CONCUBINE- A wife of lower status than a primary wife-usually a slave. Taking of concubines dates back at least to the patriarchal period. Both Abraham and Nahor had concubines (Gen 22:24; 25:6; 1 Chron 1:32). Tribal chiefs, kings, and other wealthy men generally took concubines. Gideon had a concubine (Judg 8:31). Saul had at least one concubine named Rizpha (2 Sam 3:7; 21:11). David had many (2 Sam 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 forbids kings to take so many wives.

The concubines (and wives) of chiefs and kings were symbols of their virility and power; therefore, having intercourse with the concubine of the ruler was an act of rebellion. When Absalom revolted against his father David, he “slept with his father’s concubines in the sight of all Israel” (2 Sam 16:2) on the palace roof. When David returned to the palace, he had the ten concubines involved palaced under guard and confined. He provided for them but was never again intimate with them (2 Sam 20:3).

A concubine, whether purchased (Exod 21:7-11; Lev 25:44-46) or won in battle (Num 31:18) was entitled to some legal protection (Exod 21:7-12; Deut 21:10-14) but was her husband’s property. A barren woman might offer her maid to her husband, hoping she would conceive (Gen 16:1-3; 30:1-4).

Although the taking of concubines was not explicitly prohibited, monogamous marriage was set forth as the biblical pattern (Gen 2:24; Mark 10:6-9). In every case in Scripture where concubines were taken, bad results, such as family disharmony or jealousy, followed in the wake.


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