31 And when the Lord saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb: but Rachel was barren. 32 And Leah conceived, and bare a son, and she called his name Reuben: for she said, Surely the Lord hath looked upon my affliction; now therefore my husband will love me. 33 And she conceived again, and bare a son; and said, Because the Lord hath heard that I was hated, he hath therefore given me this son also: and she called his name Simeon. 34 And she conceived again, and bare a son; and said, Now this time will my husband be joined unto me, because I have born him three sons: therefore was his name called Levi. 35 And she conceived again, and bare a son: and she said, Now will I praise the Lord: therefore she called his name Judah; and left bearing.
I imagine that Leah was in some way a willing party to Laban’s deception of Jacob, presumably she was careful not to reveal that it was her beneath the wedding veil instead of her sister. Even so, one can’t help to feel sorry for her, married to a man whom she knows loves her sister more than she.
God was not in favor of this situation, and he intervened in a subtle, yet effective, way. Leah was blessed with fertility, while Rachel remained barren. Jacob loved Rachel, but it was a love that literally could not bear fruit. Each sister had one blessing and one deprivation.
And in a strange way, this competition between sisters would end up serving God’s plans for the kingdom of Israel. If He was ever to raise a great nation as promised, sooner or later the pattern of one covenant-holder only fathering one more covenant-holder would have to change. By inciting this rivalry between Rachel and Leah, they aggressively sought childbirth, which multiplied the covenant lines twelvefold!
And also, it is worth noting that God’s consolation to Leah included a son named Judah, mentioned in verse 35, who was to be the forefather of Jesus Christ. I find it fitting that this portion of Christ’s ancestral line passed through one who was lonely and deprived of love, who welcomed a birth as a comfort to her soul.