Yesterday, I got to one of those really weird and awkward stories in the Bible: the tale of Jacob, Rachel and Leah. The details of the story are probably familiar to many of you: Jacob had run off to live with his uncle Laban after stealing his brother’s blessing and birthright. On the way, he saw Rachel and immediately fell in deep smit with her. He agreed to work for his uncle for seven years to marry her, was given Leah in marriage instead, and then married Rachel in exchange for working for another seven years. Along the way, there’s trickery, rivalry, and more than a little bartering that goes on in exchange for who gets to (ahem) spend time with Jacob.
Jacob, one of the Patriarchs, the father of the heads of what would become the 12 tribes of Israel. This is an incredibly messed up story, and the deeper you go into his family’s story, the worse it gets.1 It’s a story that seems like it belongs in a soap opera, and yet there it is in the Bible.
Which seems to me like a pretty big hint that the Bible is actually true.
See, here’s the thing: When we’re writing stories about ourselves, what do we do? We almost always cast ourselves in the best light possible. Even when we talk about the terrible things we’ve done, it’s typically from a perspective of overcoming or learning from them. But Jacob’s story doesn’t really go that way. His favoritism of Rachel over Leah never diminishes. His favoritism of the children she bore is evident. He is a broken, train wreck of a human being.
In other words, he’s one of us.
A person, a sinner, in need of grace.
And this is what we see in the Bible over and over again, not just with the Patriarchs, but with everyone we would be inclined to look to as a hero. Samson was a proud fool. Samuel was a negligent father. David was a polygamist, adulterer, and murderer. Solomon was an idolator. Peter was a people pleaser. Paul was a murderer, too.
God’s Word doesn’t present our heroes at their best. It doesn’t repackage their stories as we might our own. It presents them as they were. Broken sinners like you and me in need of the one Hero who never falls. The One they are mere shadows of when they’re at their best.
Jesus, the Son of God who came to rescue and redeem them.
The One in whom the Bible calls us to place all our hope.
- Remember, Abraham and Isaac both pretended their wives were their sisters out of fear that they would be killed. ↵