No. 388  |  Dec 16, 2012   Intro   Start   Study   THE VAGINA MONOLOGUE   Mean Girl   Female Sexuality   No Room For Jesus   Back   Home

The Vagina Monologue

The Maddening Mystery of The Gender Barrier


I seriously doubt Jacob was in love with his cousin Rachel. Like most men, Jacob was being superficial—I want this daughter, not that one. Like most men, Jacob was obsessed with youth. It is likely that Leah was, perhaps, in her early-twenties—practically a spinster by biblical standards. Rachel was most certainly a teenager. I’ve been chastised and rebuked for saying teenage girls are sexy. Which is stupid. Teenage girls *are* sexy. That’s what the word “jailbait” means. Little girls are flowers that bloom throughout puberty and grow into beauty and grace. Teens are a legally-enforceable look-but-don’t-touch situation because society has rightly presumed that, though in many ways she appears to be an adult, a teenager is still emotionally and psychologically a child. Children lack the experience and maturity to make important decisions for themselves. They certainly lack the maturity and reason to grant sexual consent to anyone. Teen sex is, by definition, reckless; children--whether they think they are or not--playing with fire. The fact she grants access to some boy--no job, living with his mom, and clearly unconcerned with the risk his bareback adventure subjects her to--marks her as a child.

In biblical days, however, this wasn’t a problem. Dad was firmly in charge of the daughter, or more specifically, the daughter’s vagina. Verse 19: “It is better that I give her to you than that I should give her to another man.” Sexual purity was of paramount importance because both the honor and the financial security of the family often rested on the intact hymen of their teen girls, whose vagina would be inspected on their wedding day to confirm they were, in fact, virgins. A father was paid a dowry—the “marriage price”—at the time of the girl’s wedding, which was the only good thing about having daughters in the first place. Never mind that hymen can be broken climbing a tree or chasing a goat, a father of a girl whose hymen was not intact had a loathsome burden on his hands, a child who would fail to launch—to leave the home. He would have to house and clothe and feed her indefinitely unless someone took her on as a servant or concubine.

Presuming Leah to be into her twenties, my guess was Laban was anxious to be rid of her. The bible makes it seem that Leah was ugly, which is a sexist conclusion. The Bible says that Leah had weak eyes, but the adjective rak is translated weak in only a few places (Genesis 33:12; Deuteronomy 20:8). More often it describes something that is tender (flocks, Genesis 18:7), gentle (a king’s reign, II Samuel 3:39), soft (speech, Proverbs 15:1; Job 41:3), delicate (a woman, Deuteronomy 28:56; Isaiah 47:1), and young (an experienced young man, I Chronicles 22:5 and 29:1; Second Chronicles 13:7). That is, she had eyes that according to the Oriental standard of beauty, were a great blemish. Bright eyes, full of fire, are considered the height of beauty.

I am persuaded Leah’s looks had less to do with anything than the fact Rachel was, likely, a teenage hottie. In biblical times, if you had enough money and the right family connections, you could buy yourself a hot teenager to have sex with. Marriage, for men, was more about the future potential of the girl—she was usually a girl and not quite a woman. I doubt Jacob loved Rachel. I’m sure he believed he loved her, but he’d never have been allowed to spend time alone with her. He encounters her briefly in verse 9 and is “in love” with her by verse 18, willing to commit seven years of hard work in exchange for her. Thus, he could not have actually known her. He observed her from afar. To burn with passion over some teenager you catch occasional glimpses of across a meadow suggests Jacob’s interest with Rachel had nothing to do with her SAT scores. We learn absolutely nothing about her, abut who she is, about her personality, her hopes for her own life. Like most women in the bible, she is a name on a sheet of paper and likely only has a name so as to properly reference the men the narrative is more concerned with. Rachel was likely a teenage hottie, young enough to likely have been untouched. Moses, the presumed writer, romanticizes what amounts to a 30 year-old cruising a high school and picking out a cheerleader to have sex with. He arranges everything through the dad, the girl has no say, but knows she must submit herself sexually to this stranger on their wedding night.

This is what we do: glimpse some woman across a grassy meadow and convince ourselves we’re in love. And the self-hypnosis becomes increasingly more potent as we turn our lives inside-out in hot pursuit of the object of our desire—just as we’ve done over and over since adolescence. We sing songs and we write poems and we fight wars and we plan and scheme and enlist the help of friends and family. And, for many of us, rather than wait for the vow, we convince her, manipulate her, into granting us access to the vagina. Because, no matter what we’ve said, her heart is not the object of our desire. If we were truly interested in *her,* if we had a mature outlook on human sexuality, we’d realize jumping the gun on sexual intimacy almost always dooms the relationship. We’re men. The vagina is the ultimate mystery if not the ultimate goal. It never occurs to us, dolts that we are, that if she’s lifting the veil for us, it’s highly likely she’s done this before. Oh, we pushed and cajoled and twisted her arm—but if she lets us in before the vow, chances are all that cajoling was just her protecting her pride. She’s done this before. This ain’t her first unveiling.

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God's Way

As much as we’d like to believe otherwise, Rachel was not “saved,” by which I mean Rachel was not a servant of the God of Jacob. Jacob refers to God as “…the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac” [30:42]. Rachel’s investment were in the Teraphim, her family’s household “gods” intended to protect the dwelling, she hid from Jacob by, ahem, sitting on them and then claiming she could not raise up from her saddle because she was menstruating. Laban would have defiled himself had he touched her or the saddle she sat upon. The record never suggests Rachel had much interest or love for Jacob, nor was she apparently jealous of Jacob’s sham marriage to her older sister Leah—a woman Jacob likely neglected because he never wanted her in the first place. Such neglect was to be expected if not wholly anticipated, and Laban could likely care less.

Laban and Jacob ultimately make a pact. The place where a monument is built is given three names: Laban calls it Jegar Sahadutha meaning “the heap or round heap of witness” in Chaldee, and Jacob named it Galeed, meaning the same in Hebrew, and Mizpah, meaning “watchtower.” The interesting feature of this verse is that it brings out the difference in languages used between Jacob and Laban. [1] There may have been an initial language barrier between the two, which may buy Laban a bit of slack in terms of how he swindled Jacob.

[2] Through this ordeal, the Lord would teach Jacob three lessons. The first lesson was to learn humble submission. Because he had refused to submit to God, he must submit to serve a human master. The second lesson was to respect the rights of the firstborn. What Jacob had disregarded in connection with Esau, he must now concede concerning his wife Leah. The third lesson was to learn patience. Because he had refused to wait for God’s timing for the fulfillment of His promise (25:23), he had to wait seven days before he could marry Rachel, and that he would have to serve another seven years after that.

Jacob lay with Rachel also and he loved Rachel more than Leah. And he worked for Laban another seven years as the bride price for Rachel (29:30). Jacob was becoming like his mother and father, each of whom loved one son more than the other. Parental favoritism was replaced by marital favoritism.470 The former led to friction in Isaac’s family, and Jacob’s favoritism for Rachel will lead to family discord that will plague him for the rest of his life. In his old age, he favored Rachel’s son, Joseph, so much that Leah’s sons wanted to kill him, as we shall see (37:3-4, 18).

Verses 20 to 30 follow an antithetical structure. There is a parallelism, where the first letter is antithetical to the second letter, and so on.

A   Jacob’s payment for a wife (29:20)
B   Jacob’s marriage to Leah through deception (29:21-24)
C   Jacob’s accusation against Laban (29:25)
C   Laban’s defense (29:26)
B   Jacob’s marriage to Rachel by negotiation (29:27-30a)
A   Jacob’s payment for a wife (29:30b)

Not Her Heart We're After: Jacob’s interest in Rachel had nothing to do with her SAT scores.

Love, Actually

Did Jacob and Leah live happily ever after? I’ve been warning sisters for years that, once your husband has, ahem, hit it 80 times, it’s over. I’m being wildly facetious, but what I mean is our fascination with the vagina extends only so far. The novelty of new sex will eventually wane, for both the man and woman. Sooner or later, you’ve seen all she’s got. The mystery is gone. And our behavior changes. Where we once pursued her relentlessly, called her many times per day, now we’re out in the street, working late, full of excuses. Your marriage, your relationship, cannot, must not, be based upon sex. People who save it for marriage can often be so riled up, stalked by The Need, dizzy with sexual longing, that the longing becomes confused with love. A man’s interest in scoring the goal, in the unveiling, can and often is confused with love. Waiting is no guarantee. Not waiting almost certainly endangers the relationship, even while exposing how superficial the relationship was in the first place. He’s not in love with you. He’s in love with it. “Then Jacob said to Laban, ‘Give me my wife, for my days are fulfilled, that I may go in to her,” Jacob’s arrogant demand, not for love but for sex. The bible further mentions these women mainly in the context of sex, whom Jacob lay with and so forth.

The major component of real love is patience. Fourteen years is a lot of patience. If Rachel was fourteen years old when Jacob first met her, he didn’t marry her until she was nearly 30—an old hag by biblical standards. And why, if she was such a hottie, was she still available? I suppose Laban had control over her, but, presumably, she could have run away, married someone else while still in her prime. Are we to believe Rachel was a virgin until nearly 30 years old? Or that she was happy about waiting while Jacob had nightly sex with her sister? These are the kinds of questions that pop up when you look too hard at bible stories. The point of the bible is not to provide encyclopedic details of every character, but to teach us something about God.

The fact that Jacob waited, finally marrying not a hair-twirling teen hottie but a fully-grown and developed mature woman, suggests that maybe this was love after all.

Christopher J. Priest
5 December 2012

No. 388  |  Dec 16, 2012   Intro   Start   Study   THE VAGINA MONOLOGUE   Mean Girl   Female Sexuality   No Room For Jesus   Back   Home