29 And he charged them, and said unto them, I am to be gathered unto my people: bury me with my fathers in the cave that is in the field of Ephron the Hittite,

30 In the cave that is in the field of Machpelah, which is before Mamre, in the land of Canaan, which Abraham bought with the field of Ephron the Hittite for a possession of a buryingplace.

31 There they buried Abraham and Sarah his wife; there they buried Isaac and Rebekah his wife; and there I buried Leah.

33 And when Jacob had made an end of commanding his sons, he gathered up his feet into the bed, and yielded up the ghost, and was gathered unto his people.

At the end of blessing his sons Jacob once again returns to the matter of where he ought to be buried. Previously he had made a request of Joseph that his remains be buried in the land of Canaan, but now he repeats that charge to everyone else.

And not just any place in Canaan, specifically the cave that is in the field of Machpelah, where his father and grandfather, mother and grandmother, and even his first wife are buried. Which, by the way, this is the first we have heard of Leah’s passing. Perhaps it occurred when the narrative focus was on Joseph sold into Egypt? Presumably it was at some point before the exodus into Egypt. In any case, she was apparently buried in this special cave, where all the patriarchs and their spouses had previously been laid to rest.

The relationship between Jacob and Leah had been a strange one. The man had been tricked into marrying her in the first place and at the time was unable to bring himself to truly love her. But where she had a complicated status as a wife, she had absolutely no difficulty in being a mother, providing Jacob son after son. Thus, she and Jacob had reason to delight together, but also reason to feel intensely awkward.

In the end, though, Jacob showed her great respect, selecting her to be by his side in the grave. We have mentioned Rachel’s burial place previously, and it is notably not in the cave of Machpelah. Why she was not buried there? No explanation is given. I can’t see it being a sign of disrespect on the part of Jacob, I can only assume that there were reasons that we do not know of. But, in any case, the end result is that Leah was the wife that Jacob first lay beside, and she would be the last.

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