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Bible Encyclopedias

The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia

Concubinage

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—Biblical Data:

A concubine recognized among the ancient Hebrews. She enjoyed the same rights in the house as the legitimate wife. Since it was regarded as the highest blessing to have many children, while the greatest curse was childlessness, legitimate wives themselves gave their maids to their husbands to atone, at least in part, for their own barrenness, as in the cases of Sarah and Hagar, Leah and Zilpah, Rachel and Bilhah. The concubine commanded the same respect and inviolability as the wife; and it was regarded as the deepest dishonor for the man to whom she belonged if hands were laid upon her. Thus Jacob never forgave his eldest son for violating Bilhah (Genesis 35:22, 49:4). According to the story of Gibeah, related in Judges 19, 25,000 warriors of the tribe of Benjamin lost their lives on account of the maltreatment and death of a concubine. Abner, Saul's first general, deserted Ish-bosheth, Saul's son, who had reproached his leader with having had intercourse with Rizpah, the daughter of his royal father's concubine, Aiah (2 Samuel 3:7); and Absalom brought the greatest dishonor upon David by open intercourse with his father's concubines (ib. 16:21 et seq.).

The children of the concubine had equal rights with those of the legitimate wife. Abraham dismissed his natural sons with gifts (Genesis 25:6), and Jacob's sons by Bilhah and Zilpah were equal with his sons by Leah and Rachel; while Abimelech, who subsequently became king over a part of Israel, was the son of Gideon-jerubbaal and his Shechemite concubine (Judges 8:31). In the time of the Kings the practise of taking concubines was no longer due to childlessness but to luxury. David had ten concubines (2 Samuel 15:16), who, however, also did housework; Solomon had 300 (1 Kings 11:30); and his son Rehoboam had sixty (2 Chronicles 11:21).

Bibliography:
  • Hastings, Dict. Bible. s. Marriage;
  • Stade, Gesch. Isr. 1:385. 636;
  • Hamburger, R. B. T. s. Kebsweib.

E. G. H.
S. O.

—In Rabbinical Literature:

According to the Babylonian Talmud (Sanh. 21a), the difference between a concubine and a legitimate wife was that the latter received a KETUBAH and her marriage was preceded by a formal betrothal ("ḳiddushin"), which was not the case with the former (comp. Rashi on Genesis 25:6, and Naḥmanides ad loc.). According to R. Judah (Yer. Ket. 5:29d), however, the concubine also received a ketubah, but without the aliment pertaining to it.

E. C.
S. O.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.

Bibliography Information
Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Concubinage'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tje/c/concubinage.html. 1901.

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