The Wycliffe (1382) Coverdale (1535) Matthews (1537) Great Bible (1539) Geneva Bible (1560) and Bishop's Bible (1568) all say 'despised' regarding Jacob's disposition towards the 'tender-eyed' woman who was deceitfully foisted upon him on his wedding night instead of the desired Rachel.

The KJV (1769) and Young's Literal (1862) both use the word 'hated'.

And when the LORD saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb: but Rachel was barren. [Genesis 29:31 KJV]

But given that Jacob made no attempt to put Leah away, and given that he did not hesitate to have four children by her (prompting her to name them in hopeful terms until she finally diverted her attention to the Lord in naming the fourth) is it proper to render the Hebrew original as 'hated' ?

Would 'unloved' be sufficient or would this not be faithful to the text ?


NIV Genesis 29:31

When the LORD saw that Leah was not loved, he enabled her to conceive, but Rachel remained childless.

was unloved,
שְׂנוּאָ֣ה (śə·nū·’āh)
Verb - Qal - QalPassParticiple - feminine singular
Strong's Hebrew 8130: To hate

Strong's Exhaustive Concordance

enemy, foe, be hateful odious, utterly A primitive root; to hate (personally) -- enemy, foe, (be) hate(-ful, -r), odious, X utterly.

This is a Hebrew word with strong feelings.

Who hated Leah? Clearly not God.

Let's see the context:

26 Laban replied, “It is not our custom here to give the younger daughter in marriage before the older one. 27Finish this daughter’s bridal week; then we will give you the younger one also, in return for another seven years of work.”
28 And Jacob did so. He finished the week with Leah, and then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel to be his wife. 29Laban gave his servant Bilhah to his daughter Rachel as her attendant. 30 Jacob made love to Rachel also, and his love for Rachel was greater than his love for Leah. And he worked for Laban another seven years.

Leah was not unloved by Jacob. Rachel hated Leah. It was a case of sister jealousy. I am not saying that Rachel hated Leah all the time. I am saying that at Genesis 29:31, Leah was hated by Rachel.

The two were not always on friendly terms as we can see later from

Genesis 30:14 During wheat harvest, Reuben went out into the fields and found some mandrake plants, which he brought to his mother Leah. Rachel said to Leah, “Please give me some of your son’s mandrakes.” 15 But she said to her, “Wasn’t it enough that you took away my husband? Will you take my son’s mandrakes too?”

Leah was jealous of Rachel's beauty and Rachel was jealous of Leah's prolific womb. And they shared the same husband. These relationships provided the backdrop for a mess of love and hate situations.

  • I do not see how you draw that conclusion. However it is growing on me. Rachel stole her father's idols. It was Leah who named her first three sons in forlorn hope that Jacob would learn to love her and eventually she named the fourth exclusively in terms of the Lord, not of her husband. Can you add more support ? But I beginning to think you may well be correct. +1. And Rachel remained childless, whilst Leah bore sons : which may have been a chastisement from the Lord against Rachel's disposition to Leah, – Nigel J Sep 5 '20 at 18:54
  • 1
    I've added some. – Tony Chan Sep 5 '20 at 19:32
  • Yes. Very convincing. – Nigel J Sep 5 '20 at 20:06

Great question because, as I am sure the OP is well aware, the Bible translations are about equally divided between translating the word שְׂנוּאָ֣ה literally as "hated", or more interpretatively as "unloved".

Even the standard commentaries are sharply divided, for example on one hand we have Ellicott who says:

Leah was hated.—We must not soften this down too much; for plainly Leah was not the object of love at all. It was her fruitfulness which gave her value in her husband’s eyes, and when this ceased, Jacob utterly neglected her (Genesis 30:15).

On the other hand we have Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary which says:

Leah … hated—that is, not loved so much as she ought to have been. Her becoming a mother ensured her rising in the estimation both of her husband and of society.

Are either of these correct? Or should be seek an answer somewhere else? Essentially we have two options:

  1. Jacob really did hate Leah but took his husbandly responsibilities seriously enough that he allowed this hated woman to have seven of his 13 children. If this is true, then we must grant Jacob some (albeit limited) respect for simply not abandoning her.
  2. Jacob did not hate Leah in the absolute sense but simply loved her (a lot?) less than Rachel (eg, see Luke 14:26), rather than loving his two wives equally. If this is true then, Jacob's behavior is still far short of the ideal!

Either way, Jacob does not look good even allowing for the cultural and marriage customs of the time.

Regardless of which of the above is correct, this is another instance of the Bible's frank honesty about the very human side of one the great "heros" of Bible history that shows they were fallen, flawed sinners, just we all are.


Was Leah 'unloved' in Genesis 29:31?

Genesis 29:31 [MT] "And YHVH saw that Leah was hated, so He opened her womb; but Rachel was barren." (וַיַּ֤רְא יְהֹוָה֙ כִּֽי־שְׂנוּאָ֣ה לֵאָ֔ה וַיִּפְתַּ֖ח אֶת־רַחְמָ֑הּ וְרָחֵ֖ל עֲקָרָֽה)

Regarding "Senuah" (שְׂנוּאָ֣ה) the Hebrew adjective used to describe Leah in Genesis 29:31, we notice "Senuah" describes a female (based on the additional suffix -hei "ה"). If the masculine form of "Hated" was used, we would see "Sanu" (שָׂנוּא). [https://www.pealim.com/dict/6314-sanu/]

Does the feminine "Senuah" in Genesis 29:31 mean "Unloved" instead of "Hated"? - Let's compare other biblical text which use the Hebrew root "Sanu" (שָׂנוּא).

  • Psalm 139:22 [MT] : "I hate them with utmost hatred; they have become my enemies." (תַּכְלִ֣ית שִׂנְאָ֣ה שְׂנֵאתִ֑ים לְ֜אֹֽיְבִ֗ים הָ֣יוּ לִֽי) - In Psalm 139, The Hebrew word for #Hate is "Sineah" (שִׂנְאָ֣ה). The word for #Hatred is "Seneatim" (שְׂנֵאתִ֑ים).

  • In Genesis 29:31, Leah is not "unloved" but worse "Hated" (שְׂנוּאָ֣ה).

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.