Why was Sarah Abraham’s “wife” and Hagar and Keturah Abraham’s concubines? Leah was Jacob’s first “wife” and Zilpah later became his concubine. In the same way, Rachel was his second “wife” and Bilhah his concubine. Why is one woman a “wife” and another a concubine?
A Concubine Comes From The Servants Quarters, And A “Wife” Is A Free Woman
[Note: There is no word for “wife” in Torah; a “wife” is a man’s woman. And in this article you will see she was a “free woman” before she became her man’s woman. So for purposes of this article I am putting the word “wife” in quotes.]
The Hebrew word pi·le·gesh [פילגשׁ] is what gets translated in English as “a concubine”: and the word pi·le·ge·shim [פילגשים] denotes more than one concubine. Other words that are important to us today are two words related to a “female servant“. The first is a more general term which encompasses the second as well. It is the word a·mah [אמה]. The second word is shif·khaw [שׁפחה]. A shif·khaw is a a·mah who works closely with the her master’s family or a particular “wife.” All shif·khaw are a·mah but not all a·mah are shif·khaw.
Both The “Wife” And The Concubine Share Intimacy With Their Master
Let’s take a looks at where a concubine comes from.
Hagar was a concubine of Abraham and the daughter of a concubine belonging to Pharaoh.
Yasher 15:30 Now therefore here is thy woman [Sarai] take her and go from our land lest we all die on her account. And Pharaoh took more cattle, men servants and female servants, and silver and gold, to give to Abram, and he returned unto him Sarai his woman. 31 And the king took a maiden whom he begat by a concubine, and he gave her to Sarai for a handmaid [shif·khaw].
Now Sarai, Abram’s woman, had not born for him. And she had an Egyptian shif·khaw [שׁפחה] whose name was Hagar. (Gen 16:1)
Bilhah and Zilpah were both shif·khaw to each of their respective mistresses, and each one became a concubine to Jacob, their master.
Then she gave him Bilhah her shif·khaw [שׁפחה] for a woman [אשׁה, ishshah] and Jacob went in to her. (Gen 30:4)
When Leah saw that she had stopped bearing, she took Zilpah her a·mah [אמת] and gave her shif·khaw [שׁפחתה] to Jacob for a woman [אשׁה, ishshah]. And Leah’s Zilpah bore Jacob a son. (Gen 30:9-10)
Each of these women were considered Jacob’s concubine.
And it happened, when Israel dwelt in that land, that Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father’s concubine [פילגשׁ]. (Gen 35:22)
Not much is said about Katurah in Torah or Yasher, but here is what we know. Genesis 25 starts by saying, “Abraham took a woman …”
And again, Abraham again took a woman, and her name was Keturah. (Gen 25:1)
Yasher 16:1 And it was at that time that Abraham again took a woman in his old age, and her name was Keturah, from the land of Canaan.
2 And she bare unto him Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak and Shuach, being six sons.
Katurah was a concubine as well!
And she [Katurah, his concubine] bore him Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah. Jokshan begot Sheba and Dedan. And Dedan’s seed were Asshurim, Letushim, and Leummim. And Midian’s seed were Ephah, Epher, Hanoch, Abidah, and Eldaah. All these were Keturah’s seed. And Abraham gave all that he had to Isaac. And to seed of the concubines [הפילגשׁים] which Abraham had; Abraham gave gifts. And while he was still living he sent them eastward, away from Isaac his son, to the country of the east. (Gen 25:2-6)
Keturah, the concubine, has seed? How can a woman have seed? Oh, so much to learn, and so little time. We will discuss this a length in my video along with many more interesting subjects as we go through Yasher and Torah. Please join me, you will be glad you did.
Concubine Versus “Wife”
2G30 Genesis 25.1-27 and Yasher 24.29-45 – Concubine Versus “Wife”
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