O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
"...The LORD make the woman that is come into thine house like Rachel and like Leah, which two did build the house of Israel:" (Ruth 4:11)
This post involves some observations of the likenesses between the story of Jacob's marriages and the Old and New Covenant relationships God developed with His people.
Taking the verse from Ruth above, we read that the two women, Rachel and Leah, were given the distinction of building Jacob's family - the "house of Israel". If you understand this "house" to represent the true Israelite children of God's own family over the centuries, both Jew and Gentile, you can begin to see just what role each of these two sisters played in the drama of redemption.
Jacob's name of Israel (prince of God), given to him by the angel, is significant in that it identifies him as a type of Christ. It isn't difficult to catch a reflection of Christ in Jacob's actions as he is forced to leave the wealth of his father's house behind with nothing but a staff in his hand. ("Though He was rich, yet for our sakes He became poor...") For lack of a dowry, Jacob turned shepherd for a wife, as Hosea 12:12 reminds us. This "similitude" is a perfect example of Christ the Great Shepherd of the Sheep, serving in this humble capacity to secure a Bride for Himself.
The bride Jacob originally intended to win with his labor is the beloved younger sister, Rachel. Both Rachel and the 4 children she and her handmaid eventually give to Jacob are types of the Old Covenant made with national, ethnic Israel. Rachel was born after Leah, just as the Hebrew nation comes into being under Moses' ministry - far down the timeline of the history of nations. Rachel is the one of first choice, just as the children of Israel were blessed with the favor of God's first selection to receive the revelation of Himself and His ordinances at Mount Sinai. Before this, no other nation had been privileged with such condescension, such demonstrations of power on their behalf. Similarly, Jacob's devotion for this younger sister is so complete that the 7 years of grinding labor for Laban is as nothing to him.
Of course, we know that Leah was substituted for her sister at the end of Jacob's 7 years of service, and both of them became Jacob's wives at that time. God's ultimate intention never was for the Hebrew nation to be the sole means of building the "house of Israel" - His children of faith. The children God blesses Leah and her handmaid to bring to her marriage with Jacob outnumber those of Rachel the favored one - 2 to 1. Even though she is painfully aware of Jacob's hatred for her, she is still granted the gift of children, just as God had children of faith among the nations both before and after He established a Sinai covenant with His chosen people. There is an echo of Leah's heartbroken rejection in Isaiah 54:6: "For the LORD hath called thee as a woman forsaken, and grieved in spirit, and a wife of youth, when thou wast refused, saith thy God." This rejected, desolate one is promised more children than the married wife in Isaiah 54:1. Numerically speaking, the children of faith coming from all the nations under the New Covenant outnumber the faithful remnant under the Old Covenant. (Romans 9:27-29 compared with Isaiah 54:1-3)
Eventually, God does grant Rachel conception of a long-desired child of her own - Joseph. Jacob's partiality to this son predictably brings out resentment in the older brothers, just as there has been animosity between Jew and Gentile time out of mind. The dying plea of Jacob to Joseph is particularly poignant. He sends a message through the older brothers, begging Joseph to "Forgive, I pray thee now, the trespass of thy brethren, and their sin: for they did unto thee evil:" (Gen. 50:17) There is an echo here of Christ's prayer just before His own death. (John 17:20-21) "Neither pray I for these alone, (the disciples) but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they may all be one; as thou Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us;..."
Joseph's godly response to his father Jacob's request acknowledges the sovereign hand of God in Gen. 50:20. "Ye thought evil against me, but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive" Paul expresses the same concept in his epistles: first in Rom. 11:30-31 when he describes how the grafting process of all Gentile believers into the "olive tree" of God's family is an accompaniment to unbelieving Jews being broken off: next, in Phil. 1:12-14 when he explains the benefits of his imprisonment for the furtherance of the gospel, even under Caesar's very nose. God has used the antagonism between Jews and Gentiles to actually multiply the effects of the gospel, just as the sibling rivalry between Rachel and Leah was an incentive to out-produce the other sister. Good has been alchemized out of evil.
Even Rachel's death after giving birth to Benjamin (son of the right hand) is a type. This last child of the beloved wife (ethnic Israel) is born near Bethlehem, only a few miles from Jerusalem. "Benoni", Rachel calls him - "son of my sorrow" - just as 70 AD Jerusalem suffered during the death of the Old Covenant. In her death throes, however, Jerusalem gives birth to one last child of the Old Covenant: the 144 thousand sealed out of all the tribes of Israel. "Fear not", the midwife tells Rachel in the middle of her hard labor, "Thou shalt have this son also." The 144 thousand are thus assured of a place at the father's right hand, after they are redeemed from the earth. (Rev. 14:3)
It may be a cause for debate, but there is a distinct possibility that the seal put upon this group of 144 thousand is one that ensures their physical death before the close of the Old Covenant, so they can be included in a bodily resurrection of the house of Israel at Pentecost in 70 AD. After all, one of the peculiar judgments visited upon those who do not have the seal of God in their foreheads is that they will seek for death, and will not be able to find it in those particular days. So death, which would be temporarily denied to those worshipers of the beast, would be a blessing granted to the faithful - an inclusion in the first resurrection of Rev. 20:6, even at the 11th hour of the Old Covenant.
Here is another indication that the sealing of this 144 thousand implies their death. It seems obvious that the Exodus period and the 40-year wilderness wanderings of the children of Israel were meant to picture the 40-year transition period for 1st-century Christians until the 70 AD holocaust. Jericho's annihilation mirrors Jerusalem's. The destruction of both of these cities precedes an ushering in to a "promised land". Significantly, every single person counted in Moses' 1st census dies before the 40-years' period of wandering has expired. Only two witnesses remain - Caleb and Joshua. A totally new generation has the honor of entering Canaan and claiming the promises.
In the same manner, it would appear that this last 144 thousand must pass away, before a new generation of believers can sweep into the promised land of the New Covenant. And again, coincidentally, God has 2 witnesses operating during the transition (Rev. 11:3), whoever or whatever you understand those 2 witnesses to be.
One further observation on the marriage of these 2 sisters to Jacob. This concept may seem to stretch the boundaries of a covenant type, but perhaps not. When Laban is called on the carpet to explain why he deceptively abused his role as the Father of the Bride/Brides, he utters this curious statement: "Fulfill her week, and we will give thee this also (Rachel), for the service which thou shalt serve with me yet 7 other years." In other words, Jacob was simultaneously given both sisters as a wife at the end of his initial 7-year term of service. One wife (Leah) was in an "already, but not yet" position of covenant with Jacob. She was a wife put on Jacob's "credit card".
Some partial-preterists have voiced objections that God must have only one resurrection of the dead planned to coincide with the end of history, because God would never think of resurrecting His Bride in stages. However, if Rachel and Leah are a type of the entire house of Israel - the children of faith - then their story would be a representation of how God has divided His Bride into 2 stages. We, the nations of the New Covenant (Leah), are already united to our husband Christ (Jacob), and are bearing many children of faith for Him. Our last child, coincidentally, will be named Zebulun (Dwelling), because then our husband Christ will dwell with us in the fullest sense of the word - body, soul, and spirit. At this one day in our future, the end of the second 7-year period of labor will have been accomplished, which will culminate in our bodily resurrection, just as our sister, OC ethnic Israel (Rachel) has already experienced hers in 70 AD.
And we will all live happily every after.