Was Leah's marriage to Jacob null?


#1

In Genesis 29, Jacob intended to marry Rachel but her father substituted Leah and Jacob didn’t find out about the problem until after, uhh, going through it.

This sounds like a Canon 1097 §1 ground for annulment. Jacob didn’t intend to marry Leah, he intended to marry Rachel. In fact, one commentator used this very couple as an example of what is really involved in a 1097 section 1 nullity situation.

Was the marriage actually null? Were the requirements for a valid marriage actually different back then and mistakes of person only nullified marriages entered into after Jesus came? Is “error of person” not an eternal principle of marriage validity but a discipline that the CC could change tomorrow, deciding that from 2015 onwards there is to be a “know your fiancee” policy where one is required to personally verify that the one standing at the altar is the person you expect it to be and mistakes are your problem?

Was this a ground for nullity even in those days, and God made an exception for this one couple in this specific case?


#2

As the events cited are pre-Mosaic Law, let alone pre-Canon Law, the question is a nonsense.
According to the traditions of the time, the eldest daughter should be married before the younger. Thus Laban was acting correctly in giving Leah to Jacob rather than Rachel.
I agree that Jacob was offended and felt cheated by the deception, but Laban was being Traditional rather than Modern.

Reb Levi


#3

Well, logic would dictate that such a mistake would indeed invalidate the marriage. Consent has always been required, if not love, and one cannot consent in cases of mistaken identity.

But notice he didn't send Leah back to her father. And scripture in some translations says she had beautiful eyes. And they had a fair few kids together afterwards. So she probably grew on him even though she was not his first choice. ;)

Besides which, in OT times, as Moses indicates, a man who slept with a virgin had to pay her father a bride price - in effect marry her. Something like the 'you break it, you bought it' principle, since if would have been difficult if not impossible for a non-virgin to marry anyone else afterwards. So Jacob did have obligations towards Leah merely by the fact that he had taken her virginity, even though he did so mistakenly.

These days it would not be the case, and as you rightly pointed out such a marriage would be invalid.


#4

All marriages are presumed valid, under present canon law, unless contested.

He never contested it. Presto - valid.

Canon 1060: Marriage enjoys the favour of law. Consequently, in doubt the validity of a marriage must be upheld until the contrary is proven


#5

When I read that story, I always feel bad for Leah, being the oldest and not the first choice of her husband. But then again, Jacob agreed to keep his bride. :)
And I do not believe for a second that he never noticed it was Leah and not Rachel before the marriage was consummated. Sure they were sisters, but they could not have been so similar that Jacob could not perceive a difference when his bride came to him for the first time in their tent. :rolleyes:
Leah had lovely eyes and she ended up being quite fertile. She gave Jacob many sons. If Jacob had married only Rachel, he would have had only two sons, and tragically lost his wife in the process. I think God allowed this to happen because He knew Jacob would love his wives and that God's people would thrive and grow precisely because of a trick.
Besides, Jacob was a cunning trickster himself. :D
Sometimes the best consequence for our sins and faults is to get a taste of our own medicine. :thumbsup:


#6

[quote="mommamaree, post:5, topic:323868"]
When I read that story, I always feel bad for Leah, being the oldest and not the first choice of her husband. But then again, Jacob agreed to keep his bride. :)
And I do not believe for a second that he never noticed it was Leah and not Rachel before the marriage was consummated. Sure they were sisters, but they could not have been so similar that Jacob could not perceive a difference when his bride came to him for the first time in their tent. :rolleyes:
Leah had lovely eyes and she ended up being quite fertile. She gave Jacob many sons. If Jacob had married only Rachel, he would have had only two sons, and tragically lost his wife in the process. I think God allowed this to happen because He knew Jacob would love his wives and that God's people would thrive and grow precisely because of a trick.
Besides, Jacob was a cunning trickster himself. :D
Sometimes the best consequence for our sins and faults is to get a taste of our own medicine. :thumbsup:

[/quote]

Remember marriage - and the treatment of women - were quite different in those days. Jacob would probably not have had any opportunity to be alone or in close proximity with Rachel prior to their marriage, probably little if any chance to even speak to her. Such things are required to get to know someone physically.

Nor would they have had electric lighting in their tent - or anywhere - so that he could see Leah in great detail. Tents didn't have nice big bay windows that let in large amounts of light. He probably couldn't see anything at all. And it's relatively easy to fool someone who can't see. Remember Jacob tricked his own father, who had known him intimately all his life, into thinking he was Esau.

Besides which - and this is not a slur on men - stereotypically the male of the species does not notice details of appearance. New haircuts or shoes, even on wives of many uears who they are well familiar with.


#7

The marriage also gives Jacob a taste of his own medicine, deception, since he cheated Esau out of his inheritance.

The marriage was legal for its time.


#8

Note that Leah was buried in the field of Ephron with Jacob, Abrahan and Sarah, and Isaac and Rebekah. [Genesis 49:29-32] Rachel was buried alone in Bethlehem.

Also Leah, not Rachel, became the ancestress of the Messiah.


#9

[quote="Carolus_Martell, post:7, topic:323868"]
The marriage also gives Jacob a taste of his own medicine, deception, since he cheated Esau out of his inheritance.

The marriage was legal for its time.

[/quote]

Further, Jacob had consensual sexual intercourse with Leah after a wedding ceremony, which, if I understand right, made a marriage in those days. Sexual intercourse was a big thing back then; even unmarried women who had consensual intercourse with a married man became concubines and had important rights under the law, and they and their children were deemed part of a man's family.


#10

[quote="x1980x, post:1, topic:323868"]
In Genesis 29, Jacob intended to marry Rachel but her father substituted Leah and Jacob didn't find out about the problem until after, uhh, going through it.

This sounds like a Canon 1097 §1 ground for annulment. Jacob didn't intend to marry Leah, he intended to marry Rachel. In fact, one commentator used this very couple as an example of what is really involved in a 1097 section 1 nullity situation.

[/quote]

Jacob & Leah are, in my experience, the most common example used by canon lawyers when explaining "error of person."

[quote="SMOM, post:4, topic:323868"]
All marriages are presumed valid, under present canon law, unless contested. He never contested it....

Canon 1060: Marriage enjoys the favour of law. Consequently, in doubt the validity of a marriage must be upheld until the contrary is proven

[/quote]

This.


#11

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