🔼The name Leah: Summary
- Wild Cow
- From a cognate word meaning wild cow.
- From the verb לאה (la'a), to be weary or grieved.
🔼The name Leah in the Bible
Leah is one of four arch-mothers of Israel. She is one of two daughters of Laban, son of Bethuel, son of Nahor with Milcah. Leah is the sister of Jacob's second wife Rachel (note that in the later Levitical code marrying two sisters became prohibited — Leviticus 18:18) and the mother of the first four sons of Jacob (Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah), and his ninth (Issachar) and tenth (Zebulun), and his only daughter (Dinah), who was his twelfth child.
The story of Leah is one of heartbreak, shown in subtleties that go largely unnoticed by popular Bible students. It really shouldn't:
Leah became Jacob's first wife through a trick of her father Laban; it was really Rachel who Jacob was after. When Leah gives birth to her first son, she names him Reuben, after her idle hope that Jacob will subsequently fall in love with her. Her second son she names Simeon, after her conviction that the Lord has heard (that means understood or taken to heart) her affliction of being unloved. Her third son she names Levi, after the conviction that Jacob will now at least become attached to her. When her fourth son is born she seems to undergo an awakening, and she names him Judah, after her resolution to no longer aim her zeal at Jacob but at God.
The sons of Jacob born from her maid Zilpah — namely Gad and Asher — Leah names out of intense bitterness. So too her own fifth son Issachar. At naming her sixth son, Leah finally seems to express some happiness. Zebulun means Glorious Dwelling Place, but it is highly unlikely that Jacob actually finally moved in with Leah. It's more likely that she recognized her husband in the six sons she had living with her.
A poignant note of consolation: Leah was interred in the family grave, together with Jacob, Isaac and Rebekah, and Abraham and Sarah, while Rachel was buried somewhere by the way to Ephrath, a.k.a. Bethlehem. (Genesis 35:19, 49:30-31).
🔼Etymology of the name Leah
The name Leah is identical to the verb לאה (la'a) meaning to be weary or grieved:
The verb לאה (la'a) means to be weary or grieved. Noun תלאה (tela'a) means toil or hardship.
Probably to complement the name Rachel (meaning Ewe) BDB Theological Dictionary and NOBSE Study Bible Name List turn to the cognate Arabic and read Wild Cow. But to a Hebrew audience, the name Leah may have resounded her position of grief and offense as she was Jacob's least loved wife. Hence Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names reads Wearied.