more than Leah. He served Laban for another seven years.
Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice coined the phrase, “Love is blind” centuries ago. Well before Shakespeare’s time, the Roman winged god of erotic love, Cupid, was often depicted as being blindfolded with a bow and arrow. Cupid would randomly shoot arrows, and if you were struck by one of his love darts, you would instantly fall passionately in love. Cupid is not just an ancient standard bearer for love (albeit erotic love), he continues to strike love in the hearts of modern day suitors as well. Physical attraction seems to still be the coin of the realm. It strikes me as a bit odd that these themes about love’s blindness persist, even in a world that seems obsessed with looking at physical beauty. So much so that it is common for attractive women to make a living by doing nothing more than posting pictures and videos of themselves on Instagram, Tik-Tok, Snapchat, etc. Vanity, it seems, is at an all-time high. Unfortunately, so too are teen girl suicides in part because no one can measure up to the filtered, photo shopped images posted of beautiful men and women (mostly women) online. Apparently, romantic love has always contained an element that includes this obsession for physical beauty, and this trend shows little sign of slowing down.
Jacob also had a case of the hots for Rachel. It was certainly lust, if not love at first sight. Jacob, wasting no time, kisses Rachel at the well. She is described as having a nice figure and being beautiful. With just one look, Jacob was smitten. Jacob came from a line of men having beautiful wives. Abraham’s Sarah was so beautiful Abraham pretended to be her brother for he thought people would kill him to take his wife when visiting Egypt. Isaac’s wife Rebekah is also passed off as his sister in Genesis. Evidently, having a beautiful wife was dangerous in the ancient world. Jacob is so covetous of Rachel that he agrees to work for seven years for Laban. Interestingly, Jacob volunteered to work for seven years; Laban merely asked him what he wanted as wages (maybe Laban should have hired a lawyer to negotiate these terms?).
Jacob, who was famous for his deceit (he stole his blind father’s blessing intended for Esau, and exploited his brother’s hunger to obtain Esau’s inheritance), gets the rug pulled out from under him on his wedding night. He gets a little drunk and Laban switches beautiful Rachel for Leah (the homely one with bad eyes). After the marriage is consummated, Jacob is stuck with Leah. The trickster gets tricked (God’s sense of rough justice perhaps?). Laban then strikes the hard bargain that if Jacob really wants Rachel, he has to agree to work for seven more years for Laban.
All of these beautiful women in Genesis had something in common: they had trouble getting pregnant (which symbolizes a lack of God’s favor). The homely Leah, conversely, was able to bear Jacob six sons, four of whom became the patriarchs of the twelve tribes of Israel, as well as two from Rachel later in life, as well as two each from handmaids of each of Jacob’s wives. These beauties have another thing in common: clear moral failures. Sarah sends Hagar and Ischmael out into the desert to die of thirst. Rebekah encourages her favorite Son Jacob to lie to her husband and steal his blessing– an act so enraging that Jacob has to leave Canaan to avoid being murdered by his angry brother. Even Rachel, it turns out, is not perfect either. When Jacob returns to Canaan with his two wives, family, and livestock, she takes one of Laban’s figurines for worshiping false gods. Homely Leah, on the other hand, maintains her faith even in a loveless marriage, and she is blessed with several sons whom she names after various aspects of her thankfulness for God’s rewarding her continued faithfulness with fertility.
It would appear that love is not merely blind, but blindfolded (meaning someone actively obstructs our view). The distinction is that we are often clueless as to the blessings God puts in front of us. It is as if we do not see the ways that God brings good things into our life, but we are covetous of something we think is better, only to realize that the thing brought to us was better for us all along. We allow others to blindfold us (or worse still, we blindfold ourselves). How many middle-aged men (and some women) have wrecked perfectly good marriages with the pursuit of a younger, more attractive mate? How many times do we focus on the periphery of what really matters, forgetting that God often brings people into our lives for a love that the world thinks is less suitable for us, maybe even forbidden. Beauty has its place in relationships, but like Rachel who died during childbirth with Benjamin comparatively sooner than Jacob, it is often fleeting. But for God’s blessing of Leah in Jacob’s life, he would not have been able to accomplish his task of creating the patriarchs of God’s chosen people. Jacob was blindfolded to the blessings that were placed before him. As often happens in the Bible, God chose to save Jacob (and us) from ourselves. God sees beauty and opportunity in spaces where our human eyes and hearts fail us. May we learn to see with Godly eyes.