Bible Review 6:2, April 1990

Rachel and Leah

Sibling tragedy or the triumph of piety and compassion?

By Samuel Dresner

Familial tension in the Bible is typically sibling rivalry, rather than Oedipal conflict. We are hard put to find examples of a struggle between parents and children in Genesis, although the popularity of the Greek myth would lead us to expect to find this as the prototype for all family stress. Instead, Scripture offers us example after example of the rivalry of brothers—Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau, Joseph and his brothers.

And of sisters. Distressing though these episodes of sibling tension are, the most tragic example of sibling antagonism is between Rachel and Leah. (To review the familiar—but complex—story of Rachel and Leah, see the first sidebar to this article)

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