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Rollin in the OT

March 1, 2012

One of my many failings in life is questionable taste in music. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy what I listen to; it’s just that I’m reasonably sure that I’m not the target market for most of these bands. I think that honor belongs to melancholy twenty year old women. Artists like Lenka, Florence and the Machine, and Ingrid Michaelson are big hits on my Pandora station, but there is one artist who stands apart in my twenty-year-old-girl-esque estimation. That singer, of course, is Adele.

If you don’t know who Adele is, where have you been? Do yourself a favor and youtube her live performance at the British music awards last year. I’d link to it, but I don’t want to end up on the Secret Service hit list.

So long story short: Adele was just a young British woman–a young and in LOVE British woman. Then one day, she was a young, in love, dumped British woman. But this wasn’t just any breakup. This was the breakup to end all break ups! Though the mystery man’s identity remains a closely held secret, Adele clearly became distraught emotionally from the experience.

She wrote an entire album based on her thoughts and feelings resulting from the breakup, and, while many songwriters opine about being young and in love, this was somehow different. Her music resonated with so many people that now Adele is one of the premier songstresses in the world. Both impactful vocally and emotionally, her music has garnered just about every award possible and I’m sure has brought her untold millions of dollars in royalties.

What is so remarkable about Adele’s career is that it took off as a result of this horrible life experience. One wonders whether or not she would trade her career if only she could have her relationship back. But it seems relatively safe to say that without the kickstart that her heartbreak gave her songwriting that she would not be as widely known as she is today. Undoubtedly, her talent sets her apart, but it wasn’t until these breakup songs started getting out that she became as famous as she now is. Songs like “Someone Like You” and “Rollin’ in the Deep” arose directly from her dark years and became her chart toppers. Such is the paradoxical life of artists.

So this got me thinking about other people throughout history who have suffered a similar fate as Adele and what their songs would be like if we could hear them today. Of course, because of the strange way that my mindmap works, I thought back to the Old Testament, especially to the story of Jacob and Rachel.

You might have heard this story yourself. If not, it can be found in Genesis 29. Basically, Jacob falls out with his brother as a result of his deceptively stealing the inheritance. He is forced to wander all around and finally meets up with some distant relatives. He falls in love with one of them, a girl named Rachel. He agrees with his kinsman Laban (who is Rachel’s father) that he will work for seven years in Laban’s employ as a bride-price for Rachel. When the seven years were up, it was time to receive his wages. Jacob must have been seriously excited.

Laban gathered everyone together for a wedding celebration. In that era, Jewish wedding celebrations featured gallons of wine and a whole day of partying.* At the end of the day, it was time for the happy couple to begin their honeymoon. The next morning, Jacob wakes up and realizes that it was not Rachel that he had married after all, but her older sister Leah! Pretty much all the Bible says about Leah is that she has weak eyes, and Hebraists will tell you that her name means “cow.” Don’t worry, I have no idea what “weak eyes” indicates either. It is probably safe to say that it is not a compliment.

*I guess it’s not too far removed from a few modern weddings that I’ve attended, although it must be noted that if the ceremony had been somewhat more temperate, perhaps the sad ending could have been avoided!

Jacob, unsurprisingly, is hacked off. He confronts Laban who basically says that Jacob needs to deal with it because this is how things are done in his country. Luckily for Jacob, Laban agrees to sell Rachel for seven more years of work. And we’re not talking about white collar work. No, Jacob is not brokering stocks or managing within the middle layers of Laban’s administration–he’s working as a shepherd. Then, as now, shepherding wasn’t really considered an honorable profession. Jacob is stuck working fourteen years to pay the bride-price for his One True Love, seven years of which he is living with the Biblical equivalent of Cinderella’s stepsister.* Clearly, Jacob is the Adele of the Old Testament.

*Exaggeration made for effect. I’m sure Leah had a brilliant personality.

Except for the fact that clearly Jacob is NOT the Adele of the Old Testament. Didn’t Jacob have a great wife who gave him a happy family? Yep, he did. Wasn’t that the whole point of wandering around in the desert? Yep. Well, that and avoiding getting killed. But mainly that. Didn’t Jacob himself deceive his father and brother? Yep, getting swindled himself is probably what he deserved. (Jacob’s name in Hebrew means something like ‘trickster’ or ‘deceiver,’ which may be nice info to keep to yourself if your nephew or someone bears that name today. Unless you don’t like them, in which case all bets are off.) No, Jacob seems to be doing just fine in this scenario.

It’s LEAH who is the real Adele here. Her dad basically sold her to some dusty nomad guy, but he was only able to do so by disguising her as her sister. She wasn’t even considered good enough to be chattel; she was like sub-chaff or overstock. It had to be humiliating to conceal herself because the man she was giving her life to would have rejected her if he had known her true identity. It’s sort of like how Clark Kent has problems with Lois Lane. He can fix it by telling her that he’s Superman, but he wants to be appreciated for himself. Leah had to pass herself off as SuperRachel. That has to be one complicated family reunion. And further, the only details the Bible gives about her are that she has Weak Eyes and that her name means Cow? Really? Not exactly a self-esteem booster.

That had to be enough. But it doesn’t stop there! Her husband works seven more years for her sister! What better way to celebrate seven happy years of marriage than by adding a sister wife to the equation? I’m sure Leah could think of several….

If you read on in the Old Testament, you’ll find that Rachel and Leah couldn’t really ever get along as co-wives. Which is an understatement, and a non-surprise, and a sentence fragment. Then they played this weird whose-handmaiden-can-give-my-husband-a-son-first game, which is sure to be a hit at your next baby shower. It did not end well for Leah, or really for Rachel when it comes right down to it.

So this got me thinking: if Leah wrote pensive, soulsy, British vocal-based rock there in the fifteenth century BC, what would it have sounded like? Maybe something like this:

“Laban and the Sheep,” by AdeLeah

There’s a fire starting in my heart

Reaching a fever pitch, it’s bringing me out the dark
Finally I can see you crystal clear
Go ‘head and sell me out and I’ll lay your tent bare
See how I leave with every piece of you
Don’t underestimate the things that I will do

The scars of your love remind me of us
They keep me thinking that we almost had it all
The scars of your love, they leave me breathless
I can’t help feeling
We could have had it all
(You’re gonna wish you never had met me)
Rolling in the deep
(Tears are gonna fall, rolling in the deep)
You had my heart inside of your hand
(You’re gonna wish you never had met me)
And you played it, to the beat
(Tears are gonna fall, rolling in the deep)

Baby, I have no story to be told
But I’ve heard one on you
And I’m gonna make your head burn
Think of me in the depths of your despair
Make a home down there
As mine sure won’t be shared

We could’ve had a sta-a-all, for Laban and the shee-ee-eep,

But you played it, played it, played it like a creep.

I was going to modify some of these lyrics to be funny, but I think that Adele actually captures Leah’s heart quite nicely, so I just appended my weak attempt at humor there on the end. Yep, safe to say that Leah had it worse than Jacob. Probably even worse than Adele. After all, Leah never even got a gold record.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. March 1, 2012 5:10 pm


  2. Kyle G. Hansen permalink
    March 1, 2012 5:42 pm


  3. March 2, 2012 12:15 pm

    At least she got her name in the bible, unlikely Noah’s poor wife. She is only referred to as “Noah’s wife”, along with many other second class women of her day. But I’m not bitter or anything.

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