Genesis 29: 31-35: What’s in a name?

“31 When the Lord saw that Leah was not loved, he enabled her to conceive, but Rachel remained childless. 32 Leah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Reuben, for she said, “It is because the Lord has seen my misery.Surely my husband will love me now.” 33 She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “Because the Lord heard that I am not loved, he gave me this one too.” So she named him Simeon. 34 Again she conceived, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “Now at last my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.” So he was named Levi.35 She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “This time I will praise the Lord.” So she named him Judah.Then she stopped having children.” NIV UK

The names Leah gave to her children reflect insight into God’s care. She knew that He knew her heart’s tears. Laban may have thought he was doing a kindness to Leah, getting her married off, but it cut her to pieces inside to know that she was not her husband’s favourite. (Here is another indication that God’s original plan for marriage, involving one man and one woman, is the best. Polygamy, having more than one wife, is not condemned outright in the Bible. But in the stories we read about polygamous marriages, it is regularly evident that such an arrangement is not helpful or wise).

So, ‘’Reuben’’ sounds like the Hebrew for ‘He has seen my misery’;

’Simeon’’ probably means ‘one who hears’;

‘’Levi’’ sounds like and may be derived from the Hebrew for ‘’attached’’.

These children’s names told of her experience with God: that He knew her pain, had heard her prayers. She also came to a point of believing that her husband would become ‘’attached’’ to her, after she had borne him three sons.

Then, she had another son. We are not told that anything had changed in her circumstances, but she made a declaration: ‘’This time I will praise the LORD.’’ She called the boy ‘’Judah’’, which sounds like and may be derived from the Hebrew for ‘praise’. In times of difficulty, whether things outwardly change or not, determine to praise the Lord. Choose praise. You will no doubt find that much will change inwardly, if not in your outer world. Again and again though, in the Bible, we see how praise brings victory. The main reason, however, for praising God is because He tells us to do so, and not for any longed for ‘outcomes’.

‘’Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus’’ (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

By the way, in all this pain, unhappiness and sin, the sovereign Lord was working out His purposes and building up the people of Israel. He is truly worthy of all our praise.

PRAYER: Lord God, I’m not going to be glib. I can’t pretend that this is going to be easy. But I do want to be the kind of person who chooses to praise you at al times, and in all situations. Please strengthen me, Lord, to be the person you want me to be.