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Holman Bible Dictionary

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Hebrew - concubine, concubines
Hebrew - concubine, concubines

, A secondary wife. The taking of concubines dates back at least to the patriarchal period. Both Abraham and Nahor had concubines (Genesis 22:24; Genesis 25:6; 1 Chronicles 1:32). Concubines were generally taken by tribal chiefs, kings, and other wealthy men. Gideon had a concubine (Judges 8:31). Saul had at least one concubine, named Rizpah (2 Samuel 3:7; 2 Samuel 21:11). David had many (2 Samuel 5:13), but Solomon took the practice to its extreme, having 300 concubines, in addition to his 700 royal wives (1 Kings 11:3). Deuteronomy 17:17 forbid kings to take so many wives.

The concubines (and wives) of chiefs and kings were symbols of their virility and power. Having intercourse with the concubine of the ruler was an act of rebellion. When Absalom revolted against his father, David, he “went in unto his father's concubines in the sight of all Israel” (2 Samuel 16:22) on the palace roof. When David returned to the palace, the ten concubines involved were sent away to live the rest of their lives in isolation (2 Samuel 20:3).

A concubine, whether purchased (Exodus 21:7-11; Leviticus 25:44-46) or won in battle (Numbers 31:18), was entitled to some legal protection (Exodus 21:7-12; Deuteronomy 21:10-14), but was her husband's property. A barren woman might offer her maid to her husband hoping she would conceive (Genesis 16:1.; Genesis 30:1.).

Although the taking of concubines was not totally prohibited, monogamous marriage was more common and seems to be the biblical ideal (Genesis 2:24; Mark 10:6-9). See Marriage; Polygamy; Slavery.

Wilda W. Morris

Copyright Statement
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor.. "Entry for 'CONCUBINE'". "Holman Bible Dictionary".
<>. 1991.


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