All her adult life, since the first night of her marriage, Leah had to compete with her sister for the attention of her husband. While Rachel received the love of Jacob easily and without effort, Leah—knowing her place in the family—struggled for attention and love.
She had every right to expect the privileges of being the first wife (this was centuries before the law required a husband treat multiple wives equally). This along with his own natural larceny contributed to Laban’s insistence that the first daughter marry before the second. She was to be the first bride, with pride of place. Besides this, it seemed God had decreed she was to be the first wife—He gave her a son right away while her sister was unable to conceive. Was it Jacob’s upbringing in a home where mom and dad each had their own favorite child that caused Jacob to forget tradition and favor Rachel? Was it simple male insensitivity?
Though we will never know why, we can see the result. Leah gave every effort to win her husband’s affection. Rachel didn’t have to try, since she was the favorite. Leah could have become despondent and bitter. She could have decided that without her rightful place as the first wife, she would make Jacob’s life difficult. She didn’t respond this way though. Instead she kept working for the love she sought. In the end, culturally, Leah won.
Without getting bogged down in the minutia of afterlife studies and what happens to us after death, realize that that this subject was not as developed in the time of Jacob and Leah. Much has been revealed about the afterlife since the time of Leah and Jacob. The patriarchs thought of the afterlife as leaving this life and going to God in Sheol (the grave). Scripture tells us (Gen 49:31) that Jacob was to be buried with Leah, while Rachel was buried on the road to Ephrath (Gen 35:19). Leah’s bones would rest by Jacob forever, while Rachel was buried far off from the family tomb. Leah was finally in her rightful place. After a life of obediently seeking the best for her husband and family, in the end, she won; she was victorious over her sister.