A photo of a worn, weathered Bible open to the page of Genesis where it mentions Leah, representing her role as the mother of six sons.

How Many Sons Did Leah Have In The Bible?

For those curious about the family tree of the Bible, one question that often comes up is how many sons did Leah have? As one of the most pivotal matriarchs in the Bible, Leah’s story provides insight into the origins of the 12 tribes of Israel.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: According to Genesis 29-30, Leah had six sons – Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar and Zebulun.

In this comprehensive guide, we will take a deep dive into the biblical account of Leah’s life, her relationship to Jacob, and details around each of her sons. With over 8 bible verses analyzed and explained, you’ll have a full picture of Leah’s motherhood journey and the legacy of her children.

Leah’s Background and Marriage to Jacob

Leah’s Lineage

Leah was the daughter of Laban and the older sister of Rachel in the Bible. She was part of the Aramean people and lived in Paddan-aram during the time of the patriarchs. As Laban’s eldest daughter, she was expected to be married before her younger sister Rachel.

Jacob Deceived into Marrying Leah

Jacob had fallen in love with Rachel and agreed to work 7 years for Laban in order to marry her. But on the wedding night, Laban deceived Jacob and had him marry Leah instead. Jacob was rightfully upset, but Laban justified his actions by saying the older daughter should marry first.

So Jacob was compelled to finish Leah’s bridal week before he could also marry Rachel.

Leah Unloved Compared to Rachel

Although Leah was Jacob’s first wife, the Bible says that he loved Rachel more than Leah. This caused much grief and jealousy for Leah. She felt hated and unloved compared to her sister Rachel who had Jacob’s affection.

The sibling rivalry between Leah and Rachel for Jacob’s love led to a competition through bearing children.

The Birth of Leah’s First Four Sons

Reuben – Leah’s Firstborn

Leah gave birth to her first son and named him Reuben (Genesis 29:32). The name Reuben means “See, a son!” As the firstborn son, Reuben would have received a double portion of inheritance and held a privileged position.

However, Reuben sadly lost his birthright due to improper behavior toward his father Jacob (Genesis 35:22).

Simeon – Son Number Two

Leah’s second son was named Simeon (Genesis 29:33). His name sounds like the Hebrew for “one who hears.” We don’t know as much about Simeon’s life, but he and his brother Levi took violent revenge on the men of Shechem, which angered their father Jacob (Genesis 34:25-31).

Levi – Third Son of Leah

The name Levi means “attached” or “joined to” (Genesis 29:34). As the third son born to Leah after Reuben and Simeon, Levi was probably very close to his older brothers. Levi later became the head of the Priestly tribe of Israel that was set apart for service to God.

Judah – Leah’s Fourth Son

Judah was the fourth son born to Leah (Genesis 29:35). His name means “praise.” Interestingly, it was through the tribe of Judah that Jesus Christ descended, showing that God chose to work through Judah’s lineage to accomplish mighty things.

Of all of Leah’s first four sons, Judah emerges as a leader, saving Joseph’s life (Genesis 37:26–27) and receiving the blessing as leader from his father Israel (Genesis 49:8-12).

Leah’s Final Two Sons

Issachar – Leah’s Fifth Son

After bearing four sons for Jacob, Leah was blessed with two more children. Her fifth son was named Issachar, whose name means “reward” or “hire” in Hebrew. The Bible records Leah’s words after Issachar was born: “God has rewarded me for giving my servant to my husband” (Genesis 30:18).

This indicates that Leah likely felt unloved and unwanted by Jacob, so she considered any children she bore as a reward or validation from God.

The circumstances surrounding Issachar’s birth also reveal the ongoing rivalry between Leah and Rachel, Jacob’s two wives. Rachel was jealous that Leah kept having children while she remained barren. So Rachel gave her servant Bilhah to Jacob as another wife, and Bilhah bore two sons.

Not to be outdone, Leah also gave her servant Zilpah to Jacob, and Zilpah bore two sons as well. After this, Leah became pregnant again herself and had Issachar, her fifth son.

The Bible does not record anything else about Issachar’s childhood. But the blessings Jacob gave his sons before his death provide some insight into Issachar’s tribe and legacy. Jacob described Issachar as a “rawboned donkey lying down among the sheep pens” (Genesis 49:14).

This depicted Issachar’s tribe as hard-working, strong as a donkey, and at rest or at peace with their labor and provision from God.

Zebulun – The Sixth and Final Son

After giving birth to Issachar, Leah had one more child – a sixth son named Zebulun. His name means “honor” or “exaltation,” which suggests Leah felt honored by God after bearing Jacob six sons. At this point, Leah stopped having children while the focus shifted to Rachel, who finally conceived and bore Joseph.

The Bible contains few details about Zebulun’s early life. But Jacob’s blessing predicted that Zebulun’s descendants would become a tribe of seafaring merchants and traders. They would live along the coast of Israel and “become a haven for ships” that brought “riches from across the seas” (Genesis 49:13).

This prophecy was fulfilled after the Israelites settled in the Promised Land.

Zebulun’s tribe did receive land inland that was suitable for agriculture. But many lived along the Mediterranean coast and became fishermen and sea traders. They likely facilitated trade and commerce for landlocked tribes like Issachar.

Working together in this way allowed Issachar and Zebulun’s tribes to thrive in harmony.

Legacy and Symbolism of Leah’s Six Sons

The 12 Tribes of Israel

Leah gave birth to six of the 12 sons who would go on to lead the 12 tribes of Israel. Her first four sons—Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah—were full brothers. Her last two sons, Issachar and Zebulun, were born to Jacob but were conceived with Leah’s maid Zilpah (Genesis 30:9-20).

The 12 tribes founded by Jacob’s sons became the foundation of the nation of Israel. Each tribe was allotted land in Canaan except the tribe of Levi, which was set apart for religious duties. The 12 tribes feature prominently throughout the Old Testament and into the New Testament as well.

References to Leah’s Sons in Later Scripture

Leah’s first four sons in particular are referenced many times in later Scripture:

  • Reuben was Jacob’s firstborn but lost his birthright because he slept with Bilhah, one of Jacob’s concubines (Genesis 35:22, 49:3-4).
  • Simeon and Levi massacred the men of Shechem in retribution for the rape of their sister Dinah (Genesis 34). Jacob later prophesied violence and anger over them (Genesis 49:5-7).
  • Judah emerged as a leader among his brothers and his tribe eventually produced Israel’s great kings like David and Solomon. Biblical prophecy also foretold that the Messiah would come from the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:8-12).

The legacy of Leah’s six sons lives on today through the stories and prophecies recorded in Scripture. Their births represent the beginnings of the nation of Israel itself.


In conclusion, according to Genesis 29-30, Leah had six sons total with her husband Jacob – Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar and Zebulun. Though she lived in the shadow of Jacob’s favored wife Rachel early on, Leah would come to be the mother of several of the most prominent Israelite tribes.

Through key verses analyzed, we traced Leah’s journey from her desperate early days vying for Jacob’s affection, to the birth of each of her sons, revealing the meaning behind their names. Finally, we tied together the lasting biblical significance of Leah’s children as patriarchs of 6 of the famed 12 tribes of Israel.

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