30 31 When YHWH saw that Leah was despised, he opened her womb—while Rachel was barren, 32 Leah became pregnant and bore a son. She named him Reuben/See, A Son because she said, “Indeed, YHWH has seen my suffering, and now my husband will love me.” 33 She became pregnant again and gave birth to a son. She said, “Indeed, YHWH has heard that I was hated, so he gave me this one, too,” and she named him Simeon/Hearing. 34 She conceived again and gave birth to a son. She said, “Now, finally, my husband will be joined to me, for I have given him three sons.” So she named him Levi/Joining. 35 She conceived again and gave birth to a son. She said, “This time I will sing praise to YHWH.” So she named him Judah/Giving Thanks. Then she stopped bearing children.
With Jacob’s confession that he loved the beautiful Rachel more than the compassionate-eyed Leah, the scene is set for a conversation between external and internal qualities.
Seeing Leah left behind, the second wife/daughter in Jacob’s eyes, G*D blocks the further rising of the privileged Rachel. This is a two-fold process of multiplying Leah and halting fruitfulness in Rachel.
With the birth of Reuben, we are also given insight into Jacob’s priority of physical beauty over his Abrahamic blessing of an increase in the next generation. More “seed” takes a back seat to his eye’s pleasure. Jacob does not increase his love of Leah for her bearing of his children. Jacob may even be ready to have no children by Rachel in order to gaze upon her beauty.
Seen as an exercise in motivation, Jacob’s non-regard for Leah leads her to “try harder,” to claim the status of the first-born, not just in its technical aspect of time.
In quick succession, Leah has a second birth, Simon, whose name refers to sound, being heard. Reuben and Simon, sight and sound, echo the ways Jacob deceived Isaac, his father. Just as quickly is birthed Levi, a hope to be joined with her husband. With no let-up in pace, we come to Judah whose name begins to shift gears away from wresting Jacob’s love away from Rachel to a simple thanks to YHWH. This thanks will later lead to Judah’s becoming the leader of the brothers/tribes. Jacob’s seed is already doubled that of either Abraham or Isaac.
With four sons, Leah stops bearing children. Perhaps her shift from Jacob to G*D plays a part. Perhaps Jacob stops coming into her. Perhaps it is a natural point of rest and recuperation. All that is known at this point is that Leah stops bearing children.