Abraham had lived in Haran with his father (after they left Ur) until Terah died. Isaac had married Rebekah after she had journeyed from Haran to come to him. In this chapter we discover that Jacob lived in Haran while he worked for his uncle and married his uncle's daughters.
The story of Jacob meeting Rachel is somewhat reminiscent of the servant of Abraham meeting Rebekah in the same area several decades before this. The timing of the meeting, who was there, the emotions of the meeting, the well, the watering of animals, the romantic theme... it's all very familiar.
Basically, God orchestrated things so that when Jacob got to Haran he immediately found his mother's family and fell in love with Rachel. Jacob was welcomed into Laban's home and evidently worked for him for free for a brief time, after which he worked for 14 more years for Laban's daughters' hands in marriage. Of course, that wasn't Jacob's original intent. He intended to marry only Rachel after 7 years of service, but his father-in-law tricked him. Laban snuck Leah in instead of Rachel.
Well, as God seems to have a habit of doing, He leveled the playing field a little. He must have felt bad for Leah because she wasn't loved by her own husband, so he blessed her with four boys: Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah. This is no small matter. The priestly and royal tribes of Israel were mothered by this unloved and unappealing "older sister" - poetic justice; spiritual metaphor? I'm reminded that the greatest king and priest of all time had family ties to both tribes and was described as unappealing and unloved (Isaiah 53:2-3). There are no accidents in Holy Writ.
One thing that enamors me repeatedly is the constant reminders (in the Bible) of God's sovereign and merciful condescension to mankind. We know absolutely what God would pick if the picking were left totally up to Him (Mark 10:6-8). But, He has stooped to include our ridiculous jaunts into self-indulgence as ingredients in His master plan (think of Judah's whoremongering incest, or who Solomon's mother was). Anyway, at this juncture in the story we have been introduced to the four women who will be the mothers of the 12 tribes of Israel. Their names: Leah, Zilpah, Rachel and Bilhah.